Wild and Free

We have been wild and free since we were boys. Being forced to grow up and lead adult lives hasn't tamed us in the least. In fact, I would wager our souls are even more rebellious now. We still need wild places. We still want to play in the water. We like to gather around a fire, and eat and laugh. We feel most comfortable sleeping outside. We chase after fish and beasts. We share in our successes, and our failures, both in life and the outside world, because, we are a Tribe.


It’s time to go creeking…. so get out there and immerse yourself in the wild! This is an old video I self filmed of one of my favorite spots. Unfortunately it was a little high and muddy, but that didn’t stop the fish from eating! Times have changed, and you’ll see the name of my first blog at the end, “Bowtimes”. It transitioned later to “sticknstring” and now carries the name “Tribe”. Life is constantly changing, but some things remain the same. That creek has been running over those rocks for hundreds of years. I have found indian arrowheads, and there are fish weirs still there. The creek gave life to many before me, and now when I step into it’s waters, it revives me as well. Hopefully, future generations will come after me, and immerse themselves in it’s beauty. Have a great day, and get out there!!

Ole Shoal Bandit

Ole Shoal Bandit

As I pulled up to the ramp, I was already grumbling.  I’m still getting used to seeing a lot of people while I’m fishing  in Columbia, SC.  Today would be no exception, as there were a half dozen trailers already at the ramp.  As I pushed my raft off of the trailer, I could feel eyes on me from up and down the bank.  It always amuses me at how curious people are about a raft and oars.  I looked up river, and saw the jon boats staggered up and down the tailrace.  I smiled quietly as I pushed off into the current and pulled on the oars.  I was going where all those boats couldn’t, and swinging flies to fish no one else could get to.  I’d have about two miles of shallow, rocky shoals all to myself.  That’s the advantage of a raft.  Shoutout to those who put up with me and mentored me through the process of learning to pilot a drift boat, because of you, I’ve learned enough to be dangerous.  

My flycraft raft…

As I made my way through the top of the shoals , I kept seeing large pushes of water as I passed over the shallow gravel bars.  I thought maybe I was spooking larger stripers.  I anchored just below a small ledge , stripped some line off of the reel, and began hucking a bulkhead deciever.  I worked it behind the ledge, across the current seams, and swung it through the soft water at the tail of the run.  As I was fishing , I noticed movement about 15 feet away.  A large carp crawled on top of a boulder pile and began digging in the rocks.  This must be what I was spooking.  The copper tail wagging just below the surface reminded me so much of a big redfish.  I cursed myself for not having any carp flies in my box, and vowed to correct that on my next trip.  I made a mental note of where I’d seen the fish and moved on.  I was after something else on this trip.  

Big carp were everywhere…

I guided the raft to an eddy below another ledge and dropped the anchor.  The water was slower here, as the ledge was much larger and spanned a 100 yards or so.  There were large boulders randomly placed throughout the pool, every one breaking the current and providing a potential lair for a striper.  I cast up and across, and let the current take the fly into the boulders. I stripped the fly hard, making it dart, and then just let it hang as it slowly and seductively walked across the face of a big rock. Just as it was sucked around the side of the rock, I saw a large flash and the fly disappeared. I stripped hard and set the hook, and the fish took off downstream rapping my knuckles badly with the reel handle. This is what I came for. The pure power of these fish in a river is unmatched in fresh water. My rod was nearly doubled as I pulled hard trying to stop him from going further downstream, praying nothing in my leader would fail. With the sinking line, I like a short leader in moving water, because it pulls the fly down more quickly. I was confident the 30# flouro was enough, my knots on the other hand, well, you never know. I finally subdued the fish, and it came to the net. Note to self, a 22” fish didn’t fit in my landing net very well. Sleek, thick, and glowing with silver, the fins were accented in purples and blues. The fish was built for power and speed. I was careful to take my time and fully revive this fish. As I was watching the water pulse through its gills I heard the sound of an outboard close by. I looked up to see a large jon boat approaching the next ledge directly below me. I finally released the fish and stood up in my raft, just in time to see this guy pull 60 yards below me, at my 12o’clock, and throw out an anchor. “Are you serious??!!!”, I screamed in my head. This was followed by a stream of anger driven thoughts that I have to say, in retrospect, I’m not very proud of. This low holing scum had, to say the least, unsettled me.

ole shoal bandit…

I pulled the anchor and set the raft in motion. Ole shoal bandit was busy casting and working the shoal, and didn't notice me until I slid up close to him. He flashed a big smile, threw his hand up and greeted me. I dropped anchor and grudgingly returned the greeting. He was a tanned, grizzly gray, older fella, with faded tattoos randomly scattered on both arms. He sat down, reached into a sack and pulled out a double cheeseburger. “You leave any down there?” I asked. “I got a few, but once the sun came out, I can’t seem to find them,” he replied, taking a big bite of his cheeseburger. There was a litany of older rods, outfitted with abu garcia style bait casters, and rigged with a variety of large plugs stacked in his boat. I also noticed that what I had thought was an propped tiller outboard, was actually a jet drive. “Do you fish here often?” I said. “Nearly thirty years now,” he replied showing that big smile again. I could feel my anger receding. I pressed on and revealed that this was only my second time here, and asked if the water level had much to do with whether or not the fish were turned on and feeding. He explained what he felt like the optimum level was, and went on to reveal that the fish moved a lot, and while there were spots that always held a few fish, you had to move around and find them. He gestured to my raft and said, “I bet you really get your exercise in that thing!” I laughed and agreed. “Well, enjoy your day, hope you find a big one,” I said, pulling on the anchor rope. “You too young man,” he replied, “Make sure you fish that creek mouth down on the left.”

Fooled by the bulkhead deceiver …

I drifted on down the river with a smile on my face, and my eyes peeled for that creek mouth. The anger in my heart had vanished. It was now replaced with a warmth, and mutual a respect you can only find by interacting with someone who fully understands why you’re out there. While I had been competitive and territorial, the old man had openly shared with me his knowledge of the river. I was more than a bit ashamed of the way I had I had acted. He had caught enough fish in his time, and knew that there was enough river, for both of us. I work hard to reach places others can’t or won’t go, and when I see someone, I always tend to get my feathers ruffled a bit. What if instead, we gave that quiet nod and warmly greeted each other in the field and on the water. What if we shared our knowledge, in hopes that the other guy, who had obviously worked hard to get here too, might have success as well. I spotted the small creek mouth and made my way over to it’s confluence with the main river. There was a large fallen tree just upstream that had a created a huge swirling eddy. My fly landed at the edge of the creek mouth, and I let it start to sink before giving it a quick, hard strip. The striped bass rocketed up from the bottom of the pool and crushed the fly. It was by far my biggest from this river, and my biggest on fly to date. It was a gift from ole shoal bandit, a member of the “Tribe”.

First Things First

A Saluda river striped bass...

