Friday, December 27, 2013

The Legend continues

Those of you who have followed The Naturalist's Angle for a while may remember the Legend of the Christmas Crawdad- the saga of the fly that I have used for Christmas Day trout fishing for the last four years.

In 2013, the Christmas Crawdad has become truly legendary.

I present to you the greatest accomplishment of the Christmas Crawdad to date... and one that is likely to never be surpassed...

"Merry Christmas from AR!"

Christmas Crawdad barely visible in the mouth

This fish is my new personal best Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) by about three or four pounds. I'm not exactly sure, but I think it was in the neighborhood of 8 lbs... quickly landed, photographed, and returned to the river. We didn't want to stress her out by taking too many pics or measurements. A fish that big deserves a little respect.

Unfortunately, we left our proper fishing camera at home and didn't realize it until we were about half way to the river... so the only record of my biggest trout ever are a few crappy cell phone pics. However, if we had the proper camera, I'm sure I would have never landed this fish on 5X tippet using a ridiculous fly crafted from holiday decorations.

In addition to this "UN believable" trout (as Bill Trussell of "Fishing Through Life" responded to a picture text I sent him that said "Merry Christmas from AR!"), we also caught a few other fishes.

Kelly landed this cute little toothy critter that we thought might have been a Muskie (Esox masquinongy) at first, but it turns out it's a Grass Pickerel (E. americanus). There are Muskie in the Spring River, but there are also Pickerel in the impoundment formed by the dam at Mammoth Springs. I'm going to guess this little guy got washed over the wall in a recent high water event.

Grass Pickerel (E. americanus)

Kelly also established a new personal best on this trip... which is not nearly as impressive as my new personal best if I do say so... but an accomplishment nonetheless. (I know I'm gonna eat those words when bass fishing season gets underway.)

Believe it or not, Kelly's new personal best Brown Trout (Salmo trutta)...

Kelly and Brown Trout have had a mysterious relationship. She just can't seem to find them. She briefly hooked and lost a nicer one in the Chattahoochee River in Georgia a little over two years ago, but her encounters with Browns prior to this have been... how should I say it?... a whole lot cuter.

Like last year, we counted raptors as we drove the highway from Memphis to the Spring River. We didn't see as many Northern Harriers as last year, and only one Bald Eagle this year, but we did record 66 Red-tailed Hawks. Last year we didn't keep up with the exact number of Redtails, but there definitely weren't as many as this year. Needless to say, eastern Arkansas along the Mississippi flyway is a great place for winter hawk watching... even at 70 mph through the windows of a car.

Except for the minor inconvenience of a forgotten camera, we (I) really couldn't have had a better day of fishing for Christmas this year. I hope everyone out there has enjoyed a wonderful holiday season thus far, and I wish you all tight lines and bent rods for 2014.

Monday, December 23, 2013

DIY: How a fisherman organizes pots and pans

It's been quite a while since I've posted anything here. I've been a pretty awful blogger lately. I made the Troutrageous! Blogroll Quarantine - Winter 2013... a very dubious honor if I do say so myself.

I won't spend too much time making excuses, but life has been really busy over the last five months since I last posted.

First, Kelly finished up her final affairs as a graduate student in biology at UAB... and then the challenge of finding gainful employment began. After a lot of unfruitful searching, long application processes, and time wasted in interviews, Kelly finally found a job as a high school biology teacher just as the school year began... and things have been falling into place ever since.

Second, we started the search for a new place to live (after Kelly got her job)... which was long overdue. We had been cramped in our tiny 640 sq ft (yes, you read that right) apartment for far too long. We found a house we really wanted, and things finally went our way for once. I'm happy to announce that we now live in a house that's nearly 2,000 sq ft with a two car garage... that's more than three times the size of our previous living space... but it feels even bigger. To us it feels like a mansion. We finally emptied out our storage unit and now we have room to spread out a bit, including plenty of storage space for all of our outdoor gear. I also have a place in the garage for a workshop although it's not completely set up yet. I did build a workbench as soon as we got the keys to the house, but it's still a disorganized mess. We moved in during the week of Thanksgiving, so it's all very new.

One of the first orders of business in getting the kitchen somewhat settled was to hang our one-of-a-kind pot rack. This is the third incarnation of this rack in the third home in which it has been installed. Each installation has been slightly different, but I think this is the one that best fits our household... and I think most of you would probably agree.

