Friday, August 29, 2014

Cabela's Greenville Visit

Cabela's Greenville, SC. Photo courtesy of Cabela's
A couple of weeks ago I had mentioned that I hoped to visit the new Cabela's store in Greenville, S.C. on the way to Columbia for the Forrest Wood Cup. I did indeed get to make that visit happen and had a big time exploring the store. Upon arriving in Columbia, I jumped straight into Cup coverage, and I've sort of been playing catch-up ever since I get home. Thus the delayed report. Still, I'd be remiss to not share a bit about what I saw.

I turned right, upon entering Cabela's. That led me toward the camping department, which has a cool and distinctively regional d├ęcor. Wall displays highlight state parks and wilderness areas throughout South Carolina's mountainous Upcountry. Each includes images, basic park information and a piece of a topo map that provides a sense of what's there. I appreciated added the local flavor, and having enjoyed time in most of the highlighted areas, I found myself lingering there a while before continuing through the store.

Regional displays in camping area. Photo courtesy of Cabela's
Like any Cabela's, the Greenville store has everything an outdoorsman could ever want, a Bargain Basement, the feel of a giant outpost and gazillions of fish and game mounts throughout (including full-body mounts of North American game animals on a mountain side the back of the store). My favorite parts, though, and the places where I hung around the longest, were the fly tying section and in front of the aquariums.

The tying stuff actually caught me. My supplies at home lacked olive, which is pretty important to the way I like to fish, so I was unable to escape without olive bucktail, marabou and thread (plus a few other things) finding their way into my basket. I also made good use of the opportunity to pick from a lot of jigheads and get the head shapes and sizes and hook sizes that would work best for the bugs I like to tie. I've already had fun playing with that stuff since getting home.

Giant aquariums filled with game fish always fascinate me, and I can spend way too long watching the fish, dreaming about those I'd like to encounter in the wild and seeing how the species are true to their normal distinctive behavior patterns, even in a big tank. At Cabela's I thought it was cool that they had distinctive warm- and cold-water tanks, which together offered glimpses of a large representation of the freshwater fish we catch in this part of the country. I also had fun playing with my GoPro and got a couple of photos that I thought were pretty cool for aquarium shots.
GoPro view of the warmwater aquarium. Jeff Samsel photo.
Beyond specific highlights and sections, I liked just roaming around Cabela's, looking up, looking around, and happily realizing I was only an hour and a half from home. Next stop for me is the Acworth, Georgia store, which is even newer than Greenville and about the same distance in a different direction!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Smallest Bass?

I suppose it's possible that I've caught a smaller largemouth bass, but if so, I sure don't know when. I actually had to look closely to make sure it was really a bass, not some sort of minnow! When I think about it, I think a few of the bluegills I caught today could have eaten my bass!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Peacocks, Angels & Hand-Tied Jigs

When my 19 year-old daughter Sarah sees peacock feathers, she sees pretty skirts for cornhusk angels. To my 7-year-old daughter Autumn the same feathers represent pieces needed for cute little dolls. To me, peacock feathers a represent jig or fly material. The iridescent green and purple strands make wonderful tail material, and also work really nicely for wrapped bodies. I use them in both smallmouth jigs and trout jigs.

Normally the peacock complements other materials, adding a little flash to a black or gray hair jig or a deeper green to an olive marabou jig. The jig above is actually all peacock.

It also works nicely for me because I get all the materials I need from Sarah's remnants. She needs the full end of the feather with the prettiest colors, and she always end up with pieces that have several strands still on them She would throw those away, so I gladly move them to my tying area. Autumn's use falls in between. She likes the full pretty feathers, but she just likes making things, so she makes her dolls, enjoys them for a while and then takes them apart and give the feathers back to Sarah!

All this peacock talk makes me want to go trout fishing.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Gagliardi & Company: My Take as a Nearby Observer

FLW photo by Jeff Samsel
It seems some fuss has arisen about Anthony Gaglardi fishing close to a local angler on Lake Murray during the final morning of the Forrest Wood Cup, with some folks contending that Gagliardi was unsportsmanlike or unethical. Everyone has the right to an opinion, but I don't think any of the folks making those contentions were there at the time. I was, so I thought it might be fitting to offer my take.

From the onset, I'll acknowledge that the other angler was in the area first. Also, it's public water, and he had every right to stay and fish. Many anglers likely would have stepped back, knowing what was as stake for someone else, but that's a personal choice. That said, Gagliardi didn't claim otherwise. He never asked the other angler to yield or did anything to try to push him away. He simply joined him fishing the area.

