Monday, April 30, 2012

On Being Ready

I’d tied a hundred flies for this trip. Mostly clousers - 2s thru 6s. Chartreuse and white. Pink and white. Olive and white. Grey and white. Tan and white. White and white. Pink and chartreuse. Olive and grey. Orange and brown. Two big bugger barns. Slam full.

I’d tied rust and tan Borski sliders. I'd ravaged my bass boxes for poppers, gummy and gulley fish, gurglers - flies of all configurations and colors that I thought might, just might, come in handy. I'd even nicked some candy-colored spoon flies (I'm sorry, I’m weak) from Todd’s box as he slept.

I was loaded. I was ready.

I didn’t have black.

The damn fish wanted black.

Luckily, any good fish camp has a central, vital, station - the tying table - and Austin, Brandon and Jen were on the job. Need black? Have a seat.

And, honestly, how could I think I was prepared? Saltwater boxes look nothing like what I'm used to. More Victoria's Secret than Bob's Fly Shop. Even my outrageous largemouth box is drab by comparison.

So while the salt mavens were better prepared, not even Austin was ready with black.

But it didn't take long to fix that.

Please pass the marabou.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bohemia, TX

When eight guys and one brave lass occupy a single-roomed cabin, things can get a little, shall we say, bohemian.

Toss in a bunch of fishing gear and predicate the gathering on the pursuit of redfish and you end up with a certain level of single-focused chaos that warms the soul.

Tidy goes out the window.

Charm remains.

So here's a glimpse into a day on the island - images of the precious clutter that accumulates between forays onto the flats.

Here's visual evidence of a sliver of time well spent.

Here's to Bohemia.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Redfish Palace

Looking North

Gavit's cabin felt like home immediately - the gathering, like family. Perched on pylons above a tiny sliver of "land" in the upper Laguna Madre - Baffin Bay to the north, King ranch to the west, Padre Island visible on the horizon across the intercoastal waterway and a couple of miles of salt flats - it was the perfect locale for this gathering of fly fishermen, and a fisherwoman, brought together by their connection in the modern blogosphere and a shared, ancient, love of the water.

I've been struggling for a week now on the right angle to take with these posts, the right way to present this place and this gathering, but my meager writing skills have failed me. It's nothing new.

So what my pen can't accomplish, perhaps my camera can. So for the next couple of posts I'll be visual, not verbal. I'll show rather than tell. I'll shut my mouth and open your eyes. I suspect that you won't mind. Especially the shut my mouth part.

So, let's start with the place...




Next, Bohemia.

Note: Be sure to click on the images to see them in a larger format.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Laguna Sunrise

There’s movement in the bunk above me. Austin. Five-thirty already? Seems I’ve just put my head down.

I thumb the illumination button on my watch to be sure. The battery's low and, for weeks now, rather than being lit, the display simply fades away. I know this, but thumb it anyway, with predictable results.

Austin cautiously climbs down the makeshift ladder so, in the absence of digital confirmation, I accept that our planned departure time is at hand. I slip from beneath my light summer bag, pull on a pair of quick-dry pants, a shirt, and tip-toe through the dark cabin in search of a Clif bar and a Mountain Dew to kickstart the day.

Gavit and Banning also rise and step onto the front porch, gently pulling the door behind them. Speaking in low tones, they plot their upcoming day, mentally arranging boats, tides, gasoline, gear, and, of course, the movement of redfish.

The others slumber on.

Austin and I gather the gear we’d roughly staged the evening before and head for the Diablos beached on the west side of the island. We load the boats – which means little more than mounting a fly rod and tossing a box of flies and a bottle of water or two under the seat - and drag them to the eastern shore, a full thirty feet. We wade into the warm waters of the Laguna Madre. With few words, unwilling to break the spell of salt and silence, we mount the sturdy watercraft and paddle into the darkness. There’s only the sound of lapping water and the occasional scrape of paddle on hull.

With quiet, steady strokes we cross the intercoastal waterway, a thirty-five foot deep trough cut through the laguna, and quickly find ourselves in shin-deep water once again. On the liquid surface the transition is seamless.

The eastern horizon begins to glow and we paddle a mile, maybe more, to the east. Dark waters turn pink, then molten, as another day’s sun begins to emerge from the distant depths. We continue in silence, gliding on a sea of fire.

A tail, a dark flag against the blazing waters, appears. Then a second. Three more. “Blacks” says Austin. “Let’s go find some reds. These will be here when we come back.” I nod. Having opened my black drum account the day before, I, too, am anxious to find redfish. We paddle on, each silently contemplating our violation. Don’t leave fish to find fish.

