Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Do you believe in magic?

OK, it’s been a while.  And yes, as I look at the date of my last post here on 52TROUT I’m pretty embarrassed.  But hey, I’ve had writers block and I’ve been pretty busy.  And there haven’t been that many fishing trips this year… and there has been zero new artwork completed (except for the jewelry).  But enough with the excuses.

A couple of weeks ago I had an experience that I never would have dreamed possible.  I went back to Slough Creek after some 49 years (see this post) and I got to share the experience with 5 disabled veterans and their wives.

But we didn’t just go to Slough Creek – no, no, no, we went to the Silver Tip Ranch - the ranch that I’ve always known about but never dreamed of actually visiting!  Situated just outside of the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park, the ranch is around 100 years old and is the foremost, leading, preeminent, supreme, unrivaled, second to none, without equal, unsurpassed, peerless, matchless, unbeaten, optimum, ultimate, incomparable, ideal, and perfect destination for any fly fisher.
The owners of this exclusive private ranch offered the Trout Unlimited Veterans Service Partnership (VSP) a week of glorious, rustic luxury, and five lucky vets from across the land were invited to bring their spouses and enjoy their hospitality and fabulous fishing.  Thanks to our Western VSP Coordinator, Dave Kumlien (who just happened to have a few contacts at the ranch) we got the invite and all of us had a fantastic time.

The Ranch

The native Yellowstone Cutthroats were a bit sluggish from the spring runoff and water temps in the very low forties, but we managed to catch our share of them.  Their sizes ranged from 12 to 20 inches and they were gorgeous.  We found that weighted streamers were the ticket – fished slow and down and across the crystal clear stream.

Yellowstone Cutthroat
Without exception, all of the ladies – none of them with prior fly fishing experience – geared up daily and joined their best friends on the stream, and those occasions along with the evenings around the great log fireplace were special times for all of them.  Dave and I, along with our two other volunteer guides, Jim and Jo Borowski, heard many stories from the wives and the vets of how the experience was truly life changing.  Trust me – the healing powers of the water are real.
Slough Creek
Slough Creek
Me and our vet buddy Bob
Dave and our vet buddy Bill

On a personal note, in spite of the scenery, the fishing, the accommodations, the gourmet cuisine, the camaraderie and lifelong friendships formed, the highlight of my trip was honoring the wishes of my parents.  My two brothers and I were blessed with parents that not only loved to fly fish for trout, but were insistent that their boys developed the same love.  From weekend camping and fishing trips throughout the Ozarks to our yearly trips to Montana, Mom and Dad sacrificed much to see that Tom, Bruce and I developed a love for the outdoors and an appreciation for clear waters and God's handiwork.

Before their deaths a few years back, both of them asked that we spread their cremated remains in the streams of yesteryear, and it was my honor and privilege to do just that in the waters
of Slough Creek

Though we know that each of them are fishing the streams of Heaven and that their remains were just a visible symbol of their lives here on Earth, it was pretty cool to see their ashes drift downstream on a very special Montana morning. 



Monday, October 28, 2013

New Jersey? Who knew!

Whenever overhearing two or more people from New Jersey talk about where they are from, invariably the conversation focuses on what Interstate Exit they live near to.  Having traveled those major highways a few times myself, for years I assumed that those highways and their bordering, over populated hamlets were the sole focus of those poor people’s lives and I could not imagine such an existence.  And I could not have been more wrong.
Last Friday morning I began a road trip to Somerset, NJ – a road trip that would forever change my perceptions - to meet with 10 Trout Unlimited chapter presidents at their quarterly State Council Meeting to discuss and provide details on our Veterans Service Partnership, and for the next 700 miles and 12 hours of windshield time I struggled to stay alert through the monotony of the drive.
After a much needed nights rest from the previous day’s boredom I met up with Rich Thomas at a convenient interstate pull-off to follow him to our destination for the day.  Rich is the New Jersey TU State Council Chair, and he had promised an afternoon of fishing on the South Branch of the Raritan River as a prelude to Sunday’s meeting.

Pulling off the interstate and heading into the wilds of the Garden State was a treat and a pleasant surprise.  The rolling hills of vibrant fall colors; the winding two lane blacktop and the small Rockwellesque communities that lined it were beautiful.  The many horse farms and their adjoining mini-mansions were a far cry from the apartment complexes and shopping malls along the interstate.  Maybe the tag “Garden State” is appropriate after all.  Who knew?

Our first stop was in the small town of Califon, at Shannon’s Fly & Tackle Shop where I was to pick up a license for the day and get to know a few of the locals.  Shannon’s is not your local Orvis company store, but a true Catskill style fly shop which opened its doors back in 1973. And incidentally, Shannon's was awarded Trout Unlimited's first ever Gold Endorsed Business Award for their regional expertise and conservation efforts.  Great folks and great service…service that included removing a treble hook from the thumb of an unfortunate angler that stumbled in while we were there.  Full service indeed.
Our next stop was at a little parking area on the banks of the Raritan’s South Branch.  As Rich and I, along with his young daughter, got geared up I soaked in the beauty of the stream and gave thanks for the chance to enjoy such a special place.  

