Monday, July 20, 2009


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 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’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

Monday, July 13, 2009


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 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.