Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mayflies In March!

This weekend found me on the banks of the Mississippi River where I spotted this rare site; a beautiful May Fly in March.  I was having a beer on my in-laws deck in upper Illinois when I spotted this little guy.  I instantly began to snap pictures with my cell while my wife made sarcastic comments in the background.  Most people wouldn't call these bugs beautiful (my wife included) but to a fly fisherman these are a sight to behold.  I tried to explain that spotting these bugs so early in the year was a real event - especially in Northern Illinois - but that did little to impress her.  I guess to the not fly fishing public, these little guys will be nothing more than another ugly bug.
  On the painting front, My sister-inlaw is getting married in a few months and she gave me a special project.  Instead of a guest book, she wanted a piece of art featuring a tree.  The idea is that the guests leave their thumb print as leafs on this tree, so the other day I spent a few hours painting this large tree.  My wife then found  a selection of ink pads for the guests to use to decorate the tree.
   When she first mentioned the project to me I was a bit confused but after she explained it to me I began to get the vision in my own mind.  I hope it turns out like she imagines because if it does then she won't have thirty years from now some forgotten book with a bunch of names but a piece of art to hang on her wall for years.  I know that this has nothing to do with fishing but I thought that I would share it with you anyway.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Crappie With A Fly

    The water must be warming up because the other day a buddy and I got out early to hit a friends pond and I managed to hook into a pair of crappies.  I was really struck by the silver sides on these fish because last year when I hooked into crappies around this time of year, they where a much darker color.
    Perhaps my fellow bloggers can help me with this but I have always believed that the colors of these fish are strongly influenced by the temperatures of the water and how deep these fish are.  This conclusion has been supported by the fact that early in the year I usually catch darker crappies since they have been at the bottom of the pond all winter.  As the weather warms and the ponds temperature increases, the fish spend more time at the surface and I end up catching crappie that are a much lighter color.
    The other day we rolled up on this remote pond as the sun was cutting through the deep morning fog.  I took this pic of the morning light cresting the pines and if you look closely you can see my buddy on the bank tying up a top water lure.  He eventually ended up with a frustrating goose egg for a fish count.  I on the other hand managed to hook into a good six fish but only landed a pair of crappie - both of which were a striking silver color which leads me to believe that the water has been warmer than normal this winter.  Both fish were caught on a woolly bugger made from Hareline UV Ice Dubbing and a rabbit strip tail.
    As we headed back to the truck I casually mentioned that once again my fly rod fishing out did his spin rod and he once again dismissed it.  Eventually I hope to convince him to at least give the fly rod a chance but for the time being he is stubbornly holding on to the believe that his spin rod and bass jigs can out fish a fly rod.  I suppose I will just have to continue to out fish him until he relents.... or ends up refusing to fish with me.
    Either way, a bad day at the pond is always better than a good day at work.  We headed back home with our heads held high and the hope that the next time we hit the pond we will have more hook-ups than we can handle.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hitting The Pond

I have been trying my best to try to hit the ponds lately despite the amount of work I have doing lately.  I really would like to get myself up the mountain and hit some trout but when I only have an hour or two free between trips and housework, the trout are just going to have to wait.
  It also seems like the bass want to wait.  I have not been getting much luck lately.  It was only a week or so ago that I finally got a hit on my line when a big bluegill took a #1 frog imitation but the bass seem to still be sleeping.  That is until the other day when this young bass darted from the dark shadow of a log and snatched up my red headed rabbit strip streamer. It wasn't a big guy but it was still a bass and my first of the year.  It was also the only hit I was lucky to get in the two hours I fished.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The ECS Loadmaster - One Tough Case!!

