Monday, January 9, 2017

Monday Morning Coffee- January 9, 2017

Hhheerrrrgggggppphhhttt!Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat- it's Monday once again, so let's have some coffee.

Well, I woke up to a leaky faucet this morning that flooded part of the kitchen floor and cabinets. Not a huge deal, just a result of running the tap all night. One of those times you wished things just worked. The connections are tight, and it didn't freeze up. It's just a crappy faucet with leaky seals. Lesson learned.

Other than that we survived the Blizzard of '17. We had a dusting of snow here at Daisy Hill Farm, but they got more at higher elevations in Georgia. Schools are closed today because of the cold and threat of black ice. If you're from further north it's easy to chuckle about this, but they don't get enough snow here to warrant a fleet of plow/salt trucks, kids don't have warm enough coats to stand outside waiting on a bus, and buildings are designed with cooling in mind and not heating, so I guess I'll cut the Southerners some slack for what can seem like an over-reaction to a little weather.

I did get to go fishing Friday with Louis Cahill of Gink and Gasoline. Any time I get out fishing with him is a good time, and Friday did not disappoint. We caught lots of fish and had fun. I really needed the outing. Louis took what I assumed were great pics only to discover halfway through the day that he hadn't put a card in the camera. Rookie.

We may have stumbled on a new pattern for a good day. What you need is cold weather, a recent fish stocking, and a winter storm coming in that evening. The stocking means you'll catch fish at the obvious spots, the cold weather means that resident and wild fish will be out and about, and the incoming storm means that all the locals and would be anglers are at the store buying bread and milk. You will have the river all to yourselves like we did. We both caught our Stocker Slam in short order. Louis caught at least one brown of about 15 inches, and I caught two 12 inch brook trout courtesy of South Carolina Fish and Game. It's a good thing my beat up Stimulators resemble pellets.

Louis laying out a nice cast

I don't mean to sound dismissive of the fishing, as it really was a lot of fun, and we caught a number of fish with clean fins, beautiful colors and no marking, meaning they are either resident or wild fish, which always makes my day. Even if every fish was a stocker, it's such a beautiful stream that you can't hate being there, and with such good company we had a great time. When the snow started falling we decided we had better make good our escape, and so we hiked the thirty minutes back out, and by the time we got back to Clayton the snow was starting to stick. I had a mundane drive home, but Louis had to brave the Atlanta traffic, a far more chilling prospect than a little snow and ice. The cold is only supposed to last another day, and by Friday it's supposed to be 70 degrees again.

Well, my coffee is done, I need some breakfast, and one of my pups has turned into an escape artist, so I have to brave the cold and rebuild a fence. Have a great week, tie some flies or wet a line if you get the chance.

Let's get after it.

buried to the rafters
Gratuitous fish pic
how I started my day

Monday, January 2, 2017

Monday Morning Coffee- Brett Watson Edition

Aaauuuggghhhppppptttt!!! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat! It is Monday once again, so let's have some coffee.

As you may have noted, this post is dedicated to my good friend Brett Watson who is stuck in a hospital near Detroit and told me he'd better get some Monday Morning Coffee in lieu of a visit, so here it is. I've only been stuck in a hospital bed overnight once in my life, and it wasn't very restful, so you have my sympathy buddy. Whatever is ailing you (I won't reveal medical info here) I hope you get it licked soon so you can get back out there.

Brett is one of my best friends and fishing buds, and just a great guy to be around. He somehow balances a family, career, business on the side, at one time was prez of his rather large TU chapter, ties awesome flies, and still manages to sneak in what seems to be a disproportionate amount of fishing time.

I met Brett back in 2012. He was part of the 2012 Isle Royale Coaster brook trout trip. We hit it off and have been compadres ever since. I lived Up North, and he lived in Metro Detroit area, but his in-laws have a place about five miles from mine, so he was up to visit a lot.

Brett with a monster

I always liked Brett because it was like fishing with an action figure- Brett Watson, Fly Fisher. Not only does he look good on camera, but he has some chops to go with it. He's a good caster and he out-fishes almost everyone. He is one of those people who is driven to be excellent, and it shows in his flies, his casting, and his catching.

