Sunday, November 27, 2011

Links On A Barbel

Some of you might see this painting and think of a carp and in truth you are not far off the mark.  This painting was done for a friend over in Spain that is an avid Barbel fly fisher.  I had been putting it off mainly because I had been intimidated by the rough fish.  Its colors, scales, and shape posed a challenge to me and I was about as familiar with it as an Inca warrior would be of the A-10 Warthog (my dream aircraft by the way).
After a bit of research through this thing we call the world wide web, and numerous drawings, I decided to finally put my anxiety aside and try my hand at painting one in watercolor.
Hope you enjoy the painting and the links.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Three Shot Buck

Unfortunately I didn't get to do any fishing this past week so I thought that I would share with you a hunting tale.  This is a bit out of my norm but I was inspired by the Outdoor Blogger Network and their cross promotion with the Sportsman Channel.  Grab a cup of joe, settle back, and enjoy the read.

Three Shot Buck
To tell the truth, I am not that much of a hunter. My real passion is stalking trout in the upper reaches of small creeks and deep pools with my fly rod. However, when the season opens in the upstate of South Carolina, I can't help but get that pull in the pit of my stomach to grab a gun and go hunt some larger game.
So on a partly cloudy day a few years ago, about mid way through the season, I grabbed my breach loading, single shot 12 gauge from the closet, kissed my wife goodby, and piled into the jeep for the forty five minute drive to my secluded hunting grounds. I wasn't really expecting to get anything that afternoon but I was looking forward to the peace and solitude of sitting high up in a tree and watch the beauty of nature around me as the afternoon faded into night.
When I got to the grounds I slung my gun over my shoulder, shoved the three shells into my pocket, and began the half mile walk down hill to my stand on the edge of a small marsh. I would soon loath this walk but for the time being I was enjoying the sounds and smells that can only come with the serenity of a southern hardwood forest. In a few minutes I was nestled atop the small platform of my tree stand, my outdated shotgun on my lap, and settled in for the quiet alertness of a hunter and enjoying the antics of the squirrels that continuously add noise to the forest.
Some of you might be wondering why I choose to hunt with a single shot shotgun when such advances have been made in weaponry giving the hunter every opportunity to make his kill. All I can tell you is that for my, much as it is in my fly fishing, hunting is about the experience. Its about connecting with the past and continuing the traditions of countless years of human existence. It is also about making due with what you got and this old and antiquated gun was all I had. I also figured that if I wasn't good enough to get the deer in one shot then I wasn't worthy of taking it. I would later adjust this line of thinking but that comes later.
My stand sat on a heavily wooded hill that gently sloped down into a basin that was frequented by bedding whitetails. I had positioned the simple two by four constructed stand so I could get an optimal shot on a well used game trail that emerged from the swamp and passed about thirty yards in front of me. Over the years I had seen numerous bucks use this trail and decided that with the afternoon closing beyond my hill, this spot might just yield a buck emerging from an days rest in the marsh. Loading my single shot shotgun with a Remington deer slug, trained my eyes down the hill and waited.
An hour before sunset I began to get excited. The last few hours had been building a belly full of anticipation. The wind was beginning to come up the hill from the marsh, the sun was setting and the temperature was just right. I began to get a sense that I would soon see a deer emerge in front of me and perfectly set up for a clean kill. I readied my self for a that moment that I could draw up my gun and put a bead on the target.
Half a minute later I heard a heart stopping snap of a twig and rustle of leaves just over my left shoulder. Slowly I turned my head and saw through the oaks a beautiful looking buck coming down the hill and munching on acorns. I began to peer through the trees at the deer and could clearly see six evenly spaced points on a rack that I had never seen in these woods before. He was only about sixty yards away but with the trees so tight and the branches obstructing any clear shot, he might as well have been a thousand yards off. My only hope with the slug I had already chambered was that this buck make his way down the trail into a clear field of fire. Luckily that is just what he did and in a few moments he came into view forty five yards out in front of me presenting a perfect side profile.