I have a confession to make.  This is hard for me to say, so i'll spare everyone the suspense and get right to it.  I've fallen out of love.  I know.  What about all the years together?  What about all those special moments we have captured and made a part of who we are together?  To those questions I would say this, "You just aren't the same as you were when we first found each other." You just haven't, well, kept yourself up.  You seem to lack clarity at times, and you definitely aren't as sharp as you used to be.  Finally, and I know this is hard to hear, but, you've just gotten downright heavy. You are weighing me down, and holding me back. I'm sorry, but I'm  just not in love with you anymore.  

He inhaled a zonker tailed streamer...

Nikon D7100, I've found someone else.  Well, technically not yet, but I'm looking.  First things first,  and the jury is still out as to who will be your replacement.  Yea, I've got options.  I always have.  You'll find someone else, you're still young.  It won't likely be and river wading, long bow toting, woodsman like me, but you'll find someone.  

The above images were taken with my iPhone 8 plus.  The camera is by cell phone standards, pretty fantastic.  There are plenty of other players out there, no doubt.  The central theme here is this, I'm frankly tired of carrying around a 6 pound camera and lens on all of my adventures.  Constantly having to drag it out of some waterproof bag or container is a total pain and causes me to miss shots at times.  Leaving it siting on my boat bag, or slung around my neck while wading is just tempting fate.  I have found myself on trips with my friends, minding the camera far more than fishing.  There are times when thats ok with me.  Sometimes, I enjoy just capturing the moment instead of engaging in it.  Capturing moments that will live on even as memories begin to fade is part of what being a photographer is all about for me.  However, lately, as my boys have become more active, and I've taken to guiding them along as they explore different pursuits, dragging a full size dslr along has become, well, a drag.  So you may have noticed that the quality of the photos in my posts and on the web page have declined a bit as of late.  Maybe you didn't.  One thing is for sure, as I packed my backpack to go wading the other day, I looked at my nikon sitting safely in it's pelican case, still smeared with mud from the everglades and the savannah river, and I just turned and walked away.  I had some tippet, nippers, a fly box, and a bottle of gatorade in my bag, and right in the top zippered pocket, my iPhone.  I wanted to fish.  I needed to clear my head, and cool my feet.  I needed to do those things without adding weight to my shoulders, because believe me, like most fathers and husbands, my shoulders carry enough weight as it is.  

A fighter for his size...

As for the future, who knows what i'll decide.  There aren't any really great answers to my problem at the moment.  Another dslr, mirrorless, waterproof cameras, go pros ect.  They all have their strong points and weakness as it relates to being a piece of adventure equipment.  For now, I'm happy to utilize my iPhone when it suits my needs, it handles respectable quality photos and 4k video with ease.  It allows me to very quickly go from rowing the boat, to videoing a friend fighting his first trout without missing a step.  I guess i'll know what I'm looking for when I find it.  It's out there somewhere, i'm sure of it.  One day, I'll find the one that meets all of my needs.  Until then, i'll keep my iPhone handy, and my nikon in a dry box.  


Going Home

My eyes followed the tracks across the sand in a long straight line, where they disappeared into the brush of the small hammock in the marsh.  Sweat rolled down my back, and I wiped my brow in an attempt to defend myself against the oppressive heat.  Deer, coyotes, and raccoons all used this high area to cross the marsh and reach a series of small islands.  This sandy, raised area of the marsh wasn't covered with water during normal tides.  This made it more firm and easier to traverse as we made our way out to the edge of the flat.  My friend, Rich walker, tipped his water bottle allowing water to pour onto the back of his neck.  His back arched suddenly as the cold water sucker punched him, and momentarily stole his breath.  We stared out across the short grass, and I glanced at my watch.  We had about an hour and a half until high tide.  The lush, green, taller grass that snaked its way along the edge of the flat, concealed the small creek that would carry the water, giving the redfish access to an all you can eat buffet.  I checked my fly, inspected my loop knot, and shifted my weight impatiently.  I noticed then that the water was slowly creeping towards my feet, driven by the gravitational force of the moon.  Soon the water was calf deep, and I carefully watched every movement on it's surface, in hopes of seeing that first tail.  Anyone who has fished tailing fish knows one essential truth, they are consistently inconsistent.  We moved to our left around the front of one of the hammocks.  Here the creek swung within fifty yards of the small island.  Staring intently, Rich said, "This is where they will come up."  We moved slowly, stopping every few steps to scan the water.  Suddenly, Rich said, "There he is, right there!"  In one motion, he dropped his fly and flipped it two feet in front of the fish.  I saw him then as his back broke the surface, and the reflection of his tail painted the water with strokes of gold, turquoise, and copper.  Rich twitched the rabbit strip adorned fly and the fish charged, crushing it with a resounding "Pop!".  There was no need for a strip strike, as the fish instantly turned hard and streaked for the safety of deeper water.  After a hard fought few minutes, exhaustion and the warm water caused the fish to give in.  


"The orange glow in the water made me think he was bigger, but he's a solid fish," said Rich.  I examined the copper and gold scales extending along the spines of the fish's tail, each like gold bullion from a pirates treasure.  Rich held the fish carefully allowing him to gain his strength, and with a push of his big tail he was gone.  


I Hadn't fished a flood tide in 3 seasons.  As we walked, we discussed that fact, and surmised that fishing was actually not the main reason we were here.  "Just being here again, smelling the marsh, watching the fiddlers move in waves over the sand, feeling the soft tug of the mud on my boots, that's why I come," I remarked.  "Standing here, immersed in all of this, watching the smile on your face as you whispered to that fish, and he fell for it," I said, my voice hushed as if the fish might hear me. Stepping onto the sand, I turned to survey the flooded grass one more time, and concluded, "It's like coming home."

Check Your Fly


Check Your Fly

I was like a kid in a candy store, frantically looking about at all the delicious varieties and flavors that surrounded me.  Longing to taste every single one, and knowing, at least on this trip, that it was impossible.  Yet my heart just wouldn't accept what my head already new.  I was going have to make some tough choices, and leave some of those delicious treats behind for another time.  There was just simply no way we could taste every current seam, sample every pool, or partake of all of the tempting piles of boulders strewn throughout the river.  My companion  for this adventure, my long time fishing partner of some 30 years now, Nate, was equally distracted.  We had about 6 miles of river neither of us had ever seen before.  Our hopes were further elevated by the knowledge that it contained both smallmouth and striped bass.  Nate had never caught either of these on fly, and he was determined to get one or the other, or maybe both.  

After the first 100 yards or so, we began to settle into a rhythm.  My focus narrowed as I picked a line that put Nate in casting range of where I thought the fish should be.  It was on a backhand cast behind a small pile of rocks that the first fish struck.  I saw him move from behind the rocks in the broken current and inhale the black sculpin streamer.  Nate set the hook and the fish went wild with end over end jumps and spit the fly back at the boat.  We laughed loudly.  The day held nothing but promise, and we had miles to go.  

On the next fish, Nate stayed connected and he landed his first ever smallmouth on fly.  He commented that he couldn't believe how strong they were for there size.  We shook hands and smiled.  Those smiles reflected years of crawdad fishing with hotdogs, lazy days floating creeks for redbreasts,  and late evenings on too many ponds to remember.  Over the last 30 years, I had been there for his first redfish on fly, his first snook in the everglades, and now his first smallmouth bass.  I was so busy basking in the glow of our success, that I failed to check the fly before we continued down the river.  

