Friday, December 31, 2010

Highlights of 2010... some of it just a few hours old

A look back at some of the highlights of 2010, a year in the life of the fly fishing naturalist and his favorite fishing partner.

1. In January, Kelly caught her first trout. See this previous post for the full story.

2. I caught my first Smallmouth of the year at Cypress Creek in northwest Alabama on "Tax Day."

Tax Day Smallmouth Bass

3. In June, Kelly and I made a trip to DeSoto State Park and Little River Canyon National Preserve in Alabama. We caught our first Redeye Bass (Micropterus coosae) and Alabama Spotted Bass (M. henshalli). I wrote an article about this amazing place for Examiner.com that you can read by clicking here. On this trip Kelly earned the title of "Green Queen" ("Queen Cyanellus" if you prefer Latin... I do) by catching so many Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus). Green Sunfish are like the cockroaches of the piscine world. They're found in just about every body of water (including polluted urban ditches) in our region of the country... although in some of the more pristine waters (read "too clean") you wouldn't really expect to find them... but somehow Kelly always does. She manages to find some nice ones too. Green Sunfish aren't known for their size... this one (about 7") would be a wall hanger if you were so inclined.

A "trophy" Green Sunfish in the hand of the "Queen"

4. On July 5th, I caught my best Smallmouth of the year at the Spring River in north central Arkansas. Kelly and I caught a bunch of fish on this trip. It was a healthy mix of trout, bass, and sunfish. Kelly even claims that she missed what she thought could have been a Musky! There are some in the Spring River, so I believe her. She did catch a bat on a backcast while we were trying to do a little night fishing. She's talented.

Big Bronze of the year

5. I built my first fly tying bench. See this previous post for more information.

6. In September I won an Emotion Glide Angler Kayak in a Yuengling Beer promotional drawing at a local grocery store. I wrote a review of the boat for Examiner.com that you can read by clicking here.

7. I began writing "The Naturalist's Angle" blog on October 20th.

8. Landed a personal best Channel Catfish on a fly rod in Hickahala Creek in north Mississippi. I have caught bigger Channel Cats by other means, but that was back when I still chunked bait in high school. I didn't even know catching a catfish on a fly was possible back then.

Channel Catfish on the fly

9. In November we got started on the Bassmaster "Bass Slam." Current count: Kelly 1, Jay 0. Read this previous post for the full story.

10. In December, I tied the "Christmas Crawdad" fly and somehow managed to catch my best trout of the year on Christmas Day using a pattern that wasn't really meant to be that serious. Read this previous post for details.

11. I wrapped up a great year on the fly with a New Year's Eve fishing trip with my favorite fishing buddy. It was about 30 degrees warmer than it was last week when we went to the Spring River. Kelly even managed to solidify her crown as "Green Queen" with one last lunker Green Sunfish for 2010.

One last nice Rainbow for 2010

The "Green Queen" strikes again in the last twilight of 2010

I only hope 2011 brings as many good fishing memories as this year has. I have a feeling it will only be better.

Happy New Year and may all of your outdoor pursuits in 2011 be great successes.

    Sunday, December 26, 2010

    The Legend of the "Christmas Crawdad" 2: Return for Revenge

    As most "normal" people spent their Christmas day enjoying the fellowship of family and friends, Kelly and I went fly fishing at the Spring River...

    and I took the "Christmas Crawdad" back for revenge.

    If you've been following this saga, you already know the "Christmas Crawdad" only managed to produce one tiny trout before it was lost to a rather hefty fish due to tippet malfunction (probably more like fisherman malfunction).

    Well, yesterday was a different story. Christmas Day was the right time for the "Christmas Crawdad."

    First, the "Christmas Crawdad" caught a "minnow."

    Largescale Stoneroller (Campostoma oligolepis)

    Then something a bit larger than a "minnow."


    It turned out to be this Rainbow Trout...

    Revenge is sweet.

    The "Christmas Crawdad" gets his revenge.

    Then from the same run where the big Rainbow was lost last time came this fish:

    The "Christmas Crawdad" wins the battle this time.

    Then on a more standard version (rust/olive chenille with brown saddle hackle) of the same pattern of crayfish fly came this rather large "minnow":

    Golden Redhorse (Moxostoma erythrurum)

    Quickly followed by this Rainbow:


    Not to be totally left out of the fun, Kelly caught a few fish too. First, came this Rainbow Trout:

    Kelly all bundled up for Christmas fishing

    Then several more Rainbows throughout the day followed by this fine "minnow":

    Hornyhead Chub (Nocomis biguttatus)

    It was a great day to be on the Spring River. We saw only four other brave souls who ventured out into the cold to catch a Christmas trout. Maybe they were just brave for sneaking away from a family gathering. It wasn't terribly cold, but the temperature hovered around the freezing mark all day... and with the wind it felt much colder. There were a few snow flurries about, but we certainly didn't have a white Christmas.

    Call me a Scrooge, but I would trade a good day of fishing with Kelly for a white Christmas every year.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010

    The Legend of the "Christmas Crawdad"

    Well... here I am writing the promised report on the performance of the "Christmas Crawdad." It's hard to know where to start with this adventure, but since most stories are told chronologically I guess I'll start at the beginning.

    Yesterday morning Kelly and I got up and headed off to the Spring River near Mammoth Spring, Arkansas. The two and a half hour car ride there was rather uneventful. We arrived at noon with clear skies, which is not a good time for fishing the ol' Spring River. The fish there seem to avoid the sunlight like cave dwellers. This is probably a result of the abundant cover in the river. The fish have so many places to take cover that they aren't forced to be out in the open like fish elsewhere. The river flows over a limestone bed with all sorts of nooks and crannies. There is also an abundance of vegetation that the trout literally use like blankets. Fishing the Spring River involves a lot of high stick nymphing and fishing deep slots with a heavily weighted set up. A split shot about 6-8" above your fly is pretty much a necessity on the Spring River if you want to consistently catch fish. The shot we use is larger than anything I've ever seen in an assortment of fly weight shot.

    Since we arrived at high noon, it took a little while to hook up with the first fish. I spent a fruitless hour fishing the first "Christmas Crawdad" (green/red with white rubber) before I snagged a rock and lost it in a deep run. The second "Christmas Crawdad" (the gold one) quickly met a similar fate. I was left with only one "Christmas Crawdad" (green/red with red appendages), and I was determined to catch a fish with it before the day was over. I decided to save it for a bit and fish with a more standard material fly of the same design. This one had a rust/olive colored chenille body with an olive hackle and white rubber. On one of my first few casts with this fly, it was inhaled and spit out by what appeared to be a rather large fish in a very shallow run. As I tried to recast and offer it again, I snagged the only nearby overhanging tree on my backcast. The fly was lost, and I decided to go ahead and tie on "Christmas Crawdad" #3 (green/red with red appendages).

