Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Photo Bin - September 2016

The Photo Bin series hit the jackpot in September. Not from a quality perspective, mind you, but from a quantity perspective as the camera got out a lot as I took on the Orvis 20 Days in September challenge. To date, I've shared one shot an outing, as you've seen in my previous quartet of posts, but there were a fair amount of interesting images beyond that. Here then, are a few.

Above, an abstract of the first signs of Fall, taken as I bushwhacked along the western edge of our neighborhood pond.

"I feel so relaxed here." - Marc Payne

Sometimes you just have to set up a slow drift, sit on a rock, and close your eyes to soak it all in. Then hope that the fish don't interrupt you. Dodging hurricanes, I escaped for a perfect visit to western NC waters, the Davidson River, with a good friend. Marc's and my fishing habits are diametrically opposed. I am a hit and run fisherman, constantly moving up/downstream. Marc can sit over a run for hours, patient drift after patient drift. He's able to narrow his focus, push everything out of his brain but the moment, and be perfectly content within it. I admire that in him.

But I'm still on the move.

A look down the power lines. An old fishing haunt I hadn't visited in years. A skunk. Now I remember why it's been years.

September wasn't all fishing. Soccer season was in full swing, though "full swing" is a relative term, especially considering 8:00am games. Too early for old men to be playing kid's games.

And after such weekends, everything needs to dry out. Me included.

A bit more abstract. I've enjoyed capturing reflections while on the water. Odd, centerline compositions, but fun. Here, crooked shapes found while kayaking in local backwater floodplains.

I finished the 20 Days challenge, quite literally, at the end of the road. Old highway 64 disappeared into Lake Jordan Reservoir some fifty years ago...

...but still exists if you know where to look. Two lanes of blacktop fading into the woods, but kept alive by the boots of fishermen

Despite the dire warning (and the possibility of a crap soundtrack), I found the bass near Chicken Bridge both numerous and willing, though a bit on the small side. Let that be a lesson to you, hip-hoppers.

What, exactly, that lesson might be I'll leave to you to decide.

So September turned into a fun month with the camera, from foggy sunrise to brilliant sunsets. Just right for the Photo Bin. Hope you enjoyed the images.

What is a Photo Bin?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Orvis 20 Days in September: 16-20

Day 16 of 20 Days in September. Took a stroll through The Rock Garden, a few miles downstream of my usual haunts. The fishing's usually suspect but it's a rock-hopping paradise. A big kid's playground. Sometimes you go just because it's fun.

On the homestretch for my twenty days. Hoped to add a little saltwater action to the mix during this final run but the previous week's weather stirred things up pretty badly down east. The prime flood tides were thoroughly negated by the dirty conditions so we pushed our plans into this second week of October. Right into hurricane Matthew. We can't catch a break.

So I kept it close to home and mixed it up a bit more.

Day 17 of 20 Days in September. We danced around one another for more than an hour; he understandably uncertain about me and I unwilling to scare away the first fishing companion I've had in a couple of weeks. Here he poses on the Saxapahaw spillway.

Day 18 of 20 Days in September. Was supposed to be floating a downeast flood tide today, looking for tailers, but the conditions said otherwise. So, instead, stayed close to home and dragged the kayak back to those Lake Jordan flood plains. Fascinating waterscape.

Day 19 of 20 Days in September. I mailed one in today. Simply wandered down the hill to the neighborhood pond for an hour and pitched poppers to bluegill. Didn't stress over an image. Didn't chase the hawg in the back corner. Every day out doesn't have to be epic. A lesson worth learning.

Day 20 of 20 Days in September. Seems appropriate to finish the challenge down old Hwy 64, two lanes of ancient blacktop that disappeared into the waters in the late 60s as the reservoir filled. That part of roadway that held higher ground is still quietly melting into the surrounding woods after fifty years. Quite literally, it's the end of the road for this 20 Days in September.

Here's a huge thanks to Orvis for putting on this 20 day event. It put me back on local waters that I haven't fished in years and pushed me to places I've been eyeing forever. It challenged me to look for opportunities as I traveled with family. It stretched my fishing. It stretched my photography. It, simply put, was a blast. Hope it was for you too, whether you got your 20 in or not.

Couldn't end it any better than that.

Note: To see all of these 20 Days posts, look here. Thanks!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Orvis 20 Days in September: 11-15

Day 11 of 20 Days in September. After a week on the road it felt good to be wading home waters once again. Bushwhacked a half-mile down an overgrown power easement, followed bouncing whitetails along faint, winding deer paths, to a section of river I've not fished in a couple of years, only to remember WHY once I got there. Skunk #3. Still pretty, though.
The problem with fishing almost daily at home is that you need to figure out a way to mix it up. It would be easy to wander down the hill every day for a few casts, but what's the fun in that day in and day out? To make this interesting I needed to find new waters, return to old waters unfished in ages, or do things just a bit on the odd side for variety. Thats how I'd get through the second half of the challenge. Doing things differently. So I did.