The sink tip, although rather horrible to cast, was doing well at keeping the rabbit and deer hair sculpin down in the water column.  Occasionally we would snag a boulder or submerged log, but that only told me the fly was in the zone.  As Nate erratically stripped the fly along a current seam next to a swirling eddy,  a nice chunky fish rolled on the fly and with a single jump came unhooked.  I stood and announced that it was my turn to show him how its done.  We swapped places and floated on down a small piece of good looking water.  I fished on a bit without any luck when suddenly a fish darted from cover in some push water above a ledge in the river.  I set the hook and after a brief fight he was off.  

We swapped again as we were approaching a little more technical water that Nate wasn't yet comfortable rowing.  I dropped the boat down throw a small chute and then began ferrying us across the shoal as Nate stripped and swung the fly through likely haunts.  I looked away for a moment downstream to assess our drift, and suddenly heard a large splash.  I snapped my head around just in time to see the bass, a solid chunk of bronze in the 3 to 4 pound class, breach the waters surface again.  The fish turned and tried to go under the boat, but Nate held her off.  She then drove herself back towards the boulders from where she had come.  Nate was holding on tight and trying his best to put just enough pressure on her to keep her out of there.  Suddenly the fly snapped out of the water and his rod went straight.  Nate sunk into his seat shoulders slumped.  After a quiet moment, and without looking at me he said, "That was a big girl."  It was only then that I asked to see the fly, and as I looked the hook over my heart sunk.  The hook tip was bent and mashed, and about as sharp as a spoon.  

I changed the fly to something similar, but tied with lead eyes in more of a slider pattern.  This allowed the hook to ride up, and would hopefully help keep the hook point nice and sticky.  I tried to encourage Nate, but I could tell it had little effect.  He was crushed, and I felt like I had failed him.  We passed under a bridge and before I could speak my thoughts out loud Nate was already dropping the fly into the swirly water below the bridge piling.  Nate stripped hard as he snatched the rod to his side.  It was a nice 15 inch fish, and he quickly came to the net.  He picked the fly up and rolled it right back along the same line.  This time the fish hooked itself as it turned hard on the fly when it swung downstream.  I lost count of how many times the fish jumped.  We never said a word during the entire fight.  Nate just kept tight to the fish and let the rod do the work.  As the fish slid into the net we erupted with excitement.  Fist pumps and high fives all around.  The fish wasn't the monster we had lost, but she was certainly a fine representation.  After a few photos we released her.  I surveyed ahead for our next drift, and as I reached for the anchor I paused and said, "Lemme see that fly!"  



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The past few months have been absolute chaos.  I got a phone call a few months back that has literally changed the course of my families life.  In a whirlwind of events, we are picking up and moving to Columbia, SC.  I've taken a new job at a hospital there.  It means a better schedule, a 20 minute commute, and more time with my family.  We have been busting it getting the house ready to sell, and sell it did.  In one day.  That leaves us with just a few weeks to pack and scrambling to find a new place to live.  We are so excited for our new adventure.  We are so blessed for the opportunity God has provided.  There are lots of changes ahead for all of us.  New job, new home, new church, new schools.  New water.  Yesterday, in light of the all of the stress, I decided at the last minute to get a jump on the latter.  

After a quick exchange of texts early Saturday morning, my good friend Rich Walker and I had a plan.  I walked into he garage to get my drift boat ready, and it was filled with gear bags from cleaning out closets to show the house.  A stark reminder of the last weeks heroic effort just prior to our house going on the market.  No matter, I set the them out, grabbed my rods off the rack, and hooked the boat to my truck.  I hugged the boys and my wife and headed up the road.  I checked the weather as I gassed up the truck.  Zero chance of rain and a high of 85 degrees.  You can't really ask for more in August in the South.  Rich and I met up at the agreed upon location.  We chatted a few minutes while we slid my drift boat into the bed of his truck.  This would save us time later as my truck and trailer would be waiting at the take out.  As we rigged a few rods, we both agreed that river was in great shape.  Good flows with a deep emerald green color.  

As we stood in the shallow water arranging our gear in the boat and getting ready to shove out into the current, Rich was pointed out the large school of minnows swirling around in the shallows of the sand bar.  Right before our eyes a green and black torpedo rocketed from the depths and exploded into inches of water.   Minnows sprayed in every direction like sailors abandoning a torpedoed war ship.  Rich turned to me and said, "I'll take that as a sign."  He then reached into his bag and produced a handful of baitfish patterns tied by our good friend Mike Rice.  Mike is a north east striper nut, and his baitfish patterns are amazing.  Shameless plug, check out all of Mikes creations HERE .  Rich tied on a mostly white pattern with hints of chartreuse and blue in the body.  It had a heavy epoxy head which gave it a nice slow sink.  I pushed us out into the current and Rich began throwing to current seams and eddies among the rocks littered across the river.  We hadn't made 50 yards and the first fish swatted the fly but missed.  The next fish hammered it and broke Rich off.  We laughed it off and I reached for some heavier flouro, cut his leader back and tied on some new twelve pound tippet.  No more messing around.  We made our way on down a stretch and I dropped the anchor below a ledge.  A few more fish had struck at the fly but they just weren't committing.  I handed Rich a rod with a black deer hair and rabbit sculpin pattern tied on.  I hadn't even gotten the other rod stowed, and Rich was hooked up.  

There's just something about smallmouth.  It doesn't matter how big they are, they are all mean.  Sporting glaring red eyes and black warpaint, there is no question that they are killers out for blood.  The day was filled with good numbers of fish in the same size range.  One fish barely budged when Rich struck hard as the sculpin drifted along a current seam.  After a few seconds, the hook pulled free and we both knew it had been a much larger fish.  The afternoon turned scorching hot.  We stopped and bailed out of the boat into the river.  Rich was propped up with a cold drink, and mostly submerged in the water.  As I walked back over from fishing a nearby pool he said, "This doesn't suck."  I was inclined to agree.  Rich recounted stories of when his son, Ian, was younger, and how he had loved to wade the shallow pools and sight fish to cruising bass.  I smiled at the though of bringing my own young boys here, and the adventures I had in store for them.  Refreshed, we pressed on into the evening.  The shadows were getting longer and shade had begun to fall onto the water.  We had gone an hour or more without a fish.  I cut the sculpin off and I tied on a big rubber legged gurgler.  It was top water time.  Now or never.  Rich was ferrying me across a shoal when i saw a fish blast out of the water after something.  I made a long cast, twitched the fly once, and the fish erupted from the water inhaling the fly.  

And just like that, we were into another flurry of fish.  That's why I love fly fishing so dearly, because just as in life, there's no way of  knowing what'll happen next.  You just have to keep the boat headed downstream, try and and avoid the big rocks, and keep casting.  That's exactly what I intend to do.  