    I cast it into the same run again, and actually caught a trout on the "Christmas Crawdad." It wasn't big, but I had fulfilled my silly quest.

    "Christmas Crawdad" success

    The fun with the "Christmas Crawdad" was not over. I knew there was still a bigger fish in that little run so I cast it back in there. On my first cast after catching the tiny trout above, I hooked into a beast. I immediately knew that I had made a mistake by not tying on fresh tippet. I was fishing with 5x (4.75 lb) and the Spring River rocks quickly take their toll on tippet. The big Rainbow (which was the largest trout I have knowingly hooked on a fly) made a few runs in rather shallow water... where I thought for a moment I was winning the battle. Then he began to run toward the deep water in the middle of the river, and I knew the table was about to turn. He managed to wrap my leader under a rock in the process. As soon as I got the line from under the rock he made one last beeline for deeper water and he was gone.... damn it! Kelly and I both got to see the fish while he was in the shallows. It was easily 20" and around 4 lb.

    It wasn't the only large fish of the day that we lost. Kelly later hooked a Rainbow that was around 18" and as it flopped at her feet she was unable to actually land it. I was headed her way with the net, because I knew it was a good fish, but I wasn't there nearly fast enough.

    I did manage to "catch" one very large fish just as the sun was setting and it was starting to get dark. I saw a large dorsal fin break the surface of the water in a very shallow run... I cast upstream and just to the left of it and foul hooked this thing...

    I'm not sure what to think

    It was a ghostly image of what was probably at one time a beautiful fish. I'm not sure exactly how to describe its condition. It may have been a bit sickly, and the look on my face in the photo might be explained by the fish being a little slimier than normal. I'm trying to smile but I'm a little concerned about the thing I'm holding. It may have had some sort of fungus growing on it. It put up very little fight for a fish of this size, but he was holding in the current when I hooked him, and swam away under his own power when he was released.

    He was nothing to compare with the fish I lost.

    It was quite an interesting day. We saw a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) fly over. I caught a Redear Sunfish (Lepomis microlophus), also known as a "Shellcracker" in the south, which is not really a fish to expect in a trout stream... it's more of a farm pond fish. It's the second one I've caught in the Spring River in pretty much the same spot both times. The fish diversity is why Kelly and I love the Spring so much... that and the dependable (9 million gallons of 58 degree spring fed water an hour) stream flows.

    The drive home was equally interesting. We had to drive through the fresh scene of a car collision with a horse (dead horse on one side of the road and the wrecked car and human victims awaiting ambulance on the other).  Then we saw one of the most beatiful moonrises either of us has ever witnessed. We topped it all off with a good dinner at Chili's in Jonesboro (with no bar?... dry county I guess) on our way back to Memphis. I have leftovers to eat by the way, and it is lunch time.

    While I'm eating, I'll be thinking about that monster Rainbow swimming around with my "Christmas Crawdad" in his mouth. It will haunt me until I get back out there... I think Kelly and I will probably be fishing on Christmas day. We don't have much else to do.

    To everyone in the outdoor blogosphere, Merry Christmas!

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010

    Christmas fly tying fun

    I've been doing a little fly tying tonight in preparation for a little trout fishing tomorrow. I will be presenting the rainbows and browns a few festive offerings just to see what happens. I know I'm certainly not the first person out there to attempt a little fly tying with Christmas decorating materials, but I thought I would share one of my Christmas creations. I am calling it the "Christmas Crawdad."

    Santa approved fly pattern: the "Christmas Crawdad"

    The pattern is really more of a shrimp pattern than a true crayfish imitation, but I don't suspect the trout will care too much. The trout of the Spring River (where Kelly and I will be tomorrow) aren't too picky as long as it looks like a crayfish. The fish there feed heavily on crayfish and any fly that resembles one (such as a large woolly bugger in reddish brown) will typically be productive. Our experience with woolly buggers has also shown that white rubber legs really help get their attention, so I have added some white trailing appendages to this pattern. The water of the Spring River tends to be on the cloudy side so the white rubber probably helps the fish see the fly.

    The "Christmas Crawdad" size 6

    I tied the "Christmas Crawdad" on a size 6 Daiichi #1750 streamer hook. I used bead chain eyes for a little weight and tied them on to make the hook ride in the up position. The "tail" portion of the fly is fox squirrel, midge flash, and two rubber strands. The body is made out of a holiday decorating "ribbon" from the craft store... which is really a lot like an estaz chenille with a mylar tinsel woven into a string core. The ribbon as I purchased it from the craft store was actually two strands (one gold and one green/red) woven together around a wire core... great for decorating... not so great for fly tying straight off the spool. I was delighted with the results of unwrapping it. I tied a couple in green and red and one in gold.

    There are all sorts of goodies that could be useful for fly tying among the Christmas decorations. Most of the useful items I have found would probably be incorporated into some sort of streamer pattern. I don't expect to find anything that would do much good in tying small dries, but you never know. Be creative and tie something festive for Christmas. I'd love to see some of your holiday patterns. If you decide to tie one, please leave a comment below with a link to a blog post or photos.

    I'll report back on the success... or failure... of the "Christmas Crawdad." I have high hopes... but rather low expectations.

    I can't wait to see if the trout are in the holiday spirit.

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    What's on your feet?

    I've been thinking (daydreaming) a lot about winter trout fishing. As some of you have probably gathered, I would rather fish for Smallmouth Bass than any other fish that swims, but when the Smallies aren't biting I turn to other species that are willing. Although I do fish for trout year round, winter fishing means trout fishing to me. Kelly and I are planning to do some trout fishing sometime around Christmas, but haven't worked out the details yet.

    While daydreaming about how much fun we will have freezing our rears off in a river, I reminded myself that I recently got a new pair of wading boots. I have only worn them once so far. After another trip or two I'll probably write a review. They are White River Fly Shop ECO-CLEAR wading boots from Bass Pro Shops. As the "ECO-CLEAR" name vaguely implies, they are designed to limit the unwanted transport of invasive species from one body of water to another. These boots, and others like them without felt soles, are soon to be essential equipment for fly fishers in many areas. I have read online about felt sole bans in Alaska and Vermont, and know several other states (MD, MO, and OR) have bans in the works.

