Wednesday, March 31, 2010


I love doing special projects that commemorate something worthwhile! In this case, it’s the Grand Opening of the Cherokee, North Carolina chapter of Project Healing Waters and for the event I created this brand new rainbow art. The event takes place on Sunday, April the 18th at the new River’s Edge Outfitters shop in Cherokee, and of course...all are welcome.

The Cherokee warrior in the background is familiar to a lot of folks in the southeast, as his likeness is seen on a lot of the tribes advertising. I thought his steely eyed stare was appropriate, as it’s the look I’m going for as I cast my line in their Trophy Waters just a few Sundays from now.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Walt's Popper

Yeah, I know this blog is supposed to be about trout. As hundreds of other bloggers are writing about the breaking of spring and the warming of the waters and the inevitable trout fishing to follow - when spring shows up in my neighborhood my thoughts turn to Bluegills and Bass! Sure, I’ll be doing my share of trout fishing - going next weekend in fact - but just as importantly, I’ll be having a few after work rendezvous’ at our neighborhood pond. And unless I’ve run out of them, the end of my line will be showin’ off one of Walt’s Poppers. Say you’ve never heard of them? Well follow the link to a story done by Beau Beasley about Virginia’s Popping Bug King, Mr. Walt Cary.

Friday, March 26, 2010


Leona Mae and Marge determined that this would be their last vacation at Musky Lodge. For the past 15 years they and their men-folk had made the trip an annual event. The men would fish all day, make up lies and drink all night, while the ladies would share the latest details of their kids lives, put up with the men and shop the local establishments.

They vowed that this year would be different. If they could pull it off, they would end this thing once and for all. Cooking fish and picking up after their husbands was not their idea of a fun vacation. The shopping? Well, they could do that anywhere and at any time. With any luck next year they would be playing the slots and sailing the warm waters of the Caribbean. One way or another this year was going to be the last one spent in the musty, moldy, dilapidated cabin on Opaloopygooma Lake.

The drive over in Jack and Leona’s Vista Cruiser was filled with the normal banter. Jack and Elbert recalled past trips, fish caught and fish lost ...while in the backseat the girls sat quietly as expected...listening, but not saying a word.

“If I had landed that fish last year it would have been our largest in years,” said Elbert. “In fact, it would have been larger that everything you caught last year stretched out end to end!”

“Yeah, it was big alright,” says Jack, “and if I had been holding the rod you wouldn’t be sayin’ a word right now. It would be hangin’ on my wall...right above my walleye.”

“Tell you what wise guy, whoever catches the biggest one this year can dictate everything we do on next years trip. How ‘bout that, Jack?”

“I’m in.”

The lake’s share of the world musky population had been dwindling for years. And they had been getting smaller too. Nowadays, a fish of thirty inches would illicit “wows” and “what’d ya catch him on?” comments from the guys at the bait shop. And so far this year, it was worse. Cruising the lake from end to end in Jake’s metal flake monster they had little to show for their efforts. Just some chain pickerels and a few stunted yellow perch. If not for the tradition of it all, they would have left this lake years ago.

The girls spent their days as they always, cooking, grumbling and shopping, and shopping, and shopping. They had inventoried all of the antique shops and made two runs to Wal-Mart. Other than the groceries they had bought to make up for the lack of fish, they had no more to show for their efforts than the men had to show for theirs. Boredom. Pure boredom. Combined with the general grumpiness of their men, their once upon a time “idyllic cabin on the lake” was getting smaller by the day.

Around mid-morning on their last day at camp, long after the men had headed out and after the breakfast dishes were done, Leona Mae had the bright idea to go fishing.

“Marge, I can’t take another day of this. Another day in Wal-Mart is not gonna happen. What say you and I go fishing?”

“Hmmmm...Well, let’s think about this Leona. For starters we don’t know how to fish, and secondly, the men have the boat.”

“Well Marge, apparently we can fish as well as the men can, and regarding a boat, I remember seeing an old canoe over at the next dock. The folks that own it are nowhere around, and there’s an extra pole out on the porch. Let’s do it.”

Beginning what built into a hysterical laugh, Marge agreed, “Why not, if those two old fools can do it......” So grabbing their sun scarves, they rushed for the door like two giddy school girls heading out for recess.

The canoe looked sea-worthy and there was a fine looking Minn Kota hanging off of the back of it.

"Is that the motor for this thing? Looks like a toy compared to that engine on Jack’s boat..."

"Yep, and in place of a gas tank it has a battery. I think it’s a trolling motor, Leona. It's one of them electric things. I’ve seen them on those super exciting fishing shows that dumb-ass watches on Saturday mornings when he should be tending to his chores."