Rich and his daughter, the "Master Angler in Training"

Rich was determined to practice his nymphing techniques, while I as usual attached a meaty streamer to my line.  As Rich worked the waters along with his daughter, we leap frogged from pool to pool with no success at all.  Rich thought he felt a tug or two but I felt and saw nothing.As I was tying on what must have been my tenth fly of the day, Rich suggested that I move a little further downstream and give the “Split Rock Pool” a shot, saying it was known for the number of quality rainbows that called it home.    I tied on a brown Girdle Bug and headed downstream.
After surveying the pool and deciding that a position right up against the Split Rock would give me a good shot at effectively covering the pool, I began casting.  Just a few casts in, what superstition and some experience has taught me to be a good omen ocurred.  I was buzzed by a Kingfisher.

Me at the Split Rock Pool
And sure enough, on the next cast I was onto a good fish.  While I was in a good position to cover the pool with my casts, I was in the worst possible position to play and land a large rainbow.  The only way to get him to the net was upstream through a pretty hefty current.  After a few good runs and an incredible acrobatic display the big guy - around 20 inches - finally came to me.  YES!  My first New Jersey trout!
Rich working the Measuring Pool
Then, being the ever generous host, Rich directed me to the next hole, one called “The Measuring Pool” to try for a large brown that tended to hang out there.  I insisted that Rich give it a try first as I relaxed and watched him methodically work a few seams with the nymph.  After a while we decided that it was about time to head back to the parking lot and Rich turned the pool over to me.  Well, as Rich headed back upstream, and after I’d made about about a dozen casts into the pool, what should appear again but the Kingfisher!
Fish on!  This one was half again as big as the first one and after a fight that I’ll never forget he was finally coming to the net.  Maybe I needed another over-flight of the Kingfisher (more likely, more skill) because about two feet out from the net the barbless hook separated from his jaw and the line went slack.  Oh well, I was honored to do battle with such a beautiful creature.
The meeting on Sunday with the chapter presidents went well with the promise of bringing more New Jersey TU chapters into the Veterans Service Partnership, but my mind wandered a bit. I couldn’t help but being amazed by the largely unknown beauty of the state – and wondering if I could train a Kingfisher to be my fishing companion.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Thanks Max!

A couple of weeks ago when the DeBruce Fly Fishing Club and the Beaverkill Club hosted our vets on the Willowemoc and the Beaverkill, one of the local elementary schools had their students create a very special card for each of us.  I was honored to get one from Max.  Thanks buddy! I love your Rainbow trout drawing...and yes I caught a few!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fish Hook

According to my research, the fish hook has been around for a while and holds a pretty important place in the history of mankind.  Yep, according to what I read, in 2005, the fish hook was chosen by Forbes as one of the top twenty tools in the history of man!

The oldest, found in Palestine, is believed to be about 9,000 years old - which seems reasonable in that the 1st verse in Job 41 asks, " Canst thou draw out leviathan with a hook?"

Well, this one is a bit newer.  Hand carved in wax and cast in Sterling Silver, my version is unlikely to catch a leviathan, but it'll look pretty good hangin' around your neck from an 18 inch braided leather choker.

Shoot me an email if you'd like more info on it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hallowed Waters, Deserving Veterans

The water was absolutely beautiful, but of course, it was supposed to be.  The eight veterans and their guides were standing upon the bank of the famed Willowemoc – just downstream from the exact spot that George LaBranche, author of "The Dry Fly and Fast Water”, in 1904 cast his Pink Lady into history.

Not that the hallowed history of the place mattered much to the vets – they were riveted by the beauty of the day and the opportunity cast a fly through the feeding lanes of the trout that were said to inhabit the stream.

The veterans were invited to experience the waters of “The Willow” by the members of the DeBruce Fly Fishing Club, whose forty or so members enjoy the peace, beauty, and superb fishing that the Willowemoc provides.  Past members of this exclusive conclave have included respected fishing writers Sparse Grey Hackle, Nick Lyons, Dick Salmon, Howard Walden and Ed Zern.  Today’s guests were perhaps not as notable, but no less deserving.