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The Gill Tickler

I hope you enjoy this tutorial on "The Gill Tickler".  There are many similar flies out there and I don't pretend to be the first one to tie one like it.  This is my version.  There are a couple of tips i'll share here just in case you didn't catch them in the video.  The first is to cover your thread with dubbing when wrapping in the tail.  This will help grip it and keep your thread from cutting it.  The second is to make sure you bring along a good set of forceps when you fish this fly, it isn't called "The Gill Tickler" for nothin'.


Hard Time

Winter comes late in South Carolina.  We often enjoy very mild weather all the way through Christmas.  January, February, and March are the really tough months.  It's this time of the year that our cold really sets in.  During this time, there isn't much to do in the way of fishing where I live.  Deer season is also over at this point.  So with the fly rod and my longbow on the rack, the suffering begins.  I go through it every year.  I try to keep myself busy.  I tie flies, play with my watercolors, fletch arrows, and generally find anything I can to keep my mind preoccupied.  As March approaches things begin to warm a bit, but it's total deception.  The warm sun signals my brain to begin thinking about visiting my local waters.  The stream temps tell me I'm being lied to.  The water and the fish are still cold and sluggish.  So I trudge on into April.  At this point, there are still periodic cold snaps.  The water, however, has generally reached the 60's by the end of the month.  I've never been much of turkey hunter.  The problem for me is the fishing begins to get really good at the same time.    It's usually around this time that I simply cannot stand it any longer, and the first trip of the year is planned.

Looking out across the vast barren wasteland of winter, the first trip of the year appears as mirage on the distant horizon.  Blue waters, warm sun, and green budding trees shimmer, always just beyond my reach.  I backed the drift boat up to the edge of the river bluff on a narrow dirt road deep in the forrest.  We got out and stood for a moment, studying the water, smelling the woods, and assimilating to our new environment.  Our jackets, like the baying of bloodhounds after escaped prisoners, reminded us that winter was still close by.  The babbling river beckoned us onward, and we shoved off in search of salvation.  

I pushed on the oars lazily, and Rich tossed a fly around the sunken logs and rocks along the way. The key to spring fishing is correctly interpreting the signs.  It didn't take long to figure out we weren't doing something quite right.  I opened my fly box and perused its contents.  I knew we needed something with good action and a slow sink rate.  The fish often aren't overly aggressive during this period.  So a fly that wiggles as it falls between slow strips is ideal.  I picked out a fly I call "The Gill Tickler", and handed it to Rich.  It was composed of bead chain eyes attached to a size 6 hook.  The tail was a tentacle from a koosh ball kids toy.  The body was a peacock ice dubbing finished off with a soft hackle collar.   It had been deadly all last season.  On the first cast , Rich let the fly sink, made a slow strip, and that's when I saw the tip of his fly line dart under the surface.  He struck quickly, arcing the rod above his head.  While the fish may have still been on the cool side, he made a strong effort to bury himself in a nearby blowdown.  After a short, but hard fought battle on his glass 3wt, Rich lifted the fish into the boat.

The turquoise sky, orange and yellow sun, and the greens of spring were painted all over that redbreast.  Tucker gave approval with a gentle nuzzle, I took a few photographs, and we returned him home.  The day was warming, and we periodically stopped to wade a bit.  The fishing was slow overall, but as we drifted on, we certainly picked up our fair share.  

The Gill Tickler

The Gill Tickler

As we neared the end of our float, the warmth of the afternoon slowly slipping away, we were content to enjoy the spring woods and each others company.  After what had been a great start to our spring season, we were already planning future outings.  Winter had mistakenly left our cell unlocked, and we had bolted through the door.  

It ain't about the fish...

I pulled into the driveway and shut off the truck.  Two bouncing boys emerged from the garage and would scarcely let me open the door for their excitement to see me.  We hugged and talked about their day, what they had learned, what they did at school, and what they were drawing on the driveway with their chalk.  I greeted my wife and she whispered in my ear "I'm glad you're going.  You need it."  

I put the finishing touches on my already packed truck, and waited on my good buddy Nate to arrive.  It had been a long week.  Heck, it had been a long month.  It had rained earlier in the week causing river levels to rise and the water to muddy.  It was late April, so I knew we were pushing the warm water bite a bit anyway.  I didn't care.  I didn't care one bit.  I was going fishing, but it wasn't fish I was after.  

Nate pulled up, and we quickly transferred his gear to my truck for the ride up to camp.  Our mutual friend Rich Walker was already waiting on us, sprawled in the shade in a camp chair, with his ever faithful blue heeler Tucker.  This weekend, Rich planned to show us his old stomping grounds.  A series of small rivers in the upstate of South Carolina.  I said good bye to the boys , bribing quivering lips with promises of a surprise if their momma said they were good.  I always get a hollow ache when I leave them behind.  Out on the road, Nate and I blew the first hour up with work, politics, and family life.  Once the pressure valve had been opened, we relaxed, and the conversation turned to fly rods and stick bows.  

We pulled in to camp to find Rich and Tucker right where they had been hours earlier.  We exchanged greetings as we pitched our camps and surveyed our surroundings.  We filled our tumblers with cold drinks and set about the task of checking the river flows, starting a fire, and planning tomorrows adventure.  We talked into the night about this trip, trips gone by, and trips we still hadn't taken yet.  

We stood on the bridge over the river the next morning weighing our options.  The water was a little high and off color, but it was definitely doable.  The fish would be holding along the banks behind anything that created a current break.  We eased into the water and waded downstream a bit.  We brandished glass 4wt's like gunslingers looking for a fight in some dusty, lost town.  The sound of line being stripped off of a click pawl ended my day dream, and I turned to watch Nate start picking apart the bank with foam dry.  It didn't take long and Nate was hooked up with a nice little redbreast.  Tucker came over to have a look and give final approval.  I noticed then that he was struggling a bit.  The water was high and it was difficult to navigate for the ole fella.  I turned and looked at Rich and caught the frown that flashed across his face.  The truth was Tucker was getting on up there, but what he lacked in youth, he more than made up for in heart.  

We discussed it quickly and decided to go upstream, where Tucker might find better footing.  We took turns fishing the holes and helping Tucker along the way.  He was after all, one of US.  He had been an integral part of every trip we have made for as far back as I can remember.  We would never leave a man, nor a skiff dog, behind.  

We fished on through the day, and despite the conditions, managed to bring quite a mess of fish to hand.  We rambled through the woods like we did in our youth, stopping to fish the good spots, checking out the deer trails, and playing with our dog.  The highlight of the day, the slump buster if you will, was Rich finding large bass in a shallow feeder creek.  Nate and I watched quietly from across the creek as Rich and Tucker worked to fool the wary bass.  Rich delivered the fly, stripped once, and his rod bowed deeply.  We all cheered loudly, as every fish was a notch in all of our belts.  

Back in camp that night, Nate seared hand cut ribeye steaks, I cut home fries, and Rich poured a fresh round.  We recounted the day as we prepared our meal.  Tucker lay quietly on his pad, eyes closed, sleeping soundly.  Our little camp hummed with sound of content fisherman.  We ate like kings and settled into our chairs in front of the evening fire.  We all knew the fishing had been a little off.  We all knew that we were a little early for the really good redbreast fishing.  Most importantly, we all knew that none of this was about the fish.  

