Wednesday, December 30, 2009

WOOLLY BUGGER

The Woolly Bugger and I go back a long ways...further back than its invention, in fact. Growing up in the Ozarks, no serious angler would be caught on a stream (of any type, fishing for just about any variety of piscatorial inhabitants) without the forerunner of the Bugger – the Woolly Worm in his or her possession. Sometime in the late 60’s someone decided that they could enhance the original by adding a marabou tail and the Bugger was born. I keep my fly book stocked with both varieties in all sorts of color combinations. If it was suddenly decreed that fly fishers would only be allowed one fly in their arsenal, my choice would be this one.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

MERRY CHRISTMAS !!!




With Brother Bruce’s patient tutelage I have come up with a logo for my Clearwater Memories business. I had downloaded Photoshop a while back but have been too intimidated by it to attempt any projects. If you haven’t guessed by now, I have a hard time with all this newfangled electronic stuff, but Bruce – the brains of the Folger clan – is a genius at it. A web designer, computer builder and all around expert on all things electronic, Bruce is my go-to guy for just about everything...including the workings of this blog. While at my day job I’m on the computer continuously doing the mundane tasks that most office dwellers deal with, but this ‘creative’ stuff has me buffaloed most of the time. If you ever have need of computer advice, web design or just about anything having to do with these contraptions, give Bruce a call. You can find him through his website, www.theshopatgrandlake.com

On another front, I have been honored to be selected as one of the artists to illustrate an upcoming book, Fly Fishing the Mid-Atlantic by Beau Beasley. You may have seen some of the other books put out by the No Nonsense Fly Fishing Guidebooks outfit, including Beau’s last best seller, Fly Fishing Virginia. I have been asked to illustrate a series of some 40 special flies – each one being a favorite on the individual streams that Beau will feature in the book, as well as a ‘double truck’ oil painting of my favorite stream, the Davidson. There might be a few other illustrations included as well. Along with the honor comes a lot of work, so you might be seeing more fly illustrations than you want as 2010 moves along. A guys gotta do what a guys gotta do...so bear with me...please!

And finally, as I write this on the eve of our Savior’s birth day, may each of you have a Joyful, Blessed & Merry Christmas... and a Great New Year !!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

GOOSE LAKE



The lower image is looking south from the saddle between Iceberg Peak (on left) and Sawtooth Mtn. The upper image is looking north towards Sawtooth Mountain. Photographer unknown.

Snow. It sure was pretty coming down but it sure is a pain today. A literal pain...a back pain. Shoveling snow is meant to be done by the young and stout, and not by folks like me so it only took a few shovel fulls before my back made it known that I was better suited to indoor duty on days such as these. So, our near record snow waits patiently on the sun to transform itself from frozen to liquid as I heed the warning from my backside to let time and temperature take its course.

Mike and I had planned to hit the river last Saturday. He was to drive up from the flatlands to join me for a day on the Davidson. I was expecting cold...you know, somewhere in the 40’s or low 50’s...but the weatherman thought different and scared us off with a forecast of low 30’s and snow. He was right for a change, so once again our outing had to be postponed, leaving me with a weekend of light-duty chores around the house.

I haven’t done much fishing in the snow; in fact only one occasion sticks out in my memory. It was many years ago up in Montana, back in 1964...

...From where I was it looked as if two very large bears, walking upright, were headed my way. As they skirted the shoreline and got closer I could see that the “bears” were wearing backpacks. As we came face to face, I had never seen two such filthy, bedraggled humans. Covered head to foot in soot, they said they were smoke jumpers headed back to Cooke City. They had been dropped in a few miles to our west the week before, and with nothing more than shovels and axes had managed to put out a lightning strike fire without having to call in the reinforcements. From where we were, well above timberline, I couldn’t see a single tree, burnt or otherwise. They asked if we had anything to eat.


Bruce, Uncle George and Dad...1964

We had arrived at Goose Lake the evening before. There was a big tent set up...a canvas wall tent complete with stove...but in spite of its hominess, my cousin and I chose to sleep outside on the bare ground. The stars were amazing, but of course they would be from an elevation of over 10,000 feet. Jane, a few years older and far more studious, pointed out the constellations. All I saw were stars. It was as if we had been transported to the center of the galaxy as the Milky Way seemed to fill the entire sky. If it had been a week or two earlier, before “ice-out,” cousin Jane and I would have been sleeping on snow, fully zipped into down sleeping bags, and in so much discomfort the stars wouldn’t have been noticed. We’d have chosen the tent.

I had scouted the shoreline before dinner and hadn’t seen a fish. Barren, rocky with not one bit of cover for the trout we knew must be in there.

With morning, and the smoke jumpers well fed and on their way down the trail, Mom and Dad, Uncle George, Cousin Jane, and my two brothers and I split up in different directions with the plan to meet up at lunch to report on what we had found. I headed for the short stretch of water between Goose and Little Goose Lakes. Mom and younger brother Bruce headed for Grasshopper Glacier. We had heard of the glacier for years and they decided to climb the saddle between Iceberg Peak and Sawtooth Mountain to see it for themselves. Named for the grasshoppers that were embedded in the ice from a long ago storm, they promised to bring back a sample or two.*

Watching them grow smaller as they climbed the ridge, I headed for the water. The little stream between Goose and Little Goose was no more than thirty feet across. Even with the runoff going full bore it was no more than a foot deep at the deepest, and most of it was just inches deep...just deep enough to hold a trout mostly underwater. I say “mostly” underwater because as I stood on the bank I saw nothing but wall to wall dorsal fins. A swirling, frothy mass of fish doing what fish were meant to do. If I had chosen to rudely interrupt their courtship rituals, I’m certain that I could have walked across on their backs.

These were native Yellowstone Cutthroats, but it was hard to tell that by looking at them. Because they spent the majority of their lives in the deep water of the lake under a sheet of ice, they looked more like silvery salmon. I saw that they were entering the outlet from the big lake and positioned myself on a rock ledge, just above the water line to cut them off. As I watched, every few minutes a nice Cutthroat would cruise by heading for its reproductive rendezvous. Easy pickin's...or so I thought. With just one thing on their minds though, they were very selective. It was about that time that I heard the yelling....and the hysterical laughing.

The laughing was coming from mom and the yelling from Bruce as he tried to stop mom from an insane rock hopping run down the mountainside. As they were climbing to the glacier the high altitude got to her, and as we later learned she had a good case of Acute Mountain Sickness. Seems that one symptom of the sickness is hysterical laughter and unreasonable behavior. Of course as she skipped down the rockslide she was the only one laughing...the rest of us, having no idea what was wrong, were scared to death. Fortunately the symptoms passed rather quickly as she got down to a more hospitable altitude. It's a wonder she wasn't busted to pieces as she skipped down the boulder field. They didn’t attempt a return trip.

Assured that all was well, I returned to my rock perch and through trial and error managed to catch a few of those Cutthroats for dinner that night, tossing them behind me onto a handy spot of lingering snow.


Goose Lake...1964

This scenario, minus another effort to climb to the glacier, was repeated during each of the three days we spent at Goose Lake. I don’t remember too many of the other details. No idea what I caught them on or how many were actually caught...just a great memory of a barren lakeshore, high above timberline, the clear Montana sky, the icy cold clear water and a few willing trout. The bouncing jeep ride down the trail to our base camp probably involved a stop at Star Lake for another futile attempt at the Goldens that lived there, and maybe another stop at one of the lower lakes down towards Cooke City for the Brookies...but the details escape me. So be it. These Goose Lake memories with family are enough.

*(Scientists have estimated the grasshoppers have been extinct for 200 years. Entomologists identified the specimens as migratory locusts “Melanoplus spretus, Thomas.” It is believed they became embedded in the ice when swarms of the migratory grasshoppers, passing over the high mountain range, became chilled or were caught in a severe storm and were deposited on the glacier. Ice and snow continued to build, and buried the grasshoppers into the glacial ice. Later melting of the ice exposed the embedded grasshoppers, permitting discovery of the phenomenon.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The STIMULATOR




The Stimulator is a remarkable ‘attractor’ fly that coaxes reluctant large trout to strike. And for those of you complaining that there is not a fish illustrated here...well, your imagination needs some work! He’s there. He’s a big hook-jawed brown trout moving upstream to the spawning redds. Look again. You’ll see him.

Monday, November 30, 2009

THE MAD MUD HOPPER



No, the Mad Mud Hopper is not a new terrestrial to try out when the bugs return come spring. And it’s not a new dance move either...though maybe it could be. My "dancing" as practiced on Saturday was at least equal to one of my long ago, wine induced attempts at real dancing.