I love it when we get into the boat with our buddy Chris Reister. Chris is always trying to put us on top of the fish, and Brett will always speak up and say "Leave it right here, bud, I think I can make it" and then he'll make some impossible cast and drift and catch the fish. He's also one of those irritating guys who is always posting a pic of a 30" brown trout he caught out of some ditch no one else thought to fish.


Brett is the driving force behind Confluence Boatworks which makes two and three person rafts for fly fishing, and has since become part of the Stealthcraft line of boats. I've fished quite a bit out of them and love them. They are very carefully designed by someone who fishes a lot and it shows. I'm not really trying to write an infomercial here; I can just say that they are good boats, and an example of what happens when a driven, busy person puts his or her mind to something.

the three amigos

Well, I got out yesterday to check out the fire damage on the upper Tallulah, and Coleman rivers. It was nice to get out and hike. Yes, everything burned, and it cleared out most of the understory, but the bigger trees are intact and even a lot of the rhododendrons are still alive. Still, it was sobering to see the moss burned off of the rocks, and the burned out husks of dead standing timber. The rivers don't seem to care and the fish are still there. Fire doesn't bother nature nearly as much as mankind. I feel bad for the people of Gatlinburg and others who lost life and property in the fires, but nature will be just fine.

Well hopefully I'll get out and fish at least once this week and have something to share. Brett- speedy recovery to you my friend. There's a bunch of steelhead out there with your name on them. That time we went out for a Hex hatch that didn't, and I stepped into the river and floated my hat- we'll keep that between us.

I'm out of coffee and it's time to get some things done.

Let's get after it. I'll leave you with some pics from the Coleman fire.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Monday Morning Coffee- 12/26/16

Yyyerrrrgggghpppphhhhttt! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat! It's Monday morning of a holiday weekend in which I'm assuming most of you are still in PJ's and slippers, so let's have some coffee.

I've been writing every day for a couple weeks now, so I'm hoping to channel some of that into the occasional post here. I'm working on a couple books, including the novel I started a couple years ago, and two fly fishing books based on content started on this blog. It's my burning desire to finish and publish at least one by spring, whether or not it's any good or gets a publisher. Just the act of completing something like that will be very satisfying. I'll self-publish if I have to just so the couple people who read my stuff can have a copy. Maybe if I include a free fly rod they'll sell like hotcakes.

I hope you've enjoyed whichever Solsticial holiday you celebrated. I hope you got what you wanted, even if that was just to sleep in and then wear pajamas all day for a couple days. That alone can be worth the price of admission. Me, I got a food processor so I can start making artisan bread, some fly lines and a flitch of good bacon. And don't lecture me about kneading the bread by hand; I didn't evolve banking skills so I could do everything manually. I could build a clay oven out of this red Georgia clay too, but that ain't happening either.
one of my fishing spots a month ago

I haven't fished in awhile, so there's not much to share on that front. The continued drought here in the South has made it a dispiriting experience, and the recent tragedy in which Gatlinburg (a two hour drive from my door) burned made the idea of fishing a vulgarity, at least in the short term. We've had enough rain now to end the fires if not the drought.  Hopefully we'll get enough rain to raise the rivers again before the summer heat returns and bakes it all back out.

I've been sick for the past two weeks with this awful chest cold, so I'm really starting to feel restless. Yesterday we went and walked on Hartwell dam as it was 72 degrees out and sunny. I was looking for carp in the shallows and saw some likely looking subjects near an island, but they stayed too deep for a positive ID. We went to look at the Savannah River below the dam after, and instead of fish we had a family of otters feeding below us. I know a lot of fishermen hate otters, thinking they eat all of their fish, but I see them as the sign of a healthy river and ecosystem, and besides, there's nothing more entertaining to watch.

a lot of fun to watch

I'm working on tying up some flies for gifts for friends, so maybe I'll throw up a dozen here to give away. I guess I should get them tied up before making big promises. It's my Michigan Survival Kit, so it will be a mix of streamers, dries, and ugly foam abominations, but I guarantee they'll all catch fish. If your name is Charley Van Husen you're in luck.

