Monday, October 31, 2016

The Visit



A few years back I had the weirdest thing happen… this is a true story.
I woke up on a Saturday morning and went into the living room where my wife was. As I laid on the couch watching a fishing show on TV I recollected a dream I had the night before.

 I walked into a restaurant reminiscent of a Denny’s with the large open ended vinyl covered booths, I sat down in the booth and there was a large one layer birthday cake on the table. I wasn’t sure of who’s birthday it was and I remember being really confused because I couldn't think of anyone that I knew that was celebrating a birthday. My aunt (Annette) came and sat beside me with a huge smile and gave me a hug, “Hey baby, how are you”  , she said. I was still wondering whose birthday it was and I don’t think I answered. Then I felt someone grab my shoulders and start squeezing them, like I’ve had a lot of older people do when I was younger. You know, like when someone is really glad to see you. I turned and saw that it was my deceased grandfather. I immediately thought, what the crap man, you’re dead. I couldn’t respond to his greeting of, son, how the heck have you been? The dream was over. What struck me that morning was, why in the world did I dream about my grandfather?
   I then relayed the same story to my wife and she asked if I had been on Facebook. I  hadn’t had time to look but she told me that my cousin Lee had posted earlier that morning a happy birthday to Carl Lemming, our grandfather. (I couldn’t have told you what year, month or day that he was born if you’d waterboarded me before that moment) the coincidences chilled me to the bone and to this day I have no explanation…  paranormal or hidden knowledge released in my sleep. They say it was his birthday party that I was at.

*This was the weirdest thing I've ever witnessed...I did call my aunt to make sure she hadn't had the same dream, thank God she said she didn't.*

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Big Water Trout




In the last couple of years I’ve seen my fishing go from a finesse style with light freshwater tackle to a much heavier aggressive style. I think that the Kayak Bass tournaments that I fish have been the major reason for that. In those tournaments you have all day to catch three bass and the three largest wins. Granted, there are tournaments where I wished I would have been fishing an 1/8oz Shakey Head with a finesse worm on 6lb test but overall the heavier stuff has yielded heavier fish. This philosophy has filtered over into my trout fishing too. Instead of my old 5 ½ or 6’ ultralight set up I now use a bit heavier gear because the rivers I fish I know there are some double digit fish and I’m talking pounds not inches.

The tackle I use is a  medium action rod with a 3000 series spinning reel spooled with 15# braid. I’ll run a rod and a half's length of 8-10# fluorocarbon. This is also the same setup I use for sea trout and redfish except I will opt for a 20# fluoro leader. The rod length is very important in this setup because I’m in a kayak. A  7’ or longer rod allows me to fight a fish with a bent rod from my right to my left without the bow of my Jackson Big Rig interfering with the line. The idea when fighting a fish from a kayak is to keep the battle directly in front of you. There are several reasons for this but safety is the key reason. When a fish gets away from the bow and you end up fighting on the port or starboard side you risk capsizing due to the fish pulling you over or your boat striking submerged objects. I also have more control over the fish when it’s off of my bow because I have more options with rod angles thus putting more torque against the fish if it decides to head off to one side or the other, allowing me to turn the boat with  “fish power” .
    The reel I use is a quality spinning reel that’s light weight and won’t wear me out from casting all day. Every major reel company offers a 3000 size reel like this. My line choice is based on the amount of line I can load into the spool, in this case, I can load almost 300 yds of 15# braid onto a Shimano Stradic 3000 reel. The braid also casts much further and is a lot more sensitive. My leader length is based on water clarity and I rarely use less than a 7’ leader but in ultra clear water I may use 15’ of fluoro just to be safe.

Thursday, I’m going down one of my favorite tailrace rivers fishing for trout. My lure choices for trout have also changed in the past few years, when I was a kid I remember seeing a guy in Cherokee NC carrying a stringer of  18-20” trout and when I asked him what they had bit, he showed me a #7 Rapala countdown. That piece of information was eye opening and made perfect sense. The rivers I fish have two main forages, blueback herring and crawfish. My lure of choice is a Lucky Craft pointer 65sp in a blueback pattern. I’d throw a bigger one but they run a bit too deep for that particular river causing a lot of hangups. Throwing the bigger lures generally won’t catch numbers of fish like an inline spinner or a chunk of power bait but a couple of years ago my buddy and I had a 21 fish day using this same plug and every fish measured 18” to 22”.

