of picking my head up to enjoy the scenery or even acknowledge another fish working at my heels. I love to fly fish, I don't even need to catch. On my last trip to the West Branch Matt Batschelet of the West Branch Angler Resort put it best, " As long I have targets to cast too-I am happy". That was well put and true as we discussed the sporadic rises during a heavy caddis hatch.
In my professional life as a photographer, technology has changed it all for me, maybe even ruined it. With point and shoot cameras, ease of transmitting pictures, and the web changing the rules of engagement, I have started to loose the confidence in my abilities and the industry as a whole. The newspapers are on life support, budgets are tight, words and images have lost their monetary value in this free information age of linking, sharing, and networking. I know it's changed everything, not just journalism. My friend, Dave Chouinard, who opened The Fly Hatch in Red Bank in the early nineties, can attest how technology has hurt the local fly shop industry. The internet and ebay was a double edged sword. It changed businesses and the men and women who worked them. Dave is a fantastic caster, fly fisherman, shop owner, and guy. During the years the shop moved to Shrewsbury, and it was a great place. Stocked to the gills, with everything you needed for the stripers at the Jersey shore, bonefish in Andros, trout in the Adirondacks, and every possible material you needed at the vice. The only thing missing was a blue ribbon fishery in the backyard. Around here the stripers, blues and albies come and go. The regulars and fans were just that, but guys are guys, and consumers are consumers. They appreciated the shop and the staff, but still surfed the net for a deal. Money is money. I worked there on and off for a few years before he closed. You could tell the guy that was coming in to test a Sage rod before he bought it online. He acted funny. Non-committal, maybe even a little guilty. But it was what it was. And so eventually he closed. He packed up his wife and two kids and moved to Tampa, and opened The Tampa Angler. A year round fishery consisting of reds, snook, and tarpon. I hope to visit him this year. We haven't fished together for two years, our last outing was a day trip to the Black River in New Jersey in the waters of a private fishing club he belonged to. We had a great time, and lost count of the fish we caught that day. I am sure he will be a huge success down in Florida, and I always wish him well.
On a different note, I was saddened to learn earlier this year that Fran Betters was not doing well. I know he has been sick the last couple of years, but now he is on hospice care at home. I read a letter he recently put out looking for someone to buy his shop. It was a sad read. I remember talking with him at his old shop about passing on the torch. How he needed to find a young apprentice and pass the legacy on. He asked if I wanted to buy it- that he would stay teach me until I was ready to go at it alone. I was humbled and honored, just at the thought of it. The Ausable Wulff, the Haystack, the Irresistable, and so much more. Has anyone done more for fishing the West Branch of the Ausable than Fran? Maybe there is, but I don't think so. Sadly I think that Wulff will sink forever when Fran makes his last cast into his favorite river, and it is his river.