Friday, August 22, 2014

North Fork of the Blackfoot, MT

Note: Look for more upcoming content related to our ten days of wandering around British Columbia, Alberta, and Montana at Hatch Magazine.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Communications Breakdown

“Let’s meet back here at 9:00, just before dark,” Todd shouted over his shoulder as he dropped onto the path at the end of the backcountry bridge and disappeared down Wigwam. Mac and I followed, but turned upstream instead. The sun still sat high overhead so we had plenty of time before rendezvous.

But after a mile or so of fast, skinny riffles with scant holding water, we threw in the towel, found an old wildlife trail perched above the river, and bushwhacked our way back to the bridge. A hot day, by Canadian standards, we dropped the waders and penguined our way around the truck for a while; had a bite, a beer, and a quick nap, then tried to decide what to do next. There were still a few hours before Todd was expected.

“Let’s take Todd's truck and drive down that old service road to the turnout just above the canyon floor,” Mac suggested. “Shouldn’t take more than a half-hour to get there. We can fish that switchback for an hour or so and get back here by 9:00”

Seemed a good idea, but...

“What if Todd comes back early?” I wasn’t quite sure how he’d react to find that we’d left him stranded in the British Columbian outback.

Mac thought a minute, and then smiled. “I know. We can leave a note on the windshield.”

Now I’d heard, and gone along with, some pretty hairbrained ideas over the previous several days, but this took the cake. Really? Leave a note on the windshield?

“That’s the dumbest thing I've ever heard, Mac, and you know it.”

“It’s just gonna blow off when we turn on the wipers to clear the dust as we drive.”

--- o ---

Note: Look for more upcoming content related to our ten days of wandering around British Columbia, Alberta, and Montana at Hatch Magazine. Special thanks to the fine folks of Fernie, BC for their terrific hospitality. We sure had a blast. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Warm Waters of Home

There’s a new body-scrubbing puff in my shower this morning. I notice it as I let the warm water wash away ten days of road dust and it makes me realize, yet again, how little I really need to make me happy. It helps me remember how much I love home.

A silly little shower puff.

Excuse me a moment. There’s some soap in my eye.

It is, of course, more than the puff. It’s the feel of my own bed and the mold of my pillow. It’s the warmth of my wife beside me. It’s the rollicking, goofy joy of the dogs as I come in the doorway. Where have you been? Where have you been? I’m SO happy to see you!

It’s the pile of cool mail that waits on my desk; a friend’s new book, the first honest-to-goodness check for my scribblings, the deed to the ten acres of woodland next door – our additional buffer from the intruding world and an another tether to home.

It’s the garden that needs weeding and the hillside that needs mulch and the driveway that needs stone. It’s the blowdown that needs splitting so that it’s ready for winter burning. It’s the truck that needs its annual cleanup, the redbuds that need replanting, and the chimney that needs work. It’s their needs, I suppose, that I need.

And there are stories to be told. It seems so long since that was true, whatever the reason. But after ten days chasing trout in British Columbia, Alberta, and Montana, I’ve brought home a few. So keep an eye here for the next week or so, as I test my notes and my memory and my photography skills. But don’t worry. Where they fail, as they inevitably do, I’ll just make shit up. It’s more fun that way, anyway.

But not today, so indulge me a bit. For the moment, I’m simply going to stand here and let the warm water of home wash over me.

And enjoy my new puff.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Photo Bin - July 2014

This is, perhaps, the calm before the storm. The photos have been thin, the posts thinner. It's been a quiet summer.

But that's about to change. A new camera's arrived and there's some serious fishing just 'round the corner. Each should quicken the pulse and, hopefully, provide the sparks of inspiration that drive what goes on around here.

Ready or not, it's time to get going again.

In the meantime, here's a trio of shots from last week's misty morning on Virginia's Smith. Having your feet in the water and your head in the clouds is hard to beat - even when the browns are tight-lipped. And it's particularly nice when shared with good company, yet with just a few steps you can be alone in the fog once again.

The best of both worlds.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Summertime, and the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy's rich and your ma is good lookin'
So hush little baby, Don't you cry

It’s stuck in my head and has been since Saturday before last. Tommy Edwards, a local bluegrass favorite, put it there as he crooned these languid lyrics to a small gathering of folks relaxing around a small stage and wine bar tucked comfortably in the back woods of Chatham County. Who knew that Gershwin spun so nicely from a Martin acoustic?

How does a song get so firmly affixed into one’s consciousness? It’s been over a week yet I still find myself humming it constantly, singing it in the shower, playing it in my head on an endless loop; open and soft as a gentle roll cast. Maybe the tune caught me in the just right instant, dovetailed perfectly with my sentiment, and was so perfectly timed, so synchronous with my state of mind, that it simply refuses to relinquish that peaceful place in my brain. Whatever the mechanism, I ain't complainin'.

So while this particular summertime has not always been easy, it certainly has had more than its share of moments of quiet contentment. And maybe the fish are jumping', but I've not been on the water enough of late to tell you for sure. That's soon to change and maybe, just maybe, this blog will liven up a bit. But until it does, be sure to get yourself out into that high cotton and enjoy these lazy summer days while they're still around.

Tell 'em, Tommy.

So hush little baby, Don't you cry

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Photo Bin - April/May/June 2014

The title says it all. Three months. I've been woefully negligent.