The stick that forms the base of the rack is a piece of cypress that was collected near Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee after a historic ice storm hit in January 2009. I don't often get sentimental about sticks, but this one was special. It is a souvenir from Kelly's first time to see wild Bald Eagles as well as finding a brave Cottonmouth out basking just days after the major winter weather event. The cypress stick was found very close to where the Cottonmouth was sitting. I admit... I almost stepped on it. I was looking up for eagles when Kelly spotted it. She's never really let me live that one down... despite being one of several "Kelly spotted the snake before Jay" moments.

Cottonmouth (Agkistrodon piscivorous) chillin' in January

The first installation of the rack made use of two hitching rings that my mom picked up at a yard sale and gave to me. I remember her saying something to the effect of, "I thought you could find a creative way to use these"... and sure enough, I did. That installation was in our house in Memphis, and the rings were left behind with a new version of the stick pot rack to replace the original... so maybe it's not "one-of-a-kind" after all. The replacement was a stick from the backyard willow oak with bark left intact. I think the original cypress version minus the bark is prettier. By the way, the cypress is only clear coated- no stain needed to get that rich red color.

The second installation, in our Birmingham apartment which had 10 ft ceilings, employed two shelf brackets with rod hooks on the end attached to a wall. It was functional, but not all that aesthetically pleasing.

This final installation is definitely the most unique... and my favorite hands down.

The two hooks are antiques, stamped "PFLUEGER AKRON, O." on the shank, probably salesman's samples, who knows how old, somewhere on the order of a size 11/0. They are sharp, and I would say highly functional. I sincerely hope that no serial killers ever get into our house... as I'm sure these hooks would play into that somehow. This was my only hesitation in hanging them from the ceiling... I've obviously been watching too much "Dexter" on Netflix lately.

I didn't actually think I would ever use the hooks for any fishing... and certainly not any fly tying. I figured since they are antiques this would a good way to display them and simultaneously put them to use. This pair of hooks was among the many items that were part of the fishing "bonanza" (as my friend Don called it) that came from Nancy's late father Tom Wellborn... the gift that keeps on giving.

A closeup of one of the giant fish hooks

We haven't done a whole lot of fishing lately, and most of it has been ultralight spin fishing in the neighborhood creek. I wish I could post a few more recent fishing photos, but our usual fishing camera has been misplaced (but hopefully not lost forever) in the chaos of moving. Here's one of Kelly from Thanksgiving Day... after all this wouldn't be much of a fishing blog without fish pics.

Who says holidays are meant to be family time?

We do plan to make our annual Christmas Day trout fishing trip, so wish us luck.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Catching Up: a photographic journal

It's been far too long since I've posted anything to the blog. There's been a lot going on around TNA headquarters, but we've still managed to get out and catch a few fish. I figured the easiest way to catch up was to share some photos from our recent adventures, and just give a few details as necessary.

Little River Canyon, 16 June 2013. We met up with another Alabama fly fisher named Matt and tried to help him get into some bigger Redeye Bass... but we were unsuccessful on that front. Matt was a really nice guy, and I look forward to our next chance to fish together. As we've come to expect around here, Kelly caught the best Redeye of the day as well as a small Striper.

Kelly may have had the best luck with the fish, but the real "catch of the day" was a large Gray Rat Snake that we encountered while he was crossing the river. He was not happy with me when I caught him... but a beautiful animal regardless.

Cahaba River NWR, 25 June 2013. The water was a bit high and a little murky... and I knew it would be a pretty good day for bass on the surface. Any ideas I had about catching a carp pretty much went out the window however.

I landed the first decent fish of the day...

and Kelly landed the second...

Somehow we forgot to bring our usual wet wading footwear (hardsole neoprene SCUBA dive boots), but I had on my Chaco sandals so I was gonna be okay. Kelly was wearing slip on Crocs... so we stopped by the Dollar General not far from the river and acquired the highly fashionable wading footwear pictured below.

Same bass as pictured above

I ended up landing the best fish of the day (a rare occasion around here) which measured right at 17".

Cypress Creek, 26 June 2013. A long awaited trip to one of our favorite fishin' holes. There may not be anything in freshwater as beautiful as a Cypress Creek Longear.

