Monday, May 18, 2015

14th Wedding Anniversary

I knew her, I'd seen her around and she was my best friend's wife's cousin... I was divorced the summer of 2000 and I wasn't going to jump into any sort of relationship but sometimes we have no control over a certain force called love. You may argue that love is an emotion and I'd agree but when it controls your thoughts and actions then, my friends it becomes a force...a very powerful force. My friend Mike and his wife Kellie introduced us shortly after my divorce and at that first meet she had me with the hip huggers and platform's. I tried to take it slow, I really did but after about three days I submitted to the force. On our way home from one of our first real dates Amber told me, "You don't know it yet but you're my boyfriend"...and that was the beginning of what we are now. Tomorrow, 19 May we will celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary. The smokin hot girl I saw that night at Mike's house has a very complex system of innards. She is so smart that its scary, her heart is huge, she's talented and determined. Amber takes no shit off of anyone, including me. As a matter of fact, I have had to adapt to quite a few things over the past 14 years the worst being watching reality shows...the cheesier the better in her eyes. I've wondered on occasion what all has "she" had to adapt to, I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. First off, I'm an addict...I've been addicted to alcohol in the past and somehow she had the patience of Job and hung around while I made mistake after mistake. That was hard I'm sure...Amber sat beside my hospital bed while I was in a coma from a car wreck wondering if I would wake and if I did, would I have any permanent handicaps. She never waivered and I know she would have adapted to what ever the end result required. This girl is my biggest cheerleader and my harshest critic. There have been times over the past 14 years where both of us were ready to throw in the towel, there have been moments of absolute pure hell but we have taught each other about ones self, we have loved like there wasn't a tomorrow and we have succeeded in everything we have set out to do...everything. It has been one hell of a ride and I'm personally excited to see what the future holds for us. So, Happy Anniversary to Amber and continue to kick ass at everything you do.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

That Is My Baby Girl...

Today like a lot of days , I went I was floating down the Etowah river admiring the sunset, my phone rang. My 19 year old daughter Haley was calling, she just wanted to talk and since she was close by she said she would meet me at the boat ramp. First off, the cool thing is, my beautiful daughter is riding around with a fishing rod in her car. (There is a reason for that and I'll explain later.) Shortly after I loaded my kayak Haley arrived, grabbed her rod and she and I fished from the bank until dark. We didn't have a deep conversation, we just fished, chatted and soaked in the moment. On my way home I thought about Haley because you'd be hard pressed to find a 19 year old girl that keeps a fishing rod in her car just in case she wants to fish. There is a lot that lies beneath that...a tangible reason as to why she is the way she is.
When Haley was a baby I had a bass boat and on more than one occasion I bundeled her up, put her in her car carrier, hooked up my boat and we went fishing...she was less than a year old! I've never told that story to anyone that mattered because of the risk of a negative reaction, not even her mother. Anyway, if I caught a fish I'd show it to her, I'd talk to her as if she could understand all of this fishing jargon yet she was sucking on a pacifier and wrapped up like a burrito. Thank god I never ran into a game warden! When she could walk I would take her out on Lake Blueridge with her Barbie life jacket and her Scooby doo rod and reel. We would run up the lake like our hair was on fire stopping at the various little bays where both of us would stand on the bow and fish until she was ready to change spots...she would signal this by saying, "No fish here daddy!" At age 3 I took her crappie fishing on my hunting club and on our way out there was a big old tom turkey with some hens crossing a cutover. I had all of my hunting stuff behind the truck seat so I put a camo shirt on her, sat her on a stump overlooking the cut and snuck out there and shot him. Haley saw the whole thing play out from the beginning to the kill. After her mother and I divorced the next year she spent every other weekend during duck season in the blind with me. When she was old enough she would handle Bell our Chesapeake Bay Retriever and later she would carry an old 20 gauge single shot that was my brother's. Haley...for a girl has had an unconventional upbringing. She has been my sidekick while coon hunting, she has hunted deer, wild hog and bear with me. She has camped in some of the most remote wilderness that Georgia has to offer and enjoyed every minute of it. She is tough, smart and oh so beautiful and at 19 I had thought she may be fading into just being a regular girl but I realized today that like me, nature and fishing is in our blood. We fish because... that is what we do.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Kokanee Quest 2015 part 1...

I was given a book by my brother for Christmas about 20 years ago, "Trout Fishing Southern Appalachia" by Jimmy Jacobs. I treasure this book because it's obvious sentimental value but it also has a wealth of knowledge for trout fishermen and it is a sure source of ideas for unique adventures. The pages of my book are worn and there are notes that I've scribbled in sections that were about rivers I'd like to fish. One of those places is Lake Nantahala. This lake sits at 3000' foot in elevation, it is gin clear, cold and secluded. The lake is home to smallmouth bass, walleye, trout and Kokanee salmon. These salmon are what intrigue much that my friend Sherill and I were on the verge of going there on a camping trip with what was called "the Polar Vortex" bearing down last January. We changed our plans at the last minute but those salmon haven't left my thoughts. Since then I have acquired more Kokanee lures, watched more YouTube videos and gained more knowledge about these unique fish. I bet you are asking yourself the same questions I did when I discovered this thrilling news. That is, "No way, that salmon live in a lake three hours from Rome Ga." It is a fact that salmon do live in Lake Nantahala, not only do they live but they breed there too. This lake is the only southern lake that has Kokanee. They were stocked in the 1960's as forage for northern pike and other predatory fish, the pike are gone but not the salmon. The Kokes actually make a spawning run into the upper Nantahala river to spawn every fall, mate and die just like their pacific brothers and sisters, the Sockeye salmon. In May, June and July they are fattening up for the spawn on plankton. I don't know of any lures that resemble plankton but they say these fish can be taken on a variety of lures and a couple of different methods. For trolling, the lures have catchy names like wedding rings and kokanee killers but simply look like an extended walleye crawler harness with tiny fluorescent tube jigs on the hooks. For suspended fish very small Kastmaster jigs can get them to bite. I have a small tackle box with all of these lures in it and in two weeks Sherill and I will satisfy our long time dream of pursuing these very rare transplants in our kayak. We will load our Jacksons with camping and fishing gear, paddle to an island, stake claim to it for a long weekend and hopefully complete "Kokanee Quest 2015". Peace

Thank God for Little Plastic Boats...

