Friday, December 30, 2011

Good-by 2011, Hello 2012

Yellow Sally
Got an email today asking about the Christmas Deal drawing I had going this month.  I will skip all the excuses about how the holidays have distracted me from blogging and painting and tell you flat out that I completely forgot to choose a winner.  So first things first, I headed over to the site and let them pick the winner.  Surprisingly enough, they chose my comment (#8) so I guess I win a print of my own watercolor.  Yeah!!!  But seeing as I already have enough of my own works laying around collecting dust, I asked them to choose again and this time they got it right.  Parker (comment # 9) from Interests Revolving is the proud owner of a year on the fly print.  So Parker, head on over to my prints Page1 and Page2 and choose a painting then Email me.   Congrats!

So whats on tap for the New Year?  Truth is I don't know.  I hope to increase the quality and quantity of my paintings as well as my knowledge of fly fishing.  I am not however going to make a new years resolution to get out the stream more (but secretly I hope I do).  I am also planning on trying to get my stuff into a few art fairs and local shops in 2012 but we will see what happens.
I am also going to try and get serious about my fly tying instead of just tying up a few flies here and there.  Hopefully I can enter into a few of the fly swaps I've seen on message boards every now and then.  I often  come across those swaps a few days late or worse.  The other day I purchased a hundred year old secretary desk off a craigslist add and plan on converting it into a fly tying station.  With a little work and elbow grease I should be able to make it into a perfect little place to sit down and let the feathers fly.

And just in case I don't get around to doing a new years post tomorrow (which I know I wont because, well... I have other things to do)  Have a great new year.  Remember, you are not as young as you once were and that morning after hurts much more than it did at 21.  Enjoy, Cheers, and may your new year be filled with family, friends........ and fish.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Elk River Brown (An Anglers First Brown)

I recently had a new fly fisher ask if I could do a painting of his first brown trout caught on a fly.  Obviously I jumped at the opportunity and went to work painting this one of a kind memory.
While painting this beautiful looking Brown Trout I tried to remember what my first brown looked like or even when I caught it.  I remembered my first trout (rainbow) on a fly, my first bass, blugill, sea trout, ladyfish, and redfish, and crapie on a fly but I could not recall my first Brown trout or Brook trout.  Truth be told, those first few years of learning to fly fish have just sort of meshed into one continues memory of fish, weather, and water.
I do remember a few good days, wet miserable days, a few fishless days, and even a few fish full days.  I can recall areas of some rivers that struck me as simply beautiful at the time and a few times when I took a cold plunge and filled my waders while struggling to find my feet but surprisingly, I don't recall too many fish in specific detail.

I suppose this is the way it goes with most fisherman.  If you ask them specifics about the fish they caught five years ago, I bet they wont be able to recall how many browns or brookies they hooked or even the sizes of the fish but they will remember how the sun lit the water just so you could see the trout take the fly or how the light rain and misty clouds hung in the mountains and it was one of the best days they ever had.
They might be able to tell you general info on the types of fish but the real memory is of the fight a fish gave in the swirling pool of a good bit of water.  After the haze of time clouds the memory they are only left with the emotion of that day.  For us anglers, its not so much about the fish we catch but the way we go about doing it and the memories we create.
Thanks to modern technology we now can preserve the actual fish in photographs but its that feeling of that day that one truly remembers.

I am glad that through my painting the fly fisherman that hooked his first brown will now be able to remember that feeling every time he sees this watercolor hanging in his man cave.  In the end, that is the purpose of art.  Its not about just another nice looking picture hanging on the wall, but its a feeling one gets as they look at the painting.  For a commissioned piece such as this Elk River Brown, this feeling of connection with the art is heightened beyond the casual observers.  For this fly fisherman, that day on the Elk will live forever.

