Tuesday, May 19, 1998

Inner City Fly Fishing

Written for "The Unlikely Muse" Houston Sidewalk 1998

Mark Marmon of Metro Anglers promises to get you fly fishing within ten minutes of downtown Houston, and it's not because he has a really fast car. Would you believe that carp, bass, mullet, perch, sunfish and coy reside happily in the city's dingy Bayous and Day-Glo-colored manmade lakes? Mark Marmon will convert any skeptic who thinks the only organism that could survive in these tepid waters is E. coli. Still, the name of the game
is catch and release.

Fly fishing is practically a religion for some. This zen-like practice which involves the art of fly-tying, with delicate tools, a nearly invisible line and ornate artificial flies attracts a faithful following. A fly fisherman prides himself in his attentiveness, his knowledge of the environment, and his skillful casting that leaves the water seemingly untouched. It's a quiet, somewhat solitary sport where the fish can see and hear you and vise versa. Needless to say, it's not the same type of fishing where you strap yourself into an angler's seat and reel in a 200lb tuna while screaming profanities at the top of your lungs. Less drama, more process.

Marmon, who grew up fly fishing with his grandfather in the Medina and Guadalupe Rivers of San Antonio, makes a point of "wetting a line" nearly everyday. He says the diehard fly fisherman always has his gear in the car, and in Mark's case, his gear and some Honduran cigars. Besides his rod and lines, assorted flies, his hemostat (for removing the hook) and nipper (for trimming the line), Mark carries a detailed log book of every fish that he catches. Since January, he's caught 225.

About a year ago, a plastic surgeon from Ann Arbor, Michigan responded to an on-line ad that Mark had posted with his pledge of inner city angling-- he had joked to friends that he could start a business of his favorite pursuit. Mark's first client was so pleased with his return that Mark started receiving word-of-mouth referrals. Year's of experience, a love for the sport and forensic knowledge of Houston's waterways (Mark previously worked for a bio assessment company -- another reason he knows not to keep the fish) were the impetus for Marmon's Metro Anglers.

There are 3 "lies" (the place where fish hold and feed) to which Mark directs his clients: the lakes on the grounds of Transco Tower, Braes Bayou, and 2 lakes near the Astrodome. Mark provides all of the equipment and the trips last about 2 hours.

For our urban fishing excursion, Mark and I met at Braes Bayou near the corner of Stella Link and North Braeswood. We parked our cars at a run down strip center behind a Texaco Station and walked south across the Stella Link bridge to the other side of the Bayou. As we passed over the water, we -- with the aid of polarized sunglasses --could see several dozen huge carp, mullet and coy actively cutting the surface. We climbed gingerly down a steep incline and across a high speed bike path full of cyclers that recognized Mark and shouted "how's the fishing?" and other inaudible greetings. Within seconds, Mark cast his coffee bean fly in the water and repeatedly casted in the direction of the fish. When Mr. coffee bean didn't "match the hatch" which means imitate what the fish are eating, Mark switched to a bead head nymph, and bingo! We had been there for about 15 minutes when he had a take on his line and reeled in a sizable German brown carp, number 226.

While inner city angling might lack the idyllic scenery and elicit more than a few inquisitive stares, once you witness the abundance and variety of fish, it's hard to notice anything else. What's more is now when you post a "gone fishing" sign on your office door during lunch hour, it's feasible that you have.

Metro Anglers

Friday, May 01, 1998

Brucker Survival Capsules

Image: Brucker Survival Capsule arriving at Texas Oil exhibition by The Center for Land Use Interpretation. Photo: Rachel Hooper

Written for "The Unlikely Muse" Houston Sidewalk 1998

The Martians have landed on Wayside Drive in East Houston. A field of bright orange saucers with their hatches poised to open invokes images of Grover Mills, New Jersey during Orson Welles' 1938 radio broadcast, "The War of the Worlds." Perhaps these strange vessels are carrying "the vanguard of an invading army from the planet Mars." Do they mean us harm? Actually, they mean to save our lives, but not in the Heaven's Gate sense.

The alien ships are really fiberglass lifeboats-- the lifesaving devices found aboard oil riggs and jumbo seafaring ships. Alexander/Ryan Marine & Safety sells these refurbished saucer crafts which we're designed in 1968 by a now defunct safety company called Whittaker, and resemble space technology of the era. Known as Brucker Survival Capsules, these round lifeboats have room for 28 passengers and are typically equipped with life preservers, seatbelts and 7 days worth of sea rations that would make you seasick if you weren't already-- unappetizing carbo cubes labeled "compressed concentrated food" and single-serving water bags.

But not if you're James Bond. Fans of 007 might recognize the Brucker Capsule from the final scene of "The Spy Who Loved Me." James and his handsome companion await sea rescue in a modified Brucker capsule, fur-lined and furnished with champagne and mood music. So much for rations and sea sores. That same lifeboat was later sold and incorporated into an episode of the 70s television program "The Six Million Dollar Man."

If you look in the backyard of Alexander/Ryan, you'll see some more streamlined double-hulled lifeboats. These are the modern crafts that replace the Brucker Capsules. But the space age capsules are still for sale if you're planning to make a low budget sci-fi film or a James Bond-inspired love den.

A topical side note: The main impetus for today's mandatory marine safety equipment--flares, survival suits, radios, rafts-- was an event that occurred back in 1912, the sinking of the Titanic.

Alexander/Ryan Marine & Safety

2000 Wayside Dr. Houston, TX 77261-9363

(713) 923-1671

To get there: Take I-10 East to Wayside. Head south on Wayside about 1/2 mile and Alexander/Ryan will be on the east side of the street at both 1910 and 2000. The 1910 lot says Nova Enterprises, but it's rented by Alexander/Ryan for the storage of their Brucker Survival Capsules.