Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Best Laid Plans of Outdoors and Men

I got a call early this fall from my younger brother, Tex.  He was planning a trip east with a stop in my neck of the woods.  I knew he would want to do a little hunting and fishing.  Since his arrival looked like it would be timed perfectly with our coastal False Albacore blitz, and he had never caught one on a fly rod, I decided that would be the thing to do.

I spent the next couple of weeks looking at tide charts, weather patterns, moon phases and fishing reports.  Autumn weather here is often predictable with cold fronts coming through at regular intervals.  This helps you select days where the wind and temperatures will be favorable.  This coupled with favorable tides, can help point to the days that will be the best to fish.  Based on this information, I booked a couple of days with my guide buddy George.  Yep…with my vast knowledge of the great outdoors I figured I had maximized our chances of albie success.

I was wrong.

Albies 0, Specks 75

Rods Rigged, Tex Ready...bring on the fish!
George called me the day before.  NONE of the guides had seen an albie the past few days let alone catch one.  A late season tropical low pressure system that developed in the southern Atlantic was moving north and really messed things up, despite what would have been favorable conditions otherwise.  I told George that I wanted to try it anyway, as long as we had a plan B.

We met George at his boat the next morning still holding on to a glimmer of optimism.  We headed out, but the further off the beach we went, the rougher the ocean got.  What was worse…no birds, no bait, no albies.  After giving it a decent shot, we headed into the rock jetty near Cape Lookout and anchored up alongside the other fifty boats.  There I rigged up my flyrod with a sinking line, cast towards the rocks and let my Clouser minnow fly sink.  Strip, strip, strip and bam, fish on!  While not an albie it was nice to have something tugging on my fly line.  We spent the rest of the day casting toward the rocks and catching mostly speckled trout schooled up along the jetty.  We caught quite a few, including some nice keepers that we threw into the cooler. 

Our Guide Really Blows

Our guide really!
Action on the jetty slowed and so we hoisted anchor and headed to the beach along Shackleford Banks.  There George climbed his tower and we slowly motored our way back to Beaufort Inlet.  From his tower George could spot “spot tails” better known as redfish or puppy drum here in North Carolina.  They often school up this time a year right on the beaches.  No drum were spotted.  We even hit the mouth of a tidal creek on the way back in, but no fish there either.  Despite my best laid plans, Tex was still “albie-less.”  Sure we had a blast busting speck after speck and I could taste those fresh fillets hot of my charcoal grill, but as we headed back to the dock I knew our quest for albies was done (at least for this trip).  As I settled up with George we discussed fishing the next day.  We decided that a one day of specks on sinking fly lines was enough for awhile.  George finished cleaning the fish…we kept some that he could take home, including a blowfish caught off the jetty.  I knew George loved fishing but when he put his lips smack dab on the fish and blew it up like a balloon I LMAO!  Amazingly, he cut too small fillets off the fish, said they were awesome tasting.  I took his word for it as we opted to stick with the trout.

Now, Plan C

Tex and I hopped into his tricked out F250, four wheel drive, hunting and fishing machine and headed towards home.  On the way I finally found a really good use for my smart phone.  I emailed my good friend DB to inquire about moving up our quail hunting date since Tex and I had an open day now that the fish weren’t cooperating.  “Sure,” was the reply.
DB is an avid hunter and is fellow scout leader.  He is “semi-retired” and operates a controlled hunting preserve about 10 miles from my house.  It’s “controlled” because he raises quail and when you want to “hunt” them you put them out in the field.  While to some this doesn’t sound very sporting, it actually is.  DB uses English setters to flush and retrieve birds.  The birds can be unpredictable when they take flight, and you still have to be able to hit a moving target.  Sure, I would much rather hunt wild quail, but sadly, there are almost none in our area. Invasive predators like coyotes, past farming practices, and most importantly loss of habitat has essentially eliminated wild quail in any kind of huntable numbers.  At least this way, we were guaranteed to get a nice bag limit of birds.

I was wrong. 

