Monday, September 1, 2014


A day on the pond from last September. Looks pretty
warm and fully green.
September in Georgia feels a lot like August in Georgia. Weather and fish behavior alike remain distinctively summerish. Still, in my mind at least, September brings some sense of fall. Labor Day (today) in many ways marks an end of summer, schools are back in session, college football started last weekend, the month name ends in "ber"...  Lots of things about September hint at fall, and we even tend to get a few spells with cooler nights before the month is ends.

I suppose September also seems extra fallish to me because legitimate fall trip dates are near enough that I'm beginning to settle more plans: October trout in the Smokies; November crappie in Illinois and bass in Alabama...

 Some year, September travels give me a head start on fall because I travel north to places where September legitimately is a fall month. That's not the case with this year's plans, as of now. Looks like I may be staying in the South this month. However, when mid-September travels send me to Minnesota, that's a legitimate fall trip.

We've hit 80s already this morning, and the high for the day is supposed to find the 90s. No. Fall hasn't arrived. September lets me start pretending, though.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Johnboat Move

Nathaniel's johnboat needed to get back to the side of the pond, where it would be handy for quick outings, and he and I both had time on Friday afternoon. So we loaded the boat into the back of the Expedition and drove to the pond, which is only a few miles from our house.

Of course once we got pond-side with boat, we thought we decided make sure it still worked by making a lap around the pond. Fortunately, we'd brought a few rods and reels, so we were equipped.

The fish bit less than I would have expected as a hot day cool and the sun dipped over the trees. I mostly fished for bream -- as I tend to at the pond -- and Nathaniel mixed his offerings. We caught a did handful of fish (three apiece, I think) but I would have expected a few more strikes than we got.

That's not a complaint. It was a beautiful afternoon, and a nice lap around the pond with Nathaniel was a mighty nice way to wrap up the workweek. And now the boat is back where we like it to be and handy for the next afternoon outing. Will that be today?

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.