Down And Dirty

As I sit here staring at the screen trying to conjure up another blog post, I have to admit that my life has become increasingly complex.  My 40th is birthday is looming weeks away, and I'm in full on child raising, middle aged family man mode.  Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad thing.  I love this stage of my life with all it's highs and lows, and there are plenty of both.  What it has caused me to do is reprioritize in many areas.  One of those areas is my fly tying.  I no longer have hours to sit at the vise watching videos and dreaming up new creations.  Most of the time, if I can make it to my desk at all, I have about 15-20 minutes before two handsome boys are arguing over whose turn it is to sit in my lap and help me tie flies.  I wouldn't trade it for anything.  What this phase of life really boils down to from a fly tying standpoint, is that I have to work quickly to bang out a handful of simple, effective patterns.  My time at the vise is limited, and my time on the water even more so.  This has driven me to focus on time tested patterns developed by master craftsman.  I need flies with no more than three materials that are quick to tie, and slay fish.  When considering some of the most effective patterns ever developed, there is no argument that the clouser minnow is certainly at the top of the list.  The clouser minnow, by all accounts, probably has more species of fish to its name that any other pattern.  My purpose here, however, isn't to start a debate.  My purpose is to arm you with some down and dirty tips for tying the clouser minnow.  Both Bob Clouser, and good friend Lefty Kreh, have some subtle slight of hand that not only makes the fly faster and easier to tie, it gives the fly the action and profile that make it so deadly. 

The clouser was originally developed as a smallmouth bass pattern.  Bob Clouser needed a fly that would get down to the fish, and have a darting erratic action.  Before painted dumbbell eyes were available, a split shot was placed on the leader, or pinched directly to the shank of the hook.  One of the most important aspects of tying the clouser is placing your dumbell eyes 1/3 of the way back on the hook shank.  This allows the fly to swim the way it was designed, as well as allowing the for a nice tapered head.  Seat your eyes firmly with cross wraps, and apply glue to your wraps to lock it all in.  

Hair selection is vitally important on two fronts.  The first is selecting the right type of hair from your buck tail.  The hair in the first photo is from the base of the tail.  This is NOT the hair you want.  The hair at the base of a buck tail is more course and hollow.  This causes it to be more stiff, thereby reducing the action of the fly.  It also flares horribly, disrupting the intended profile of the fly.  The hair halfway down the sides, and near the tip of the tail, is more fine and much softer.  This gives the fly great movement as the angler strips the fly through the water.  


The next step is to select the proper amount of hair for the bottom wing.  Remember, less is more here.  The consensus is about half the thickness of a pencil.  Once cut, hold the fibers 2/3 of the way back from the base, squeezing them firmly.

Gently pull the shorter fibers and fluff from the hair bundle.  This is critical to both the profile of the fly, as well as a clean tapered head.  

Measure your buck tail against the length of the shank.  Bob and Lefty both agree on two to two and a half times the length of the shank. 

Next, squeeze the bundle into a more oval shape, and trim back on angle.  This provides for a nice taper once you start to cover the hair with thread wraps.  

Before tying in the wing, Lefty Kreh dabs the butt ends with glue.  This is a step Bob Clouser omits.  I'd have to agree with Lefty on this one.  In my opinion, the glue really helps make the fly ultra durable.  

Tying buck tail down neatly can be a real struggle.  Bob offers a tip here that has revolutionized my clousers.  He takes two loose wraps to gather the hair, and then pulls straight up with thread tightly to seat it firmly in place.  This is hard to demonstrate and photograph by yourself.  However, you can see how neatly the hair is tied in here.  Also, notice how it tapers toward the hook eye.

When you cover everything with thread wraps it creates a nice slender cone.  Remember to use firm pressure here, but don't pull so hard as to flare the hair.  The idea is to create a nice vertical profile with the wings to give the illusion of a baitfish.  

This next tip is vital to that aspect of the fly.  After moving your thread behind the eyes, take a few firm wraps while holding slight upward pressure with the hair pinched between your fingers.  

Make open spiral wraps, stopping short of the bend of the hook, and then wrap back forward in front of the eyes.  You can see in this picture how the buck tail is fanned vertically, and all of the hair is on top of the shank.  

Rotate or invert the fly in your vise, and repeat the same steps as described before.  

You'll notice I added some flash to the fly.  I didn't describe this step as my intent here isn't a "How To" article.  There are lots of videos out there on how to tie a clouser.   The point i'm trying to drive home is that there are specific techniques that won't be found in much of the information you will find.  Again, notice in this photo how all of the tips I have described have culminated in a nice vertical profile, and tapered head.  Build up a nice tapered head to your liking and then whip finish or throw in a couple of half hitches.  

Apply Salley Hansens along the bottom of the hook shank, over the eyes, and then to the head of the fly.  Rotate the fly slowly for 20-30 seconds to even out the glue as it cures.  

The finished fly is sparse, has a nice vertical profile, and looks great.  That's really an important note.  A fly that has a nice, clean, fishy look inspires confidence.  If you have confidence in your fly, you stay sharp, and you fish better.  It's a simple fact.  

Something you will often see both Bob and Lefty do is run a fly through their mouth to wet it out and expose its true profile.  This is a size 2 clouser I have tied and in my opinion has a great minnow profile.  I will readily admit many of my attempts at clousers over the years haven't turned out nearly as well.  That was mostly because I didn't really understand the design of the fly.  Furthermore, I didn't know any of these tips.  It's amazing to me how many of these new patterns are nothing more than material on a hook.  It may look good.  It may even catch some fish, but when you listen to someone like Bob Clouser describe how his fly was developed, you begin to understand that every little step plays a very important roll in the design and functionality of the fly.  It's track record is indisputable.  I have personally caught smallmouth on this color combination, and tied a purple and black version that redfish can't resist.  By varying the weight, and color combination, you can tie a fly that you can fish in almost any situation.  For a busy man like myself that's a winner all day.  Thank you, Bob Clouser, for sharing your Clouser Minnow.  

The Venerable Redbreast



1. worthy of respect or reverence, as because of great age, high office, or noble character.


The Redbreast sunfish may be the very first fish that I caught on fly.  In fact, I'm quite sure of it.  In my early years of fly fishing, I saved up my lawn cutting money and purchased a pflueger purist 4wt.  I was learning alongside my father who had become smitten with Appalachian blue lines.  We made trips up as often as we could.  However, my first fish wasn't one of those native rainbows or brook trout.  It would be years before I got my first trout on fly.  Even though trout weren't exactly the most accessible fish to me during that time in my life, I was completely enamored with moving water.  In my home town, the Savannah river spilled over 6.5 miles of rocky shoal water that reminded me of mountain streams.  My friends and I spent our summers along its banks, swimming and drifting worms under corks.  Redbreasts were eager opportunists in those days,  though I confess I did not appreciate them the way I do now.  

