Thursday, December 7, 2017


The twelfth time’s the charm.

I know it’s the twelfth because it wasn’t the eleventh. No, it most certainly wasn’t the eleventh.

I was trying to remember the right number. I thought, at first, that it’s the third time that’s the charm, but the third time I only hooked my first White Oak bowfin. It came unbuttoned in a decidedly uncharming tarpon-like cartwheel. So the third time’s actually the tease, not the charm. It’s the twelfth that’s the charm. Yes, now I’m sure of it.

Coincidently, twelve’s also lucky. Lucky twelve. Not seven, like many people think. Seven was the second hookup, lost when the beastie folded my 8wt and dove into a tree submerged underneath my kayak. Left me hopelessly hung-up. No, seven’s not lucky. Seven’s mocking. Mocking Seven. Twelve is the ticket.

All the rest are just numbers. Fruitless days on the water in dogged pursuit. Unable to find fish or unable to make them eat. Musky fishermen know them. Permit and steelhead guys, too. White whale days. It takes an angler with a short memory and a mathematically-challenged, non-quantitative disposition to keep at it. To push through the numbers. To endure those teasing and mocking and empty digits. To summon that long-suffering, analog optimism that defines us as fishermen. Normal folks would just move on to something else, undone by the numbers. For the rest of us there’s always tomorrow.

So I’m ready for my Lucky Twelve. My charmed time. It’s in the bag. I’m going to get one of those big bowfin the next time out.

Unless I don’t. Then maybe it’s actually Lucky Thirteen, though somehow that doesn't sound quite right.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

One Bug, Now Two

A repeat, here, of a piece that I posted nearly four years ago under the title One Bug is Quiet.


We stood back and watched as she roll cast the slow, shaded run that tucked tightly under the thick rhododendrons. Cast, drift, cast again; avoiding the encroaching branches with a quiet ease. “And she’s just getting started,” he whispered with a subtle hint of pride. “She’s figuring it out.”

I hadn’t seen Brandon since our week chasing redfish on the Laguna Madre, a year-and-a-half past, but had followed his exploits through One Bug is Fake, his online journal of fly fishing, survival, and whatever. I kept up with his angst through job changes, moves, and the generally painful business of sorting out what was important in his life. Kept up, that is, until the blog fell silent earlier this year. I worried a little.

So when I caught word that he’d be in my neck of the woods for a family Thanksgiving gathering, I wandered westward and reconnected with him on a chilly Appalachian trout stream. There, I came to understand his disappearance.

“Have you been writing?” I asked, thinking I knew the answer. “Not really,” he replied, watching her swing the fly once again. “I’ve been happy.”

Those who write understand. Words, all too often, come from deep, dark places and passages born of hurt carry a weight and an edge that can resonate. It’s been suggested that contentment is the death of good writing. I’m not completely convinced, but do know that it’s easier to express when things are broken. Through the cracks seep emotion and heart and, inexplicably, craft. It’s a gruesome tradeoff.

“But I’ve been thinking on a piece for a while now,” Brandon added, as his companion concentrated on her next drift. “About what’s changed.”

I nodded, and smiled, and thought to myself that there was no need to hurry. No need at all. I’d be glad to not hear from One Bug for a while.


Since that time I've heard very little from One Bug, for all the right reasons. And it's quite possible that today ol'e One Bug will be struck permanently mute as he and his companion on that chilly North Carolina stream, the source of all that hushed happiness, will be tying the knot.

Heck, I'm so happy for them that I'm having trouble with the words myself.

All the best to you, Courtney and Brandon. All the very best.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Creepy, In a Good Way

The plan was to knock around The Big Easy for a few days. Wander the Garden District, the French Quarter, and maybe a bayou or on the outskirts of town. Eat and drink too much. Listen to some good local blues and jazz. Take lots of pictures. It was a good plan. Hell, it was a great plan.

Mother Nature laughs at my planning.

Shortly after we arrived, unseasonal rains dumped eight-to-ten inches on NOLA in a short few hours, flooding The Bowl and many other low-lying areas within the city. Clubs along the Quarter found waters coming over their steps and seeping into the venues. Travel around town was a disaster, where you could drive at all. It wasn’t pretty. And then it kept raining.

This mess left us to while away a large chunk of our time in the hotel, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. We stayed at The Columns, a gorgeous old turn-of-the-century boutique boarding house, now twenty-guestroom hotel, that offered a dark, mysterious charm. And by mysterious, I mean creepy.

Creepy in a good way.

Adding to the creep factor, for much of our stay we were the only guests in the place. Quiet dark halls. Empty staircases. Rows of closed doors. Were one to be effected by such things, there was some serious malevolence brewing.

Did anyone see The Shining?

But we loved the place. While Mary napped or read in the room (number 25), I happily puttered around the haunting hallways and climbed up and down the incredible spiraling staircase to capture a few images, fully expecting to get back home to find soft spectral streaks in the photos. Ghosts of old New Orleans, peeking through.

