Saturday, May 25, 2013

Chasing Balloons At Greenville SC Memorial Day Aloft Balloon Festival

   Memorial Day is a time we all should remember the sacrifices of those that made this country great as well as the ones still fighting to protect those freedoms.  It also is a time for family, friends, and if you are in Greenville SC this weekend - a Time for Balloons!!
  This morning my wife and I woke the kids at the break of dawn and loaded them into the car to go meet the hot air balloons at our annual balloon festival.  One of the largest gatherings of balloons in the United States, the Greenville South Carolina Aloft festival is a chance for ballooners to show off their skills and compete in a weekend long event that everyone can enjoy.

Yes, yes I know this has nothing to do with fishing but the art of piloting these balloons is something that is quite blog worthy.  I'll save you a whole lot of reading and just give you some of the top pics of the morning.  We saw a lot of great balloons and even got to drive miles of backcountry roads chasing them.  The kids had a blast but so did I and if you look closely at the last photo you will see yours truly helping to ground one of the balloons after a very long flight over the South Carolina countryside.

  If you are interested and are in the SC area, the Aloft festival goes on all weekend and they will continue to have balloon launches - weather permitting - in the mornings from 7-9 and in the evenings around 5-8pm.  If you have the drive to wonder around the maze of country roads while looking skyward, head out soon after the launch for some fun chasing them.  If you think texting and driving is dangerous, try driving while looking at balloons and finding roads to get you to their landing fields.  Now that's FUN!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sketching A Mean Bass

    ITS All About the Bass!!
I got out the paints this morning but just wasn't feeling it so I tossed out the pad of watercolor paper and took out the sketch book.  With the intent of sketching out a tribal bass I ended up with this edgy skeleton bass.  Its quite a departure from my normal stuff but it was fun to work on and it was a great way to spend some down time on a cloud covered morning.
    After sketching it out I took it to the computer and got to work altering it and just having fun with it.  If I was a tattoo kind of guy I think this would be a killer piece of ink.
  The original image as you can see is just a simple line drawing.  Using a pencil I sketched out the basic shapes and design then with my artist pens I began the inking in process.  Before I load it into the computer I make sure all the lines connect and will be easily converted to a vectored line format.  I could do all this on the computer but I am a firm believer in the old school of doing things by hand.  I have found that if I want a computer image to work with for an advertising of company logo project, I need to start with a pen and ink drawing.  Paper scketches are easily altered and I can get a much better feel of how I want the finished piece to look.
  Once it is completed on the paper then I can do whatever I want to in the computer.  Adding slogans and company names is then easily added and altered.   It also is then easily added to shirt designing software.  I designed this bass fishing fleece using one of the numerous shirt design site available on the internet.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Partnering To Protect The Tongass - The Forest Of Salmon

As a general rule all fly fisherman love wild places.  Its a fact that the desire to trek the untouched banks of a forgotten river and cast a fly to a fish that has never seen another human is a dream shared by us all. It is the reason why we search over topo maps and internet postings looking for that hidden blue line few people know about. It is also why when we find that special place we guard it like a grizzly bear protecting a cub. So when I heard the Outdoor Blogger Network had joined forces with TU, TenkaraUSA, Fishpond, and Rio in an effort to bring attention to the Tongass National Forest, I thought it was a worthy cause to support and share with you.
Frankly I had never heard of the Tongass but that is why I jumped into researching it. It only took a brief search to find that it was only the name I failed to recognize. The area known as the Tongass is the wild part of Alaska most of us lower forty eighters think about when we think about wild Alaska. It also is the nations largest National Forest. Covered with untouched stands of old growth trees, wild salmon streams, and lush green mountain sides, these forests are about as wild as we can get in this ever evolving world of highways, expanding suburbs, and cellphone towers. It is just the kind of place you would imagine Salmon populations would thrive. One glance at how much we have changed places like the Smoky Mountains in the east and the Western Rockies and you look at the Tongass as one of the few places where pure nature still can and does exist.
Trout Unlimited has always supported protecting wild places so it was no surprise that their Tongass 77 project sought to protect these wild salmon watersheds.

What might surprise you is that the Tongas77 effort also includes the support of the Alaskan commercial fishing industry and the jobs they produce. Using a common sense approach the folks at Tout Unlimited have put together a valuable collection of data that shows just how important these lands are to preserving the commercial Salmon fishery.
I have never been to the Tongass, or Alaska for that matter, but it is definitely one of those wild places I think about when sitting at my fly tying bench. Everything I have read on the Tongass and its wild rivers tells me that its lush banks and pure waters are the stuff dreams are made of. It would be a long trip from the Southeast but for this angler it would be the trip of a lifetime to cast a fly to a Tongass Salmon.
If you are interested in reading up on the effort to protect this wild place I have attached a few links below. Do your part and share in this effort to protect a wild part of America for future generations. The more people that know about the Tongass then the more people will want to protect it.
This is my submission to the Trout Unlimited 2013 Blogger Tour sponsored byFishpondTenkara USA and RIO, and hosted by the Outdoor Blogger Network.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Backpacking Hazel Creek In GSMNP - Fly Fishing For Trout Photo Tour

