15th Apr 2020

Vices and Vises, by Russ Gontarek

Definition of Vise:

a : any of various tools with two jaws for holding work that close usually by a screw, lever, or cam

Definition of Vice:
a : moral depravity or corruption : wickedness b : a moral fault or failing
c : a habitual and usually trivial defect

Homophones are a type of homonym that also sound alike and have different meanings, but also have different spellings.

I start with a few facts of the English language as it sets a weight at the other end of the measure. From here I focus on a touch and feel equation that comes from a intimate perspective.

Recently my wife and I had our first child.We do what we can to rear him true and escape the selfish side of our nature.We hope for the best. Peering inward to habits(hobbies), passions, addictions, percolate a few confusions about how he will view us and more accurately me. My wife is a close second to Mother Theresa, so say my buddies, and that’s all the further I’ll go.

Last year I spent over 40 days on the water with a borrowed wood drift boat, hunting river muskies in Minnesota and Wisconsin. I have a full time job and do not guide for money. It takes a certain mindset and (ill) character to put yourself through this. If you’ve ever found yourself fortunate enough to chase freshwater’s apex fish out of a drift boat you may just forget about your history as a “fisher person”. Due to luck and gift we were able to boat 28 fish with half of those being over 42″. This creates a hard to get rid of infection even when your child is about to be born. A week before my kid was born, I was on a drift when I was fortunate enough to catch my largest fish of the season. To see these archaic dinosaurs of freshwater is in one word healing. These fish always surprise me with their size and speed of attack. A lot has been written and spoken lately about why these fish are seeing more flies these days. I will only paint a quick picture. 267 casts, 11 weight, 13″ double, strip, strip, strip… strip set, chaos! As an aside, I am not a fish or die, chainsaw personality. I will not leave my wife or child on the side of the road due to this form of entertainment, or for that matter ditch my responsibilities at work. It just means when I have free time you know where I will be. Oh, and the definition of free time might flex a little from time to time. Sorry brothers there’s enough kids out there without fathers.


This passion means hours at the vice concocting and scheming different ideas of success. As the moons aligned, so did my friendship with the best fly tier and muskie junkie I have ran across. If the people who know you best list the top 3 things you’re thankful for(at Thanksgiving) as muskie, whiskey, and well, I’ll leave the last one out for etiquette’s sake, you possibly have a problem; he does. No judging on my behalf, I aspire to create the art he does at the vise and on the water. This is where the two words and definitions collide, and the true essence of this literary hogwash begins.



When constructing the true 15″ double leviathans we commit to, there is time. Where there is time there is thought. Empty thought sometimes tricks the mind into believing it needs to be filled. Filled with the kind of vices I have so long committed to as a 35 year old human with insecurities, stress, wanting, and general wearing down from the lathe of life. I like my vices, alcohol( high ABV beer and whisky)and cigarettes mostly. We share these vices with all things musky, and it creates a commonality and normality with us. As the night grows long, the subjects change from light to dark and this representation shows in our doubles. I know I am talking to people who are nodding their cartoon bubble heads and have been here before, and long to get there again soon. Now is the finicky part though, by using certain terminology to avoid medical and treatable forms of the scary word addiction.We avoid these terms, but I will let you know there are things I am unwilling to do without. Addiction and passion intermingle with one another each with there unique reputation. One being the trashy leather mini shirt and the other the classy black dress hiding the freak inside. We only judge one because we fear her. The other gets a pass and we cover for her because we might be able to show her to the ones we love. A fine line we walk my friends in the 256 shades of gray.




If you fish enough, you understand there is no better teacher then the elusive time on the water. But the time on the water pales in comparison to the time and work it takes to be productive when you get there. Enjoyment takes its form in the prep, tying, strategy, weather watching, lunar gazing, map reading, and smack talk with your fellow brethren. Talk about vices. The layers in which this excuse to connect with the outdoors and like minded fellows are astronomical. We haven’t even talked about boats yet. Jon boat, drift boat, canoe, skiff, skanoe, kayak, SUP board, low side, high side, prop, jet, oars, cooler, anchors, trailer. Not even going to touch rods, reels, and lines. In the aoli of my fishing existence, consists all of these in a cog and sprocket idea of what is right. Few people fit in to it, so I hope that my son will someday understand this enjoyment and we will share in it together. I know some people would call these demons, fair enough, I call them my friends.



Writing this has been self indulgent and cathartic. I guess the question is, what’s in your vise, and what vice are you in?

“It has been my experience that folks who have no vices have very few virtues.” Abraham Lincoln