"Elk River Brown"
Watercolor on Paper
13" x 10"
Original ---  SOLD

Friday, December 16, 2011

Angling, Art, & Passion

I recently finished yet another trout watercolor, this one as you can see is titled "Rainbow Trout On Blue".  I have done so many trout paintings over the last few years that it is getting a little difficult to simply title a piece by the fish that is in it.
One might think that I am getting sick of painting the same trout over and over again, but actually I think of it much in the same way an angler views catching the same fish over and over again.  To me each painting is a separate piece.  Its a chance to expand ones knowledge about the subject.  A chance to improve on technique and form, much the same as each fish is an individual and each trip to catch them is a chance to become a better angler.  The more I do it, the better the end result and the more passionate I become.
I believe every angler comes to a point where they make a choice; Do I become passionate about the sport I love or do I treat it like a trip to the zoo (meaning do I do it just because its entertainment and a good way to pass the time)?  Don't get me wrong I love the zoo, mostly because my kids love it, but I do enjoy it, I am just not passionate about it.
Fly fishing (and my associated art) on the other hand, as my wife can attest, now that is something I have become passionate about. Whether one makes this decision consciously or buries it deep under layers of wool and neoprene each time he hits the water, each angler will come to a point where he decides which river to take.

Many choose to stay on that smooth stretch or water that produces good, average trout time and time again and they treat each trip as just a good chance to get away.  They never push the boundaries or explore new water, and rarely will they tie on anything not featured in the latest Orvis catalog (Also don't get me wrong, I love Orvis and all they offer and will gladly help them endorse any free merchandise they choose to send me;-)

The second set of anglers take that small tributary that leads to undiscovered water.  They eat cobwebs on their trek through brush, skin knees and rip waders, and they will often forgo lunch just to get that extra fifteen minutes of time on the water.  They fish long after it is sane to do so and often miss judge just how far up river they have traveled until that very last moment when they pry themselves from the water only to find that what they thought was going to be a fifteen minute hike back to the car turns out to be a hike covering the better part of an hour and a two thousand foot elevation change.

For my part, I am obsessed with being on time, in fact most times I am eager to be early.  Whether its work, church, parties, the movies, or doctors appointments (though I'm not sure why because the doctor never seems to be on time.) I am always early.  I hate to be late.  But when it comes to fishing, my duty to on time performance somehow escapes me.  My loving wife, as I am sure many a wife of an obsessed angler can attest, knows to tack on another hour or two to the time I say I'll be home if I'm out fishing.  I don't do it consciously, its just that when I'm hunting trout in the mountains, I loose track of all else.  I am obsessed.
My devotion to my art is beginning to be that way as well.  Over the years of practice and failure intermixed with some successes, my art has evolved into something I care about.  I look at my past paintings and judge them with a new eye and view each new work more critically.  I am okay with direction it is taking me and the progress I am making though I'm not sure where it is taking me.  In the end I know that I will never reach the level of a A.D Maddox or Derick DeYong (no relation) , Bob White, Andrew Wyeth, or  Winsolw Homer (Homer was my first inspiration to do watercolor), but its that striving to do better and that passion to be better that keeps me going.
The painting above is titled:
"Rainbow Trout On Blue"
Watercolor on Paper
13" x 8"
Prints and original for sale

Also don't forget about the special Christmas Deal for Four Rare Trout Prints.  You can find this deal at the top of the page.  Hurry before Christmas is here and the deal fades away.
I have also added one more page of prints from recent paintings that you can purchase.  Check out some of my newer stuff HERE.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Researching The Wet Fly

For my money, the classic wet fly is one of the best looking flies ever created.  A sleek body with sweeping wings and that classic English look usually associated with that so called 'golden age' of fly fishing or the rough and rugged sport of Atlantic Salmon on a fly.
My post a few days ago had a small image of a wet fly superimposed onto a trout skin.  As these thing often do, my drawing inspired me to sit down and tie up a dozen or so of these winged beauties.  I am not a very goo fly tier, and truth be told, I would greatly profit of a lesson or two from the likes of Hopper Juan or SmallStream.  Despite that admission, my lack of expertise has never been an obstacle that has stopped me before so I gave it a shot.
I suppose the reason I have never tied up many we flies in the past is two fold.  One is that nearly ever wet winged fly I have ever seen has been an Atlantic Salmon fly and well, Atlantic Salmon seldom venture south for the winter so whats the point.
Second is that the classic wet flies for trout seemed to have gone out of style over the years in favor of the small midges, streamers, and emergers of American tiers.
In fact after a quick bit of research through my library of books as well as recently published books, I was hard pressed to find many anglers that swear by the wet fly much less any specific wet fly pattern.  Most of the information I have found on these classic flies come from anglers who view the traditional wet fly as specifically an Atlantic salmon fly or simply a curiosity of the past; a relic to be admired but never fished.
Now whether this trend is due to that obsessed cult of fly fishing enthusiasts (I might fall into that category if secretly observed from shore) that ring their hands together over their fly box struggling to find just that perfect fly to match the hatch, I'm not sure. However, in his book, 