    Much of the reactions I have seen in online forums have been very negative regarding this new conservation oriented legislation. What is extremely ironical to me is that these efforts to ban felt are supported, even commended, by Trout Unlimited. TU is a group of mostly fly fishers... probably some of the same ones who are spreading a lot of the negativity about felt sole bans all over the internet.

    I'm also a bit surprised that it's being treated like it's a hot new topic among the fly fishing community when it's not really new at all. I wrote a report and made a presentation on whirling disease for my college Ecology class in 1998... over 12 years ago. One of the major take home messages of what was then current knowledge was that felt soled wading boots worn by fisherman were largely responsible for the spread of whirling disease. Even knowing I was the only fly fisher in the class, my presentation provided information on how to prevent the spread of the disease including instructions for cleaning felt soled wading boots. I also suggested wearing rubber sole wading boots instead of felt, but that was not my original idea. I got it straight from one of the sources I used for my report. I also remember L.L. Bean introducing their Aqua Stealth soles over ten years ago as an alternative to felt... to prevent the spread of whirling disease. I really wanted a pair of Aqua Stealth boots back then, but I was a fly fisher on a budget in college.

    Pretty much every major name in the business offers alternatives to felt soles these days, and Simms has even enacted their own ban by no longer offering felt as an option. My new boots are just one of the many options out there, and I have found them to be perfectly functional. The reviews online are horrible, but you can't expect rubber sole boots (without metal studs) to grip as well as felt on slippery rocks. Maybe some of these folks who wrote negative reviews should get wading staffs... or boats.

    Most of the time I am wearing something other than traditional wading boots altogether, so it's not something I spend a lot of time thinking about. For me, my wading boots are a winter/coldwater necessity and that's about it. There are a couple of Arkansas tailwaters (Norfork and White Rivers) where I almost always wear waders year round, but everywhere else (when the weather is favorable) I am wet wading. I wet wade as long as I can stand it. I even wrote an article for Examiner.com back in July on what I consider to be the best options for wet wading footwear. I know there are even felt soled wading sandals out there, but you won't catch me wearing them. I really don't want to contribute to an ecological nightmare, and I'm proud to say the Snowbee boots Kelly and I wear aren't likely to transport any didymo.

    Snowbee flats boots modeled by yours truly

    I guess I'm most fascinated by the fact that there is still so much controversy surrounding this issue. Has the fly fishing community not learned anything in the last 15 years or so from whirling disease that might help us control more recent invaders like didymo? I know that felt soles may not be the only source of our problems with aquatic invasives, but they certainly aren't helping either. Anybody that looks at a felt sole knows that it isn't the kind of surface that can be cleaned on a microscopic level, and thoroughly drying your boots can take a long time... often times much longer than we stay out of the water between fishing trips. I've read lots of commentary from people saying that the laces, seams, cracks, and crevices of our boots will still carry hitchhikers so they shouldn't have to give up their precious felt... and this may be true. I'm just satisfied knowing that I'm doing my little part by not wearing felt. After all, if you're not part of the solution you may just be part of the problem.

    Ultimately, I think felt soles are on the way out. Simms is just ahead of the pack on this forefront. Knowing what I have known for the last decade, I'm surprised they haven't been banned already in more places.

    Please weigh in and tell me what you wear, what are the ecological issues that concern you as fly fishers, and whether or not felt sole bans will matter to you. I can't wait to hear your comments.

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    Gift ideas for fly flingers

    Just thought I would share my "Holiday gift ideas for fly fishers" article I wrote for Examiner.com. Just click on the title to check it out.

    For fly fishers reading this, maybe you'll find something you didn't already know about. Also, if you have any suggestions for things that deserve a place on a fly fisher's wish list, please don't hesitate to let me know something I should include. I can always add more.

    Enjoy!

    Sunday, December 5, 2010

    Visit an AZA zoo or aquarium during the holidays

    Who hasn't been to a zoo? It's probably safe to assume pretty much everyone out there has been to a zoo or aquarium at some point in their life. Perhaps the last time you visited a zoo was during an elementary school field trip. If you haven't experienceded one in a while you might be surprised at how much they've changed in recent years. I'm not really that old, and in my lifetime I have personally witnessed my hometown zoo undergo revolutionary changes that have put it among the top zoos in the country. I can remember when the big cats lived their entire lives on the concrete floors of their prison cell sized cages, but boy have things changed.

    There are lots of zoos out there, and some of the lesser ones have given zoos on the whole a bum rap. Zoos and aquariums can be controversial, and are often protested by animal rights activist groups. As a former zoo professional, I can say that only rarely are zoos even understood by the greater biological conservation community. Zoos are often unjustly looked down upon by conservation workers in other types of scientific institutions. The "good" zoos and aquariums out there are typically members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), and as such they have pretty high standards for accreditation to live up to. In short, it's hard to be a crappy outdated zoo and maintain accreditation by AZA.

    AZA is at the forefront of wildlife conservation around the world. The conservation efforts of member institutions go far beyond the perimeter fences of the zoos or walls of the aquariums. If they are not directly involved by sending their own staff into the field, then they at minimum (according to AZA guidelines) help fund field biologists, nature preserves, and conservation education programs around the globe. My hometown zoo is one of only four zoos in the U.S. to exhibit Giant Pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), and they are actively researching the nutritional dynamics of bamboo and how pandas (which are basically carnivores) are able to subsist on a seemingly nutritionally deficient diet. Their work on bamboo goes well beyond the zoo into the Qinling Mountains of China where they are studying bamboo ecology in the field.

    Even still, the biggest contribution of AZA zoos and aquariums is really here at home. There is an AZA institution somewhere near you that helps teach the next generation to care about the natural world that we all enjoy so much. Zoos are places that connect people, especially children, with nature. It may not be quite the same as hiking, hunting, or fishing, but for many children, especially in urban areas, it may be their first close encounter with the wild. AZA institutions are not just about saving animals from extinction through captive breeding programs. Zoos and aquariums could potentially serve as "modern arks" for that purpose, but in general they are more focused on promoting a conservation ethic that includes an understanding that wild habitat is what really needs to be saved. If we save wild habitat, then we in turn save wild animals. That's something any knowledgeable sportsman can understand and get behind.

    So during the holidays, when you've got some time off, consider visiting a zoo or aquarium near you. Aquariums are always in season, but winter can be one of the best times to visit a zoo if you want to avoid crowds. Winter zoo visitors often have the whole place pretty much to themselves. It's also one of the best seasons to see the animals actually doing something. Tons of visitors pack the zoo on a hot summer afternoon only to complain that all of the animals are sleeping. Wouldn't you sleep in the shade on a 95+ degree day? Additionally, many zoos offer holiday programs for the kids and light displays in the evenings at this time of year.

