Oct 30, 2013 Joe Genco Uncategorized
“Fishing the Finger Lakes” isn’t just the title of J. Michael Kelly’s new book, it’s also one of his life-long passions.
Growing up in Marcellus, Kelly said he has been fishing for as long as he can remember, and he has proof of it too.
“I have black and white pictures of myself at age two-and-a-half with one of those willow switch fishing poles strolling through the meadow and holding a can of worms in one hand,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s book, recently published through Ithaca-based Burford Books, serves as a guide to angling in the region including descriptions of fishing spots and conditions in 11 Finger Lakes and tips and techniques for successful fishing.
The chapters on the individual lakes all begin with information such as altitude, depth, surface area and include a map, a description of the best places to cast out from and some personal stories.
The Skaneateles Lake chapter gets right to the point in the first sentence: “Fishing for rainbow trout doesn’t get much better than it is in Skaneateles Lake.”
He then goes on to detail the pristine water quality and ecosystem in Skaneateles Lake, how the fishing in the lake has changed over the years and what baits will be most effective.
Though the book can be a good reference point before heading out to fish, it is also written in a way that will make it an interesting cover-to-cover read, Kelly said.
“I have always tried as an outdoors writer to write my columns and articles, and now my books, in a way that will appeal to people who may or may not be truly avid fishermen, but they like good writing,” he said.
Kelly has lived in Marcellus nearly all his life and said he was first inspired to become a writer by his sixth grade teacher Tom Petro.
“He was one of the first people who actually made me believe I could make a living in writing,” he said.
As a student in Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Kelly got his first paycheck as a journalist when he submitted a story on fishing in Otisco Lake to Outdoor Life magazine.
Kelly tells the story of that article in “Fishing the Finger Lakes,” and the backlash the magazine received when fishermen descended on the lake to find that the abundance of brown trout Kelly had described in the article had ended.
Despite a negative response, getting paid for the story further convinced Kelly he could make a living as an outdoors writer.
After finishing school Kelly contributed stories to various publications, including the Skaneateles Press which at that time was combined with the Marcellus Observer. He eventually took a job covering county government at the Syracuse Herald Journal for a steadier income, though he continued to write about hunting and fishing on the side and to date has had more than 2,000 outdoors articles published in magazines.
He later became the outdoors beat writer and columnist for the Syracuse Post-Standard. Shortly after retiring about six years ago, he self-published a collection of his favorite columns titled “Farewell, Old Girl and Other Stories of the Great Outdoors.”
He was then contacted by Peter Burford of Burford Books a publisher who prints, among other things, regional outdoors guides and works on nonfiction.
Though other books have been written on fishing in the Finger Lakes region they were all dated and often dull to read, so Kelly and Burford agreed that there would be a market for a comprehensive guide for the Finger Lakes region, and due to his experience, Kelly was the right man for the job.
He was given a small advance to work on the book and started doing research which consisted mainly of something he already did all the time as a retiree: fishing. Though many of the anecdotes and knowledge in the book come from his past experiences as both an avid fisherman and outdoors writer, he also went out and fished at the 11 lakes he covers in the book to do additional research and talked to people knowledgeable on ecosystems and biology whom he knew from his years spent on the beat.
Now that the Finger Lakes guide is complete, Kelly is already at work on another book that will be a guide to fishing the trout streams of the region.
Though he has been living with Parkinson’s disease for eight years now, Kelly said the disease has yet to keep him from being able to hunt and fish, and he plans to keep doing those, as well as writing, for as long as he can.
“Fishing the Finger Lakes: a Complete Guide to Prime Fishing Locations in Central New York State” is available at Barnes and Noble, Wegmans and online on amazon.com.
Joe Genco is the editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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