Friday, January 31, 2014

Skull Fishing Graphics

  This might not be your style (it certainly isn't my wife's) but I was tooling around the other day and working on sketching some graphics when I decide to sketch out a skull and cross bones because... well what guy doesn't like pirate stuff.  Come on admit it, when you were a kid (or even later on in life) and you picked up Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island you dreamed of a life on the high seas hunting down Flints gold.
  Well as I sketched this skull out I then decided to make up one killer Fly Fishing Graphic.  With the two tone design for a sticker I thought that this graphic would look pretty bad on the back of some trout hunters truck window.  Imagine driving down the road and seeing this plastered on the back of a window.  Immediate thoughts: That guy is crazy and he loves to fly fish.
    You wont catch this on the back of my trout hunting vehicle but I thought I'd share it with you anyway.
  Well, shortly after I posted this image on G+ I got a number of hits with quite a few emails asking for a variety of backgrounds from shotguns to salt water themes.  With that in mind I thought I'd give you a little variety and shoot out a little redfish and spin rod skull graphic.
   As always - I post these images on the blog for you to enjoy but if you would like to use them for some other purpose such as stickers or anything else please email me for purchasing rights.  Sales of my art is what keeps me from dipping into the old bank fund to buy more fishing gear and as we all know - I love new fishing gear.  SO if you want to use my art please discuss it with me first.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Sophisticated Angler

  Fly fishing is generally considered the upper crust of fishing.  The anglers that fly fish often see themselves as a high minded, idealistic, and sophisticated lot - well above the lowly bait casters and spin fisherman of the world.  I often catch myself in this mind set and have to force myself to come down off my high mountain and remember that I was once a die hard bait caster who loved an afternoon fishing with a rusty push button spinning rod and a can of worms.
   The truth is whether you bait cast, fly fish, or are one of those crazy noodlers crazy enough to fish around a catfish hole with only your big toe, we all love to fish because its fun.  There is nothing high minded about it and there is nothing sophisticated about what we do on the river.  Fly anglers especially, armed with an over priced rod and more equipment than a Bedouin camel herder, have even less of a reason to think what we do is somehow better than the rest of the fishing community.
  We fly anglers buy endless amounts of equipment, collectively spend countless millions a year on travel and chicken feathers to chase a fish with a brain the size of a small sunflower seed. If spending money on fishing is a sign of sophistication then I might concede the fact that we fly anglers are the upper crust.
   The truth is we fly fish not because we think we are better than the guy with the spin rod or the kid with the can of worms, we fly fish because for us it is just as much about the art fishing as it is about hooking the fish.  For us that have been lucky enough to hook into a big fish on a fly rod it is an experience that sticks with us.  That pull on the line your holding and the knowledge that the fish leaping away from your net was hooked on a fly you had a hand in creating is a total experience that we just cant get from digging up worms and hooking it them on an Eagle Claw hook.  Its not anymore sophisticated it all has a different meaning.
   That all may sound like a rambling preachy post but sometimes we all need to be reminded that regardless of our selected style of fishing, we all are in search of a fish that continually outsmart us fly anglers and bait-casters alike.
  This past Monday I was able to break away for a few hours to a local stream frequently visited by bait-casters.  It was rather cold but as the sun began to warm things up I was hopeful for a increase in activity.  Unfortunately my only success was a foul hooked stocked brown which quickly found its way back into the hole he was hiding. (as a side note - For some reason the fact that it was foul hooked made me feel guilty that I had even caught it, though I had no idea where I had hooked it until it was brought in.  Why this should detract from my success is something only dedicated anglers might understand)

 Anyway, Continuing on -  This stream is usually jam packed on the weekend with spin fisherman who leave with a limit of freshly stocked trout on a stringer.  Since this is well known as a 'put and take' stream I have accepted the fact that not all fisherman fish for the experience.  It is a fact of life and as long as they stay on those put and take streams instead of cleaning out natural brookie waters further up stream then I have learned to live with it.  Heck, even I have on occasion have taken a stocked trout or two for my dinner.  What I have little tolerance for is the fisherman - regardless of style - that use the stream side as their own private trash bin.  Unfortunately these people are often bait-casters because as we all have seen, one of the top pieces of trash around the stream is the discarded bait container or beer can.
  As a community of fisherman, regardless of style, we should call these people out.  They not only give anglers that do not fly fish a bad name, but they do unbelievable harm to a place we all enjoy.  This all may seem like a preachy post but the rusty cans and Styrofoam containers I picked up from the banks the other day really ticked me off, especially the jagged rutty bait can I nearly sat on as I was working to tie on another fly.
  Its common sense and its really simple people - just pick up your crap before you head back home to clean your catch.  That all I ask.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Weekend Fly Tying & The Flying Midge

