Tuesday, June 30, 2009


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


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!

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.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


In keeping with my recent experiments with the Tenkara fly-fishing method, I thought it appropriate to put this up on the blog. Like Tenkara, it comes from ancient Japan.. This piece you see was modeled with a special kind of clay that is able to withstand the extreme temperature shock that is required by the process. The glaze that I used was pretty much picked at random and as you might be able to see from the image, it contained a bit of cooper. Unlike other pottery glazes, this one is totally at the mercy of the firing and cooling process...meaning that the placement of colors, lines and whatever...just happens. The artist has little if any control in the appearance of the finished product.

After firing to the point that it’s almost transparent, it is removed from the kiln and put in a metal trash can full of shredded newspaper. The lid is tightly closed and it is allowed to cool down for a few minutes. Then while it is still VERY hot it is dunked in a tub of water. Like I said, the thermal shock is extreme. At this point you either have a neat piece of intact pottery or a collection of broken shards. I was lucky this time.

I really doubt that I’ll do any more of these...for that very reason. You take the unpredictability of the process and combine that with the cost of equipment and it just doesn’t seem worth it. (I was able to use a friend’s equipment to create this one.) The fish itself is about 24 inches long and as you see, I mounted it in a shadow box.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Little Moose Lake

Little Moose Lake was more a pond than a lake but I didn’t care. I was invited to go there and by golly, if it had fish in it I was all for it. The invitation had come from a wealthy businessman that had a cabin just outside of Cooke City, who just happened to be a very good friend of Uncle George. He also had a Land Rover and a small boat. This was long before all the Land Rovers were owned by yuppies...back in a time when they were actually driven in the dirt and gravel. This one looked like it had left the Serengeti just last week. For years our only mode of motorized transport up into the Beartooth had been WW2 surplus jeeps, so to ride in comparative luxury was gonna be a new experience. He said that the lake was full of good sized rainbows and that it was rarely fished. Our nemesis, Erwin A. Bauer* hadn’t been there, so it was a lock that we would have it to ourselves.

Little Moose Lake was a short but bumpy ride just off the Beartooth Highway towards Red Lodge in Park County, Wyoming. At about 8,000 feet elevation it looked like many other of the lower level lakes...a very swampy put-in area at the mouth and surrounded by heavy forests...some very fishy looking shallow water and of course some deep drop-offs where the cliffs met the shore. As we slogged the boat across the muck into clear water it was obvious that we were at the wrong end of the lake. The air was dead calm and there wasn’t a single rise form to be seen. The other end of the lake was another matter. The water was almost choppy from the feeding trout.

I was placed in the middle of the boat with the oars, between Uncle George in the front and our host at the rear, and was told to head us towards the fish. Having been with Uncle George on many an adventure, it was no surprise that I, a healthy teenager, was invited and given the rowing duties. Fifteen minutes later we were surrounded by feeding trout. A few casts were made and the water went still. Glassy water, with only the reflection of the mountains to hold our attention. Figuring that the hatch had ended we changed techniques and continued to fish until one of my elders happened to notice that the other end of the lake was now alive with activity. “Head us back that-a-way Alan!”

Unlike our first foray, we approached as quietly as we could. Didn’t matter. After a few casts the activity came to a halt. I should say at this point that we knew what we were doing...at least my boat-mates did. They had fished these high mountain lakes for years and they were accomplished fly-fishermen so it wasn’t a matter of incompetence. But this trip was different...these trout were determined to humiliate them and they were being very successful.

So I spent the next three hours wishing we had a small outboard, rowing us around the lake chasing rising trout.
Finally it became apparent that we were going to have to change our ways, and I was directed to row us towards one of the more promising looking shallows. I was completely beat. Four or five trips from one end of the lake to the other had worn me out. I positioned our little john boat within casting distance of the shore and decided that a short nap was in order. Even at that early age I knew that I would never catch a fish unless my fly was in the water, so I threw that big Royal Wulff as far as I could out towards the middle of the lake, away from the shoreline that Captain Bligh and his partner were working.

With my arms crossed over my knees and my head resting on them, I dozed off for a while as they worked the shoreline. By then a small breeze had come up so I was confident that the boat would drift slowly down the shoreline, negating any immediate need for my services.

I have no idea how long I was out...take a warm sun, a soft breeze, exhaustion and quite passengers, and it could have been five minutes... or it could have been thirty. Whatever it was, it came to an abrupt and noisy end with Uncle George yelling “SET THE HOOK! Alan! SET THE HOOK!”
Dropping your rod into the bottom of the boat is not the recommended way of setting the hook but it worked.
Fish on! And it was good one...easily the largest trout I had ever hooked. He jumped, he sang the reel and five minutes later he was mine. With already sore arms it was a wonder I got him to the boat. I’ll confess that at one point I considered handing Uncle George the rod to finish the job. What a fish! Probably the finest looking rainbow I’d ever seen, and certainly the prettiest one I’d ever caught. They guessed that he would easily go eight pounds.

The resentment towards my passengers now gone, I soaked in the praise as we admired my catch. Soon after, I doled out my two remaining Wulffs and they began to catch some as well. As I remember it, we made it back to the cabins in Cooke City the proud possessors of a half dozen very nice trout, which we promptly laid out on the grass for all to see.

As my family gathered around to take some Polaroid’s, Mr. Shaw, the proprietor of the cabins, came on the scene to let us know that Bauer was in town and inquiring as to how we did that day. “Better get those fish cleaned and in the freezer Alan...before he gets here!”
There’s a price to pay for everything.