Kelly caught the big fish of the day, a 17" Smallmouth, but swears there was a much larger one that she missed.

Hiwassee River, 29 June 2013. Finally fished the Hiwassee above the Apalachia Powerhouse for Smallmouth. Yes they're there, but I wasn't really impressed. The wading was challenging to say the least, and the best Smallmouth of the day is pictured below. I know there are better fish in there, but the effort is not worth the return in my opinion.

We found a dead male Dobsonfly as we were walking along the railroad tracks by the river on our way back to the car. Just thought I would share for those of you who have never seen what a Hellgrammite (the inspiration for the original Woolly Bugger pattern) grows up to be.

Conasauga River, 30 June 2013. Fished a tiny piece of a river located within the boundaries of Tennessee that seems a bit more like Alabama because it is part of the Coosa River watershed. It is the only river in Tennessee that is not part of the Mississippi River drainage. The water was gin clear and before we got in we could see plenty of fish cruising the river including some decent sized Buffalo and Freshwater Drum... but unfortunately none of those were caught.

An Alabama Bass (Micropterus henshalli) in Tennessee.

A Tennessee Redeye Bass (M. coosae).

Kelly caught a decent Largemouth right before we exited the water, and it put up one heck of a fight for its size. If you've never caught a Largemouth from a swift flowing river, I can assure it's not exactly the same beast that dwells in a farm pond.

Closer to home, 09 July 2013. I caught one of the nastiest Largemouth Bass I've ever personally seen in our urban creek close to home. There is clearly something not right about its tail. Makes you wonder... what's in the water?

Authentic reaction, not staged for the camera

Cahaba River, 17 July 2013. Only two bass were landed this day. I caught one 9" bass while Kelly caught one 19" bass.

A little lightweight for its length, but still a really nice fish

The fish never leaped and fought more like a catfish trying to run deep. For a moment, we thought it might have been a carp because the take at the surface was so delicately sipped.

Well, I guess that pretty much sums up the highlights of the last month or so of fishing. I'm still being outfished by a girl... so some things never change.

I'm glad to be getting back into the swing of things though, and I hope to be posting a few reviews in the coming days.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Fly carping attempt yields River Redhorse

I'm sure some of you who read the title of this post are wondering...

what in the heck is a River Redhorse?

Well... it's not quite a carp, but among our native fishes it's pretty similar... and since it's native, I think it's that much sweeter... an excellent consolation prize for a failed attempt at fly carping. I also think it's prettier than your average carp, but that's just my opinion.

River Redhorse (Moxostoma carinatum)

The IGFA All-Tackle Record for this species of fish is only 9 lbs... so at around 4 lbs this is a pretty hefty specimen. The Redhorse was caught on a brown stonefly nymph, size 8, that I cannot take credit for tying... as a matter of fact I can't remember when or where I acquired that fly. All I know is that it was in my fly box, and it caught this fish.

I also saw a handful of small Smallmouth Buffalo (Ictiobus bubalus) in addition to a few other Redhorse of similar size to the one above, but I only caught a glimpse of a single truly behemoth Common Carp... I never even got a chance for a cast. I would estimate it to have been over 3 feet in length and easily 25 lbs... probably closer to 35. It saw me before I saw it due to the intense glare from the riffles, and it bolted upstream like a freight train... reminiscent of a scene from Jaws... with it's dorsal fin and "shoulders" literally sticking above the shallow 8 inches of water running over the rocks. It ran up the entire series of rapids and riffles without slowing down or stopping, a distance of literally 100 feet or more, before it disappeared into the deep pool above the swift shallow section.

I think the carp in the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge are extra spooky thanks to the bow fishers. Kelly and I have seen them a few times now, and the big carp are what they're after... and I think the big carp have learned this. Kelly also had a similar experience with a large carp "running" away from her upstream on the same outing.

This is not the first Redhorse that has made an appearance here on The Naturalist's Angle. On both Christmas Day 2010 and Christmas Day 2012, I caught a Golden Redhorse (M. erythrurum)... I guess it's sort of becoming a holiday tradition. If you want to see more Redhorses and other interesting roughfish species, check out

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fishing with Bill again: another good one gets away

Kelly and I went fishing with Bill again a little over a week ago, and I'm just now getting around to posting about the trip.