Days 12 and 13 of 20 Days in September. Clear skies and a full harvest moon could mean only one thing. Night bassin' on the pond. I slipped in the kayak, pitched poppers at the edges, and listened in the dark for the strikes. Best of all, since I fished on each side of the midnight hour, I got two days toward my twenty. Sweet!

Day 14 of 20 Days in September. Caught the last rays (and a few small bass) upriver at Chicken Bridge. The way it stormed all day, I would never have guessed that I'd be on the water this evening in such beautiful conditions. Persevere.

Day 15 of 20 Days in September. Can't get to twenty if you won't fish in the rain. Dodged intermittent showers all afternoon on the Rocky River. Nothing beats a good rain shell.

Heading into the homestretch...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Orvis 20 Days in September: 6-10

Day 6 of 20 Days in September. Paint Creek, WV. I've driven along this stretch of water a hundred times over the past couple of decades, cruising along I-77 to/from Chicago and Indiana. Daydreamed about it at 70mph. The 20 Day challenge finally made me stop. Having no clue what might be in it (if anything) I went with my if-something's-there-it'll-eat-this pattern, a #8 olive woolly bugger with red gill wraps, and, as the 18-wheelers whizzed by overhead, picked up a red-eyed bass on my third swing. Mission accomplished.

I feared that this week would be my real challenge, traveling north for a family visit and Mary's high school reunion. Packed my Orvis Safe Passage Carry It All with a 4, a 6, and a 7wt and hoped for the best. As it turned out, I need not have worried. I managed to sneak in some water on five of the six days we were on the road, including a couple of unique places.


Day 9 of 20 Days in September. Can't let non-fishing travel get in the way of a good challenge. Borrowed a bike and cruised the Lake Michigan waterfront in search of feeding carp, freshwater drum, and smallies. The Windy City skyline is quite the fly fishing backdrop, don't you think? My thanks to Jon at Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters for the great intel.

Day 8 of 20 Days in September. Four days, four states. NC, WV, IL, IN. Checked in on sister-in-law Margie's backyard pond and found that 2014's stocking has been wildly successful. A quick circuit picked up four 14-18 inch bucketmouths who had never seen a fly before. Fun stuff!

Day 9 of 20 Days in September. In between t-showers, reunion social commitments, and the Manchester Derby, I introduced a few more of Margie's fish to the ways of the popper. I could get used to having a bass pond ten steps out the back door.

Day 10 of 20 Days in September. Last day on the backyard bass pond. Halfway there.

So I came home with ten outings under my belt. Much better positioned than I'd imagined. Maybe I could do this!

Mother Nature, however, decided she'd not make it easy...

Monday, October 3, 2016

Orvis 20 Days in September: 1-5

Day 1 of 20 Days in September. Nothing epic. Just a saunter down to the pond. Low hanging fruit. But then, that's what this is all about, isn't it? A chance to rediscover those neglected local fisheries. Yeah. I'm in.

Orvis called me out. Called us all out. Could we manage to go fishing twenty days in the month of September? With travel commitments and the arrival of hurricane season and, let's face it, life in its infinite uncertainty, could I get on the water two out of every three days for a month? That's what Orvis suggested in its 20 Days in September challenge. Fish, take a picture, and share on Orvis's Facebook page.

What the heck. Figured I'd give it a try.

So for the next few days I'll share my efforts here. Parcel them out a handful at a time and include the text that accompanied them on my posts. I hope you enjoy them.

Day 2 of 20 Days in September. Tucked underneath some stream-side cover. Sneaking in a birthday tradition, morning's first light on the Haw, before Hermine arrives in earnest and blows this place out.

Day 3 of 20 Days in September. Put a few hours between me and Hermine and hit the Davidson with my good buddy Marc Payne. Perfect day for western NC waters.

Day 4 of 20 Days in September. A gift. Hermine wobbled east and spared the Haw and its watershed, giving me an afternoon on my home waters that I didn't expect for a while.

Day 5 of 20 Days in September. Spurred by this challenge, I hit some Lake Jordan floodplains that I've been eyeing for years. Sorry I waited so long. Shadows are as close to a selfie as I try to get.

A quarter-way there. It's a start. But with family travel on the horizon, things get more interesting...

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Photo Bin - August 2016

The highlight of our summer - heck, maybe the highlight of our year - is the week that the grandkids come visit us here in central Carolina. It's a week that's affectionately come to be known as Camp Redbud. The highlight of the week (the highlight-of-the-highlight is pretty strong stuff) has become the daily trip down the hill. They are city kids in many respects, but are absolute fish when it comes to the water and it's darn near impossible to remove them from our neighborhood's eight-and-a-half acre pond.