  Besides tying a few flies this weekend I inked a little flying midge to start off your week.  Good luck to anyone that attempts to tie this puppy up.  I wouldn't suggest fishing it either.
Like a lot of my recent little doodles I really cant explain it.  I started out with a little line and it all just kind of morphs into a weird kinda angle winged midge thing.  This kind of doodle is what you get when your stuck in an airport with a bone chilling -15 degree wind howling outside and no plane to take you home.
  Simply put - I Need To Go Fishing!

I also took some time Sunday afternoon to tie up some wet flies using bodies of wool I scored from my wife's yarn basket.  Its not the first time I've raided her stash and since I was running a little low on floss for bodies of flies I decided to see what she recently had stocked up on.
  What I found was a nice 85% wool 15% mohair mix red that just screamed to used on my fishy flies.  I had to thin it out a bit while tying it into my bodies but the result was a great selection of blood red bodied wet flies.  I even decided to tie up a few Sawyers Killer Bugs with the material.  I am not sure how well the fish will accept the new color but I figured that since I have had such great success with the original Killer bug, a new color would be well worth the try.
    For the wet flies It was just a simple ingredient mix of #14 hooks, weight, brown thread, red wool, and a Hungarian Partridge.  For the Killer Bug I just left out the Partridge and used a little copper wire.
Butchered Sawyer Bug
  Of course I couldn't just tie up only a few blood red bugs so I used a few remaining Partridge feathers I had plucked to tie up a few green and brown wet flies to fill up the box.  Keeping with the theme of the day I used poached yard for these flies as well.  I have had a variety of success with the brown color yarn on other flies but very little with the green colors but I have never used either color on a wet fly.  Perhaps the addition of a grizzly partridge will help to make these more appealing to those finiky trout.  If not then I am sure the sunfish will love them once the lakes start warming up.  Either way I am sure to get some use out of them.
Enjoy your week.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Line Testers - What's Your Fly Line

Here is a question for all you fly fisherman out there; What makes one $80 fly line better than a $12 line?  Sure the brand name adds 20-30% markup but what makes is a better line to cast with?  Why should you spend the extra cash on such expensive line when Gander Mountain or Dicks has the same weight line on sale for $11.99?
    The truth is that unless you are the type of angler that hits the water more than twice a week then you'd probably never know the difference.  The average angler wont be able to tell a $80 line from a $12 one and will catch just as many fish with the cheap line.  I might get a little push back from some of you out there but its the truth.  Sure the expensive brands are more accurately manufactured and the weights are measured to a higher standard, the line picks off the water better, and they stand up to a beating for a longer time but to an angler that hits the water a few times a month in the winter and only slightly more in peak season then they'd never notice the difference.
  On the other hand it is precisely those small differences that make a huge difference for the obsessed anglers out there.  For anglers that have elevated their game a good fly line is indispensable and in the long run it saves them money.  I have had a variety of fly line on my reels over the years - everything from a $9 Academy Sports sale line that lasted half a season to a top end Rio line that served my primary reel for a good number of years.  They both work, they both hook fish and fresh out of the box its hard to tell them apart, but as time takes it toll on the micro surfaces of the line you begin to see the reason people shell out big bucks for top shelf fly lines.  Where a cheap line may last a dedicated angler a single season, the high end lines may last three or more years.

  For the average anglers out there that may only hit the water a dozen or so times a year or the beginning anglers just getting started, there is no need to get those high priced lines.  Get a cheap line and keep it clean and you will do fine until you get the drive to fish like a mad man.  When that happens and you cant stay away from the stream then that's the time to get yourself a good fly line.  It will last longer and resist the abrasion that it is bound to get from having big browns drag the bottom of the river for submerged logs.
    Regardless of the line you get you'd do well to take good care of it.  A well cleaned line picks up off the water better than a dirty one.  During the peak season of fly fishing I clean my lines about every other month - which is not nearly as much as I should and often I find myself stream side wishing In had spent the time to clean the line the night before.