It's been a tough one to write about for me.

Bill is a great host and an excellent guide, and we had a really great time fishing with him, and I'm very much looking forward to the next time we get together...


I lost what I know would have easily been my personal best Alabama Bass (Micropterus henshalli).

I almost wish I didn't know that...

but when you're fishing in Alabama's deepest and clearest lake, you can't help but see it and know it.

The clear water assures you that there is no mistaking what you're about to lose.

I almost wish the water wasn't so clear.

The fish was easily four pounds... probably closer to five... and would have rivaled Kelly's big 'Bama Bass (caught last year on Earth Day) for the biggest either of us has ever caught...

but I guess we'll never really know.

The fish had a chaser that was pretty close to four pounds too, and I told Kelly she should try to cast to it.

She had already done the courteous thing by reeling up her line to get out of the way of landing the big fish, but I wanted her to catch its partner.

Kelly wasn't greedy... but I was.

I should have just focused on landing my fish, but I lowered my rod to get out of Kelly's way as she was getting ready to cast her fly back out there...

and then my blue BoogleBug popper came flying back at me...

graciously returned to me by a very large and hard fighting Alabama Bass.

Damn it.

Bill said it gives us a good reason to go back another day... and he's right.

We all caught our fair share of Bluegill, but Bill didn't keep any for his quest because we were fishing the sunset bite... and he didn't want to go home and have to deal with cleaning fish late at night.

Kelly caught the big bass of the day which was around two and a half pounds.

Bill landed a nice Channel Cat on his "go to" Black Gnat fly and his 4 wt rod.

"That looks like a pretty good fish, Bill."

Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) on the fly. Yes, it can be done.

I only landed one other small bass on the day...

and a pretty nice male Bluegill.

We'll be back though...

and next time I'll try to remember to keep my rod high...

and maybe I won't be outfished by a girl again.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Elsewhere in cyberspace...

I've had to take a few weeks off from blogging to get caught up with other real life responsibilities... and now is the time of that year that the fishing starts to heat up and the snakes begin crawling out of hibernation- two things that are serious distractions for the fishing snake guy.

I've had a guest blog post appear on the Pelican Products blog. It's all about snake safety in the outdoors. It's got a few of the same highlights as my popular "Springtime is Snake Time" post... but I toned it down a bit for a more general audience. Here is a link to the post- "The Return of the Snakes: Common Sense and Safety." Please go check it out, and leave your comments while you're there.

If any of you follow the Fly Fishing Ventures blog, you may have recognized a familiar face featured in the latest installment of "Women in Fly Fishing." Kelly is really the first of the WIFF who is a warmwater fly fisher. I just want to say "Thanks" to Rebecca for featuring my favorite fishing partner and showing some love for the dark warmwater side of our sport.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Big fish of the day... and the one that got away

Today it was my turn to catch the big fish of the day...

while Kelly actually got skunked for the first time in a long time.

Sadly, the real big fish of the day broke my line and swam away with the lure pictured above in its mouth. Based on the three seconds that I was hooked up, I think it would have challenged Kelly's rainy day bass for the biggest we've ever caught from the creek...

but I guess we'll never know.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Rainy reward

For the past four years, I've been telling Kelly about the magical fishing moments that can happen in the middle of a downpour. Kelly doesn't like to be cold and wet, so she usually just dismisses my suggestions to go fishing in the rain. This weekend was different. She was determined to go fishing, so we went in spite of the weather.

We waded our neighborhood creek armed with ultralights yesterday afternoon, and for the short amount of time we put in, I'd say we had some pretty good success. I caught three bass while Kelly only caught two...

but one of hers easily outweighed all three that I caught combined.

Good things come to those who fish in the rain.

I think now she may actually believe me when I tell her that the fishing can really heat up when the rain starts falling. That fish is hands down the largest either of us has caught from our little neighborhood creek, and I seriously wouldn't expect to catch any bigger. This is a small creek- barely twenty feet wide in most places and only two or three feet deep in the deepest holes. The particular hole near the bank where this fish was hanging out was probably only a foot and a half deep, four or five feet long, and maybe two feet wide. Just before catching the fish, Kelly had been dealing with a minor line explosion from her reel because it had fresh new line on it. I fished a few other likely spots while I waited on her to deal with the mess, and I intentionally left that hole for her to fish with her plastic worm. Once she got her line situation straightened out, she began to wade forward (thinking I had already fished all of the good spots). I told her to stop so she wouldn't spook the hole and let her know that I had saved it for her. I told her where to cast because I thought there might be a decent fish there. The result was the fish pictured above.