Let’s go find some reds. These will be here when we come back. We don’t. They aren’t. The morning goes fishless.

And I don’t really care.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

We Have Your Redfish

Jefe. We have your redfish.

If you wish to see them again, leave the following in the bed of a rusted El Camino parked in the back lot of Marker 37. Let the air out of the left rear tire so we can tell which Cami it is. Maybe you'd better let it out of the right front as well. Just in case. Hell, just put a sign on it. But no authorities.

Anyway, leave the following:

Ten 5-gallon cans of gas
Two full propane tanks
A big-ass cooler of ice
Nine cases of bottled water. No store brands.
One case each of Corona, PBR, Coors Light, and Lonestar
Make that two
Two gallons of tonic water
One gallon of Gilbey's gin
Make that two
A nickel bag of black marabou
A quart of Bullfrog Quick Gel
A bottle of Pepto and a tube of Neosporin. Original.
Eight pairs of earplugs
Tortillas. Lots of tortillas. No fucking whole wheat.
Fish seasoning and a clove of garlic
Four bags of Kingsford
Amber Heard's phone number
300 feet of tippet material. 15-20lb floro. None of that mono shit.
An impeller kit for a Suzuki DF25R
A case of Charmin
Make that two

Do it. Every day you delay another black drum gets Weberized.

Oh. And do something about the crap 3G signal out here. Seriously.

We're watching you, Jefe. We're watching.

Do it. Or your redfish are toast.

Do it.

Monday, April 23, 2012


I’m home. I’m tired. I’m roadkill.

No. Not just roadkill. I’m south Texas salt flats roadkill. Sun-baked, mud-caked, wind-blown, sand-in-every-orifice, plastered-to-the-pavement, buzzard bait roadkill. My duffle (and probably my hide) smells like the back of the truck where the flats boots have been left to ferment each night. It ain’t pretty.

And I’m good with that.

So let me grab a nap and then I’ll catch you up. I’m no storyteller so I’ll simply give you some snippets, some images, some vignettes of our redfish excursion - the essence rather than the substance. The details are unimportant. It’s the impressions that come home with me, not the timeline.

It’s the moment that sticks.

Sticks like boots in the tidal mud. Sticks like red brisket to the pit of my stomach.

Sticks like roadkill to the steaming Texas pavement.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Touchdown in San Antonio

The tarmac touchdown in San Antonio was a bit heavy but it was "wheels down" so I guess I can't complain. When the captain blessed the resumption of electronic activity, I joined the chorus of cell phone startup chimes and found waiting the following text from my fishing buddy Chris who, along with Todd, was to be arriving an hour later from Salt Lake to begin our quest for Texas redfish.

Just a heads up… you may be driving this afternoon. Hope you’re not snuggled up to some floozy of a flight attendant and getting free drinks. We’ve already done that… so… have your driver’s license handy.

Followed shortly by:

Good news. The next is a dry flight! We’ll see you in a bit.

That SA landing might be just the beginning of the bumps.

Stick around for the ride. This could get interesting.

Note: I have no idea how he could make such a speculation regarding my deportment with the fine Southwest flight staff. No doubt it was just the bloody Mary(s) talking.

Another Note: Follow Chris' perspective on the trip at Eat More Brook Trout. But don't believe a word he says.

The Photo Bin - April 2012

I know, it's only been a couple of weeks since my last "monthly" photo bin. But the rest of April looks to be rather full (more on that in a minute) so I thought I'd sneak this month's edition in early. Besides, there's always an odd image, or three, floating around here to share.

Spring raced through here at a breakneck pace, as though Ma Nature wished to be done with it and move straight to summer with no more than a howdy-do. The trees went from bare to lush, seemingly overnight, but I did manage to shoot the emerging mottle of greens, posed against a crisp Carolina sky - a wisp of the moon for added interest.

And Wilderness Dog Sammy's always good for a cameo. He's been doing reasonably well of late, despite his age and arthritis. We finally seem to have found a decent balance between un-medicated joint pain and drug-induced stupor - a balance which makes for a livelier and more active little guy as well as happier dog owners. Here he's taking an Easter stroll in the yard of our friends' lake house, lookin' for the big dogs.

Finally, in preparation for that "rather full" rest of April, referred to earlier, I've spent a few evenings at the vice, tying a couple of Bugger Barns full of clousers and sliders that I hope will appeal to some South Padre redfish.

