Sunday, June 28, 2015

ep:2 Perfect Fishing Buddies

This blog entry is about a guy that's been my best friend, fishing and hunting buddy for almost 20yrs. He is one of the hardest working men I know, a loyal husband and father. He is also a student of the game of life...same as me. I wish we had some of our conversations recorded from the many road trips we've taken on our fishing, hiking and hunting trips; not for the public but for my own personal use. I think we've helped each other to understand things we question in our daily lives and have opened each other's minds to alternative views. He is also the one I call when I have a question about deer hunting and he calls me about fishing. It's a great relationship and he's a perfect fishing buddy. Two of the greatest days I've had hunting and fishing was with him. The first was on 13 January 1999, it was 13 degrees when we arrived at "the slough". (The slough was on my old hunting club and it was an acre of water off the Coosa river that in winter, when they draw down lake Weiss, becomes landlocked.) This particular morning another buddy who attended school in Montana and was home for Christmas was with us and after refreshing the blind with river cane we settled in to wait on sunrise. We were duck hunting and to be honest ducks tend to be scarce in our part of the country so I wasn't expecting much. It was great catching up with our student friend and at daylight a couple of woodduck flocks buzzed us but we didn't fire a shot. By O730 the sky was dead and we were joking about shooting some crows when a couple of ducks appeared. We blew our duck calls and the ducks turned to check us out. Ducks normally circle an area before they land and as they circled 4 became 8 and 8 became 15...they landed out of range but there were more in the air. We waited patiently and when we decided to shoot there were probably 50 on the water and another two dozen cupped up coming in directly in front of us. When the shooting was over we gathered up 8 mallards. This played out the same way until we had our limit at 0900. For Georgia, 3 limits of ducks consisting of 10 mallards, teal and a few gadwall by 9am is world doesn't get better than that in our neck of the woods. Every time I climbed into that blind after that morning I was hoping for another morning like that and "thankfully" it never happened thus solidifying the magic that happened that bitter cold January morning. The second was 18 December 2014...we had went to my favorite trout river the week before kayak fishing and had a morning we thought was epic. We had caught 8 rainbow trout between 18 and 20". On our way up on our second trip we talked about how great the fishing was and that it couldn't get better...We were about to experience a morning of fishing that only angels can deliver. It was a cloudy morning with temps touching the thirties when we launched our kayaks for the 7 mile float. The first mile was fishless but as we approached a feeder stream both of us hooked up with rainbows in the 18" range. After the fish were landed we took turns taking pictures and talked that humble fisherman talk where you say,"if I don't catch another fish I'll still be happy, yada yada yada" just so the fish gods don't get angry. Well, it payed off because at the end of mile 2 I told my buddy that we needed to start keeping count...we had 12 rainbow trout ranging in size from 18"-20". We were in total disbelief and when we reached our takeout shortly after dark, tired, cold and hungry we had caught 21... yes 21 rainbow trout ranging from 18-21". This river isn't under any sort of trophy management, its a public flow that gets a fair share of fishing pressure and most of those fish were caught on artificial lures. I think I may have hugged my friend that evening. It had been 15 years since something that epic had happened and I'm positive that in 15 more years, if that's the time frame that "Ms. Epic" uses to show her face, my buddy and I will still be going to the outdoors together and we'll be more than ready to see her beautiful face.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Ep1: A celebration of fishing buddies.