   With all that said I now pose a question to my fellow anglers, What is your favorite fly line and how often do you clean it?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Winter Adventure Reading

  With yet another torturous winter freeze hitting the eastern states we yet again find ourselves locked up waiting out the ice (that is unless you are lucky enough to have one of those deluxe ice shacks up in the UP or Minnesota.)  You could sit around an mope about the lack of fishing you have been forced to endure or you can make the time useful and begin to fill your box with flies for the up-coming spring thaw.
  With that encouragement and sage advice properly handed out I now have to admit that I can only stand so much reading up on fly patterns and fishing techniques before I loose all interest.  When I find that happening (usually about a month into winter) I turn my mind to an ever expanding library of real life adventures from a bygone era.  Back to a time when the world was much larger and tales of epic adventures and romantic tales from far off places drove men to do amazing things.
    Last year while on vacation down near Savanna GA I stopped off at a local used book store to scout out some good deals of coastal fishing books.  Besides stumbling on a nice find of a 1950's book of fly fishing techniques, I also managed to have the owner give me a good deal on this book that lay in a haphazard pile near the checkout desk.  Having loved sailing and anything nautical including intrigued with tales from the men that sailed the wide blue, I immediately took interest in this book.
    Many years ago I read the classic by Slocum 'Around The World Alone' and was instantly a fan.   With this book I find that Slocum has inspired men for generations.  In late September 1934 Dwight Long, barely past twenty years of age, set out to have his own adventure sailing the world in his boat - The Idle Hour.  If you can find this book, which might be very difficult giving its rarity, and you like the adventure style travel writing then pick it it up.  It will make you want to buy an old tub of a ship with seams that breath as freely as a sleeping baby and set sail for the south pacific.
    Another book I have been working on is one that will make you think twice about a hasty departure.  Ernest Shackleton's adventure (or more aptly named misadventure) is one of legendary survival.  For those that know a little about the story then you know its a story of human endurance and shear will to survive.  For those of you that only recall the name Shackleton from the price of whiskey (from the actual expedition) that sold at auction for millions - pick this book up and learn how a crate of whiskey ended up on a desolate rocky beach in the antarctic. It is one hell of a story (best enjoyed with a smooth malt served neat).
  With those selections I leave you to do a little reading and waiting for the snow to melt.

 Yes I know the sketch of a lounging woman in a swimsuit has nothing to do with fishing but maybe it will make you forget about the the temperature howling past your window at the moment.  Enjoy...

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Art Deco Fish Woman

    I could try and explain this weird line drawing but I can't even explain it to myself.  It is simple the product of a little doodling that ended up as a suito Art Deco Fish Woman.  Its way out of the bounds from my normal type of drawing, its a bit more artsy than my typical work, and it is.... simply put - its just odd.
    If I had to guess I would say that my recent bout with a virus has left me a bit stir crazy.  I haven't left the house much and I think I have organized nooks and crannies of this house that have not seen the light of day in quite some time.  
   I don't know what led me to create it but there you have it.
'The Fish Woman'
Line Drawing On Paper

Friday, January 17, 2014

Vintage Looking Trout Sign

Vintage Looking Fishing Lodge Sign
    Who doesn't love old wood signs?  With all the 'picker' shows and restoration shows on the tube now a days these vintage signs have really taken off but for all of us rural folks out there this type of art has always been in style.  Give me a cabin next to a trout stream with a few stuffed critters on the walls and a few more vintage fishing signs to class the place up and I'm in heaven.
With that in mind I took an old photo of a painting I did a number of years ago and did some messing around in the computer to come up with this vintage looking wall hanger.  I am told I can actually transfer this image to a slab of wood to make my own sign.  With the image I came up above that might just be a good idea.  It would sure make a sweet addition to any man cave... or in my case an overstuffed garage.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Chattooga Angler