With as much stealth ass I could muster, I raised my gun to my shoulder, quietly released the safety and took three long breaths. Drawing the thin metal bead on the sweet spot of the buck I recited the cliché phrase 'aim small, miss small' over and over in my head. This was going to be my one buck of the year and I was going to make it count. Slowly I began to put pressure on the trigger.
BANG! Though the ringing in my ears and brief moment of recoil of the gun, I saw a branch fall in my line of fire and beyond was the deer standing like a statue; head up, ears attentive to the slightest noise, and perfectly still staring directly at me.
I could not believe it. There was no way I missed that buck. I had the perfect shot and although I am prone to boost once in a while, I am in no way a bad shot with my weapon. My only guess at that moment was that an unseen branch had deflected the slug. Regardless, I had missed and now I had to think about what I could do next. For the moment I had froze with the buck. He and I in a standoff, neither willing to flinch, neither willing to give ourselves away to the other. I held my breath hoping he couldn't discern me from the surrounding forest.
A minute or so later he cautiously resumed his munching on acorns and trek to the marsh. As quietly as I could I muffled the opening of the breach of my shotgun with my jacket, pulled out the smoking shell and replaced it with one more. Again muffling the sound with my jacket and forearm I closed the breach and raised the gun to my shoulder.
The whole process of reloading had taken my about five minutes and in that time the deer had slowly moved off a bit more down the hill to a distance every inch of sixty yards. Careful to find a hole though the branches that I could shoot through, I began the process of drawing a bead and reciting that over used phrase once again; Aim small, miss small.
Again I sat in complete disbelief with the loud ringing in my ears and the smell of gunpowder drifting up through the trees. The deer, this beautiful buck, stood like a statue carved out of marble staring directly at me. A few moments later he turned and bounded into the swamp and beyond my sight.
I was completely disheartened. How could I have missed such a clean shot not once but twice and why on earth did this buck just stand there, daring me to reload. It was if he knew I had only one shot and I had missed it.
Without any more need to keep quiet, I cracked the breach, pulled the spent shell and reloaded with my last round. I wasn't sure I would get another opportunity but I wanted to wait and see what happened.
A half hour later and with the sun casting long shadows through the forest I began to hear movement in the swamp off to my right. Searching through the brush I could just barely make out the form of deer, a buck. Not only a buck but my buck. This beast that had braved two slugs from my antique gun and had stood daring me to take him, this deer that had stared me down at each miss was coming back up the hill in a flanking maneuver to taunt me again.
Slowly I began maneuvering my body into a good firing position, anticipating where the buck might fully emerge behind me. Eventually I settled in, my legs straddling the trunk of the large oak and my frame poised like a sniper laying in wait for the prey to approach.
Moments later the buck emerged from the trees forty yards and a hundred and eighty degrees from where I had taken my first shot at him. Slowly I leaned out from behind the oak, settled my left arm on the rough bark of the tree and took aim. No mantra this time, no long breaths, just a simple slow movement till the sights rested on the buck's sweet spot. Then I pulled on the trigger.
The mortally wounded deer stumbled about another seventy five yards and collapsed atop of the hill. It was by far one of the the most memorable hunting experiences I have ever had and as I began the long hike back to the jeep, I couldn't help but smile. I nearly blacked out three time on that half mike hike dragging that buck but that smile never left my face.  
In the end the buck wasn't the biggest, although for a South Carolina forest deer it was better than average, nor did it have the biggest rack but for me it isn't about that. It is and will always be about the journey and the experience of going out there and doing it. Its about knowing that you can provide for your family. Its about connecting with the past and probably more than anything it is about connecting to world we all live in.  