Mostly, I've neglected the cameras themselves, which is a shame because I really enjoy tinkering with them. And I've been thinking about the art of photography (not that my work has anything to do with art, mind you) as some of my scribblings have recently been paired with photos by gentlemen whose work I have come to greatly admire; most notably Tosh Brown and Tim Romano. It's an honor (and quite humbling) for this shutter-challenged hack.

But it's not just Tosh and Tim that inspire me. I am lucky be able to refer to a number of unbelievably talented photographers, both professional and enthusiast, as friends; Louis Cahill, Russ Schnitzer, Alex Landeen, Jess McGlothlin, Thomas Harvey, Steven Brutger, Darren Doss, Dave Hosler (and, no doubt, others whom I'm temporarily forgetting - and to whom I apologize to now for the omission). It's an amazing list of creative individuals whose images of our sport fascinate me daily.

In fact, I'm so inspired that I'm considering updating my ten-year-old DSLR. You think that new Sage is expensive? You have no idea. Between fly fishing and photography, it's a good thing that I'm fabulously wealthy.

That made me laugh too.

Anyway, it's back to this belated bin (and back to earth) with a handful of my snapshots, often more talking points than things pleasing to look at. And that's okay because I like to talk too. But then you knew that.

The vast majority of what fell out of the camera these past three months originated on South Padre Island where I spent three frustrating days searching the Laguna Madre for redfish. Luckily, I had a pair of good friends along for the ride - Chris Hunt and Brandon Robinson.

We slew them, as you can plainly see.

Short of that trip, fishing has been slow. Thankfully, there's plenty of other ways to amuse one's self around here. A good example is the F3T tour that wandered through Asheville in April. It's always good to hang out with the Hunter Banks and Southern Culture on the Fly folks up there; especially when it's at the Highlands Brewery...

And I did sneak in a day, late in the striped bass spawning run, on the Roanoke. Launched out of Weldon, the rockfish capital... well, you can see for yourself.

But the most important outing of the lot was the 3rd Annual Live Free Cornhole Tournament, honoring the memory of my step-son and benefiting the Georgia Tech scholarship that we've established in his name. Friends and loved ones from around the country converged for a bit of competition and fun, and more than a few tears, with Freeman constantly in mind.

Not much to show for three whole months. I'll try to do better in keeping the bins full, buoyed by the inspiration of many; photographers, fishing friends, and loved ones alike. Maybe a little of each will rub off on me.

Smile and say cheese.

What is a Photo Bin?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Moist with Plenty of Bark

Brandon wanted barbecue and he wanted it at Rudy's. He got no argument from me. We started south.

But the bottom dropped out and our weather apps flashed red, warning that between us and the Brownsville BBQ joint swirled an active tornado cell. As the rain lashed the YJ's loose ragtop, we pulled off the road and weighed our options. South Texas drivers handle rainy conditions like North Carolinians handle snow, Brandon relayed. Poorly. That sobering thought (along with visions of prairie twisters, made more plausible by the Jeep's fast-flapping fabric) turned us back towards the Queen Isabella Causeway and South Padre. Our caution overrode our appetites, but just barely.

I don't understand the near-religious warfare that exists between eastern and western barbecue followers. It's like fighting over the difference between bananas and doorknobs. I love me some good ol'e Dixieland vinegar-based pulled pork Q, but I'm all over that red Texas brisket when I can be. What's to argue?

Rudy's was out so we found a fallback. Lady and the Pit took care of us just fine, although Brandon had his concerns until we were sure that the smoker was out back. Good brisket and better sausage. The sides were a bit sweet (Who sugars their collard greens, anyway?) but they suited me just fine. And while the storm raged outside we had only to soak up the sweet tea and diet Doctor Pepper refills until it passed.

And we happily let that take a while.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Diablo Day

It was a tough three days on South Padre. Traveling a couple thousand miles for a virtual skunking puts a man to mumbling to himself. But the worst part was not that we struggled to find fish; it was that the conditions didn't allow us to spend enough time with the Diablos.

I was first introduced to Diablo Paddlesport's fine fleet of fishing kayaks a couple of years ago on the northern Laguna Madre. Thomas Flemons, co-owner of Diablo, towed a fleet of his boats out to a remote cabin outside of Baffin Bay where a handful of us gathered to spend a few days chasing redfish. I quickly fell in love with the Adios.

Diablo's craft are a hybrid of kayak and stand-up paddleboard, "thinner and wider, like a SUP board, but still has all the comforts, such as dry storage, wet storage, paddle and drink holders as well as a comfortable seat." I happily paddled about the salt flats, cruising for tailers, staking the boat out and wading when I wished. It was a couple of very good days.

Fast forward two years and I found myself back on the Laguna, this time further south, and was thrilled when Brandon arrived with a trailer of boats - his green Diablo Chupacabra and a couple of the new roto-molded Amigos. And not just any Amigos. Thomas's personal craft, complete with a couple of prototype accessories for us to fiddle with.

The plan was to paddle the flats as we had two years before, but the wind had other ideas. Blowing a steady 20 knots out of the south, it chopped the water severely making sight fishing impossible and paddling a challenge, even with the low-riding, sculpted Adios.

We did get a morning in, paddling around the waters just north of South Padre, and reacquainted ourselves with these sleek, sturdy craft that floated easily in a couple of inches of water. They were as good as I remembered.

I just wish that we could have done more.

Note: A huge thanks to Thomas Flemons for the loan of the craft. Diablo sits at the top of my list of personal fishing boats and I look forward to their continued evolution and success. If you're thinking of getting into a kayak, this is the place to start looking.