Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I have a couple of old baitcasting reels. One is a Shakespeare 1920 Wondereel and the other is a Shakespeare 1932 Tru-Axis reel. Both are beautiful little machines with very similar designs. The Wondereel was given to me by my in-laws - I think they found it in an antique (second-hand) store up the coast a few years ago. The Tru-Axis reel was given to me by my Uncle Gichi about 50 years ago. It's mounted on an aluminum 5 foot long South Bend baitcasting rod. That rod and reel combo, although old, dusty and beat up, is a treasured piece of my childhood. It hangs on the wall next to my fly tying desk. I caught dozens of bluegill with it, plus a few catfish and crawdads. I'm sure I'll always have it.

Uncle Gichi was a grape farmer in Reedley, California - an area sometimes known as "America's Fruitbasket." He loved to fish. As a kid, I remember that he had all sorts of fishing equipment in my grandparent's garage. I was fascinated with an automatic fly reel that retrieved its line at the push of a button. I had no idea how one would use it to catch fish, but it was pretty cool. I would see him once, occasionally twice a year - not really enough to base a real strong relationship. But I think he always related to my little sister and I because the three of us were pretty much the "black sheep" of the family. He was smart, proud and could be quite stubborn. He was his own person and didn't worry about being like everyone else. My sister and I were the smart-mouthed, tie-dye and bead wearing hippies of the family from Los Angeles. My cousins weren't so overtly rebellious - they were saints while we were...well, we weren't necessarily sinners, but we sure were a lot closer to burning in hell than they were.

Uncle Gichi passed away seven or eight years ago. We were on vacation at the time and didn't get the bad news until we got home, missing his funeral. Sometimes I'll think about him and his brother, Uncle George who also loved fishing, when I'm out on a trout stream. I'm sure that, in spirit, they're out there with me. I'm also sure that if they actually were there, they'd easily out-fish me, too.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bass Bait

I'm always amazed at the popularity of bass fishing. Unlike trout, you can find bass just about anywhere there's water - irrigation canals & ponds, golf course waterhazards, natural & man-made lakes, rivers and streams. They're everywhere...but that doesn't mean that they're easy to catch. There are so many different ways to catch them - plastic worms, real worms, stinkbait, crankbait, buzzbait and many more. The current method for really big bass is using huge 11" swimbait lures made to look and move like farm-raised rainbow trout. I've seen video of those lures in action, and they really "swim" like the real thing. Big bass have learned to prey upon the stunned, defenseless fish after they've been scooped out of their concrete pens, transported sometimes hundreds of miles, then dumped into an unfamiliar lake. Those trout are raised and bred to be big, fat and easy for people to catch. Easy pickings for big, smart predators, too.

Most bass lures resemble some sort of natural food item like crawdads, insects or other fish. Buzzbaits, on the other hand, have very little resemblance to anything natural, at least to me. They often look more like something that an orthodontist might cram into a teenager's mouth or part of a device that collects data for the National Weather Service. The shiny wires, spinners and propellers create quite a disturbance, a "buzz" I guess, that probably just pisses off bass to the point of aggression. It sure can't be that buzzbait look like something tasty.

There's been a ton of stuff written about the artistry of fly fishing, especially fly tying. The beauty of bass lures has been long overlooked. They range from abstract-impressionism to jewel-like reproductions of natural food items. I like vintage lures. The image above is my interpretation of an old, floating bass plug, which was probably designed to imitate a wounded baitfish.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

ATH reels...very different

When you look at fly reels, 99% seem to find their origins in two basic designs: the classic Orvis CFO/Hardy Lightweight style or the mid-to-large arbor types. The bottom line for most reels is that they hold the flyline, so there really isn't that much need for huge variations in design. Other than the use of high tech materials, most of the reels of today aren't that different from those of 100 years ago. Sure, many reels have had 30 or 40 holes of varying shapes and sizes drilled in them for lightness...but I suspect that much of that isn't as much for catching fish as it's for catching fishermen.

The reels of Ari 't Hart definitely are different. When you see one, you immediately know a couple of things about them: they are beautiful, they are probably very expensive and they are definitely not your run-of-the-mill flyreel. I don't own one, nor do I know anyone who does, so I have no idea whether or not they are light years better or even merely as good as any $29, made in Asia, Walmart special. It really doesn't matter...to me, they are beautiful, engineering marvels. And maybe someday I'll have one of these jewels holding my flyline for me.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Reel life

For me, a flyreel is primarily a line holder. In this day and age of high-tech, aerospace-grade, self-lubricating, sealed, waterproof, teflon and titanium alloy disk drags, I couldn't tell you what type of drag mechanism most of my reels use. Honestly, whenever I do hook a fish, I'm usually too excited to remember to fight the fish with the reel. Besides, I seldom catch fish large enough to really need an adjustable drag. I could get by with a $29 beginner's reel, but my ego won't let me. I have a nice mid-range reel on my favorite rod. But even then, I got it at a bargain-basement price when the manufacturer decided to change the shape of the porting holes on the reel. You could call it a semi-expensive line holder....

This new illustration is a Hardy Marksman reel. Most of my reel images have been of older, classic styles, so this time i wanted to do a much more modern looking one. I was drawn to this particular reel because of its distinctive design. Unfortunately, I am pretty sure that Hardy has discontinued it. Too bad, I really like the donut/bagel shape.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

My online illustration portfolio

I finally have my fly fishing illustration portfolio online! Just 10 pages of my work, but hopefully it will give a prospective client a pretty good idea of what I can do. http://www.krop.com/ghiramatsu/

I hope to have a more general graphic design portfolio up and running in the next week. That will have advertising and logo design, television commercials, feature film work, some photography and illustrations.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Beauty is....

Wild trout are like snowflakes - no two are identical. Genetic and environmental variables produce an infinite number of color, size and shape combinations. I never cease to be amazed at their beauty. I guess the closest thing to identical trout would be hatchery fish - they all seem to be the same dull aluminum color and cookie-cutter size. But hatchery fish, too, in their own way are beautiful creatures...at least in the exaggerated stories I tell when I manage to catch one!