Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bass with fly rod drawing

Fish art piece #2 has been posted at The Naturalist's Art.

I figure some of you bass fly rodders might like it.

Here's my original photograph that it's based on...

Go check it out and tell me what you think.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

12 inch Golden Redhorse, 11 inches of snow, 10 Great Blue Herons, 9 foot six weight, 8 Northern Harriers, 7 Rainbow Trout, 6 pound tippet, 5 stockers eaten, 4 other folks, 3 foot Carp, 2 Bald Eagles, and an icy US Highway 63

For our third consecutive year, Kelly and I went fishing at the Spring River in Arkansas on Christmas day.

It was quite a day... as you can probably tell from the title of this post. Here's the breakdown...

On the way to the river from Memphis, we saw an impressive display of North American raptors that included: approximately 20 Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis), 8 Northern Harriers (Circus cyaneus)- including the first gray male we've ever seen, 2 Red-Shouldered Hawks (B. lineatus), 2 Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), and a whole bunch of Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) that we didn't really bother counting.

Once we were waist deep in the river, we saw at least 10 Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias)- at one point, eight of them flying low over the riparian treetops together as a group. We also saw an American Mink (Neovison vison) enjoying some Christmas day fishing on the Spring River- an animal which normally stays out of sight when the river is crawling with fisherman and recreational paddlers during summer. The mink was a good indicator that there weren't many people around.

We fished with our now traditional Christmas Crawdads again, but they weren't terribly productive. I caught the first trout on one which I believe was the only fish of the day interested in eating Christmas decorations tied onto a hook. The second fish brought to hand was a 12 inch Golden Redhorse (Moxostoma erythrurum), a species which likes to make an appearance on Christmas day. Unfortunately, I can't take credit for landing it on a crawdad fly this year. It was apparently dying, and I simply scooped it up with the net to see what it was.

Not a happy Christmas for this guy

None of the 7 Rainbow Trout we caught were really that impressive, despite the fact that this would normally be the time of year to catch a big fish. The "big" fish of the day...

My lucky Christmas fishing hat, not so lucky this year

We ended up keeping 5 stockers and brought them home to share a Christmas dinner with our friend Don. He was kind enough to let us stay at his house while we visited the "Big M" for the holidays. Our fresh trout dinner wasn't fancy, but it was the least we could do to show our thanks.

Baked in aluminum foil with Cajun seasoning and butter.

Since the trout fishing wasn't really that exciting (and the Spring River always offers up some variety), Kelly decided to go after a 3 foot Carp (Cyprinus carpio) about midway through our day. Actually... it was an accident, but she did hook up with the big fish briefly. From my vantage point on the other side of the river, she put up a valiant effort with her 9 foot six weight doubled over as the monster minnow dove into the deep. It lasted about fifteen seconds before her 6 pound tippet snapped.

The excitement of our day didn't end when we got out of the water. We drove back to Memphis through the beginnings of a rare blizzard for the Natural State- a couple of Arkansas locales got over 11 inches of snow. The snow and sleet were only beginning to really come down as we drove between Mammoth Spring and Jonesboro, but as we made our way further south the situation became less and less severe. It was just a little bit precarious as the frozen precipitation began to accumulate on the roadway, and the driving conditions on an icy US Highway 63 were made far worse by strong blizzard winds.

It wasn't quite the white Christmas most people hope for, but it was unforgettable nonetheless.

Did I forget to mention that we only saw 4 other folks down by the river? We pretty much had the place to ourselves the whole time we were there.

That's my kind of Christmas.



Friday, December 21, 2012

Fish art for my fly fisher friends

I've posted my first fish piece on my new art blog- The Naturalist's Art.

For followers of The Naturalist's Angle, it should be a pretty familiar image, but hopefully you'll enjoy seeing it in a new light.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

In case of Apocalypse...

Santa came early.

Kelly got two custom photo printed canvases from Zazzle. The big one is a picture of us that our friend Elizabeth took at Little River Canyon. It measures 22" x 30".

The smaller one was Santa's creative way of having Kelly's big Alabama Bass from the Cahaba River "mounted." The canvas measures 15" x 20".

It's not quite life size, but the 20" length of the canvas is equal to the actual length of the fish. That way you don't have to stretch your imagination much to figure out exactly how big the fish was. That Santa is a wise old elf.

I got some replacements for my lost "Tennessee Shad" Rapala Husky Jerk lure.

Santa also brought me some supplies to support my recent return to being an artist.

Hopefully, we'll escape the impending Apocalypse so we can actually enjoy our early Christmas gifts.

This isn't the first doomsday we've made it through in recent times, and it likely won't be the last.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Feathered fisherman

I know I said I probably wouldn't announce any more bird art from my new blog here, but since this feathered friend happens to be a fellow fisherman...
I figured some of you might be interested.