–This is my submission for the Sportsman Channel Writing Contest for Hunters hosted by the Outdoor Blogger Network.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Turkey Day Surprise

First off- Happy Turkey Day.  May your weekend be filled with fun, family, football, and if your lucky, a little bit of fishing. Yesterday I came home from a trip to find a new mug waiting for me.  That's right, my recent Paiute Trout on a mug. So this morning I'll be enjoying some hazelnut brew while watching the balloons with the kidos...... Yippy
Also - Go Pack!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Greenback Cutthroat

I have been in a groove painting trout in the classic profile setup lately and here is another one in that stream of fish.  On this one I changed up the orientation with the head facing left.  I read somewhere that there was actually a scientific way to photograph or illustrate species of fish in a specific orientation for consistency.  I have never been able to remember knowledge like that especially when it was a rule on 'how' I should do something.  However if any readers might recall where the specific instructions are on how to orientate a fish in a picture I would like to hear it.
This Greenback Cutthroat was by special request by an avid Tenkara enthusiast who frequents the small streams these extremely colorful trout inhabit.  I decided to go with a few less spot on this trout than what would normally be present on older Greenback Cut Trout however it is not completely unheard of to see a greenback with just the fin and tail fully spotted.
This species of trout is also a listed threatened species that was recently named as the official trout of Colorado.  It was only back in the 1930's that this trout was thought to be completely wiped out.  For  nearly thirty years scientists had no idea that far up in the Rocky Mountain NP on a few secluded streams, a few isolated groups of this trout still lived on in relative safety.  Once these small pockets of Greenback Cutthroats were discovered, the scientist and trout anglers went to work restoring the greenback to a healthy population.
Known for it brilliant spawning color and the tell tale red cut of the jaw, these special trout are yet another species that need are protection.  I will also be adding this print for sale soon.
"Greenback Cutthroat"
9 x 4 in. watercolor on paper

This 8x10 October Cutthroat as well as the Peacock Bass prints are currently available over on my buy a print page.  If you are looking for a good Christmas gift for the Angler in you life or just a little something for yourself, these quality prints fit the bill.  Each 8x10 signed print comes in its own 11x14 mat ready for you to place in a frame.  If you would like an original of one of the fish you see on my site in time for the holidays please email me for prices and availability.
I Have also lowered the price of these prints for a limited time.  The cost of these and the other prints on the buy a print page are now only $16.99 plus S&H (total cost $21.00).
 And as always, all purchases can be made via Paypal.
However if you would like a real deal then check out the Christmas Deal of 4 trout prints for a supper low price.  Happy Turkey Day!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Christmas Deal

Order Your Rare Trout Prints Today!
As a gift to my loyal followers and the many other that stop by on occasion I have decided to offer a special Christmas-Holiday Special.  Okay, you got me, - I also need to raise a little money to support my two hobbies of fly fishing and painting, both of which require frequent purchases.
I have decided to offer these four trout prints, not as individual prints, but as a complete set for the ultra low cost of $65 Total!!!  That's right, That price includes shipping and handling.  If you were to order each print separately then the total cost would be over $100 including shipping. 
   Each 8x10 print comes in it own 11x14 mat and backing board.  All you have to do is take them out of the protective plastic envelope used for shipping and place them in a frame.  Each print will also be individualy signed by yours truly.  They make perfect wall hangers for your man-woman cave, vacation cottage (if you are luck enough to have one), or fly tying station.  They will also make great gifts for the anglers in your life.
I have decide to keep these four prints together because as a group these four fish are threatened by stream degradation, introduction of alien species, and other man made problems.  Hopefully by my little effort to paint these beautiful fish, more people might be enlightened into the threats facing many of our favorite fish.  I think every angler should do their part to protect and educate in oder that future generations might be able to fish for the same species we so enjoy going after.
So How Do You Take Advantage Of This Deal Before The Holidays?  First you need to take a look at the top buttons of this page.  Up there you will see the Christmas Deal button.  Click that and you will be redirected to the Deal page.  Simply follow the instructions and make your order.  This deal is only available through December 31, after that the page will be taken down and the price for each print returns to the standard price.