Chad and I discovered a new pool on the Davidson this past Saturday. Its exact location will remain a secret...as if there are any secret, unknown pools on that heavily fished stream. We had the pool to ourselves, as most of the anglers were trying to tempt those pigs that hang out around the hatchery.

I hooked a beautiful brown of 15-16 inches and as I was about to net him, he darted between my legs and hung the upper fly on the backside of one of my gaiters. I was wading at mid-thigh depth and it was COLD...so cold, that with a wading jacket and long sleeve shirt on, I didn't want to reach down underwater to unhook it. Ever try to raise one leg behind you while standing in the current in very soft sand while holding a fly rod and net in one hand and pathetically reaching and trying to balance with the other? If your knees are as wobbly as mine are...don't try it. I didn't fall in, but needless to say, amidst my contortions and hopping around...the fish escaped with my Sheep Fly dropper. It’s a wonder I didn’t stomp him to death as I tried to free the fly.

Fortunately, Chad, who had wandered downstream a bit, did not witness the Dances With Trout spectacle or I would never hear the end of it. He already laughs at what I call dancing anyway. But I do wish he had been there later to see the fish surface and mock me. I swear that fish had a grin on his “face” as he rose above the surface for one last chuckle.

"I fish...therefore, trout laugh."

Friday, November 27, 2009

HAPPY THANKSGIVING !


Jerry on the "D"
Jerry flew in last Friday afternoon from Arkansas for some pre-Thanksgiving fishing on the Davidson. I had checked that morning with Kevin Howell at DRO about the stream conditions and was assured that although still high from the recent floods, the water was clear and the fish were biting, so after a quick “howdy” and the unloading of his gear we headed out for the “D” to get in a couple of hours of fishing before dark.

Knowing that time was short, and wanting to get Jerry on some fish as quickly as possible, we went straight to the very upper reaches of the hatchery section, way above the bridge to begin our weekend of fishing. Sure enough, just as Kevin had said, the water was beautifully clear ...but the fish were not cooperating. In the short time we had before darkness set in we tried just about everything we could think of and only managed to catch two brookies apiece. Not that we were complaining though...the fish were feisty and beautiful.


Saturday morning, fearing that the Catch & Release waters would be shoulder to shoulder, we headed downstream to the Delayed Harvest area to try out a stretch that I had never fished and once again we found the fishing to be difficult. We worked about a half mile of water with nothing to show for it but good companionship and the pleasure of fishing in some absolutely beautiful scenery. We came upon a pool that literally took my breath away with its beauty. I know you’ve seen those photos from New Zealand...the ones with the deep green crystalline water cradled by boulders strategically placed there by God just for our pleasure....well, the Kiwis have nothing on this place. On second thought maybe they do. We saw no lunker browns or rainbows in the run. Like me, Jerry (having cut his teeth in the Ozarks) finds it hard to see the fish against the dark floor of our local streams. Despite my statements to the contrary, I’m sure he doubted that they were in there.


So after a lunch of peanut butter sandwiches we went back up to the hatchery section where I knew we could see the fish. From many previous visits to the deep and slow waters of that section I knew there would be plenty of plainly visible monstrous trout to get his adrenalin pumping. Was I ever in for a surprise. I didn’t recognize the river. The floods had changed its character entirely. Gone were the long slow runs with their undercut banks holding the biggest and wariest fish, replaced by a scoured out stream bed with little structure. The “structure” was now up in the trees lining the downstream banks, but on the good side...the silt and slime that had buried or partially covered the rocks underfoot had been swept clean. It was a totally different stream, and probably a change for the better. Time will tell.

At least Jerry got to see some fish there. Standing midstream, all of a sudden those fish that weren’t there suddenly appeared everywhere...rising, jumping, slashing and cavorting across the stream as they partook of the Davidson’s famous “pellet hatch”. In their normal fashion they paid him no mind as they darted around and about him, gorging themselves on their daily rations. A long handled net and the fishing would have been easy! But as it was, except for one little fish caught by Jerry on Saturday, we would have gone fishless. No matter though...it was still a fantastic day.

Normally, after Jerry and I get together for a fishing outing there is a story to tell...and there will usually be drastically differing versions of the story. I would normally begin with an elaborate description of all the fish I caught...their size, strength and beauty...and out of nothing but kindness, throw in just a word or two about Jerry’s exploits. This time though, the fishing didn’t leave me with much in the way of embellishment material, so I’ll just say what a wonderful two days it was. Jerry and I have shared many days on the streams and lakes over the years and some of those days were just as unproductive as these were. But all of them are special. To think of him as a best friend and a great fishing partner is a gross understatement. A guy never had a better friend. May we share many more days like we just had.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WEEK 22


OK...so what is it? A trout, I know, but what kind of trout?
Maybe I’ll put some spots on it, but I doubt it. I like it the way it is.
I spotted a photo of this guy on a website last week...did my best rendering of it...and promptly lost the link, or I would give credit to the photographer. I think it might have been some variety of cutthroat.

Monday, November 9, 2009

VETERAN'S DAY

We had killed more than we should have but that’s the way it usually was. In truth I should say that Roger did most of the killing. I did a lot of the shooting. Not to say that I was a bad shot...I was average on most days and a little better on some. Roger never missed, and that fact led to his demise. So right up front, this story doesn’t have a happy ending.

Roger and I were friends. Not the type that hung out together to do just about anything anytime; we were huntin’ buddies, and that’s about all. Other than our desire to spend most mornings before school and every weekend in the field, we were polar opposites. Roger had little if any known interest in girls, fishing or cars and could have cared less about cruisin’ the strip. So we went hunting. From the 1st of September and the opening of dove season, through the end of goose season in January, Roger and I were armed and dangerous. Dove, quail, pheasants, turkey, ducks and geese; deer, squirrels, rabbits, coyotes and all manner of furry or feathered creatures would have done well to lay low. Roger was a hunter.

His parents were older than mine, in fact, if told they were his grandparents no one would have doubted. His dad was retired Air Force and was a very quite man. His mom was even quieter. They had moved to Tulsa upon retirement after a long tour of duty up in the Maine woods where Roger cut his teeth on .22’s and scatter guns. Roger and I were juniors in high school when we met.

Many weekends during duck season we would travel out to the Great Salt Plains in Roger’s Scout. We would drive the perimeter of the refuge looking for ponds. Situated well in the Central Flyway, the place was thick with waterfowl of every variety and every pond or puddle was sure to hold a few of them. Setting out a raft of decoys would have worked of course, but Roger was into stealth...so it was spot, park, crawl and shoot...and shoot, and shoot and shoot again. It usually went something like this: Rising up over the bank we’d spook the ducks. Up they would go and down they would fall. I would empty my gun and figure that I hit a couple of them. Roger would do the same and know that he hit a lot of them. Ten shots and thirteen birds between us was not unheard of. It was that way all the time. Roger never missed, and out of kindness he would always give me credit for hitting a few...whether I did or not.

I always had the feeling that his family had something against grocery stores. I was sure that they lived largely on the game that Roger brought home. My family had a preference for store bought, so it was a given that whatever we bagged would end up in Roger’s freezer. I can recall just one exception. A few years earlier Dad had bought a state of the art Hasty Bake grill. He quickly became a grill master with his steaks, roasts, burgers and chicken recipes. One day dad stated that he’d like to try grilling a duck, so one of the fatter mallards was selected and set aside. Dad had found a recipe in Sports Afield that he wanted to try. On Sunday the grill was fired up and the duck...heavily basted with wine, was prepared. The aroma was amazing...the duck was disgusting. Roger’s freezer stayed full.

We hunted together through our senior year. Every species, every season...building memories almost daily. Time passed, we hunted some more and then it came to an end. We graduated from high school and Roger volunteered for the Army. I got a few letters from him. He had gone Airborne and was as gung-ho as anyone you ever knew. After setting every marksmanship record for every type of hand held weapon the Army had, he was shipped off to ‘Nam as the shooter in a two man sniper unit.

Sometime in 1968, while I was going through training in the Air Force I was called to the commander’s office. Word had come down that while on patrol, Roger had stepped on a land mine and he was gone. I had wondered about how he would reenter the world when the Army had used him up. I had wondered if he could do it. Would he still hunt? Would he be even more deadly? What would he hunt? Would we hunt together again?

I found his name on The Vietnam Wall a few years ago. That tragic black wall with over 50,000 names on it. Not all were like Roger...some were supply sergeants, some were medics, some were whatever. But all were heroes. I thought of Roger a few days ago when reading about something called Honor Air...the project that flies our aging WWII heroes to their memorial in Washington. I thought of him when I read of the passengers at the Asheville airport rising to applaud a guy in uniform just back from Afghanistan. I thought about the waste. I thought about the times and the differences. I wondered who remembered. I remember Roger.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

WHAT A DAY!