What a year, I reached my goal of thirty freshwater species from Georgia caught from my Jackson Big Rig. I earned two big fish awards, the first from Georgia was a 19.5" smallmouth bass and the second, a 14" Suwannee bass from Florida. I caught more big fish than I could hope for, fished the largest kayak bass tourney in the history of the sport, started a blog and last but not least...I was chosen by HOOK1, the largest kayak fishing retailer on the planet and Jackson Kayak, the maker of my "Big Rig", a leader in fishing kayak innovation and a company that embodies what I believe kayak fishing is. The start of this journey began as a very personal one. It was fueled by a lust for adventure that I've had in me since childhood and delivered by way of a small plastic boat. The catch as many different fish, to catch big fish and to witness the diverse layers of nature that Georgia, my home, has to offer. I spent many nights in remote areas sleeping alone in my hammock. I learned things about nature and myself that I never imagined and I was satisfied. I was happy with what I'd done and I never considered anyone outside of my close circle would take notice. With the urging of several friends and the unexpected popularity of this blog I applied for spots on Jackson Kayak and HOOK1's fishing teams and was chosen. Just like that, a lifelong dream comes true. Emotions I've never experienced...feelings of pride and extreme humility have overwhelmed me, a sense of accomplishment has set my course and the end product has eliminated the guilt I had felt caused by the 150+ days I spent fishing and the approximately 30 days I spent sleeping in the woods instead of at home. I never imagined it would lead to this...never. What next? Well I'll keep doing exactly what I was doing in the past...paddling, fishing and camping in the most beautiful, scenic, and fishiest places in the Southeastern U.S. I will share my stories with whomever will read my blog, I will help anyone that is interested in this activity get started and I will thank God daily for this opportunity and for little plastic boats. Peace

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Beautiful creatures like beautiful places...

There is a river in North Florida named Santa Fe...warm and the color of a strong tea it makes its way towards the gulf. At it's headwaters it rises from the ground in magnificent fashion. Not as a trickle but full flowing and ready to support the diverse ecosystem that surrounds it. Along its path there are beautiful blue springs that are nestled in pockets along the shoreline feeding the river as it grows. The banks are lined with cypress and live oaks draped in spanish moss. The river is home to manatees, alligators, numerous birds of every color and in my opinion...the jewel of this flow, the Suwannee bass. Although small...the world record is 3lb 14oz...the Suwannee bass is full of fight and a real badass but wears the most beautiful colors of any black bass species. His favorite food are crayfish which thrive along the limestone bottom this ancient river has carved. This fish is not hard to catch since they are voracious feeders, all you need is a small jig or crankbait that mimicks a crawfish and the ability to not be completly hypnotized by the river's beauty. To float and paddle the Santa Fe is an experience to behold because it is one of God's great outdoor cathedrals. If you kayak fish I urge you to do a quick Google search, after you explore via the web give "Santa Fe Canoe Outpost" a call...they can set up a shuttle and give you all of the information you'll need about camping and fishing on this river. The folks at the "outpost" love the Santa Fe and are eager to help anyone wanting to explore it. Make time for a trip to experience this jewel of old Florida and if you're lucky you may hit the motherlode of the Santa Fe's hidden gems, the Suwannee bass.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Nature... More than meets the eye.

I've been on vacation for the past two weeks and and had a great time with my wife and daughter but hoped for something epic to write about in regards to fishing. I spent three days at Disney World with my family and a few days on the beach. Back at home I fished the past four days straight and I'm still trying to figure out what the bass are doing in my area. I did see a couple of manatees in Florida, several eagles on the some local lakes and caught a personal best stringer of bass on lake Blue Ridge but the actual fishing wasn't very noteworthy...I don't have any monster fish to pose with or a hot lure to talk about but what this past week or so has given me is some insight into what lies under the covers of a fishing trip. To many, going fishing is as much of a spiritual or religious event as a church revival. With the launch of your kayak and that first paddle stroke you enter into a world not much unlike that of primitive man...except the boat is plastic, the paddles are carbon, maybe an electronic depth finder etc. but that's not important. I'm talking about the overall experience we attain by floating deep into nature, places you can't see from a road, where an ecosystem is as perfect as it can be in this day and age. What makes such an enormous impact on myself is when I pay very close attention to these surroundings, there is little to doubt about it's creation. You don't paddle along thinking, "damn, this crap shoot in the universe turned out perfect" thoughts are about the precise planning that went into nature, the obvious love and passion it took to create such mesmerizing beauty and to gift you and I with eyes and a brain capable of seeing and appreciating it. That in itself is mind blowing. Whether your god has a name or not ,these trips we take into his creation definitely bring us closer to him and allows us to worship in a way that is free of today's current events, opinions and agendas. We worship by simply being human and in awe of nature. Negative thoughts are left at the gate and few words are needed to get his message across. I started out kayak fishing as an economical way to fish a diverse range of waters and soon realized that it was the way for me to attain a higher relationship with my god, Jesus Christ. My religious beliefs aren't up for debate nor am I trying to convert anyone but if more people had an interest in nature, visited regularly and truly appreciated it the world would definitely be a better place.