Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Phantom birds, first bass, and hope

This weekend Kelly and I took a short trip across the big river to look for Ivory-billed Woodpeckers at the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas.

I'm only kidding.

We went to fish.

We even strapped the kayaks to the roof of the Outback with the greatest of intentions.

When we got there, the river was high and the wind was ridiculous. We had no desire to paddle or attempt to cast a fly in those conditions.

On Saturday evening we watched a documentary on the "rediscovery" of the Ivory-bill called "Ghost Bird" on Netflix. It was interesting... pretty enlightening actually.

I was already pretty familiar with the story because I bought and quickly read this book when it was first published in 2005.

Reading that book inspired me to track down an original copy of this old publication for its historical perspective... and because I like old books.

Life Histories of North American Woodpeckers by A.C. Bent, 1939

Sorry, I'm easily distracted by my books. Back to the story...

Watching the "Ghost Bird" film made me want to go to Brinkley, Arkansas and see if there was still any lingering Ivory-bill mania. If nothing else, it gave us a reasonably close destination for wetting a fly line while floating around in a kayak on Sunday.

I was disappointed to see that the local excitement about the "Lord God Bird" was apparently extinct... perhaps a mirror of the birds' actual status in the wild.

The only sign (no pun intended) that Ivory-bills may have been there.

I'm doubtful that any sort of viable population of Ivory-bills exists at this point. I want to believe, but logic suggests that the "rediscovery" celebration may have been a bit premature. I suppose if there was anything positive to be gained from the supposed rediscovery, it would be the hope that some of what mankind has destroyed may return to its original splendor.

I still have hope.

Since the fishing conditions weren't really favorable for kayaking fly fishers in the haunts of the Ivory-bill, we went up the road to fish one of the lakes at Village Creek State Park. With little daylight left we made no attempt to put boats in the water, so we fished along the shoreline for an hour or so.

We both caught two small Largemouths apiece- our first bass of the year.

Sadly, holding the fish at arm's length, it still looks to be 8".

I can only hope for bigger bass as the season continues.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A perfectly unexpected Christmas gift

This blog post is just a bit belated, but here we go...

Although exchanging gifts certainly isn't the most important part of Christmas, it is a big part of how we celebrate the holiday. In that light, Christmas 2011 was pretty meager compared to 2010. I didn't get very many gifts and they were all rather small... no fishing kayaks under the tree this year. It's perfectly alright though. I already have everything I need and nearly everything I want.

However, a very pleasant surprise came my way right before Christmas. It was a "gift" from a friend of a friend... a person whom I have never actually met. It wasn't really intended to be a Christmas gift, but given the timing it felt like a really special one from a distant family member that you only rarely see. You know the grandmother or aunt who lives eight hundred miles away and mails you gifts twice a year on your birthday and Christmas. Maybe it's that I no longer have any of those distant gift senders that made it feel that way... I miss those gifts... and those who sent them.

Well, to get back on track... My friend Don (biology professor and one of my mentors as a naturalist) invited me over to his house a few days before Christmas, and told me that he had something very special waiting for me. Knowing Don, it could have just been a few nice pieces of lumber he found in a trash pile... or maybe a neat old book. I would have never guessed it would have been fly fishing related.

It turned out to be a box chock full of fishing stuff. In it there were a bunch of lead head jigs, raw lead for jig making, and even a ladle for pouring lead- but no molds. There were a good number of large fishing hooks, feathers (white neck hackle and 18" worth of strung black marabou), natural fur (deer and Black Bear), and more multi-colored craft fur than I know what to do with. There were also two fly reels- a non-functioning beat up old South Bend "Oren-O-Matic" (visible in the picture of the box below) and another that I consider to be a bit more of a treasure.

It was a Pflueger Medalist #1492 fly reel. According to information I found at flyanglersonline.com, it is a 1959 year model. I've seen more recent Pflueger Medalists and I can say that they certainly don't make 'em like they used to. This one is very well made. The only real issue with it appears to be that the spool seems to have come in contact with a chemical (maybe a plastic bass worm) that has softened the paint and made it "gooey." It seems to be in great working order and will be a really nice complement to my 4 wt antique bamboo rod.

1959 Pflueger Medalist model #1492

The box full of goodies minus the big bag of craft fur

To explain how this all come to be...

Don's friend Nancy had a father who was an ichthyologist and a fisherman, and she sent some of his collection of fishing paraphernalia my way because Don told her that I would graciously give it a good home. Don was right, and I am very grateful to be the recipient of such a great gift. As a fly tyer and classic fly tackle enthusiast, it made my Christmas.

So, to Nancy and Don, I offer a belated thank you for my unexpected, but perfect Christmas gift.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day gift exchange

To Jay from Kelly:

Cool new fishing shirt

To Kelly from Jay:

Cool new pet

Very cool.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Windshield time"

I get plenty of it during my average work day. That's what my supervisor calls it... the time spent behind a truck windshield... and while I'm on the road, I see a lot of things.

Occasionally (actually quite frequently), I see things that make me think of fly fishing. My thoughts are never far from wading a river with a fly rod in hand... no matter how much work keeps me away from the water.

As the classic old trucker hat says...

Here are a few of the suggestive things I've encountered in the last week or so...

Well... maybe this first one isn't so subtle. (I don't think the driver of this Mustang was a fly tyer... just a gut feeling, but he does have an expired car tag, and he's apparently a fan of the most recent Super Bowl Champs.)

Perhaps another meaning? Initials maybe? Memphis ain't exactly fly fisher central.

This one requires just a little more thought to make the connection...

I'm not sure about these Hardy Bros, but Hardy is a legendary name in fly fishing.

Then there's this street sign in the middle of suburban southeast Memphis... nowhere near flowing water... and certainly not near the river that just happens to be one of my favorite outdoor places.

The Ozark Zone Quality Smallmouth stream street sign above was accompanied by another street sign in Collierville (a Memphis suburb) that speaks of a certain Ozark Zone Blue Ribbon Smallmouth stream... that I've never gotten around to fishing. Again, the sign is nowhere near flowing water and certainly not near the creek in question.

This one is just taunting me. Why are you where you are?

So... what things in your daily life make you think you'd rather be fishing?

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The perfect song... another L.D.D.

This is yet another long distance dedication for Kelly.

Maybe a little bit corny, but when the song fits...

Soon enough, the headquarters of The Naturalist's Angle will be relocating.