Monday, February 27, 2012

Rainy Days

Sitting here on this cold, dull, rainy day, sifting through months of images in preparation for a presentation on fishing my home waters, I came upon this soft, hazy image of another rainy day. A time much warmer and under decidedly more agreeable circumstances. A Haw River moment, tucked under an overhanging tree, waiting for the gentle front to pass.

In no real hurry for it to do so.

The image made me smile and I figured that any smile dredged up on such a dreary Monday was worth sharing. Hope you agree.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bug Eyed

Dang. Spring’s snuck up on me and the seasonal fly boxes are bare. Seems it's time to get the production line crankin’. Fast.

March. White bass. I need some clouser minnows.
April brings the shad. Clousers again.
May stripers. Let me think. Oh yeah. Bigger clousers.
The largemouth box could use a few too.

Small clousers, big clousers, white and pink and chartreuse and red and gray and orange and olive clousers. And all the combos.

But to start, the eyes.

And, after the first fifty, I'm getting a little bug-eyed myself.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Evidence Photographic

Are these guys having fun? I can assure you that the one holding the fly rod is.
Left to right: Some no-casting old fart, Bob Clouser, Joe Humphreys

For the whole story, read here. And a big thanks goes out to my new friend Jim who sent me this candid shot from last weekend's show!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Breaking In

First fish on the new fly rod
Yes, yet another stick in the closet
Bought for Lone Star puppy drum, but worked quite nicely here

Sixteen inches of Haw River bucketmouth
Don't let the perspective fool you
They always look smaller
Damn camera

9ft 7wt TFO BVK
The cork still shiny and bright
That won't last

Breaking in a new fly rod
Breaking in a new bass fishing season
Breaking in a new year on my home waters

A year very different from the past

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Battle For My Fly Fishing Soul

… the little bass-fishin’, bi-focaled devil that sits on my right shoulder keeps whispering such notions into my ear. "Let's go throw big bugs at big fish," he implores, and suggests that any material not measured in pound test alone belongs in a sewing basket, not a fly box. 
As counterpoint, the Waldenesque, native brookie loving, dry fly angel that sits on my left shoulder sings sweet songs of the inherent beauty of the tiny colorful creatures that inhabit the woodland streams and the dainty, ethereal wisps that it takes to engage them. It suggests that the devil on my right is a cretin and that I should embrace my delicate side by throwing #24 pieces of fluff on silky material to fish that the devil would consider too small for decent bait.
Tippet Tantrum – Mike's Gone Fishin' – September 2010

I had about 15 minutes before my shift began at the Triangle Fly Fishers booth - just enough time to stop by and see the boys at the Temple Fork Outfitters display and to take a Clouser Series bass rod out for a quick test ride. I’d wandered around the Raleigh edition of the Fly Fishing Show, oohing and ahhing over this and that, and had almost frittered away my casting time, but, having pitched the Clouser prototype the year before, I wanted to put my hands on the final product. I had to hurry.

I found the TFO space, conveniently situated next to the casting pool, and began to poke around the racks for the Clousers. When I didn’t find them immediately, I looked up for some assistance. Who better to ask than Bob himself who just happened to be hangin’ around? I figured that if anyone should know, he would.

He cheerfully took me to the proper rack, strung up a 6wt, and followed along to the pool to give me "some pointers.” I didn’t have much time, but how can you turn down tips from the guy whose name is on the rod? We spent a thoroughly enjoyable ten minutes stretching the rod’s legs and my meager casting skills. One tip in particular had me throwing lasers – well, as close to lasers as I’ll ever throw - from green target ring to far post to yellow target ring, changing directions with nary a false cast.

(I’d share the tip, but for the second time in a week I’ve been sworn to secrecy. As before, I will respect that promise. But I do wonder how many other folks Bob had told not to tell his secret that day.)

Just as things were really coming together, there was a ruckus behind us. Through the crowd stepped this skinny little cuss, yelling in a Jerry Lewis voice, “What are you telling him, Bob? That’s all wrong! Let me show him.”

So for the next ten minutes I had Bob Clouser on one shoulder and the irrepressible Joe Humphreys on the other, two of our sport's treasures, locked in an uproarious tug of war - my airborne fly line and caster’s ego as their rope - playfully tussling for possession of my fly-fishing soul.

I laughed and casted and laughed again as each loudly corrected what the other had just told me, back and forth and back and forth, all in good fun. And despite the instructional tugging match – or probably because of it - my casting suddenly got a hell of a lot better. Good thing, too, as a crowd had gathered to watch the fun.

Now it might seem strange that these two master casters would be giving me wildly different directions, but understanding their backgrounds and their fishing styles tells the story. Bob Clouser is the smallmouth king, master of throwing heavy flies with rods that can handle the fly’s weight, big waters, and obstinate smallies. Joe Humphreys is the sprite of the small, Pennsylvania limestone creeks – tiny waters fished with wispy sticks and tiny flies for dainty trout. Bob fishes with his body. Joe with his wrist.

But what Bob and Joe have in common is an understanding of the fundamentals of Newtonian physics, the laws of motion and how objects are propelled, though they most certainly don’t speak of it in those terms. These classic mechanics are, after all, what fly fishing is all about. By knowing why the fly line reacts as it does, you can apply the basic principles to any gear, location, and body style you’re bringing to the table. Each of them knows this and each of them teaches it well.

The other important thing that Bob and Joe have in common is an engaging, exuberant personality and a willingness to have some fun, so their spirited skirmish over my stroke was twenty minutes of joyful mayhem.

I had a blast. I learned a ton. I was in fly-casting heaven.

I was late to my booth gig.

Note: My deep appreciation goes out to Bob Clouser and Joe Humphreys for their time and attention. It was a fabulous experience and could only have been improved by relocating the three-ring-casting-circus to some mountain stream.

