Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Redfish Painting

    The Redfish.  For those that haven't caught one of these on a fly rod, you are missing out.  I am not a dedicated redfish angler by any stretch.  The only one I have caught was a silver specimen on a fly rod (a pitiful 6w).  It gave one heck of a fight and I have to tell you that it deserves a place on you bucket list.
 I haven't picked up a paint brush in quite some time but when I found myself with a morning free I picked up a pad of paper and started to sketch out my next painting.  For this go around I chose a fish I have never painted before.  The redfish or red drum is a distinctive tidal fish that has been an up and coming fish in the sport fishing world for many years.  Its easily identifiable black spot on its tail is a sight that anglers that hunt this fish drool over.  Quite often these fish are seen feeding in the shallows of a tidal area, their spotted fin the only thing visible above the surface as they hunt crabs and shrimp.

    I took a little more of a quick approach to this painting because after such a long hiatus from the bush I really just needed to get something on paper.
Like most of my works I started with a simple form of a redfish and elaborated on the design as I went along.  My original concept for this had the fin of the redfish completely hidden from sight.  Once I stood back and looked at that idea I quickly erased it and re-did the sketch with the black spot clearly in view.
  One thing I have also been doing on a lot of my more recent works is the addition of white as a highlight.  For a fish with an abundant amount of scales, this feature is almost an immediate requirement.
  I also made a conscience decision to add a darker back on this fish as I went along.  Of all the red drum I have seen, I think that the deep colored fish are the best looking of the bunch.  The silver backs are still a beautiful fish to hold in your hand but when it comes to laying pigment on paper the deep browns, yellows and reds of the darker fish just translate better.
  For all of you that are lucky enough to chase these beauties on a regular basis, I am very jealous   And as a side note, if any of you on the SC coast ever need an extra deck hand while fishing the tidal waters and beaches - just shoot me and email.  I will make the drive!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Quiet Beauty In Nature Plus A Green Weenie

Beauty surrounds us daily you just have to keep an eye out for it.  While on the beach last week I couldn't help but snapping a few pics of just a few of these wonders.  Sometimes it takes just a moment to pause and make your mind take in all that the eyes are seeing.  If you do, you might just be amazed what you find.

   Passing this giant palm while hiking I noticed that the nights rain had done it a favor of washing away all the yellow pine pollen from its surface and left a bright green color behind.  With the sun behind the core of the frond the pure greens lit up the forest floor.  This example of simple beauty and texture in nature is amazing to me.  I challenge you to take a moment and  stop thinking in terms of this as just another palm frond and instead look at the geometrical pattern of lines and color.  If you look deep enough you will be just as astonished as I was.

  Another discovery was not an unusual one in terms of what ones discovery while walking through a forest but if you really take the time you will see the minute detailed beauty of this simple bug.   Most fly fishing enthusiast will back me up when I tell you that as a group, we anglers take a keener interest in the small details of bugs than the average human.  For us it is a mater of necessity in our sport to note the characteristics of these insects as they relate to fish food.  It not only helps identify the names of these small creatures but helps us in our crafting of flies through the use of colors, materials, and size required for such an insect.
  My little boy - whose hand is holding the little green guy - was also extremely excited to discover this insect.  He was also very interested in all the fine details which goes to prove that as humans our desire to learn about the world around us starts from a very young age.  It is up to us as parents to nurture that interest in order to raise children that can grow into intelligent grown ups.  A bit off topic but its my blog so here it goes: Don't count of others to raise your kids and educate them. Just like you shouldn't expect the government to supply all your wants and desires.  Its your life and your kids, if you don't take an active part in their development then they wont grow up to be very productive in life.
  Now that you had your dose of common sense for the day I'll continue.  After holding this for a minute my boy put two and two together and said, "Will fish eat this?"  That's my boy!
  All that time having them poor over fly tying books for the next recipe to tie up had payed off.  "Of course it will.  In fact I have seen those sunfish and trout you like to catch gobble them up." I told him.  I then made a note to tie up some examples of these little bugs once I got home.  This poor example is my take on a #12 Green Weenie without the tag.  Simple yet effective I used:  green wire, bright green dubbing, black dubbing for the head, and green thread.  After that I topped it all off with a coating of Clear Cure Goo.
  I don't know if there are many people left out there that have not seen or used Clear Cure Goo products before but if you haven't then you are missing out.  This stuff is the catch all for any epoxy or sealant you need.  From coating the back of a #20 nymph to crafting the head of a #1-0 tarpon streamer this stuff works!  This company is run by a couple of  Great Guys I have actually had the privileged of meeting and this un-solicited endorsement is a long time coming.  If you haven't used it before, do yourself and your fly tying a favor and click over, buy a starter set, and give them a shot.  You won't be disappointed.  You might also want to check out their blog HERE.
  As if one un-solicited endorsement isn't enough, I'll add in another.  While traveling for work or pleasure I am always on the lookout for fly shops.  This past week while down on the coast I once again had the pleasure of stopping by the BayStreet Outfitters of Beaufort, SC.  If you are ever fortunate enough to be down in that small corner of the world and want to drool over gear or book a chartered redfish trip - look them up.  Great small shop with the friendliest staff.

