Contained within this section are some of my writings that I would like to periodically share with you . Most all of the manuscripts presented here have appeared in local, regional or national publications and range from newspapers and magazines to web-based publications. Some have been excerpted from other works of mine. The content on these pages will change occasionally so please check back often to see what's new.

The following story was awarded third place recognition in the Outdoor Writers Association of America's 2007 Excellence in Craft Essay Contest. I'd like to share this very memorable experience with you. I hope you enjoy it.

Forever Bass.... A Moment of Truth
by Angelo Peluso

There are things that occur in each of our lives, which have the potential for altering the way we view our existence. They can be events affecting family, friends, one's job and yes, even fishing. I had one such episode happen quite a number of years ago that, to this day, has had a profound impact on me. While this event involved a largemouth bass, it has since affected my outlook on fishing regardless of the species of fish I pursue. Here's what happened....

As the fortune cookie opened, I eased out the little slip of green paper. Upon it the seemingly mystic message appeared. "You have shown the courage to make an honorable decision." I recoiled at reading those words. My God, what a coincidence! Could He have known? Was the master creator watching me today? Did He see what had occurred? If so, He surely must have known my inner feelings. After all He too was a fisherman !

Strangely, this message was like a soothing elixir for it offered timely and much needed reassurance.

"Did you enjoy your meal?" my wife asked.

"You know, He could very well have been testing me. My beliefs, standards and sporting ethics were all on the line. All exposed for the viewing."

"Was the food okay?" my wife reiterated, her voice becoming somewhat louder.

I mumbled something about it really being too good to believe. And on second thought, there just had to be some sort of divine intervention with it all.

"You're obviously not referring to the Moo Shu Pork. You are preoccupied with that fish and it's getting the best of you."

"Oh, that fish. You are probably right." I half-heartedly replied.

"You did what you felt was necessary and that's all there is to it."

"I know but you didn't see it. It was magnificent. Let's pay this bill and go home."

Throughout the night my mind wandered. Sleep did not come easily. That fish had gotten the best of me. I had it in my hands. One of my most meaningful angling achievements realized and I let it slip away. Or did I? How could I let a fish torment me in this way? Easy! In several decades of freshwater fishing I'd never experienced such a series of incredible events....events that happened virtually in my own backyard.

The entire incident resulted from a decision to join my best angling buddy on a local pickerel fishing trip. After almost two solid months of trout fishing I was ready for a warm-water changeover....some new scenery and some different fish. It was decided that we would fish a small twenty-acre pond that held a solid population of rather large chain pickerel. We calculated this to be the prime time to coax an early season trophy pickerel. We were also motivated by a request from the then head of freshwater fisheries for the DEC to assist with an angler study of the pond. We were asked to record the results of our fishing excursion. He made it a point to mention that the pond only contained pickerel and assorted panfish so that is what we should expect. There had been some rumors of largemouth bass but not to anticipate too much action with them. That was fine by me because big pickerel would be more than adequate fishing.

I met Bob at 6 a.m. that fateful Saturday morning. We grabbed some breakfast at a diner and talked about our favorite subject - fishing. Our conversation continued as we made the forty-five minute drive to the pond. We spoke of fish caught over the years and of the bigger ones we were hopeful to catch in the future. Fish talk like that is magical for it knows not the boundaries of time and before we realized it the pond had materialized before us.

It took about ten minutes to assemble our gear and launch the small jon boat. The casting began as soon as we shoved off from shore. Bob made the first cast and was instantly fast to a fish that seized a yellow spinner bait.

"Feels more like a bass to me than a pickerel," was Bob's immediate reaction. "Whatever it is, it's small."

As the fish came along side the boat, Bob lipped it, a sure sign it wasn't a wolf of the weeds. An auspicious beginning to a "pickerel" trip, especially for a pond that was reputed to contain few if any largemouth.

As the released bass swam off I heard Bob say, "Come back when you add a few pounds." If only then he knew.

During the first few hours of fishing we caught and released a number of exceptional pickerel and an occasional straggler bass. Eighteen sizeable fish had been caught, set free and recorded into our logbooks before the first revealing sign of things to come.