Go check out my Brown Pelican at The Naturalist's Art.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gear review: Redington Sonic-Pro Zip Front waders (his & hers edition)

It's taken us awhile to get around to it, but we've finally spent enough time in our Redington Sonic-Pro Zip Front waders to write an actual review. It seems that a lot of folks in the fly fishing blogosphere were either given Sonic-Pros for review or bought them and found them worthy of a review or recommendation. You can find a number of reviews for the men's Sonic-Pro Zip Fronts here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and I'm sure there are others out there that I've missed. (Please don't take offense if I've left you out, just leave a comment below and I'll gladly include your review in the list.) There are only two other blogger reviews of the women's version that I am aware of- found here and here. To my knowledge, this is the first and only blog review to discuss both "his & hers" together. We try to be original around here. You gotta do something to stand out from the crowd.

Kelly and I don't wear waders as often as your average Rocky Mountain fly fishers. In our part of the world, waders are a necessity for two things: frigid tailwater trout fisheries (see Norfork River in Arkansas) and winter wading. For close to eight months out of the year, we're wet wading. In light of that information, it's probably no surprise that I'm not really a fan of waders at all. Sure, they're a part of the official unofficial uniform of fly fishers around the globe... and you have to a fancy name brand pair to look the part, right?

Honestly, I've never been too concerned about my waders, because I don't spend the majority of my fly fishing time wearing them. Prior to receiving our Sonic-Pros, both Kelly and I have worn White River Fly Shop waders by Bass Pro. For our purposes, these have worked out just fine. In fact, I've had my pair for over five years and they've never sprung a leak. Kelly also has a pair of neoprene waders from Bass Pro for cold weather, because she's a little less cold tolerant than I am. I should also mention that Kelly routinely wears Cabela's Three Forks waders for her field work collecting stream macroinvertebrates. I've also previously owned a pair of L.L. Bean Flyweight waders, but truthfully that was over a decade ago. So, my history with waders is pretty simple. I'm not a huge fan. I'd rather wet wade. I've never owned a pair of Simms waders. I've spent my rather limited fly fishing budget elsewhere.

Redington Sonic-Pros go well with superhero spandex

No mistaking, they're the real deal from Redington

You might be saying to yourself, "this guy isn't qualified to write this review"... and I would say, "hold your horses." I personally believe that I'm all the more qualified because I don't really enjoy my time spent in waders and I don't have any preconceived notions about what makes a quality pair of waders. I won't be comparing the Sonic-Pros to Simms or any other high end competitors. My points of reference are knowingly inferior, and in reality I have no basis to compare direct competition. What I can do is give an honest review of how these waders fit, how they performed, and how comfortable they are in the process.

Good for fishing and playing with snakes

As for fit, Redington has some really specific sizing charts. I know I've never seen any other waders that offer as many size options to give you a near custom fit.

If you can't find your size, you must be pretty special.

I'm not a very big or tall guy so I chose the men's "M Short." My inseam is 30"... right between the "M Short" and "M." It was a tough decision, and I could have easily gone with the standard "M" (to err on the side of caution- a little too long would be OK, right?), but I really wanted to find out how close to a perfect fit these waders could be. It turns out they were pretty darn close to perfect. They may be about a half inch short, but I'd rather have that than too much length in the legs bunching up and annoying me.

With a few less sizing choices for the ladies, Kelly chose the "M." Hers turned out with a pretty nice fit as well. To say Kelly was impressed with the fit would be a bit of an understatement. She was actually quite delighted and exclaimed something that can't be put into print here. They simply fit that much better than any waders she has ever put on. It was easy for me to see from her reaction and from her modeling them for the first time, these waders really were properly designed for women.

So, how did they do in the water?

The obvious first question is "did the zipper leak?"... and the answer is simply "no, it didn't." It actually works. The only water that got in was when I slipped and fell in the river... no waders can save you from that situation. Maybe I need a dry suit?

Did I use the zipper? Yes, it has its obvious benefits when you need to relieve yourself or get to something in your pants pocket... and it just makes putting them on a whole lot easier.

I think my favorite features of the waders, aside from the overall comfort, are the pockets. Although I've never had any other waders with multiple pockets like these, these seem pretty well placed and were just the right size for the small items I put in them- a small fly box, fishing license in a waterproof bag, a couple of tippet spools, and a spare leader. What more do you need, right? The hand warmer pockets are nice too, but I can't say it's been cold enough to really need those around these parts.

Towards the end of our day on the water, Kelly and I took a short hike up a feeder stream to see if we could find any salamanders. We didn't really see much in the form of tailed amphibians, but we did find a cold Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon) that emerged from the leaf litter after I stepped along. Our little climb up the waterfalls and rocks to look for critters really showed how comfortable and flexible these waders are. We had to climb over quite a few obstacles, and I didn't feel at all hindered by them. The only thing clunky were my wading boots, and wading boots always seem a bit clunky to me.

Did I mention that these waders were comfortable? Well, they are. At some point, I kinda forgot I was wearing them, and that is exactly the feeling I would look for in a pair of waders. I'm still not a fan of wearing waders in general, but if I must, I want them to be Sonic-Pros.