    I'll leave you with a really neat zoo fact and a couple of videos...

    Zoo Fact: The combined annual attendance of all AZA member institutions exceeds that of all four major league professional sports combined. Yes, I said combined. The annual attendance at all MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL games is less than that of AZA zoos and aquariums. Pretty impressive, huh? (Just by the numbers, these places are a pretty big deal in our modern society.)

    The first video is just to give an idea of what AZA zoos and aquariums are all about, and the second one is some of the best AZA commercials of the past year. You may see your hometown zoo or aquarium among them. Enjoy!



    Sunday, November 28, 2010

    1/18 of our mission accomplished!

    As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the things on my outdoor "bucket list" is to complete the Bassmaster "Bass Slam" with a fly rod. Basically, you have to catch all of the species and subspecies of the Black Basses (genus Micropterus) in one year. There are 9 different fish that need to be caught to complete the "Bass Slam." Between Kelly and I... we need to catch a total of 18 qualifying fish.

    Kelly and I are trying to be the first to complete the task with a fly rod. I actually only recently discovered the "Bass Slam" challenge when I picked up a copy of Bassmaster magazine at the grocery store, but I had basically come up with the concept on my own... thanks to a truck stop T-shirt.

    A couple of years ago I bought a really cheap T-shirt at a truck stop somewhere along I-55 in Mississippi because I thought it was a bit funny... at least from the perspective of a fly fishing naturalist. The shirt reads "Bass of North America" and depicts the Largemouth, Smallmouth, Spotted, Shoal, Redeye, and Guadalupe Basses. What was funny to me was that this truck stop souvenir also had Mississippi printed across the bottom, and three of the six fish are not found in Mississippi. Additionally, Smallmouths can only realistically be caught "in Mississippi" from the waters of Pickwick Lake which forms the northeastern boundary of the state.

    At some point while Kelly and I were out fishing and I was wearing this horrendous garment, I got the idea to try and catch all of the species on the shirt and photograph them while wearing it. The official "Bass Slam" challenge also includes the Suwanee Bass and splits the Largemouth and Spotted each into two distinct subspecies, so it definitely adds a bit more fun to the adventure.

    Wearing "the shirt" with a Redeye Bass:

    The "Bass of North America Mississippi" T-shirt

    (I know... I know... I should have been fishing with a 5 wt... please ignore the overkill 7 wt. I really had no idea what I was getting into fishing for Redeyes for the first time.)

    The Redeye Bass seemed to give the first round of "Bass Slam" anglers the toughest time. This is probably because chunking a big spinnerbait at a fish that has been called the "Brook Trout of warmwater game fish" isn't the best approach. The fly rod on the other hand...

    Initially the length requirement for the Redeye was 12", but it was cut back to 8" after no one could land a foot long "lunker." Most of the Redeyes submitted by the first round of Bass Slammers were barely the required length. Kelly and I have caught "monster" fish of around 10" in Alabama... catching qualifying Redeyes shouldn't be an issue for us.

    To get to the point of this post, Kelly once again showed me up with her fishing prowess. We managed to squeeze in a day of kayaking and fishing for Spotted Bass last week during our Thanksgiving visit to south Mississippi. We floated down the Bowie River near Hattiesburg, and Kelly landed a very nice qualifying fish of 14.5" (the minimum for the Spotted is 12"). I caught a few fish... the biggest was around 10"... why does she keep making me look like such an amateur?

    Kelly's "Bass Slam" 14.5" Spotted Bass, November 23, 2010

    Anyway, I was very proud of her. We are well on our way... I just need to get with the program.

    For any of you overzealous bass fly fishers, please don't steal our thunder and try to beat us at our own little quest. To my knowledge no one has accomplished this feat with a fly rod (at least if they have they didn't submit their application to Bassmaster), and we would like to be the first to do so.

    After all, Bassmaster stole the idea from me and my shirt. I just want a little bit of my originality back.

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    "D.I.Y." Fly Tying Bench

    One of my minor accomplishments during the past year was building my own fly tying bench. I found an article about a year ago on the Global Fly Fisher website by Jan-Ole Willers entitled "Build a Flexible Fly Tying Bench" that served as my inspiration. I thought I would share my finished product so maybe someone else will be inspired as I was to build their own.

    Just as the Global Fly Fisher article describes, I often found myself taking over the coffee table or dinner table with my vise clamped to the edge of the table and my materials spread out everywhere. I needed a work surface that I could pick up and move easily without having to actually put things away. I needed a portable fly tying bench.

    I had been thinking about building one for a while, but didn't get my full inspiration until I began working at the Home Depot. I worked there for a little over six months in the lumber department. This second half of my inspiration came from the scrap pieces of lumber known as "stickers" in the lumber forklifting business. "Stickers" are the pieces of wood strapped to the bottom of a bunk of lumber that allow the forks of the lift truck to get under the load. These pieces of wood are often similar in size to a 2 x 4 or a 2 x 3 with a channel (or rabbet) cut into one side for a band to be strapped around the load of lumber. When I first noticed these scraps, and realized that they are just thrown away, the wheels in my head started turning. I finally found a pair of "stickers" that looked appropriate, and I had the frame for my bench.

    The work surface was made from a nice scrap of 3/4" plywood I had leftover from a previous project. I used a few other small leftover pieces to trim out the front edge of the bench. The only things I bought were a small piece of oak (1/2" x 3" x 2'), a 1/4" x 36" aluminum rod that I used for spool pegs, and a roll of adhesive backed magnetic tape. The oak piece is attached under the front edge to provide a dense piece of wood to clamp down on with the vise. For those interested in seeing that detail, here it is:


    The construction is very simple. First, I cut all of the pieces to fit together correctly... maybe that's easier said than done... depending on one's carpentry skills. I mitered the corners of the frame pieces for a nice finished look. Next, I drilled holes for tools and spool pegs using my drill press to ensure they were nice and straight. The holes drilled for the tools are 3/8" diameter. The holes (one at each corner) drilled for the swing arm lamp are 1/2" diameter (borrowed that idea from Oasis Fly Tying Benches). Holes are 1.25" deep. I cut the aluminum rod down into pegs... probably the most annoying part of the project. The holes I drilled for the pegs were 15/64" (1/64" less than 1/4") so they could be driven in tightly with no glue needed. I assembled all of the pieces using wood glue. The only fasteners I used were a few small nails (in addition to glue) on the front trim pieces that cover up the rough plywood edge. These trim pieces also hide the rabbeted frame that holds the plywood and the oak piece attached under the front edge. Then, I sanded and finished the bench with several coats of spar urethane. Last, but certainly not least, I attached the magnetic strips to the sides of the frame. The finished size is 27" x 12.75".

