The 3 A.M. Brainstorm…

16 02 2011

 

It’s 3 am again and I’m awake. I’ve just banged out a few EHC for an order and I’m sitting here trying to unwind. But I can’t get a few things out of my mind tonight. Maybe if I just come out with it here, I’ll be able to sleep a little before the sun comes up. We’ll see…

 

I’ve been thinking about people  and businesses tonight. About how different we all are in alot of ways and how my view of things isn’t necessarily anyone else’s view. About how I’d do things, if I could…and about the way things are done by others. I’m trying more and more these days not to be that “glass half empty” kinda guy that I’ve been for the last 20 years, but every time my faith in mankind is somehow renewed, something happens that makes me shake my head with confusion or disbelief.

Recently, it’s things like this:

I talked with 5 fly shops about doing give-away’s for you guys. Only one had the decency to email back and politely decline ( Unicoi Outfitters ~ Helen, GA). Another acknowledged that they’d not replied, but that was all – and then they “never replied some more.” The other three didn’t reply at all. All five of these shops I have visited and bought things from. Apparently, none of them could understand the concept. (Which makes the Hook and Hackle guys who brought you the rod give-away look even more like the geniuses they are…)

Another company keeps making promises, and then keeps delaying and making more promises.

Wendy’s can’t get my order right. Not one Wendy’s. Anywhere. In a month.

There’s apparently a fly tying event to benefit Project Healing Waters going on in Asheville. I tried to email them about donating a rod or two, helping them tie up some flies, or anything else I could do. It’s not that they turned me down or said they didn’t need my help….it’s that they never even bothered to reply at all. ( I guess they have what they need, but still – a simple “no thank you” would have been nice.) So, not only do I not get to help in any way with this very worthwhile project that’s right in my backyard, I don’t really feel much like promoting it either. ( Although I suppose in a way I just did! LOL )

 

And this spring, when I need more pine straw for the flower beds, I’ll no doubt have to load the stuff myself because no matter how I ask, the guys at Lowe’s never seem to want to help me load it. I used to work for Lowe’s and I don’t really mind loading it myself, but when I see them standing around talking on company time it makes me wonder how good my Lowe’s stock might be doing if they hired people who would actually work? How much better would your local fly shop be if they were all like Hook & Hackle or Unicoi Outfitters (who misunderstood the give-away concept but at least had the courtesy to reply)?

 

 

 

It also makes me wonder how it is that I can’t get a job, but these slackers ( the Lowe’s guys and other retail workers who have apparently never heard of the phrase “if you have time to lean, you’ve got time to clean” ) are still employed?

How do you run a business and not reply to emails? How do you hope to be around in 2, 3 or 10 years in this economy by hiring people who give you so little in return for the wages you pay them? How do you think you can create business growth and a future in any field by making promises you have no intention of keeping?  The answer? I have no idea….

 

But I am going to try to get some sleep now.

 

Is it too much to ask that we slow down just a little bit and think about how we’re treating each other?

 

 

Don’t answer that…

 

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Deal of the Year?

15 02 2011

Yesterday, I received yet another flyer from a sporting goods company. Apparently this economy is driving them to advertise like crazy these days, because it seems like I get one every few days or so….or maybe like the rest of us, they’re just ready for warmer weather!? This one yesterday was from Bass Pro Shops, and since we have one less than an hour from the house here I decided to give it a quick scan. I found the usual “deals” which amount to $10 off here, $20 off there and hey – these days ever little big counts right? Right.

So then, on page 23 (I think, since the pages aren’t actually numbered) there appears a Cortland Fly Line for $9.97. It says the retail value is $59, but color me skeptical. They don’t list the name of the line. Is this 444 Lazer line – or something else made especially for BPS? We’ll never know I guess. And it only comes in 5, 6, or 8 wt. ( Poor old 7 wt……..I guess the days of the 7 wt. are finally totally over….)

Anyhoot, even if it IS a special line made for BPS, if it’s a floating WF line for $9.97 that’s a dang good deal.

There’s also a stainless steel fillet knife for $1.50.

The final catch is that you can only get these prices on Thursday March 10th, and by the time you get off work and get down there they’ll probably be all out of the $10 fly line. Just a guess.

