by Dave Micus
was first contacted by Mick Faherty of Barrett Productions about doing a striped bass fishing show for Fly Fishing America in June. Seems that Mick read some of my stories and had somehow gotten it into his head that the itinerant striped bass bum might make for an interesting program. After some preliminary discussions, we agreed to start filming in late September, which, I figured, gave Mick almost four months to come to his senses and find a more worthy subject for a television show. But Mick, displaying more conviction than I, felt the show would work, and, as the date neared, we made final arrangements.
They would arrive on Monday afternoon; shooting would begin on Tuesday and continue until Friday. We would meet them at their hotel to discuss logistics on Monday evening. So, firm believers in the Stanislavsky System of Method Acting, co-star Mike Tolvanen and I went fishing on Monday from 5 am to 7 pm as a kind of dress rehearsal.
When it got too dark to fish any longer, we walked to Mike’s truck only to find a message on his cell from Mick. When I returned the call, Mick said he had been trying to reach us; I explained that we had been fishing and I was still in my waders. We planned to meet in an hour.
We arrived at the motel to find Mick and Aaron Selmanson, the sound maestro, getting their equipment organized. Mick and I had been corresponding for over four months at this point, and I felt I had established more than just a business rapport with him (in fact, I have come to think of Mick as the son I never wanted). Aaron was a bright, personable young man who, shifting through miles of cables and cords, obviously knew his stuff. The two cameramen, Steven Theodore and Jeff Rhoads, were not in their rooms, having gone in search of food (which, judging by their subsequent behavior, seems to be an obsession with videographers), but we would meet them the next day. Mike and I both had a good initial impression; we all connected rather quickly.
It did take us the first morning to get used to each other and into the rhythm of things. We wanted to be fishing by first light, while the cameramen, in their never-ending quest for food, wanted to be eating breakfast. We would arrive at the waters edge and charge right in, stripping line as we ran down the beach, casting as soon as we were knee deep. The film crew would call us back to the truck and chastise us for not waiting for them to set up.
"I know you guys want to fish," admonished Steve, "but we’re making a TV show here. Now get back to the truck and let us film you walking to the beach." Mike, Kahn and I walked back to the parking lot, heads bowed, seemingly compliant but plotting our revenge. We stood by the truck until they were set up. "Ok, we’re ready, come on," Steve yelled. We didn’t budge. "Come on," he said again, getting impatient. We still didn’t move. "What are you guys waiting for?" he finally asked, exasperated. "You didn’t say action," I yelled back. Steve rolled his eyes. "Ok, action," he said, and, giggling like school children, we moved toward the water. But by lunch of the first day we were all well into the filming, understanding each other’s needs, and, more importantly, thoroughly enjoying each other’s company.
I was extremely impressed by the quality of the crew. Mick has done over 30 shows for Barrett, had worked on the set of A River Runs Through It, and came within a fish hair of producing a movie version of Jim Harrison’s A Good Day To Die. Aaron, though by far the youngest of us all, had worked on many fishing shows as well as the Duck’s Unlimited program on OLN. Prior to joining us, Jeff had been filming reality television shows, most notably Fear Factor (for which I hold him partially responsible for the decline of western civilization), and Steve had been touring with Britney Spears, working on a video she was producing. In other words, an extraordinary crew sent to film three mere striper fishermen (but I had to wonder what gods Steve had offended to fall so far so fast—from Britney to bass bums).
I did have two major trepidations about the whole project. One was we wouldn’t catch many fish. Mike and I had caught over fifty striped bass between us the day before the shooting, but, in that odd but predictable way of the angle, the fishing was much slower when it counted. I expressed my concerns to Mick. "You guys caught enough fish the first day to make an entire program," he assured me. "So don’t worry about that." (Much later Mick would write to tell me that of every show he filmed this year we had landed the most fish.) My second fear was more personal; when you’re involved in something like this there is a nagging feeling that you are going to look and sound like a fool, especially when compared to Mike and Kahn, who, between them, have close to 100 years of fly fishing in the striper surf. That was a fear I’d have to live with until I actually saw the program.
By the end I felt that it was about the most fun I’ve ever had fishing. Mike and Kahn agreed. The angling was good, the company was better, the experience was interesting, and spending anytime at all with Mike Tolvanen is sure to produce some chuckles. At one point Mike and I were being filmed from a distance, with the scenic Thatcher Island and its twin lighthouses in the background. Nudging me, Mike said, "Do you think that jackass with the headphones on can hear us now?" Aaron, thirty yards away, stopped fiddling with his sound equipment long enough to signal, with one finger, that he heard us loud and clear.
And then there was Cody the dog. Cody met us at Coffin beach and followed us throughout the day. His owners must have had a house nearby, because Cody had that confident, friendly demeanor that said "this is my turf, but I don’t mind if you hang around." When we waded into the water Cody sat watching, and every time Mike hooked a fish Cody jumped in the water and frantically paddled after it, trying to catch the fish in his mouth. At one point Mike landed a bass and as he was picking it up Cody grabbed it by the tail, and a tug of war ensued worthy of any Three Stooges episode. We were all in tears.
"Did you catch that on film?" I asked Mick.
"I have bad news for you," Mick answered solemnly. "We’ve changed the focus of the show from striper fly fishermen to Cody the Amazing Fishing Dog. You’ll still be in the program, but only from the knees down."
Our last day of filming rolled around all too quickly. We were fishing the mouth of the Ipswich River, and it was one of those situations where the planets aligned and we were getting a fish on nearly every cast. It was also time for the dreaded Interview. Kahn went first, then Mike; I went last giving my nerves plenty of time to jangle. I’m not exactly sure what I said, but it seemed as if I was babbling incoherently. I could only hope that through technological editing wizardry I would be made to sound at least as if I was speaking English.
"You did fine," Mick assured me. I wasn’t so certain.
We quit for the day and headed out to dinner, then it was back to Mike’s house for coffee before our final goodbyes. At this point we all felt like good friends were moving away, and we exchanged email addresses and phone numbers and promised to stay in touch (and we do). And, then, like all good things, the filming of our TV show came to pass.
I met Mike the next day at 5am to fish, but our hearts weren’t really in it. It seemed odd not to be with the crew. We fished as we normally do, from dawn until dusk with no breaks, but I have to admit that, when lunch time rolled around, I kind of missed the cameramen with their voracious appetites insisting that we quit even though the fish were feeding to go get a bite to eat.
(NOTE: I would like to thank cameraman Steven Theodore for contributing photos to this article, as well as teaching me the correct pronunciation of calamari)
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Dave Micus lived in Ipswich, Massachusetts where he was an avid striped bass fly fisherman, writer, instructor and "star" of an episode of the outdoor show, Fly Fishing America. In 2006 he made the move from sea level to the Rocky Mountains of Montana where he has taken up fly rodding for trout, hunting and enjoying life in the "Big Country."
Copyright © 2003 - 2013 David Micus, All Rights Reserved