Fly-Tying Techniques & Patterns

  , John Van Vliet says that's precisly the reason and in the late fifties the wet fly began to disappear from fly boxes across the nation.
Another prolific publisher of fly tying books is Dave Hughes and in his Wet Flies book he goes into great detail on the history of the wet fly and how they are to be fished.  A great book but as I surf the blogs for wet flies and wet fly patterns I come across very few.  I end up looking back to books published before the 40's when some of the main ingredients were 'wood pecker' and 'blue jay' feathers.  My neighbors may think I am a bit nuts if I began shooting birds off my fence for the tying material (not to mention this practice is now quite illegal).  There was that squirrel incident last year but that is about as far as I am willing to go.
One thing is for sure, these corner stones of fly fishing have gone by the way side in favor of the midges and emergers of today.
Those that follow my ramblings and outsider art might be able to tell that I like the old, vintage styles of the past.
I like how the fathers (or mothers in the case of Mary Orvis) of the fly fishing movement did things.  Their ingenuity and inventions in a time when not many things were readily available for the every day angler is an inspiration to those that care to take a look.  Google books often has many of these old anglers books of file and from time to time I download them and read how they use to do things.  A recent download for me was a 1903 publication of Wet-Fly Fishing (Treated Methodically) by Ewin M. Tod.  These books are a surprising wealth of knowledge if one can muddle through the old world language and slang of the time
Today I toast the Classic Wet Fly with another classic the English have given us (or at least made popular in the 17th century).  RUM. This brand isn't that old but it sure to do the classic rum proud.  Let the Kraken be unleashed.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Deer Stew Cold Remedy

It was bound to happen sooner or later.  The kids have been fighting colds for the better part of the month, the wife has been infected with it for over a week, and tis the season for the sniffles.  I wouldn't give up the slobbery kisses of my four year old for anything but I'm sure that is how I finally received this seasons cold bug.
So what do you do on a day when your head aches, your throat and nose in clogged, and you feel like crap?  You sit at home, dream of fishing, and try your best to eat and drink your bug away.
I could never remember which home remedy to implement;  if you starve a fever and feed a cold or feed a fever and starve a cold.  I decided that feeding a cold was just as good as starving, after all its just a home remedy and how true can that old saying be anyway?  So early yesterday morning my loving wife tossed some deer stew meat, potatoes, and a few onions into a pot and let it stew all day.  I on the other hand kept myself busy with blowing my nose and keeping my sick body hydrated.
I also decided to sketch out the fly you see above in between watching old movies.
I have an affection for these old war or western movies.  If I am lucky enough to catch a John Wayne marathon on AMC or TCM then it would be hard to pry the remote from my hands.  I wasn't that lucky yesterday but I did manage to not do much in the way of exercise.  Thanks to a few good movies I was able to rest and recoup.
After a day of smelling the mouth watering stew from the kitchen, I pried myself from the couch and had two heaping bowl fulls of the best deer stew I have had in a while.
This morning I awoke a new man.  I am not sure if it was the stew or the rest or a combination of both but regardless, it did the job.  I'm not 100% but it sure is an improvement.  Today I will continue feeding the cold with the leftovers and hopefully soon will be back to normal.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fishing Sacred Waters

After a work imposed hiatus from wetting a fly, I shrugged off the past couple of weeks and headed up to the foothills for a morning of chasing natives on small streams.  My destination was the beautiful mountain cut of Jones Gap State Park
My relation with the small out of the way park began shortly after I arrived in South Carolina.  I began to hike its numerous trails, seek out its hidden waterfall, and marvel at the untouched beauty of the place.  It was also the reason I began to fly fish.  The lure of the high gradient stream the flowed through the parks heart was to much to resist.  One day, while hiking up the main trail that paralleled the stream I took a moment to admire a lone fly angler testing an isolated pocket of water tailing from a plunge pool.  Soon I found myself back at home surfing eBay for an affordable fly fishing setup.
Since that time I have continued to come back to this park time and time again.  My first fish on a fly was caught here on a $12 -fifty year old hunk of junk 5w rod and busted reel with equally old fly line.  The fly that did the job was a cheep mass market pan-fish fly that fell apart soon after that first trip. The rod and reel didn't last much longer but it didn't matter.  From that moment on, I was literally hooked on fly fishing.
I have never caught vast numbers from this small stream.  In fact the best day has only netted five to six trout but this stretch of river that has scored its way through the hills over the years produces trout that are as pristine as any New England or western stream.  The beauty and wildlife in this park along with the quest for that elusive natural brookie I have only seen from the end of my line a hand full of times keeps me coming back.