Monday, April 22, 2013

SC Beach Camping - Full Photo Report

     Every year about this time my wife looks at me and says "We NEED to go camping!"  A moment later she is on the computer looking up campsites and booking reservations for our favorite campground.  Our annual spring camping trip has become a tradition and for us its a sure sign that winter is officially behind us and we are looking forward to summer.
 This past weekend we packed the kids in the car, loaded up all the pre-arranged camping gear and took off to the beach.  Our destination: a special campground we have visited every year for ten years.  It is a place where my wife and I have camped before the kids. A place where both kids have cut their teeth as babies.  A place that when we think of camping is the first place we look at.  In short it is a place we consider our own.  Even if every other site is booked solid for two months, it a place we feel at home.
    This year despite our many attempts to snag a prime tent site next to the sand dunes, we ended up getting a spot near the back.  We typically avoid these spots because at certain times of the year the mosquitoes can literary carry you off into the jungle, tie you up, and rob you of every ounce of blood you own.  Luckily for us the mosquitoes stayed mostly to themselves and as it turns out the beach side sites took most of the pounding that the weather handed out throughout the weekend.  For us it was a different scenery than we were typically use to and the kids loved it.
    A few years ago I read a great book written by William Henry Hudson titled Green Mansions.  The 1904 masterpiece follows a rich Spanish man as he flees after a revolution and disappears into the jungle to find a mystical world.  Surrounded by the mysterious palm frond and pine forest one gets the feeling they are living in the midst of the very same setting as the book.

  Backed up against a swamp with waters black from decayed foliage and bordered large by large palms, we were lulled to sleep by frogs and a gentle breeze through the trees.  Night two however was a completely different story.  We had known that a storm front was on the way and one quick look at the forecast and the radar and we knew we where in for a rough night.  Battening down the hatches the night before, we settled down like Noah before the flood.
  After a night of constant rain and sorting out wet sleeping bags and soaked clothing, we were glad we could have a day free of rain.  In order to get out of the girls way and give them a few hours to relax, my brother-inlaw and I decided to take the kids on a nature hike.
    Off we set on a beautiful 3 mile trek through the forest looking for birds, deer, and any other curious thing that crossed our path.
  These mushrooms looked briliant on a background of black soil but when you got down to their level and took a bugs eye view the true beauty of them really showed up.
  This was just one of the many frogs that visited us throughout the weekend.  The night of rain really got them hopping and more than once we heard them as they blindly hopped into the side of our tent.
  As if to top it off when we got back to camp and after a light lunch we were lucky enough to have a deer wonder from the black waters and into our camp.  More than likely this deer has gotten use to handouts and with what looked like a baby on the way she was probably hopping we would oblige her.  I had to explain to the kids that hand feeding wild creatures is never a good idea for us humans and even more so for them.  We were content to observe her quiet movements as she munched on the swamp grasses before heading back into the forest.
    In the end it was another great trip.  The weather didn't permit much time on the beach and even if my two hours braving the wind and the surf casting a line failed to net ant fish we all had a great time.  All that is left now is the unpleasant task of unpacking and drying out all our equipment.  Today the kids return to school, My wife and I head off to work, but we all have the memories of yet another successful spring camping trip to our special place.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Beach Camping Quick Post

Finishing a weekend camping trip to the beach. Just a quick post while I finish my campfire coffee.  Rest assured there will be plenty of pics to come once I get home.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hooking Bass With A Scrapyard Plug & A Rabbit Strip

