Thursday, November 27, 2014

Fish Stories

"writes fish stories"

That's my unofficial job description, and while I don't suppose it's quite complete it's a decent summary of how I get to earn my living. I'm thinking about that on this Thanksgiving because I'm immensely thankful that God allows me to use something that I enjoy so much to put food on my family's dinner table.

The big picture probably isn't quite what many folks paint it when they see my basement full of gear or track the places I get to travel and folks I get to fish with. I don't just get paid to go fishing. That said, I do get spend a fair amount of my work time playing with friends in wonderful places. As importantly, beyond my obvious fondness for fishing, I really enjoy the writing and photography parts of my job.

I'm also very thankful that my work allows me to be self-employed, meaning I can work from home, picks the trips that suit my business and my family and control my own schedule, as long as the work gets done. Although I do travel quite a bit, I believe working from home, with my wife also at home and our children home-schooled, allows me more time with my children than many dads get to enjoy.

Of course I'm thankful for the cool places I get to visit as I gather photos and story material. This year's trips have taken me from New York's Niagara River to South Dakota's Black Hills to Mexico's El Salto.

I don't know what next year (or next week) will bring, but for now I'm happy to be writing fish stories and thankful for each opportunity.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Daydreams About Ice Things

Yeah. I'm bitten. And if your follow this blog at all, you probably know it. The fact is that I like ice fishing WAY too much for someone who lives in Georgia. I watch reports from northern friends with undeniable envy and do a lot of dreaming and scheming of ice travels. Fortunately, I sell a lot of ice stories and photos to various magazines and websites, so traveling well to the north two or three times every winter makes good business sense to me, along with being big fun.

If you have facebook friends who live in the ice belt, you likely know it. If you live there you know it all too well. Winter is coming on quickly this year, and with Thanksgiving not even yet passed, quite a few fishermen have already been out on the ice. And I'm not even talking about eager beavers who tiptoe where they probably ought not tread. Quite a few places now have several inches of really good ice, and conditions are getting better every day.

My first ice trip of this winter remains a few weeks away, but it's solidly planned, so I have something to count down toward. I have a little extra anticipation about this one because we'll be spending a couple of nights in a sleeper house, out on the lake, which is something I haven't done before. Why I'm excited about sleeping in a hut on the ice, I can't tell you exactly. But I am.

Because it's always most practical for me to fly to ice trips and because it only makes sense to go a few times each winter, I've not begun gathering any of the bigger equipment I'd likely have if I lived in the North. I have ice rods, good clothes for most conditions and plenty of ice lures. I don't have my own hut, auger or ice electronics. I sometimes think about an ice tour road trip, which would involve gathering that stuff for myself, but so far, I've not done more than thinking about such a plan, and a this point, the time, gas, miles between me and most ice fishing destinations, and a lack of knowledge are bigger prohibitives than the equipment.

For now, I'll have to stick with vicarious ice fishing through friends on facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Soon I'll be back out there, though! Very soon.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Disappointing Encounter

Today I was in the area of a special-regulations creek that I sometimes like to visit, so I made a quick stop, fishing for maybe an hour or so. I didn't catch them today, but that was OK. I was happy to just walk beside the creek a little, and I had wanted to check out the action of a new lure.

As I was walking toward the truck, a fully decked out fly-fisherman passed going toward the creek. I greeted him and he nodded and asked whether I'd caught fish.

"I didn't get 'em today," I replied.

"That's good," he answered, with no hint of joke in his voice.

Maybe it was straight-toned humor that I didn't quite pick up. Maybe I misunderstood.

I don't think so, though. I think he was glad that I didn't catch fish because I was carrying a spinning rod. If so, I find that disappointing. Stream regs call for catch-and-release and single-hook artificial lures only. Although the stream is most popular with fly-fisherman, it's not a fly-fishing only stream. I not only had a single-hook artificial lure, but my hook was barbless, which is not required by the law.

It believe it can only be bad when we start deeming our own way of fishing as superior to someone else's. Hopefully my perception was wrong, but it did cause me to think a little and to be careful abut how I come across to other anglers and non-anglers alike. So maybe that's a good thing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Making it Work

When FLW Tour pro Jonathan Newton realized his boat compartments were frozen shut and went to work trying to get a lid open, outdoor writer David Brown immediately reached for his camera. David and I were meeting Jonathon early to get a different set of photos, but things like frozen lids are realities of fishing, so Jonathon's solutions spelled story material for David.

I've watched a lot of innovation and determination this week at the TH Marine media event at Pickwick. We all expected a fall-like trip when the event was planned for mid-November in Alabama. Instead we found snow at the ramp yesterday morning and low 20s this morning, all with a good dose of wind. Pros and writers alike came to do a job, though, and everyone's doing what it takes to get good photos and story material.

At the moment we're all refueling and warming up for another afternoon of cold but productive fishing and photo work.

Monday, November 17, 2014

First Bass in a New Boat

Any time your first bass of the day is a 4- or 5-pound largemouth, that's a good thing, but for B.A.S.S pro Ott Defoe, today on Pickwick, that first bass was extra cool. Not only was it his first bass of the day, it was his first in a brand new boat. I was along for the ride and got to join to join in the celebration.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Winter Travels

When I planned mid-November travels to Alabama, I envisioned a late autumn sort of trip. I anticipated cold mornings, but it looks like I'm heading full force into winter. That's not a complaint. I'll never grumble about fishing and writing fish stories for a living. I just think it's interesting.

At the moment it's 41 degrees and raining in Rogersville, Alabama, which is where I'm headed, and there's a winter weather advisory in effect. Seems there could be a spits of snow tomorrow morning, and lows for the next couple of days are forecast to be in the low 20s, with strong northwest winds.

I'm well packed for the weather. In fact, seems every time I look at an amended forecast I add another layer of clothes to the pile. I haven't gone as far as grabbing the ice-fishing suit (yet).

It will be interesting to see what the fish think about the weather. Keep an eye out for reports.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Species 27 & 28

The sun hadn't fully broken the horizon on morning one of my recent Rend Lake trip when my species tally for 2014 grew. My first white crappie of the morning (one in photo is probably about the sixth or seventh) was species No. 27 for this year, according to my records. Not long after, I caught the first of several yellow bass, which was No. 28.

It's odd for me to add a white crappie so late in the year. That normally occurs early in the spring. It just happens that everywhere I've crappie fished this year, black crappie have been the main attraction.

Black crappie actually made the list really early this year. I caught my first one (actually my first several) in January, through the ice in Pennsylvania. I recorded five species from that trip to start this year's list, but I'm not really sure of the first-catch order. My first fish of this year was either a black crappie or a bluegill.

My next trip is to the Tennessee River in North Alabama. If we do any tailwater drifting, I could catch a freshwater drum or a buffalo, either of which would be add to the 2014 list. I think I've already caught most of the sport fish we'd be likely to encounter, but that's a diverse fishery, so you never know. Between that an early ice trip to Minnesota, it seems at least somewhat likely that I'll be able to bump the tally to 30 before the year ends and it becomes time to begin a new list.