Chattooga Angler
  Dabbling in canvas painting, I took a little time this morning to paint a simple quick study of a fisherman on my beloved Chattooga River.
  I'm still pumping my body full of vitamin C and trying to kick this cold/flu bug that has set me down but I did feel well enough today to break out the paints for a few hours.  The simple fact is that if I do nothing all day but sleep I feel like I am wasting opportunities and at the end of the day I feel worse than if I got my body moving.  I may not be able to get on my bike and put in a two hour ride but I am well enough to flick paint at a canvass for a few hours.
   Those that follow my work know that my bread and butter is watercolor and that only recently have I branched into attempts at canvass painting.  For this work I forced myself to do it quick and very loose.  I tend to keep my paintings tight and well defined but as I branch out I decided that freeing my style up would be a good thing.  This isn't as finished a piece as I would like but it is a decent study for a subject I love.
    This work is titled 'Chattooga Angler' and it small enough to hang over your desk at only 14x11 in.  Acrylic on Canvass.  It is FOR SALE and as it is just a quick study it is cheap.  Send me an email if your interested.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Tellico, Battling The Flu, & Thoughtful Gifts

    The Tellico Nymph is quite possibly the most iconic fly of the southeast for trout.  I have done a few posts on it in the past and it has been well documented by various other southern trout fishing sites but in case you haven't heard the story - here it is.
  No -one is quite sure when it was created or by who but it was believed that it originated from the banks of the Tellico River in Eastern Tennessee.  The going theory is that in a true to form Southerner style, local fisherman prior to the early 1900 morphed a classic wet fly imitation to suit their needs.  Many believe that the bright yellow yarn or floss body was meant to simulate the giant yellow stone but the more likely scenario was that a local angler attempted to combine the wet fly with a type of food trout love but isn't viewed as a very sporting type of lure .... corn.  I don't know if this story is true but if a corn chucker ever wanted a better imitation that could be casted with a fly rod then they would have to look no further than the Tellico.  If you ever find yourself in the south then make sure this little guy is in your box.

    The other day I came down with a bit of a flu bug and find myself confined to a couch without much energy to do anything.  Consequently I have been doing a bit more sketching and reading up of fly fishing techniques.  Thanks to a Christmas present from my wife in the form of a mini blender, I have also mastered the art of making the perfect vitamin C / antioxidant smoothy to help fight the bug.  Its amazing how good old healthy food makes one feel.  I believe the trick might be in grinding up the orange ( rind and all) with a load of blueberries, a banana, and some baby spinach.  Nothing can cure a virus outright - I just got to let it run its course - but the vitamin rich drink just might shorten my down time.
  One other thing I have been meaning on sharing for a while was a little gift I received at our annual 'make a present gift exchange'.  Pairing the bottle caps from one of my favorite beers, a friend made up these very attractive lures.  Framed up in a shadow box, this is a great addition to my fly tying desk.  Thanks again - I love them.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ringneck Pheasant

  As any fly fisherman can attest, the Ringnecked Pheasant is a bird that has contributed greatly to the world of fly tying.  This little fowl's feather can be used for everything from dry flies to the midges and nymphs that are a constant in any anglers fly box.
  As you spend the next few months tying flies to replenish your supply for the upcoming spring, remember this little bird and all it has to offer.
  And for you looking for simple flies - here are a few #14 Soft Hackles.  Enjoy.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Sea Monsters & Strong Roots Of An Old Oak

  Does this have anything to do with fly fishing?  In truth, no but then again isn't the Angler Fish thee embodiment of what we as fishermen strive to emulate every time we head out with rod in hand (minus the grotesque monster like qualities and nasty sharp teeth of course).  This Jewels Vernean type sea monster is often looked upon by the general public as a beastly creature from the deep but to us fellow anglers it should be viewed as quite possibly the best equipped fisherman on (or more accurately in) the water.  Besides, It just looks COOL.
 With the theme of sea monsters fresh in my mind, I also decided to sketch out another great beast of the Vernean bent.  Being a big fan of good sea stories and the rum that undoubtedly helped in the telling of them, I did this pen and ink sketch mostly just to share with the kids.  They just love weird sea creatures and cant get enough of them when ever we hit up and aquarium.  Truth is I cant get enough of them either.

I was really on a roll the other day with being confined to the house so what better way to work away the hours then with a sketch pad and pen.  My daughter loves the Tinkerbell fairies and although I'm not as big a fan of the Disney cartoons as she is, I can still appreciate the art that goes along with it.  I do however love the old school art that accompanied books like The Brothers Grimm Fairytales and those classic N.C. Wyeth illustrations that graced many a R.L. Stevenson novel.  The line illustrations just jumped off the pages and would make any young boy want to be part of that world.  My pen drawing of this old knotty oak embracing a clutch of rocks stemmed from memories of those classic prints.