    I was convinced by a co-worker today to forgo all the work I had to do and take him fishing.  The result was a block buster of a bass day and even if they didn't get that big, the amount of fish we caught in two hours was amazing.
The fly this guy had in his mouth was a simple little black rabbit strip streamer I tied up only a few moments before I tossed it in the water.  It worked just as good as the prototype rabbit strip I caught a ton of bass with last year.  This version was tied with a bright orange head as apposed to the original red head but I doubt the fish had any complaints.
  After having fun with the rabbit strip I found an old friend buried in the depths of my fly box.  It was the Scrapyard Plug and I decided it was time to give this fly some action.  On the first cast it hooked up and then the hits just kept on coming.  Before I knew it I had landed a good two dozen bass with the Scrapyard Plug.  I even threw in a few large sunfish that hit the plug like a frying pan over the head.  It performed just like it had last spring and it got me thinking about how this wonderful fly came to be.
  After reading a very old fly fishing book of the art of crafting flies for Black Bass I soon found myself in the garage experimenting with an old wooden dowel.  The diagram above was exactly how I put about a dozen of these plugs together.
  Pretty it is not but effective it is.  I believe the key to this wooden dowel bug is that it does not float.  I had constructed this fly with the idea of making it a small popper.  What it turned out to be was an under water bug that is the most effective when you twitch it towards you or along the shore in a variety of short tugs.  The plug dips, dives, and twitches like a struggling piece of bait.  The bright red spray paint I used to coat the fly was only the icing on the cake. I have tried blue and green but the bass just seem to love the red.  The proof is in the pudding and nothings better to prove that a simple home made Scrapyard Plug can actually work than to show it in a fishes mouth.
   Long live redneck ingenuity.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Spring Hunting & Fishing Follies

Wifes tulip

    I finally had a few days off and of course decided to fill them with two thing I love: Fishing and Hunting.  So on Thursday I packed up the jeep and headed for new water up in NC.  The Green River is mostly known as a river frequented by those that like to raft the steep rapids and deep pools but it is also a river that holds trout.... Or so I was told.
  Truth told, it is a river supported by the NC fish hatchery but that did me no good.  I spent six plus hours fighting the current and casting to imaginary shadows only to end up with two small bites and not one single fish in the net.  Even without a fish to show for my effort it was a relaxing day filled with beautiful water, amazingly swift falls, and wonderful spring weather.
One thing that did catch my eye as I climbed out of the canyon was a huge millipede.  Pausing to take a few photos I made a note to myself to research this gigantic insect as soon as I got home.  To my surprise I found out that this gigantic millipede is actually called the American Giant Millipede.
(American Giant Millipede (Narceus americanus) - Narceus americanus-annularis-complex) to be exact.  I also found out that it can grow upwards of four inches (this one was all of that) and when agitated can produce a toxic chemical that can cause severe eye irritation up to three feet away with the possibility of temporarily blindness.  In short - Look But Do Not Touch.  If you can get over the creepy factor of so many legs, this insect was an amazing creature and as colorful as any butterfly.
  After taking my pics I packed it in and headed home for a quiet evening with the family.
    For my second day of life in the outdoors a buddy and I too our chances hunting turkeys. After waking up at 500 for a 530 departure I strolled over to his house to find that all the lights off - a sure sign of either a faulty alarm or somebody that has decided that not even hunting could get him up that early.
   Knowing my buddy I bet on the faulty alarm and proceeded to send him a barrage of taunting text messages as I sat on the front porch - shotgun in hand.  Eventually he showed up and with some excuse about hitting the alarm one to many times.  We soon packed up and hit the road which was good because if I had been sitting on that porch any longer I'm sure the paper guy would have been calling the cops to report some lunatic in a rocking chair with a shotgun.
    Long story short once again, No turkeys to show for the effort but we did at least managed to see one big tom and call quite a few.  In fact I had a lengthy conversation with a few toms from across the tree line.  It went something like this:
What I thought I was saying - "Here turkey, turkey, turkey.  I only want to see your pretty beard. I'm a hen and am lost.  Please come find me."
What they heard - "gibberish.... #$#%$%,....@#$@#$^...Come here so I can blow your head off".
What the turkeys said in response - "What! You have got to be nuts.  I'm not going out there.  Instead I am going to sit here in the trees and taunt you with my senseless babble for three hours.  Oh, and by the way your turkey calls suck.... I just wanted to tell you that."
  It was still a beautiful morning full of the bluest skies and clean crisp air that can only come after a night of spring showers.  Watching the butterflies song birds and finches flutter around the blind I got to thinking.  An observant hunter or fisherman might be more in tune with nature than those in Washington that make our laws and rarely if ever venture beyond their door step. - Just a thought - We should institute a new program - Take a politician hunting month.
  The little nose  poking out from the camo blind was a little field mouse that had made our burlap his little home.  As we sat there about five inches from my buddies face, this little guy chews through the burlap and looks right at us and then continues to do his morning house building.
    We left him be as we continued to fruitlessly call to the mocking turkeys.  He wasn't hurting anything and since we were in his domain we figured the least we could do was supply a little burlap fro his home.
    In the end no turkey were harmed and we packed it in.  Back home I finished up a few outdoor chores while my buddy began his yearly vigil of watching the Masters.  All in all it was a great few days of outdoor activities even if I failed miserable as both a hunter and fly fisherman.  There's always next time an until then I'll tie some killer flies and practice my turkey calls.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Wine / Bio-Fuel Brewing