They were most certainly there, visible or not.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Photo Bin - April 2017

It has occurred to me that I have been taking myself too seriously for too long and this poor little blog has suffered for it. I've fallen into the trap of wanting, needing, everything I post to be slick, well developed, and (dare I say) publishable. Wanting it to be remarkable. But by adding that pressure, I've throttled things to the point where posts have become few and far between. The twin ironies are that even my best work isn't all that hot anyway and that by holding out for "the good stuff," I'm not writing anything (which doesn't do a hell of a lot to help advance the craft). I've not even kept up the Photo Bins.

Herewith, I'm shaking off the pretension and getting back to just putting it out there. It's that or stop altogether and I don't think I'm quite ready for that. As this is the April bin (and it's August already), there's some catching up to do, so let's get started.

In April, the camera always fills with the extravaganza that is the annual Live Free Cornhole Tournament, a loving fundraiser for the memorial scholarship that we maintain at Georgia Tech in my step-son's name. Friends and family gather to share loads of fond memories, good fellowship, and just a bit of friendly competition, all in Freeman's honor. Together we miss him and keep alive the event he started as a simple gathering of friends to celebrate the arrival of spring. In his absence, we've repurposed it in his memory.

The brave few that held out to the bitter end

That's a start. A slow month, April, but things got a bit crazy in May, June, and July. Their bins to follow here shortly. Then maybe I'll be back on track.


What is a Photo Bin?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

That Reminds Me of a Story...

We caught fish.
More than that,
We made stories.

Stories that we’ve told over and over.
Stories that make us laugh with every telling.
Stories we will continue to tell, over and over,
As long as we’re here to tell them.
Stories that will keep you with us forever,
Now that you’re gone.

Some true.
Some with a kernel of truth.
Some we’ve made true in the telling.
It’s hard to remember which are which any more,
As if it really mattered.

We gathered together tonight and told them again.
Set aside the vises, the hooks and the feathers,
And, instead, tipped a glass or two.
Told the stories one more time.
Laughed with you as if you were here,
When, in truth, you were.
In the stories.

It may have started with fish,
But not a single tale tells of the catch.
They tell of falling overboard,
Of getting shit-faced,
Of putting our foot in our mouths at the worst of times.
They tell of broken rods, bent transoms, and anchors tossed overboard unattached.
Too many are poop or fart stories, I'm embarrassed to say.
Funny at six and at sixty. Boys will always be boys.
They make us laugh at our ourselves and we deserve it.
No one is spared,
For they are our stories,
Yours and ours.

Yes, we caught fish.
More than that,
Much more than that,
We made stories.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Carp It

Bend it

Net it

Juggle it

Admire it

Kiss it

Celebrate it

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

10 Steps to Catching Carp

Step 1: Find carp

Steps 2-4: Cast to carp

Steps 5-7: Scream at @#$% picky-ass carp (and guides, and Gods, and everything else)

Step 8: Catch carp

Step 9: Release carp

Step 10: Be bad

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Photo Bin: 2Q2017 - Beaver Island Suspects

Scott Thompson: That Feeling

True story (and I say that because around here one can never be sure), I had a dream last night that I was flying to Alaska to fish. At the end of my commercial airline ordeal, as I awaited the arrival of the Beaver to take me on my final leg, I discovered that my duffle was half empty (or half full, I never know which) and I stood on the tarmac trying to decide if I had been robbed or had simply forgotten to finish packing before departure. The latter seemed more likely.

What was packed was my camera, and, despite the tender care that my luggage had undoubtedly received in the hands of the gorillas in Delta’s baggage management division, my unprotected Nikon had bounced around in all that unfilled storage space such that the lens now looked like a half-crushed PBR can. The poor thing was toast and it occurred to me that it was going to be a long, boring week on the water. Never mind that I had no wading boots or shirts to wear (I remember those things specifically as missing), I was not going to be taking any pictures.

Steve Martinez: The big man's in the boat

Obviously, this glut of photos has been playing with my mind, even in my sleep. More specifically, trying to figure out how to trot out this pile of material without completely overwhelming the reader and cooking my laptop’s motherboard in the process. (I’ve heard it’s poor little cooling fan kick in during this past week’s marathon Lightroom sessions with startling regularity).

I’ve landed on the idea of groupings of five. A series of posts, each containing five images, that revolve around some theme. I have no idea what those themes will be. We’ll just have to see as we go along. As for how many there will be, we’ll just have to see that too. (You can tell that I’ve given this lots of thought.)

I fear more anxiety dreams are on the way.

Alex Landeen: Looking to the sky (and the man on the platform) for a little rain relief

Prepared or not, I’d better get started. Ignoring any coherent chronological sequencing of the events and images from the past three months, interspersed in this post has been a quick rogues gallery of my companions from our just completed carp adventure on Beaver Island. It’s a bit of a cheat as they have already been posted on my Instagram feed (yes, I’ve fallen down yet another social media rabbit hole), but for the sake of efficiency…

Kevin Morlock: Can't keep a good guide down

For the photo barrage to come, my apologies.

Cameron Mortenson: The Man and His Island

That goes double for the mugs in this gallery.