    Click on photos to enlarge... please excuse my cheap vise.

    I've found that the magnetic strips are very useful for holding hooks or finished flies while the head cement is drying. Unfortunately, they don't have enough strength to hold tools... not even the tiny hackle pliers that don't fit into a hole. I left one peg empty in the photograph so you can see it a little better. Please don't make too much fun of my hand tied cork popper that I put in the vise for the photo. I wanted something big and visible that I tied myself... and please... don't laugh too hard at my cheap vise. I've spent my fly fishing money elsewhere. One day I'll get a nice rotary pedestal vise... one day. I would be very grateful if anyone would like to get me one for Christmas....... I hear the sound of crickets chirping.

    I managed to collect a good number of nice "stickers" before I turned in my notice at the Depot, so I have plenty of material laying around just waiting to become a bench. If you would like me to build you one for a small fee, please comment below or e-mail me at snapperking78 (at) msn dot com.

    If you think you might like to build your own the way I did, you can usually get the lumber guys at Home Depot (and probably Lowe's too) to give you some "stickers." The challenge is finding a pair that could make a decent looking bench. They aren't exactly quality pieces of wood, and nice "stickers" don't exactly show up in every load of lumber. If you have any questions about construction please don't hesitate to ask.

    I hope I can inspire at least a few other budget fly fishers to build their own. If you're currently being asked to clear the table of that fly tying mess because Thanksgiving is on its way, then you probably need a portable fly tying bench.

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    "Minnows"

    Today I finished reading Dave Whitlock's latest book Trout and Their Food. It's a great book, probably the best I've seen on the basics of what trout eat and the flies that imitate those food sources. I wrote a brief review article on the book for Examiner.com that you can check out by clicking here.

    Dave's book has a great section on "minnows"... all of the baitfish that trout eat and we in turn try to imitate with streamer flies. In this section, Dave recounts a time when he met a man who was "fly fishing for sculpins" on the Norfork River in Arkansas. The man was using an old fly rod tip section, a couple of feet of monofilament, and a 1/2" long San Juan worm tied on a size 20 hook to catch the bottom dwellers which he sold to a local trout fishing resort as bait... the going rate... 25 cents a piece!

    Ozark Sculpin (Cottus hypselurus) from the White River, AR
    Banded Sculpin (Cottus carolinae) from the Spring River, AR

    Dave's sculpin story got me thinking about all of the "minnows" I have unintentionally caught on the fly rod. Sadly, there have been many days when "minnows" were the only thing I caught. Although I did manage to catch 2 trout this weekend when Kelly and I went to the Spring River, I also caught 2 "minnows"... actually Bleeding Shiners... not wounded, that's just their proper name. (In case you were wondering... Yes, Kelly caught more trout than I did... 6... but who's keeping score?)

    An uncooperative fly caught Bleeding Shiner (Notropis zonatus)

    You may be wondering why I keep putting the word "minnow" in quotation marks. Well... as a biologist, I'm not a big fan of the word. I don't really claim it as part of my vocabulary. My training in biology and my experience as a naturalist has made me prefer to call things by their proper names. "Minnow" is a loaded word. It can mean a lot of different things, and depending on who you ask you will likely get different ideas of what is and is not a "minnow."

    Merriam-Webster defines a "minnow" as...
    1. a: a small cyprinid, killifish, or topminnow   b: any of various small fish that are less than a designated size and are not game fish
    2. a live or artificial minnow used as bait
    By this definition, pretty much any little fish that isn't a game fish could qualify as a minnow. The first part hints at biology, including cyprinids, killifishes, and topminnows... but leaves out the shiners, shads, and herrings which would probably be called "minnows" by most anglers. Carp are cyprinids, but I don't think anyone would call a 40 lb carp a "minnow"... well, except a biologist referring to it as a fish of the family Cyprinidae: the true Minnows. All this being said, what you consider a "minnow" is up to you... I'll continue to call a Logperch a "Logperch."

    Logperch (Percina caprodes) from the Spring River, AR

    Some of the "minnows" I have caught over the years have been quite impressive. In Tennessee, we have a fish called a Tarpon... that's right... the "Tennessee Tarpon." This fish is actually a Skipjack Herring (Alosa chrysochloris), but if you ever see one you will understand the local name. They look very much like a tiny Tarpon... particularly because of their projecting lower jaw. I have only caught one, and it was not on a fly rod. I caught it one evening while fishing the Tennessee River in Knoxville with ultralight spinning gear. I admit I had no idea what it was. I immediately went home to look it up in a book, and subsequently did a little online research to discover that people actually do target them (sometimes with fly rods) for sport... and as bait for catching monster catfish. The "Tennessee Tarpon" I caught probably weighed a little over 1 lb. The Tennessee state and IGFA World Record is 4 lb... now that's quite a "minnow."

    One of my best "minnows" caught on the fly was a River Chub from Cypress Creek in Alabama. I considered it to be picture worthy because it put up such a good fight.

    River Chub (Nocomis micropogon) from Cypress Creek, AL

    It was easily as big... or bigger than most of the wild trout I ever caught in the Great Smoky Mountains.

    As a naturalist, the "minnows" are always a welcome bycatch. They let us know that our stream biodiversity is what it should be, and are often great indicators of the health of our waterways. Be kind to the "minnows" you unintentionally catch... remember that they feed all of those big hungry predators we're really after.

    Thursday, November 11, 2010

    11 month waiting period for trout

    It was all going to be perfect. We were taking a nice road trip to visit old friends, attend a conservation conference, and we would top it all off with a stopover on the way home for a little Smoky Mountain fly fishing. This little fishing detour was going to be very special. It was to be Kelly's first time to fish for trout.

    I had only recently introduced Kelly to fly fishing, and there was a definite expectation that we would be fishing for trout at some point. Even though I believe there is much more to fly fishing than just trout... when you tell people that you fly fish, they assume you are chasing Salmonids. I always feel like I have to explain fly fishing for other species, but somehow fly fishing for trout is understood, accepted, and expected. Kelly needed to catch a trout so she could be a "proper" fly fisher... no need for explanation.

