Thursday, August 28, 2014

Spanish Mackerel Painting

  Its a random departure from my usual trout paintings but its not the first time I have ventured to the salt for inspiration. Besides, If it has fins it is fair game in my book.  I love painting fish no mater what their habitat. This Spanish Mackerel is part of a special collection I am working on for the annual Tampa Bay BCN Gators Fishing Tournament.
  Last year they raised a ton of money for charity and I am stoked that they chose me to once again contribute the top prize paintings for their competitors.
  This Mackerel will be a top prize for one of the winning boats but don't be dismayed.  After October you too can own a gallery quality print of this beautiful fish to hang at you coastal retreat.
  These cellphone photos hardly do this painting justice but once they are sent over to my guy who does my gallery quality giclee prints he will be able to make even the lightest colors and shades pop just like the original.
  Next up will be a staple of the Florida coastal fishing scene - The famed Florida Snook.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Chattooga River Brown

    A few days ago I finished up a commission for a Kyle as a present to his dad.  Last year his dad reeled in this beautiful brown trout on the Chattooga river in Northern GA/SC and wanted a memento to remember the day and the fish.  With a single cell phone pic hardly doing the trout justice, Kyle asked if I could paint him up a nice representation of the wonderful fish.
Kyle also reports that this fish is back swimming around the cool waters of that river and if anyone is interested it likes to chew on Tellico Nymphs.  I think I am going to have to go hunting for him next week.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

World Record Coho Salmon

    After having this on my project list for some time I finally got the finishing touches done on this world record Coho (silver inland) Salmon for angler Greg Raymond.  Caught in the chilly waters of Lake Michigan this fish is a certified beast weighing in at exactly 18lbs.
  Last October Greg hauled this monster in on standard rod and reel just off the coast of Wisconsin.  In doing so he sealed his place in the record books for the largest coho caught in Lake Michigan for its class.
  A little while ago Greg contacted me and asked if I would be interested in painting this fish for him.  As you can imagine I eagerly jumped on the opportunity to paint such an important catch.  Its not every day that a record holding fish comes across the table of my studio.
    Congratulations to Greg and his beautiful fish.
I can only hope that I have done your world record Coho Salmon justice.  May it hang on you wall for years to come and may you remember that day every time you look at it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Quick Montana Fishing Trip

   I was lucky enough to have a few days off and so with the blessing from my wife I packed up my new 6w rod and set off for the mecca of fly fishing - Montana.  Connecting through Salt Lake at 10 am I boarded a plane that had no less than 30 other heavily armed fly fisherman in search for those fantastic summer waters of the Madison and Yellowstone.  With a destination such as that one cant help to smile as you circle the valley of Bozeman while the plane lines up for a landing.
  For me it was a two part trip.  Not only was it a chance for me to angle for wild Montana trout but it was also a chance to spend some quality time on the river with my father, who is just in the beginning stages of learning how to cast a fly.  He had always been a fisherman but since he has moved to a place with such legendary waters and devoted fly fishing community he has picked up a good fly rod outfit and began the frustrating and rewarding pursuit of fly fishing.  As he puts it 'The trout give him just enough to keep him coming back, but that's about it'.  Last winter in a frozen section of the Madison he hooked into a rainbow of a lifetime and I sure wish I could have been there to see him pull it in.
  My goal was to simply hook fish.  I didn't dare to dream of big fish or legendary battles.  All I wanted was a few days on the river with eager fish to battle.
  So when the plane landed at 1pm and I met my dad the first thing we did was to head over to the Fin & Feather fly shop at Four Corners right next to the Gallatin River for a few flies and a licence.  By 3 we were on the river which has to be one of the quickest airport to river times in history.  The following pics are just a taste of the great fish and scenes I had on the trip.

On my last day we took to the Upper Madison where we were told that the fishing was hot and heavy.  As it turns out we must have missed the big fishing because after six hours all we had show for our effort was a few very small cutthroat and a sunburn.  Of all the other fisherman on the river with us we only saw one other guy and his guide hook into a six inch trout so we moved to another local slightly down stream.