    I have dreamed of this trip too the remote Hazel Creek ever since I read about it four years ago.  Three times I have planned the trip out over the years only to have the plans fall through at the last moment.  This time nothing was going to stop me from taking the trip.  As I recover from three days lugging a fifty pound pack around the back country and scrambling over river boulders, I took the time this morning to sit down and go through the mass of photos taken along the way.  All I can say is what a beautiful part of the country.... and man do my legs hurt.
  After a morning of church and last minute prep time my buddy and I set out from Greenville SC for the three hour drive to the banks of Fontana Dam and the edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park where we had arranged for a water taxi to take us to the mouth of Hazel Creek.  We could have hiked it but that would have meant a long fifteen mile slog to our head water campsite.  With the heavy packs we had I am sure that kind of hike would have killed both of us.  As it was we crossed the lake in twenty minutes and still had a two hour hike ahead of us.
  Hitting the trail-head at five pm we buckled down for the trek and set out.  Along the way we passed the long abandoned towns of Proctor, Cable Branch, & Medlin which, if it had not been for the guidebook I consulted before the trip, I would have never known that they existed.  The history of these small settlements dated back to the 1830's but little more than a hundred years the creation of the Fontana Dam cut these communities off from the rest of the world and they were bought by the government.
  Today only a few hidden foundations remain as a testament to their history.  As is true with most every thing left untouched for a period of time, nature has reclaimed the land it owned so long ago.
  We camped at site 84 along the Hazel creek which was the site of the town of Medlin but you would have never known it.  Today it is a beautifully wooded site between the Spring Creek and Hazel Creek confluence without a trace of civilization besides an old river stone wall along the trail.  For me the sound of rushing water was music to sleep by.
  The next day we set out to fish this legendary water.  Stringing up my Fall River Bamboo Fly Rod and Abel Reel I began testing the water above our camp.  In a short while and the loss of a few flies I hooked into this juvenile Rainbow trout.  Unfortunately it was one of the very few trout caught on the trip.  A cold front had passed a day before our arrival and a guide we passed on the trail the day before had revealed to us that the fishing had been horrible.
  In addition to the cool temps and problems with the atmospheric pressures, a weeks worth of constant rain had swollen the streams up to extremely fast moving & deep levels.  I was lucky to even have a fly in the water long enough to hook a single fish.  Most of the time the nymph barely had enough time to sink a few inches much less then the many feet it needed to go to get to the fish.
As we continued on scrambling up hills and over rushing waters the one thing I noticed was that the bugs had taken the opportunity to come out in full force.
  On nearly ever rock and exposed surface was a new bug hatching.  I cant recall any other time I have seen so many different mayflies, stones, and caddis on the water at the same time.  Sulfurs, BWO, and March Browns were all over the water.  I often just sat and watched as a Surfer fluttered above the water and finally settle down to lay the eggs.  I even watch as the yellow bugs swam from the deep to the surface and emerged in short order to a winged insect.  There was so much aquatic life on the river I was at a complete loss why the fish were not there.
   With one last ditch effort out to find the fish I headed back out just before diner with my rod.  What I found was a great looking plunge pool that held some fun Browns.
  Tying on a Little Sister Caddis with green body, I tossed it into the back-flow and instantly hooked into some juvenile browns.  They were the only fish I saw the entire three days actually rise to take a fly but I was happy to have them.  With a green mossy backdrop and my beautiful Abel Reel to set off the bronze spots on his flanks I couldn't help snapping a few photos.  Even if they were small they were an absolute joy to catch.
  These colors are the why so many of us trout fisherman come back time and time again.  The originality of each fishes markings is amazing and when you hold a young trout in your hand and take a close look at the pattern you forget about the size and just see the beauty of it.
  The next morning after a filling breakfast of everything we had in our pack that we didn't want to pack out, we began the unpleasant task of packing up.  Some might think that a breakfast of beans and weenies is disgusting but for a backpacker ever sweet bite is a little bit of heaven.  Couple that with some oatmeal, trail-mix  and a lukewarm cup of badly brewed campfire coffee and you have got a meal to set out on.  Of coarse after a few miles a breakfast like that begins to take effect and you are glad your back-trail is free from other hikers.
  As I was packing up I grabbed my rod holder- a simple pvc pipe covered with stickers I have acquired over the years - and was surprised to see this mayfly had used my Abel it to shed his skin.  I was even more surprised that not far from his old skin the little yellow guy was still there just waiting for his wings to dry off so he could take flight
  I will say this for the little guy, he had taste.  If I was a mayfly I couldn't think of a better place to shed my skin.
  With a final photo of my buddy and I, we packed the rest of our gear, reluctantly shouldered the heavy packs and set out for our pickup point down stream.  Taking our time on the hike out, we would occasionally stop along the stream, shed the packs and eagerly go stream-side to fish an inviting pool but we never had another bite.
  In the end we didn't hook into the number or size fish we had hoped for but all around it was a worthy trip I would do again anytime.  Hopefully someday I will make it back and until then I will have the memories to remind me how wonderful a place the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Fly Tying Bonanza For GSMNP

Bucktail Rainbow in size #8
So it is finally going to happen.  A buddy and I have wanted to hit Hazel Creek in the Smoky National Park for over two years and as of yesterday we have our site booked and are preparing for a killer of a fishing trip.  Unfortunately as I began to pack up the gear I found that my fly box was lacking in almost every fly I go to in times of need.  It is disgraceful how lax I have been on my fly tying lately but with all the other project I have had going on it is not a surprise.