Well, my coffee is done, and I have wrapping paper to dispose of. Have a great week and don't get too crazy this weekend.

Let's get after it.

P.S. Here's my latest on Gink and Gasoline if you have any more time and inclination to spare.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Our Public Lands- Freedom on the Brink

We rode off the ridge as the snow and darkness closed in. The wind howled overhead, driving the snow ahead of it, and I paused to cinch down the hood of my wool parka. We had followed a herd of elk high up onto the flanks of this mountain only to have them dump off into the valley below. Sure. Easy for them. Now we were headed back to our remote camp, 11 miles from the nearest trailhead. My horse was old and slow, due to be retired the next season. He refused to keep up with the horses ridden by our guide and my friend Larry, and I watched their headlamps disappear ahead of me into the darkness. 

After a while I realized I was spooking my own horse with my headlamp, so I switched it off and rode on, praying the whole time that we wouldn't bump into a grizzly bear. No worries- my horse knew the way back, and when we got within a half mile of camp it was all I could do to reign him back from a full gallop to get back to the corral and some high quality hay. It had been a great day- we had rode up after elk, and instead had a pair mountain goats strut not 40 yards from where we stalked. The whole day, from the ride up the mountain past the excavated stones where bears had dug for squirrels, to the clatter of hooves on rock as the elk moved ahead of us, the far off lonely bugle of a bull signaling their descent into the canyon, the mountain goats parading past at close range and realizing too late how close they were to us, to the long eerie ride home alone in the dark and snow, was all one great adventure, played out on America’s public lands.

This adventure, an outfitted elk hunt, took place in the Scapegoat Wilderness, which adjoins the more famous Bob Marshall Wilderness to the north. It is a gorgeous landscape of high peaks, breathtaking lakes and waterfalls, abundant game and predators, and all of it is yours to enjoy and explore. Why? Because it belongs to you and me. It is public land administered by the federal government.
Our Public Lands are under threat.
There are people out there who would rob you of this opportunity and adventure. They want to take our public lands away from all of us and give them to private interests. They do this in the name of States Rights, a red herring if ever there was, as they know full well that the states, cash strapped as they are, will divest them to private interests, or allow the exploitation of their resources at the expense of everyone and everything else. The fire fighting budget alone on these lands would break the Western states. Those who push for states rights know this, know it’s just a matter of time before all that juicy, resource rich land is theirs to exploit, mine, log off, or turn into private ranches and hunting and fishing clubs.

I first became aware of this issue about a year and a half ago, but I mostly ignored it. I felt that our public lands were an integral US institution and American birthright, so fundamental to the American way of life and landscape as to be beyond question. The idea that our lands would be given to the states to do as they pleased with seemed laughable. But at this moment state and Congressional lawmakers are attempting to do just that.

The States Rights advocates exercise, or promote, a very selective false memory. The Federal Government owns over 640 million acres of public land, mostly in the West. They act as if that land was wrested from them by the Federal Government against their will, a birthright stolen from them, and that now that same government imposes irksome regulations and bureaucracy, robbing them of the full and free use of what is rightfully theirs. This tale, popular in the West, is untrue, a fable perpetuated by those who want that land for private profit rather than the public interest.

The truth is that land never belonged to the states. Not ever. The states didn’t exist in some statehood fairyland until the federal government came and took over. It was the Federal Government, which purchased (think Louisiana Purchase, in which the US bought lands that extended into Montana and Wyoming among others, and thus held title to those lands) or conquered the West, and then opened it up in an orderly fashion to settlement. Hell, they gave tens of millions of acres away to settlers and to local governments under the Homestead Act, and then as a condition of statehood and all its benefits, those states relinquished all rights and title to unsettled lands, the lands that became our federal public lands today, administered by a variety of agencies.

Even then the federal government was a fairly generous landlord, giving away mining claims, allowing ranchers to run their cattle rough shod over the terrain. When the range was so overgrazed and nearly destroyed they begged the federal government to step in and arbitrate, which they did. Limits were placed on the amount of cattle or sheep that could be grazed on any given range. These limits were not however, just for the benefit of the ranchers. Federal land managers also looked out for other interests, such as balancing grazing against water use, wildlife needs, recreation and timber management.