Sometimes I'm just too nice and make it way too easy for her, but I'm really glad she caught the fish. To her credit, she made a perfect cast into the hole, worked the worm like a pro, made the strike at the right moment, and played the fish to perfection... and to think... at this time last year she had never even fished a plastic worm.

Today was actually our first serious attempt of the year to fly fish for bass, and the results were pretty poor. Kelly caught the only bass of the day on the fly- a small Spotted Bass on a big cone head woolly bugger.

First bass of 2013 on a fly

The rain wasn't too bad today, but the stream we fished was running a little high and the wading was pretty difficult. After we gave up wading with fly rods, we spent a few minutes fishing from the bank with ultralights. I landed a pair of small basses- one Spot and one Largemouth. I was really hoping for a big bass on the fly for Easter, but I think Kelly may have used up all of our luck yesterday.

Hopefully, her rainy day bass will be the first of many good fish for this year. It looks like we're already off to a great start.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Smallmouth sometime soon?

This year winter has more than worn out its welcome. I truly enjoy the changing of the seasons and the beauty that fall brings, and I will readily admit that I actually enjoy winter. It's the time of the year when I take a break from fly fishing for bass and turn my attention to trout... but enough is enough.

I don't often share content from other sites, but here's a great article on spring Smallmouth Bass fishing from I say great because I think it's 100% on point, and I would agree with just about everything the author has to say. It even applies down here in the South at the southern limits of Smallmouth country. I especially agree with the author's advice on rod and tippet selection. However, I'm not really a fan of Clouser minnows or crayfish patterns, although they certainly work for some people in some places. My luck with those flies has just been very inconsistent. On the other hand, I am a huge fan of wooolly buggers and the action of their marabou tails... but I wouldn't waste my time fooling around with little ones.

Spring River Smallie taken on a "Giant" Woolly Bugger in 2010

It's been far too long since I've had a decent Smallie put a bend in a rod, but hopefully that situation will be rectified very soon.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Gear review: Guideline Swell polarized sunglasses

Good polarized sunglasses are essential equipment for serious anglers, and I'm always on the lookout for new affordable eyewear options. Unfortunately, it's not easy to find good quality fishing eyewear with a reasonable price tag. Kelly and I have both recently had pairs of Costa Del Mar sunglasses, almost universally considered to be the best polarized fishing shades money can buy, but sadly we both lost our precious Costas... and just can't bear to lay down the cash for new ones. Costas are just too expensive to lose on the trail (mine) or accidentally run over in a parking lot (Kelly's)... and we speak from experience here. We've been making due with inferior eyewear for the past couple of years now. Fisherman could really use some quality options that won't cost as much as an August power bill in the deep South (think January heating bill for those of you that live in the great white North), and that's why Fisherman Eyewear's Guideline Eyegear should be on your radar.

I was recently given the opportunity to try out a pair of Guideline Swell polarized sunglasses from Fisherman Eyewear, and at an MSRP of $69.95, they provide a much more affordable option than the big names in fishing sunglasses. I admit, I was not familiar with Fisherman Eyewear, but maybe I should have been. According to the company website, "nearly 40 years ago Fisherman Eyewear was the first sunglass company to introduce Polarized sunglasses to the angling world." Who knew?

My first impression of the Guideline Swell was that they are well made sunglasses. You can tell they're not cheap shades, and according to the company's e-mail "they are constructed from Grilamid BTR, 51% bio-based polymer, they are far more durable than the average sunglasses." The conservationist in me likes knowing that the company is making some effort to use a more sustainable plastic for their product. Another early impression was that they need to come up with a more custom fit protective case for this pair of sunglasses. This is obviously a generic case that they use for a variety of different Guideline Eyegear models, but the Swell really didn't fit in it very well. That being said, I wouldn't let an ill-fitted case stop me from buying a pair.