Loadmaster ECS Case
A few weeks ago while surfing the Outdoor Blogger Network I entered a chance to test out a few products.  I was excited to learn some time later that I was selected to review this Footlocker for ECSCASE.  As any outdoor enthusiast will attest, the pursuit of getting out in nature, whether it is hunting, fishing, hiking, or camping, has a way of building so much spare equipment in your garage that actually parking your car in there becomes an adventure.  Needless to say, I was anxiously waiting for my opportunity to test this case out.  Little did I know that the UPS man was also willing to do his part to test this cases durability.
  I was at work when this package arrived but according to my wife the UPS man was not very coordinated and dropped this case literary out of the back of his truck.  In his defense, it is a large case he was in a hurry as they often are.  Truth is, this case could have been dropped out the back of his truck while he was doing 70 miles an hour and it would have been non the worse for wear.  Even if the John Rambo himself tossed this case from a chopper, this case would survive.
Seriously, this is not your grandmas Rubbermaid container.  This case was built to withstand just about anything (including being dropped from a truck), but then again what would I expect from a company that specializes in cases built for the military.  I know that this company makes a whole line of other cases including rifle cases and cases for music, emergency equipment, and sensitive technical equipment.  I doubt Rambo would opt for the music case but as far as a case for his machine gun, I have no doubt the ECSCase would be his choice.
Loadmaster Footlocker
  Not only is this footlocker tough (I stood on the lid and jumped up and down and it didn't even move) but it is also water tight.  There is the thick rubber seal that lines the case lid that when shut and latched with the four turn tight hasps seals the case tight.  One of these heavy duty hasp clamps also has a padlock feature so that you can secure any valuables in this virtual vault.  Believe it or not, this case when closed is so tightly sealed that there is even a pressure relive valve installed.  I am not entirely sure why there is a safety valve but like I said, this case was designed for the military so I'm not asking to many questions.  I'll just take it that the safety valve is there for a reason and leave it at that.
    The toughness of this case got me thinking of the tough men that might like to have it as well.  Perhaps if I were a Mad Max type of character, I might toss this case in the back of my apocalyptic vehicle, load it with shotgun shells,  and roam the desolate roads looking for trouble.  I don't plan on going toe to toe with Master Blaster any time soon but like Max, I will be using it to store my Shotgun Shells.  I will also be storing some of my fishing gear and various outdoor gear.  Not the most glamorous use of this heavy duty case but then again I'm not really a hard core kind of guy.  I am however 100% positive that anything I store in this case will be completely safe and protected.   If I had to find fault with this case, the only down sides would be that it is a little on the heavy side.  The self stowing handles on the sides help a lot with moving the case around and I believe they have the option for wheels on some of their cases which I would recommend if you plan on stowing anything heavy.  They are also a bit on the pricy side but if you have expensive equipment then the cost of protection is minimal.
   In the future I will probably use it on camping trips as well and I have no doubt that it will perform wonderfully, I just wont be moving it a lot when it is fully loaded.  Despite the weight issue, if you want a tough case to protect your stuff in any weather, and still be able to toss in the back of your truck, then look no further, the ECSCase is IT!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Pair Of Mallards

Mallards have always been attractive to me.  Nine times out of ten they are the best looking ducks on the pond and they are so common that you can hardly pass a pond this time of year without seeing a few lazily swimming around.
    Until recently I was a bit hesitant to try to paint these birds.  They are such a colorful and unfamiliar subject that I didn't believe my skills were up to the task.  But with my recent success painting a Golden Pheasant as well as a California Quail I thought that could continue to expand my wildlife resume and try my hand at these classic masters of the pond.
    As always I started with a basic outlined sketch of the pair of them. I never add to much detail to the rough sketch, only the basic lines and a few softer lines to designate the areas of different color.  I then begin to add color to the paper, gradually building up darker hues on top of lighter backgrounds to give the painting more depth.
You can see with the female mallard in the back that the initial color is a very pale washed out color.  The male mallard was first painted like that - with lighter shades of his finished color - and then I added the darker colors on top of the base coat.
    I have been asked where do I get the references from.  For my fish often it is from photos I have taken or even sniping a few picks from fellow bloggers.  I often use these photos as references for color and details that my mind can not recall.  For this painting I found a photo of two mallards I surfed the web for photos of the pair.  Luckily I found a photo with a male and a female in the same photo.  They were not in this pose - in fact they were separated by some distance and looking the other way, but they did provide a good reference for details.  I then sketched out the pair in a classic pose.  This pose not only provided a look I wanted but it fit both ducks into a painting that could easily be framed while still giving the necessarily details of the female mallard.
    For my fly fishing blog followers, I appreciate your understanding as a deviate from the 'fishing' part of this blog to paint a few of our feathered friends.  That being said, the feathers from birds like these provide a great resource for tying materials so in a weird way these birds have continuing connection to fly fishing.  These birds are also great additions to any cabin decor.