Hot, Hot, Hot?

Typically early November here in central North Carolina brings chilly mornings and mild afternoons. Unfortunately, we were experiencing an almost “indian summer.”  It was beautiful by any other standards, but the afternoon got up into the mid 70’s.  This made it difficult for the dog to hold scent on the birds, which meant she spent a lot more time finding them, tiring herself out a lot quicker.  This cut our day of quail shooting a little short, but we did manage to bag enough birds to complement our speckled trout from the day before.  After cleaning the birds, we settled up with DB…the fee is always the same, beer.  After enjoying a cold brew, checking out DB’s gun room one more time we headed home.

A Feast the Size of Tex

Yes...those two will fit on my grill!
My younger brother is 6 feet 4 inches and about 220 pounds.  He keeps himself in great shape, but man can he eat!  Couple that with three teenage boys and I wasn’t sure if we had enough speckled trout and quail.  I fired up my charcoal grill…using lump charcoal and no lighter fluid…seasoned up the fish and birds and worked my grilling magic.  It was quite a feast and there was plenty to go around but none left over.  It was only fitting that all my hard work planning these outings would result in nourishment for my body.  And to think…had we had a stellar day fishing for albies we wouldn’t have had this feast since very few folks eat false albacore.  I tried it once…that was enough.

Wouldn't you plan to fish on a day like this?
While the best laid plans of outdoorsmen don’t always pan out…you can’t beat having something in the pan.  Thanks brother…it was a great time!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Blues, Blues and Brews

Rigging my 10-weight
Winds and tides looked favorable for a trip the Crystal Coast of NC.  Late October can be a special time on the coast because fish are moving...some moving out, some moving in…and if you find them fishing turns into catching.  My only concern was the amount rain earlier in the week…that influx of fresh water often makes fish hard to locate.

With that little bit of uncertainty I wanted to make sure taking a day off and heading to the coast had some sort of guarantee that the trip would be a success. That’s why we did some careful planning beforehand. We checked tides, winds, forecasts, charts, maps, and reports.  We readied our rods, reels, flies, rigs, lures and hooks. 

Sure, I know what you are thinking…no matter how well you prepare it’s still fishing.  How can one guarantee a successful fishing trip when so many things are out of one’s control?  Simple…we also readied our guitars, microphones, sound system, and harps.  We being me and Will-B.  Will-B is my good friend and front man of our band the Sticky Wickets.  He’s also owner of Will-B-Music and Will-B-Reel’n fishing adventures and is a pretty good home brewer to boot.  In fact, on this trip he was bringing a growler of his chocolate stout and had us a gig lined up at Harrika’s Brew House.  With the beer and music in place, the trip was guaranteed a success.

The Will-B-Reel'n Fishing Team
We fished both inshore and near shore along the beaches this trip, and while we did manage to catch a fair number of Spanish mackerel, they were small.  Sure, Will-B caught a huge toadfish, but because of their looks, you can hardly call them a “trophy”.  I was hoping to get into some false albacore on the fly, but not only didn’t we catch any, we didn’t even see any.  We tried for some speckled trout too, but to no avail.  Nope, the only fish we caught of any size worth mentioning were some bluefish.
So with only a couple of blues to show for our efforts, we didn’t get the blues but rather we played the blues…while drinking brews at Harrika’s.  It was sort of an open mic thing hosted by Will-B and I was thrilled to play a set with him.  Sure there were some others that got up and played some tunes, but the crowd seemed to want more Will-B, and that meant more of me.  At one point that evening, Will-B jammed on the drums while several folks jammed on the guitar and me on my harp.  We even had a dueling harmonica thing going at one point. 

Jammin' at Harrika's
The owner’s of Harrika’s seemed to like our playing and Will-B “warned” me that if they liked me, my glass would never be half full (or empty).  He was right…we had some good drafts that evening, and my glass never reached the bottom.  At the end of the night I got to pick out 6 beers from their awesome selection to take home…best payment I ever got for blowin’ my harp (next to band appreciation night at Will-B-Music!).