The redbreast sunfish was plentiful in my home waters.  They inhabited beautiful blue green pools between the rock ledges of the river.  Standing on the rocks and letting a black or olive wooly bugger swing through a likely hole was almost certain to produce a vicious take.  The hand sized redbreast was no slouch on a 4wt in the current.  Today, I think this is one of the things I appreciate about him most.  While many other panfish prefer the still waters of a pond or very slow moving water at best, the redbreast prefers faster water.  He hides among the rocks over a gravel or sand bottom, and feeds on anything that comes his way.  

The redbreast wears the colors of royalty.  Woven of deep olive, turqoise, and orange so bright it rivals the sun, it's difficult to understand how he conceals himself so well. Among the ranks of the panfish family he commands a high position.  His history, standing, and noble character, demand respect.  He is the crown jewel of creeks and rivers across the south.  The redbreast eats the fly the way a fish should, with reckless abandon.  However, there are times when he may reject your fly as if it were beneath his station.  He is truly a treasure anywhere he is found.  

Today, I would have to say that the redbreast is by far my favorite fish for all of the reasons I have described.  However, today, I admire him for a much different reason.  I often invite close friends to my secret stretches of water where he is found.  What they discover, as they bring that first fish to hand, is the key to a vault filled with memories of years gone by.  As the water swirls around their legs in the fading afternoon light, time reverses it's course.  Wrinkled brows begin to smooth, and smiles return to weary faces.  It's here that they find themselves completely at ease.  It's a visible transformation of the angler's soul, that lasts for days.  It is for this, that we bow our heads to the venerable redbreast.   




The Beginning of the End

We pulled into Flamingo and made a few loops through the campground trying to decide on a good campsite.  It had been a long day in the truck and we were eager to pitch camp and relax.  We got setup, cracked a cold beverage and started going through the boat and getting things ready for the next day.  We spread the map out across the hood of the truck looking over the marked areas that several friends and generous folks had given us to check out.  Not spots mind you, but areas.  We didn't want charity, we just wanted an opportunity to figure this out.  

About a year prior a good friend, Rich Walker, had invited me to go with him and chase some redfish on his skiff.  It was 2009 and I had just graduated from Nurse Anesthetist school.  I had always fly fished , but mostly creek and pond fishing for bluegills and bass with a little trout mixed in.  I knew absolutely nothing about saltwater fly fishing and less about redfish.  I'd been catching bass for a while and having caught a few redfish on spin tackle I was eager to give it a shot.  I caught my first redfish that trip on a tan over white Ep minnow I had tied for a finger mullet imitation. I stood on the bow of a poling skiff for the first time.  I saw fish pushing and busting shrimp for the first time.  For the first time, I was introduced to the world of sight fishing with a fly rod.  

I spent all of 2009-2011 improving my casting, learning to pole a skiff, and chasing redfish with Rich as often as I could.  Be it low tides or in the grass I just simply couldn't get enough.  It was sometime around then that Rich suggested that I should come down to the everglades in late winter and try my hand at snook and tarpon.  He explained that he and good friend Capt. Jack Brown from Lady's Island, Sc, went on this adventure every year.  There was only one problem.  I needed a partner and a skiff.  I knew just the person.  Nate Hexamer had been one of my best friends since the 6th grade and we had grown up crawling through creeks and fishing any pond we could get access to.  Nate was always up for an adventure.  He also had a fifteen foot war eagle jon boat with a 25hp yamaha on it.  I spoke to Rich and he assured me that would be just fine for the glades.  I was going to bring along my fly rod, but we planned to fish conventional gear for the most part as Nate didn't fly fish and his boat sported a trolling motor instead of a push pole.    

Our first morning, as we watched all of the technical skiffs and flats boats launching at the ramp, we took our place in line making the run down buttonwood canal and out to coot bay.  We were wide eyed.  It was truly the most amazing place either of us had ever been.  We pulled up on our first spot and started working down the bank.  I was walking a bone colored zara spook along some drift wood in the water when suddenly the water imploded right behind the plug.  I paused and then resumed walking the spook and again someone threw a cinder block in the water next to my bait tossing it from the waters surface into the air.  I reeled in the bait and made another cast along the downed tree and before I had twitched the bait twice another explosion ensued and my rod was doubled.  The fish pulled hard and then breached the surface turning end over end shaking its big mouth trying to get free of the hooks.  

That was the first snook I had ever caught.  The sound a snook makes when sucking a bait down from the surface is very unique.  Even when you hear it from deep within the mangroves its unmistakable. I can still remember every detail six years later.  We went on to catch redfish, trout, and even saw some tarpon.  We fished hard.  We wanted to see it all so badly, but it was so big.  It was the most grand adventure we had been on in our lives.  Unfortunately it was cut a day short by a learning experience that took place on a very famous flat known as Snake Bight.  That's a story for another time.  The most monumental event that took place on that trip changed Nate's life forever.  This was the trip that nate would lose his life.  Well, maybe not his life, most definitely his soul.  

We stopped between some islands in whitewater bay.  There was a deep channel with shallow flats on each side and we were out of the wind.  I took this opportunity to get out my fly rod.  The lady fish were everywhere as were the trout and I was dying to try to catch something on fly.  I started chugging a small white popper over the deeper channel and out of nowhere small jacks began packing up like wolves and trying to destroy the fly.  I cast again and again stripping that popper as fast I knew how and hooking fish after fish.  Before long I noticed nate had stopped fishing and was just watching me.  I turned extending the fly rod to him and said, "Do you wanna give it a shot man?" With a big grin across his face he reached for the rod and said, "Give me that damn thing!"

Nate with his first fish on fly....


What's Your Intention?

I had stolen away to my fly tying desk upstairs for a few minutes of uninterrupted tying time.  I had just started the thread on my hook when I heard the door open at the bottom of the stairs.  I smiled as I heard the thump of little feet making their way up steps to large for little legs.  In a moment my youngest son, Cade, was standing next to me eyeing all of the materials and fascinating things on my tying desk.  "Daddy I wanna sit in yo wap.", came a small voice.  I heaved him into my lap abandoning any hope of completing any flies for my box.  We began examining every material and letting him hold them one by one.  I tickled his nose with some hackle and he laughed loudly crinkling his little face.  My brief window to tie flies was gone and it was time to go downstairs and help get supper started.  

As I stirred the spaghetti sauce and listened to my boys playing in the other room a feeling of guilt crept into my heart.  Not because I hadn't taken the moment to spend with my three year old at my tying desk.  Not because I don't get enough quality time with my children or my wife.  I felt guilty because I was frustrated.  I was frustrated that I hadn't gotten those flies tied.  I was frustrated because while I spent time at soccer games and music programs, I rarely if ever had the time to spend fishing for myself.  Truth be told, when I did I felt guilty about that as well.  I felt like I was being selfish.  I felt like there must be something wrong with me for feeling this way.  I should enjoy every moment of those times and never wish them to end, right?  Was I a bad person, father, husband for feeling this way?