Anyway, for what it’s worth – there ya go. The Deal of the Year….or not?

Maybe this nearly 1/2 off Sage rod at Cabela’s is actually the DOTY?
*Not Shown Actual Size





Happy Friday…..a few hours early…

3 02 2011

I’m almost never early to anything and it drives my wife crazy. So, to make up for that near-fatal flaw, here’s an early Happy Friday kinda post. After all, wouldn’t life be pretty “meh” if it wasn’t for Fridays?

Tonight I bring you a pretty ok deal from Cabela’s. While I encourage you to shop your local fly shop (if they are deserving of your business) in these tough times when you run across a good deal, take it. Like a new fast-action fly rod for $39.88. The Traditional II’s are on sale again at Cabela’s and are a good deal. It’s a $100+ retail price rod for less than 1/2 that.

Why is it not a “great” deal or a “super” deal you ask? Because I recently snagged a few when they were $25 – and also because of the review I’m about to give you below. Most of the rods are at $50 or so, but the 7’6 4 wt. is at the $39.88 price. The way Cabela’s usually works on these sale items is that once people find them and they start flying out the door, the price inches up. ( Or that’s the way it seems to work out for me…) So if you want one of these puppies, now is the time to jump on it.

 

That's right. I bought 4 of them @ $25 ea. free shipping. booyah.

THAT SAID:

I cast the 4wt. for a bit last week and although it appears to be everything a fly rod should be, it’s not. It’s called the “Traditional II” but in Cabela’s world “traditional” must mean “lumber.” It’s “fast-action” rating does not begin to describe how stiff this rod is (insert The Office Joke here if you must) for an under 8 foot 4 wt. It IS fast-action. It is also a 2 X 4 from the mid-point on down. I think you could probably get away with using a 5 wt on this rod – maybe even a 6 wt. Why you’d want a seven-foot-something 6 weight though, I’ll never know? And maybe that is what’s led to the massive price reduction on this particular model.

Is it a bad fly rod? Heavens no. It’s as light as some rods that cost twice as much (of the retail price) and it seems to be very well made. Nice wraps, guides almost perfectly straight (I mean, this thing is mass produced in China, mind you) and it’s a very good casting rod. It just feels like they forgot to consider that a 7’6 4 wt rod shouldn’t be usable for fishing AND playing 8-ball. One reviewer on Cabela’s site described the rod as “clubby.” However, for $39.88, a little clubby-ness can probably be overlooked.

I’d suggest it as a back-up or a first fly rod to anyone, but if you’re used to a Sage, Winston or even St. Croix…well…you know…

If you want to try one, the link is: http://tinyurl.com/4mawp74

AND NOW, PART Teeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeuwh….








10 Things Every New Fly Fisher Can Live Without!

1 02 2011

They come in the mail. The snail mail. The email. By postcard and letter and sales flyer they come. Ads for outdoor products you just have to have. Products, tools, gadgets, equipment that you simply cannot live without! Fly fishing companies are perhaps the worst of the outdoor gear suppliers. There are an infinite number of gizmos that come out each year that are, to quote one fly fishing catalog I recently received, “going to set the fly fishing world on it’s ear” or some such nonsense. The fly fishing world hasn’t been turned upside down since the invention of modern fly lines from what I can tell. Large arbor reels? Yeah. Nice, but not earth-shattering. Polarized fishing glasses? Helpful, but not a life-changer. Chest packs? I kinda like mine…but it was no revolution.

So, let’s look at ten things that every fly fisher/fly tyer can absolutely live without. Remember though, it’s not that these things can’t be used as advertised, or that they don’t make something easier or better…they’re just all things that you could do without. Save your hard earned money for things you really do need…like more flies, tippet or a new fly line.

10.  “Line to Leader Loop Connector” – $6.99 ( You can make your own loop in any line very easily )

9. ” Monofilament Leaders ” – $4 – $13 ( Try Braided Leaders.(or furled leaders) For 1-8 wt rods, I promise you’ll never go back to mono leaders and one braided leader will last for YEARS.)

8. ” Leader Straightener Leather Patch” –  ( For the “memory” in your mono leaders. Lose the mono and you don’t need this waste of money.)