So thanks Will-B and Harrika’s…some folks might have been disappointed with just a couple of blues, but add some blues and brews and it was a helluva weekend on the Crystal Coast.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

29er and Holding…

29er and Holding…uh, I mean Rolling

Tbone is 29er and Rolling!
Clouds hung low like a shroud, while light rain fell.  Foreshadowing perhaps? After all, I had never ridden more than 10 miles of single track at one time, let alone race for 14.  My old roadie days, my old roadie ways wouldn’t help me today.  The trail didn’t care that I completed 4 century’s while 29.  The trail didn’t care that I averaged a blistering 27 mph in a crit, while I was 29.  The trail didn’t care that I was closer to 49 than 29.  The trail only cared about beating me…me and my 29er.
Those 29 inch wheels, responsive handling, plush full suspension, would they keep me rolling?  Would they help me beat the trail?  The trail was well equipped too…narrow single track, steep climbs, rocky descents, roots the size of logs, and logs the size of trees, twists and turns, and oh yeah, rain.

Me and My Son after the race

Sure the rain stopped by race time and the trail was in pretty good shape, but it was just a year earlier that a wet log, barely the height of a curb sent me endo, the trail punctuating my fall with a broken rib.  Sure I could tell myself that I’m 29 and holding, but who was I kidding?  I am just a year from 49…a far piece from 29.
But I had a pair of 29’s under me.  I was ready, it was time for my first ever mountain bike race.  I didn’t care where I finished.  I only cared about beating one guy with the initials D.N.F.  I only cared about beating the trail.

The starter said go and I was off...rolling on my 29er.  I respected the trail and didn’t go out too fast.  The trail started trash talking and sent a rider ahead of me to the ground.  I kept my mouth shut.  Soon the trail threw another racer a curve, but not me…I kept rolling, rolling on my 29er.

Aaron took 1st Place in his division
I wasn't last in mine!
I’m happy to report that I was 29 and rolling…those big wheels rolled over a tricky log and allowed me to pass another racer.  I passed a few others, I wasn’t last!  Me and my 29er were still in one piece.  I beat the trail.  Sure the time beside my name was a larger number than my 17 year-old son’s and several folks nearly 10 years my senior, but at least there was a number…DNF did not appear next to my name that day...nope, I was 29ers and rolling!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mojo Revisited

One new voicemail…hmmmm…who would have called me so early on a workday?  It was Cope. His message said, “Dude…you don’t look so good, are you sick? You should take the day off and I have the perfect remedy.”

He was of course talking about taking the day off and fishing the Eno River again.  He was trying to find some mojo.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t fish with him that day because I had to leave for a scout camp out after work and hadn’t finished packing yet.  If I was to take any time off from work that day it was to pack my gear for the campout.

Later that day as my boys and I got ready to leave, I checked my phone. There were five missed calls from Cope and one voice mail.

“Oh no,” I thought, “was he hurt? Was there something wrong with the river? Did he need to borrow some flies that would work?”

Hurriedly, I checked my message.  Sure enough, it was Cope and he was as frantic as I had ever heard him.
“Duuuuude, where are you?!  I need…I need…to celebrate,” Cope’s message said.
There is really just one thing Cope would have called about needing to celebrate. It had to be a BIG fish story.  I dialed his number and Cope answered…he was as giddy as a school girl.  Now, before I tell you what had him so giddy…if you recall from my last blog, Cope and I had spent the day fishing the Eno and I had landed a great bass on my five weight.  Cope called it the biggest he had ever seen out of the Eno River.  I told him I had seen much bigger…heck I had caught a couple bigger.

