Monday, April 19, 2010

Hunting for Bluegill

I was standing on the edge of a well manicured pond, one in a group of nine spaced around baseball diamonds and soccer fields. Knee high in new growth cattails the wind was blowing in my face, (that’s the trouble with fishing in the spring in open fields) casting a bead headed soft hackle hare’s ear, that’s a mouth full, a weed brushed up against my leg. The distraction or rather the holly shit being scared out of me (do to my imagination of an eight foot long water snake) caused me to miss the take of a bluegill or a crappie or I guess I’ll never know. Distractions seam to always happen at the worst times, when ironically fishing, supposedly is to distract us from life.
Fly-fishing for bluegill or perhaps I’ll leave it at pan fish, seeing how this time of year you never know what you going to get, this time of year being spring and not to sound like Forest Gump, can be just as complicated as fishing for brook trout in the high country. I like discovering new ponds and lakes, as long as the body of water fits the idea of what I expect a pond or lake to look like. Cattails, clean water, maybe a blue sky, (even though overcast days can sometimes be better) no wind would be nice and oh yes the occasional bite, I guess you could call me a fair weather fisherman. Fair weather or not I do enjoy fishing whether I catch fish or not. If I can catch one short bluegill I walk away feeling successful. The nine ponds are nice; the choices alone make the short drive well worth it, if one pond seems inactive then just try another.
My youngest son and I took our canoe to a small lake east on I-70 from our home near Kansas City, Missouri. Maple Leaf Lake is about two coffee cups away, or 45minutes. It’s a small lake about 140 acres and shaped like a maple leaf, hints the name. The sitting is picturesque, large lily pads during the summer tall waving grasses in late spring that surround it and green meadows that flow into the arms of the lake or rather the stems of the leaf. The conservation department had recently burned off some of the fields and wild flowers had taken over the charred areas. I don’t pretend to be an expert but find there are two ways to fish for bluegill one is sub-surface the other above. Dry flies; my favorite the foam beetle, are probley the most exciting way to catch a fish. A bluegill has a small take from the surface; a slight sip, then pound for pound an assume fight. Bluegill seem to feed in the evenings on top water making small rings, if you cast to these rings even if you’re a tad late you’ll usually pick up several small fish. Then it’s just a matter of persistent casting to pick the occasional slab. My other method is using a nymph or a wet fly, a slow retrieve with the sudden fast strip will often induce a strike.This particular day with my son was in early spring, it was during the middle of the week and there were very few people on the lake. We caught one fish after another, I would reel them in and take them of the hook and hand them to Tyler, who is five, he would pitch them back into the clear green water. Tyler would marvel at the mud and silt kick up by their ferocious escape. After many hours Tyler came to the reality if we kept throwing them fish back in the water how’s were we goanna eat em. So I set out to catch one more fish hopefully a heaver, we eventually settled on one rather puny fish that I found myself somewhat hiding from the other fisherman. When we arrived at home Tyler sat at the kitchen table while I cooked his two tiny fillets. He enjoyed it.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Perfect Beer

It was the beginning of the floating season, Memorial Day weekend. Carl, one of my closest friends, and I had backpack into the Buffalo River located in northern Arkansas to a place called Horse Shoe Bend. The nights were still cool, the days warm, and the water cold. With the humidity low this time of year the sky was a deep shade of blue. We sat on the banks of the turquoise waters of the Buffalo watching the patched up well used canoes and their passengers float past. Many would stop and jump from the cliffs into the deep pool that we our selves would on occasion take a dip in or jump from the cliff to cool off in its brisk waters. The sun was warm and we had been soaking up its rays for hours, it had started to take its toll. We had water that we filtered from the river and though it was cold and refreshing to swim in; it tasted almost lukewarm when drank. A group of guys and girls in an assortment of canoes and rafts landed on shore. An older man paddling a sit-on-top kayak with a cooler well attached to the top followed just behind them. No doubt part of the group, he stuck out a little; he was older than the rest. The thick aluminum bottles were lifted from the ice water inside the faded red Coleman cooler. The old worn out hinges squeaked and the lid made a pop when it fell shut. The man turned and walked straight towards me and Carl. He was an aged man with dark weathered skin, flip flops and a worn out full brimmed kaki hat; his shirt was worn unbuttoned with a pack of smokes that sagged down his shirt pocket.” You fellows thirsty?” he said with a southern draw, we reached out and graciously accepted the cold full body bottles of Budweiser. The bottles were frosty; the cold metal stung my hands and the rim of the bottle stuck to my lips. Refreshing beer flowed into my mouth; I swished it from cheek to cheek as if it was a fine wine, then swallowed, held my breath just for a moment and exhaled a sigh. Carl and I look at each other and with a nod agreed that it was the best beer we had ever had. We drank it slowly enjoying every sip.