I think Kelly would certainly agree, but (as I mentioned before) her honest review wasn't fit to be put into print here. Even a well-fitted pair of women's specific waders can't make her act like a lady.

For more details and product specifications, please check out the Redington website.

*These Redington Sonic-Pro Zip Front waders were provided courtesy of Redington for the purpose of this review. The Naturalist's Angle is in no way affiliated with Redington and this gear review represents an independent unbiased opinion of quality and performance.*

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Naturalist's Art

It seems a bit early for an announcement, but I guess most birth announcements are generated as soon as a baby is born.

In that regard, I'm already a few days late.

I have a new baby... in the form of a sibling blog to The Naturalist's Angle. It is appropriately called "The Naturalist's Art." It is still very much in its infancy. There are only two posts thus far- an introductory post and my first art piece posted. I only hope it grows and thrives... with the proper nourishment I'm sure anything is possible.

For my fly fisher followers, I plan to include some fishing themed artwork sooner or later and when I do I'll announce (and link to it) it here. For now it's birds, and I likely won't be announcing any more of those posts. You'll have to follow "The Naturalist's Art" if you want to keep up with the birds.


Monday, December 3, 2012

Urban ultralight fishing fix

At this busy time of year with its abridged photoperiod, any little opportunity where we can squeeze in some fishing time is precious- no matter what the method. The sun currently sets before I even make it home from work during the week, and I had to go into work this weekend to take care of a few things. It wasn't all day work, and I'm at least grateful for that. We were fortunate to have a couple of hours before sunset each of the last two days, and I guess sometimes that's all you need.

We stopped by our neighborhood creek and played with ultralight spinning gear, because we knew fly gear probably wouldn't be as productive (or easy) at this time of year. We've had some unseasonably warm days, but the nights have still been pretty cool- very little chance of a bass taking a popper on top... and if your'e fishing for bass with a fly rod, is there really any other way?

Don't answer that question.

So, tiny Rapalas, beetle spins, and finesse plastic worms were on the menu.

Let me take a brief moment to mention that Kelly carelessly casted delicately hung one of my precious Rapala Husky Jerk lures (Model HJ06, 1/8 oz., "Tennessee Shad" color) in a tree overhanging the creek. Unfortunately, it was out of reach and could not be retrieved. I guess she was just in a festive mood... decorating trees... 'tis the season. I gave her a pretty hard time about it, and I think I may get a replacement in my stocking this year for Christmas.

Reenactment of actual event

Although I am primarily a fly fisherman these days, I have plenty of experience with fishing conventional hardware too. The "Tennessee Shad" color pattern by Rapala is something that I would recommend to anyone who is pursuing bass with lures in our part of the world. I can't speak for how well it might work on trout or walleye or pike, but bass seem to have a penchant for it. I'll just say it has caught more bass for me, more consistently, over the years than any other hard lure pattern I have ever thrown. This is certainly not scientific, and it may just be a result of me choosing that lure more often than others, but when you find something that seems to work when everything else seems useless... you stick with it... and recommend it to others. I should also mention that I'm not partial to it just because of its name and the fact that I happen to be a native Tennessean... that is just coincidence.

The "Tennessee Shad" color pattern is not available in all styles of Rapala lures, and from my experience it can be hard to find in stores. (It seems I'm not be the only one who has discovered its magic.) If you get a chance to add one to our tackle box, do it. Give it a try. Thank me later.

Okay, enough blathering about lures. The fishing yesterday was a bit tougher than Saturday, and I caught the only bass of the day. We purposely rested the pool we fished on Saturday, because the bass were pretty concentrated in there and the stream is very small. As tempting as it may have been, we respected our resource and tried some different areas... which turned out to be pretty unproductive.

Saturday was a different story. We didn't have instant success though. We worked our way slowly upstream fishing all of the plunge pools as we usually do, and in the last area left to fish with only thirty minutes of daylight left, we found the bass. Kelly caught quite a few. I honestly didn't count. I just know she caught more than I did as usual. I only managed to land two fish (one was a chunky Green Sunfish) before it was all done, but I lost three decent bass due to fisherman error- poor hooksets to be specific. I would like to blame the equipment, but ultimately it's my fault. I will say that fishing a finesse worm on an ultralight Eagle Claw Featherlight rod is an art, and if you expect to actually catch a fish you really gotta go after it when you set the hook- no finesse involved.

Kelly's Shakespeare Ugly Stik Ladyfish with pink trim has a bit more backbone, which I like to believe helped her land her first fish, an Alabama Bass, on the worm.

The big fish of the day, a Largemouth Bass, caught on the small Rapala Husky Jerk "Tennessee Shad" color, just before said lure was used to decorate a riparian tree.

Good looking fish, nice sunset backdrop, and an even better looking angler.

My best (and only bass) of the day, also landed using the same size and style of Rapala... the only one now left in my tackle box.

When you know the fly rod is not the weapon of choice, sometimes you just have to settle for what works.

I'd have to say I'm pretty glad we chose the ultralights this weekend... even if I'm still a little sore about losing one of my favorite lures.