Well if Cope doubted then, he no longer doubts now.  Cope landed a 24-inch lunker that he estimated at seven pounds.  What’s more, he caught in on a deer hair popper that he tied himself.  As a fly fisherman I can tell you there isn’t anything much better than landing a quality fish on a fly you tied.  Now that’s mojo…way to go Cope!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Got My Mojo Workin'

Will B and Tbone
Muddy Waters has always been one of my favorite blues artists, especially when Little Walter was blowin’ harp with him…but does mojo really exist?  More importantly, if you got mojo how do you keep it?  This has been a subject of many recent conversations between my fly fishing buddies. 
Some people seem to have mojo, while others seem to bring mojo to their buddies.  One of my long time fishing buddies from Texas has always seemed to catch lots more quality fish when I fish with him.  I remember one day on the Laguna Madre in Texas…I just released a nice speckled trout of about six pounds only to turn around and see John bust a 33-inch snook.  Then there was the time we were bass fishing on a well known Texas lake…he caught just a dozen that day (all on topwater) the smallest weighed in at five pounds and the biggest just over eight!  I caught two dinks.
What about my buddy Cope?  Recently on a trip to Colorado he was skunked while his fishing partner that day was tearing ‘em up.  Cope asked his buddy to come watch his technique and check his rig.  Cope was throwing the same flies, rigged the same way and was getting plenty of drag free drifts but no fish.  His buddy walked over to figure out what he was doing wrong and, WHAM!  Cope caught a trout.  He caught another while his buddy watched and as soon as he walked away?  Not even a nibble.
That seems like mojo to me…and mine was working over the Labor Day weekend.  It started out with some  good training rides for my upcoming inaugural mountain bike race.  After those rides, I think I might be able to complete this dang race.  It ended with me wailing on a few tunes with good friends, Will B and Tommy G at a local venue.
Concentrating Cope...nothing wrong with his technique
In between there was a day long trip on my home water, the Eno River…and yes my mojo was workin’ there too.  Cope joined me on this trip.  I think he is good mojo for me.  Sure, I’ve been skunked on a trip while fishing with Cope, but there was no mojo strong enough to overcome ridiculously poor fishing conditions.

Conditions weren’t a problem this day.  Sure the Eno was low, but the largemouth bass, Roanoke bass and the Redbreast sunfish were hungry.  We stuck to surface flies…I threw a stealth bomber pattern (a foam diver type fly) and Cope started out with some great dear hair poppers and sliders he tied.  Those flies looked like they had mojo…but the bomber had more.  By the end of the day, Cope was throwing a stealth bomber too…he knew they had mojo…he caught a 4-pound largemouth on one while fishing the Haw River, but alas it didn’t have enough mojo for him this day.
Cope is a Roanoke-in

I think I used up his mojo…I caught several healthy rod bending bass.  I even had one dive under a rock and wouldn’t come out until I reached down and grabbed him…leader in tact; now that’s mojo!  I caught lots of sunfish…three different species, and a nice Roanoke Bass in addition to the hungry largemouths.  Cope had some nice Roanokes too and plenty of sunfish, but busted off one bass and had another unbutton itself from his fly; that’s mojo that just ain’t workin’.
A nice Roanoke Bass on a stealth bomber
Of course I should have known my mojo was workin’ that day…while Cope caught the first fish of the day, I caught the largest on about my third or fourth cast; a hefty Eno largemouth, and while I’ve seen bigger in the river…I’ve only seen one larger than this that was also chewing on one of my flies.  Oh and don’t let me forget to once again explain that these are river bass…they are strong, jump high and fight hard…and to think this river is literally right in my back yard.
Now before I end this story, I want to apologize to Cope.  The Eno is a small river and we fished side by side frequently…I fished river right, while he fished river left.  There was more than one occasion when my five weight sent a stealth bomber on a fly by…his ear!  I also think I may have fished ahead of him a little too much (even though I did tell him to fish faster) which may explain why my mojo was out workin’ his.
This is in my backyard!
But like any good fishing buddy, I didn’t feel bad about catching more or bigger fish…instead I invited Cope and his lovely bride to dinner and a cold beer. 
So after fishing, I grilled up some awesome chicken and then we all headed to a local venue for another beer and some good music with Will B and Tommy G.  Will B was playing one of his famous “one man band” shows and allowed me to get up and wail on some tunes…and wail I did, because after all…I had my mojo workin’!