Leona climbed in without upsetting things much, but Marge, with her girth and well documented tendency to stumble, had a tougher time of it. That they only took on a cup or two of water and stayed upright while escaping the dock was a miracle.

“Whoopee! We're sailing!" shouted Marge between gasps for air as the canoe drifted out. "Now let's do some fishin'!"

Leona Mae was up first. “Alright darlin’ let’s show the guys how it’s done. Let’s get us a big one.” The rod was a stout Cabela’s model and the reel was open face bait casting.

“Oh yeah, I’ve used these things when I was a kid,” Leona said confidently as she reared back and let her rip.

“Did you see the bait Marge? It’s a really shiny, red and white stripeddy thing. I never saw it hit the water.”

Well, the “really shiny, red and white stripeddy thing” did hit the water...right behind her, not five feet from the canoe. And as it dropped to the bottom, although Leona didn’t see it, something else did.

Meanwhile Marge was cussing the motor. She had jiggled the connections and pushed the buttons till her thumb hurt, and the thing just wouldn’t start. As Leona was contentedly reeling and reeling and reeling and getting nowhere because of a faulty reel, Marge finally gave up on it.

“Leona...the motor won’t start and if you haven’t noticed, we don’t have any paddles...and we are drifting away from the dock. How are we going to get back!”

“Oh, don’t fret Marge. It’s a pretty day so let’s just keep fishin’. Soon enough the men will be back for lunch and they can rescue us. It’ll make them feel all useful and manly.

“Forget that! After all the talk about how helpless we are, I’d just as soon swim back to the dock as hear any more of their crap.

As the Dardeville fluttered to the bottom, a musky, a very large musky from his safe haven under the dock had seen it fall. With one push from his massive tail he was on it. He swallowed it half way up the wire leader and felt the treble hooks sting deep into his throat. With the open spool as the only pressure, he headed for the deep water of the lake.

Unaware of the event unfolding beneath the waves, Leona figures out that there’s something wrong with the reel. “Marge, this thing aint workin’. I keep cranking on it and nothing happens.”

“Give it to me dear. Maybe I can fix it.” And for once today, Marge managed to push the right buttons.

“Oh my Lord, Leona...there’s a fish on here! Get out of the way before the line takes your head off!”

Recognizing the sensation from previous battles the big guy fought back, pulling harder each time that Marge gained a little line. It was an epic Old Woman and the Sea saga in the making. With the butt of the rod buried in Marge’s ample midriff, they were soon fifty yards out into the lake. But inch by inch Marge was gaining ground, and within twenty feet of the boat the leviathan surfaced.

“Good gracious Leona, that’s the biggest fish I’ve ever seen, much less caught!”

“Hold your horses there sweet-thing. If I’m not mistaken I was the one that threw the bait at him. If anyone caught him, it was me.”

“Shut your mouth Leona and help me,” panted Marge. “Take the pole...I’m pooped. I don’t think I can get him all the way to the boat. We can argue about who caught him when he’s officially caught!”

As Leona reached for the rod she fell over the middle thwart right into Marge’s lap, knocking the rod loose and in the process signaling round three to the fish, who immediately came back to life and headed under the boat. With rod in hand, Leona couldn’t figure out which way to turn. The fish circled under and around the canoe, then after a few laps the line went still...

“Oh no Marge! I think he’s gone! Or he’s died...the line just stopped dead in the water.”

Strangely calm after the recent excitement, the girls just looked at each other. Leona laid the rod down and started laughing.

“Well, we almost had him Marge. Whew, that was fun!”

Then they noticed the canoe moving. Against the wind and seemingly with purpose. Looking in their direction of travel they saw the dorsal fin of the huge fish humped out of the water as the creature plowed towards the far shore. But the line was still slack. What was he attached to?

“He’s tangled up in the little motor Leona and he’s taking us further away from the dock! If we don’t get him untangled he’ll take us clear to the other side of the lake!”

As the fish steadily pulled the canoe backwards, Leona, with hands on the gunnels, stepped gingerly over to Marge’s end of the canoe, and in frustration reached around Marge’s shoulders to deal with the problem.

“If you could get your big...your self...out of the way I think I can set him free Marge.” And with that Marge began to cry.

“I’m sorry Leona Mae. I’m so sorry. I should never have agreed with you about this fishing trip. If I had protested we’d be at Wal-Mart now and the worst thing we’d have to worry with is buying the right weight of batting for your quilt. Oh Lord help us. I’m so sorry!”

“Enough Marge. What’s done is done. Now please just get out of the way.”