Fishing this river with a kayak requires some decent paddling skills and the ability to read fishy water and determine the easiest most efficient way to fish it. Trout are finicky so you have to be stealthy. I spend a lot of my time hugging the banks in water just deep enough to float my kayak and making long casts to deeper water. I mentioned that this is a tailrace river that I am fishing which means that I’m normally racing against the dam generation schedule. (Whatever tailrace river you’re fishing the generation schedule is usually posted on line and it is imperative that you know this information.) Don’t get roped into picking apart every single fishy looking spot, you’ll be on the water longer than you had planned and risk getting to ride the generation flow back to your take out...I like to hit the high spots, casting while drifting and fish the pools hard. In most tailrace trout fisheries you can wade a 1 mile section of river paying attention to every detail and catch the amount of fish that I do on a 7 mile float but the float usually gives an angler access to a lot more big fish water and it’s definitely a lot more fun.

Here are a few things outside of tackle that I always have on a tailrace river…
• Always wear your pfd. Always!
• You’ll need a net. Trust me, if Jesus had been a trout fisherman...he would've had a landing net.
• Use a paddle leash.
• Carry a change of clothes, water and food.
• Dress for the season… layers, waterproof clothing etc.
• fire starting kit.

Now it’s time go catch a trout that will drop everybody’s jaw. Use your common sense, check your generation schedule and know your state laws. Most of all, have fun! Peace





Saturday, October 8, 2016

For the Love of the Game




The last time I was in Texas was twenty six years ago, I have some very fond memories from the lone star state and this coming week I plan make some more. On wednesday my buddy and I will be headed to the Texas/Louisiana border to fish the Kayak Bass Fishing Open on Toledo Bend Lake.

Toledo Bend is not only a legendary trophy spot, it is also ranked as the top bass lake in the country by Bass Master Magazine. We'll be fishing waters that the legends like Rick Clunn and Roland Martin have fished...this one of Bass Fishing's Mecca.

 I’m hoping that the intense homework that I’ve done will pay off because the last thing I would want would be to draw a  skunk on the best lake in the nation. This lake holds water that I’m not used to fishing. Mainly, grass and vast stretches of flooded timber. My home waters are mostly clear, deep and rocky or shallow and muddy but in the past few months I have made a point to fish some grass lakes. I’ve recently been to Guntersville and Pickwick several times and on my last trip to Pickwick I felt I had made some progress fishing around grass. Some of you may say that you love grass and I have said that too especially in the waters of Northwest Georgia. We have very little aquatic vegetation and when it’s scarce, then visible grass can be a fish magnet. The grass on Pickwick and Guntersville is on a massive scale. It’s everywhere and I had a real problem figuring out where to start because it all looked good.

I ended up finding fish in areas that if you removed the grass the fish would still be drawn to it. Bait was a key and patches or edges of grass, not the huge  mats were where I found the largest concentrations of fish.
When I get on Toledo Bend early Thursday morning I will put this information to work while I try finding some quality bass. This lake will be a hefty challenge but that’s what tournament fishing is all about.


•Recognize the challenge and determine if you are up for it.

•Accept the challenge

•Prepare for it by reading every single thing you can find about the lake, study the maps, select a few areas that you feel will hold fish and seek first hand knowledge (if possible) to verify that you’re on the right ballpark, read more, map study more and tweak your style to the new lake's possible situations. I.e.; grass, timber etc.

This tournament will have the toughest competition that I’ve faced since March and win or lose I will have a great time but... my preparation isn’t to lose.  Peace

(Photos courtesy of Bass zone and FLW)

***If you enjoyed this or my other stories, give me a vote for Blog of the Year in the 2016 YakAngler's Reader's Choice Awards @ http://www.yakangler.com/choice






Sunday, September 18, 2016

I am honored and humbled to find out that River Goat Kayak Adventures was nominated for the 2016 Kayak Anglers Choice Awards. If you are a fan click on the link and give it a vote. Thank you.

http://www.yakangler.com/choice








Monday, August 29, 2016

"It's only Fishing"



In May of 2005 I had a wreck that almost killed me…I came out a changed man.