I got my mojo workin' and it's workin on you!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Single Track Mind

Ask my wife and she will tell you I always have one thing on my mind…that’s because I like to focus on one thing at time, complete it, and then move onto another.  Right now my focus is single track…oh sure, I’ve got some upcoming gigs and I’ll get out and do some fly fishing locally, but for the next month I’m focused on single track.  That’s because my eldest son has talked me into entering a local mountain bike race.

Years ago I did a bit of racing, on a road bike.  I did plenty of organized rides and tours, a few cat 4 and 5 races, some duathlons and even one “mini” triathlon.  I liked doing these events because it gave me a goal, something to focus on in order to keep me riding.  During that time I purchased my first mountain bike…it had no suspension and was beefy, but I loved it.  Mountain biking provided a great change of pace…no cycling computer, no log to track my rides, just me and my bike in the woods.

So why would I want to enter a mountain bike race?  Well…two reasons I guess.  First, it’s a great way to spend time with my son.  Second, it gives me a focus…a reason to make sure I ride, even when the days’ stress tells me to head to the pub rather than the trail.  However, I refuse to add a cycling computer to my mountain bike, and I refuse to keep a log.  I simply don’t want to taint the joy I find single tracking through the woods.  That’s why my goal for this race is simply to finish.  I don’t care if I beat anyone, I just want to finish…in one piece.

That will be a big accomplishment.  It’s been almost a year since I went endo and broke a rib.  I was riding a private trail that I helped build last fall.  I was riding my new mountain bike and was getting pretty comfortable on it and decided I could bunny hop this log across the trail.  The log was wet, and a little slick…my rear tire didn’t quite clear the log.  The rear tire slid sideways and the bike stopped abruptly, and I didn’t.

I remember it felt like I was flying through the air in slow motion.  I was admiring the fall foliage as I went over the handle bar.  For a brief moment, time stood still and I felt like a cartoon character that just realized I went off a cliff…suspended in mid air, then crashing down…hard.  The impact knocked the wind out of me, but otherwise I seemed ok.  My new bike came through without a scratch.  I climbed back on and tried to ride.  I knew something wasn’t right.  Later that evening, I sneezed…that’s when I knew this wasn’t a bruise.

I got back on my bike in December but it has taken me eight months to regain my confidence on the trail.  In the past year, log crossings scared me, skinny’s scared me, drop-ins and whoop-te-dos scared me, but no longer.

This past week my son and I rode our home trail…the “hard” loop ends with a rock skinny, a wooden banked turn with an “up and over”, followed by a rock step over a big log, finishing with a skinny.  This all happens in about 100 feet.  I may make one or two, but usually ride around the skinny’s and walk the log.  This ride however was different…while a couple of climbs still beat me…I was determined to ride all the obstacles.  As I got to the end, I hit the rock skinny, caught just a little air went into the banked wooden turn and proceed to run right up and over the rock/log combo rode the last skinny.  I let out a satisfying yell!

While my stamina is still in question, I feel like my bike handling skills are back…but let me qualify that…these are 47 year old, don’t like getting hurt, not ashamed to walk around an obstacle bike skills…but hey, I rode that combo and my 17 year old son didn’t!

So for now I have a single track mind.  I’ll will enter my first mountain bike race next month.  Sure, I’ll be in the beginner, over 40 category, along with a bunch of other old farts trying to act 21 again, but that’s what keep us young at heart.  I just hope my heart, lungs, and legs hold out for the duration.  If not, I may have to change my focus.

You’ll know how I did by watching out on Craigslist under “mountain bikes for sale.”