I'll let this month's photo bin show you why.

This is how summer should look.

What is a Photo Bin?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Day After

Image Courtesy of Jason Tucker

What do I know of public lands? I live in the east where the concept of wide-open spaces, owned by us all, is a beautiful abstraction. A concept to be envied and cherished and protected, but an abstraction just the same. Yes, we have our parks, but they pale by comparison to the western expanses. So when Jason Tucker suggested to the outdoor blogging community that we designate yesterday, September 13th, as Public Lands Proud Blog-In Day, I enthusiastically responded, I’m in. And I was, until I sat down to write my piece and discovered that I had little worth saying.

Our world is full of people who thump their chests and bellow loudly in platitudes based only on intractable opinions with little to no fact. They might be right, they might be wrong, but without substance it doesn't much matter. I try not to be one of them. So as the Blog-In arrived I decided that I’d wait a day and do what no one seems to do anymore. Instead of speaking, I would listen.

Here’s a small sample of what I heard:

... we are the only developed nation on the planet that still has wild lands; that has game available to anyone willing to buy a license and has places for people to go and enjoy nature in it’s honest, naked and raw form. For kids to learn, vacations to be had and memories created. We aren’t perfect but we are pretty damn good. 
Now there is a movement afoot to destroy that system. Washington DC is careening down the path of turning over Federal Public Lands to the states in a thinly veiled attempt to force their sale. My own local Senator responded to my request for an interview that the transfer of land was a necessary step to reducing government spending and balancing the budget. This transfer of Federally held land to the states has always met with the land being sold for resource extraction of development. In fact, the number of acres of State owned public land has shrunk almost 90% in some states. 
While environmental groups, sportsman groups and a number of other organizations have come out against the proposed transfer, only a massive public outcry will divert Washington from it’s current trajectory... 
Public Lands Proud - Dan Frazier, Hatches Magazine

My younger brothers wore hand-me-downs... It occurred to me this spring that the Superior National Forest — a name so familiar that I had to rediscover it — is four million acres of open public land. I’d been hunting and fishing within a tiny part of the southwest corner of it my entire life. I bought a paper Forest Service map. It’s four feet by six feet, both sides. It’s like the sun rose from behind a mountain, illuminating an entire kingdom I’d not known was there. That’s one hell of a hand-me-down. 
Tom Hazelton - We Are Lost Without It, Voyager Pursuits

The anti-public lands movement has never been about giving average American citizens more land or more access or more timber or gold or grass. From day one--as soon as the first lands were set aside—the movement has been about getting as much of the commonwealth as possible into the hands of the best connected and the most well heeled... 
Western states have been selling their lands since they were awarded them at statehood. New Mexico has sold off 4 million of its original 13 million acres. Nevada, awarded 2.7 million acres at statehood, has 3000 acres left. Montana has sold 800,000 acres of state lands so far. Idaho has sold 1.2 million acres. Colorado has sold 1.7 million acres. Arizona has sold off 1.7 million acres... 
When citizens forget what it is they fight for, things do change. They change big time, and for the worse... 
Hal Herring - The Return of the Public-Land Privatizers, Field and Stream

It’s hard to discuss this issue without appearing partisan. While opposition to the land heist is bipartisan, support for it comes exclusively from Republican lawmakers, and the corporations which fund them... 
According to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel, who has spoken out strongly against the heist, states couldn’t even afford the annual firefighting budget such large tracts of land require, positively guaranteeing their sale to private interests. 
Wes Siler - The Great Public Land Heist Has Begun, Outside Online

That night, my son and I sat in camp amid the enclosing dark pines—a glittering canopy of stars overhead—and talked and laughed and connected in a way we hadn’t for a long time. 
Randy Scholfield - Going Home to Public Lands, Trout Unlimited

While the true nature of public lands remains an aesthetic to me, simply knowing that they exist, and why, makes me sure that they need protection. From a purely practical standpoint, turning public into private usually screws the public. It’s the nature of our insatiable greedbeast.

Having read what my peers have so passionately and eloquently expressed, I am even more in love with the abstraction and more certain that the reality needs to remain. So I’m here, a day late, to echo yesterday’s voices and, hopefully, to keep the conversation going. To keep the fight alive. The idea that I own a piece of this beautiful thing and that I, and my grandchildren, might one day partake of its wonders, fills me with optimism.

Now I ask you to do what I have done. Listen. Do your homework. Understand who’s grabbing your land for personal gain and who’s protecting it for all of us. And, most importantly, armed with that knowledge, take your conclusions to the polls this November. Vote for your land.