I was tossing a five-inch jointed minnow plug....the floating/sinking variety.... when a bolt of piscatorial lightning struck just as I gave the motionless plug some life, twitching it on the water's surface. In the shallow water I observed the dark lateral line on the full-bodied fish and knew instantly that is was a fine northern largemouth. Following the brief but active tussle, Bob slipped the net under a very healthy six-pound largemouth bass. I freed the fish from the plug and set it back into the water.

"That was a nice fish," Bob commented approvingly. "Especially from a pond that isn't supposed to contain bass!"

"It certainly was. I hope she has a good spawn. Can't wait to tell the fisheries guys about that one."

I maneuvered the small aluminum boat out of the cove we were in and out to a point along the adjacent shoreline. Bob was tossing a small crank bait while I continued flipping the plug. I made a cast under an overhang and tight against the bank, letting it remain motionless for a few moments. One twitch of the plug was all that was needed to motivate that bass to strike. My reflexes intuitively struck back and I was fast to another fighting largemouth. When the fish finally tired, Bob once again manipulated the net as I guided the bass into it. The largemouth was almost the identical twin of the first. A few admiring remarks were made before sending this unexpected battler back to freedom and her spawning mandate.

A short period of time had elapsed before it was Bob's opportunity to catch and release a beautiful 6 1/4 pound largemouth. Something unusual was definitely taking shape here as more big bass continued to hit our plugs. We were both amazed at the consistency with which we had managed to take large fish. The big pickerel had now seemingly faded into the background. What was most astonishing was that we were doing all this from a small Long Island puddle of a pond. It seemed as though spring was bringing out the best in this place, and we both agreed then and there to try again for these fish once the season officially opened in a week. At this point in the trip we had already landed five bass from 5 3/4 pounds up to one fish slightly heavier than 7 pounds. But there were still more surprises in store for us.

We continued down the shoreline, working our plugs over, around and through every piece of visible structure. I could easily envision that big old pickerel lying in wait for some hapless prey. It was just about noon when we entered a small cove for the second time. The image of what was soon to occur would be permanently etched on my mind for all time. As the plug landed on the right side of the overhang, about six feet from the shoreline, the huge fish made its first move toward it. Aggressively, the fish took an initial swipe at the plug, knocking the imitation baitfish into the air and several feet from its original position. The fish then swam to the plug and much to my amazement rose up, mouthed the plug and re-positioned it. I was too dumbfounded to set the hook! But the fish was still watching the plug. Regaining my composure I manipulated the jointed minnow to simulate a stunned and injured prey and hopefully stimulate another reactive strike. It worked....the fish assaulted the plug and pounced on it again, this time getting very well hooked in the process. She was extremely strong. Her fight was in low gear, brute force as opposed to speed - no jumps just dogged bull rushes and drag pulling runs. This wasn't just another big pickerel. My fears were confirmed as she came broadside to the boat and I saw the very long lateral line. This was a leviathan largemouth.

I yelled for Bob to get the net as I sensed her fight begin to fade. Closer she came.

Almost there, come on....come on.

She was now alongside the boat and with one quick, efficient motion the bass lined the bottom of the entire net. Bob looked at her, then looked at me and didn't say a word. He had known me long enough to appreciate that this bass might just represent the one angling threshold I longed to hurdle - a Long Island largemouth bass well over eight pounds. I lifted the fish and I knew. We took length and girth measurements and then put her on a small scale that we had. I then noted her weight in the logbook....nine pounds two ounces!

The amount of time that I held that bass in my grasp seemed eternal, when in reality it was but a few moments. A couple of times I eased her back into the water only to remove her to get one more look. She was a massive fish. To this day I remember how both of my hands held her by the lower jaw....both fists fitting loosely in her mouth with a lot of room to spare!

"How about a picture?" Bob offered. It sounded great until I remembered, no camera.

My mind accelerated through a confused yet rapid thought process, a conflict of conscience. The angels of good and evil peered each peered over a shoulder offering advice.

