Monday, February 20, 2012

Do You Look the Part - And A Brown Trout

Continuing my series of classic trout painted on parchment I give you the brown trout.  Not the first one of these fish I have painted but just like catching them, I just cant get enough of them.
I also cant get over how great these painting look on the rich colored parchment paper.  I love old things and I think this is why I love the parchment paper look so much.  I think that it gives the painting a look of age without having to artificial color white watercolor paper to give it that patina.  An added bonus of using high quality parchment is that it comes acid free so the painting wont discolor with time.
Do You Look the Part?
I also decide to add a few thoughts and rules on how we fly fishing fools should look.  Many of you have followed these rules without really realizing it and some of you are not quite there yet but if you are truly a die hard fanatic there are a few basics you must pay adherence to.
    1.  Your vehicle must have a minimum of five fly fishing / outdoor related stickers on the back window.  Of course the more stickers you collect the bigger fanatic you appear to be.  Notice I said appear because if you look closely at an angers stickers as you pass by on your way to the river and you do not see at least a few faded or pealing stickers then the guy might be an impostor.  You do not have to have all the gear you promote on your window (for example I have a Hardy and a Simms sticker, neither of which I own or can afford) in fact you can classify the collection of stickers as a wish list of gear you would like.  True fanatics may have so many stickers that the cop that pulls them over an the way to the river might issue them an additional citation for a sticker induced 'blind spot' in addition to the speeding one they already got.
    2.  You must look the part.  I am not saying that you need to order every L.L. Bean POS that comes your way (and if you do then you will stand out like a poser anyway and we will all be laughing at you behind your back) but you must have a few of the basics.  A hat is a must.  Be it a faded ball cap, cowboy hat, or a fedora, it needs to be missing a few stitches from the flies that have been hooked into it over the years.  Of course if there is a still some ragged flies that are permanently attached then that's okay as well, however you must not place the fly on the hat for looks.  It has to be attached out of necessity.  Always wear dark colored clothing on the river and leave the wife beater tee at home.  You can always sport that ensemble while drinking a PBR and mowing your yard.
   3.   A gear holder is also an essentially piece of equipment.  I have discarded the vest years ago for a minimalist approach Fish Pond pack.  Occasionally I will go out with a chest or backpack as well.  Whatever you use to store your gear DO Not Show Up to fish the river with a tackle box weighing in at over 20lbs.  Fly fishing requires mobility and you cant be very mobile if you are lugging a tackle box around.  (of course there is a few exceptions, float guides for example can bring anything they want.  They are there to have anything you need to hook fish and a tackle box might be the way to go.  Besides, they are the ones lugging it, not you.) Also for the record - I have never been on a guided trip because, well, I am a cheep Dutchman and cant' afford it.
   4.    There needs to be at least one feathered creation on your cars dash, head liner, or sun visor.  It will usually get there because on the way home you realize you've got a hook sticking you in the scalp so you stick it in the visor and say 'I'll get that later' but you never do because, well... it is tough to extract and you got extras in the box.  It will also come in handy for that time that you bust out of the house at 4AM, drive an hour + to the river, and then realize that all your fly boxes are on the bench at home where you left them.  (Additionally for the record - I have done this and it sucks!!!)

    There are plenty more 'rules' but as far as the basic rules go, these should get you going.  Feel free to add a few comments on what rules you would institute to identify a die hard fly fisher.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Brook Trout & MickyFin