Kelly laughed a little when I first put them on because the "large, modified square" style seemed a bit big for my face. They're also more of an "old man" style than I would have chosen for myself. I typically wear something that has more of a modern wrap style... something that would probably fit better in the case pictured above. According to the company, "Guideline’s Swell sunglasses are a take on the classic wayfarers," and I agree that they have a very classic look about them.

That look eventually grew on me (and Kelly too), and after wearing them on a few outings I began to choose them over my cheap fishing shades from Walmart. The reason was simply the quality of the optics. To say "I was impressed" would be an understatement. The view through these lenses is absolutely spectacular and easily equivalent to (or better than) more expensive polarized fishing eyewear that I have worn previously. The Swell pair that I tested featured the "copper" colored lenses and performed very well on overcast days just as the manufacturer website recommends. I used them while kayak angling on Lewis Smith Lake (as seen in the photo below), and the polarized lenses produced a crystal clear view into Alabama's deepest and clearest lake.

I've also used them while stalking the banks of a small creek and while driving around town, and they have performed exceptionally well in all situations. The copper lenses may not be the best choice for a bright and sunny "blue sky" day, but these glasses are also available with gray lenses which are recommended for those conditions. For those of you who wear prescription glasses, it appears most (if not all) of the Guideline Eyegear styles, including the Swell, are available for prescription lenses. Of course these are a bit more expensive than the basic versions, but at $169 they still cost less than a lot of the big name polarized sunglasses even without prescription lenses.

So, if you're in the market for a reasonably priced pair of polarized fishing sunglasses, I would highly recommend a look at the Guideline Swell... especially if you like that classic wayfarer look and a vivid view through your lenses.

*These sunglasses were provided courtesy of Fisherman Eyewear for the purpose of this review. The Naturalist's Angle is in no way affiliated with Fisherman Eyewear and this gear review represents an independent unbiased opinion of quality and performance.*

Friday, March 15, 2013

"D.I.Y." Fly reel shelf

This one isn't nearly as cool as my DIY fly rod rack or even my DIY fly tying bench, but based on the popularity of those two posts (#1 and #2 most popular posts on this blog respectively) I figured this one might be of some interest.

This piece is far simpler than either of the aforementioned DIY projects. The only real figuring was deciding how many spaces I wanted and how big I wanted them to be. I ended up settling on 16 spaces that measure 4.5" each. My largest reel is about 4.25" so that determined the size of the spaces. It's a pretty close fit for that particluar reel. It's located in the space at bottom right. It is a J.W. Young reel branded for L.L. Bean's "Guide" series. The reel pictured to its left is the same type in a smaller size. I'm certainly no collector of Young reels, but I do have a thing for L.L. Bean. There are five other Bean reels on the shelf including my Hardy made GQS. I think some of the smaller reels, like the antique Pflueger Medalist #1492 in the upper left, look a bit dwarfed by the 4.5" spaces. So, if your reel collection trends toward smaller reels, I would recommend making the spaces smaller.

I used 1 x 4 pine for all but the top which is a 1 x 6. I got a little carried away during the process and ended up cutting too many pieces for the shelves. I actually used up wood that should have been left to complete the top, but it turned out to be a "happy accident" (term my 9th grade art teacher used way too often)... one of those situations that worked itself out in a really nice way. Without enough 1 x 4 left to make the top, I opted to use a 1 x 6. I think it capped the piece off very nicely, and I ended up with a larger, more functional top shelf.

I decided to employ the top shelf to help organize my pile of ultralight spinning reels from days gone by. Those reels have caught a lot of fish and have taken quite a beating over the years. Some of them are "Franken-reels" assembled from random interchangeable parts from several donor reels of different brands. None of those spinning reels were expensive or high quality when new, but they served me well and are still functional. They deserve a nice place to spend retirement... but they don't need to be mounted to a board or put in a sealed shadow box. They may be called back to active duty at any time.

In case you were wondering, this is how the boards are cut to create the square spaces.

This is not precision carpentry by any means. As with most of my carpentry pieces the finished product has a rustic quality. I used a Danish oil finish in a walnut color to give it the look I wanted.

My goal was to create a shelf that would get the majority of my reels (and spare spools) in one place... instead of stashed among several separate gear bags. I wanted to be able to look at the wall and easily locate the reel that I want to use on any given day. Now when a reel is out of place, I'll know it.

The only problem is that this shelf filled up so quickly, and I already need a second shelf. At least I got an unintentional head start...

