THE AUTHOR of ‘Fifty Places To Fly Fish Before You Die’ is out with a new book, The Tug is The Drug. A collection of 30 fly fishing stories, several of which were previously published in The New York Times, Santella’s book is not about the technical side of fly fishing but rather his personal experiences and the people he has met along the way. From stories on steelhead, carp and roosterfish to investigating Bob Dylan’s lyrics for his secret love of trout, it’s great for dipping into for that final bit of motivation to get your shit together and go fishing.
Fun fact: Santella is also in a four-piece band called Catch & Release.
THE MISSION (TM): You’ve written plenty of books over the years. How long did it take you to put together The Tug is The Drug and what was the process?
CHRIS SANTELLA (CS):This project was very different than my other books, in that it’s really a compilation of essays that I published in various magazines/newspapers over the last 5 or 6 six years. Many are from the New York Times; others first appeared in Fly Fish Journal, The Drake, Fly Rod & Reel, and Gray’s Sporting Journal, among other publications. When I first started out trying to write for fly fishing magazines, I got many rejections. The publication of Fifty Places To Fly Fish Before You Die – and its modest success – have helped me a great deal in getting editors more interested in my writing, and in creating more interesting travel opportunities.
TM: What do you consider your home waters?
CS: My home waters are first and foremost the Deschutes River, which has endemic native rainbow trout and summer steelhead. It’s roughly 2 hours from Portland, OR where I live, but I make frequent day trips. I also fish for winter/spring steelhead on the Clackamas and Sandy Rivers, which are within 30 minutes of town.
TM: Is fishing better on your own or with friends?
CS: I really enjoy fishing with my friends. On many trips, there’s a good deal of time in the car, and that camaraderie in an important part of the experience. While much of the actual fishing is done alone (we’ll hike into different parts of the river or separate once the drift boat stops), it’s fun to gather at the end of the day – perhaps over a few beers – to discuss the fish caught, lost, or the ones that simply ignored us.
TM: If you had to list five of the most memorable fly fishing experiences of your life, what would they be?
CS: –Fishing the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec for Atlantic salmon.
–Casting a dry fly to a large rising brown trout (and eventually getting it to take) on a crystal clear river on the South Island of New Zealand.
–A day of sight fishing to redfish east of New Orleans, LA where we were seeing big fish all day and managed to land six fish over 25 pounds – and one nearly 40.
–An afternoon of fishing for permit at Boca Paila in the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, when we saw no fish at all…and then in the last hour, managed to land two fish.
–Fishing the mouth of the Deschutes for steelhead any time in the summer and fall. That section of the river is only 1.5 hours from my home, and when the fish are running, I’ll leave my house at 3pm, be on the river by 5, fish until dark, stop in Hood River, Oregon at a favourite pub for pizza and beer and be home before midnight. I can get in some world-class fishing without interfering with my family’s schedule too much.
TM: Have you ever fished in Africa?
CS:I have not had the good fortune as of yet. Fishing one of the outer atolls for Giant Trevally is high on the bucket list, as is fishing for tigerfish on the Zambezi.
TM: If you could, what would you change about fly fishing?
CS:In some circles, there’s still a veneer of “snobbishness” or “elitism” hanging about the sport. It’s much less than it used to be, but I think the sense of “mystery” about the pastime keeps many people at bay, and prevents a broader appreciation of the hobby. If we could get more people involved, it would ultimately benefit the resources, as it’s hard to get people to care about preserving a river/flat/etc. if they don’t love it, and if they haven’t experienced it, they can’t really love it.
The Tug is The Drug is available on Amazon.com.