I grew up with this notion that our public lands were one of our best ideas, up there with and in ways better than our National Parks. They were part of what made us free. They make America special. You didn’t have to be a rich landowner in order to enjoy wild places. You didn’t have to hold title to a private estate in order to fish, hunt, camp, float, hike, and otherwise recreate in the wild.

I fished in Austria a couple of years back on a visit to my daughter. It was nothing like here. They have some astonishing fishing, but good luck getting to it. Her one friend had family with title to some of the best fishing in the Innsbruck area, so he inquired if I could fish there. Turns out they did have title, but it was non-transferable, and even though they didn’t fish themselves, they were unable to simply allow a guest to fish their rivers, or so I was told. After many inquiries that went nowhere, an outfitter friend of theirs said we could go and fish an alpine lake in a park. When we arrived we began to unload, but as another friend and I took our rods out, he explained that his license was only good for one rod. We put the other rod away. We would both be able to fish, but only one of us at a time, and it wasn’t legal to bring multiple rods. Having talked to many others about the fishing in Europe, it is a similar hodgepodge of archaic regulation, difficult or impossible to access, and largely the realm of the wealthy and privileged.

There is a lot of talk out there about what would happen if all that land were turned over to the states. It’s hard to say exactly but the following are inevitable:
  • Much more of it would be opened up for resource exploitation by private interests (the ultimate goal of the political forces behind this movement).
  • A lot of it would be leased to private interests or sold outright, to generate revenue for the states. The costs of firefighting alone on these lands would bankrupt the western states. This isn’t in question.
  • Unified management plans that benefit fish and wildlife, recreational use, grazing, and forest management, would be dismantled, or so fragmented as to be ineffective.
  • Recreational access by all parties would be greatly reduced or eliminated.

The taxpayers, including those who now support “States Rights” and public land divestiture, would not see the benefits promised under this movement. Their rights to access the land would be cut off, grazing sold off to the highest bidder, timber and minerals sold to outside companies whose only interest is exploitation. Everyone except those companies would lose.

I believe in free market concepts, but not at the expense of freedom. Public land isn’t a socialist concept, it’s a concept of freedom. It was the retention of those public lands that expands the freedoms of all of us. And this isn’t just for hunters and fishermen, though they would be greatly impacted by the loss of public lands. It’s for campers, hikers, birders, climbers, and sightseers. It’s for retirees who criss-cross this country in RV’s and stay at the campgrounds. It’s for the waterfall enthusiasts who use federally maintained facilities and trails to see these wonders of nature. It’s for the wildlife in the National Refuge system. It’s for the hikers who get to go hike a trail without seeing the mountainsides razed off by loggers. It’s for mountain bikers who want to ride trails in the wild, for canoers, kayakers and rafters who want to float in a pristine setting. It’s for parents who want to go for a drive and show their kids some wildlife. It’s for anyone who wants to see a landscape without fences or power lines. While hunters and anglers certainly contribute to the economics of public lands, it is largely supported by the everyday people who load their families into their cars and embark on a road trip, spend money in the surrounding communities, and enjoy the rivers, lakes, oceans, mountains, forests, trails, beaches and campgrounds that are found on public lands. It is all of us who would be impacted, shut out, our experiences diminished, and economies altered in order to benefit private enterprise, all under the pretense of States Rights, in the name of protesting “federal overreach”.

What recourse will there be for the common, everyday Westerner who has “federal overreach” replaced by state overreach? Will the state be any more sympathetic to their pleas and complaints? When the state sells off the land once administered by the feds and Westerners are shut out of it, where will they hunt, fish and recreate? When the states, compelled by their constitutions to maximize profit on this land, raises grazing fees to a fair market rate rather than the cut-rate offered by the BLM, how many Western ranchers will be forced out of business? How many families who keep and graze a few cows on the side will be forced to quit?
"Once this happens, good luck stuffing this genie back in the bottle. . ."
Here’s the problem, the really, really, really BIG problem. Once this happens, good luck stuffing this genie back in the bottle. When the good work of the wildlife refuges, the comprehensive range and forest management, the coordinated firefighting efforts, the regulatory system on western rivers that limits the amount of recreational traffic in order to preserve a wild experience, when all that has been undone- good luck. When you can no longer access your favorite wild lands to hunt, fish, camp, photograph, or just breathe clean air in silence and solitude. When small-time ranchers are forced out of business in favor of wealthy or corporate ranch operations. When all the streams and good hunting are privatized, turned into McRanch subdivisions or destroyed for resource extraction. When all this happens then congratulations, they will have achieved their state’s rights, anti-federalist, anti-public land goals. And every one of us will be poorer, less free, and the greatness that was America, that everyone keeps talking about restoring, will be forever gone.