"You'd better put her back."

"Maybe you could keep her."

"You can't, it's a week until the season opens. You know it's wrong."

"Yeah, that's true, but think about all the fish you've released. What harm could taking one fish do? Biggest bass you've ever caught - it would look great in the den."

"It may be only one bass, but she can help keep this small pond alive, giving you and others even greater enjoyment in the future. You wouldn't feel right killing her."

"Put her on the stringer....go ahead you deserve it!"

"Don't do it!"

As I struggled with this dilemma my mind processed the emotions at light-speed pace and I began to think about wild bass and what they had meant to my life. I thought of how they had helped mold a young boy's personality and character and instill in him a love of the outdoors that carried through into adulthood. I thought of the lessons that bass taught about the meaning of strength.... not just in the brute physical sense of the word, but the kind that aids one in overcoming the hardships of life's everyday struggles; how to survive in a tough world.

I thought about their lessons of courage and what it means to be free and more importantly how vigorously one should fight to pursue freedom.

Bass me taught about the beautiful places, the lakes, the ponds, and the rivers where solitude and nature are fine companions. They taught me about humility and the reality that success does not come easily. And above all they taught me what it means to have passion about something in life.

I eased that bass back into the water and watched her lay motionless alongside the boat. With one powerful sweep of her tail she was gone. Gone as a possession but certainly not as a memory.

"You did what you had to do," were Bob's words that broke the long silence. "After all, you did catch the fish. That's what counts."

I thought about that too and wondered who had caught whom. I still do.

Epilogue: Many years later I discovered a taxidermist who was able to recreate an exact graphite replica of that bass from the measurements we had taken. That reproduction now hangs in my home office.

The following excerpts are from the book, Saltwater Flies of the Northeast (Frank Amato Publishing, Portland Oregon, 2006)

FULL CIRCLE
By Angelo Peluso

I caught my first striped bass during the summer of 1964. It wasn't a big fish - just barely a keeper that back then needed to measure but sixteen inches. Yet, it was one of the most remarkable catches for this fledgling angler. It opened up an entirely new world of fishing to me, and one that ultimately led me into the realm of saltwater fly-fishing.

Up until that striped bass grabbed my swimming plug almost all of my fishing was confined to freshwater - drowning earthworms for hatchery trout and casting artificial plastic worms for largemouth bass. And this only happened when I was fortunate enough to spend some time at an uncle's cabin on a pond in upstate New York. Occasionally I would ride by bike or subway along with a friend to the outer reaches of the Bronx to catch flounder and tomcod, and on the most special of outings hitch on to a ride out to Moriches, Long Island to drift for fluke in a rented dory. But always for me, large striped bass remained the most coveted and elusive of prizes and is a fish that has guided me down a memory filled path.

As a young boy I held in high esteem those "old salts" whose photographs with large fifty-pound plus bass were regularly posted in the local fishing tabloids. If only I could learn their secrets and apply their fishing wisdom, then perhaps I too could be captured on film, immortalized in the annals of angling history with such a trophy. While I have been fortunate to catch some marvelous specimens of striped bass over the years, that elusive fifty-pounder has yet to grace the end of my line. I suspect that has much to do with my preferred method for fishing striped bass - the fly rod! I suspect too that it also had a lot to do with the dramatic decline in the striped bass stocks that began in the 1970s. We did not bear witness to a strong recovery from that crash of the bass until the early 1990s. But through most of the 60s I was fortunate to have a "honey hole" in the Bronx that kept me into school-sized bass on a consistent basis. I was also fortunate to have a fishing friend who owned a car, and that facilitated the trips to this reasonably secret urban location in western Long Island Sound. That Ford Falcon sure beat peddling my gear-laden bike and enabled us to fish this location on a much more frequent basis. Over time we became recognized "regulars" at this spot along with a handful of older gentlemen who understood the secrets of the rising and falling tides. I needed to learn what they knew. Oddly though, they never seemed to totally accept us, until one very memorable day in that cove.