    Since we lived around 350 miles from the nearest trout stream, a trout fishing trip would require some strategic planning. When I found a way to include it in a work related trip to a conference, I really thought everything was going to be perfect. If only I could have foreseen the outcome.

    The trip was planned, and we were both excited about our winter weekend getaway. We were making the long drive to Asheville, North Carolina from Jackson, Mississippi for the annual meeting of the Southeastern Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (SEPARC). Along the way we would stop in Knoxville, Tennessee to visit my old friends at the Knoxville Zoo and so I could give Kelly a tour of my favorite place of previous employment. We also stopped at the Bass Pro Shop in Sevierville so we could buy Kelly her first pair of waders and boots. All of our fly fishing up to this point did not require waders to keep warm.

    The trip through Knoxville to Asheville went just as planned. It was the trip back that became interesting.

    First, we ended up leaving the Asheville area a little later than expected. Our destination was the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As far as we knew the weather was going to be great, albeit cold. We expected cold, it was February after all.

    Around the time we crossed the state line high up in the mountains, the snow began.

    I knew unpredicted wintertime snows were quite common at the higher elevations of the Smokies, so I didn't think much of it. I just wanted to get to our campsite before it got to be too late or the snowfall got too heavy. This is the point where I should mention that this was also Kelly's first winter camping experience. It would be a good inaugural cold weather camp out with low temperatures hovering around 20°F.

    I had hoped to camp at the Elkmont Campground, but much to my chagrin I had forgotten that this campground was closed during winter... a sad discovery at 10:30 PM on a cold winter night. We would settle for the Cades Cove Campground. It's a bit more off the beaten path and further from the Little River where we were going to fish, but open for camping year round.

    We arrived around 11 PM and there were still some snow flurries falling, but it was nowhere close to a blizzard. I still had high hopes for our fishing the following morning. We were delighted to see that we had the campground almost to ourselves. There was only one other brave camping party, and they were already settled in for the night. We picked our campsite, deposited our fees in the honor box, and set up our tent. I gave Kelly some tips on staying warm as we got ready to go to sleep... and I quietly wondered how much snow the night would bring. I hoped for the best.

    We awoke to a winter wonderland. It wasn't a lot of snow... maybe three inches, but it was pretty. Kelly was excited to find and photograph some Cades Cove Whitetails that were still bedded down when she woke up at around 6 AM.


    We began packing up for our day of fishing, and took a timer photo of ourselves to document Kelly's first winter camping experience.

    Kelly and Jay at Cades Cove Campground, February 3, 2009

    A few minutes after this photo was snapped, we got a visit from our campground neighbors... the only other people in the whole campground. Very timidly, they asked if we wouldn't mind driving them into town because they had locked their keys in their vehicle.

    This was not going to help us get in the river any quicker. The trip into town is around 20 miles one way, but I guess it would have been inconsiderate to leave them there.

    We decided to do the right thing and help them out. They were a very nice couple, both of them in medical school at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. They had planned on doing a long day hike that, much like our fishing, was not looking very promising.

    On the way into town, we passed only one vehicle so I imagine our new friends would have had a long wait for help to arrive... or a long cold hike into town. On our way out of the park, we also noticed that the snow was beginning to pick up. This did not look good for our fishing either.

    We sadly made the wise decision to give up on fishing that day. Our brief window of opportunity had passed. I knew it would be a bad idea to head back into the mountains with snow falling and the roads getting more treacherous by the minute.

    We stopped to take one last look at the trout holding waters of the Little River just outside of the national park. It was a beautiful sight in all of its winter splendor.


    Thanks to the winter weather, our camping neighbors in need, the fact that we didn't live close to a trout stream, and two subsequent trout fishing trips with very difficult conditions, Kelly would have to wait almost a year before catching her first trout.

    Kelly with her first trout. January 15, 2010

    It was a great relief when she finally did, and it made that first trout that much more special.


    “This Blog entry is my submission to the Sportsman Channel and Outdoor Blogger Network writing contest.”

    Monday, November 8, 2010

    Licensed to fish... and drive!

    I drove to visit Kelly in the Jackson, MS metro area this weekend. (Unfortunately, my fishing buddy and I have about 200 miles of interstate between us due to lack of good opportunities for employment. We do our best to make the most of our weekends.) I wish I could say we had a great fishing weekend, but we got skunked... the big goose egg, nothing, zero, zilch.

    I convinced Kelly to let me go down to the ol' Ross Barnett Reservoir Dam spillway/Pearl River tailwater... long description, but that's what it is. I say "convinced" because Kelly doesn't like Mississippi reservoir spillway fishing. Kelly hasn't had a lot of spillway success, and the environment itself isn't the most pleasing. To be completely honest, it is very dirty. The people who fish these places don't seem to have a lot of home training... lots of trash, food wrappers, bottles, tackle packaging, bobbers, nests of old line... you get the picture. This is "brownline" fishing at its finest.


    I must admit I enjoy a gar on the fly rod. It's part of the reason I fish these funky ditches. Fishing in a funky place every now and again also makes you appreciate a pristine trout or Smallmouth stream that much more. The gar bite is really best during the dog days of summer, so this weekend I was hoping for a Striped Bass. Obviously, from my skunk report, I was a little late for the autumn Striper run. Although I have not personally caught one, I have seen some very large Stripers (well over 30 inches) pulled from the Pearl River. The biggest one I have managed to catch was about 16 inches... and I certainly didn't improve on that Saturday... or Sunday. The water was very low... the lowest I've ever seen it. We've been experiencing a bit of drought in this part of the country. There were a lot of folks fishing, but none I saw doing any catching. I eventually gave up on the bass and started slowly dragging a weighted giant woolly bugger (hook size 2, my specialty for bass) along the bottom in hopes of catching a Channel Catfish. No luck with that, but I did manage to catch a mussel... seriously... it clamped down on the hook and I felt like I had at least "caught" something. Sad.

    The most exciting fishing related personal news I have is that on Friday I got my new Tennessee license plate for my truck. I decided to further my public expression of my fishing addiction (as if this blog and my other internet musings weren't enough) by purchasing a special vehicle tag. I was torn between a Smallie and a Brookie...

     

    The Brook Trout plate supports Trout Unlimited conservation efforts in our state, and the Smallmouth Bass plate supports the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency in their wildlife and fisheries work.

    It was a tough decision, but in the end...


    I listened to Kelly. She told me the Smallmouth was "more me." I know she's right... I do claim to be a Smallmouth fanatic. I need to remember... Kelly is always right.