7. ” Fly Sink” – $3.99 -$4.99 ( Dirt works almost as well and it’s cheaper. Like, free.)

6. “Line Cleaner/Dressing ” – $6 ( Modern fly lines only need periodic cleaning with mild soap and water. )

5. “K****** Release or other release tool” – $20 ( You have forceps for pinching split-shot right? Enough said.)

4. ” Dubbing Brush” – $4-$8 ( Velcro glued to a stick works just as well, nearly free.)

3. ” Fly hook sharpener ” – $5.99 ( Unless you’re fishing for bass or tarpon, you don’t need to sharpen your fly hooks. Chances you’ll lose the fly before you dull the point on modern trout-sized fly hooks unless you make a habit out of hanging into rocks all day…)

2. ” Digital Microscope ” – $80-$??? ( Seriously? Why make it harder than it needs to be? You don’t need to know what a #26 gray midge looks like in that much detail. You just don’t. You may want to, but you don’t need to. How about buying something useful, like a couple hundred #26 gray midges instead. )

1. ” Bobbin threader ” – $2-$8 (  This “handy” little gadget threads…well, thread onto the bobbin. Or, you could just do the sensible thing and suck the thread through the hole, old skool style. Do you think Theodore Gordon or LaBranche used a tool to get the thread into the bobbin? If you have one of these, you should stop reading now and go put it on ebay. Then hide under the couch in shame for a week.  )

If you’re new to fly fishing, don’t fall for every gadget out there. Get with someone who knows the in’s and out’s of the sport and ask them before you buy anything. It could save you alot of money over first few years of your fly fishing journey and it could save you from spending way too much time on ebay unloading all that stuff you thought you needed.

Fly Fishers...scary looking, but they'll give you the shirts off their backs!





The Creek that Shall Not be Named…

25 01 2011

…is named Noontootla. It’s Cherokee for…well, who knows? But I do know this…it will flat out kick you in the teeth if you’re not on your toes. I just read a post on NGTO about two fellows that decided to go up to the area where the ‘Toot is located and fish. The second guy says something like “ wish I hadn’t broken my rod, but things happen for a reason.” Yeah, and that happened because you were stomping around up there around Noontootla in the middle of winter, when every wild trout with half a brain is hunkered down and almost comatose. Go back in April, when at least you risk catching something while putting life and limb in danger. Geesh.

Noontootla is the state’s only wild trout stream with a length limit on it.  16 inches or less, and it has to go back. Now, before you all pile in your cars and grab your maps, I’ll tell you the dirty little secret that the fishing regulations don’t spell out for you….just because there is a 16 inch size limit on the creek, that doesn’t mean the creek is full of 16 inch fish. Or 14 inch fish for that matter. Oh sure, they’re in there. Last spring…or was it the year before…anyway, I was up on the ‘Toot with Coelacanth, from BRTB and we were having a pretty nice morning. Weather wise, at least. I think we’d caught one or two each. Well, we came to a nice deep pool and Coel motioned for me to take a turn. I cast a little caddis up into the run and plop! A nice little 4 inch rainbow took it and began to flop around on the surface. Suddenly, he dove deep and hard toward the bottom, then shot back up toward the sky – clearing the water at first, then hitting back down and slicing off again all willy-nilly across the surface. You see, that little guy was about to be lunch for a monster of a rainbow that was using the bottom of that pool as his lunch counter. The trout was easily 15 inches on a conservative estimate and Coel and I both stood there and laughed, gasped for air, and laughed some more. Of course, we then eased back away from the pool and threw all manner of streamers into it without even the slightest threat of an attack from Jaws. So we moved upstream and kept fishing. I think we both felt very fortunate to have even seen the big fish and had I not hooked an easy meal for him, we probably would have missed him altogether.

 

Lil' Joe, standing in what can only be described as an anomaly on this creek.

On another trip there some years ago, I was carrying a fly rod that my buddy Lil’ Joe made for me shortly after 9-11. The rod was marked “Freedom” and was one of my favorite rods ever, right from the first time I fished it. It had a birdseye maple insert and a matte green blank. It looked alot like a high-dollar St. Croix but with the loving touches of personally wrapped guides. I slipped on a slanted rock as big as a dining room table and fell, and promptly broke the rod in half. Speaking of which, last year I did almost the same thing in the GSMNP and broke “Freedom II.” Sorry Joe. I didn’t have the heart to tell you at the time.