While I had not yet begun to fly fish for stripers the events of one particular day in that cove would indirectly lead me to the fly rod. My friend and I had nary a touch to our plugs during the entire incoming tide, nor did the handful of other regulars. Everyone else had stopped fishing. I continued to repetitiously cast and after a while it became somewhat of a routine effort. I was in the zone and just kept casting. If I made one cast that day I made a thousand. The old-timers, most of whom were bait-fishermen, were chuckling and I heard one say, "They won't catch anything like that. Times like this all the fish want is bait." My friend and I paid no attention to that indirect advice - we just kept casting. Just about the time the tide was halfway to its low point, we noticed the dimpling of bait on the surface and the dorsal fins of feeding fish. We couldn't quite reach those fish but we waited. Finally, with receding water and bait movement, the fish were within our range, and we caught striped bass one after another until our arms gave out. One of the old timers shouted over to me, "that's what it means to keep pluggin' -you guys deserve those fish.'" I guess we were finally accepted.

Shortly after that experience, circumstance and opportunity brought a fly rod into my life. At the time I became aware of a book about fly fishing that was written by Bob Swirz and Morty Marshall two years earlier, "The Young Sportsman's Guide to Fly Fishing." After reading numerous fly-fishing articles in the magazines of the "Big Three" I had become intrigued with the concept. But I hadn't a clue where to begin. Unlike today, the "art" of fly fishing back then was shrouded in a veil of mysticism. When I came to realize that Bob Swirz and his wife owned and operated a tackle shop in NYC, The Angler's Cove, I wasted no time in making a pilgrimage there by subway. As an impressionable youngster I was in awe to be in the presence of a real fly fishing guru. After awkwardly browsing through the shop I purchased my book, had some of my questions answered in very understandable terms and said I would be back after reading my newest acquisition. I couldn't wait to get back on the subway to begin reading my book. It was a most enlightening read. One of the things that really piqued my interest was on page seventy-two of that book, "The Fly Rod in Salt Water." Reading the opening paragraph to that chapter was for me an epiphany, "It can't be done. You're wasting your time. What does he think he's doing?" Obviously, the authors encountered the same resistance to alternative forms of fishing as I had. To me, reading that quote was very much like the old bait fishermen from the cove telling me I couldn't catch those bass on my artificial lures. But as I would read further that lead-in was just a motivation for the authors to prove the skeptics wrong. I finished that book before arriving at my subway stop and vowed that I would learn to catch fish on a fly rod in saltwater. Much of my adult life has been occupied with pursuing that goal.

About five years ago I relocated back to Long Island from New Jersey. Although I had lived in close proximity to the Delaware River and much of my free time was spent catching shad, smallmouth bass and river stripers on the fly rod, my physiology needed a more sustained infusion of salt water. While living in New Jersey I did make numerous annual forays to the salt in my then home state straight up through Maine and beyond to the tidal rivers of Alaska. This search for saltwater fly fishing opportunities was, in many respects, the genesis for this book, but I deeply missed the much-needed proximity to my natal waters of Long Island Sound. The waters of the Sound were calling to me and I no longer could resist.

It was mid-April, 2000 when I found myself, with fly rod in hand, once again walking the beaches of the north shore of Long Island; beaches framed by high cliffs, remnants of the receding Wisconsin Glacier whose advances formed Long Island and the Sound. The water was quite clear, algae-free, and were it not for the coolness of the air, somewhat reminiscent of the look and character of Bahamas water. Everything beneath the surface of the shallows was distinctively visible and in high contrast. I started to cast, a small chartreuse and white Deceiver tied to the end of my leader. Shorts slow strips were the order of the day. It felt good to be here again....a renaissance of sorts.

Casting and wading is my favorite form of fly-fishing. While I love the flexibility a boat gives me I would much rather be in water than on it. Wading provides the opportunity to be one with the environment and places me dimensionally on a plane with the quarry. It's up close and personal; you see your surroundings differently while wading since you are a part of the scenery! I was in no rush on this day so I cast and waded, slowly making my way up the beach. It had been a long journey in arriving at this place. I thought about it all as I fished. Solitude is often one of the pleasures for it frees the mind to think.