If you have any thoughts or questions, please don't hesitate to ask or comment below.

Monday, March 4, 2013

EYB in BHM... and notes on the big "M"

When you can't get out to go fishing, you might as well enjoy some indoor entertainment... and over the past few days, Kelly and I have gotten our fair share. We went to F3T in Atlanta on Thursday night, and followed that up on Friday night going to see Eli Young Band in concert here in Birmingham.

We were delighted to be introduced to the opening act, Sonia Leigh. I really liked her sound. Kelly described one of her songs as "a cross between the Indigo Girls and Kings of Leon." Try to wrap your head around that. She closed her set with a song that found favor with the locals. Sorry, we didn't get our own video. The one below was found on Youtube. Same song, different place, smaller venue, but hopefully you'll get the picture.

Sonia is apparently a local herself. She hails from Clanton which is only about fifty miles south of Birmingham.

Kelly shot the video below using her iPhone at the concert. I think it turned out pretty well. (Way to go, babe!)

This is really the song that made me pay attention to the Eli Young Band. Any song that makes mention of my hometown makes my ears perk up... and there's a whole bunch of songs that mention Memphis. As a matter of fact, Memphis is mentioned in more commercially recorded songs than any other city. At the time of this posting, the list is at 1074 songs (over 800 distinct titles). No, it's not "the Big Apple" (New Your City), the "City of Angels" (Los Angeles), "the Big Easy" (New Orleans), or even "Music City" (Nashville). If you ever had any doubt about the influence of Memphis on recording artists and the music they make, I think they've spoken loud and clear with this little known fact. I just sent the Memphis Rock & Soul Museum number 1075 to add to the list- "Even if it Breaks Your Heart" by Eli Young Band.

Our friend Ty, fly fishing blogger formerly of Finewater Fly Fishing and more recently Carp Aficionado, has started a series of posts he calls "Memphis Monday" in which he shares a little bit of Memphis "funkiness" with everyone in the blogosphere. I think Ty might be the only person I have ever encountered (although we haven't met in person- only online) who has actually lived there and has as much love for the city as I do. Ty and I are both alumni of the University of Memphis- known locally as "Tiger High." It's a great university, but receives little respect from most native Memphians. There's so much negativity in that town from the locals.

Sadly, very few people who grow up and live in Memphis appreciate their hometown for what it is. There are many things that Memphis isn't (and never will be), and unfortunately most native Memphians seem to dwell on those things... or the other negatives (crime, politics, corruption, etc.) that plague most large cities. I'm delighted to tune into Ty's weekly posts- even if I'm the only one doing so. It's nice to get that little weekly taste of home from someone else who understands and appreciates the "funkiness" that is Memphis.

Thanks, Ty.

Friday, March 1, 2013

F3T in ATL

When you live in a place where fly fishing isn't the "normal" way to catch a fish, you don't really expect the Fly Fishing Film Tour (a.k.a. F3T) to visit your town. Maybe one day the F3T will visit Birmingham or Memphis, but the list of tour stops in the South is still relatively limited. Currently, there are no stops in the state of Alabama or Mississippi... and I don't expect to see any visits in the near future. Fortunately for us, the sprawling metropolis of Atlanta is only about two and a half hours down the interstate... and apparently there are enough fly fishers to be found among the metro population of over five million people to actually warrant an F3T tour stop.