Chad with beautiful Noontootla Creek Rainbow

When I began sculpting trout a few years ago I was in dire need of reference material. At that time I hadn't collected a lot of photo references so I was taking advantage of every available opportunity. I was bumming old issues of Fly Fisherman and other journals from my buddies and I was watching the best of the fly fishing shows on TV. Any opportunity to get more familiar with my subject matter was taken. One Saturday morning I happened upon something called Fly Fishing Masters on cable. It was a national competition to select the finest fly fisherman in the land. The weekly episodes and the qualification trials were coming to an end and they were fishing that day at a place called Noontootla Creek in the mountains of north Georgia. Kevin Howell (who an hour later had won the competition)of Davidson River Outfitters was in the finals, so the program got my immediate attention.

Sure, the fishing was great...but the scenery, the creek...was just as inviting. I promised myself on that Saturday morning that I would someday fish Noontootla Creek.
Fast forward to 2 years ago. I was working my booth at the FFF Southeastern Conclave at Callaway Gardens and happened to meet Jimmy Harris, the proprietor of Unicoi Outfitters. From researching Noontootla Creek I was aware that Jimmy was one of the select few that had access to this prime water, so a plan began to take shape.

At about the same time I was getting started doing colored pencil commissions of catch and release trout and I thought that Jimmy, with his reputation and his access to such great private water, might be able to help me jump start the program. So I reviewed his website once again, picked out an image and got to work drawing. A week later I emailed the artwork to David Hulsey, who with his wife Becky, runs Jimmy's store in Blue Ridge, GA. The plan was to create an ad that included the artwork and the photo that it was based on, which would then be displayed in the store. Well David loved it...but. But he couldn't use it. Turns out the fisherman in the photo, unbeknownst to me, was one of their guides...and that particular guide had just been fired! Back to the drawing board.

This time I picked another photo. A photo of a guy that I didn't figure would be fired anytime soon. I picked a photo of Jimmy...and a beautiful rainbow trout that he had caught on Noontootla Creek. Well, Jimmy loved the final result and I offered him the original artwork...for a price...a day on Noontootla Creek. Jimmy agreed, but under one condition...that he wouldn't "guide." He wanted to fish, and who could blame him?

So this past Sunday, along with my son-in-law Chad, Jimmy and I headed out of Blue Ridge for the short drive to the creek. It was everything I remembered from that Saturday morning TV show. The water was in perfect condition and with the fall foliage at it's peak, we had the place entirely to ourselves. I, as usual, headed downstream while Jimmy and Chad headed up.

Olive Wooly Buggars, along with a couple of split shot(apparantly these big native rainbows don't care for coneheads), were supposed to be the thing, so that's what we started with. I spent the next two hours drifting them down deep through the runs with no luck at all. I varied the number of shot...tried droppers of all sorts...fished them upstream and down...even put on a strike indicator...all to no avail. Major frustration. Here I was on one of the premier trout streams in the southeast, and I hadn't had a bite! I even (horrors!)tried the old San Juan Worm. A little later, in desperation, as I was about to tie on an egg pattern that a guide on Big Cedar had forced upon me, I came to my senses. "STOP Alan! You don't have to do this! Dance with the one who brung you!"

Yep, I tied on a black and yellow marabou...with not one bit of weight. I was either going to fish the way I wanted to and hopefully land a fish or two...or I was going home skunked again. It didn't take long. Within just a few casts I had caught one of the beautiful, but small, par marked rainbows that grew up there. And not long after that, when fishing a very narrow and fast run I hooked into a lunker.

When we were gearing up back at the truck, Jimmy had made the comment that my old 1950's vintage Medalist made some sweet music when a fish took off. Well, had he been there at the time of this rainbows first, second and third runs...he would have heard a symphony. Jimmy had warned me about the strength of these fish, and it was no exaggeration. My old Fenwick had never had such a workout. Two times, as I stumbled my way downstream, I was able to get the fish out of the faster current and near to shore, and two times she caught her breath and took off again. Finally, after what must have been fifteen minutes, I got her about half way into the net and to the shore. I was praising the Lord...and shaking like a leaf. That fish, without a doubt, was the finest rainbow I have ever caught. I managed to get the hook out and get her fully revived, but I just didn't have the heart to keep her longer while I would have fumbled to get out my camera and record the moment. I layed my rod alongside for an estimation of her length (24 inches) and eased her back into the current.

Meanwhile, Chad and Jimmy were having some fun of their own. Chad couldn't get Jimmy to fish though. That man is such a teacher...such a guide...that even though he was carrying a rod, he rarely used it. Rather, he was teaching the finer points of nymphing to Chad (a situation that I'm not at all pleased about, as Chad will now be out fishing me with even greater regularity!) and netting his fish, including the fine rainbow that I've pictured above. From what I heard, Chad's battle was just as epic as mine.

What a day it was!
Thank you Jimmy!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

WEEK 21


This Brown is one half of a commission piece that is very nearly complete. My buddy Jerry and his son-in-law took the son-in-law's Dad on a special trip to White River over the summer and as a remembrance of their trip they commissioned me to do a sketch of 'Dad" along with a typical Ozark Brown Trout. Obviously Dad isn't in this sneak peak yet. I'm working to finish it up and will post the entire image when I get it done.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Blue Ridge Fly Fishing Event


Research ???
You may have noticed that there are very few grab and grin photos on the blog. Simple explanation. I catch very few fish worthy of the effort involved in capturing them on film for posterity. As I think I’ve said before, I create a lot more big trout than I catch, and a recent day in Spruce Pine proved it. That doesn’t keep me from trying though. As I tell Shirley (as often as I think I can get away with it), “I need to get out and do some research.” After all, if I’m going to continue creating these images, from time to time I need to refresh my memory of what they are supposed to look like...even if I’m studying someone else’s fish.

Project Healing Waters put together a little fishing competition a couple of weekends ago and my buddy and PHW leader, Ryan Harman, asked me if I would be the veteran half of his team. Now, I’ve fished with Ryan a few times and have managed to catch a trout or two in his presence, but to label me as a “competitive fly fisherman” would be a major insult to those who really are. I suspect that the invite was more a kindness play than anything else.

As some of you know, I frequent the Southeastern Fly Fishing Forum occasionally as “52trout”, especially if I think I can stir things up a bit by ruffling the feathers of the fly fishing elitists. Anyway, recently there was a debate on the merits of competitive fly fishing that elicited a lot of comments putting it down. A lot of folks got indignant, if not downright insulting, and others came out with the old deal about how they never count fish and that just being there on the stream was all they needed to soothe their souls. Good for them. While I wouldn’t argue with that point of view, I can testify that a competition can be great fun if not taken too seriously, and that in the case of getting our wounded warriors on the stream it’s hard, if not impossible, to beat.

You see, we don’t hold these tourneys on your average “open to the public” trout streams. Why’s that? Well, in the case of Project Healing Waters, we want the vets to catch fish...and so what if they are just released pellet crunchers, fattened to the point of bursting? The whole point of PHW is therapy. Physical and mental therapy. That and the idea that we are introducing disabled vets to a sport that they can enjoy for the rest of their lives. And by catching a trout or two, we greatly increase the odds that they will enjoy it. Take my word for it...the therapy works.

But back to the competition. Shirley, Ryan and I arrived on Saturday afternoon to the prettiest little trout stream you have ever seen. If you’ve ever sat and dreamed of owning a little land with a trout stream flowing through it...this was your dream. In the high country of North Carolina, just “behind” Mt. Mitchell, this beautiful stretch of private water was made available to us for the weekend by the kindness of River’s Edge Outfitters in Spruce Pine, NC. Many of the beats afforded easy access for some of our “not so mobile vets” and each beat was packed with fish.

Saturday night was a special treat. Tim Cummings,our organizer and host, and his team hosted a great meal and auction for all of the vets and their families, along with the professional guides and other volunteers. We had a great presentation by Curtis Fleming of Fly Rod Chronicles with a fabulous slide presentation that was miraculously put together from photos taken during the day Saturday, and I had the honor of presenting a special PHW print to each of the thirty-some vets in attendance. Talk about inspirational. The guys and gals were really appreciative, but nothing compared to the appreciation we had for them and their service to the country.