I fish mostly by myself thanks to a crazy work schedule but I am blessed with some fishing buddies that are like brothers to me. I've been friends with one guy my entire life, I can't remember a time when I didn't think of him as my best friend. For four decades we've worn numerous creekbanks down, attempted to keep the squirrel population in check, chased turkeys and hunted for that buck of a lifetime that we're convinced is up on the mountain. Memories ooze from my mind when I think of days we've had in the woods... ...A few years ago we were on our annual kayak fishing trip to the gulf.(A.k.A. Saltwater Revival) We used to hang our catch off of the side of our kayaks with a stringer until one evening...It was a very calm day and we were planning to fish into the night because of the supermoon that was going to happen. My friend had a few trout dangling in the water and I heard a commotion coming from where he was. Cusswords echoed and I could see him beating at the water with his paddle, there was more turbulence in the water than his paddle could make so I headed towards him. By the time I arrived it was over and a blacktip shark about 5' long had stolen his catch. Remember, he was in a kayak and all of this took place within an arm's reach from him. Did we pack up and go home? Nope...we laughed hysterically like a couple school boys and fished until about midnight under a supermoon. We did put our catch in a cooler from them on though. Later on that night at the fish cleaning station...we'd set up an assembly line of sorts. I would fillet the fish, he would wash , bag and put the catch on ice. One problem, we were getting eaten alive by mosquitoes so my friend went to the truck to get insect repellent, that wasn't there. I was busy fighting mosquitoes and filleting a fish and didn't look up when he returned but when he told me that we didn't have any repellant (it wasn't the news that alarmed me because that was par for the forgetting something.) His voice sounded very odd. What I saw next was a sight straight out of a horror movie, he had a 5 pound ice bag stretched over his head with eye and mouth slits cut in it. He said, "you do what you have to do because those suckers are killing me." He looked like a stereotypical serial killer basking in the moonlight... Like a true friend he had made me a bug bag also but I chose to let blood to the damned mosquitoes. Every time I looked up I laughed until it hurt, hell we were both in hysterics laughing but he never took that bag off. Moments like that are priceless but it is a sign of a perfect fishing buddy Teamwork is also a must for a perfect fishing partner...The next day we launched into the gulf to try for king mackerel, my partner had caught a bait and was fishing in no time. While I was trying to catch bait I noticed that my buddy and his kayak were traveling into the wind and he wasn't paddling. He had white paddle blades and you can see him paddling from a mile away...I headed out to him and the closer I got I could tell he was hooked up with a fish. I watched the fight and when the 42" king had given up I moved in to gaff it. (The gaff I had was found at a yard sale and yet to be tested.) When the king rolled up on it's side, I struck...a little too far back and all hell broke loose. The fish went nuts and broke the gaff handle, so, I'm now holding a broomstick and the fish is giving its best last ditch effort to escape. I yelled, when he comes back up I'll grab the gaff hook and you beat him in the clockwork the fish surfaced, I grabbed the hook and pulled the front third out of the water. My friend struck the fish several times in the head and the king went limp and in the cooler. Game over. We paddled in...celebrating the fish and laughing at our adventure like a couple of fearless adolescents. Note: I've got several more perfect fishing buddies I'll write about in the near future. Stay tuned.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Nature's Tiny Details...