  It was there that I hooked into one of the better trout in my life.  The size is surely not the biggest and the picture does it mo justice but this guy fought me hard for the better part of fifteen minutes in a stretch of very fast and powerful water.  Of all the fish that I have hooked into in my career I have put not more than two trout on the reel and only one of those tested my drag.  This guy hit my rubber legged stone with a fierceness of any eastern trout three times his size.  Immediately after hooking him he ran and made my Abel reel buzz until I had to chase him down river.  With my backing threatening to show he held up in a little eddy where I was able to gain on him.  He made a total of four more runs just like the first and by the time I actually had a net on him he had dragged me down river more than 75 yards.  After letting him rest I gently released his tail and he swam away to do battle again.  It might not have been a record rainbow but it was surely a memorable fight with the prettiest and most powerful fish of the trip.

  For me it was my last fish of the trip and a good one to end on.  With a fierce hail storm and thunder echoing through the valley, we packed up and headed home tired but elated.
A day later I was back at work but the memory of those few days with my dad and Montana trout will last for a lifetime.  If you have never been lucky enough to see the beauty of the big skies of our country, then do yourself a favor and book your trip now.  It truly is one of Gods masterpieces...

Monday, August 4, 2014

Outfished By A Kid And Fishing With Cheap Rods

Last week I packed up the family and left the unseasonably cool south for a visit to my hometown on the banks of the Mississippi in northern Illinois.  Its a pilgrimage we make less than we would like to and one that always brings back a wave of memories.
   Before I left however I took time to construct an outside home for our old girl.  Our dog - affectionately known as Nonna by our kids - has been acting up lately when she is left in the house for even short amounts of time so she was relocated outside while we are on our trip.  With a helpfull neighbor offering to care for her while we were away, it was up to me to create a suitable, and dry place for her to sleep.  This 4x3foot shed was built out of 2x2s and fencing cedars and from what I understand Nonna rarely left its comfortable bed.
  With our old girl secure we boarded a plane a lit out for the north.  The upper Mississippi river has held a special place for me since I was a kid.  I explored its muddy banks every summer as a kid and once even built a driftwood raft just like Huck Fin with the intention of sailing it down to the next town.  Luckily for me it broke up a foot off shore but ever since, that search for adventure has never left me.  Like the riverboat captains of old, I share their drive to do something very few people have done.  I credit a childhood of freedoms in a small town for that.
   I also credit my love of fishing to the summers I spent on the banks of the Mississippi.  I caught so many fish from its banks that it was inevitable that I would grow up to love fishing.
  I now nearly exclusively fish with a fly rod and even as I get odd looks from the bass anglers cruising the river banks in their flat bottom boats, I continue to try the muddy waters for a cruising fin to take my fly.  Unfortunately this trip I was limited to what I could bring and the fly outfit just couldn't make it, so when I got there I went to the only outdoor sports shop in the area and started my search for a fly rod and reel setup I could purchase and leave as a permanent fixture at my in-laws house.
  I knew it was going to be a task to find a fly rod in an area of the country where spin casting is king and Fly fishing is seen as some exotic form of behavior akin to a trying to surf on the river.  What I didn't expect was only one fly rod on the shelf.  Its was a $20 Eagle Claw combo #7/8 - great weight for the Mississippi but.... what the heck - the price is right.  I brushed what looked like fifteen years of dust off it and grabbed the only 7w line they had in stock (they also had one 5w) the only fly leader they had, and a dozen $1 flies tied a decade ago.  Add in the only fly line backing they had and a pound of dust and I left the store with a $90 river fly fishing setup.  The most expensive part of my entire outfit was the $26 fly line.
  Shortly after stringing it up and casting it into the muddy water I hooked this little bass proving that you don't have to have the most expensive outfit out there to catch fish.  I was actually surprised at how good it casts.  I rarely if ever use the reel on fish but this eagle claw - even though housed in plastic - also performed admirably with smooth action .  I wouldn't take this outfit out west for salmon fishing but for the banks of the Mississippi it is more than suitable.  I was expecting a willowy, unresponsive stick and what I got is a tough simple rod that flings small flies and big streamers with relative ease.  For a cheap outfit I'd say B+ and I know all you out there are saying - Its an Eagle Claw?!!  But I say for the only outfit in town, it has done its job and I was glad to have purchased it.

  Despite my efforts at fly fishing, it was my little boy who won.  Its hard to beat a worm on the bottom in a muddy murky river.  Besides the great looking bass he is holding to the right, he also caught a large catfish, a blugill, and a few more bass putting both myself and my father-in-laws meager catch's to shame.  Yes, you can say I left a the river a proud dad.  My boy out-fished me and he did it legitimately.  Well done.... well done.