Monday, February 22, 2010

North Fork

An adventure can’t happen with out the funding, witch means work and unfortunately fun isn’t fun without the excruciating confines of work. Sometimes dreams have to be pushed aside to make a living. So were is the line, the line between work and being a backpacking bum. The lure of the trail the smoke permeated clothing and the solitude of being somewhere beautiful, alone with my mind. The trail draws my thoughts. And my thoughts wonder how can I make a living and still do the things I love.
The North Fork River flows pool after pool with fast moving shuts of white water, followed by up turning eddies, followed by wide stretches of slow moving water. I’ve thought about this trip for months, and though it’s not a backpacking trip it is an adventure. I’ve done research, read fishing reports, check water levels. Ask the question, where does a wild Missouri rainbow trout hide?
I’ve grown to appreciate a long drive even if it doesn’t pay off with a plump rainbow trout at the end of it. Jason and I had booked a canoe trip on a stretch of the North Fork River with a population of wild trout. From the western side of Missouri it was a six hour drive. This would ford at least two coffee stops. Quick Trip's coffee is often reliable, though I find the small hole-in-the-wall gas station to be much more colorful and often their coffee has that brewed at home taste. On occasion you save a pot from its demise snatching it just before its thrown away it can be a little thick but since I'm a coffee hound I choke it down anyway. We arrived late into the night at a steep and dusty red gravel road. At the bottom was the River of Life Farm, a canoe and fly fishing resort. It was early spring and there weren’t many other campers. We found a camp site that sat next to the river and set up our tents.
This was as exploratory trip, part canoe trip and part fly fishing trip but mostly a chance to get away. We woke that morning and met with the owners to arrange for our boat. We got on the river early and as soon as possible I started making casts to likely places that wild trout hide (where ever that is). I found my self doing more talking than fishing and before to long more drinking than talking. It had been a while since Jason and I had the chance to have a couple cold ones. The river was stunning it was wide and a dark tea color; so wide, that when the boat was riding the current on one side it would have been hard to cast to the other. We explored a cave that was just up the side of a bank, we made several other stops one to eat lunch but most just to relive our self’s. It was relaxing, and the weather was perfect it didn’t even bother me that I hadn’t caught a fish. Before I knew it we were being shuttled back to camp, where we made dinner over an open fire. The next morning I waded into the cold water wearing my waders. The vegetation was green and the air was moist, there was a slight fog just above the water, with out noticing it I had stepped though a patch of mint clover growing along the banks, the smell was invigorating.
I casted a woolly bugger under over hanging trees and cut banks, but the only action was a few missed subtle bits. there was the occasional bump and nudge but most likely it was just a weed or log on the nutritious bottom. I never did net a fish that weekend but to me the trip was a success, it was a beautiful place and I hope to go back soon.

I didn't catch one so I thought I would at least post a picture of one I had caught previously.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Camp Coffee