  So first on the list is to tie up some of the most prominent flies I will expect to fish in the smokies and of course that is going to include a bucket full of caddis, mayflies, and the little green weenie.  Thanks to my boy I have a great photo example of what my Green Weenies needed to look like so to the bench I went and whipped up a few followed up with a few red and brown San Juan Worms because lets face it - they are almost identical except for the color and black head.

Hook     - #14 Nymph
Thread   - Olive
Body     - Green
Head     - Peacock Herl

I chose not to include any weight for this fly because I figure most inchworms do not last long in the water long enough to sink very deep.  At least that is my hope.

  Another creation I came up is borderline as far as streamers go but I am one who like to push the boundaries.  What I call it is the Flash Blacknosed Dace.  Essentially I took the spoon head spinner off a lure and slid it on the front of the shank of my fly.  I then put a black bead on the head for the spinner to rotate around.  The rest of the Blacknose Dace is tied pretty much the same as the original. I don't know if it will work but I thought I would give it a shot.  For you purists out their that have cringed at the thought of making a fly look and act like those cursed spinning rigs I will give you my not so sincere apologies.  If it makes you feel any better I am not expecting to have much success with it.

  For those of you that would like to try it for yourself you can buy a hand full of these spinner spoon like this in the crappie section of the local store.  I simply took off the spoon and used it on the shank of my hook.  If any of you have success with it let me know.  When I get back from my trip I will also tie up a few bass bugs using this method to see how that works.  I suspect the bass with love it.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Trout Designs For The Fashionable Angler

   Its time for a few more examples of what I have been working on when I am not working or fishing.  Last year I had the pleasure of hunting big Speckled Sea Trout with a fly rod down in Florida and when a buddy of mine sent me pics of his catch I felt the flood of memories coming back.
    The thing I remembered most about the sea trout I had hooked into was their fangs.  For a guy that is use to the sandpaper mouths of browns and rainbows the sight of the fangs in a sea trouts mouth was enough to send shivers down my arm while trying to remove the fly.
    I have come to find that these coastal trout have a dedicated bunch of followers much like us land locked anglers stalk big browns.  Those speckled trout anglers watch the tides and the weather like a seasoned poker player waiting for just the right time to go all in.
  In honor of those hunters of the fanged trout I worked up a few images I thought might strike a cord.
    Of course if I put these illustrations on a blank canvas I feel that the point is missed so I went ahead and placed a few of them on the proper backdrop.  Thanks to the internet and the numerous websites specializing in teeshirt designs I was able to use a teeshirt as the proper canvas for this type of artwork.

  And finally with all these tools at my disposal I couldn't help but test out my recent painting on this background.  The line below the happy brown trout says it all.


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Brown Trout In Spawning Colors

  Its been far to long since I painted a trout so today with the rain coming down and a little Yonder Mountain String Band on the player I sketched out yet another Brown Trout. I bet I have painted about thirty plus of these beautiful trout over the years but it never gets old.  Like all anglers, I just cant get enough of them either in the water or on the paint.
 As with most of my works it all starts out with a fairly clear idea of what the basic painting should look like so with that in mind I sketch it out.  Over the years I have improved this process.  I use to sketch out so many details, trying to plan out every paint stroke but over time I have found out the minimum amount of pencil marks needed for a final painting.
  It is a simple fact that the beauty of a brown trout in full spawn colors is one of the most amazing palettes of color in the natural world.  It is for this reason that I choose the brilliant yellows and oranges in my paint box to paint most of my brown trout.
  After dropping in some clean water into the area I want to paint I then begin building up colors from yellows, oranges, and olive greens for the back.  Pre-wetting the paper before I add the paint allows me to blend the colors easily.  It also makes for a good boundary for where I don't want paint to flow.
  I also opted for a little background pigment on this painting.  Mixing in a little blue with some of the same colors I used on the fish I let them flow naturally along the edges of the fish.  I also began the process of lifting off some of the pigment around areas where I wanted the spots to go.  This adds a faint halo of color similar to what a fresh caught brown displays.
  The finished painting measures roughly 7x9 and fits very nicely in a 11x14 mat cut with a 8x10 opening.

    "Brown Trout"
         Spawning Colors
Size        -7in x 9in
Medium  - Watercolor on paper
Availability - FOR SALE

I would love to keep this one but honestly I have a ton more clogging up the studio corners and I just don't have the room.  If you are interested just shoot me an email.  As always this painting will come in its own mat and backing board.