Club president Allan Virginia, and fellow member Evvy Goyanes, reached out to our Veterans Service Partnership with the offer – requesting that we assemble a few local vets for a day on the water. Filling the slots was no problem, as every community in America has its share of veterans.  Those that turned out included veterans affiliated with the Croton Valley, Mid-Hudson, and Columbia Green TU chapters.
Some of the vets had enjoyed the sport of fly fishing in the past; some had drowned a worm or two, and two of them had never fished before.  All were eager and as soon as the beats were assigned, they and their personal guides hit the stream, and by lunch time most of the vets had landed a trout or two and all of them had had fish on.  The smiles were blinding and by dinner time, which was hosted by a local fine eatery, their stories and their details probably grew by a few inches, proving that they were all now experienced trout fishermen.
After a good night’s rest in the bunkhouses graciously provided by the Catskills Fly Fishing Center and Museum, the vets were in for another treat.  Our hosts at the Debruce club had arranged for the vets to spend the day on the Beaverkill as guests of the neighboring Beaverkill Trout Club.  With a history dating back to 1872, their club, like the DeBruce Club, has a storied past leading to the birth of dry fly fishing in America. 
The Beaverkill proved to be equally productive to the Willowemoc, and by the end of the day all had landed some very nice trout.  In fact, one of the guys who had never fished before led the way with four very nice rainbows.
Our Veterans Service Partnership, which was formally established in January of 2011, is building a rich history of providing healing hope and rehabilitation to our nation’s disabled veterans.  Through our Fly Fishing 101 programs; our fly tying instructions and sessions; our rod building classes and our outings, over 1,000 TU members brought the healing power of the water to approximately 1,000 disabled veterans last year. Through our partnerships with Project Healing Waters and others, our members provided the manpower to deliver nearly 50,000 hours to the cause.  And to intentionally misquote a certain politician, “It doesn’t take a village” to do this.  All it takes are a few chapter members willing to extend a hand to a deserving veteran.
Protecting … the honor of recovering soldiers
Reconnecting … veterans to the healing power of nature
Restoring … dignity, health and confidence to disabled veterans
Sustaining … it all through engagement with our members


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Sterling Silver Creel

This is the original - the hand sculpted model that will serve as the pattern for future castings.  That means that its slightly larger and heavier than the ones to follow.

This original weighs just over an half an once of .925 Sterling Silver ... its just under an inch wide, 3/4 inches tall, and 3/8 inches deep.  All sides, excluding the back (which is open to allow for hollowing it out) are finally detailed, antiqued and highly polished.  Its signed on the inside and is available for just $66.00

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


After who knows how many blog postings that have had absolutely nothing to do with fishing, here one is!  Yes, I went fishing.  

We joined up with our daughters and their families at the exotic location of Hunter’s Island just off the South Carolina coast.  This was to be my first ever opportunity to cast a fly into salt so I packed my 8 weight and the few Clouser patterns I had on hand and we headed for the beach.
In past years our Memorial Day reunion has taken place a lot closer to home here in the mountains and the fishing was for trout and bluegill, so in addition to a change of prey, the change of scenery was really anticipated.  And the scenery did not disappoint.
Many of the scenes from Forrest Gump were filmed in and around Beaufort, and the Vietnam battle scenes were filmed right on Hunter’s Island – and it didn’t take long to see why.  When we entered the road to the campground the landscape changed from tidal flats to big time jungle.  It was beautiful in a very wild and inhospitable way.  Arriving at the beach was pretty impressive too.  They have nine foot tides here and arriving at low tide we saw about 400 yards of white sand between us and the surf.
A week before leaving home I had called Bay Street Outfitters in downtown Beaufort to ask about the fishing and was able to talk to a guy that sounded very knowledgeable about the fly fishing in the area.  I asked about fly patterns and got some good info on the redfish opportunities.  I told him I’d pick his brain further when I arrived in town.  So our first stop was to the fly shop.
He wasn’t there.  He was guiding in Russia and the help I got was of questionable value.  My next stop was at a hardware store to buy a license and the advice I got there got my attention.  The clerk told me that they had been catching bull redfish right off the beach of the island.  That’s more like it!
With that information it didn’t take me long to hit the beach.  After puzzling over the type of bugs that inhabit this jungle island –
 - and scarring off a few raccoons that had a fondness for watermelons – I headed across the sand for the beach.   I was fascinated by the patterns the tides had left in the sand.  They reminded me of the satellite shots of the sands on the Arabian Peninsula that I’ve studied on Google Earth from 50,000 feet.  A different cause of course, but the effects were remarkably similar.
Okay, so while others in the family (the sane ones) were enjoying that other thing that beaches were made for, I went fishing. 