For when the smoke finally clears, what do you want the day after to look like?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Photo Bin - July 2016

I'm afraid that there's not much photographic evidence to prove that July actually happened this year. It was a lost month in any number of ways. Summer sat heavily on us, crushing most days into dust. Routine ruled. We were out before the sun rose above the tree line to care for the garden and spring plantings, to do the minimum to keep the wilderness at bay, then retreated into the house for the remainder of the day to escape the heat.

You'd think a lot would get done indoors, but somehow it didn't. We piddled. I noodled around with the guitar and Mary bent some reed into her beautiful basket creations. We read, though not nearly enough. We found our way to the pond for the occasional mid-day float, but at times it was bathwater and far from refreshing. We exercised. Some.

Bottom line, we let a month pass us by. I guess that was better than letting it burn us to the ground.

Fishing, predictably suffered. If we weren't comfortable in the water, imagine how the fish felt. I let them be, though they'd have probably ignored me anyway. The only outing of significance was a trip out to Falls Lake to chase some carp with my buddy Tbone. We managed one. And by we, of course, I mean he, though I poled a pretty mean Gheenoe to get us in and out of a tight space for it.

So this month's photo bin is but a single image, from that day on Falls, and you're lucky to get that.

My apologies.

What is a Photo Bin?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Photo Bin - June 2016

There can be no more damning evidence of my total neglect of this blog than the fact that I haven't posted a photo bin since May. May, for God's sake! And it's not like it's a difficult thing to do. Dump the cameras, pick a couple of shots that I haven't used in real posts (like I've done any real posts lately), and tell its story. Easy. It's ridiculous that it's taken this long.

In my defense... Oh hell. There is no defense. Let's just go back and catch up. Start, here, with June. Maybe July in a couple of days. Then it's practically time for August. How time flies.

The cornerstone of June, the event from which most of the images that were dumped from the camera documented, was our excursion into Saskatchewan. For all the great fishing and weather and adventure, one of my companions summed it up best by saying "The highlight of the trip was the company and we brought that ourselves." So since my most stringent critic, my wife, always comments that I don't show enough people in my pictures, this month's bin is dedicated to my fellow travelers, shown above, looking like they're having a getting-the-band-back-togther moment. From left to right, Kris Kringle, Dirty Steve, and Captain Kirk. Couldn't have asked for a better lot.

A prettier one, yes. But not a better one.

I'd fish the world with Mr. Kringle, and have already put a lot of miles on the fishing odometer (not to mention a stamp or two in the passport) in his good company. This tarmac shot sums him up pretty well. Ready to go anywhere with a smile and a friendly swagger. No worries, mon, we're gonna have a good time whatever they throw at us. We usually do.

Then there's Dirty Steve.

I suppose that this is as good a time as any to talk about these nicknames.

With a constantly rotating lodge full of fisherfolk, the staff has to figure out a way to remember everyone's name. Hell, I have trouble remembering my own, now and then, much less a group of sixteen strangers. The crew at the Arctic resorts to nicknames. Shaylynn and D do the honors and have fun with it. "Kris Kringle" was easy, the jolly old elf, beard and all. The obvious choice for Chris Hunt. And I'm sure that he liked it, envisioning good little girls (and bad, oh yes, especially the bad) sitting on his lap.

So how was it that Stephen Zakur ended up as Dirty Steve? Mr. Kringle, again, is probably to blame. A nickname like that has his fingerprints all over it. And he was at the dinner table before us when it all got started so Dirty Steve never had a chance. Zakur took it in stride, though. Maybe even enjoyed it a little.

Seems that most of the pictures I have of Steve this trip are grip-and-grins. It's probably because he caught fish all week long. I smoked him the first day (he's still pissed about that, and for good reason, but that's a story for another time) but the rest of the week he put more pike in the boats than any of us, by a lot. Every time I turned around he was happily chomping on that damn cigar and hauling in another. Good times.

He needs to go ahead and retire so we can do this more.

Finally, there's the Captain. Captain Kirk. Kirk Deeter. He knew that nickname was coming and I could see him wince as it arrived. I wonder if he hates Start Trek for what it's done to him.

I've spent lots of time on the water with Chris and with Steve, but this was my first time out with Mr. Deeter and it was a treat. He tolerated my trying to pick his brain about this whole fly fishing writing thing, though we spent more time discussing music and futball and a myriad of other topics we found in common.

A quiet sort, Kirk is, but he kept us in stitches each night as we slipped off to sleep in our summer camp bunkhouse. Sharing a one room cabin with these three guys was a gas.

I look forward to doing it a lot more.

There you have it. The band, and a fine one it was. Kris and The Captain and Dirty Steve. As I said earlier, I couldn't have asked for better.

What's that you ask? My nickname?

It's not important.

What is a Photo Bin?