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Tour de Fish Kill

I’m just back from our fourth annual Tour de New and it might be the last…at least in its present form.  The Tour de New started a few years ago when my buddy Cope and I headed down the New River trail on our bicycles, toting along our fly rods.  The New River trail is a 57 mile converted rail-trail. We would start our ride in Fries, VA and ride to the triple shoals areas.  That stretch of water produced some 100 fish days for us and our bikes allowed us quick access, especially on the way back when Cope would say, “Do you hear that? 
It’s a beer calling my name!”
Over those four years we expanded our the tour to include a day on the Virginia Creeper trail, which is also a converted rail-trail along Whitetop Laurel Creek, a fine wild trout fishery.  We added a float trip on the New River with a guide service out of Pembroke…and we added more fishing buddies.  Six went this year, me, Cope, Rog, Fin, Sep and Chris.
However, we wouldn’t see a hundred fish day, not even between all of us combined, at least not on our favorite stretch near Fries.  We fished hard for a day and half, including an awesome display of wading prowess by Fin…he crossed some sections of the river that most couldn’t have done in a drift boat, let alone wading. Yet despite our best efforts, only three or four fish were caught…and I was skunked.  Something that had never happened on this stretch for me, and yes…I got my dauber down because of it.
As Cope and I rode back to the truck on our second day he said, “There must have been a fish kill.”

“Nah,” I replied, “We would have heard about it.”

Well…it turns out there was a major fish kill and we didn’t hear about, until we talked to a local that day, and apparently not many people knew about it.  In the spring, there was a spill…a tank filled with manure slurry ruptured and flowed into a small tributary that dumped that stuff into the New River right below the dam in Fries.  According to the news reports I Googled upon my return the river was shut down to contact recreation from Fries all the way to I-77 just above Foster’s Falls.  The news reports also talked about the drinking water issues, but nowhere, and I do mean nowhere could I find anything official about a fish kill.  This angers me quite a bit.  I can’t help but wonder if the fish kill was kept quiet due to the negative publicity that followed the fish kills in the Shenandoah and James rivers a few years ago.  I plan on contacting the Virginia Department of Inland Fisheries to find out more.  I’ll keep you posted but in the meantime, one of my favorite stretches of river won’t be worth fishing for years to come.  Our Tour de New may go away too…or at least change.  The bikin’ part may disappear but the fly fishin’ and beer drinkin’ won’t!
Waiting out the storm
Fortunately for this trip, we did have our float trip still to come, but before that me, Sep and Chris took our bikes to the Virginia Creeper Trail.  We parked at the lower end just upstream of Damascus and rode up the trail to some nice looking water. The trout seemed willing and each of us managed to catch a few before a thundershower chased us under one of the trestle bridges for shelter.  Chris was hesitant to tell me about his fishing to that point.  I guess he thought that odor he smelled was the skunk still upon me.  It wasn’t, it was just the previous night’s dinner. At any rate, Chris caught a nice brown trout before the rains came and I appreciate his considerateness, of not ribbing me about it.  None of the others on this trip would have done that.  Of course he did make a crack about me leaving my rain jacket at the cabin and my emergency poncho in my bike bag…I think it was something about a great organization called Boy Scouts that teaches you to be prepared.  He got me with that one…I hope none of my scouts read this blog!

Our day on the Creeper included a break at the Creeper CafĂ© and ended with bikers passing by and shouting, “havin’ any luck?”  “I was,” I thought to myself…before they shouted at me.  On the way back I decided to push it a little and ride like the wind.  An unseen rock, caused some wind…from my tire.  I changed the flat about the time C-man and Sep caught up with me.  Turns out we were just 100 yards or so from the truck.  All and all a good day with some fine wild trout willing to play with our flies, so contented, we headed back to the cabin.
Unfortunately, we arrived to one of the worst circumstances I have ever endured.  The cabins were locked, we didn’t have the keys and the cooler with the beer was inside, not outside the cabin as I had instructed the others to put it.  C-man was able to access one of the cabins through a window and produced a bottle of bourbon.  Sep produced a 6-pack of cowboy warm beer.  I enjoyed both.
They certainly look like they can catch fish!
The following day found us in Pembroke, VA where we floated with a guide service.  There was a mix-up in that they thought we were spin fisherman.  The gall!