I woke up to a sweet voice whispering my name. When I opened my eyes I knew something was extremely wrong. my whole body was stiff, my throat was raw and the hospital room was a dead giveaway. The voice said hey, you had us all worried and then asked if I knew who she was…”you’re my wife”, I said. "No, what’s my name?"...I whispered ”Amber”.

 By this time I knew I was in a bad bad situation but I couldn’t remember what had happened. Amber told me that I had been in a wreck and they had induced me into a coma. I had been out for almost two days. My first question was if anyone else was hurt?  Then I remembered..only a tidbit but that I’d been fishing. My next question was, “Is my fly rod ok?”

Going fishing almost killed me that day and later on it would be a huge reason that I’m still alive…literally and figuratively.

After I had recovered from a fractured neck, two dislocated shoulders and a scalping that a Blackfoot warrior would be proud of I began to reflect. I thought about just how quick life can be taken from you and it scared me to death. Not because I’d be dead but because there was so much I wanted to do…I decided to live. Another change happened and I can’t begin to understand why it happened..fears that I had were no longer there. I felt free.

I was preparing for a two week vacation to the beach by taking my kayak to a local lake where I’d paddle laps. Three laps were roughly six miles, I’d do it in intervals like distance runners train and my reasoning was I’d need to have the endurance for an off shore trip into the Atlantic, the second was that I figured I’d end up towing my eleven year old daughter in her Kayak in the slack backwaters. While paddling my laps I couldn’t help but notice the runners along the path around the lake so I decided to try mixing my own workout up with running.

Two miles was the longest distance I had ever ran when I started my initial lap on foot around that lake. I walked over halfway that first time but I kept pushing. I’d go over there three days per week and each week I saw progress...one whole lap without stopping and within a couple of months I was bored with that scenery and sought a new path. Before long, I was a runner albeit a very slow runner. In six months I had lost forty pounds and had a few  5k’s under my belt. I had Steve PreFontaine quotes memorized and had set goals for my self.

What I most liked about running was that I viewed my body almost like a toy that I never knew I had. It was surprisingly a pretty damn tough toy too, I’d push it to the limits but it was always ready to go on my next run day. Every time I ran, it was a race against the old Jim. He didn’t have a chance against me and those Pre quotes…(Steve Prefontaine was the greatest American distance runner, undersized and full of determination.) He  had sayings like, “It’s a good day to die” and “somebody will have to bleed to beat me.” I needed all of the motivation I could get and after a year and a half of pushing myself to run intervals, sprints up rollercoaster hill and distances up to 16 miles all while jamming to Metallica's "Kill'em All"… I put myself up to what I considered the ultimate test…I ran my first half marathon. I had a goal that only my wife and myself knew about. That was to run the 13.1 miles in less than two hours. That’s not world class by any means but it was a time that I had never dreamed I could reach. With Amber and my sweet mother at the finish line I crossed it at 1:56:58…and like a switch, I was done. I had proved to myself that even at the age of 45 I had the drive and determination to do absolutely anything I set my sights on.

  I loved the competition of running races although I never even won my age group, I did enjoy the comraderie and seeing the passion and drive that each person put into a race. You see, most were like me, they weren’t racing anyone but their selves.

I had missed fishing and spent a lot of time in my kayak which eventually led to fishing kayak bass tournaments. I figured, what better competition am I suited for than for fishing. I’ve been obsessed with it since I was a kid and here is a chance to compete in what I truly love.

 I train just as if I was going to run a race, not with intervals (although I do paddle sprints and time paddle distances) but with the same philosophy that I used when I ran…if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball. I don’t know if anybody or if everybody trains for kayak bass tournaments, I’ve never asked, but it helps keep me motivated and adds a little flavor to it.