My last painting of a trout was one I did on parchment paper.  In that post I explained the difficulties in painting on such thin paper so I will forgo the explanation on how I painted this Brook Trout.
Instead of the usual dialog on how I laid down the paint, I will give you my thoughts (and a few facts) on this wonderful tout.  First off, the Brook Trout is not actually a trout at all.  It is in fact a salmon.  Its official name is Salvelinus fontinalis  and is one of a select few of the salmonoid species that  never sees the ocean.  A native of North America, the Brook Trout is one of my favorite species to hook into.   I not only love how this fish fights after its hooked, but I also love what it takes to hunt this salmon down.
For scientists, the Salmon is a good barometer on how healthy a streams ecosystem is.  the reason for this is that the Brook trout only like cold clean water and will not tolerate pollution.  It is for this reason that I love to stalk these fish.
Usually to catch the native species of brook trout, one has to hike into the mountains and secluded streams far away from population. In the south, this takes a little effort but it is well worth it.
The brook trouts average life span in the wild is 4 -7 years with some species reaching as long as 15 years in the right environment.  At a year old the brook trout reaches sexual maturity and begins its spawning cycle between September to October where the female can lay thousands of eggs.
Even tho the brook trout has been known to be one of the best tasting of the 'trout' one can fish for, it is advisable and highly recommended that when fishing for native species, catch and release practices should always be implemented.  As for taking a few stalkys out of the so called 'put and take' stream for a tasty dinner, there is a bit of battle over the ethics of this.
Regardless of the controversy surrounding 'harvesting' , fly fishing these wonderful fish is something every angler should try.  Drys and midges always work well and Tenkara fishing for these trout is a great way to get a hook into them but every know and then I like to toss a streamer to them.  This seems to excite their predatory instinctual drive and make the fight all that more fun.  One of the best streamers I have found for these fish is the Black Nose Dace or the classic Micky Fin Buck tail Streamer.  I make mine in a variety of sizes including a #12 for those really small freestone pools that dot mountain streams. Sometimes I even add heavy hire for the ribbing in order to get the fly down in the water.
Brook Trout on Parchment
13in. x  5in.
Gouache and watercolor
on Acid free Parchment
For Sale

Thursday, February 16, 2012

My New Tenkara Box

In my last post I mentioned that I recently finished construction of a new Tenkara Fly box.  I decided to copy an idea first forwarded to my by Daniel of of a box with a 'window' to the flies.  Essentially this window was purely aesthetic in nature and served no real purpose other than airing out the flies after fishing but I thought that it looked really cool so after toying with the idea for the better part of two years, I came up with this creation.
To be clear, I don't think that the Yin-Yang is a Japanese symbol (I believe it is Chinese) but it kind of fits the style of box I decided create.  Besides, it has the look of water drops chasing each other and I thought that was an appropriate look for a small fly box.   Originally I has a bigger vision of a few side compartments for flies but soon abandoned the idea after slicing my thumb with a carving knife while trying to dig out a stubborn piece of wood in the tail of one of the compartments.  If you look closely you can see my blood stained on the left side of the box.  Not the first injury I have recieved at the work bench and I am sure not the last.
After I carved out the compartments, I moved onto the lid.  Carrying over the Yin-Yang theme, I had a rainbow trout fill in one side of the Yin while keeping a water drop as the Yang.  I sanded it all down after I finished carving and then drilled the holes for the the magnets that keep the lid closed.  I also drilled a larger hole for the wooded dowel that would act as a hinge for the box.  Instead of opening in the traditional why a box usually opens, I decided to go with a slide feature for this box.  The top of the box now rotates on a pivot.  This little choice also made this little box a much simpler piece to construct since it only has three pieces.  The top, the bottom, and a wooded dowel.
    For those wondering if the flies stay in the box with the holes cut in the top, the answer is yes.  Typical Tenkara flies and many drys will easily stay in the box.  I wouldn't place any #24 midges in the box but for the 'one fly' idea Tenkara is all about, this box will hold any traditional Tenkara fly securely.
  After sanding and smoothing the finish of this box, I painted the fish and the design on the lid using watercolors then I added about five layers of clear coat for protection.  I was amazed how much the clear coat made the colors of the wood, and especially the trout, pop out from the box.  You can probably tell that the wood I used for this project was a Birdseye Maple.  When it was finished I couldn't help to be amazed how good it turned out.  Now if it can only bring me a bit of luck while out on the river.  I really need it.  So far this year I have been out numerous times and have been skunked every time.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Great Fly Fishing Show and A Winner Of Towels