Sunday morning Ryan and I hit the water with high hopes of successfully tempting some of the brutes that were put there for our pleasure. Didn’t take Ryan long to score...and score again. The fish were deep and taking nymphs so lightly you’d have thought there were sharp hooks attached...or something. Nymph fishing aint my thing. Try as he might, Ryan has a hard time teaching this old dog new tricks, so stubborn as I am, I continued flogging the water with my standard stuff...and going not just fishless, but strikeless. I recall my first exposure to nymphing. About forty-five years ago an old gentleman at Roaring River State Park back in Missouri explained it to me as if it was some sort of mystical endeavor. One that required a special “sense” in order to detect the take. Of course in those days there were no strike indicators so one had to just feel the strike down deep in their soul. I tried it and tried it and no matter how mystical I tried to get, all I sensed was...well, I sensed nothing at all...especially the tug of a trout.

Our afternoon beat was a tough one. In the morning session our opponents went fishless there, and except for one trout caught by Ryan, we would have too. So Ryan ended the day with four, including a very nice twenty incher which was in a three way tie for the largest of the day. And I...well I was skunked...proving yet again why this blog will never be a how-to manual. As much as I love to fly fish, it is not my religion. I fly fish because I was raised to and because I enjoy it immensely. And truth be told, I’m not as good at it as you probably are...nor will I ever be. I don’t study it. I am pretty good at identifying the variety of fish I catch, but I would be hard pressed to identify the most basic bug found on the stream. Ninety-nine percent of the time I couldn't care less about matching a hatch. Don’t get me wrong...if spinners are falling like rain and the trout are piggin’ out on them, I’ll of course join in the fun, but on a typical day I won’t be wracking my brain trying to match a size 22 midge pattern to that gnat that keeps buzzing around my nose. And the last time I actually looked on the underside of a rock I was searching for my line nippers after a Zinger failed me.

Needless to say, with my lack of skill, we didn’t win the thing. No trophies, no plaques, no photos or prizes. I think Ryan still likes me, but I think he’ll look elsewhere for his next competition partner. Did I say there were no prizes? Shame on me. Every single vet there had a great time. Most of them caught a few fish and the smiles on their faces were prize enough.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

WEEK 20

The Basswood Lake Incident
From right to left, Jerry The Mad Cheese Scientist, Richard The Ivory Snatcher, Joe The Classical Guitarist, and The Speaker of Truth.

Once upon a time in the early spring of 1989, in a place far removed from civilization, four good buddies spent an eventful week fishing the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota. A long awaited and well planned adventure, there was Jerry, The Mad Cheese Scientist...Richard, The Ivory Snatcher,,,Joe, The Classical Guitarist...and moi, The Speaker of Truth.

Leaving out of Ely, Minnesota we lugged our canoes and gear through countless lengthy and grueling portages. ( I say "countless" both to elicit sympathy and because I can't remember how many there actually were...more on my memory later.) Basswood Lake was the destination and Smallmouth Bass were to be the prey. The weather was ideal and our preparations were spot on. With visions of surface busting bass, two of us to a canoe, we paddled towards the Canadian border.

We had been given good advice from our outfitter...the standard stuff like keep a clean camp, hang your food from a tree, and by the way, stay away from Basswood Falls. What's that, we said? Seems we were a week behind a similar expedition that had ventured too close to the falls. These particular falls are BIG and getting too close to them in a canoe invites a harrowing white water adventure through what must be Class XXIV rapids. Get too close and its got you...you can't get away. A week earlier a canoe got too close and the authorities had given up looking for one of its occupants just the day before our arrival. OK, we'll stay away from the falls.

Our campsite was on a little spit of land dividing two parts of the lake, giving us great vistas and easy access in every direction. After a hearty freeze dried dinner, a well earned good nights sleep and your standard campfire breakfast we made plans for our first foray into the wilds of Smallmouth Heaven. So that each of us could benefit from the sterling conversation and companionship of the others, we decided that we would rotate each canoes occupants on a daily basis. I don't recall who I drew the first day, but it doesn't matter...it's another day's assignment that matters.

Well, we were too early for the Smallmouths. Another week and we would have had them. As it was though, we were right on time for the Northerns. Caught tons of them on all manner of top-water baits...but just a few Smallmouth. Every day we sought out a new cove, a new tactic and of course a new boat companion. We ventured far and wide, and yes, we even headed to the falls one sunny morning. As we cautiously approached them we could see, feel and hear the danger ahead of us. An awesome cataract tumbled down a chute of boulders and drop-offs, each ledge ending in a pool of very fishy water. It was too much to resist. We secured the canoes and with rods in hand we scurried from one pool to the other in search of fish. We caught a good many...and some nice ones too. Don't know what my companions were throwing but I was sticking to top-water baits. Remembering the matter of the drowned canoeist, the last thing I wanted to do was get hung up on the bottom...or anything that might be lurking there.

Days of paddling, casting and landing Northerns can tire a fellow out so on our next to last day, a day that I was to team up with The Mad Cheese Scientist, I suggested right after breakfast that he and I hang around camp and take it easy that morning. Jerry was all-in, so that was the plan. A couple of gentlemen fishermen, hanging around camp, taking life easy.

Like every fisherman I have ever known, we had spent the previous days fishing everywhere but at our back-door, so long about mid-morning I grabbed my spinning rod and headed for a small cove...just a short walk from camp...just to see what was there. I had one lure with me...a lure soon to be famous among the four of us as the subject of future fish stories and ridicule. Back at our home base of Carthage, Missouri there lived two brothers. Two very inventive brothers. They had bought the rights to a unique lure propeller, and using it, had come up with a lure named "The Woodchopper." Hand made of sugar pine, this top-water bait with the crazy props on both ends was deadly. This was long before they marketed it nationally, so there weren't many of them around, especially in the north woods of Minnesota. In fact, the one I had was a prototype.

The cove was amazing. Shallow and clear with a good number of downed pines stacked like Pick-Up-Sticks just under the surface. As I studied the water, a few of the logs were moving. Good grief...those are fish! Always interested in sharing my good fortune with others, I decided I must run back and tell Jerry...right after I made a cast ot two. The Woodchopper had no sooner hit the water than a "log" exploded to the surface and headed for Canada...and he took the Woodchopper with him. After regaining my composure and cursing my luck, I yelled at Jerry to come join me. But of course, after the recent commotion, by the time Jerry arrived the cove was vacant of fish.

"That fish was four feet long! You should have seen him! He was huge!"
"Yeah, sure he was Alan. Are you sure he wasn't ten feet long?"
"Jerry, I swear...he was four feet long if he was a foot."
"The foot part I can believe."
"Really, he was! And he took my Woodchopper!"
"Well you can get another one when we get home."

The next day I teamed up with Joe, who didn't believe me either, and Jerry headed out with Richard, who just laughed when hearing the story. Joe and I had an average, mostly uneventful day and headed back to camp. About an hour later Jerry and Richard returned. As I was helping to pull their canoe up the bank, Jerry started in on me.

"So he was four feet long, was he?"
"Every bit of it," I said.
"We know better Alan. We caught your fish and here he is!"

As Jerry grabbed his stringer and held up a snaky looking Northern of about eighteen inches, Richard chimed in with, "And here's your Woodchopper to prove it! He still had it in his mouth."

Needles to say, the campfire conversation that night focused on my uncanny ability to exaggerate, as have most of our get-togethers since. Had they attempted to duplicate the campfire scene from "Blazing Saddles" there wouldn't have been more laughter and finger pointing.

It's been twenty years since the Basswood Lake Incident and how they got that Woodchopper I'll never know, because none of them will fess up. But this I do know...that fish was huge...every bit of four feet long! I know he was. I saw him. Really.

Publishing this little bit of history is my birthday present to myself. My best friend, Jerry (the former Mad Cheese Scientist) will squirm again as he reads the true story of our northern adventure; he will no doubt stick to his side of the story and nervously laugh as he, yet again, attempts disparage my honesty.
But most of all, deep down inside where the truth resides, he’ll be green with envy that he has never felt the pull of such a magnificent fish!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Favorite Time of the year


As we had left the window open last night it was really hard to climb out of that warm bed this morning! I had an early appointment to make at the Asheville VA’s Orthopedic Clinic and the early morning nip in the air was a sure sign of things to come...warm jackets, welcome campfires, falling leaves and of course...some very exciting fall fly fishing. After the appointment and my arrival at the office I logged on to catch up on some emails and seeing this old screen saver, thought I'd share it with you.

If you look close you’ll see that it was painted back in ’03. Done in acrylics, I had copied the image as a “learning experience” from a very well known artist that I have admired for years and I was pleased by the way it turned out. It says pretty much everything about this time of year so I thought I’d share it with you.