Getting “out of the way” in a canoe is best done carefully and slowly, and by people that have a sense of balance and timing. Marge had neither and sure enough the canoe went over...and they went under. Marge bobbed up, looking like a huge water-spitting jellyfish with her blouse full of air and her arms swirling in the water. Fortunately Leona was a strong swimmer and was able to get her partner back to the overturned canoe. Hanging on for dear life, they had the good sense to stay with the canoe and try to work it towards shore.

Kicking and paddling, soon they were in shallower water and were able to touch bottom, so it got a little easier. If they could get the fish to work with them it would be easier still. Tiptoeing along, step by step, eventually they reached the shore. They drug the canoe down the bank, righted it and tied it up to the dock.

A couple of hour later, after cleaning up themselves and the canoe, the girls heard the men laughing as they approached the cabin.

“All right, Elbert your fish takes the prize. I know, I know that fish you lost last year was bigger, but this one you actually landed. I guess I’ll be cleaning all your fish next year?”

“Well, Jack...I’ll have to do some thinking on that. But yes, you’ll be cleaning fish...and some other stuff too! I haven’t got it all planned out yet.

“Hi ladies! How was your shopping trip?” Jack said as they entered the cabin.

“Well Jack, it was fine. Thanks for asking. We caught, I mean got... something really amazing.”

My, did we! Come on down to the boat and take a look. You’re husband took the grand prize and will be in charge of next year’s trip! You gotta see this fish...come on.”

Elbert climbed aboard the boat, reached into the live well and brought out a pretty nice musky. Expecting oohs and ahhs, Elbert was a little upset with the girl’s blasé reaction.

“Yes dear, that IS a nice fish, but I was expecting a big one.”

“Listen Leona, we fished all day for this and it’s the biggest one of the trip, so how ‘bout showin’ a little respect to the prize winner, huh?”

Sashaying over to him, Leona looks the fish up and down, grabs the stringer from her husband and with her other hand firmly around its tail…hoists the wiggling musky high above her head.

“Why Jack, no husband of mine is gonna be keepin’ minnows. This aint nothin’ but bait!” as she throws the thing, stringer and all, out into the lake.

Jack nearly dove in after it and Elbert thought he felt the big one comin’ on. Shocked and shaking with rage, Jack hollered, “Leona if it’s the last thing I do I’ll get even with you for that! I’ll be damned if we’ll ever bring you back here!”

“Oh now Elbert, it was just a fish! And besides, we WILL NOT ever be coming back here. Marge, reach down there around that post and pull up that clothes-line rope…and Jack, she’s gonna need some help…get over there and help her.”

As the two of them pulled up the largest musky that any of them had ever seen, the men were awestruck.

“Where did that come from? Has that been tied up there the whole trip?”

“No way Elbert. Marge and I caught that while you two fools were out motoring around the lake swillin’ your PBR’s. And according to the rules that you set yourself darlin’…WE won the contest!

“This time next year Marge and I will be sailing the Caribbean in one of them ocean liners sippin’ exotic drinks and makin’ eyes at the lifeguards. You fellows want to come, you can carry our bags and fetch stuff for us when we holler! We’ll be cruisin’!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Virginia art ... finished

I finally finished the Virginia artwork. Thinkin' I'll do one for Georgia next...unless someone has another suggestion.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Rainbow Study

I did this little Rainbow study for a 5 x 7 inch frame. I'll add a Humpy to make it a companion piece to the Cutthroat & Muddler that I posted back on January 28th.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Fishy Kids

My daughter Melanie has been messin' around with face paint recently. After receiving some great images, and being duly impressed with her skills, I suggested that she might want to help out her dear old dad by doing some fish images for him. Well, this is what I got! While I had in mind a nice rainbow or brown - something we could submit for a trout stamp competition - I got something ten times better. These two cuties are my grandkids, Gracie and Grant.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Now this is the Law of the Jungle - as old and as true as the sky

The title of this comes from Rudyard Kipling's, The Second Jungle Book, and it's just as true on a trout stream as it was in colonial India.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Back on September 13th I posted the North Carolina print (see below), the first in a series of “State” prints that I’ve undertaken. Well, here are the beginnings of the second print in the series...VIRGINIA. Obviously this is still in the pen & ink stage awaiting some color.

And no, I’m not hung up on Cardinals and Dogwoods. Both states have them as their state bird and tree. Wonder who’s copying whom?

As soon as I get up the nerve to select and add the colors that I’ll use, I’ll post the finished product.

Big it again

If you are still under the delusion that government works for us and is always mindful of our rights and interests then the following story will no doubt cause you little concern. If you are still going through your daily lives with the pollyanna attitude of “They can’t do that!” you will not be alarmed at what is discussed in the story. If however, you have come to realize that there is an agenda at play...often behind the scenes and un-noticed until too will recognize a familiar pattern at work.