Jay 'Fishy' Fullum
This past weekend I was lucky enough to have a little time on my hands to make the long journey up the Raleigh North Carolina to attend this years Fly Fishing Show.  This is the first one of these shows that this angler has ever attended (don't be to shocked) but let me tell you that it wont be the last.  I had a fantastic time and mainly spent my time wondering around the floor in amazement.  Shortly before I left I hooked up with the events website to see who all would be presenting at the show.
I found myself a bit disappointed that mister, Hopper Juan Ramirez was not going to be there, or Daniel from TenkaraUSA, or many of the other internet anglers I tend to stalk uh, I mean follow online.  But I did however see a bunch of other names that I recognized and was optimistic that I might actually be able to put a face to the names.
  So early - we are talking at 4am - on Saturday morning, I headed to the airport and boarded a plane for Raleigh.  When I arrived I immediately started to wander around from booth to booth looking in awe at the vast array of fly tying geniuses that were their.   Awkwardly I made my way around nodding at the tiers and gawking at their magnificent creation.  The first booth owner I had the courage to stop at and talk to was Bruce Corwin and what drew me to talk to him was his displays which were beautiful flies on watercolor backgrounds.  After a pleasant conversation, mainly consisting of me slobbering over his work, I moved on to the next table and found a man after my own heart.
Jay 'Fishy' Fullum.  Some of you might know Jay from his assortment of books titled "Fishy's Flies" or have at least seen his regular articles on how to be an innovative fly tyer in Fly Tying magazine but what drew me to Jay's booth was his beautiful flies and his great looking watercolor.  Striking up a conversation was quite easy since we seemed to share a common language.  I slid him one of my cards and we had a great conversation on art and fly tying.  Later in the day we talked again about Tenkara and our mutual love and discovery of the style.  I then showed him my recently completed Tenkara box (More on that in a later post) and he instantly gravitated to my new segmented Olive Sakasa Kebari tied with "Stretch Magic".  Immediately he began to whip out his material and I watched him tie up a great version of this classic fly.  For those of you that like using household material in tying and are creative with what you use, I picked up Jays new book pictured above.  Of all the stuff I purchased, this was one of the best purchases on the show.  I even found Jay had dedicated a chapter (#24) to using 'Stretch Magic'.  To me this is completely amazing since I just found out about this material a few weeks ago when I raided my wives craft case for beads.  I guess this cord stuff isn't such a secret after all.
  After harassing Jay long enough, I moved on to the Triangle Fly Fishers TU booth and met a few people I have only heard about.  I had donated a painting and some prints to this chapter a few years back and it was nice to meet a few of the owners of my paintings and prints.
On down the line I again met some folks I knew, or at least had been following for some time.  Carolina Fly and Clear Cure Goo were sharing a booth and it was nice to put a face to the products they put out.  While breaking it down with them, up walks a fellow blogger I had never officially met but had shared emails painting with for a few years.  Kevin Frank of Fishing According To Kev turns to me and says, 'Are you Joel from The Year On The Fly?'.  Instantly we start catching up and discussing how great the show is going.  He even gives me a little tip on some great cheap material down the line on how to make a great little bass bomber.
    Another great guy I met for the first time was one of the guys at the fantastic online Zine Southern Culture On The Fly.  I was amazed that he actually knew who I was and had been stalking ... following my blog for quite some time.  I also found out that these guys were located just up the road from me and as often time happens the seed was planted for spending a day chasing blue lines in the NC mountains.   He also floated the idea of submitting some stuff for the magazine.  My response was.... (Stutter) uh, you want me to do what! uhhh sure, hell ya!!

 Overall it was a fantastic day!  My only disappointment was when the hours passed my, my time to leave drew even closer.   Unfortunately I was unable to attend the Film Festival which I heard was great.  At the end of the day I boarded my plane and headed back to SC with my head full of memories and a backpack full of stickers, books, and tying material.  I met many others, some of which I am sure to mention in later posts, and got to test out some new gear and listen to some great lectures.  This wont be my last Show I attend and maybe next year I can meet even more guys that share my passion.
As for the winner of the Light Load Towels.  I was originally suppose to post this on the tenth but my thoughts of the Fly Fishing Show got in the way.  I am sure you all can understand.  Anyway - without further delay, the Winner selected by the RNG is Jason Porter.   Congrats Jason, I'll be in contact with you soon to ship these out.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rainbow Trout And Flies

Rainbow Trout On Parchment

While wondering through the art store the other day I drifted, as I often do, over to the paints and paper section while my wife got lost in the isles of yarn.  Those that know me well know that I'm always looking to try something new and push the limits of my abilities.  Sometimes I succeed and often I fail but in this case, I'd say that I came out on top.
   While working with watercolor and gouache paints It is always advisable to use a heavy weight paper.  This is basically rule number one. This rule is made because when working in any medium that requires water, one needs a paper that will allow for a lot of absorption while retaining its flat structure.  This is why artisits typically do not paint on  thin papers, like typing paper or in this case, parchment.
  Well I decided to bend the rules a bit and see how well I could lay watercolors down on a piece of parchment.  The results speak for themselves.
I also discovered that working on such thin and smooth material requires a quick brush and light touch.
    Yes, it is difficult to paint on parchment but not impossible.  In fact,  if I ever wrote a book on art I would have to include parchment as a viable material to experiment on.   (Of course I would never write an art book since I am about as schooled in art and art theory as I am as I am in field stripping a M16, which is to say none.)  The smooth, 100% acid free, surface does require special techniques and the thin paper is an issue but the end result is a thing of beauty.  I especially like the rich colors of the paper as they set off the hues of the fish and show through the painting in a what that the basic white paper does not.   In short I believe that for painting fish, this paper adds dimension to the true colors of the paint and reflects that of an actual trout.  I also believe that this theory will lend itself well to other species like birds.