What better time of year to get out and enjoy nature. Sure, if we can manage to include a little fly fishing, so much the better. But even if we can’t, what a treat it is to take in the beauty of God’s Creation on a crisp fall day.

Attention SPONSORS

Now that the long awaited FTC endorsement guidelines have come out I want it to be known that I am now available for endorsement deals, and that, in spite of what my friends, family and some readers will say, I am, as required in the guidelines...a credible blogger.

As such, I have no intention of signing up with multiple gear and equipment companies just to get the freebies rolling in. Rather, I will entertain endorsement deals with only the first three reputable firms that submit their proposals in each of the following product categories:
Fly rods & reels
Vests & chest packs
Waders & boots
Flies, trout
Flies, bass
Sunglasses
Landing nets
Destination transportation & lodging

RFP’s in the general category of “Art Supplies” will be going out on November 1, 2009.

I can assure all interested parties that I will abide with all of the FTC’s 81 page Federal Register guidelines, including, but not limited to, all full disclosure requirements.

Monday, October 5, 2009

WEEK 19


Snake River Cutthroat
If you look back to WEEK 9 you can see the pen & ink version of this Cutthroat. Over the weekend, rather than sit and watch my Sooners get whipped by Miami (again!) I decided to make better use of my time. The game Saturday night provided very few occasions for me to jump from the chair and shout for joy...in fact, very few reasons to even glance at the screen...so I was finally able to put the finishing touches on this. Hope you like it!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Is it just me...

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed over the past couple of years, the number of news stories that describe unusual accounts of fish “fighting back”???

I’m not talking about fish putting up a good fight. I’m talking about fish actually attacking anglers. Bears, sharks, big cats, spiders and snakes...along with rogue elephants, hippos, crocs and gators, have been after us for years, and now it seems that fish are joining this hooligan gang of marauding wildlife.
Giant cod attacks woman in Australia...
Tiger Oscar takes a bite out of owner’s finger...
Lion fish named Lily jabs poisonous spines into hand...
Huge Sailfish attacks angler...
600 pound Marlin knocks angler to the floor...
Asian carp attacks on the rise...
A Cambodian teenager recovering in hospital after a puffer fish attacked him in the groin...
Girl bather is bitten fatally by barracuda...
...and of course the normal string of shark attacks.

Honestly, I don’t know what more we could do. We’ve adopted catch and release. We use barbless hooks and we work really hard to revive everything we catch. Dynamite is in disrepute and gigging - other than in a few southern neighborhoods - is on the decline. So why are they so mad at us? Must we quit fishing altogether? Have they signed up with PETA? Granted, thousands of years of abuse is bound to get a species riled up, but this doesn’t seem to be random. It looks to be organized...and that’s a scary thought.

As I am known to frequent ponds and lakes in a float-tube hunting for bass and bream, I am always on the look-out for deranged largemouths. The bream don’t scare me...just little pecks...but the LMB definitely antes up the risk factor. And if the pike and musky populations sign on to this deal I may have to begin wearing suits of chain mail and shopping for a bigger boat.

Well, last week I posted the link about the attacking eel and yesterday on the Moldy Chum website I see this: A story about a kayak angler being attacked by a rattlesnake. A crazy Texan and a poisonous snake. Great combination...read the story and you’ll see what I mean.
If we start using rattlesnakes as bait, we’re really going to piss ‘em off.

http://www.moldychum.com/home-old/2009/9/29/neville-flynn-would-be-proud.html

Monday, September 28, 2009

LET'S RUMBLE !

I can't help it. When I hear the word "Rumble" it takes me back to my high school days in Tulsa. Back in the late 50's and early 60's, as documented by a fellow high schooler, S.E. Hinton through her book 'The Outsiders", and Francis Ford Coppola in his film of the same name...a rumble meant trouble. I confess to more familiarity than I should have with the theme of the book. No, Pony Boy wasn't a friend of mine. I was on the other side of the tracks from him and the guy that Patrick Swayze's character was based on. This rumble was different. No greasers, no socs'...just some of the best fly-fishers in the nation.

The North Carolina Fly Fishing Team and the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation put on the annual Rumble in the Rhododendrons on the outskirts of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and I got to spend Sunday as a “Judge.” The event is arguably the most prestigious fly fishing competition in the country and as a Judge I was allowed to spend the day documenting the catches of Kevin Howell and Paul Thompson.

Those that follow fly fishing are familiar with those names. Kevin is the owner of Davidson River Outfitters and has been featured on numerous TV shows, magazine articles and the internet, and is a favorite to out fish just about anyone he’s up against. A past winner of the Fly Fishing Masters competition, Kevin knows his way around a trout stream.

And Paul Thompson, a three-time champion of the Total Outdoorsman Challenge put on by Field & Stream magazine, is no slouch either. In addition to being a first rate fly-fisherman, Paul is rapidly developing into one of the better artists that I’ve run across. He specializes in ‘Scratch Board” art and his creativity and attention to detail are amazing.

Needless to say, as last year’s winning team, they entered this year’s event as the favorites. On Saturday, in the casting competition they finished first, giving them first choice of the beats to be fished on Sunday...they picked my beat.

Have you ever had the chance to study the techniques of two masters of their craft? I spent a total of four hours studying the techniques of two of the best as they fished in VERY difficult conditions. The Raven’s Fork was high, fast and more than a little off color. The rains that caused the flooding throughout the southeast over the past two weeks did not spare this little corner of trout fishing heaven.

The fishing competition was divided into two, two hour sessions. The winners of the first session would be allowed to have their choice of beats for the second session. Well, Kevin and Paul walked away with the first session and to my delight elected to stay on the same beat for session number two. Class continued!

Fishing as deep as they could with no added weight allowed, my guys managed to score five nice trout in session number one. Session two was different. They struggled just as much as the other teams did in the first session and it led to an overall finish of fourth. Competition is that way. Especially if you're up against the best in the land. Can I put the lessons learned to good use? Time will tell, but let me tell you...these guys are good. All of them. You'll be able to link to the Rumble's website in a few days to grab the details.

As great as the competition was, the true highlight of the day was getting to meet and visit with Curtis Fleming of Fly Rod Chronicles. If you've seen his weekly show on The Sportsman's Channel, you know that Curtis doesn't put on a slick "how-to" clinic. His show is as down to earth as the last outing you took with your best buddies, and regular viewers know that Curtis has a soft spot in his heart for our veterans. Many of his shows have featured Ed Nicholson, the founder of Project Healing Waters, and many of the Wounded Warriors that I've had the privilege to get to know over the past year. John Bass, Josh Williams, Billy Davis, Sgt. Mancini...the list goes on. For the second year in a row, Curtis and his crew were at the Rumble to record the competition.

As I had previously created a commemorative print that Project Healing Waters is giving to our vets and volunteers, it was only fitting to give a framed one to Curtis, one of our organization's greatest promoters. It was my honor to present it to him. And for those of you that might wonder...the Curtis you see on TV is the same guy that I met on Sunday. His kindness and accepting nature is, (and regular viewers will recognize this phrase), "Bigger than Dollywood!"

Tools of the trade...just a bit of Kevin and Paul's equipment


The Preparation...Kevin Howell


The Execution...Paul Thompson


Curtis and I

Friday, September 18, 2009

A R-eel Fish Story

Check out this article from last week's Sea Breeze News. An old friend just sent it to me and it's too good not to share. He thought I could "relate" to it. Not sure if he thought I could relate to the catch or to the beer drinking that was involved.

PS...I WILL NOT be doing a colored pencil rendition of the catch.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WEEK 17


LANDLOCKED SALMON
I have recently been honored by Project Healing Waters to create a commemorative print that they will be presenting as a “Thank You” gift to many of their volunteers across the nation. What you see here is a detail shot of a new Landlocked Salmon (Maine) drawing that will be featured on one of the prints. I’ll show you the entire print as soon as it’s completed.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

NEST LAKE


Uncle George and the Designated Driver
I was a year late in getting my drivers license and that may have worked to my advantage. You know, I was far more mature than the average 16 year old. At 17, as anyone that knew me would testify, I was fully capable of driving a car full of aging anglers across two states to their favorite fishin' hole. Right. But that was my job. As the only young, driving age relative of the aforementioned group I was selected. Uncle George and his cronies had made a yearly pilgrimage in the month of June, to Wilmar, Minnesota to a cabin between Green and Nest Lakes...a place known as Ye Old Mill Inn.