Regarding the question of moving in on someone else's spot, I believe an important distinction must be made. The other angler was not fishing a defined hotspot, such as a sweet spot on top of a hump, a specific brushpile or a dock. He was working an area where the bass were schooling. On virtually any lake where fish school on the surface, whether those fish are largemouths, stripers, white bass of something else, anglers commonly run those school together. The whole cove doesn't belong to the first angler on the lake. And while I couldn't hear every word spoken, by my understanding, the other angler didn't object to Gagliardi fishing near him. He didn't like the of armada of onlookers that saw his area, and that would have been the same whether they actually had fished 100 yards from one another or 10 feet apart.

Gagliardi also didn't crowd the other angler. He did move to the same area, but the other angler actually did far more pushing tight to Gagliardi's boat and shadowing every shift, based on what I saw. Again, though, they were fishing schoolers, so they both adjusted positions based on where the fish were breaking.

Closely related, I think Gagliardi's comment in the press conference that he threw over the other angler a couple of times made it sound like he was being a bully and felt self important because of the tournament. That wasn't the case. They both threw across one another a couple of times. That happens sometimes when you're chasing schoolers and one suddenly comes up. You only have a moment when bass are eating herring, so you react. A fish comes up, and you cast to it. Occasionally that puts you across the other angler, or, if the fish are sort of between you, your baits might land simultaneously side-by-side.

Most importantly, Gagliardi never said a harsh word. Even when told that he needed to "get a real job," he didn't counter with anything negative. He simply told the other angler that he'd caught fish there the previous day and was going to stay and fish that school, and then he quietly went about his business. He represented FLW and tournament bass fishing well, as I know he will continue to do as Forrest Wood Cup champion.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Final Morning - Forrest Wood Cup

Boats are launching in the darkness just across the way, and soon they'll be coming around to the docks where they'll stage to take off for the final day of competition in the Forrest Wood Cup.

Only 10 remain, and with the uncertainty of the bite it's legitimately possible that anyone who made it to today could cone away world champion and half a million dollars richer.

Only 2 1/2 pounds separate the top 5, which includes threes Carolina anglers. Leading the pack is Brent Ehrler, one of three former Forrest Wood Cup champions in the Top 10.

The wind is blowing only slightly and stars are plentiful above an hour and a half before takeoff.

I'll be following one top anglers this morning, although I don't have my specific assignment yet. Yesterday I watched Bryan Thrift, which was a grand lesson about efficiency. Other mornings I've followed Casey Ashley and Anthony Gagliardi. All three are in the top 5.

I'm looking forward to seeing what happens on the water and especially in the weigh-in this afternoon.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Prepared

"Where did you fish?" a writer friend, Ron Wong, asked, looking into my new car, which we'd be talking about.

I glanced in the window and remembered I'd tossed in a light spinning rod and a small bag of lures, "just in case." The trip I'm on is not a fishing trip for me, but when opportunities occur I like to be prepared.

"Nowhere," I answered, "but you never know."

Ron grinned and pointed into the car he had rented for the trip, which was parked right next to my car. Running through the center of the car were two fishing rods that he had toted along for the exact same reason.

"You never know."

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My First Murray Trip & Stripers

Move-in week is going on now at the University of South Carolina, which tells me that my first-ever look at Lake Murray occurred around this time of year, 29 years ago.

I'd been on campus less than a week, maybe only a couple of days, when I met a friend who would become a future roommate. We met at an evening function for freshmen, and soon got talking about fishing. Turns out he was from South Carolina, had a boat on campus and knew a fair amount about Lake Murray fishing, including the fact that the striped bass were schooling most mornings.

So well before dark the following morning we met somewhere on campus, I hopped in his truck, and we headed for Lake Murray. We put in well down the lake and rode to the middle of a big cove on the Lexington side, where he told me we would hang tight and watch for fish busting the surface or birds diving. Just to get it out of my system, I made a couple of casts with one of his rods, each of which was rigged tandem with a chugger and light hair jig. Then I put it down and waited, as he had suggested, in case we needed to make a quick run.

That morning marked the first and last time a striper school has ever come up all around a boat I was in. We didn't have to run anywhere, because fish were busting bait on top in every direction around us. I learned that day (and I've since confirmed several times) that schooling stripers make me forget how to cast a baitcaster.

I missed a couple of hard strikes before hooking up, and we each wrestled a fish from the school before it went down. Details elude me now, but I believe it was true double. Both fish weighed 5 or 6 pounds, although I thought mine weighed twice that when I was fighting it. I believe a couple other schools come up that morning. I can't remember whether we caught any more fish.

I only know that Lake Murray left me with a very good first impression.