It was late morning and I hadn’t had my coffee yet, and a perfect place to set was just up the trail. The Buffalo is well known for its historical homesteads and this one sat on a small bluff that over looks the turquoise water of the Buffalo River. The homestead is halfway between Kyle’s Landing and Horseshoe Bend, one of my favorite places to camp on the ORT. There will be a barn, with dark stained wood slats; behind it, the bluff and a short grassy area that perches you directly over the river. Inside the barn, a fire ring, though I don’t think I will be staying overnight. The loft floor above is sagging and the names and dates of people that have visited are written on the wall with charcoal sticks. There’s a door in the back that faces the bluff, outside it’s a short walk to the cliff.
Now, the important part, coffee. I like a percolating coffee pot; mine’s black with speckles, over a small but hot fire I would have it hung with a couple of branches notched Ray Mears style. But lets get real, I’m not about to lug that soot covered pot with me on the trail even though I do have an aluminum pot that’s pretty light. Nor do I want to start a fire mid way through my hike. How I like to get that fresh ground coffee taste comes with a little prep work at home, very little. I take a coffee filter, put a table spoon of grounds in it, and tie a thin string around the top and throw it in a zip-lock bag. Through the door is a faint trail that will take me to my perfect spot. I’ll unroll my Therma-Rest mat, sit up my Banana Boat alcohol stove and boil a cup of water. Lying against my pack I sip a cup of joe and enjoy a peaceful day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Klepzig Mill A Mid Summers Hike

I am inpatient, and on occasion put myself and others in situations; not bad situations I mean not really bad, but could have been avoided if only I slowed down a bit, took my time and thought things out. It was mid summer, and to say it was hot would be just stupid, it was summer. This was my first mistake.
We got started on the trail a little late and had to camp next to a small creek; we needed water and a clear place to set up a camp. The current river section of the Ozark trail is one of my favorite portions, not for its beautiful vistas on top of Ozark Mountains but for its unique shut-ins at Klepzig Mill, (Ill explain latter.) Most of the trail is heavily wooded and in the middle of summer heavily over grown. It was dark and the forest was even darker the clearing on a small rocky sand bar was lit by the moon and was an inviting place. We shoved small stones to one side to expose a sandy surface, digging out were our hips and shoulders would go we made our self’s ergonomic beds. There were four of us on this trip, and a couple of first timers, one was my son. Blake’s a fit little man broad shoulders and a strong chest, and he never seizes to impressed me, he never even complained, he was a trooper.
The next morning finding the trail proved to be difficult; before the others woke up I had scouted up and down the creek looking for the trail and where it picked back up. I retraced my steps, then turned 180 degrees and approached the creek again; still, the trail was no were to be found. Looking at the map the creek seemed to run along the side of the trail in a westerly direction and stayed nestled next to it for several miles. It was sticky; muggy even at eight o’clock in the morning so wading through the creek for a little while seemed like a good idea, my second mistake. After a hard day of hiking we arrived at a nice little campsite, small pine trees surrounding a few cut logs a fire ring built of rounded river stones and a brown aluminum folding chair, a nice touch I thought. We took our packs off and sat.
Tiny flesh colored bumps irritated the skin of my legs and ankles, Blake’s leg were also ravaged by bites. Bronson, my cousin seemed to have faired rather well. Jason the fourth person in are group, (a good friend of mine) was with furious anger clawing at his bites making groaning sounds tearing at his skin as if he was on some kind of acid trip gone bad. Jason’s legs were plagued with thousands of little bloody volcano’s of misery. He paused from the clawing and awkwardly look up to notice Blake and I staring in horror, he gazed at Blake then at me, growled and returned to his deformed limbs. “Poor Jason” I whispered, then lend into Blake and said “look away son, and act natural”.
Passed our camp the trail continued, this took you across Rocky Creek and through the shut-ins to Klipzig Mill. Large tan, chunks of granite with gray and pink ribbons that had pockets of tea colored water formed a playground of places to explore. One fall about five feet high had swift moving water; however the pockets were calm kiddy pools of fun. We lay in the cool water soaking are insect bites. Blake played in the pools for hours floating with a pair of goggle, inspecting the bottom for fish.
The hike back was uneventful though long and tough. We arrived at my car and jump in; our first stop, itch cream for our legs. I was hoping to show Jason how fun hiking could be, he has since never returned to the trail.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Snow Creek

Sorry about the shaky video work on this one, it was my first time on skis and I didn't think I be putting it on my blog. My sons grandma gave him and I passes to go skiing at snow creek, a ski resort in northern Missouri. We had a blast

The Bufflo River

This is a solo trip I took in late January to the Buffalo River in Arkansas.