When I was younger, I talked my young bride into going with me to Noontootla one Sunday morning. I got out of the truck, leaving her to the heater and a good book, and immediately stepped over a large log. When my foot hit the sand, it slid no more than five or six inches and put what we call a “crik” in my shoulders and neck that would end up keeping me out of work for two days. Of course I fished all that day, and paid for it dearly on the way home. The pain was almost unbearable and my poor mountain-novice wife had to drive all the way down that long forest service road, and then all the way home in the dead of night because I couldn’t do anything but lay my head against the window and writhe in pain.

A much younger Owl with a brown trout from the Toot.

So, yeah. Noontootla has a length limit and that’s a rare thing in Georgia trout fishing. But it will also kick you in the head and laugh at you when you cry. It’s not a place for fly rods you love, delicate souls, or poseur anglers. It’s the cold, hard reality of Southern Appalachian trout fishing, times ten.

But then….maybe it wouldn’t be so special, even with the chance to catch a true wild trophy trout…if it was easy.





A FFSBR Reader Survey: What do you think?

24 01 2011

I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now, but always forget about it when I’ve got something else on my mind to talk about. Today, I was working on the new banner at the top of the page and I remembered that I wanted to get some opinions about the direction of this blog.

I’ll start by telling you what (most of you) already know…I’m typically a goofy person, and therefore a goofy blogger. I’m not all silly-string and bouncy barns, but when I’m feelin’ right with the world it’s hard not to be silly. I think life is way too short to take everything so seriously.

That said, it may shock you to know that I’m somewhat of a deep thinker. I try not to bore you guys with that stuff on this blog, but you may see a little of that creep into an entry from time to time.

So that leads us to the part where I ask for your help:

What brings you to FFSBR, and what brings you back?

I suppose I could just do a poll, but those are so impersonal. I like to read the thoughts of my friends and followers, not see blue bars stretching across the screen indicating a yes or no answer.

Is it the humor? The photos? The more serious ( however rare!) entries? Do you come to see how crazy I’ve been today? Or to find out if there are interesting links? I used to post up alot of “deals” that I’d find around the internet on fly fishing gear. Do you miss those? Are you coming back because of the great group of regulars that comment here? Is it the fishing reports and videos?

What do you like about FFSBR, and what do you hate? What do  you think would make it better and how can we keep you coming back?

I could spend hours doing internet searches on how to make a “killer blog” but I think outdoor bloggers and outdoor readers are a very special group of people and alot of the information out there ( OK, ok, i HAVE spent hours reading about how to make a killer blog…for what it’s worth, much of it was just alot of time wasted, IMHO) isn’t really geared toward fishing, hunting, hiking or camping blogs. The stuff you find on “how to make a great blog” is almost always geared toward movies, tech, food and gossip. But I’d rather talk trees and rivers and deer and sunsets. My guess, since you’re reading this, is that you would too!

So let me know, guys…how can we take FFSBR to the next level?

I can’t wait to read your suggestions! ( And your snarky quips…umm…cough-riverdamsel-cough…  🙂 )

Thanks for spending some of  your day here with us. We enjoy havin’ ya.

owl





Death Prong: Part Two

23 01 2011

Part Two of a Four Part Series about my biggest adventure in over twenty years of visiting the woods and waters of Southern Appalachia.

_________________________________________________

Part Two

The sun’s rays were bright now, and the day was warming up almost as if it were early summer. Some small bugs, little flying triangular shaped devils, were biting our arms. We’d just popped out into the creek, stopped for a snack and a short breather after our climb down the mountain. I was sure the bugs had forewarning of our arrival. Sharp little stinging bites that were like needles and pins pricking my neck and arms and legs. Enough of this. I downed the last of my half full bottle of water, one of only two I’d brought along for the day not knowing that it would be a very, very long day.