A Pair Of Mallards
Watercolor and Gouache
On Watercolor paper
@ 8" x 10"
For Sale

Saturday, March 3, 2012


    Some of you might have been wondering where I had gone.  It has been well over a week since my last post and to be quite honest it was not only work getting in the way of me posting, It has also been the fact that I was feeling a bit down in the dumps with my fishing so far this year.  I have been out on the water over a dozen times this year so far and as of yesterday I had failed, and failed miserably, to hook into any gills.  I mean I have been seriously lacking in ANY hook-ups and I was feeling really bad about not being able to post one single fish photo on this blog since late last year.  After all this is a fishing - and art - blog.  But without the fish my inspiration lacks a little something.
    That all changed yesterday when a friend took me out to set up a turkey blind, pop off a few shots in preparation for the upcoming season, and wet a fly in the farm pond nearby.  So loading up my 4 weight, a box of bass bugs, my Remington 870, and enough ammo to start the Civil War all over again we headed out.  I was eager to try out my new shotgun but when I saw the farm pond I kind of forgot about the guns and the turkeys.  All I wanted was a chance to redeem myself with a gill on the end of my line but that had to wait since after all the main purpose of the trip was the turkey blind and sighting in the guns.
    Grudgingly I left the pond behind and helped load the tools back into the woods where we set up a prime spot for targeting gobblers emerging from a stand of pines.  After checking the game cam and clearing a field of fire we headed back to the truck where without waiting to see what my buddy wanted to do, I grabbed my four weight and hoofed it over to the pond and immediately started to cast a few new bugs I had recently tied.  I was hopping for a big mouthed bass but the first hit surprised me even more.  I had tied on this mega popper I carved out of wine bottle cork, blue fluff, and a leather tail.  All this was on a very large sized stainless hook.  On the fourth cast something exploded out of the water and sent my huge popper flying through the air.  Frankly I was a bit surprised since I honestly wasn't thinking anything would hit such a garish and over-sized popped.  I was really only fishing it because I wanted to see how it performed on the water.  After all I had spent a whole lot of time on shaping the wine cork, painting and tying it up, the least I could do was fish it right?
    Well after a few more casts with no result I resigned myself to the fact that it might have been to hopeful to actually hook into something with such a big profile so I switch it up to another creation of mine simulating a frog.  I had created this pattern for just this type of pond and thought that if the popper got a good response, the least I could do was toss a frog into the mix.  This frog was tied with the same size hook (Mustag #1 2x Large) as the popper but with the foam I was hopping that it might be easier for a fish to take instead of tossing it into the air.    What I never thought was that such a large hook would be taken by a bluegill.  I mean it was a 2x #1!!  Its a big hook, but that is exactly what happened.  When that bream took that popper it was as big an explosion as any bass I have ever had.  I know what some of you are thinking, "Why is this guy so excited about a common bream?"  Well to them I say, you go fish-less for nearly three months and begin to contemplate why you even head out to practice fishing futility and then you will understand why a single bream gets me excited.  I now have that fish 'stink' on me and hopefully its enough to continue the rest of the year.
    Well after only about ten minutes of fishing I was urged to go and fire off the guns.  We packed the fishing gear away and drove off across the farm to the 'gun range' where we sighted in the guns, fired a few fun shot at a stump, and then practiced cutting down saplings with various fire arms.  The Remington 870 performed wonderfully with a turkey load and the fun with my buddies 45 was a great way to spend the rest of the afternoon.  I could have stayed all day at that pond and perhaps I will return with only my fly rod but for that day, the ten minutes with a rod in my hand and a single fish on was enough to renew my faith in my abilities as an angler.  Hopefully I will not have another fish-less streak but If I do I just need to remind myself that they never last forever and the fish will one day return to brighten my day.