    Just in case you can't read it on the small sample or see through my trailer ball... the plate reads "Where Smallmouth is King" which is reference to the World Record 11 lb 15 oz Smallmouth Bass from Dale Hollow Lake... and that's your Tennessee fishing trivia for the day. The Smallie on the plate is about to inhale a crayfish that is suprisingly not attached to any fishing tackle. The naturalist in me very much likes that the fish isn't about to inhale a crankbait.

    Thursday, November 4, 2010

    My fishing buddy... My life partner

    At the request of one of my good friends, I am writing this blog entry to give a little background on my relationship with my #1 fishing partner... but I can't give Jenny all the credit here. I must admit that Howard of Wind Knots & Tangled Lines also inspired me by writing his blog entry entitled "Who is your fishing partner?"

    Well, to answer your question Howard, Kelly is my fishing partner. She is my girlfriend, and despite the traditional association of fishing with male bonding... and even as an escape from the women in our lives... I would rather go fishing with her than any other person I know.

    You see, Kelly and I see eye to eye on more than just fishing. We have similar perspectives on the natural world and life in general. Certainly we have our differences, and that's what makes us individuals, but for lack of a better way to express it... Kelly "gets me"... and I do my best to try and "get her." For those readers whom I may have just lost in slang translation... we understand each other on a deeper level than most. To illustrate this point using an example from our times fishing together, Kelly is the first person I have ever fished with whom I have had to tell "it's time to go." I can honestly say that I've never told anyone that except her. I always want to make the last cast just in case there's one more good fish to be caught. Kelly almost always makes the last cast now when we go fishing... and I totally understand.

    Like me, Kelly is a biologist by virtue of education, but an education in biology does not make one a naturalist. A naturalist is a person who has a keen eye for the natural world... an observer of nature... a person like Kelly. I thought I had a keen eye, but she challenges me at every turn. She is one of the very few people in this world who can claim that she has spotted a snake in the woods before I did. (In my defense I was looking to the skies for Bald Eagles at least once when this happened, but it has happened more than once so I guess she really is that good.) Very often when we go fishing, Kelly gets distracted by the natural world around her, and so do I. I'll never forget watching her fascination with the abundance of life in the Spring River (AR) that becomes so apparent at night. I knew she was special then, but it certainly wasn't the first time. There was the time at Cypress Creek (AL) when I said "you know this would be a great place to find Stripeneck Musk Turtles" and she promptly reached down and picked one up as if they were easy to find. I can assure you... they aren't that easy. I've wasted a lot of time looking for Stripenecks with limited success... I can count less than 15 wild Stripeneck Musk Turtles that I have ever seen.

    Interestingly, Kelly and I met at a party at a zoo... among the animals. It took place at a zoo where I was previously employed, and there was an expectation for me to show up as a representative of the zoo. I was less than excited about going and I almost stayed at home. Let's just say I'm really glad I decided to go. September 6, 2008 was a night that changed my life for the better.

    Early on I knew Kelly was special because she made reference to butterflies as "Leps" during one of our first phone conversations. To try to explain, butterflies are insects of the Order Lepidoptera... which she abbreviated to just "Leps." This abbreviation is not something that your average girl who puts a butterfly sticker on her school folder would know. "Leps" was sexy. Sounds ridiculous, but butterflies are very special to me because I spent two years working with them at the Memphis Zoo. Kelly and I have a shared interest in our "scale winged" friends.

    On our second date weekend, I decided to try and introduce Kelly to fly fishing. I didn't think it was much of a risk, because I knew from our first date and our several long phone conversations that she was quite an accomplished outdoorswoman already. (How many girls do you know who have a trophy whitetail buck hanging on the wall?) Fortunately for me, Kelly's dad introduced her to hunting and fishing at a very young age so going fly fishing on a second date wasn't a hard sell. We went to a nearby state park lake and Kelly managed to catch a Bluegill on her first day of fly fishing. I took pictures.


    Early success probably helped keep her interested, but I like to think she would have tried fly fishing again just to be in my company...


    OK... thank you Mrs. Bluegill for being cooperative!

    Kelly even came fully prepared with her own pair of Costa Del Mar polarized fishing sunglasses.


    Cool.

    Fly fishing has become a big part of our life, and I probably fish more now than ever because of Kelly. It is our thing we do together. It definitely isn't the only thing we do together, but since this blog is mostly about fly fishing I'll leave it at that. Fly fishing has taken us to some beautiful natural places, and I regularly dream about the places we have yet to go. (See last blog post for details.)


    I know that soon enough, Kelly and I will be married... and I wouldn't be any luckier if I caught a new World Record Brown Trout... I already caught the best fly fishing partner a boy could ask for.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    "Fresh Air (some of it from a SCUBA tank) Bucket List"

    This post was inspired by the Outdoor Blogger Network.

    Counting down to #1 in reverse order... drum roll please...

    10.    Completing the Bassmaster “BASS Slam” Challenge with a fly rod (catching all 9 species/subspecies of Micropterus in 1 year including: Northern Largemouth, Florida Largemouth, Spotted, Alabama Spotted, Smallmouth, Redeye, Suwannee, Shoal, and Guadalupe… they haven’t added the Neosho Smallmouth or “Bartram’s Bass” to the list yet, but I expect they will as the challenge grows in popularity)

    9.      Fly fishing for Redfish anywhere on the Gulf Coast (I really should have crossed this off the list already… I guess I’ll get around to it soon enough)           

    8.      Fly fishing the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota for big Smallmouth, Pike, and Musky (I’ll be in a kayak instead of a canoe… I hope that is permissible… I would also like to fish the upper Mississippi for Bronzebacks when I make my way to the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”)

    7.      Fly fishing for Bonefish in Belize (Kelly really wants to revisit Belize… next time she will be taking me and a fly rod… well, I guess two fly rods if she wants to have fun too)

    6.      Fly fishing for monster Brook Trout in Labrador (I’ll never forget the first time I saw this on TV with Italo Labignan chunking mouse flies and repeatedly catching these unbelievable Brookies fish… I can’t even call them Brookies… sounds way too sweet for these Canadian beasts)

    5.      Alaska (‘nuff said)

    4.      Fly fishing for Golden Dorado somewhere in the Bolivian headwaters of the Amazon (after seeing the short film “Devil’s Gold” by Castaway Films, I am a believer in “fly fishing’s El Dorado”)

    3.      Africa… climb Mount Kilimanjaro, catch a Tigerfish on fly, photograph wildlife, play with a wild Rock Python, see wild African Wild Dogs (I could go on and on… let’s just say I could have a lot fun on an African adventure)

    2.      Learn to SCUBA dive, get certified to do so, dive the Great Barrier Reef (could also be accomplished on the same trip as #1… Kelly is already SCUBA certified so she’s one step ahead of me on this one… while I’m in Australia I also have to visit Australia Zoo and the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve)

    1.      Fly fishing for Barramundi in Australia (which could theoretically happen soon if/when Kelly and I get hitched and take the honeymoon trip we really want)

    I plan to accomplish all of these things in the company of my #1 fishing partner, Kelly. The experience wouldn't be the same without her. She'll probably outlive me, but hopefully we can cross off most of them before I kick it.