What You Can Do:

Sign a Petition:

You can also contact your local person of congressional persuasion and let them know you oppose the transfer of federally held lands to the states.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Monday Morning Coffee- Conservation Week Edition

Yyyyyerrrrggghttppppphhhhttt!!!! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat- it's Monday, and I have some things to share, so let's have some coffee shall we?

As the title implies, I have had some conservation issues on my mind of late, and I have a post coming out tomorrow on the issue of public lands, so please tune in to that if you can. I have also coordinated with several other blogs to do the same thing. Public access to public land and waters is important to all outdoor enthusiasts, to a major share of the American public as a matter of fact, but right now those lands and some fundamental American ideals are under threat. Tune in tomorrow to learn more. If I can I'll share a couple posts this week including info on what we all can do to protect our heritage.

It seems like I'm slowly but surely cracking the fishing code here in North Georgia. For most of the summer it has been far too hot to enjoy a lot of fishing, and we've experienced some fish kills as far as trout are concerned. A lot of the streams are far too warm to consider trout fishing, so I've largely left them alone. I had a day off last week, however, and went up and fished the Chattooga river for Bartram's and redeye bass.

Looking downstream

The Chattooga River is an un-dammed system that delineates the boundary between Georgia and South Carolina. A week ago we hiked into the Ellicott Wilderness to see Ellicott Rock which marks the meeting point of those two states plus North Carolina. I saw a lot of trout up there, but didn't bring a rod due to the length and difficulty of the trail. So on Thursday I drove up and stopped into the Chattooga River Fly Shop in what is a rather remote corner of South Carolina, bought some flies and got some advice. Then I drove into what is more or less a canyon to fish.

The fish weren't as aggressive as I would have expected but I still managed to land a couple dozen bass plus some redbreast sunfish. The water is crystal clear, and you're fishing rapids (they call them shoals here) and in and around waterfalls. The water, flies and conditions were a lot like fishing late summer brook trout, and the bass were similarly sized. I hooked up on a couple better fish that came unpinned, and even had a couple catfish have a look at my flies. It may not be trout fishing, but I'll take chasing native fish in pristine settings over stocked rainbows any day. The markings on these fish are absolutely beautiful and it is really cool adding new species to the personal list.

Then Sunday we floated the Chestatee River. We bought some twin hulled kayaks earlier this year that you can stand up and cast from. I spent a very pleasant long afternoon catching largemouth bass, sunfish and bluegills, and saw quite a few hybrid bass and stripers in the river. There were a ton of baitfish in the river and I'm sure the hybrids were after them, and the stripers are a summer run that should be ending any day now. Toward the end of the day I had a very large bass eat right in front of me and take me on a wild ride, but my tippet was a bit light and probably worn from all 'gills I had been catching. On his second run he broke me off. He was pushing 5 pounds.

Well, my coffee is gone and it's time to go to work. Let's get after it.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Monday Morning Coffee- July 25 2016

Yyyyyerrrrrgggggpppphhhhttttt!!! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat- It's Monday so let's have some coffee.

Well, I've been back from Labrador for a week now. It has taken this long to catch up on sleep, do my laundry, air out my car and collect my thoughts. I had a run-up post for the trip on Gink and Gasoline, and I'll be sharing a follow-up post there soon.

Suffice it to say that we caught fish there from the first few moments that we started fishing until the last moments of daylight of the last day. Our first fish was an Atlantic salmon that hit a dry fly, and my last fish was a fifteen inch brook trout that took a large mouse pattern tied by Zach Ginop. We caught fish all week long, and there were times we changed tactics in order to catch fewer, or bigger fish, or to target specific  species.