Rainbow Trout On Parchment
13 in. X 5 in.
Watercolor Gouache On Parchment
For Sale

Midges Wrapped In Stretch Majic
Now on to the flies, midges, and all around fishy stuff.  Also while at the a-for mentioned art store, I browsed the beads and feathers for un-orthodox fly tying material.  I figured that I have already broken the rules as far as painting goes, why not bend them for fly tying as well.
    What I found was a few bags of colorful glass beads and a new type of body material.  I am curtain that I am not the first to discover it but the discovery of this interesting material was new to me so I thought that I would share it with the fly tying public.
   As far as adding this to your arsenal of tying material, this is a easy one and cheap.  32 feet of Stretch Magic (originally used for making bracelets and necklaces) for $2.47.  It comes in three sizes but the best I have found for tying fly bodies and covering midges is the .5 and the .7 diameter.  Tie it on just like you would any body covering and wrap it forward.  It will give your midges an added shine and body as well as increasing the segmentation look.   It also makes them a bit softer for the fish when they are in the mood to test their food before really taking it, giving you that split second you might need before the hook set.
    Like I said, I am sure I am not the first to find this product but I thought I would share it with you just in case there are a few of you out there just as out of touch as I am.  Enjoy.
Segmented Olive Sakasa Kebari Variant

Monday, February 6, 2012

Thunder Creek or Swamp Darter

Looking for a great bait fish imitation?  Then you need to check out the 'Thunder Creek Shiner'.  I originally saw this streamer in a bass fishing book but they had called it the 'Swamp Darter'.  After a little digging I happened on a well researched book that indicated the true creator as Keith Fulsher of Eastchester, New York.  So is it a Swamp Darter or a Thundercreek Shiner?
I happen to really love bucktail streamers.  Both the Black-nosed Dace, and the Mickey Finn have been constant performers when the dead drifts of midges or the lazy drys have failed me.  This little Thunder Creek is also a great producer of strikes and who ever adopted it as a southern bass taker and re-named it the Swamp Darter was not to far off the mark.  Whatever you call it, this little guy performs wonderfully on the bass pond when the small mouths are on the prowl or large hungry trout looking for a minnow meal.

Hook  -  Long Streamer 6 - 10
Thread  -  Red
Body  -  Silver Tinsel
Rib  -  Oval Tinsel (I use a thin Bronze Wire for weight)
Back  -  Brown Bucktail
Belly  -  White Bucktail
Eyes  -  Optional to paint them on yellow under black

What I really like is that with the hair first tied forward then back over itself to form the head, you can hide a lot of weight right there in the head.  If you want a fly that will get down deep, depending on how you tie this bad boy, this will be a go-to fly.  It might not look pretty but it does the job.  Enjoy...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Carving Trout With The Dremel Stylus

    Many of you that follow my activities both as a fly fishing nut, an outdoor enthusiast, and an wildlife artist of sorts have seen my past attempts at wood carving and wood working.  Not the best outcomes but not that bad for my first few attempts.  Given the right amount of time and the right tools I figure I could improve my wood carving skills and so the other day I got it into my head that I wanted to carve a trout.
    With the right tools one can do just about anything.  Man could have never have reached the moon without the rocket as a tool to travel and that rocket could have never have been made without the lowly wrench to turn bolts.
    My answer for the perfect tool for carving a trout came while walking the isles of my local hardware store. Of course as is usually the case I wondered the store long after I had found what I was originally looking for.  For this reason my wife always gives me strict instruction when I leave the house on a hardware run, but on this day she wasn't home when I left.  And so, without that little cricket telling me to move on past the shinny power tools I paused at the Dremel section and picked up the Stylus.  After convincing myself that this was a tool I absolutely needed, I left the store before any more damage could be done to my wallet.
    Once at home I went directly to the garage and began testing out my new tool.  The small fish pictured above was the result of my first attempt at using the Stylus and was completed in a remarkably short amount of time compared to my past carving attempts.  The wood I used was just a scrap piece of pine I had from a previous project.  It really isn't much of a carving if you have seen what life long carvers have done but for my first attempt and for the time it was amazing how easy to use this little tool is.  Already I can see a million other uses for this detailing tool other than carving.  It might not be as widely used as my philips head or the hammer but this Dremel Stylus will surly hold a prized spot on my work bench.
    This is the second Dremel product I have purchased and it probably wont be the last.  These are great sturdy tools that perform as advertised.  For anybody needing a power tool to do detail work, I strongly recommend the Stylus not only for its ease of use and cordless feature but also its variable power adjustment which is more than you should need for any detail work.