We arrived the day before bass season was to open. There was a guy named Bowen, a doctor named Secrist, a business man named Coast, Uncle George and myself. We had the entire month to fish the area lakes. On the drive up I heard all the stories. Green Lake for Smallies, Nest Lake for Largemouth and more lakes for Walleye than I can remember. Their stories...spiced with a nip or two of Canadian Club...had set the stage for what was sure to be a memorable trip. A memorable trip as long as I didn’t remember everything. (It was suggested that one in my position would benefit by a selective memory when relating the details of our trip to specific family members.)

Day one was a toss-up. Which lake to try? Uncle George and I headed out on Nest to give the bigmouths a try and the rest motored out across Green Lake. Green, as seen on the map, was nearly a perfect circle. Much larger than most of the lakes in the area, in addition to being a fine smallmouth fishery it was known by the locals as a great spot for ice surfing. Two guys, decked out in ice skates and holding a sheet between them, would catch the wind and fly across its frozen surface. It sounded like great fun but the thought of Minnesota winters and howling winds had no pull on me.

To be just a waterfall away from Green Lake, Nest was it’s complete opposite. While Green was wide open, gravel bottomed Smallmouth country, Nest was ideal Largemouth habitat. Multiple coves, lily pads and tons of structure. It was truly a top-water paradise. Although I had brought my trusty Garcia Mitchell 250, Uncle George presented me with an Ambassador 5000 bait casting rig and told me it was time I learned to use it. My first experience with bait casting went pretty well, and I soon had the hang of it...gently thumbing the spool, for the most part I was backlash free. Casting Creek Chub Darters, Skip Jacks and Hula Poppers, we landed bass after bass. These were not Florida Largemouths. In these cold waters, with their relatively short growing seasons, a six pounder was huge. They averaged probably 3-4 pounds. We sampled a number of coves and as long as we could keep the dogfish off our lines, we found the bass to be willing in all of them. The guys out on Green had no luck at all.

For the next two weeks I guided, in turn, each of the others around Nest Lake. Occasional days, or at least mornings, were spent on a few of the other lakes trying out the walleye fishing...mostly to no avail. Nest Lake was where the action was. One evening about sundown Uncle George summoned me to the boat for a trip up to the headwaters of Nest. He produced two small wooden and wire mesh boxes...each with a slit inner tube top and said we were going frog hunting. With him in the bow and me at the motor we set out. Now, Nest Lake was not over-run with boaters...particularly at this late hour, so I set the throttle to the max and pointed the boat to the west. About five minute into the run I saw two frantically waving arms above Uncle George's head. Note to Alan: Never, never, never drive a boat in a perfectly straight line. We missed the guy by inches.

Arriving at the headwaters, I beached the boat and with frog boxes in hand we headed into the thick weeds bordering the water. The place was alive with leopard frogs! We filled each box to the top and headed back to the cabin...zig zagging all the way.

If you ever have the chance to fish for Largemeouth in lily pads and you can get your hands on some live Leopard frogs...DO IT! I have never had so much fun fishing. Going weedless, we'd run the hook up through their lower and upper lips and aim for the lily pads. The frogs had been told by their mommas that there were creatures in the lake that would eat them, so they had no intention of leaving the safety of the pad. The frogs were well schooled, but we had other ideas. The battle for safety was the prelude to the REALLY fun part. We'd pull them off the pads and they'd scurry back on. As you can imagine, this caused a little commotion that was not unnoticed by the bass. You'd see the pads rippling as the bass converged from all directions, and if they didn't happen to arrive while the frog was in the water they'd blast up through the pad knocking the poor critter skyward. To see one, two and sometimes three bass rocketing through the air, mouths agape, all after the same frog...well, it was amazing.

Three weeks into the trip we finally heard a good report on the Smallmouth fishing. There was a submerged gravel bar about five miles across Green Lake and the smallies were said to be congregating there. The next morning we bought a minnow bucket full of shinners and and set off for the bar. Two or three passes across it and we had it figured out. We'd cast a lightly weighted minnow at one end of the bar and drift to the other. For the next hour we caught one after the other and none of them were less than six pounds. With each hook-up we had a Nantucket Sleigh Ride as the bass jumped and towed us away from the bar. I've yet to catch so many strong fish in one outing. Worn out and hungry we decided that breakfast sounded pretty good so we motored over to a boat dock and cafe to grab a waffle or two. As we arrived we were met at the dock by a group of guys who asked us what we were using for bait. Turns out they had been watching us through binoculars as they ate their waffles>. Well, as we ate and watched, an entire flotilla of boats headed to the bar...effectively ending our envolvement in the smallmouth feeding frenzy.

Such was my first Minnesota experience. Guiding, fish cleaning, babysitting and some amazing fishing...and I guess I did pretty well at it, for I assumed the same duties for the next two years. Just don't ask me for more details. As Sergeant Schultz would say, "I know nothing!"

Sunday, September 13, 2009

WEEK 16


So...here is the color version of last weeks pen and ink image. It's ultimate usage is still up in the air, but at least I'm happy with it. With a brown trout (and my apologies to the fisherman on the coast) and a rainbow, which are both very common in our mountain region, and the state bird, the Cardinal...along with the state flower, the dogwood...I hope it's a good rendition of the beauty that our state has to offer.

Friday, September 4, 2009

FLY FISHING TEAM USA...Help needed

My friend and Project Healing Waters co-worker, Ryan Harman, has asked me to put the word out that judges are needed this weekend for the US Fly Fishing Team regional qualifier to be held on the Nantahala tomorrow and Sunday. I know this is very short notice, but if you are interested in rubbing shoulders with a few of the best fly fishers in the nation, including Josh Stephens, Eddie Pinkston and Brian Capsay...please give Chris Lee a call at 828-269-6529.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

WEEK 15


Here is a project that I’ve been working on for the past week or so. This is the original layout, which may be modified a bit as I move on to the coloring stage of the process. Its intended purpose is still in limbo, but if it works out as I hope, I’ll be doing some other states as well. I’ll be trying out a few different color schemes and hope to have a finished product in about a week.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Somebody please help the boy!



Did you ever get yourself into a situation or place and wonder how you could get out of it? A situation where you REALLY had to rely on some help...from somebody, somewhere?
There’s no message here (unless you want there to be)...I just thought the picture was hilarious.

Monday, August 24, 2009

WEEK 14


Ballpoint Brookie
I figured out weeks ago that if I was only going to post "finished" artwork here on the blog, that I would never manage to get 52 images posted during the year. So, from here on out I will be showing some of the behind the scenes work that goes into creating a fish illustration. It is very rare that I grab a piece of paper and start an image without doing a few sketches to get the feel of my subject matter...more often there are numerous pencil or pen sketches done before I begin what I hope to be - eventually - a finished product. Todays image is a good example. This was done today during my lunch break at the office. Will this quick little drawing ever become finished artwork? I have no idea, but it was fun to do...and with each pen stroke I really do seem to learn a thing or two.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

WEEK 13


Bull Doggin'
I started this one, intending it to be a companion piece to the Snake River Cutthroat and had planned to title it as "Madison River Rainbow" in the same calligraphy style as the Cutthroat.
But as sometimes happens I ended up going another direction with it. I decided to go ahead and color this one. I guess I could go back to the original plan. Oh well, as usual...it’ll have to set around in my studio for a while before I decide. Confused? Me too, but that’s my normal state of being.

Friday, August 7, 2009

PAVLOV'S FISH


























ONCE IN A BLUE MOON
. Many of you have heard about the movie...some might have even seen it by now. According to Mid Current Fly Fishing News, the movie “follows an attempt by some New Zealand fly fishers to track down what can loosely be called a ‘mouse hatch.’ The idea of hitting the timing just right – when an explosion in the rodent population puts the biggest trout on the feed – leads to landing some very nice fish on big mouse patterns in stunningly beautiful surroundings.”

Well, that brings to mind a story...a story that I’ll tell if you promise not to pass it on to PETA. Once upon a time in a prior life I worked in the egg business. A very large egg business. No, the eggs were normal sized, but they sold gazillions of them all over the good ol’ USA.

As we all know eggs come from chickens...girl chickens. For about a year, each of the girls pops out, on average, a little over one egg a day. After that their production goes down they aren’t good for anything other than Campbell’s Soup, so they’re replaced. Well, to satisfy the market demand for eggs and to replace the worn out layers that aren't hitting their quotas anymore, it takes a lot of girl chickens. This company had millions of them. And to get millions of girl chickens you have to go through a lot of eggs. That meant they had to have a hatchery. And since (thankfully) science hadn’t figured out a way to produce only girl chickens, the hatchery produced a lot of boy chickens too. Can you tell the difference in the boys and the girls at one day of age? Neither could I, but there was a family of Chinese folks that were very good at it.