I still haven’t won a big tournament and with the competition I’m up against I may not ever win one but it won’t be because my heart wasn’t in it…I hear people say, “it’s only fishing.” To some it isn’t, to some of us, it’s rock and roll, it's our drug...our passion and our way of life, it is much more than "just" fishing. Peace






Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The best lake in the county...lil Okeechobee



When I was a kid, there was a lake that I had permission to fish that had the reputation in my thirteen year old circle of being the best lake around. Many youngsters caught their biggest bass in this lake and I'm sure there were true giants lurking in it, much bigger than those we had seen caught.

The lake was about 8-15 acres and covered in lily pads which made it very hard to land a fish. I didn't have a boat so once they wrapped in the pads it was over. The most effective way that I knew to fish it was to wade but wading meant getting leeches on you and as much as I hate leeches I still waded that lake.

With the local popularity of this lake it was guaranteed that friends would want to tag along. All I had to do was call my sunday school teacher and he usually was ok with it but he always added that they weren't allowed to fish there without being with me. I had an easy fix for this and I used the tactic several times...I'd get mom to drive a screwy route when she'd take me and a friend  over and once I could drive...I blindfolded them. They didn't want to be blindfolded but that was the only way they could go. It was a top secret spot and I was so honored to have permission to fish there.

It's been 30 years since I fished the lake that me and a few of my buddies called lil Okeechobee and today...I will fish it again out of my kayak. Who knows what the lake holds today but fish or no fish I will definitely be flooded with memories of wading that jewel and catching my first 5 pound bass and she will forever remain top secret.







Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"Grinding"

 We watch TV and see people daily that are great at what they do…Serena Williams, LeBron James and the likes. We either love or hate the great ones but does anyone ever really strive to be great, do you honestly believe that you could grind like the great athletes or musicians and achieve that grand goal. I'm not talking about being a great father, mother, husband, wife or friend. I’m talking about something that could be construed to be selfish, a personal goal… I’m talking about being great at what you love doing, being great at what you’re most passionate about. It doesn’t matter what it is but it is possible to be great at it.

I kayak fish and I love being on the water, the scenery, the challenge of man versus beast but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t want to be great at it. I fish every chance I get regardless of conditions, I compete when I can, I read about fishing, talk about fishing…I eat, sleep and breathe my passion and yes I strive to be great. I’m not there yet, I may not ever get there but it won’t be because of the lack of effort.

I have friends that have the same mind set. They’re on the water every chance they can get. We share information and even fish the same water because on this water is not where greatness is achieved, greatness is achieved in March on Kentucky Lake at the Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship. That is where some of the best fishermen converge to see who is the best of the best. To see who is the greatest.

My friend Jim Clark said it best…”I wanna be great one time per year…everything else is just practice.” So we’ll fish when ever we can. Try new tactics and tackle, run our phone data out the roof researching techniques, water and equipment and we’ll show up at Paris Tennesse in March to fish for our dreams. Until then...we will grind.






Tuesday, April 12, 2016

New series...The Birth of a Trout Bum"



Picture this...it's 1980, you cross the railroad tracks in the little mill town of Lindale Ga. Up the tracks are 3 boys, no older than 11 or 12. Each one of them has on rubber hip boots, a fishing vest (if you could get a closer look it's actually a hunting vest with pill bottles full of hooks , weights and spinners shoved down in the shell holders) and a fishing rod...it's Christmas break, they're headed towards the Creek and it's freezing. Today...that'd make a lot of fishermen's day...the birth of a Trout Bum is what I'd say.

My dad, who is not a fisherman, showed up from work one spring day with a youth sized Zebco 202 rod and reel combo. This was before the scoobie or Barbie themed rods and reels...it was very generic looking with its solid glass 3' fiberglass blank, cork handle and black reel. He said, "Get ready, we're going fishing." I was around six years old and that's when my wanderlust associated with fishing started and it's still redlined after 40 years. In those early years different lakes around town were as good as any of the exotic locations that I've daydreamed about throughout the years. I had heard stories of huge Bass in "Padgett's Lake", Powhatan and Wax lake to name only a fraction that were available to the everyday fisherman. As I fished those lakes with my brother Steve or my close friends, Scott, Mike, Billy and David, this unknown to me addiction was incubating in my soul to a point of total obsession. I didn't want to just catch Bass, bream and catfish...I wanted to catch the biggest. When I got a taste of those in the larger sizes I wanted more...something not just big but beautiful and romantic with a feisty attitude. Trout!!!! The only thing was...there were no trout in my area. The closest place was an hour drive and being 9 years old that was impossible to get to on a bicycle and back by dinner without my parents sending out a search party. So,  I'd fish the local ponds and creeks catching numerous types of sunfish, chubs, the prized red-eye bass until that one winter day in 1979.