The Blogger Deal
I have also added a little deal on this post for all the bloggers out there in order to get the word out on this special.  The prize - A free print of your choosing from my buy a print page.  What do you need to do to be entered into this drawing. 

1- Do a post on your blog or web page between now and Dec 20th about this deal - or about this blog.

2- Leave a comment on this post that you would like to be entered into this drawing.  Make sure you add your blog or page link so we can share in this promotion and hopefully drive a little traffic your way.

3-  Check back here Christmas Day to see who the winner of the free print will be.  I will then email you and all you need to do is select a print and wait for it to arrive.  As simple as 123 and a great way to usher in the new year.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Apache Trout

Number four on the recent list of rare trout I have chosen to paint, is the only other native species of trout in the state of Arizona (the other being the previously mentioned Gila Trout).  This beautifully stunning species of trout once inhabited nearly 600 miles of White Mountain streams but today teeters on the edge of the threatened species list.
 As with the Apache's closest cousin, the Gila Trout, the Apache's primary threats include the loss of habitat as well as the interbreeding with the genetically similar Rainbow Trout.  Introduction of the rainbow has nearly wiped out the Apache in most of its native range in the secluded streams and creeks of the white mountains.  Luckily through constant conservation efforts, the Apache numbers are on the rise.
"The Apache Trout"
Watercolor On Paper
Prints available soon.
On with other news - You might notice that I have added a Tenkara Techniques page to my site.  A while ago I did a few posts about the four techniques I use quite a bit while Tenkara fishing and with the response I received from these emails I have decided to post a page with the posts and illustrations included.  I hope they come in handy for any novice Tenkara fishers out there.

?Question of the day?
Have you ever just started throwing feathers, hair, and thread on a hook without a clue how it was going to end up?  Well this is what happens when I do.  I am hoping to get some time soon to try it out and see how badly it fishes.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Bull Trout

Scratch another trout of the list of fish I have left to paint.  The Bull trout - not actually a trout but really a char - has a native range that covers most of the western North American mountain ranges.  Yet, even with this wide area to inhabit, the Bull trout remains on the threatened species list.  The primary reason for this might be its need for specific water temperatures (less than 55 deg) and habitat that has in recent years been disappearing.  

Like its distant cousin the Brook Trout, the Bull sports the signature white leading edges of its fins but lack the brilliant colors usually associated with the Brookie.
Over the years, the Bull trout has been a species living in limbo.  Once classified as a Dolly Varden - the Bull was re-designated in the 1980's as a separate species.  Unfortunately, the sharing of environmental ranges with the Dolly, their similar colors, and general lack of knowledge about this species has led to decades of confusion.  Adding to this confusion is another completely separate species of European Sea Trout also called a Bull trout.
A Quick Google search will yield a whole bunch of photos of simply massive trout.  I believe that this species can reach sizes reaching 40+ inches.  Protecting and restoring this special char to its former glory should be something we all can work toward.
"The Bull Trout"
Watercolor On Paper
Prints available soon.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Gila Trout

The Gila Trout is a conservation success story.  While doing some reading up on all the different types of trout that inhabit the waters of North America, I came across the Gila.  A relative of the Apache Trout, the Gila had lived most of the last century on the edge of extinction.  In 2006 that changed when it was downgraded to a threatened species.  The more I read into this species, the more I appreciated just what it took to restore this trout to a healthy population.
Through the efforts of anglers, scientists, and the government it is now legal to pursue this special trout with a fly rod and as long as anglers obey the rules established to protect it, this trout will be around for our children's children to enjoy.
This is the first time I have ever looked into the history of the Gila and after a brief Google search I was able to see just how much color this trout sports.  It truly is a beautiful fish and a worthy species to protect.
This New Mexico and Arizona native once had a range through most of the Gila river and its tributaries but in the late 60's their range had shrunk to a mere 20 miles.  Today they now enjoy a healthier habitat in over a dozen protected streams near and including the native Gila River.
The average length of this trout is around a foot but can reach sizes similar to its trout relatives of close to twenty two inches.  Whatever the length, it would be a joy to hook into one of these special trout. Solid conservation projects like protecting this trout are efforts every angler can support.
"Gila Trout"
Watercolor On Paper

