Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash: Am I a music snob? And throwing out the fly fishing rulebook

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Matt Labash
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      Matt Labash

      Hi, welcome to “Ask Matt Labash.” I’ll be your host, Matt Labash. The idea for this column – if idea isn’t too strong a word – is that it is not a column at all. Rather, it’s a conversation. One in which I do ninety-five percent of the talking. If you did most of the talking, you’d have to watch my eyes go dead and my attention wander until it was my turn to talk again. So trust me, it’s better this way.

      For those unfamiliar with me from my day job at The Weekly Standard, I’ll give you a capsule bio by way of introduction: I have the gift of wisdom. Does that sound arrogant? I’m sorry, that wasn’t my intention. I didn’t choose wisdom. It chose me. If I had my druthers, I’d have chosen another gift, perhaps the untold riches of Lil’ Wayne, whose teeth are made of actual diamonds, or to be the sexiest man alive, like Rachel Maddow. But wisdom is what they gave me, so wisdom is all I have to give back to you.

      This is not, you should know, a mere advice column. If you need advice, I’ll give it. But the only rule here is that there are no rules. You can ask me a question about anything that’s on your mind: current events, pop culture, media, theology, string theory, fishing tips, wicker repair. The only limits we have are those of your imagination. And those of my knowledge base. Which is considerably limited, truth be told. So try not to ask me anything that requires research. Though they tell me I have access to Google on this computer if we need it.

      If all goes according to plan, ours will not be a traditional writer/reader relationship. It’s more complex than that. I might empathize or cajole. I might educate, instruct, or inspire. I might pretend to answer your question while actually reporting you to Social Services, since you’re a dangerous person who should not have contact with children. I might tell you to climb up on my shoulders, that you’re not heavy, you’re my brother. Or I might tell you that you are heavy, and that you should hop down until you lose a few pounds. I might just sidle up behind you, put my big strong man hands on the small of your back, and whisper in your ear the words of the poet, Kenny Rogers: “We’ve got tonight, who needs tomorrow?”

      To which you’ll say something like, “I can’t, I’ve got to go home and wash my hair.”
      To which I’ll say something like, “Shhh. We’ve got tonight babe, why don’t you stay?”
      Wherever this takes us, our journey begins now:

      <i>Matt Labash is a senior writer with The Weekly Standard. His first book, <a href="">Fly Fishing with Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys</a> will be published next month by Simon & Schuster.</i>

Have you learned any new tactics for the river worth mentioning? Last year I started skating and waking flies in tailwater and from time to time had great success, and it’s fun to try something new when a drag-free drift just isn’t getting it done. Do you have anything special you’re busting out on the bass and catfish this winter? – Chad Eslin

Why yes, I do. It’s not new for me, but in winter, I throw a lot of small shad darts off my fly rod. Though the shad and catfish don’t make the scene much this time of year (the shad are anadromous, and the catfish sit on the bottom until it gets warmer), the bass will still come out and play if you fish the right conditions, and will hit darts without conscience when they’re not wintering. I experiment with different types, but my money pattern – and I’m not kidding – is Wal-Mart issue Leland darts with pink and white heads, and chartreuse tails. Which of course, aren’t flies at all, earning me a fair amount of ridicule from snobbier fishing mates. Many of whom, I’ve noticed, don’t fish during the winter, because they can’t catch much of anything. This is one of the many reasons why I prefer fishing solo. When I fish alone, I don’t have to argue fishing theory, I can just catch fish. Of course, the same mates will throw a dumbbell-eyed Clouser without thinking twice, which is often made from the same material – lead and bucktail. So I’m basically getting reprimanded on a technicality.

The truth is, both are essentially jigs, and a small dart often casts more smoothly than even a size 8 Clouser. In spots with limited casting room, it tends to get down fast without having to switch to sink-tip line. And because the hook eye sits atop the dart, rather than on the nose, such as on any traditional streamer, you can make it drop more sharply than a Clouser between strips on the retrieve (many bass like to hit on the drop). I also catch a fair amount of fish high-sticking it as though I’m nymphing. Even slow-blooded winter fish occasionally panic when they think they see a meal getting away by ascending upwards through the water column, and will hit out of insecurity. (Fish Psychology 101). I have overcome many a fruitless session on the water by switching out conventional flies, and throwing small darts. If you’re going to throw larger, heavier darts, you’re better off giving up the charade, and just breaking out your spinning rod or baitcaster, or else it will turn into a chuck’n’duck session, and you might end up wearing an unwanted earring.

You can call it cheating if you’d like. I call it “fishing.” All fishing is about deception, from the fish’s standpoint. So why be a snob about how you trick them? Artificials are artificials. It’s not like you’re live lining bluegill in front of them. While fly fishermen are truly some of my favorite people, they can also be the fussiest and most intolerant. (I am guilty of this myself, somewhat, since I refuse to pick up a spinning rod anymore, unless I’m fishing with my kids, and helping them). But the music answer above addressed whether you want to listen to good music, or to just feel pure about it. Ultimately, the same applies to fishing. At some point, you have to face facts about why you’re standing in arctic water, with icicles coming out of your nose. It’s not because you want to enforce some imaginary rulebook. It’s because you want to catch fish. That said, I will not throw bloodworms or Senkos off my fly rod. It’s fine to break the fishing commandments, on occasion. But you’re still going to have face your Maker one day.

Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” is now out in paperback from Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.

  • killtruck

    A few things.

    Have there been any music novels besides High Fidelity?

    The fiddle player for the Zac Brown Band is stone, cold dreamy.

    I’d like to hear someone have “The Weight” by The Band in a wedding. Put the load right on me, Fannie. That’s marriage. Light up your own damn life.

    “Just be nice to the gentlemen, Fancy, they’ll be nice to you” but it’d be really nice if Rebe McEntire quit doing new stuff.

    Rascal Flatts. Why?

  • srvdisciple

    Us true music elitists only listen to instrumental recordings which all but guarantee that a band remains in obscurity. The downside of this theory is that it includes KennyG music which in itself would justify enduring an ear-drum-ectomy. So determine what percentage of your CD inventory is instrumental and then you will understand your level of snobbery.

  • talibangelical

    Dear Tucker and Company,

    Can I have a column? Please…I guarantee that with family and friends alone I can get at least 10 comments per article, nearly doubling the average around here.

    If it helps, you can you use SE Cupp’s picture instead of mine.

    Let me know…thanks!

    (p.s. Matt: I agree with you re High Fidelity.