   I had bought a black and yellow Panther Martin spinner at Owen's Hardware...walked down to the old grist mill and duck pond on Silver Creek in Lindale, Ga and started fishing. I had started at the bridge just upstream of the cotton mill and was working my way back to the sharp bend in the creek. As I made my way past the old sycamore tree, that still stands there today, I made a cast across the Creek towards where the water wheel would have been on the grist mill and pulled my lure through a deep hole that was there. I could see my little spinner buzzing along several feet below the surface when a silver streak darted out of the shadows and absolutely crushed the bait. I knew what it was, even though I'd never actually caught one and in that moment in time, landing that fish was the most important task I had on the planet...it was my first trout.

   I pulled that fish up on the bank and dove on it, tried to grab it several times but if you didn't know, trout are one of the most slippery fish known to man. Finally, I had it, no doubt in a death grip, and took off in a dead run up to Hotchie's Cafeteria to show my mom and the owner Hotchie Millican my supreme prize. (One thing I noticed while that fish was in my hands, every time it tried to wiggle out I could feel it's muscles almost vibrate, trout are the only fish I think I've noticed that in.) I came busting through the front door of the restaurant with that live fish gripped in both hands, rod and reel tucked under my arm and not stopping until I was behind the serving line, Hotchie was standing there with a most surprised look on his face and was in a rare mode...speechless! I blurted out, "Is this what I think it is?" He looked at it, took it out of my hands and said, " by god, that is a rainbow trout! Where'd ya get it?". To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement but again blurted out with the utmost excitement... "Down there by the old mill, you should of seen that sucker hit..."and I went into every detail of the short moment in time it took to actually catch that fish. That day, Hotchie cleaned and cooked that little trout on the griddle for me like I was something special.

   As the days went by a man I'd seen in church and knew from afar came in Hotchie's and wanted me to tell him about catching that trout. His name...Mr. Jack Mathis, a man I would come to know and respect as a man and a fisherman. I sat down at the table with him and he listened to every single word of my story, asked questions and the likes...just like he was conversing with a grown man and when I finished he said, " Jim, let's keep that our little secret." He said that he knew a lot of folks already knew but let's let it die down some or else people from all over the county would be crowding our Creek. There was plenty of space for us and our friends and I agreed that I didn't want any crowds on that little Creek. You see, Jack had been catching trout for a while out of Silver Creek and he told me that a man upstream had a place dammed up that he kept trout in. When the Creek would flood some would get washed down while others would simply swim upstream but I believe that in 1979 me and Jack were the only others outside of that man that had put those trout in the hole behind his house that knew about them. I may be wrong but I don't think I am.

  As my teen years went on most of my friends would wade the creek looking for trout and my good friend Mike was catching them further up the Creek around "Chamber's Mill" with his friend Gary...by the late 80's the state had put the Creek on it's list to stock and more and more folks came to check it out but a small group of us that were willing to trek up the Creek, brave the posted signs and be willing to run, knew where the better spots with some up to 18" that were caught. I was fortunate to be invited numerous times to fish the Oconaluftee in Cherokee NC with my friend Scott and his dad where I got a taste of big water and bigger fish...namely, my pb Brook trout that weighed 3lbs. I learned the basics during that time like wading skills, reading water, trout habits etc. My imagination bloomed and I knew that I wanted to chase those beautiful creatures. I've been on many trips with a few of my childhood friends over years to remote trout streams that hold native Brook trout to rivers that hold record class browns. A lot of those exotic waters from my youth are now old favorites, a little stocked rainbow doesn't get a second glance anymore but what it has grown into is exactly what my childhood dreams were made of... we were trout bums when it wasn't cool. Peace