Due to the constraints imposed by such a trip my fishing was severely limited in the weeks leading up to it. I had too much work to do, too much to do at home. I was also on a tight budget and spent considerable time tying flies for the trip. The crazy part was that I actually had sufficient materials to tie everything from dries, to the streamers I needed for the trip. I'll probably do a post soon on the flies I tied for the trip, all of which caught fish at some point. You know you've bought too much tying materials when you can look at a pattern, walk upstairs, and find everything you need to tie a reasonable representation of the fly in question.

What is sad looking back, is the dearth of good photos from the trip. I didn't shoot nearly enough, and with Dave being on assignment, when we got a good fish I deferred to his need for photographs. We treated all of our fish with the utmost care, and when Dave did a photo session with a good fish I was reluctant to haul out a second camera and put a fish through another round of manipulation, dunkings and time in the net. I'm sure you'll be seeing a variety of shots from the trip through Dave's social media and published outlets.

So we went, we caught a ton of fish. We caught landlocked Atlantic salmon, Northern pike, brook trout, whitefish and lake trout. To be honest, the salmon were the most fun, the brook trout were the most challenging and the pike were the most plentiful. You could catch Atlantics by trailing a fly over the side of the boat, and catch pike by making a cast to the wrong spot. Brook trout took work and dedication. The Atikonak is a big river, a half mile wide where we were fishing, but we didn't really get into the trout until we got out of the boat and started tearing apart the water piece by piece, working the shoreline like a small stream, parsing it out until slowly the trout began to show themselves. We were also fighting exceptionally high water for the time of year.

a decent landlocked Atlantic. I could catch these all day long
The folks at Riverkeep Lodge were excellent- they overfed us hearty home-cooked meals and desserts each day. The guides were knowledgeable, and affable, the kind of guys you want to be with 100 miles from civilization, where anything can and does happen. We had thunderstorms blow up daily out of a clear blue sky, and one day lightening started a forest fire a few miles from camp. Luckily the wind was blowing away from us, and a couple days later a water bomber showed up, landed on the lake to fill up, then doused the fire in a few runs. It was quite a show.

Well, I don't know much else. Look for my follow up post on Gink and Gasoline. My coffee is done and it's time to go to work. Let's get after it. Here's a couple more photos for the road.

gateway to the backcountry

Dave with a decent pike. Note the look of astonishment

What we came for

landing a fish at sunset

Monday, May 23, 2016

Monday Morning Coffee- May 23 2016

Errrgggggppphhhhhttttt!!! Yawn, stretch, scratch, repeat. It's Monday so let's have some coffee.

It's crazy how fast time flies when you're busy, and crazier when I look at the blog and see it's been weeks since I posted. To be fair I have written several pieces for Gink and Gasoline (you can check them out here and here) and I'm working on more.

I also have started a new job and business opportunity, one which makes this Georgia move feel a little more sane, something that now feels sustainable and able to fuel other adventures and goals in life.

You may (or may not) notice I've removed the Jealousy Counter from the sidebar. It was how I tracked all those days I spent fishing while you were stuck at the office or in city traffic. Things down South are different- I don't cross half a dozen steelhead and trout streams every day to and from work, and don't have a trout stream five minutes from the house. So that's a downside, the fact that I have to work harder to get to fishing. The upside is the stunning mountain scenery I get to fish in, the beautiful mountain streams, many of which cascade endlessly down the rugged ravines, and the opportunity to explore a whole new region. The trade-off is less fishing, which made the Jealousy Counter a bit superfluous.

I still have yet to catch a bass down here, which is simply for lack of concerted effort. I've been informed that the striper run is on down here and we'll be going out after them soon. I also have an epic, EPIC brook trout adventure coming up, one I've been keeping under wraps, but I can tell you it doesn't involve small streams and six inch fish. Keep an eye out for it here over the next couple months.

I did get out with Marsha (my girlfriend) a couple weeks ago to hike in to a pretty little waterfall, and caught a few nice rainbows in the process, so I'll leave you with a couple pics from that trip. My coffee is done and it's time to go to work.

Let's get after it.