But I wasn't able to contemplate too long for I nearly had the rod jolted from my hands as I made an almost instinctive strip set. The fish was on and it was a dandy....definitely no early season hickory shad. The fish took line and I knew from its dogged fight precisely what it was that ate my fly. Fish at this time of year can be a bit lethargic but the one at the end of my line was indeed full of spunk. Slowly gaining line it moved closer to the shallow zone that bordered the beach and through the clear water I could see its dorsal fin and tail. There was no mistaking this fish, the smile on my face confirming it. I could now see my fly wedged in the corner of the fish's mouth. My heart was racing a little, you know, that "buck-fever" feeling, as I guided the fish on to the beach. "Yes!" was the only exclamation that accompanied the fish as it rested briefly upon the sand. A quick stretching of the tape covered 28 1/4 inches of that striped bass.

What a nice welcome back to Long Island Sound! I lipped the bass and admired it for a moment before returning it to its element. As I released the fish it remained motionless and suspended for but an instant before a swift, powerful stroke of its tail sent it back on its way. Watching the bass swim off, my mind instantly reverted to an image of a young boy in a cove hoisting his first striper. I had now made the round trip. This last bass had taken me home, taken me full circle!

STEWARDSHIP
By Angelo Peluso

The opening scene in the movie adaptation of James Fennimore Cooper's, "The Last of the Mohicans" is a revealing simile for those of us that share a love of the outdoors, especially fishing and hunting. The setting is the mid-1700s somewhere in the Hudson River Valley, a river that today gives life to many of the striped bass that northeast fly anglers are fortunate to catch. But back then majestic elk roamed the woods and were a valued source of food and clothing. As this scene unfolds Nathaniel Poe, better known as Hawkeye, sets his musket sights on an elk running through the thick woods. As he fires the long rifle, Hawkeye remains true to his nickname, and the elk crumbles. He and his two Native American companions rush to the side of their harvest. Upon seeing this great animal in death a somber reverence comes over the three hunters. Chingachgok pays homage, "We are sorry to kill you brother. We do honor to your courage and speed, your strength."

Our Native American cultures all shared a belief that none of us can ever really own the land or that which cohabitates the land with us.... "we just borrow it briefly from our children." Implicit in that belief is that it applies as well to our waters and to of all the earth's natural resources, especially its fish. Having spent quite a bit of time fly-fishing the waters of Alaska I have been influenced by those traditional relationships between the first inhabitants of North America and the fish and game they pursued for survival. With respect to fish, they continue to demonstrate a deep and abiding reverence for the salmon that they harvest. Simply put, they honor the fish they catch and take only that which they need to survive. Their quest was for survival, while today ours is one mainly for recreation and sport.

I had cause to reflect upon these values during the writing of this book while perusing the pages of several fishing magazines and various on-line fishing websites. In one instance I was deeply moved to witness what I can only describe as a "hero conquest" photograph of a disturbing and revealing image depicting an unfortunate trend. There before me on the page was an image of some very large striped bass. These were not mere twenty-pound specimens; the five bass were exceptional examples of their species, collectively ranging in weight from forty to sixty pounds and all taken on the same fishing trip. While their proportions were quite impressive, the most remarkable thing about this photograph was the fact that all the fish were dead! Most seasoned anglers reading this book know the type of bass they were; big breeders, the ones wantonly wiped out in the 1960s. The ones whose demise lead in part to the precipitous decline in striped bass stocks throughout the entire northeast. That photograph and others like it just don't seem to convey me the kind of respect that we should show a great sport fish, particularly one that gives us all so much enjoyment. Beyond the simple image, the words used to describe these modern day conquests are equally as unappealing. While our Native American brothers used words like honor and respect and courage to express their sentiments, captions that accompany these dead striper photographs include words like, hammered and slaughtered, drilled, bailed, pounded and slammed. I wonder often, if you don't respect the fish that you catch how can you ever expect to protect and preserve it?

