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Fly Fishing Jazz: Goin’ to the Water Songs

by Kirk Deeter

Coyahique, ChileMark Sides photo, Coyahique, Chile

THIS MAY BE “Fly Fishing Jazz,” but no matter how you slice it, jazz is meant to be played after dark—or at least after the evening hatch starts.

The morning—before sunrise, when you’re rumbling and fumbling, looking to set the personal gyroscope on a new day, and ultimately making your way to the river or boat launch to the flats—well, that belongs to a different genre.  I think that’s country.  Not the commercial, rhinestone, Nashville, hit machine, insultingly-stupid-lyrics brand of pop country.  I’m talking about the “been there, done that” stuff from Guy Clark, or Steve Earle, or Jerry Jeff Walker… maybe even the rock-country crossovers like Gram Parsons or Stephen Stills.  And maybe, when it’s just right, it should be Townes Van Zandt.

My favorite, “going to the river” song, for when there’s still dew on the hood and you see your breath in the air as you load up in the morning, has been, and always will be, “Roll Um Easy” by Little Feat.

The lyrics just seem almost hauntingly true:  “Oh I am just a vagabond… a drifter on the run… and eloquent profanity… it rolls right off my tongue… (my wife and friends will attest to that);

“And I have dined in palaces… drunk wine with kings and queens (kinda like the other week when I hung out with the minister of finance from the country of Guyana, and told him he should put on the ‘big boy pants’ and support fly fishing as a tourism entity)… but darlin’ oh darlin’ you’re the best thing I ever seen.”

Yes indeed…  no apprehension, no tension… “sweet paradise.”

In fishing, there are certain moments and places when nothing matters but the anticipation of what lies ahead, and I have come to believe that those are the best feelings of all.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve played that song as the wheels of the truck hummed over asphalt, then gravel trails.  It always puts me in the mood to fish.

“Well I’ve been across this country… from Denver to the ocean… and I’ve never met girls that could sing so sweet like the angels who live in Houston.” Without much more detail, I’ll simply vouch that that’s true.

So what’s your going to the water song?  Somewhere along the continuum of every angler’s life, that song changes from “pump you up” and anticipation, to the melancholy “seen it, done it… wish I can have a little more.”  And that’s when the tunes are sweetest.

Some of you know exactly what I am talking about.   The rest of you will discover it, no doubt, sooner or later.

MidCurrent Fly Fishing
Kirk Deeter is the editor of TROUT, the national publication of Trout Unlimited, and a frequent contributor to MidCurrent.
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  • Steve Moss

     Ah, the music. I am also a musician, Kirk. Classically trained on the piano for seventeen years, before applying my acquired talents professionally to rock and roll and then jazz/rock fusion, all the while searching for trout and the perfect fly. So, I’m a fly fishing fly-tying Gemini keyboard player, and that combination makes for some interesting polarities as far as my ‘morning music’ goes.
         Morning pre-fishing routines can be as many and as varied as there are people who fish. Mine consists, quite simply, of ‘getting there’, and the music I hear is the key. Everything else is just noise. My mornings consist of the barest minimums of preparation. That was all taken care of yesterday or the day before. It’s a simple. very effective method by which my day will invariably get off to great start. A clear mind, uncluttered by the franticisms of the ‘oh crap I forgot to do this or that’, adds immeasurably to the pleasure I derive from ‘getting there’.
         It makes the music that much more meaningful, whether it be Paul Simon’s Graceland, No One Came, off of Deep Purple’s Fireball album, or anything from Zappa’s Overnight Sensation.
         Yep, I really am a Gemini.

  • Jimwwoods

    “Crossroads” live version from Lynyrd Skynyrd.  Old school I know but it makes me “edgy” before I throw care to the wind (also know as my back cast).

  • Ontheroad

    Pure and simple classic country, starting with “On the Road Again” by Willie. 

  • Gary Soucie

    When Buddy Rich entered the hospital for the last time, he was asked if he was allergic to anything. He said, “Yes, country and western music.” I dig Patsy Cline and a few others, but mostly I agree with Buddy. I don’t see anything wrong with jazz in the morning. Not Bird playing “Confirmation” perhaps, but the MJQ rings my bell at all hours. I recall fishing the Gulf Stream off the Lower Keys one morning with Ray Madeo, and he had the MJQ’s Bach album on. Very satisfying runup to catching dolphin on green-and-yellow Lefty’s Deceivers. Monica Zetterlund singing “Waltz for Debbie” (either in English or Swedish)seems like a good preface to small-stream trout fishing. On the other hand, Bach’s “Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin” (especially played by Sergiu Luca) is the perfect music prior to and during the hearty breakfast it takes to sustain one for a hard day’s fly fishing.

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