Yes, Texas, here I come. You'll be hearing more of that in the days to come.

Consider yourself warned.

Oh, and a spot of Maudite and the Allman Brothers channel on Pandora make the flies fly by nicely.

So, to steal my buddy Tom's post-closing convention, see you on the Gulf.

Monday, April 16, 2012

It's a Boy, And a Girl, And ...


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Bring It, Spin Boy

Yeah, it's your lake, your boat, your domain. 
But let's go. Let's see who's got it this fine Easter weekend. 
My fly rod against your spinning tackle. 
Best fish wins.

Oh crap! Nice start.

But I finish well enough to be in the arguement.

And there are some things we can agree on.

So we call it a draw and enjoy our time together on the lake.
That's how it should be.

Thanks, my friend, for putting up with my fly fishing fetish.
You're a good man...

...for a spin boy.

Admonishment: Do not imbibe and boat. Bad. Bad. Imbibe and enjoy the view from the dock. Good.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Crappie Art

Or is it crappy art?
If so, it would be
crappy crappie art.
Assuming, of course,
that it's art at all
and not just plain
Well, you know.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Stream Weaver: Living Art with Rod and Reed

I'm an author.

Do you have any idea how odd, and exhilarating, that statement feels? After eighteen months of ripping and tearing with editors, publishers, and my own personal demons, it’s finally a reality and I can spill the beans. I’m an author.

But that statement does not come without a price. To make the admission, I must now make another. I’m also a basket weaver.

While that might raise a few eyebrows, you should not be surprised. Fly fishing and basket weaving fit like reel in reel seat. Bamboo rod and natural weaving materials come from the same soil – the same earthy center – and their employment elicits the same emotional satisfactions.

They are a perfect compliment to a simple and creative existence – both the active and passive expressions of our connection to our natural surroundings and loftier ideals. Each is rhythmic. Each is subtle. Each is all-encompassing if we allow ourselves to be enveloped within the rudimentary, repetitive motions. The practices are elementary, but each carries within it profound implications that can reach deep into our souls and our lives, if we let them.

That's what Stream Weaver: Living Art with Rod and Reed is all about. The book is a series of essays and images that celebrate the intersection of stream and studio and natural living, some of which you might recognize from previous posts here on Mike’s Gone Fishin’, most of which are new views of life lived deep in the Carolina woods.

To my great surprise, the concept has resonated with everyone who has touched the project, from my new good friend Bob Clauser (who has a secret connection to the woven art, one that I won’t reveal here but that you will learn in his surprising Introduction), to Jeffery Long-Berger (who, honestly, could give a shit about fly fishing but is a weaving god and writes a darn good Forward), to the publisher, Natural Presses, who will print the book on 100% natural kudzu and wisteria fibers and who’s owner, Kevin Smallie, is a member of the 20/20 club – coaxing a 22 inch brown on a #20 BWO from the South Holston last November.

So here’s the pitch. We’re going straight to paperback (fly fisherman and basket weavers are both notoriously frugal, except when it comes to their “gear”), but Kevin thinks we can pre-produce a number of first edition hardbacks for special distribution - coffee table books, if you will - and is ramping up a short-run production process for them. These will be available, before the general publication of the paperback, to family and friends. You, dear readers, having put up with me here for more than three years now, are considered friends.

To sweeten the deal, the first ten pre-orders will also receive a very special gift. I started basket weaving shortly after I started fly fishing because I wanted a creel. I couldn’t bring myself to pay the crazy prices I encountered for them and, with a forest full of natural fibers sitting just outside my door, decided to weave one myself – and was hooked on the craft.

So the first ten friends will get one of my handmade creels. Be forewarned, however, that, as a strict catch and release fisherman, I will lash its top permanently closed so that it cannot be used to actually store fish. But it will definitely look “classic” on your hip. Or on your coffee table. Next to the book.

But here’s where reading Mike’s Gone Fishin’ finally pays off. If, when ordering, you type in the secret regular-reader’s code, you‘ll also receive your choice of a wide-brimmed faux Tilley hat, completing your classic look, or a genuine T.F.M. Comrade baseball cap, for those a bit more hip.

To pre-order your hardback edition of Stream Weaver: Living Art with Rod and Reed, a one-of-a-kind handmade creel by the author (I still get goose bumps when I type that word), and the hat of your choosing (all for a mere $29.99 - credit cards and PayPal happily accepted), go to The Outdoorsman's Bookshelf and type “April Fools” into the special offers box.

I’ll be glad that you did.