Sunday, October 25, 2009


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


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 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'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
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


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 fact, very few reasons to even glance at the I was finally able to put the finishing touches on this. Hope you like it!