Most, if not all, of the fly fishermen that I know practice ardent catch and release. It seems to just come with the territory. But I will admit, there was a time in my distant past when a measure of a successful fishing trip was a stringer of dead trout or largemouth bass. I suspect that if you are over the age of forth five or so, the same can be said of your fishing experience. As I look back on those days and the photographs in my albums, they are stark reminders of a time when we simply didn't know any better. It is not that anyone tried willingly to do any harm to fish populations -that was simply the way it was.

But organizations like Trout Unlimited and BASS began to change that mindset by aggressively promoting catch and release fishing. The practice was quickly embraced by their membership and spread throughout the ranks of freshwater fishermen everywhere. It became an accepted approach to fishing. It even became the basis for what are now internationally recognized tournaments. Early on, saltwater organizations like Save Our Stripers also worked to spread the gospel of sound conservation. Unfortunately, the results of those efforts were overshadowed by the stripe's demise. With the changing times, we now have entities like Stripers Forever and CCA that work to herald the need for forward thinking resource management practices. Yet, there still seems to be somewhat of a lag between those developments and the willingness to embrace sustained catch and release practices in saltwater for trophy fish.

I can vividly recall the garbage-can loads of bluefish during the height of their population numbers in the 1970's and 80s at just about any major launch ramp along the northeast coast. Given the astronomical numbers of bluefish around at the time, most folks believed it to be a limitless resource. It didn't take long for us to realize that was far from the case. While bluefish saved the day for inshore anglers during the bass drought, they themselves were in the same danger of having their numbers drastically depleted. Many had even wondered if they had reached the point of no return. And let us never forget that devastating decline of striped bass could happen again. We need awareness, sound conservation measures and a more sporting perspective toward our gamefish.

Today we are a lucky lot to enjoy some of the most prolific stocks of sport fish to which we can cast our flies. But with that privilege comes a responsibility to ensure that future generations will continue to share in the bounty. After all, it is just on loan to us from our children and the generations that will follow. Perhaps we should all just think about that the next time a magnificent striped bass or other great gamefish honors us by eating one of our flies! The legacy is ours to leave.

The following is an excerpt from my children's book, Tia, The Story of a Mouse and an Eagle (Cherubic Press, Johnstown PA, January1998).

Tia remembered what her father once told her. "Fear, at times, can be a good thing. It makes you more aware of your surroundings and more careful of your actions. It keeps your senses sharp, and in the forest, fear can save your life."

As Tia thought about those words she began to feel much better and approached the tree more closely. She looked up the trunk one more time, rubbed her two little hands together and jumped onto the bark of the tree. Her adventure had begun.

Tia started to climb. Up and up the tree she went, climbing higher and higher and higher. She climbed past one branch of the tree and then another and another. On many of the branches were tiny birds, most no bigger than Tia, herself. They all cheered Tia onward toward her goal.

When Tia stopped to catch her breath and rest for a moment, she looked down. Tia instantly realized that she had never been this far off the ground before. All of the animals and plants on the forest floor looked so very small from this perch high above the ground. But when Tia looked up, she saw how truly great this tree was. Above her, the Great Tree seemed to go on forever, into the clouds and into the sky.

Tia took a deep breath, rubbed her tiny hands together once again, and continued to make her way up the tree. She was climbing very quickly now as she thought more and more of reaching the top. Then, as she reached for an overhead branch to pull herself farther up the tree, a small gray squirrel darted past her. The squirrel startled Tia and she lost her grip on the branch. She began to tumble down the trunk of the tree. Tia tried to hold on to the bark but her tired body could not find the strength. Tia fell and fell and fell, bouncing downward from one branch to another, and then to another.

Finally, Tia had fallen completely down the tree and landed on the ground with a big thump. She was dazed by the fall and dizzy from all of the tumbling. When Tia got her balance back, she cleaned herself off and sat up against the base of the tree. Tia started to cry. At first she was very upset at the squirrel for frightening her, but then Tia became angry at herself for letting go of the branch.

"If only I had been stronger, I would have been able to hold on. Now I will never reach the top of this tree and I will never touch the sky."