Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Bread & Bluegills

This week Asher discovered what was my favorite bait for bluegills and golden shiners when I was a boy. (I grew up in Florida.) For sheer fish-catching ability, it's tough to top a little wad of sticky bread on the point of a small hook. Asher and his three younger siblings have been having a big time catching 'gills on breadballs for the past couple of days.

Using bread as bait is as simple as it gets, and you almost certainly have the bait you need at home already, and as long as you keep the bread in a little bag so it doesn't dry up, a couple of slices will last quite a while. I like a tiny long-shank hook and bobber. Asher and his siblings have actually been just putting the bread on small jigheads, and it has worked great.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

A Few More Favorite Things

Yesterday, I blogged about a few of my favorite things from the Rebel Trout Trek. Specifically, I shared my favorite wildlife sighting, forest, mountain range and fish from the trip. I'd like to jump in where I left off and continue with trip favorites for one more day.

Favorite Fish I Caught
Although my favorite fish of the trip were a couple of fat rainbows that Asher caught, I also had a clear favorite fish of my own. Oddly, I'm not positive what species it was. I initially dubbed the big trout I caught from one of the Delaney Butte Lakes as a rainbow, but from closer examination of the colors and looking at reference photos, I sort of think it was Snake River cutthroat. Whatever the species, it was a whopper that hammered a Rebel Wee-Craw, fought hard, and barely fit in the net.

Favorite Landscape
In terms of overall scenery in a single place, nowhere comes close to Yosemite Valley in my mind. From El Capitan (highest sheer cliff in the world) to Half Dome to all of the waterfalls, everything is just so grand. In truth, everything towers so far above the valley that it's hard to grasp how big any of it is. Our visit was too brief, and visiting such a popular national park during a weekend probably wasn't the best strategy. Nevertheless, seeing the valley again and fishing between the cliffs still ranked as one of my favorite overall trip experiences.

Favorite River
I should say "favorite rivers," I suppose, because this one remains a tie in my mind. I thoroughly enjoyed fishing the Madison River in Montana and the Provo River in Utah, and both left me longing to have more days to explore other river sections. Both produced really good action from quality trout and offered outstanding public access. Also, at both rivers, Asher and I were pretty much the only anglers who were not fly fishing, which to me spells opportunity for showing the trout something different.

Favorite Lure
Asher and I caught fish on a bunch of different Rebel Lures and at times stream size or conditions dictates using some specific lure. Rebel Tracdown Ghost Minnows were the top producers, though, and the lures we ended up using the most frequently. A Ghost Minnow's slender profile makes it look like an easy meal to most fish, and reeling steadily causes a tight wiggle that's fairly subtle. That said, the weighting of this bait helps it handle fairly strong currents nicely, and twitching the rod tip makes the action much more erratic and prompts reaction strikes.

Favorite Fishing Accessory
Asher and I were repeatedly impressed by the design of the Cabela's Burl-Handle Landing Net that we used throughout the trip. The handle itself is comfortable in hand and doesn't slip when it's wet. Plus, the netting is rubberized, which make it easier on fish, and makes the hooks less likely to get caught in the net. The best feature, though, is a stretchy lanyard with a magnetized break-away design. I could hang the net out of my way from a vest or pack loop, but it was still in easy reach, and if Asher needed it or I wanted to go beyond the stretch range to land a fish or hold it in the water for photos, we could simply separate the magnet from the metal.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Few of my Favorite Things

Since my return from the Rebel Trout Trek, quite a few people have asked about my favorite stop we made. So far, I haven't been able to answer that, or even narrow it that much, and I'm not sure if I ever will. Several stops, though, offered a favorite "something," so I thought I might highlight some of those. This might turn out to be Part 1 of a blog. I'm not sure yet!

Favorite Wildlife Sighting
Despite Asher and I having seen bison, antelope, elk and much more, including a few bears, my favorite wildlife we spotted was the group of the 10 bighorn ewes that were right across Rapid Creek from us in the Black Hills. They ignored us completely while we fished, and it was indescribably cool watching how they walked and bounded along the edge of the cliff.

Favorite Forest
Similarly, we roamed through a lot of very pretty woods on our trip. Still, no other forest struck me in quite the same way as the old-growth forest that bounded the North Fork Skomoshish River in Olympic National Forest. Enormous trees and boulders, most of which were blanketed by moss, and a forest floor covered with ferns and woodland wildflowers, created a fairytale-like display of colors, designs and textures.

Favorite Mountains
One thing that surprised me on the trip was how much the mountains varied in character from one
location to another, including some areas that weren't that far from each other. The specific group of mountains that struck me the most was the aptly named Snowy Range, which is located just west of Laramie, Wyoming. The Forest Service campground we stayed at is open from "snow to snow," the campground hosts told me, and on average that means Aug. 1 through Labor Day! The entire recreation area is higher than 10,000 feet, with the highest peaks a few thousand feet higher, and it's dotted with high-country lakes. We passed within touching range of a couple of big patches of snow as we hiked to a few of the lakes to fish.

