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As Seen in Southern Culture On The Fly Story: David GrossmanPhotos: Steve Seinberg, Randy Harcz, Pig Farm Ink
A shadowy network of fly fisherman from around the country with diverse backgrounds and body odors make up the rank and file Pig Farmers. Known for bad tattoos and signature events such as American Fly-dol, Iron Fly, and Get Trashed, Pig Farm Ink introduces fly fishing to the uninitiated as something that’s actually fun to do. Get it or not, they are our psychedelic version of the “Welcome Wagon,” and have descended upon Dixie for their Southern Tour.
My personal story with Pig Farm goes back a few years and involves me getting a tattoo in the back of a truck during a fly fishing show. “Born To Be Free” was imprinted prison-style on my upper arm, not because I was so devoted to the cause or even understood the cause for that matter—I just thought it would be funny. The more time I have spent on the outskirts of the Farm, observing them like Jane Goodall would an ape, the more I’ve understood what it’s all about and what makes these merry pranksters tick. So, when I was presented the opportunity to join them on the tour, I packed my bags and joined the circus.
Let the Games Begin
Iron Fly Supplies
The sketchines of the details and dates were only rivaled by the sketchiness of our chariot—a mid-2000’s Ford Freestyle they acquired in Colorado for the meager sum of $600. The Freestyle was then willed across the plains to Birmingham, and onto my door in Asheville where Jay, Nick, and Robbie piled out of the American-made automotive dodo bird. Jay, Nick and I had shared exploits on various ends of the time and space continuum. Robbie and I had never crossed paths, but we fell into a rhythm that felt at once familiar, strange, and sticky, like my favorite magazine. I quickly learned his title of Head Pig Farm “Critter Gitter” was not in name only. Robbie’s eyes darted to and fro any time we found ourselves in a critter-rich environment. I heard him verbally assault an alligator. The alligator was told he was lucky he was on the other side of the creek, or else he would’ve gotten got.
The sheer knowledge of Sasquatch alone contained within this worn group of men resembled the heady days of the fifties when Ginsburg and Kerouac were beginning their jaunt down the path to awesome shit. Before we hit the road to Florida, there was the pesky business of hosting a karaoke fly tying night. Announcements were made then retracted as locations were fleeting, until they settled on the dive bar beneath my office the day before the event. Chaos and string theory proved correct when it went off without a hitch. Well, besides the fight. Once hands were pried from throats, the evening was really quite pleasant. Carly Simon tunes were sung poorly with great frequency, and flies were tied by folks who had never before sat in front of a vice. Usually a fly tying event announced the day before warrants a showing of about three people. Pig Farm on the other hand is a living, breathing, drinking example of, ”If you bring the fun, the people will come.”
The next day, riding the high of a successful event, we adjourned to the river—the very frozen river. The fact that we really needed an auger did nothing to bring down our moods. We spent our afternoon throwing rocks at ice shelves from bridges and videotaping elaborate Rube Goldberg human chain reactions. Slingshots, BB guns, and blow darts were the constants, with a shotgunned beer always the first domino to fall. Eventually we found a run open enough to catch one fish. That fish may have legitimized the rest of the time we spent dicking around but to us the day was as it should have been sans fish.
One opening, one fish.
Casting rocks off the bridge.
The next morning found us playing Freestyle tetris with luggage, camera cases, fireworks, two sasquatch costumes, and enough fishing and tying gear to start a shop. Like all geospatial quandaries, physics ruled the day and a solution was found. With one more stop at the gas station, we were on our way to Florida for another tying event in Tampa in two days’ time. Those two days were now open to interpretation and whimsy, as a pig farm should be. There is no better microcosm of our little corner of the gestalt than a long car trip with nowhere to be and no real schedule to get there. Topics of conversation were as wide ranging as they were riveting. Knotcraft, primitive weapons, skunk apes, and sous vide techniques were explored to their molecular-like indsosyncarcies. The level of discourse reminded me that fly fisherpeople are the most underperforming group of individuals in society. If we could only find something besides fishing to motivate us with the same vigor, we could probably cure cancer, or at least figure out peace in the Middle East. But I digress. After 10 hours in the car, we pointed it toward Melbourne with plans of floor sleeping in our Florida offices. Steve met us at the office bearing keys and a mattress, like some gatekeeper in a Dungeons & Dragons scenario.
The next two days were spent in a haze of alcohol, stick and poke tattoos, and elevenkara. The culmination of which was Jay attempting to ditch dap juvenile tarpon with a 13-foot spiritual stick protruding from his car window cruising at a safe dapping speed of 8mph in the Freestyle. I was no longer the man who left my family in Asheville. My eyes had been opened and my soul stirred. To immerse yourself in the ways of the Farm was to let go of your preconceived notions of what having fun fishing and not bathing can hold.
Driving home in my rented minivan left me with more questions than answers. Who was I? When did I eat corn? What was that smell? Why did my pee burn? Where was I going? The only answer to any of the questions that makes any sense is Pig Farm Ink.