Spirituality and fishing go hand in hand to many folks. I get it, some may not and that's OK. Its not catching the fish that brings out the angels blaring on their trumpets, as a matter of fact the fish is simply "the bait". They lure me into traveling from one beautiful place to another in search of adventure and big fish.The adventure part usually pays off but the big fish deal is iffy at best. One thing that is guaranteed...if you're really quiet, pay attention and immerse yourself into nature, god will speak. I'm not the only person that feels this and if you think this is crazy then there are a plethora of crazies paddling around our local rivers, creeks and lakes. God doesn't say, " Hey Jim, how's it going...Catching anything?, Try the bubblegum trick worm." It is voice but at the end of the day you've received a message. Here's the deal...You witness perfection, on a grand scale! I have a theory about a tiny fish I observed not too long ago. The fish was a coosa darter and there was a community hanging around some rocks in a local creek. It was spawning season and the males were doing their courting ritual. The females are a drab subdued color but the males look like they'd fit in on a Fijian coral reef with their beautiful colors. The female would swim onto a flat rock then one male would show up, then two...flaring their fins and doing their best mating dance. I assume these were young males because eventually a bigger male would pop out of a hole in the rocks, stroll towards the little female and "break it down", I mean a dance that'd swoon any girl all while the others males would either run for cover or at least give him plenty of space. I thought about what I'd witnessed on and off for the next several days. Lots of different animals do similar routines during mating season on land and in water but "why?" Here is my theory and it most certainly is debatable... Only the bigger stronger males get to mate so the species is guaranteed healthy offspring and the species can continue to survive. You say, "no duh, Jim, we watch Nat Geo too." There's more...these old males are smart and they're schooled in survival. They didn't swim around in the open like the smaller young males, they were hiding in the rocks, swam maybe 3 inches did their jig and disappeared. The young males were swimming to where ever a female was and dancing 10 times more than the old men. The young males were learning valuable survival skills, they were getting stronger and more agile in this fish version of teenage hormones that would surely help out in non mating times and in the next mating season "IF" they didn't get eaten by the red eye bass that was lurking around this little rock pile. So, I just explained in a lot (for me its a lot) of words a pretty common mating ritual. One thing, who has ever seen or even knows what a coosa darter looks of hands please?...OK, not many, only the people that immerse themselves in nature or someone with the Fisheries Dept. So my theory is although these beautiful little 3 inch fish go through all of this,(by the way it is a perfect system), for their own survival, the main reason is so I could watch in amazement at God's handiwork and draw from it that there is no other way tsurvival was not a carefully thought out plan by a creator. When you witness things like this while in nature it puts you on high alert every time you are in nature, you're eager to see more of the same and it constantly solidifies my belief that nothing in untouched nature is an accident. God spent a lot of time laying this stuff out for us to marvel at and it's a real shame that only a small fraction of people even want to see these types of things. I don't know what your gods name is and I don't care...if you can find the beauty and amazement by staring for hours into a creek watching some fish then you are my friend.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A quick sappy tribute to Big Momma...

Back in February of 2014 I bought my 3rd kayak. I was forced into the purchase by a thief and had very bitter thoughts towards this Reebok shoe wearing scoundrel. You ask how I know he wears Reeboks... I saw his foot prints in the mud next to the drag mark my kayak left while he was stealing it AND I haven't worn Reeboks since the early 90's when I had a pair of red hightops just like Sammy Hagar. What this thief did was a blessing in disguise, as a matter of fact, knowing what I know now he's no longer a thief because I give him the boat. Yes, he can have it and I'd even shake his hand for the favor. Two things were certain at this point...I no longer had a kayak and I had to get a new one. The boat I got was a Jackson Big Rig, "it was designed by fishermen for fishermen"....SOLD! "They say you can stand up while fishing"...I'll take it. I and even more so, my wife would find out this boat and all of it's features would be like throwing jet fuel on an already hot fire....I was ready for the ride. I honestly didn't think I could love fishing anymore than I already did but the first fishing trip with it I floated my favorite trout river. I stood most of the way and landed my largest trout ever. I was blown away by Big Momma's stability and comfort. The more I fished from it the more my love grew, so much that I applied for spots on HOOK1 kayak fishing gear and Jackson Kayak's fishing teams. I wanted to spread the love, I wanted people to experience what I had felt and done. Both of these companies accepted me and the fire became white hot. Was it my skill level as a fisherman that had gotten me to this point? Nope, it was my love and passion for the sport and I owe all of that to a not so little plastic boat and a thief. Friday I will be selling my boat to buy a brand new one...same kind just newer and I feel a bit uneasy. I'll be boatless for a few weeks which will be like torture (pray for my wife) but I've grown attached to the blamed thing, I've had the most fun, caught more big fish and I've paddled her through some very unique waterways all while creating some great memories. Big Momma will be missed but she's about to lead an unsuspecting man into a world of fishing and exploration that he cannot fathom. Good luck, Tight lines and enjoy the ride. Peace and "thank God for little plastic boats."