Another Note: Photographic evidence of this little episode exists and I am working on getting my hands on it. If successful, I will share, though none of the three of us win any beauty contests.

A Final Note: That TFO Clouser rod is sweet!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rubbing Noses

Chris is freezing his jiggly parts off in Idaho.
Russ sits home in Wyoming and can only dream of his upcoming getaway to Belize.
Erin's snowed in, deep in the canyons of Colorado. Sean and Howard aren't much better off in town.
Jason's in northern Michigan, God knows why, writing year-end summaries until everything thaws.
Emily has given up and gone skiing in Utah.
Len sits waiting in Wisconsin for the Driftless to be driftless, if you know what I mean.
Ken's stuck watching Illinois snow in the wee hours.
In Arizona, Ben could probably fish, but he's too busy pumping birdshot through his Remington.
Steve's watching bugs do the hoochie in Connecticut and hoping it means that the weather's going to break.
Tom's actually getting some angling done in California, but has to wear silly hats to do it.

I'm in shirtsleeves today, pitching bugs to bass, thinking how nice North Carolina is.

And sending out a little left-handed blog love.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Stone and Steel

I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer
More woodsman's axe than surgeon's scalpel
Cleave by inertia more than intelligence

I know this
And accept it for what it is
My lot

But it need not mean I'm dull
A blunt tool
Good for nothing more than rude smashing
I'm more than that

I work hard
Keep my broad edge clean with stone and steel
And with this edge endeavor to strike with rudimentary precision
For effort and proximity can carry the day
If that's what you have

We can't all be scalpels

And axes are needed in this world
They build from the ground the platforms of the knife
There's dignity in their work
Though they're seldom celebrated for it
It's the scalpel that's revered

But blades, unattended, quickly tarnish and rust
Razor edge turns pointless
While axes, when whet, work untiringly, and long
Even when blunted by hard times

I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer
More woodman's axe than surgeon's scalpel
I endure by the effort

Stone and steel

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Bream Killer

I make no claims as to the veracity of this account.

It was shared, last night, over the communal fly tying table - roll cast across the backroom bar setting of vices, bucktail, and pitchers of Yuengling – presented to the bi-weekly gathering of the fly tying artists of our local fishing club. That alone makes it highly suspect. But, as all good stories should, it has the ring of truth to it, so I share it here and will let you decide whether to believe it or not.

Every fly tier has a go-to fly. One that they have mastered the creation thereof and that they swear is a never-fail fish magnet. This is the story of such a fly. It seems that my buddy Terry… Wait. I’ll let the story be told in his voice.

It had been a productive day on the Neuse. I’d tried a number of new patterns and had caught my share of bluegill, redbreasts, and assortment of panfish that occupy these waters. As I prepared to leave, Puddin’ arrived with a beginner fisherman in tow, intent on helping the poor fellow get his feet wet with a fly rod. They thrashed around, Puddin’ casting smoothly and accurately while his charge, despite expert advice and example, struggled horribly.

Worse, neither veteran nor novice raised a fish. So, feeling sorry for them, I wandered over, said hello, and gave the poor rookie one of my secret weapon Bream Killers – a bead-chain eyed, size 12 bit of fluff with wiggly rubber legs. I wished them luck - it looked like they'd need it - and took my leave, quickly, so as not to be snagged by an errant backcast.

I bumped into Puddin’ a few days later at the shop and asked him how the fly had worked. With a snort of pure disgust he replied, “I had to take the damn thing away from him.”


“Because every time he casted it, he caught a fish. It didn’t matter how badly he threw it, how far he missed the mark, or how much line he piled on top of it, something ate it. I would try to get him to place it near this log or in that eddy and he’d screw it up royally, miss the target by miles, and still catch a goddamned fish. I swear that if he'd hung it in a tree some fat bluegill would be jumping out of the water after it.”

That’s good, isn’t it?

“Hell no! He wasn’t learning a damn thing. Every awful cast produced. And the part that really frosted me was that he was catching so many fish that he starting to tell ME what to do.”


So that’s the story. True? Maybe. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that it was told among good friends over a cold brew and that it had the hint of possibility.

And among fly fishermen, that’s about as close to the truth as you're likely to get.

Note: The fly shown in the picture is, sadly, not the Bream Killer. I have been sworn to secrecy on that particular bit of fluff. Hell, if you had a fly that had bluegill jumping out of the water, wouldn't you be tight lipped about it too?

That is, if you believe...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

EMBT's Twenty Questions

My good friend and Montana fishin’ buddy Chris Hunt over at Eat More Brook Trout has a weekly series of posts that he calls Twenty Questions. He “interviews” folks from around the fly fishing realm – photographers, writers, guides, conservationists and, yes, even bloggers. It's always entertaining and informative.

Guess who’s in the barrel this week. Yep. There goes entertaining and informative right out the window.

In a summer post, part of the thread on my wonderful western excursion, I describe Chris as follows:

Chris is as big as the Montana landscape that we visited - in both size and personality. As Trout Unlimited’s Communications Director for the Sportsmen's Conservation Project, he thought to use this weird new blogging medium as yet another way to get the TU message out and, with the help and partnership of the Outdoor Blogger Network, the trip was born. Chris was the life of the party, keeping us laughing deep into the nights, yet ready to hit the stream at the break of dawn. He’s obviously had lots of experience at both. And I have a new appreciation for his book’s title, Shin Deep. Shin deep on him is damn near waist deep on me.

Thanks, brother, for the TwentyQs invitation and for all that you do on our behalf through the offices of Trout Unlimited and your personal commitment to the sport. I'm lookin' forward to being on the water with you again. Soon.