I walked the beach and fished for about two hours and never saw a fish.  So much for the advice I got from the clerk.  I began to realize that without some really expert advice I was doomed to failure.  It’s a big ocean out there and finding fish in it aint gonna be as easy as spotting trout in a mountain stream so I stopped into a visitor center, picked up a few brochures and called the one that bragged about their kayak rentals and fly fishing knowledge.  I was assured that yes, the reds were there, they were biting and that they could put me on them.   Chad and I arranged to meet up with them on Sunday morning.
I should have known that something was amiss when Lenny, our guide, rigged up a spinning outfit and placed a bucket of fresh shrimp into his kayak.  Turns out that he has never fly fished and they have never guided anyone that had!  Oh well, we're here – lets launch these things and get after it.
Lenny said there was a good weed bed just up past some docked shrimp boats so we began paddling north – against the incoming tide.  (When you are told that the tide is nine feet, please understand that it moves much like a river.  And understand that an outboard motor is advised if you are out of shape.)  We paddled for about a mile to reach the designated “Hot Spot,” always watching for tailing redfish.  Do you see them in this picture?

Neither did I.  Not from this view or any other.  The only signs of life I saw during our three hour cruise were some herons and few egrets - and a guy standing on the bow of a passing shrimp boat.  Forrest, was that you?  Captain Dan?

Lenny said he caught two stingrays with his shrimp, but Chad and I hooked nothing, and the trip back to the launching point – against the outgoing tide - was just as tiring as the trip away from it.  Would I try this again?  Absolutely…but only from a flats boat piloted by an experienced and highly recommended fly fishing guide.
In spite of the disappointment and the sore arms, the day was beautiful.  I’d go again tomorrow, especially if I might have the chance to see a few of these…
Shirley and I had a great time…






Monday, May 13, 2013


I'm not a cat person by any means...I mean, how can a guy feel close to an animal (no matter how pretty) that when called gives you a look that says, "What the hell do you want!"  Dogs...well, they're different.
Anyway, many years back we had a family of long haired Calicos, and this oil painting is a portrait of Patches, the family matriach.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Jude 24

Note: In the coming weeks Shirley and I will be starting up a new online venture - Jude 24.  So what is Jude 24, you ask?  Well, many years ago, back in the day that jewelry design and production was the only thing on my plate, among other products, we created and marketed a line of Christian jewelry. (Regular readers might have seen hints of this a few posts back...)

In the years since and through many moves across the country, we have stored all of my jewelry equipment in the garage with the thought of dusting it off someday.  That day has arrived.  Watch for www.jude24jewelry.com - coming to a computer near you soon!

The Chi Rho Cross
Hand sculpted in Sterling Silver to remind one of an ancient Roman coin, the Chi-Rho symbol is an early Christogram and when combined with the Alpha and Omega, an acronym is formed with Christ’s words, “I am the Alpha and the Omega”.
The Chi-Rho cross was popularized by Constantine the Great, who had a dream or vision of the Chi-Rho symbol in the sky, with “En Touto Nika” (Greek for “In this sign you shall conquer.”).


He had this emblem put on his soldier’s shields, and they went on to win the Battle of the Milvan Bridge outside Rome.  St. Constantine became the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity and made Christianity the Roman Empire’s official religion in the fourth century.


Thursday, May 2, 2013


Although today is dark, dreary and damp here in western North Carolina, tomorrow will be better!
Not sure what year I did this - must have been in the early 90's.  Anyway, its acrylic on board and the original is 9 x 7.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Redband Rainbow

The original of this acrylic painting measures 18 x 20 and is available, framed or not.
If you are interested in a limited edition print they measure 11 x 14 and are printed on
100# Archival paper. The edition size is 100 and they are available for $50.00
This four painting series entitled Native Faces includes the Spring Creek Brown, the Southern Appalachian Brookie, and the Westslope Cutthroat.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Peacock Bass

I happened to watch a program last week about the Great Barrier Reef and it got me to thinkin' that I ought to do an illustration featuring one of the beautiful tropical fish that inhabit that place, so I did a a photo search for some reference material.  The more that I looked at them, the more I thought about it...the more I was turning against the idea. 

Yes, they were beautiful, but hey, they weren't gamefish.  Then it occurred to me that the Peacock Bass is just as pretty...its a gamefish, and it is indeed "tropical."  So here is a rather quickly done portrait of one...

Monday, April 1, 2013

Warm Water Slam

A few weeks back I mentioned that I had been asked to supply illustrations for some signage that Riverlink in Asheville, NC plans to place along the French Broad River.  Well, I finished up the cat, the carp, and the musky and have combined them here in a potential poster format.  Each fish is of course available separately, but if anyone is interested in this poster idea shoot me an email at clearwatermemories@gmail.com

Friday, March 15, 2013

Little Big Man

My eight year old grandson spent his first day afield last week with his dad and a few hunting buddies, and the proudest Gramps on earth is glad to report that, armed with his new 20 gauge, he bagged a few quail!
A rite of passage that took me a few more years to attain, I'm sure that this experience will lead to many happy days with his dad and others - a lifetime of enjoying our 2nd Amendment rights and the bountiful harvest that God has provided.
Way to go Grant!