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Forget The Paiute Trout - Save The Caddis Fly

"Save The Caddis Fly - Stop The Re-Introduction Of The Endangered Native Paiute Trout".
No that is not a joke.  That is exactly what a group of completely delusional, so called 'enviromentalists' are advocating in California and they have the lawyers to fight it.  Right now it seems that they are winning the battle.
I picked up a copy of The Wall Street Journal yesterday (that's right, the Wall Street Journal - I still believe in capitalism.) and on the front page is a story about the threatened Paiute Cutthroat Trout and these 'nuts that are fighting their reintroduction in favor of a very common bug.
An environmental oddity, the Paiute is a species of cutthroat that has naturally evolved into a separate type of trout.  Separated from other cutthroats by two waterfalls on a nine mile stretch of Silver King Creek, the Paiute has lived and developed for hundreds of years.  Around 1912 a local shepherd and avid angler (Joe Jaunsaras took a bucket of Paiute from this isolated stretch and transplanted them up river.  He might not have known it but this transplantation saved the Paiute.  Over the years, the introduction of other trout into the original nine mile stretch of Paiute river led to their destruction.  Fortunately Joe's transplantation saved this special trout from complete extinction.
Now there is a move to restore the Paiute Trout to its native nine mile home on the Silver King Creek but the 'Bug People' are fighting it .  Scientists estimate that there are only about 2000 Paiute left in the world and by every anglers knowledge there is about 200,000,000,000+ Caddis flies in North America alone.  There is NO threatened species of insects known to exist in the nine mile stretch of King Creek yet these bug nuts are fighting to save them.  Their main complaint is that anglers are behind the reintroduction of the Paiute.  Obviously they don't understand that most anglers love a healthy caddis filled stream as much as anybody and we often strive to make as clean an environment as possible for both trout and bug.  After all, without the little flies our trout streams would look pretty barren.
For me these idiots are proof that common sense is the real endangered species in this ever shrinking world of ours.  Seriously!!!  If you want more information on the Paiute Trout effort check out the Monday Nov 17 WSJ article or the local California TU chapter.  I also encourage my fellow bloggers to do a post to spread the word and stop these bug nuts from doing more harm than good.
 I painted this Paiute Trout yesterday with this article in mind.  Never did I think an article in the WSJ would lead to a trout painting but there you go.
"Save The Paiute Trout"
9 in. X 4.5 in.
Watercolor on Paper

On other more light news, My little girl and I spent a little time the other day moving pawns and horses around the board.  I have been teaching her the moves of each piece over the last few months and now that she knows what each piece does she wants to play me ever chance we get.  I have no doubt that she will soon be thinking three moves ahead of her old man...........
 Thinking about it now, I might come to regret this decision when she hits her teens.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

One Busy Saturday

There isn't much more intimidating and exciting than the stark whiteness of a blank canvas.  It represents unlimited potential while at the same time presenting a wall one must cross to unlock that potential.  Today I barely crossed that wall to paint up a little fly.
One might recognize this fly from Brk Trt over at smallstreamReflections.  It isn't as good as the real thing but it help me pass the morning before the leaves dried out enough to get them off the yard.
The other day a friend and I headed up the mountain to do a bit of fishing on the Middle and Upper Saluda.  He caught two small chubs and a stray sunfish but besides one small trout that swam past me, those were the only fish we saw.  I'm not sure why we failed to spot fish but despite the poor fishing, it was a nice day to get out on the stream.
Also, REI - the quality outdoor sporting goods store created by a small group of avid climbers finally set up shop in Greenville SC.  I spent the early morning waiting in line for a gift certificate, a FREE water bottle and base layer tee shirt, then as an added bonus, $100 free gift card.  Now I just need to find some quality products to spend it on.  REI had some top quality stuff but as all good things, they don't come cheap.  My guess is that $100 wont go very far but it will be well spent.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Peacock Bass