  Not to stretch a metaphor to thin but there is something to be said about a strength and persistence in the face of adversity with this illustration.  Friedrich Nietzsche once said 'For a tree to become tall it must grow tough roots among the rocks'.
  I will struggle not to get to political here but will probably fail miserably.  While I am not in line with much (if any) of Nietzsche's ideas, I think this statement holds some water.  At this point it is also fair to say that he died after suffering various mental breakdowns - probably due to his struggle to reconcile his ideas with truth.  Regardless, the idea that in order to build a strong tree, person, community, or country - that entity needs to face adversity.  I wonder if today in this country we have lost that edge.  Have we lost that appreciation for hard won battles?  Have we lost that desire to stand on ones own two feet and say 'I did that'?  Everyone needs the aid of a helping hand once in while but should we always expect it to be there?  Shouldn't we have more self reliance or self respect than to trust someone else to always be there to catch use if we fall.  An occasional skinned knee or broken bone in life is not the end, just as it is not the end of learning to ride a bike.  Are we now a nation of vagrants that blame others for our problems and are so unwilling to face adversity that we always look to the government to solve our problems?
 Grow roots among the rocks people.  Or just get a pair of 'rocks' and overcome adversity.
Just my $.02.
 Maybe I just need to stop reading the paper.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Embrace The Cold - Time For Fly Tying

    Its that time again. Stow the gear, clean the lines, and break out the fly tying equipment.  Its time to restock the fly boxes for the onslaught of fins in 2014.
  Today I awoke to a Canadian type chill in the air with an temperature leaking mercury out the bottom of the gauge.  I can't say for sure but the fist sign of an upcoming ice age might just be a temperature of 7 degrees in South Carolina.  I sure hope those coastal reds found a nice warm stretch of water to hang out in because if they didn't then there is going to be a whole lot of fishcicles floating around Charleston Harbor.
  Enough complaining and more flies.  I sat down at the vice and tied a dozen of these crafty little guys the other day.  Not much else to do since I was confined to the house.  Its a simple fly - I love the three ingredient flies - that is an extremely effective dry.  You can pump out these babies faster than Bode Miller does the Super G.  Tie them small and tie them quick.
After tying up a load of dies I went to work on a few large wet flies.  I've never had much luck with them but they are sure fun to create.
    Using the cold to my advantage, the wife and I sat down with the kids for a little plastic bead craft time.  Basically its a 'create your own mosaic' type thing with plastic beads then iron them out.  Good for having the kids use their imaginations but the down side is that I now have quite a few of these bead creations around the house.  Luckily once they are ironed out the beads stay pretty much together.  My son made a Loch Ness Monster (or Dragon), my daughter slaved away on an intricate coaster design, my wife came up with a heart, and I of course made a fishy looking thing.
    If you are stuck inside during this snap of cold, make the most of it.  Tie up some flies, do something creative with the family, or just grab an adult beverage (or hot coco) and settle next to a roaring fire.  Keep warm out there.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Zealand Rainbow Trout Watercolor

New Zealand Rainbow
  First off - Happy New Year!  Some of you might have noticed that I took an uncharacteristic hiatus from the blog and painting scene for the month of December.  Serving to not only recharge my batteries and give my family some much needed together time, the month of December was just what I needed to start off the new year ready to further expand my fishing and painting goals.
  So for the first painting of 2014 I started with a painting that was requested from a mother as a gift to her son.  A few years ago he took a trip of a lifetime down under and spent his time chasing trout under the southern cross.  She contacted me to recreate one of his catches as a watercolor so with photo in hand I got down to it.
  For many an angler - New Zealand is a bucket type of place to dream of fishing.  I can only imagine how amazing it must have been to hook into the legendary browns and rainbows that dwell in those storied waters.
  Someday I hope I can make it out there but until then I will satisfy my angling dreams with a little pigment and water on paper.
  After sketching out the trout I proceeded to drop in a few layers of light washes to build up color and give the painting a solid base to work from.
  The rest is just a matter of building colors and shapes.  I have done only a few paintings of river rocks with fish so I tried to focus on building a realistic representation of a fish suspended slightly out of the water.  Adding a few ripples of white and shadows of water on the fishes flanks helps to create the illusion.

If you would like to commission your very own wall hanger piece of art of a memorable catch, you can Email me here at or visit my art site at