What is a Photo Bin?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Warning: Impending Photo Dump

Where to begin?

When you last encountered this intrepid blogger he dropped a two-month-old pile of South Andros photos on you, then disappeared. Again. Now there's a three month hole in these pages. Three months of nuthin'. Well, it's not because nuthin's been going on. Quite the contrary, the past several weeks have been a whirlwind and the spinning has yet to stop.

As you can imagine, the picture pile's grown to monumental proportions and something needs to be done with it. So hold on to your seats. Here it comes. I'm taking advantage of the passing of the eye of this storm to do some catching up, photo bin style. Not sure exactly how to approach this except to dive right in.

The dump begins on Monday.

You've been warned.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Photo Bin - March 2017

Yes, you read the title correctly. Here we are, a week into June, and I'm just getting around to a March photo bin. For quite some time the bins have been carrying the load around here and now I can't even be counted on to do them in a timely manner. Sad. But the good news is that a part of the issue is that I've been busy. Fishing, no less. That can only be good.

Let's go back a bit and catch up, then, starting with an escape to the islands (South Andros, to be exact), the only really significant photo op of the month. And I'll make up for the lack of expediency with quantity.

There's something inspiring about an image framed by an overhead wing, especially when it's taken on your way in. Small aircraft and remote fishing destinations get my blood pumping, especially as the clouds clear and I see miles and miles of salt flats, just waiting to be waded.

And the airports these small planes frequent beat the heck out of the hustle and bustle of the internationals. Here, Jeff struggles through the crowd at the main entrance of Congo Town's busy airport. You can feel the tension.

Our ultimate destination? The Andros South Lodge. Bonefishing. Mighty fine bonefishing.

And we wasted no time getting on the water. Here Steve stands ready, despite a stiff breeze. If you're not ready to deal with the wind, stay off the flats. It's not a question of whether it will blow or not. It's a question of how much. Day 1 the answer was a lot. Damn permit. (Inside joke. Sorry.)

Day 2, and most of the days that followed, started with a run up the Little Creek narrows. As good a wake-me-up routine as there could possibly be. Put it on plane and blow out the cobwebs.

Side note, I'm proud to have this image (along with a couple of others in the bin below) included in The Flyfish Journal's terrific photo essay BahamaCon 17, a fun compilation of the photography, words, and video from our week in the islands, mostly shot by the uber-talented Copi Vojta. If you haven't seen it yet, it's definitely worth the time.

Mr. Barracuda didn't have such a good day, though, fooled by a big, ugly popper. Jason probably saved a few bonefish's days bringing this rascal to dock.

And speaking of coming to dock, at the end of every fishing day as we came off the water, we (and every other South Andros angler) stepped out of the skiff and into (or around) The New Ocean View, the focal point and gathering place of all manner of South Andros social life. Good times, outside and in.

Andrew and Kyle (our hosts at the South Andros Lodge) and Steve and Copi get their first post-fishing beers.

Kyle and Copi retire inside, out of the sun for a bit.

I've come to the conclusion that the best way to chase bonefish is to wade for them. Maybe not the most productive approach, numbers wise, but for sheer immersion in the world of the flats, it can't be beat. Here, Jason and Torrie scope out a promising piece of water from behind mangrove cover. See any tails? Nervous water? Stirred up mud?

And speaking of mud, we walked away from some of the fishiest looking flats imaginable because Torrie shook his head and "too clean." His club (and his incredible fish-finding style) ain't called The Dirty South for nuthin'.

And it's all about these guys. This poor fella slunk away with a sore lip, but he'd get over it before too long.

Perhaps one of the most iconic images of Bahamian bonefishing is the beached skiff out behind the South Andros Lodge, used by legions of anglers to polish up their casting strokes in preparation for the real thing. Painted rocks at 12:00. Moving slow.

After a full day and great dinner, we typically spent more than a fair share of our afterhours here, at the beach fridge, and bar, behind the lodge. A story or two were told. A dark-and-stormy or three were consumed.

And sober, dark-and-stormy, or whatever, this ring swing baffled me. The contest was How many hookups can you get in ten tosses? I played it like How many tens of tosses does it take to get a hookup? Sorta like my bonefishing, now that I think about it.

And the wee hours, back at the lodge. A few kahlik-clad dead soldiers stand guard on the tables, some boots dry before an early departure.

The next morning's breakfast gets planned.

Perhaps my favorite image of the week. The morning after. To steal someone else's line (and if I could remember who's it was I'd acknowledge it, but, with such a crew full of such wonderful writers, it could have been anyone's observation), a caveman theater.

A final look off the bow, the sun rising on our fly out day. The rocks still tailing at 12:00.

A less inspiring aerial view as we return to the continent. Fort Lauderdale sprawl doesn't hold a candle to Andros flats, but it does mean that home's just one more jump away. That's always a good thing.

That'll do for now. Sorry for the delay. But it was fun for me to go back and enjoy the trip, so all is not lost. The April bin should follow shortly with May's shortly thereafter.

So many pictures. So little time.

What is a Photo Bin?