I have wanted to paint up a Peacock Bass for some time but for some unknown reason I have put it off. I think the vivid colors and distinct look of a peacock bass might have had something to do with.  Whatever it was that made me drag my feet on this beautiful fish, I have put it behind me with the completion of this watercolor.
For those interested in the process of laying down watercolors or just like to see how a painting like this develops, I have added a pair of pictures taken during the painting.
I am hoping to someday make the journey down to the southern hemisphere to hunt this colors species of bass in its native habitat but I suspect that the closes I will ever come to this fish will be a possible trip to Florida to hook into a few that have been planted there to kill off another non-native fish that has had a devastating effect of the backwaters and lakes.  I'm not a big supporter of introducing new species to established waters but in this case I hesitantly believe it is justified and am somewhat thankful.
For one, they have been introduced to hunt a non-native species that is uncontrolled by the native fish.  And for another more selfish reason, I might have the opportunity to hook into one in the future without having to travel to the jungles of the Amazon.  from what I've read about the Florida Peacock Bass, they are considerably smaller but just as brilliant as both a game fish and photographic opportunity.
Anyway, this watercolor was painted on 100% cotton acid free paper that has been hot pressed to a smoother finish.  It measures 8.5in x 6.5in.  If you would like to own this piece please feel free to EMAIL me and I'll shoot you the details and how you can purchase it.  And as with all my original watercolors, they come with a pre-cut mat and backing board ready to be framed.  All you need to get is a frame and a nail to hang it from.  In a day or so I will be placing this work up on my Buy A Print Page where you can also purchase a beautiful 8x10 mated print of this or other works.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Making Mead

I finally got to bottle up some of my mead the other day.  I started the process about three months ago with the key stuff you see off to the left.  The honey came straight from a local bee keeper and boy was it sweet.  I was told that it was a hive placed in a sandalwood grove which might be why the color was so much darker than a clover honey or fruit orchard.  Apparently it really makes a difference where the bees live and harvest on how the honey tastes.  When one thinks about this it makes perfect sense but who thinks about it?  I never did.... until now.

When I first boiled up the honey, added the extras and the yeast, then bottled it up in the gallon carboys the concoction looked like a thick cider.  The fermentation started nearly right away and bubbled with a very lively action.  When I made my wine I first placed the mix into a covered bucket for 4-5 days then transferred it to the carboys, but for this mead I placed it all in the carboy right away.  The lack of hard contents in the mix made this possible because when the fermentation ended and the mead began to clear, there was very little sedimentation in the bottom of the jug.
After a bit over two weeks I slowed the fermentation by lowing the temperature and putting the remaining yeast into a sort of hibernation.  When the sediments settled out I racked off the good mead and added a bit more honey and a yeast killer to make sure the fermentation process did not start again.
Finally I took one of the gallon jugs and bottled up the best of the mead.  One might ask, "Isn't that a lot of work for three bottles of mead?  Can't you just buy your mead at the liquor store?  Why go through the hassle?"  Well, if you have to ask that then you are missing the point.  Life is about the process and making mead, wine, tying flies, hunting, fishing, backpacking and even work is about the process and doing it well.  Part of that process is learning from your mistakes and trying till you get it right.  the making of this mead is a product of that.  My first foray into wine making was somewhat disappointing.  The wine was lacking in taste (not alcohol) and for the most case just sitting in bottles waiting to see if time improves it.  I suspect no amount of time will help, but this mead was a drastic improvement.  I tasted the mead before bottling and it tasted good.  I might have used a bit to much nutmeg but that can easily be fixed on the next go around.  Anyway, I have another gallon to bottle up next week and come Thanksgiving supper my table will be jolly with home made mead.  Thanks to you American Honey Bee! We salute you.