On a regular schedule they would show up at the hatchery to “sex the chickens.” With trays and trays of day old chicks before them, they would grab one, turn it over to inspect the business end and pass judgment. The girls went into another tray and the boys went into 5 gallon plastic buckets. At the end of the day the hens were shuffled off to a rearing facility and the boys –the cockerels – were carted off to THE POND.

A stones throw from the hatchery was THE POND. A pond of about ten acres that was full of huge channel cats and bass. By now you’ve figured out how they got so big. For the sake of the faint hearted, I will avoid going into more details, but suffice it to say that “Pavlov’s Fish” knew when it was dinner time.

Imagine a John Boat. Imagine that John Boat filled with 5 gallon buckets of lively yellow feathered vittles, and imagine that boat making 5 or 6 trips across THE POND on feeding day. I know you’ve seen film of an ocean feeding frenzy...well, the only thing missing was the gulls. The “Chicken Hatch” was a sight to behold.

I never did try to tie up a replica "match the hatch" fly. Didn’t need to, as a yellow Jitterbug got the job done just fine.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

OKAY...I'll make it a little easier


Bob Clouser used his Kinky Clouser, along with the prototype bass rod he has developed for Temple Fork Outfitters to catch this beauty. It was my honor to try to do it justice.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Wonder who caught this nice smallie...


This is my most recent commission piece. Brian Shumaker of Susquehanna River Guides approached me at the VA Fly Fishing Festival with the idea of producing a replica piece for one of his favorite clients. He said the angler had caught a very nice smallmouth on a recent outing, and Brian wanted to surprise him with the artwork.

The reference photos were sent my way and I began the project. I finished it a couple of weeks ago but have not been able to post it because the angler has been out of town and hadn’t seen the art until yesterday.

Can you guess who the angler is? There are two very important clues in the piece.

Monday, August 3, 2009

CALLAWAY GARDENS


Shirley and I traveled down to Georgia over the weekend for a multi-purpose trip. Son-in-law Chad was graduating with his Masters Degree from UGA on Saturday - which was supposedly the purpose of the trip - but it was also a chance to see the grandkids, and finally, and not without its own degree of importance, Chad and I planned to fish for “shoalies” on Flint River.

The graduation ceremony was nice on Saturday. We were certainly proud seeing Chad get his masters and it was also very interesting to see the UGA campus and its great facilities. As a lifelong Oklahoma Sooners fan, I have a running battle with Chad and the grandkids about the quality of the Dawgs football program. Those poor children have been so brainwashed, that I have thought many times about calling social services to file a child abuse report. It is so bad that they even think that slobbering overweight bulldog is cute! Anyway, as impressive as their facilities are, I was not swayed. Perhaps I’ll root for them...at least until they progress to the level of OU and become a threat.

Chad and I had been watching the radar all week and feared that the Flint would be blown-out so our backup plan was to fish the big lake at Callaway Gardens, but not until we made a visual inspection of the Flint. Sunday morning before dawn we headed for the river. I had discovered that my non-res GA license had expired so before leaving I quickly logged onto the state’s website to renew it. No such luck – the site was down. It was a short drive to the Flint and the odds of finding a place that was open and selling licenses on a Sunday morning at 6:30 were slim to none. “None” won out....so it was off to Callaway, where a license isn’t required.

And of course Callaway hadn’t opened yet. (They’re more into golf, bike riding and butterfly viewing than fishing, which is amazing, due to the quality of the fisheries on the property.) We went and grabbed a bite to eat and returned at 9 when the gate opened. In our rented john boat we motored across the lake to a likely looking bank. (The lower right water in the photo above) The weather was perfect...heavy overcast with a slight breeze out of the south. I decided to start with a Callaway standard – the Stealth Bomber in black. One of the guides said we’d better “go deep” if we expected to catch anything, but looking at the weather, I thought otherwise. On my third cast I hooked up with a decent largemouth...and just a few casts later the water erupted with a very decent one. A few moments later I reached for my new Lippa tool and pulled a largemouth of around three pounds into the boat. Of course neither of us had a camera, but trust me...it was a pretty fish indeed. The day was looking very promising.

I continued on with the Stealth Bomber to no avail...eventually switching to one of Walt Cary’s famous poppers to get in on the bluegill action along with Chad. We spent the next 4 hours landing bluegill after bluegill...but not one more bass! Still, it was great day...and a fantastic way to celebrate Chad’s educational accomplishment.

We fished all the likely looking water...deep banks and shallow coves...in the wind and not. As the day progressed and warmed we had good success going deeper with Rubber Legged Dragons and poor luck with the MinnKota. While I was doing the guiding I managed to get the prop completely encased in moss and when Chad’s turn came around he managed to get his fly line wrapped around it. But those are the things that fishing trips are made of. If we’re really honest, all of our so called “perfect days” had their share of calamities too.

Monday, July 20, 2009

BIG RIVER


As I have ventured to my immediate west for a couple of fishing trips this year, as usual I have taken a gander at Google Earth to get the lay of the land. From North Georgia, clear up to Northeast PA. the western side of the Appalachians looks like a wrinkled and squished together piece of tin foil from a hundred miles in space. Row after row of closely spaced ridges running the length of the range...it must have been a sight to behold when those mountains were formed! The collision, the pressure, the violence... it’s like the ground was turned on it’s edge 90 degrees.

On Sunday, after the very successful South Holston Fly Fishing Festival I walked about fifty feet from the Angler’s Rest Cabin to the river. The water had finally cleared and gone down to a wadable level and I was going to give it a try. My first sight of the river bottom looked just like the view from space and I knew that these old knees of mine were going to be tested. After falling for the first time in my fishing career last summer on the Toccoa, I tend to get a little wobbly on an extremely irregular stream bed. I had borrowed a wading staff just in case, but I wasn’t prepared for what I had before me. The rock base seemed to run for the width of the river and it looked like millions of different sized industrial saw blades stacked side by side.

I had reviewed the Guest Book at the cabin the night before and had seen the notes left by Bob Clouser, Joan Wulff and many other less famous anglers, so I just naturally figured that this stretch of the river was prime territory and that if I could manage to stay upright I might catch a fish or two. WRONG. I was skunked.

You should have been here yesterday was the story of the day. But of course, I was busy at the festival meeting some great folks and selling some art. I was told that I missed the “squirt” on Saturday. I said what? “The squirt, you know...the squirt,” said our host. Turns out the “squirt” is just that...it’s a small and short release of water from the dam that only lasts for about an hour, and it gets the fish excited and hungry. Not enough water to run the fishermen away, but enough to trigger a feeding frenzy and provide an hour or two of action.

So I missed it. I guess I could blame being skunked on that fact, but that would be untruthful...and as I have committed to a policy of truth telling here on the blog, I can’t do that. (Yes, Jerry...all the truth all the time.) The reality is that I was out of my element. Being used to fishing streams that I can easily cast across, I didn’t know what to do with this behemoth of a river. I tried my usual stuff and even tried to adapt to the local experts techniques...all to no avail. I did manage to hook one but it was a very brief affair. Our romance lasted just seconds before she broke it off.

But I'll be back, thanks to a gracious standing invitation from our hosts, Jim and Bob. There's even been talk of some drift boat action which should improve my odds dramatically....especially with my two hosts in the boat. Yes, I'll be back...especially if they can arrange a squirt or two.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

WEEK 12...SoHo ART


Last Friday I mentioned that I was working on a print for the South Holston Fly Fishing Fest...well this is it. I finished up the calligraphy on it last night. If you can make it to the event I hope you’ll stop by my booth at take a look at the real thing. As a reminder it’s this Saturday at Rivers Way and from all indications it will be a great festival. In addition to the art on display there will be a day full of demonstrations on the river, fly tying seminars, great food and bluegrass pickin’ and of course, the chance to wet a line in one of the premier fisheries in the east.

And as usual, if you can’t make to the SoHo on Saturday and are interested in the print...all it takes to get a signed and ready to frame print headed your way is a phone call to 828-290-3730 or an email to clearwatermemories@gmail.com

Monday, July 13, 2009

SPAVINAW CREEK


Got an email from River Geezer that got me to thinkin...why am I drawn to the clearwater of mountain streams?

I can start by blaming it on mom and dad. As I’ve mentioned before, my very first memories are of creek banks. Seeing old black and white photos of me in a stroller of sorts, parked on a gravel bar, with dad in the background casting a fly, I have to believe that my addiction was pre-ordained. But it wasn’t just trout streams back then. It was anywhere with clear water and a fish or two. Dad used to carry one of those canvas creels and on the bass streams, on days when the fly rod was given up for spinning gear, he’d have one of those small minnow buckets slung over the other shoulder chock full of catfish minnows. There were a lot of days like that.