The struggle is real.  The truth is that most dads feel this way.  Most dads manage a precarious balancing act whereby they struggle to make sure everyone gets the time they need.  Often, however, this is done at the expense of the one who needs it most. Dad.  Here are a few things to think about as you continue on your journey as a father, husband, or any other role you play in your family.  

First, you aren't alone.  All of us at one time or another get annoyed with life's busy hectic pace.  We work long hours.  Some of us commute.  There are a million things to go to and or get done and there is never enough time, and when there is time you feel like you owe it your family and or children.  Dads wear a lot of hats.  We have a lot of responsibilities.  Its easy to get mired down in that and allow yourself to become isolated from everything else.  Don't.  Reach out to some other guys you know.  Talk to them about how you feel.  Better yet, grab a corner at a fly shop or in someones garage one night of the month for fly tying and beers.  It's a great opportunity to be intentional about getting your box filled, meet some new friends, and share your experiences.  It'll give you a support group of sorts thats will remind you there is life outside of the grind.  

Second, quality beats quantity.  Your kids and spouse would much rather have your undivided attention for an hour, than half of your attention for a day.  Be intentional about spending time with them.  A good friend of mine told me that he tries to do something with his wife and each of his kids each week that will allow them to feel like he's engaged in their lives.  Whether you take your wife for coffee, or sit at the table and color with your child, make sure that time is focused on them.  Not answering your phone, not scrolling through social media, not texting your buddies.   Give them the time they need.  Give them the time the deserve.  

Finally, its ok to take time for yourself.  If you don't take time out for yourself to keep your head straight, you won't be any good to your spouse or children.  Sometimes your focus needs to be on you.  This may not mean a week in the everglades.  Often for me it means a few afternoon or evening hours spent standing in my local creek.  I go down there and stand in the water and wave a stick and string around.  The fish aren't huge but they make up of their size with their vicious takes.  For just a few hours I leave all of the other stuff behind and I focus on me.  When I return home there's usually a smile on my face, my head is clear, and Im ready to be engaged once again.  One note here.  Keep in mind that you aren't the only one who struggles to keep their wits during the weekly rat race.  I promise you that your spouse gets tired of it too.  Give her the same opportunity for a break you give yourself.  Let her go shop by herself.  Let her go to the gym if thats her thing.  Let her go to the movies with some friends ( remember that tying night?).  Odds are if you take an interest in helping her help herself, she will do the same for you.

You might notice that what I haven't said in this article is that any of this will be easy.  It takes planning and preparation.  It takes everyone working together.  I can't stress how important it is to be as intentional about spending time for yourself as you are about spending it with your family.  Life these days is so incredibly busy.  With information technology at our finger tips, our pace seems to only get faster and faster.  Instead of focusing on trying to get everything accomplished, try focusing on what is most important.  Try focusing on finding balance, and that balance must include finding time for yourself.  




Street Cred

I didn't write much this fall.  Actually, I didn't write at all. After my late July smallmouth trip on the savannah river, I got busy finishing preparations for my 2016 deer season.  Looking back on the season now and the big swath of time missing from blog, I've spent all season considering what happened.  Why didn't I write?  I remember at different points during my hunting that things were just tough.  Dog tough.  Everything started off great.  I did my homework.  There were lots of deer around.  Heck, even a few decent little bucks.  After last years stellar season things appeared to be shaping up for another barn burner.  Opening afternoon of the 2016 SC Archery season found me perched in a white oak on the edge of an old growth hardwood drain.  There were already acorns on the ground.  After an hour or so, I noticed ripples spreading through the water in the little creek below me.  I instantly rose and slowly reached for my recurve.  Before I had wrapped my fingers around the string good eight does had filed outta the pines and crossed the creek to surround me.  The largest doe had been in the lead and she was now broadside at 12 yards slightly quartering away.  I did a quick scan of the other feeding does and slowly drew.  My index finger found its home below my cheek bone and I slowly pulled my back shoulder into positioning feeling the tension across my back.  The arrow passed through her like she was merely an apparition.  The big doe bolted 40 yards and stopped looking about in a panic.  A dark wine stain flowed from her side and in a moment she took off down the drain at a run.  I heard her crash in the tangle below.  I remember now shaking a bit as I always do.  I remember mentally patting myself on the back for the hard work and time spent scouting.  I remember as I skinned and quartered her congratulating myself for another public land deer taken with traditional gear.  

I told myself then that I wasn't going to shoot another doe.  No sir.  I wasn't even going to buy a doe tag.  I was going to stay tight to the action and wait on a buck.  I was going to be selective and patient.  

I spent october and november hunting hard.  It was hot.  Really hot.  I passed the time watching buck after buck drop on social media.  Guys I knew were killing bucks or at least getting shots at them.  I stepped up my game and began running trail cameras and searching out fresh sign.  I found great areas with lots of fresh scapes and rubs.  My cameras only showed midnight pictures. Hunt after hunt went by without seeing a deer.  I finally backtracked all the sign to a funnel coming out of a thick swamp.  I setup on the main trail one evening with an iffy wind and a less than stellar stand setup.  It cost me.  A big bodied six point came running down the trail obviously looking for does.  He got to twenty yards and slammed on the brakes skidding to a halt.  He stood there a moment assessing the threat and bolted back the way he had come.  


I think that was the tipping point for me.  I kept hunting well into December but my heart just wasn't in it.  The area I hunted had filled with rifle hunters and the pressure compared to the previous year was at least double.  

It has taken me all season to flesh out the reason I haven't written about any of this until now.  The truth is, I wrote the season off as a loss.  I somehow decided that because I didn't drop ole mossy I just simply didn't have anything worth writing about.  That is a flat out lie.  The reality is I had a fantastic season and it had nothing to do with my perceived success or failure.  I allowed myself to believe that if I wasn't dropping a giant on public land with traditional tackle, then I  simply couldn't be validated as a trad hunter.  I had no social media street cred.  I didn't have what it took to be one of the elites if I wasn't on instagram with my hands wrapped around a set of giant bases.  I didn't have a story to tell.  I'm more than a little ashamed of myself for falling into that trap.  For allowing my competitive nature and social media to rob me of my season.  

I want to spend the rest of this article doing one thing and one thing only.  I want to share with you what really happened during my 2016 deer season in a few pictures. My hope is that through these images, you can see how it really went down.  It was far from a failure.  

I took my oldest son Cooper on his first real scouting trip....



We hung out in the hammock and I showed him about white oaks and deer trails...

I shot a fat, mature doe and put meat on my families table... 

I built a super cool hunting trailer from and old rusted up jon boat trailer....

I built a super cool hunting trailer from and old rusted up jon boat trailer....

I started shooting a long bow and fell in love...

I caught some great bass on gurglers late in the evening ...

I kept learning about how to row my little drift boat...

I caught a big, beautiful brown trout....


I retrospect, I did a lot of really awesome stuff this fall.  I think the most important thing I did was have a personal reality check about why I'm out there to begin with.  I'm out there for the opportunity. Im thankful for the opportunity.  Every close call with and old cagey doe, every fish that throws the fly, every walk in the woods with my boys.... that's my validation.  Happy New Year. 