(This product review was of my own accord and was in no way influenced or endorsed by Dremel Company.  That being said, If they would like to shoot me some free gear or attachments for the stylus for me to test out I would never turn it down.)  

Friday, February 3, 2012

The California Quail

California Quail
Encourage at how well my Ring-Necked Pheasant turned out I decided to try my hand at another specimen of the aviary family.

For this one I reached back into my memory of a youth spent in the underbrush and sage hills of the Norther California's Sonora region.  Besides the diamond back snakes that thickly inhabit that area this little forest floor dwelling bird also makes its home.
   I can recall as a child frequently scaring up whole families of these birds from the brush in the forest dry hill sides all around my home.  Even as a youngster I found them fascinating.  Whether it was their distinct calls or that funky puff of plumage they sport on their forehead, I couldn't tell you why but they are just interesting creatures.

     I started this project as most, with a very simple drawing of the outlines and little details that make this bird so special.  I then once again begin to add in the paint layer by layer until I have built a good base layer to start from before dropping in the details.
 "California Quail"
9"x 7"
Watercolor on paper
For Sale via Email

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

My Kids And Circus Animals

    A while back, as you might recall, I was hard a work on restoring a piece of American furniture.  It was a hundred (or more) year old secretary desk original made by the Larkin Soap (and Furniture) Company of Buffalo NY.  Anyway, this post isn't about my sweet desk that I converted into an awesome tying station, its about what my two kids asked for while I was working on this desk.
    My kids love to watch me working on projects around the house.  Even if their interest only lasts for a few minutes before they scamper off to ride bikes or kick the soccer ball, they always return often to check on the progress of my work.  Well as I was working on this desk of mine, I occasionally had to break out the sander or electric drill.  Watching me hard at work somehow got my little girl thinking and as she watch me she suddenly piped up and asked, "Daddy, can you make me a wooden elephant?"
    UMMM... Okay.  I have no idea where that came from but sure, what the heck.  As I was hard at work and in the middle of stripping the desk of a hundred years of grime, I told her "not right now but maybe a little later - when the desk was completed."  After all I currently have five (or is it a dozen) different projects going on at this time in my cluttered garage (three or more of which will likely remain un-completed for years) and the wooden elephant would have to wait, and on with work I went while my little girl went off to torture her brother.
    Days went by, then weeks and I eventually forgot about her request.  The desk was completed and so was a few more projects and I again found myself in the garage cleaning up the mess when in from the yard bounds my daughter asking about her elephant.  This request was imminently followed by my 4 yr old boy asking if I could make him a giraffe.   I paused.... then grabbed a piece of raw pine board from the floor and began to sketch.  On I went to create more of a mess before that last one was even cleaned up.  I took a few glances at the web for reference on how these animals should look and then I broke out the scroll saw.
    In a matter of an afternoon I had these two creatures roughed out - sanded - and woodburned with the dark details of the elephants ears and the giraffes spots.  The next day I stained them and added a thick varnish and quick as a mad hatter down the hole, two circus animals were complete with their very own little baby animals that fit perfectly between their feet.  No templates or instructions on this little project, just plane old shoot from the hip woodworking.
Last Saturday at the bass pond
I'm sure that in a few weeks these simply crafted wood animals will end up at the bottom of a toy box covered and forgotten, they might already be there, but for that sunny afternoon those two kids where extremely happy that daddy had made them their very own elephants and giraffes.  Their joy however was nothing compared to mine and I will savor that memory of seeing their excited faces and returning their thankful hugs.

(and in case you are wondering - no fish where caught that day either.  No matter - the kids would rather throw stick than fish anyway.)