For my return to these sacred waters that started my fly fishing life, I was once again left with a nearly empty photo creel of fish pics.  The small trout above was all that decided to reward my four hour pursuit up the deep canyons and rock scrambling.  I hooked into this young one with a new Tenkara rod that is perfect for the tight quarters and small pools found in the high end of the park.  I would be lying if I said I would rather hook into fish like this over the 12-16 beasts of other waters but truth be told, there are very few other places that I would rather catch and release fish.
All anglers have that spacial place they go back to and have a connection with.  They know, or are in denial, that their spot in NOT a secret.  There are others that fish there and even others that might share the same hold on that water but when you are out there, all alone, nothing but them the water, the fish, and the fly - That water is yours.  Jones Gap is mine.  Its not a secret, its not even entirely good fishing, but its mine and ever time I go there I leave a happier angler for making the trek.
(The Trout Finn fly (top) and the bottom photo of me on the stream, Tenkara rod in hand, have obviously been altered by a board angler.  I fished Jones Gap a few days ago and was planning a post of my trip when I read that Outdoor Blogger Network was asking for a posts on your favorite places.  Talk about timing.  Check out other anglers favorite places at Field And Stream.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Painting Brook Trout

For me, painting the brookie is like fishing for them.  Catching one just isn't enough.  You continue to go after them time and time again.  Going farther out of the way in pursuit of these colorful fish.
I believe that I have painted about thirty pieces that feature the Brook Trout over the last five years and yet I feel compelled to go after them again.  For some reason I am also drawn to the darker colors of the species.  Maybe it is the stark contrasts of brilliant oranges and deep green present in the striation of the fins and back that draw me ever forward in my quest to paint the Brook Trout.  Whatever it is, here is yet another Brookie Char for you.  As with most of my posts I will add a little disclaimer on the quality of the pictures.  Even with the advances in cell phone cameras, they just can not capture the true color of this painting.  later on I'll add a quality image as well a print available for purchase.
I started this piece as I always do, with a rough sketch of the subject.  Then  I lay down a bit of color and gradually build up layers until the form of a finished Brook Trout appears.  Then it is all about the details.  Adding fins, slight changes in tone and color until finally I am pleased with the finished product.
I would like to say that most of my time is spent painting, but truth be told I spend a whole lot of time watching paint dry and analyzing what to do next and then waiting for the right moment to do it.  Sometimes I pull it off and, well... sometimes I don't.  But as Bob Ross  (a prolific oil painter) once said, "There is no such thing as mistakes, just happy accidents."

In every painting there are these small imperfection, or as I like to call them, nuances, that make the piece a unique work of art.  The key is making these little nuance work in your favor.
The biggest mistake in this work.... well, this one also has a bit of morning coffee mixed with the paint.  Word of advise while painting, don't put your mug of brew next to your brush water.  MMMmmmmm, nothing like a bit of Brook Trout Red pigment with a hint of hazelnut.  My little boy got a real kick out of that as he sat across from me and watch me drink my tainted coffee.

For individuality sake I will call this brookie -
"Brook Trout #1211"
13"x 6"
Watercolor On Paper
Original Available - Prints coming soon

And on a completely separate topic; I believe that I found the perfect wine glass for my home made wine, beer, mead, and what ever us southerners make that resembles alcohol.   That is right, the redneck wine glass, for those sophisticated southern folk that are not satisfied with the plain old mason jar.
I saw this and said, "Oh yeah, This is mine."
The inventor of this product got every thing right here except one thing.  No true redneck is ever going to pay $22 for a fancy mason jar.  Looks like its back to sipping my brew from dollar store wine glasses I've had for a coons age.  That mason jar is just to highfalutin for me.
I bet he sells a lot of them anyway.  And I walked away thinking..."Why didn't I think of that?"