* Anyone of my vintage will recognize the name as one of the more prolific trout fishing writers back in the 50’ and 60’s. He was notoriously despised by the local anglers as the guy responsible for the growing popularity of “their” home waters, but he was a hero to the lodge owners, outfitters and others that catered to the tourist trade.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tenkara...test #1

Well, the Tenkara rod arrived over the weekend and I had a few minutes Sunday evening to try it out on the neighborhood pond. I like it...I think. Obviously, it was not intended for pond fishing, but this short and easy outing was a good introduction to the tenkara system.

Pros: If one had never experienced fly-fishing one would be hooked on Tenkara. Casting it is easy, and as advertised, it is delicate and deadly accurate. I caught numerous bluegills, from 3 inches up to 8, and it was a blast playing them with that long (12 foot), wispy rod. The rod length allowed me to reach over the cattails along the bank and it was very advantageous in reaching around some overhanging limbs, allowing me to get the fly to some spots I wouldn’t have been able to reach with my standard gear. When the rod is collapsed it’s only 23 inches long, so portability and ease of set up is a definite plus. The rod is of very high quality and is well put together. While I can’t imagine chunking my other gear in favor of the tenkara, I can definitely see its potential in certain circumstances. Its “fun value” is way up there.

Cons: With no reel...it is “top heavy.” Don’t get me wrong, the rod is light, but without anything to counterbalance the length, it could get tiring to cast. The length also comes into play when bringing the fish to hand. The only way to bring the fish in is to lift the rod, and if there are limbs around or behind you, that can be a problem. We aren’t used to dealing with that 12 feet of rod length, and with the 12 foot furled monofilament leader they supply and an additional tippet of two feet, problems with surrounding foliage can occur. I can’t imagine fishing one of our heavily canopied streams and having to deal with that length, but I’ll be giving it a go this coming weekend. Since I could only cast a little over 26 feet, I wasn’t able to get the fly in front of a bass that was lurking just out of range. Of course, if I were wading or in a float-tube that wouldn’t have been a problem.
And last but not least...what am I supposed to do with my left hand???

So the verdict is still out. Even with it’s limitations it was a lot of fun to fish with. The real test will come this weekend when we host a few wounded warriors on one of our mountain cricks. Fortunately (or unfortunately, for our testing purposes) our guests are not amputees, but I’m still looking forward to getting their impressions of the system.

Monday, June 8, 2009


Last week I wrote about Cane Pole Fishin’...a somewhat tongue in cheek essay about what at least for me might be a new way of going after trout. I made mention of Tenkara, the ancient Japanese method of fly-fishing and I can’t believe the response I have gotten. Also, on the Southeastern Fly Fishing forum, wondering about it’s suitability for our wounded vets, I put out the word that I would be interested in hearing back from anyone that had experience with Tenkara. One of your fellow blog readers and a member of the forum, knowing of my connection to Project Healing Waters got in contact with Tenkara USA and corresponded with their President, who in turn got in touch with me. Well, I just got off the phone with him and he is sending us two rods to try out!

Update today, June 9th: Just got word that two of our Wounded Warriors will be joining us for two days of fishing the waters around Brevard next weekend. We're planning on hitting the Davidson and some smaller streams in the area. It'll be a great opportunity to try out the Tenkara.
Reports to follow!

Sunday, June 7, 2009


Snake River Cutthroat

I wish I could say that I spent the last month floating the Snake from Jackson Lake to Palisades Reservoir and that I caught a boatload of these beautiful trout, but I can’t. It has been way too many years since I landed a Cutthroat of any subspecies, much less this one. Living in the southeast kinda limits my access to western waters...but hopefully someday I can make it back.

I’m pretty pleased with the way this image turned out. Yes, I will color it at some point down the road – but I’ll do it under protest! Some images just look better in black and white.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cane-pole fishin'

There used to be a guy that fished the Missouri trout parks and he always seemed to catch the biggest fish. I’d see him silently stalking along the far bank, weaving in and out of the underbrush and overhangs...places that few of us would dare to tread for fear of snakes and the glares of our fellow fishermen. He’d quietly drop his fly right on the nose of the biggest trout in the creek....the ones that were only occasionally noticed by those of us fishing from the “right side” of the stream. Unseen by the fish and using such a short line that only his leader touched the water, this guy would invariably land the big ones. He didn’t mess around with the average “stockers.” Also, I never saw him make any sort of cast for distance...he “dappled,” if you know what I mean. On any given day he caught more trout...and bigger ones...than anyone else, and he did it with far less effort. This guy was a meat hunter.

Last summer, feeling that my granddaughter Gracie was in need of new rod to replace her Barbie model, I was trolling through Wal-Mart looking for good priced Zebco, (more on that later) when I came upon an unusual fiberglass outfit. To call it an “outfit” was a stretch. It was a telescoping thing of probably twelve feet in length, with no reel seat, no handle and only one guide on the far end of its very delicate tip and it got me to thinking. You know those very wise and spooky monsters that hang out under the trees in the Davidson...the ones that Joe Humphreys would have trouble getting a fly in front of? Well, I was thinking that this new fangled cane pole might just do the trick, and with it costing just a few bucks, I might give it a try.

Then I did some more thinking. I couldn’t imagine myself wading out across the stream in full view of the other well outfitted anglers with my black cane pole. I imagined the scorn I would feel, and decided that although I knew it would work...I just couldn’t do it.

Then along comes Tenkara! Have you heard of this? It’s the traditional Japanese method of fly-fishing and it’s the latest craze of the “I’ve got to have the latest and greatest” crowd. It’s been featured on a number of national websites and blogs and its getting the attention of fly-fishing’s trend setters. What is it? Well, you can check it out for yourself, but it appears to me to be an exotic and expensive version of my Wal-Mart special. And though I am by no means one of those “trend setters” let me say right here and now that I know this thing will work! Now, the dilemma: Do I fork over $150 for the Tenkara or a ten spot for the black cane pole?