Wednesday, June 27, 2012's a start

There is always a risk in showing a work "in progress" but hey, why not?  You might be looking at this Southern Appalachian Brookie and be wondering, "What is this crap all bout?"  But the upside is that you might look at the finished product in a few days  and say, "WOW!"  

The purpose - at this stage -  is to get some paint on the canvas and color over all of that intimidating white space.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Spring Creek Brown

OK...I know the photo is lousy.  Cell phone cameras have their limitations.  But until I get a response from Pentax regarding my broken shouldnt' be broken camera, it'll have to do.  As soon as my friend and neighbor Chas, the greatest photographer on the planet, (see Shoot the Light) returns from one of his international photo seminars and can take a shot of this, I'll have something very professional to post. Until then, I hope you enjoy my very unprofessional effort.  I'm thinking of naming this series "The Blue Collar Series" after the comment from my blogger buddy Howard from Windnots and Tangled Lines, after my last post.  I think he nailed it.  I can't wait to get started on the brookie...or maybe I'll start the rainbow.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New project

This will be a series of four paintings - a cutthroat, a brown, a brook and a rainbow - and they aren't going to be the hook-jawed monsters that we all dream about catching. Nope, they are going to be the more common everyday varieties. The beautiful 10 inchers that frequent our nets more often.

The top painting, a Westslope Cutthroat, is about an hour from being finished, but I was so pleased with it I couldn't wait to start the brown shown below it. The brown has a long ways to go. I've got learn to focus! One at a time Alan! One at a time.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Spruce Pine Veterans Outing

Last Friday afternoon our special guests began arriving at our lodging place in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, a repurposed schoolhouse from the 1930’s now known as the Pinebridge Inn. We were to greet vets from our TU VSP/Project Healing Waters programs from the Carolinas, and Tennessee.

A few weeks earlier, Ryan Harman, a PHW Board Member, Pisgah TU member, and the Program Lead of the Asheville PHW program put the word out that a select few veterans from the area were to be invited to spend a day on Rock Creek, a beautiful little stream hiding in the shadows of Roan Mountain in western North Carolina and managed by the guys at River's Edge Outfitters in Spruce Pine. As most of the vets had heard of the place from the reports of prior outings, filling the nine veteran quota was easy and quick.

Friday night’s creek side dinner was spoiled when we received a call from the caterer that due to a quickly passing thunderstorm her set-up on the stream was being threatened by rising waters. No problem. We’ll eat at the Inn. And as it turned out, those rising waters were a blessing in disguise.

When we arrived at the creek early Saturday morning the well drained grounds were fine, and due to the slight coloration of the water, the creek was even finer. That little touch of color should have put the normally leader shy trout on warning . . these fishermen meant business and with the ability to be armed with 3x tippets . . . landing a few of the creek’s bruisers was a certainty.

But turning our vets loose on those big guys would have to wait until the completion of the three seminars that we had planned - Jesse Connor from Trout Dancer Rod Company conducting a dry/dropper seminar, Dick Engelhardt sharing his expertise on streamer fishing, and Paul Bourcq from the NC Fly Fishing Team, passing along his line management techniques. Each veteran had the opportunity to sit in on each seminar and when it came time to practice their new skills it wasn’t long before the words, “Fish on!” were heard up and down the stream. By days end each of our vets had landed his share of rainbows – most of them in the 18 to 24 inch range. The smallest fish landed (not counting a horny head or two) measured twelve inches.

Paul Bourcq's line management seminar

Dick Engelhardt's streamer fishing seminar

Jesse Connor's dry/dropper seminar...and the results

We all had a fantastic time. The weather finally cooperated and the fishing was great. Best of all - that "winding down" time at the end of the day and the fish stories that were shared. The ones caught and the ones that got away. The memories, the camaraderie, the sharing.

Special thanks to the Pinebridge Inn for their great hospitality, and to Joe Street and Steve Mingle from River’s Edge Outfitters for making the water available. Our thanks to the seminar leaders who so freely shared their skills with our veterans, and the TU volunteer guides and mentors that made possible our one-to-one ration of guides to participants.

Outings just like this one are taking place across the country nearly every week. With over seventy of our TU chapters involved in the Veterans Service Program now, you can be sure that hundreds of our deserving veterans are experiencing the thrill of landing trout as they enjoy a holiday from their ongoing recoveries.

Monday, June 4, 2012

They made me do it!