Catfish Minnows. We used to call them that before the Christmas in 1965 when I got what is still one of my prized possessions, A.J. McClane's Fishing Encyclopedia. I never could figure out why we never managed to catch, or even see, a full grown version of these little black catfish, but as always A.J. had the answer. We were catching full grown versions. They were Mad Toms.

Every night after the sun went down and the sky was at its darkest we’d seine the rapids for them. The technique was pretty simple. With one of my brothers on one end of the seine and me on the other, we would position ourselves just downstream of dad. With a stout tree branch in hand and facing us, dad would walk quickly backwards (upstream) while doing all he could to upset the gravel with the stick. My brother and I would follow right behind him, making sure to catch everything that he had stirred up. Each pass would only be for ten feet or so, and if we were lucky, in addition to twenty pounds of flint we’d have a minnow or two for our effort. The seine would be laid out on the gravel bar and with the light of the Coleman Lantern we’d investigate our haul. While catfish minnows were the ultimate prize, we’d usually get a hellgrammite or two, a few sculpins and miscellaneous other minnows and bugs. I was never into hellgrammites, and I still can’t imagine putting a cricket on a hook. Those things are bugs!

As long as the catfish minnow was alive, there wasn’t a bass in the creek that could resist it. Hooked through the lips, we’d cast the minnow across and downstream, with just enough weight to slow the swing. The minnows knew what they were in for and would do all they could to burrow under the rocks to escape the bass, and as the water was gin clear it was easy to see the bass rooting them out. One minnow...one cast...one bass. And if lucky, the minnow would survive for another go around. Beautiful little creek bass. We called them “Brownies.”

There were always rumors that the creek held brown trout, and perhaps it did somewhere...maybe over towards Arkansas in its headwaters. We just figured that the locals didn't know a trout from a bass.

Ive got to get back to Spavinaw Creek. I'll take a seine with me...or maybe not. Maybe I'll just give the old black muddler a whirl. Either way, it'll be a walk down memory lane. I'll rise early at dawn and wade into the stream of my childhood. I'll splash the clear cool water in my face just like I did some fifty years ago. I'll wade upstream from Beatty Creek, casting toward the eastern bank. I'll kick up a few rocks and hope to see one of my old black friends. And if the big pool is still intact at the bend, I'll sit and replay a few scenes form the past. There'll be pretty girl diving in and hungry bass beneath her.

Friday, July 10, 2009

South Holston Fly Fishing Fest


Shirley and I are looking forward to a brand new fly-fishing festival and art show that’s going to be held at Rivers Way, over on the South Holston River next weekend. We’ll be heading out around mid day on Friday in order to get set up for the one day show that will be on Saturday...and of course to get in a few casts before dark. Since moving to North Carolina I’ve always heard that the South Holston is pretty much the equivalent of White River, so I can’t wait to get there. Throw in an art show and the chance to meet some new folks and I don’t know how it could be beat.

P.S. I’ve spent the past week trying to complete a new Brown Trout illustration to have on display there, and if I can get it done in time, I’ll try to get it up on the blog before leaving.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The winner(s) of the trout print!

Yes there were two winners. Both were too good to reject. Stephanie from over Lake Norman way with her suggestion, "I will not get caught, I will not get caught, I do not want to eat that!"
and my blog buddy, Mike from the "Mikes Gone Fishin' blog (See link to the right in My Favorites) with his entry. "Can a brotha' get a mayfly?"

I'll be sending each of them a print with THEIR own quote on it.
Thanks to all that participated!

Monday, July 6, 2009

JULY 4th


My son-in-law Chad has just been fly fishing a few years, and like all of us at that point in our development, he has been occasionally frustrated. (Like we’re never frustrated now???) Might have even quietly wondered if it was really meant for him. Well, over the weekend he had one of those “Eureka Experiences” on a tiny little creek in north Georgia. That’s just one of the rainbows that he caught shown above.

I however, didn’t do so well. On Friday afternoon I partnered up with one of my co-workers for an easy trip to the Davidson. We figured it would be crowded and were we ever right! We each managed to catch a couple, but nothing worthy of bragging about. I had many follows by a few of the big guys...those long, slow follows that give your heart a test. You know the type. They rush the fly and then hang out an inch behind it for what seems an eternity before turning away. I swear I saw two of them flip down their bifocals for a final inspection before heading back to cover.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

WEEK 11


Help me CAPTION THIS TROUT !!!!
I saw a photo of this guy somewhere in a magazine and thought he showed a little personality...so in this quick rendering I tried to capture it. He definitely has an attitude...but what is it? What is he thinking?

Let me know how you would caption it and if it’s better than, or the same as the one I have in mind... I’ll send you a free print of it!

(I won’t post your suggestion here unless you’re the winner)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

FATHER'S DAY







John Bass, “The Man” for Project Healing Waters in the Mid-South Region came to town with a couple of vets...Billy Davis from the Vietnam era and Ceamus McDermott, a guy leaving soon for his umpteenth tour in Iraq/Afghanistan.

On Saturday Ryan Harman from the NC Fly-Fishing Team guided Ceamus on the Davidson, while Jesse Connor, of bamboo rod building fame (Trout Dancer) escorted Billy. They spent the day on some of Davidson River Outfitters prime waters, and each of them got to meet a good number of Kevin Howell’s big rainbows and browns. John and I had the pleasure of observing. Healing Waters, indeed. To watch these guys fishing and to see the smiles on their faces as they erased some of the past and prepared for the future was fantastic. To see the joy that our sport brings them, as you consider what they’ve been through, it makes a fellow proud to be in their company.

On Sunday John Bass and I were given access to some excellent water on the West Fork of the French Broad. Deep in the woods, in “Deliverance” country, we listened hard but never heard any banjo playing...just the music of the stream. I must tell you a little about John. Many years ago, in a diving accident John Bass broke his neck and is paralyzed from the waist down. And if that isn’t bad enough, he has very limited use of his arms and hands. But John Bass is a trout fisherman, and nothing can keep him from the stream. John is the perfect person to be heading up the Project Healing Waters campaign in our region because if he can fly-fish, anyone can.

John caught at least a dozen par marked rainbows on a fly that’s very special to him...the Sheep Fly. It’s a long story that’s best told by John himself, but let me say...that was one happy trout fisherman. And there couldn’t have been a better setting. A clear mountain stream with easy access for a guy in a wheelchair...willing trout and a guy that knew how to catch ‘em. Worries? What worries? John and his Sheep Fly ruled the day. Drifting the fly deep through a nice pool he caught fish after fish including a couple of very nice ones. His skill with a fly rod must be seen to be believed. After John left for home I had the same pool to myself and by following his technique I managed to get lucky with a weighted black and yellow marabou. I think that I matched John’s total and also caught the twin of his largest one. What a peaceful setting...what a day.

Did I mention the outhouse? Conveniently positioned next to the picnic shelter, it had an ancient look to it...weathered wood like any “privy” found on any country farm. But the inside was totally modern with a porcelain commode, running water and a mirror!

Thanks again to Kevin Howell for putting our vets on some VERY GOOD water! Without guys like Kevin our regional program would be nowhere, and too many of our wounded vets would miss out on the healing therapy that fly-fishing provides. And thanks also...for the outhouse!

PS...
Update on the Tenkara.
For a few minutes on Saturday John and I snuck away to the hatchery section of the Davidson. He wanted to see the Tenkara in action just as much as I wanted to try it out on some different water. Needless to say the river was crowded, but I managed to sneak into a stretch of rapids to give it a try. (Can’t you just hear the fathers: “But honey, it’s Father’s Day. I’ll only be gone a little while...please?)

With the crowd above and below me, I was limited to only fifty or so feet of water. With John peering through the trees I quickly tied a “knot” that proved to be just a “loop” around the fly – not a knot. Standing mid stream I tossed a dry upstream and promptly lost the fly on the fist strike. A few minutes later I hooked up with a nice rainbow and was able to get him in quite easily. I’m still having trouble with the rods length though. At 12 feet it is 6 feet longer than my standard rod so I was continually hitting the overhead branches on my back cast. Yes, I’m a slow learner with a very poor memory. And with over 24 feet of line – that can’t be reeled in – it was difficult to cast to the closer pockets. I tried “choking up” on the rod, but that was pretty awkward. Maybe I could have collapsed a few of the lower rod sections. Still, it was fun and even with its limitations, it is practical for small stream fishing.

Ryan also had a chance to try the rod over the weekend and sees its potential for small streams. He suggested and I concur, that the furled leader tends to twist quite a lot and that a straight heavy leader might work a lot better. I’ll have to give that a try.