New Obama rules may prohibit citizens from fishing the nation’s oceans, coastal areas, great lakes and even inland waters...

From ESPN today:

Thursday, March 4, 2010


She entered my life some forty years ago and changed what would have been a wasted life of fly fishing debauchery into the life of a slightly respectable husband and father....who fly fishes occasionally.

I had great hopes of luring the beautiful young lady to my idea of a great fishing. I could just imagine us on the Firehole...landing trout after trout and being the envy of every passer by. There would be books written about us...maybe a movie. Our adventures would be legendary as we traveled the world in search of trout. But it wasn’t to be.

She was up for just about anything that I was interested in, so it wasn’t long before I started dragging her along on my fishing adventures. But a few trips to local streams showed me that she would never share my passion for fishing. Looking back on those days I recognize where I went wrong...starting with our first camping trip to the Illinois River.

It had rained for days prior to our arrival. The river was swollen big time. It was out of its banks and running brown and fast, but that wasn’t going to stop her introduction to canoeing, Alan style. We rented a canoe, arranged for a downstream pick-up and headed into the watery wilds of northeastern Oklahoma.

Did I say that the river was out of its banks? Well, every sharp bend in the normally gentle stream led us through the streamside bushes and trees. And there were lots of bends. With Shirley in the front and her highly experienced white water canoeist (HA!) in the rear, we managed to survive the river, but not without many repeats of the following dialog:

“SHIRLEY ! LEFT! Paddle left! Watch out for that branch! NO RIGHT! Hurry...RIGHT...RIGHT NOW!

(Insert various feminine screaming sounds here)


(Insert more, and louder, screaming sounds here...these, directed to the rear occupant of the canoe.)


“Calm down Shirley. It’s just a stick.”

Some time passed before our next canoeing adventure, and oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the river wasn’t the only thing swollen. Shirley was 6 months pregnant at the time.

The actual camping was great. Growing up, Shirley had camped a lot with her folks so she was no stranger to camp cooking and sleeping on the ground. A good camp, great food, an even better companion. I had it made. Tomorrow we go fishing!

I had found a little backwater area where I suspected there might be a bass or two relaxing from the torrent of the main channel. As I landed a few nice Bluegills and maintained a running commentary on the many sophisticated techniques I was employing, Shirley stood patiently at my side, barely able to contain her (feigned?) excitement. Handing her the rod, she managed to make a pretty decent cast. And Eureka...she got a strike. Missed it! Then another strike and another miss. More strikes followed and despite my instructions to lift the rod and set the hook, they all avoided the hook’s barb.

Her frustration mounting, I thought to inspect the fly. And sure enough, there was a reason they were missing the barb. There wasn’t one. Midway up the bend, the hook had broken cleanly off...and as she suspected, I had probably done it before handing her the rod. (No, I wasn’t so insecure to have done it on purpose!)
That was the last time Shirley handled a fly rod.

In the forty summers since, and through the raising of two daughters, there have been lots of camping fact, Shirley instigates most of them. I’m just along for the ride...and the fishing. Her destiny was to be the “trophy” camp cook and bottle washer. And that was OK with me.

She has one fault, though. She buys tents. “That last one (no matter how big and roomy) just wasn’t big enough.” And then there’s the kitchen. Everything, and I mean everything that is on the market (including the kitchen sink) must be purchased and hauled to the campsite...even making two trips if necessary. Setting up the camp is becoming like the set of Extreme Home Makeover, minus all the hands to help.

But what fun it is. Whether it’s our favorite site just a short drive from home, or a more distant spot we’ll share with the kids and grandkids, we’ll be there this summer. I’ll be fishing. Shirley will be the pretty one tending to the camp.

Thanks Shirley

A Few Favorite Things

A few quick sketches...not really meant to make a statement, just some practice drawing for a upcoming piece.

Monday, March 1, 2010


A little over two weeks ago I posted the beginning stages of this commission piece that I’m doing for my friend Jimmy Harris of Unicoi Outfitters. Over the weekend I nearly finished the colorization stage and the calligraphy. As you can see, this beauty was caught on one of my favorite waters...Noontootla Creek in north Georgia.

Noontootla Creek is one of the prime waters that Jimmy and his staff of guides have access to, and if you are anywhere near north Georgia and enjoy catching huge browns and rainbows in an absolutely beautiful setting, you MUST get in touch with them before the season is fully booked. If you do manage to book a day at Noontootla Creek Farms this year you’ll be doing what I'm doing...talking about the trip for the rest of your life!

Give David or Becky Hulsey a call at their Blue Ridge shop at 706-632-1880.

When I get the hands done I’ll show you all the finished artwork. Stay tuned!