Fortunately we had our own fly fishing gear, although maybe not the fly selections needed.  C-man and Sep fished with a guy that really didn’t know his fly fishing stuff.  It’s a shame and they let the guy know.  I hope the guide service makes it right for them.  We were all genuinely disappointed that they didn’t catch more fish, and that the guide really knew nothing about the long rod.

Fin with another fine smallie

Fortunately for the rest of us, our guides had at least fly fished  before and put us in the right place.  Fin and I fished together and fished topwater bugs the entire time.  At one point I thought I’d have to push Fin out of the raft if he didn’t stop catching nice smallies.  It wasn’t gangbusters, but we were catching quality fish.

Rog and Cope were also doing fairly well.  Cope caught his first citation sized smallie, 21 and 1/8 inches long; a nice fish on a fly rod…a nice fish on any rod.  Even better for Cope, he caught it on a fly he tied, a pattern called a “sex dungeon” presumably because it’s got a lot going on.  The fly was originated by Kelly Galloup.  Cope was fishing it on a sinking line, twitching and stripping it along a submerged rock wall when this big ole bronze back hit.  He claims that he lost another one of equal size.  Dang fisherman, always skewing the truth.
Cope's Citation
I too managed a citation smallie.  We were drifting some skinny water looking for cruising fish hoping to pick off a hapless cicada floating on the water.  Ahead I noticed some bait fish jumping…not frantically but more to get out of the way of something.  I made a long cast and let the bug sit.  A shadow swam to the bug and slurped it into his mouth.  I pulled tight on the line and lifted the rod tip.  I yanked on the line two more times to be sure to set the hook.  I had lost a good fish earlier and wasn’t going to allow that again.

Based on the shadow, I figured I had hooked into a 16 inch smallmouth bass.  I was wrong.  No…it wasn’t it smaller.  The fish jumped and even the guide said it was a big fish.  This smallie fought admirably and at one point I had the guide leaning over the raft to net him but the fish was under the boat.  I had no idea where he was but kept up the side pressure.  Soon the fish was in the net.  It measured only 20 inches but weighed in at 4 pounds, a damn good fish in anyone’s book.

Four pounder...weighed on a scale by the guide!

Well…I must say my dauber weren’t down anymore.  Neither was Cope’s and I think Fin had a good day too.  For the other 3, it was tougher fishing and at dinner that night I think they had their daubers down. 
I didn’t ridicule them though.
After all, I was the one moping around the first two days because I hadn’t caught a fish.  Some mistook that for ego.  While I admit I may have an ego (what warm blooded male doesn’t?), I’m not egotistical. I wasn’t really moping because I was fishless and the other guys weren’t.  Rather, it was just me, a hard core fly fisherman, trying to figure it out…it wasn’t ego.
Actually, I had a lot of other stuff going on in my head and I didn’t feel compelled to bring it all to light and share.  Regardless, I was on a fishing trip and I wanted to catch a fish.  Isn’t that why we do this? It’s an ongoing discussion for me.  You see I got lectured one time by someone while we were on a fishing trip.  We spent a lot of money and in three days, not one fish was caught.  Wouldn’t you grumble? This gentleman went on to say that he didn’t fly fish to catch fish but rather fished for the friendship of his buddies.
Bull shit!  Anyone that willingly picks up the fly rod does so to catch fish.  If we didn’t catch a fish now and then, why would we invest all that money into the equipment?  How many times have you reveled in catching a fish on a fly while your hardware chunkin’ buddy couldn’t catch a snag, let alone a fish?  Heck, if I didn’t catch a fish now and then, I wouldn’t go fly fishing. 
If I didn’t go fly fishing, however, I wouldn’t have attended my forth Tour de New with such a great group of friends.  I guess it’s a “cart before the horse” or a “chicken or the egg” sort of thing.  Regardless, I fly fish because I love catching fish on the fly…I have fly fishing buddies because I love razzing them when I catch fish…and I love when they razz me when I don’t.
Touring the New River in a raft...flyfishing along the way. A great way to spend a day, as long as you catch one or two