The Grind


Sometimes things get tough.  Work, parenting, marriage, finances.  We have all been there in one facet or another throughout our lives.  The unfortunate side effect is that sometimes when life gets tough fishing gets hard to come by.  Sometimes when your fishing, the fish get hard to come by.  My good buddy Rich and I had decided that we had, had enough of life and it was time to set things right by baptizing my new drift boat, and putting some fish in it.  Rich's dog Tucker joined us, as he has for many years now, to oversee the operation.  

We pushed out into the current and I pulled on the oars.  This was my first drift boat and my first time venturing out into moving water.  Moving water with lots of big rocks.  I back rowed along the bank to a nice shade line and Rich began picking apart boulder piles and logs in the crystal clear water.  

Several hours later, we had not even moved a fish.  I could tell by the current flow and low water things were going to be tough.  In my mind I began to doubt why I was even there.  My intent had been to show a good friend some good fishing and give him a new experience on the water.  Sure enough, it seemed this trip was shaping up to be the same as the life we were attempting to briefly leave behind.  A grind.

Rich is one of my best friends, and an experienced saltwater and freshwater fly angler.  He knew how the day was shaping up.  We both knew it.  However, instead of giving up and cursing the river god's, we set our jaws against the day.  We cracked a cold one, leaned on each others resolve and went to work.  We pounded rock piles, drifted ledges, and peppered deeper holes.  Nothing.  Not a follow, not a swipe, nothing.

We made the halfway point in our float, and with a thunder shower looming in the distance, I dropped anchor and we had lunch.  BLT's made with fresh tomatoes from the garden.  Tuckers ears perked from his command position on the deck as I opened a bag of chips.  My shoulder was throbbing and still weak from an injury months ago.  I silently cursed getting older.  With the first bite of my homegrown maters I forgot all about my shoulder as the taste of summer sun flooded my mouth.  We talked and ate and enjoyed the breeze.

Refreshed, we made our way around a big bend in the river where I had caught fish before.  I slid the boat across the swift current and smiled to myself at my improved rowing.  I came alongside the slower deeper boulder water at the edge of the main current and dropped the anchor.  Rich made a few casts and I surveyed the water.  I spoke up and told him to cast to the far ledge and just let the fly swing through.  Just as the black bunny leech passed over the the rock into a dark hole behind his line came tight. 

High fives and fist bumps didn't cover it.  The fish was so much more than either of us could express.  It wasn't just the first of the day, or the first smallmouth in my new rig, it was the culmination of months of hard work and never giving in.  It was our deep rooted resolve to never give up.  Never.  


We rolled down the river through a short thunderstorm.  Rain poured over us but nothing could extinguish the fire that had been stoked inside of us.  We knew we could do it.  We knew that no matter how tough it got, we would simply embrace the suck and find a way.  After the rain cleared out we were running short on time.  Life was calling, begging my return to keep my boys while my wife enjoyed a much needed girls night out.  I had one more spot in mind as we neared the final push to the take out.  

I handed Rich a 6wt with an airflo sink tip and a big rubber legged bugger I call the "Fat Albert".  He had figured out the game and began drifting that fly like a seasoned veteran.  I gave my advice on a likely spot and once again called my shot Babe Ruth style.  A small bartrams redeye bass had inhaled the fly.  

The light had come on for Rich.  He fully understood that drifting wasn't just for trout.  Moments later another smallmouth came to hand.  Small in stature but fierce for his size he never gave up, even managing wriggle away as I was taking a quick photo.  We shook hands knowing that was the end of the day.  We both remarked at the tenacity of that little bass.  Life doesn't give them a thing.  They work for every bit of their existence twenty-four hours a day.  It seems for all of us, life is a grind.







Soul Searching

I don't know what it is for you.  For me, its all the things described herein.  I have never fished a freestone stream.  Heck I probably wouldn't know one if I drove over it.  I have only fished for trout a few times.  However, the message related in this short translates.  Sometimes, and more often than not for me, its an exercise in fishing.  Let me encourage you.  It's crazy out there in this world.  Take a moment to take a personal inventory of your soul.  If you haven't been truly been fishing in a while, then go.  



Saturday Originals

Terry and Roxanne Wilson are well known in warm water fly fishing circles.  Getting his start by writing articles for both Ducks Unlimited and Quail Unlimited, this history teacher of 34 years has contributed many articles and multiple books to the art of fly fishing and fly tying.  His Bully Bluegill Spider is the first fly I ever bought as a youngster.  Its back weighted hook, slow sink rate, and deadly wiggling legs make it nearly irresistible to panfish.  Give it a shot!  


Free Again

"I hadn’t had a bite to eat since yesterday, so Jim he got out some corn-dodgers and buttermilk, and pork and cabbage and greens—there ain’t nothing in the world so good when it’s cooked right—and whilst I eat my supper we talked and had a good time. . . .We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft."   Mark Twain, from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

A boat represents different things to different people.  To me, it represents freedom.  Stepping aboard allows my soul to be free from the hum drum of my daily life.  It allows to me forget what's behind, and imagine what might be ahead.  It's the promise of adventure, governed only by the speed of the current underneath me.  

We slid that old jon down the steep bank and into the water, loaded the cooler and the rods, and shoved her out into the current.  We had been here many times before, but it had been quite a long time.  In fact, it was basically in another life.  One without the responsibilities of husbands and fathers. Nate looked around for a moment as I leaned on the paddle and eased us out into the current.  "It's exactly how I remembered it.", he said.  It had been close to 20 years since the last time the two of us had pushed a boat into this river in search of adventure.  

Nate took the bow and began throwing a weighted ice dub bugger as close to the cover as he dared.  We had had a cold snap and were anxious to see how the fish would respond.  A few casts later nate's 5wt bent deeply and we were on!  A large hand sized redbreast came to the boat.  You would have thought we had boated a tarpon in some far off locale the way we laughed and carried on.

We made our way further down, catching a half dozen or so more, before the deeper cypress lined banks gave way to rock ledges and shallow pools.  It was here we searched for the bartrams bass to add to our collection.  I remarked to nate that swinging the streamer through the pool and then stripping it back on a tight line usually produced results.  Before I could finish my instruction nate was lifting his first redeye to the boat.  

I picked up my rod and got in the action as well.  Anchored in the current, we stood quietly working the soft water between shoal ledges and catching bass one after the other.  These fish are extremely opportunistic, and take little convincing.  The water was slightly high and a little stained from rains earlier in the week.  However, the dark profile of our flies was easily seen by the fish as we worked pool after pool into midday.  

We pulled over on a sandbar for a proper riverside shore lunch.  Fried chicken and home made potato salad was the order of the day, washed down with a cold sandbar soda.  We peeled off our wading boots and relaxed in the sun.  Nowhere to be. No demands.  Freedom.

We spent the rest of the afternoon fishing foam bugs to rising fish.  Redbreasts and bass darted from cover smashing our bugs with reckless abandon.  The day had been all we could have hoped for.  We had floated our childhood creek with rods in hand.  We had remembered the days gone by when things were so much simpler.  We had been free again.