  This isn't much of a fishy post but it is what I filled my time with today.  I only had one day free this week and I had planned to go turkey hunting but the rain did that in and my buddy bailed on me.  My backup plan was to hit the trout waters but again the rain played against me and blew out the rivers.  For a plan C I sketched a little and finally got to work racking up some honey wine I had been working on for the last few months.
    After sharing a few to many Larceny Bourbon drinks with a friend last night I managed to wake up before the after effects took hold.  With a strong cup of coffee and the days activities laid out I keyed up  some Robert Earl Keen on the stereo and got to work
Photo from
    Last October I set up two gallons of mead; one was a strawberry and the other was a raspberry.  Throughout the winter I watched the power of the yeast cultivate the sugars into a bubbling stinking brew.  Eventually the frothy foam gave way to a clearing rose of liquid with a good amount of dead yeast and honey fruit collecting at the bottom of the jug.  I honestly could have racked the concoction about two months back but I could never find the time.  Today I had the time and after measuring the alcohol content I am glad I waited.  The strawberry was around 13-14% and the raspberry was at 12% but the taste was still tainted by the muck at the bottom of the jug.
  After transferring it to the fresh jugs I cut it a little with some more honey water.  Not only did this bring up the volume back to where it needed to be in the jug but it will a sweetness one expects in a mead.
  I'll end up giving this racking a few months to settle out at which point, depending on whether or not the fermentation process starts up again with the addition of more sugars, I see if it needs to be racked again.
    As with all good things time is key.  Of course if it ends up tasting like gasoline then at least I'll have a tax write off for my new home grown green fuel.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Funky Fish Graphic

  Taking my pen and paper on the road I had a few hours to sketch out a custom fishing graphic.  I was in the mood for something way out of my norm so I went for a graphic that might meld into the mainstream of funky art.  I was also looking to create something that draws your eye in and had a lot of elements in a small space to keep you eye looking into the image.

    The original is simply a pen and ink sketch of three fish in a world surrounded by all things that we fishermen love.  I actually love the look of plain black and white inked line drawings but they don't seem to transition well to other mediums.  The exception to this line of thought is a master of pencil and inked drawings - M.C. Escher.  I had not gone into this drawing with the thought of emulating Escher but when I finished and stood back to look at it I thought of him immediately.  As a child I was amazed at his work and checked out many a library book of his drawings.
    This drawing is purposely crude in its lines and free form style because I wanted to have a more natural form to the image.  The only external 'ruler' or template I used was a top from the hotel ice bucket to form the perfect circle.  Otherwise I kept a loose hand and 'hippy' 60's style in mind to draw out this image.

     So what am I going to do with this?  Again, nothing but it is a valuable piece of my evolution as an artist and illustrator.  The image on a shirt -courtesy of Zazzle's graphic tee building tool - is just my attempt to show what can be done with these graphics.   Every time I create one of these graphics or paintings I grow and develop skills that aid me in future projects.  Graphics like this could eventually be sold to companies like Orvis, Sage, or in the mainstream business world, the suppliers of companies like American Eagle, or Target.  (of course if anyone of those (or other companies) would like to purchase this graphic for mass production I welcome any emails. ;-) 
    For those of you that have read though this entire post hoping to hear something about fish or some new tactic to hooking trout - my apologies   All you get is the fish and flies in the graphic.