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.


Monday, September 28, 2009


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


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


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


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


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


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.