    Sunday, October 31, 2010

    The naturalist's bookshelf

    Today, instead of fishing, I built a bookcase. I would much rather have been fishing. This is not to say I don't enjoy carpentry, because I do. It is one of my favorite creative pursuits. I've built all sorts of things for myself... including my own portable fly tying bench, but I'll tell more about that little project some other time. The bookcase has me thinking a lot about my ever growing collection of books. My personal library is probably the most outward physical representation of who I am as a naturalist and a fly fisher.

    I haven't tried to count my books lately, but there's somewhere around 2,000 titles. A large portion of my books are related to herpetology... amphibians and reptiles... my first passion as a naturalist. I also have titles on general biology, zoology, evolution, ecology, birds, mammals, insects, fish, and of course fishing.

    Lately, fly fishing has been one of the fastest growing areas of my library. I have recently acquired several interesting volumes including an original 1912 copy of Practical Dry Fly Fishing by Emlyn Gill. This book is one of the first (if not the first) American titles dedicated to dry fly fishing. I have a good number of other old titles, and I am always amazed at how little has truly changed in the last hundred years.

    My books have been the real source of my education in fly fishing (among other things) and I would not be who I am today without them. I am grateful to all of my teachers who chose to publish their ideas in printed and bound form... Joe Brooks, Lefty Kreh, Dave Whitlock, Vincent Marinaro, Lee Wulff, Jim Quick, Gary Borger, A.J. McClane, Gary LaFontaine, and so many more. Here's just a sample of my library:


    One of my most prized possessions is my copy of the L.L. Bean Fly Fishing for Bass Handbook by Dave Whitlock. It is special because I met Mr. Whitlock at a fly fishing expo and asked him to sign his book... I never expected such a beautiful and personal effort put into a book inscription. I told him that his book had taught me pretty much everything I knew about fly rodding for bass, and we discussed our shared passion.


    My books... even more than my fly rods... are part of who I am.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Cypress Creek Longears

    I spent the better part of my evening cleaning my 125 gallon aquarium in my living room. It is an appropriate fisherman's aquarium. No happy community tank full of Neon Tetras, Mollies, and Fancy Guppies for me. My tank contains what I consider real fish, including some of my favorite fish to catch on the fly: Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis). In my humble opinion, they are as beautiful as any trout.


    The two Longears that I have in my tank were caught on Zebra Midges in Cypress Creek in Florence, Alabama- one of my favorite places to fly fish. For a naturalist, Cypress Creek is a magical place. The biodiversity is incredible and the creek is teeming with life. I often find myself distracted while fishing in this place... looking for turtles, watching a crayfish, observing a darter, or being hypnotized by a damselfly that has perched on my fly rod.

    Cypress Creek flows into the famous Pickwick Reservoir on the Tennessee River. Many Smallmouth Bass trophy anglers believe this lake will give up the next world record. Understandably, Cypress Creek has an excellent Smallie population, but it also holds plenty of Largemouth and Spotted Bass as well. Although each species of fish that can be caught in Cypress Creek fills its own niche, and can be predictably pulled from its preferred microhabitat, you really never know what you might catch on your next cast. The surprise of each hookup is what makes fishing this creek so much fun.

    I would rather be fly fishing at Cypress Creek than cleaning an aquarium... or pretty much anything else for that matter.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    The Lost World of Mr. Hardy

    I recently won a photo contest thanks to a bat... the flying mammal kind... Order Chiroptera... in case you were wondering. True story. Check Wind Knots & Tangled Lines if you don't believe me.

    The contest prize was a DVD of a film about which I was totally unaware until the contest. It turned out to be quite an interesting film. Watching The Lost World of Mr. Hardy hit close to home for two reasons.

    First, I broke one of the tips on my prized bamboo fly rod "Darcy's Mercury" (I have no idea what the name means, but it's the only marking on the rod... more about that some other time) on Sunday, and watching the section of the film on bamboo rod making at the House of Hardy really made me want to get my rod fixed. I think it's really going to come down to making an entirely new tip section. The rod is pretty unique because it is two-toned (alternating flats of dark and light cane)... I have only seen one other similar looking rod... and as such I expect it might be fairly expensive to replace even if I can find a willing builder. So, that will have to wait.

    Second, I felt a real connection to the film because I do own one piece of Hardy's equipment... even though it is not labeled as such. The only obvious clue is the "Made in England" stamped on the back of the reel. My reel is a L.L. Bean GQS Disc 4/5 which I have come to learn is actually an older Hardy Marquis Disc reel in disguise. It is my favorite trout fishing reel, and it is extremely well made. It has a reliable smooth drag, a nice sounding Hardy "check" mechanism, and classic Hardy styling. If I get a chance to own another one, I won't likely pass up the opportunity. I really would like one in an 8/9 for bass fishing... I lost a serious bidding war for one almost a year ago on Ebay. I am always on the lookout for these reels on Ebay, but I have only seen a few in the last 5 years.


    It may not be the nicest fly reel Hardy ever made, and it certainly isn't the most expensive, but it has given me a little taste of why Hardy has been called the "Rolls Royce of fishing tackle." In my humble opinion, a well deserved moniker.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    The meaning of "angle"

    "Angle" is one of those special words in the English language with multiple definitions...

    As a noun:
    1. a corner whether constituting a projecting part or partially enclosed space 
    2. a) the figure formed by two lines extending from the same point; b) the measure of an angle
    3. a) the precise viewpoint from which something is observed or considered;  b) a special approach, point of attack, or technique for accomplishing an objective
    4. a sharply divergent course

    As a verb:
    1. to turn, move, or direct at an angle
    2. to present from a particular point of view
    3. to fish with a hook
    4. to use artful means to attain an objective
    I hope to explore the full meaning of the word "angle" in this blog... and hopefully this blog will "use artful means" to communicate the perspectives... or should I say "angles" of a fly fishing naturalist.