When I saw that this year's tour would be coming to the ATL, I quickly bought our tickets online. The show was sold out, which should be a sign to tour organizers that southern fly fishers like this kind of stuff too. Since this was my first ever fly fishing film festival, I tried to find out what to expect from a little searching online. I didn't really find anything, so I figured I'd share a little from our experience for those of you who haven't ever been either. I think a list is in order.
  1. Lots of dudes. Kelly was one of maybe 20 ladies in a theater that seats 375.
  2. The films are really short. Some of them weren't much longer than the trailers I had already seen online. I know they're trying to squeeze in as many different films as possible, but I was expecting at least a couple of them to be a bit longer... maybe 30 minutes. Don't expect anything longer than about 15 minutes.
  3. An overdose of Orvis rod and reel close ups. Although not listed as an official sponsor of the F3T, Orvis is well-represented in the tour's film selections. There is nothing subtle about the product placement for Orvis in the films they sponsored. Although Sage is the big name rod sponsor of the tour, I left feeling like Orvis kicked their butt in the marketing department by sponsoring the actual films.
  4. They give away some pretty nice swag during the intermission. We weren't lucky enough to win, but they gave away some pretty nice stuff including an MFC boat box and a Sage fly rod. I'm not sure what model of rod it was, they just said "Sage fly rod" and gave it away. It may have been a Circa. They showed a pretty cool promotional video before the films began that would make most any fly fisher want one.
  5. There wasn't really much swag or promotion outside of the films themselves. I can't speak for what it may be like elsewhere, but I kinda expected there to be more going on outside of the actual movie theater. The local TU chapter was selling raffle tickets for a "trip of a lifetime," but didn't even have a display table... just a guy with a manilla envelope and a few tickets in his hand. There was a display table for American Rivers, and they had a drawing for two bottles of Scotch which were also given away during intermission. In case you haven't already gotten the hint, you really don't want to walk out during intermission to make a long phone call... or get stuck in the long line at the men's restroom.
Well, I guess that pretty much sums it up.

Overall, it wasn't quite as magical as I had hoped for, but it was still an enjoyable experience. If it doesn't make it to my town next year, I wouldn't hesitate to make the drive to the ATL again. Kelly and I agreed that our favorite of the films was "Urban Lines." I think it was the one that we could relate to the most, and it had the best message- "fish where you are." It also featured a brief cameo appearance by a Smallmouth Bass, one of our favorite fish around here, which earned it a few brownie points. I think the F3T could really use a little more warmwater representation...

I also think it's about time we get a real video camera.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Old school" cork poppers

One of the things that really got me going in fly tying was the prospect of making my own cork poppers. Prior to discovering the magic of BoogleBugs about three years ago, I had been sorely disappointed with most of the poppers I had ever purchased and used. The hooks were almost always too small or so poorly placed in the cork body that the functional gap of the hook was diminished. You can still find a lot of these dysfunctional poppers out there. I won't name names, but let's just say they can be found at Bass Pro and Walmart among other retailers.

I began making my own poppers quite a while before I found my first BoogleBug... and then the desire to make my own pretty much faded away. I had finally found a well made, high quality cork popper that I couldn't easily replicate at home. I know my simple cork poppers pale in comparison to a BoogleBug, but they're not nearly as expensive- perhaps their only redeeming quality. By the way, be sure to check out the reports page on the BoogleBug website, you might see a familiar face.

Size 1 with sili-legs for the big bass

A little over six years ago, I bought a series of DVDs on Ebay by a fly fishing guide named Chris Hansen (not to be confused with the Chris Hansen who catches an entirely different kind of predator). He's not a big name in fly fishing (and he may not even be a guide anymore for all I know- his website appears frozen in 2005), but he does a pretty good job of showing you how to catch bass on a fly rod in his videos. I can't say I learned much about fishing techniques from Chris, but I really did enjoy watching his videos. I bought them primarily for entertainment after all. Interestingly, all of these DVDs are labeled "Volume 1"... but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for a "Volume 2" for any of them.

Most of my fly tying prior to the purchase of these DVDs was limited to woolly buggers, zebra midges, and other really basic patterns... so I admittedly learned a few things about making cork poppers from watching Hansen's tying video. The poppers he makes in his video (and my version of them) are very simple. I would call them "old school." It's actually been quite a while since I watched the DVD, but I still remember the basics of what I learned.

Size 6 sans sili-legs for the sunfish and smaller bass

I've had these seven smaller corks glued to hooks sitting in a box waiting to be finished for probably five years now. I figured it was about time to finish 'em and put 'em to use. The green ones were painted so long ago, I can't remember what I used to paint them. The blue ones were painted in the past few weeks with two coats of Sally Hansen's Hard as Nails Xtreme Wear in "Blue Me Away!" color and then finished with a couple more coats of the same brand of "Invisible" clear coat. Even though I bought this nail polish specifically for finishing some poppers, Kelly just couldn't resist.

There a lot of guys out there who make some real popper works of art. Jeff of J & M Flies and the blog "Fly Fishing & Tying Obsessed" comes to mind. These simple old-fashioned cork poppers may not be nearly as pretty as Jeff's, but don't forget that "old school" still catches fish.