Both of our daughters and their mates have gotten into camping – well, it’s sorta like camping. They each are proud owners of 30 plus foot travel trailers, campers, and for a few years now Shirley and I have been able to pull off a major coup. Just a short 14 miles from our home lies a beautiful little lake and campground that we discovered a few years back, and of all the camping sites available in Western North Carolina we’ve been able to convince the girls that this is the one spot that is worthy of our annual Memorial Day Rendezvous. There are a number of reasons why we are partial to the place. First and foremost, the fishing is good. The water is clear and the wooded shorelines are free of houses and boat docks; the separate spring fed swimming lake is great for the grandkids and the campsites are clean, bug free and well maintained.

But back to the fishing. I have fished for trout in some pretty special places. I have hiked in, jeeped in and driven up to the banks of some fantastic waters, but I have yet to discover a more enjoyable way of casting a fly line than while dangling my legs in the cool waters of Cascade Lake on a hot spring or summer day in my float tube. Cascade Lake is formed from the clear waters of Little River, which flows from the DuPont State Forest in WNC. The upper end of the lake below Hooker Falls has a decent population of rainbows and I’ve seen photos of some pretty nice largemouth that have been caught down lake. Most of the angles are after these. I aint. No sir, Chad and I go there for the bluegills.

As we watch boat after boat heading out with their bass gear, Chad and I just chuckle as we land one ‘gill after another within shouting distance of the boat ramp. This year was no different. At midday on Friday I inflated the float tube, grabbed my 2 wt. and a selection of flies and headed for the water. That first immersion in the cool waters of the lake, no matter what the ambient temperature is, gets your attention. I eased into the craft and kicked my way to the far bank about 100 yards away. By the time I arrived, the mix of cold water and hot sun had reached the perfect comfort level.

I tied on a little yellow chenille bodied, rubber legged fly and by the 5th cast I had released three pretty fish back to the depths. The average size of these blue gills runs around seven inches, and occasionally we catch one of hand size – say around ten inches. Cast after cast, as I kicked my way down the shoreline the fish were very cooperative. Within two hours I had managed to catch around fifty of them. Great fun on a two weight.

Chad joined in on Saturday and the action continued, but at a little slower pace. Meanwhile back at camp, the kids were having a blast with the swimming and the science experiments that daughter Melanie had brought along. All four grandkids, donned in their chemistry lab smocks had great fun making fake snow, creating slime and who knows what else. It was to be a fun and educational weekend for all of them. By the end of the holiday I would come to regret the educational part of the deal.

On Sunday afternoon it was decided that our daughters, the grandkids and our non fishing son-in-law Jonathan, would rent canoes and paddle up to Hooker Falls for a picnic. As they paddled past Chad and I along the shoreline they had what they thought was a great idea. They figured their science projects should evolve into a little biology lesson, and that we should keep four fish for them to clean and cook up for dinner that evening. Well that turned out to be a curse of sorts. From that moment on the bite was off. Cast after cast and no fish. Chad had drifted away from where I was working the shoreline and he wasn’t having any luck either.

I had tried just about all of the traditional bluegill flies and in an experimental mood I tied on a size 12 Humpy. A couple of casts later I saw a flash of color dart through my sunken fly and I was hard onto a decent fish. I had seen more bass on this trip than ever before and I hoped that I would get lucky and catch one of them, but so far, they had rejected my offerings. If this was a bass though, it sure acted strange. Instead of thrashing around on the surface with a jump or two thrown in, this fish headed straight for the deepest water in the lake. My 2 wt. was double for a good 4 minutes until he finally came into view. It was a bluegill…and a larger one than I had ever seen, much less caught. As I measured the big guy’s length, I hollered at Chad to come my way with his camera.

As Chad’s eyes grew bigger looking at my fish he says, “We gotta keep that one!” to which I replied, “No, we don’t even have a stringer.” But of course, as the flotilla of grandkids passed Chad on their way to the falls, they managed to find a piece of wire on the bottom of the canoe and passed it over to him with instructions to keep some fish for the kids. So here I sat in my float tube, holding in my hand a 13 inch bluegill that I, by way of Chad, had been ordered by my family to keep. I tried to recall the last time that I had kept any fish, much less a bona-fide lunker. It had to have been at least 45 years. As the day was growing short and the fishing had been slow, I relented and slipped the wire through the fish’s lips.

The fish cleaning exhibition later that night went reasonably well and the fish did indeed taste very good, but still I was tormented by my decision to keep him. I did a little research on the average growth rate of bluegills when I got home and learned that the fish was at least 10 years old . . . and certainly near the end of his reproductive life span, which made me feel a little better. He went out like the lunker he was though. I don’t think I’ve ever had that much fun from my end of a fly rod.

Over dinner there was serious talk about changing the rendezvous location for next year. Seems there is a great little island off the Carolina coast that has a lot to offer. Supposed to be great for crabbing. Wonder how deep a bend a crab will put into my 2 weight?