We pushed upstream, over a small series of rocky, pocket-water wrinkles in the stream-bed and came to the first good looking spot. It was an amazingly deep, clear expanse of ice-cold water, with rusty red plank-like slabs of age-old stone running diagonally along the bottom of the pool. One of the planks made a shelf, with a deep undercut where a couple of nice trout might hide. I watched as a monster of a trout slipped under the shelf at our approach. He was at least 12 inches and shaped like a little football. I can’t remember who made the first cast up to the head of the pool, where the water slid into the deep pool with hardly a whisper…but I do remember that first fat little 7 inch trout slashing up and smashing the fly with almost an angry abandon against the blue sky above. Wriggling and splashing it came quickly to hand, and we got our first look at the trout in this creek that we’d taken such great pains to reach. It was what we’d come for – a native Southern Appalachian Brook Trout and it was as pretty a brook trout as I’d ever seen.

 

A beautiful brookie from "Death Prong"

For the next few hours, we’d climb our way up the sometimes craggy, often slippery rocks that were left bare by our drought years that many thought might go on forever. The creek was a shadow of what it had been in the past, and the rushing water chose it’s path down the gorge at the lowest points; it would weave it’s way left and right down the mountain, slowly carving deeper into the earth. With this little flow though, the effectiveness of the carving was like that of a dull butter knife on a rubber chicken. Thankfully, a year later, that trickle would prove to be our saving grace. On this day it merely made it easier to pinpoint the location of the fish among the rocks and runs.

We caught fish, and caught fish, and caught fish. Nothing bigger than 8 inches or so – but they were all shiny little gems of green and gold. Bold crimson spots with bright blue halos; the familiar “wormy” markings along the back. When we’d gently release one back into it’s element it would virtually disappear before our eyes. Even in the ultra-clear water it would be very hard for a predator to spot an easy meal because of the amazing natural camouflage the brookie wears.

There were few large pools, and none that were as large as that first one, where we first stumbled out into the creek. However, there was one run that was a little longer; stretching vertically southward in a rare flat spot near a rock as big as a bus. My buddy “Milliam” crawled his way up the left side of the run, sitting and sliding up a short ledge until he was just peeking over the rock ledge and into the heart of the pool. He didn’t say a word, although I’m sure he saw them. He was suddenly all business. His first cast produced a fish. And the second cast. And the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh. And there were more. Many more. It’s hard to recall that pool and not remember the 15 – 20 brook trout Milliam pulled out of there on almost as many casts. They were thick in that pool and neither of us could figure out the reason that so many of them found it such a welcome home. Maybe they were all brothers and sisters,… who knows?

 

The Pool of A Thousand Brookies, Death Prong

It wasn’t long before we got to a point upstream where the creek got much smaller. It was still very fishable here for one or two anglers, but we’d been fishing for 5 or 6 hours and my knees and back were beginning to send me subtle messages that they were nearing their limit on this day. It wasn’t the easy going that we find many times in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, or in some of the South’s more open water in the foothills of the Blue Ridge range. It was crawling and climbing, hopping and jumping. Carefully negotiating the rocky stream-bed, exposed by a lack of water and so steep I wished we had felt soles on our chest packs at times, I was thinking I’d had enough adventure for one day and knew I’d have to tell Milliam soon that I needed to turn back.

We stopped for water again. It was around 6 pm I guess, and I regrettably told Milliam that my back had done all it wanted to do and that if it was ok with him we could head back downstream anytime. Milliam is a very understanding fishing buddy, and is always eager to accommodate my older-than-normal-feeling body.

I finished off the other bottle of water and watched as my brave buddy used his new-fangled “UV bottle” that supposedly killed off every evil gremlin that might be in the creek water. I’d been sick years before from some bad water – or bad eggs. We never knew which one was to blame for sure, but I never take a chance on water or eggs anymore and although I was still thirsty after finishing off my bottle of water, there was no way I was drinking any creek water that had nothing more than a little blue light applied to it. The technology was very new back then…at least to me and I was just going to wait until we got back to camp. Little did I know that we were actually more than a just a few hours and a few miles from camp. We turned to head downstream and made pretty good time back to the place we first stepped into the creek. Now, it was just a matter of heading even further downstream to meet up with the larger river. From there, we’d hike back upstream to our camp along a trail that we knew from our research and several maps was “somewhere down there.” It was a great plan. What could go wrong?