Favorite Fish
This one is really a tie because Asher caught two piggish rainbows on back to back presentations at Dry Run Creek, and while we think the first was a tiny bit bigger than the second, I can't say that I enjoyed seeing him catch one more than another. Either would have been the largest fish of any kind that Asher had ever caught, and both provided a mighty nice launch for the whole trip. I also had a favorite fish of my own, and if you followed the trip you probably could guess which one it was. I think I'll save that, though. I'm thinking of more favorite things from the trip, even as I write, so there needs to be at least a Part II.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Pond Homecoming

With Asher and I having been on the road for nearly a month and most of the week since our return having been spent playing catch-up, I hadn't been to our favorite pond near home for about a month and a half. That doesn't happen very often any time of the year, but especially not in the middle of the summer. So when my internet service got sketchy yesterday afternoon, I decided it was time to head for the pond (where Asher was already fishing).

We didn't fish super long, and the fish weren't just jumping into the boat on a mid-summer afternoon. We managed a handful of bluegills in a couple of quick laps, though, and it sure was nice getting back to the pond. I'll bet it won't be another month and a half till my next visit!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Remembering Jim Gaston

For starters I'll acknowledge that I should just call him Jim. That's how Jim Gaston introduced himself, and whether he was the honored guest at a grand conservation event or roaming Gaston's Resort to chat with guests, he said he was "just Jim." I always had trouble just calling him Jim, though, and I suppose I still do. As the gracious host of the events I attended and a man who did so much for conservation, his area's economy and the people around him, he deserved respect, and I have always thought of him as Mr. Gaston.

Mr. Gaston died a little more than month ago, while I was at the ICAST show in Orlando. He's been on my mind for the past couple of days, maybe because I've been thinking about possible Arkansas travel plans, and I wanted to take a moment to recognize him. I didn't know Mr. Gaston very well, but you wouldn't have known that if you'd ever seen him greet me -- always with the welcoming smile and the demeanor of an old family friend. But then again, if you were to have kept watching, you'd have seen that he welcomed everyone that way and that he gave every individual he spoke with his full attention.

My time with Mr. Gaston was all at Gaston's White River Resort, and mostly at a writers' gathering that the resort puts on each spring. He always asked if I was enjoying my visit, and it was obvious by his tone and facial expression that he wasn't just asking the question he was supposed to ask. He really wanted to know if I was enjoying my stay, and if there was anything he could have done to make a visit better, he'd have done it himself.

I remember Mr. Gaston talking about photography with a friend, Glenn Wheeler, and the conversation turning to a certain super-zoom lens that Mr. Gaston really liked and that Glenn had not tried. Mr. Gaston excused himself without explanation, disappeared for a moment, and returned carrying a five-digit-cost lens, which he handed over to Glenn to take out in the boat and try on his own cameras that afternoon.

I won't attempt to list Jim Gaston's achievements. Others are much better qualified for that and have done so in other forms. Suffice to say that the beautiful visitor's center that overlooks the White River at Bull Shoals Dam carries his name for good reason. I only knew "just Jim" and his warmth and graciousness, and I miss him already.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Fiesta Passed the Trek Test

I won't deny that as the Rebel Trout Trek gear amassed on the dining room table I wondered a bit about the decision I'd made to travel in our smallest family car, a 2012 Ford Fiesta hatchback. Beyond what we would pack the night before leaving on our 3 /12-week trip, we would be picking up rods and reels, float tubes and their accessories, and a tent and sleeping bags from Cabela's along the way. The only other option had been my Expedition, though, and based on my estimates, the cost difference in gas would be about $600. Good enough for me.

Having now returned from 8,008 miles of travel, I can say that the Fiesta, which I jokingly call my go-cart from time to time, worked wonderfully. Despite its small overall size, the design is very space efficient, and with the seats down, it actually holds quite a bit of junk. And the front seats are big enough for comfortable travel, especially with a 10-year-old passenger. We had to maintain at least somewhat of a system for placing stuff, but that's not a bad thing when you're toting that much gear, even if you have a bunch of extra space.

The Cabela's folks had put the float tubes and all their accessories in one big soft duffel and the camping gear in another, and we kept them that way, storing them atop or beneath our personal duffels, and that system worked really well. We generally sought to keep waders and stuff like vests and tackle boxes right in the back so they were easy to access from the hatch, and we only kept the two rods and reels that we were using out of the rod tubes most of the time.

I reset the car's MPG calculator before we left, and we got 41 miles per gallon for the total trip. The Fiesta also did fine on some steep, rough dirt roads and had no problem climbing to some pretty high passes. There are quite a few things I would plan differently if I was starting over, but the car I would drive is not one of those things.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

No Cup for Me

For the past couple of days I've been seeing a lot of social media posts from friends who are traveling to or have just arrived in Hot Springs, Arkansas for the Forrest Wood Cup. Some are Cup competitors. Others are fellow media. Still others are manufacturer representatives or anglers who aren't competing but who will be involved with the outdoors show.

It's a little odd not being part of that mix. So soon after this year's long trout fishing trip, though, I didn't want to leave home again to travel to Arkansas for a week, and writing deadlines have become challenging. Still, I've been to the last several Cups, so watching the events develop from afar will seem increasingly odd as the actual competition draws nearer. (Official practice began this morning!)

No doubt I'll be following closely, and thankfully, FLW provides enough coverage between their website and their social media that you can almost get a sense of being there. In fact, I'm sure I'll do some remote coverage on this site. Still, it won't be the same as being out there at daylight when the boats blast off, backstage in the media room as guys are coming in and up front by the stage when the fish are being weighed.