Again, on this next leg of our trip we made good time, but we couldn’t help but fish the better looking pools and runs when we could get to the side of them without spooking their inhabitants. The little trout still barely managed 8 inches at most, but they were as eager to strike our flies as any we’d ever seen and even though my back was really starting to complain, I tried to keep my mouth shut so that Milliam could continue to fish a little as we headed down toward the main river.

 

Milliam and his UV bottle share a moment on Death Prong.

We’d poured over topo maps months before our visit, sometimes talking over the phone as we researched the trip. I’d been worried that the thin, closely spaced lines near the junction of “Death Prong” and the main river were waterfalls. By about 7 pm, with the sun behind the mountains and an early dusk setting in, we heard the first of them. It was a noisy sluice-type falls on river-left, and although it was impressive and very loud, we easily slipped down the rock face to the right on the small moderately slanted drop. There are very few feeder creeks feeding “Death Prong” and the flow here was about the same as it was a mile or two upstream. The gorge, however, was widening and becoming steeper. The next waterfall was more vertical, and we managed to climb our way down it on river-left, although this was an actual “climb” this time and my back was becoming more insistent that we get this thing over with and get back on more level ground. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do for it but push on.

The lines didn’t lie. There were at least a half-dozen more waterfalls ranging from the “sluice” type that are easily navigated to a few near vertical drops with no room to go around. Many times, water wet my back and head as we picked the safest looking way down the face of the more vertical falls. There were a few where the forest pinched the creek into a tiny area less than 20 feet wide, which made the descent more dangerous. The rocks are slick where there’s no moss and where there is moss it easily slides off the moment your foot hits it. Even though I wasn’t in the best shape, I’d had plenty of experience navigating creeks like this. Over twenty years worth to be exact, and “Death Prong” ( even at low water ) is no place for a beginning Appalachian trout chaser to test his mettle. It is a beautiful but remote place and a twisted ankle or broken leg here would be a disaster of the first order. Our pace was reduced to a crawl.

 

A very rare, easily ascended portion of Death Prong.

Eventually, another hour’s worth of descending waterfalls and my back couldn’t do it anymore. Each “drop” down, sometimes 5-10 on each falls would jar my back and the pain was mounting. Also, I began to notice that I had a headache and was feeling a little light-headed. I told Milliam that if it was possible, I’d like to try to follow the creek via the woods. We had a GPS, but for whatever reason I don’t think we bothered to look at it very much. We should have. It might have saved us alot of time and energy if we had.

We struggled to bushwhack once again through the heavy undergrowth that ran alongside the creek, although at least this time it was somewhat flat compared to our previous walk in the woods almost twelve hours before. Because we had to choose the path of least resistance, we sometimes veered sharply away from the creek. Always within earshot, much of the time we couldn’t see the creek at all. After fifteen minutes or so of working our way through the jumble of rhododendron, mountain laurel and dog-hobble, we both decided that this “easier” way was worse than climbing down the creek. It was easier on my back, but it was slowing us down now, and it was getting darker and darker under the heavy canopy of this pristine wilderness. We angled back toward the creek, and were about to break out into Death Prong once again; Milliam leading the way… when he stopped dead in his tracks and I almost walked all over him because as usual I was talking and not paying much attention to where I was going. And although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was dehydrated because I’d run out of water much earlier and didn’t have enough water for a full day on the water in the first place… and it was clouding my judgement and making my footsteps sluggish.

Milliam holding one of Death Prong's resident trout.

Then, in one of the strangest moments I’ve ever experienced while in the wild, Milliam lets out a yell.

” Hellooooooooooooooo!”

I’m breathing heavily now, and tense because of his abrupt stop. Was it a bear in the creek? Poachers that built the shooting table? Other fishermen?

I almost whispered it to Milliam since I was standing right behind him….” What is it?” I asked.

“Naked people…” he said.

“NAKED PEOPLE?” I grunted.

“Yeah. A couple. Naked.” Milliam replied as he chuckled.

We’d made it back to civilization….but our adventure was far from over, as we’d soon find ourselves doing something stupid, and I’d find myself in a desperate situation.

______________________________________________

PART THREE COMING SOON!








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