Outdoor Life Now on the Menu

I’m happy to say that I am now blogging for Outdoor Life. If you want to get closer to more fish read this: Fishing Tips: Get Closer with Float Tubes | Outdoor Life.



“Should You Take Your Spouse Fishing?”

Should you take your spouse fishing? Good question. You can find the answer here. It’s a link to Gannett’s new website NowU.com (click on the “learn” section and scroll down to find the answer).

NowU launched Tuesday, July 15, and I’m pleased to have a story included. The target readership is folks age 45 and older, although there’s plenty for anyone of nearly any age.

The site includes travel, technology, family, career, fitness and nutrition, sex on the road (that’s in the “connect” section), and more  . . . even a fishing story.

Give it a look. Tell your friends. Mention it to strangers. www.NowU.com.

On the Spring in the Rain

On Arkansas’ Spring River for some photo work. Hope to fish this afternoon. Rained much of the night. Currently between storms.IMG_8059

From the spring to Dam 3 the river is higher than normal. This is probably a by-product of ongoing work at Dam 3, which is where the hatchery is located. Workers are busy trying to repair the 100-year-old gate on the antique dam.

Heading down river below the dam to what is usually a good trout and SMB spot. Photos later, hopefully.

Fishing at Walmart

The clerk at Wal-Mart was a guy about my age. He rang up a can of WD-40.

“I use this stuff to oil up my fishing reels,” he said.

I started to respond when he launched into a story about needing to replace one of the tires on his boat trailer then swerved to a story about a bass he caught last year while fishing with a buddy at a Tennessee state park while fishing for crappie before coming back to the trailer, which he apparently got from his brother-in-law in some kind of a trade. Details of the deal weren’t revealed but the brother-in-law was sorry that he got rid of his boat trailer but he didn’t really need to be sorry because he could use it anytime he wanted all he had to do was ask.

He scanned a package of ground beef and a 15 ounce can of crushed tomatoes.

“Making chili tonight?”


“Got it on a Roadrunner.”

“Got what on a Roadrunner?”

He looked up from the scanner. “That big bass I caught while crappie fishing.”

He scanned a can of black beans.

“You put these in chili?”

“Sometimes, yea.”

“I’d use real chili beans. You don’t want to use too much of that stuff on your reel.”

“What stuff?”

“That WD-40.”

I’ll be careful.”

He sacked the rest of my items and I paid the bill.  The story continued.

“I really like those Roadrunners for crappie. I like white. They sell ’em back in sporting goods. That’s what I caught the bass on. I catch a lot of crappie but not to many bass. Not much of a bass fisherman. Never really done it much.”

The lady behind me was growing visibly impatient.

“Well, good luck,” I said, as an exit strategy.

“With what?”


“Don’t need luck for that. I always catch fish.”

Year 2014: Frantic to Fish

The cusp of the New Year arrives on a sunny, cold winter’s day and my idea of a celebration is sorting my fishing gear. I’ve never denied being boring.20120731-084127.jpg

My wife walks through and surveys the angling carnage: frayed  tippets and ragged flies, cracked and dented fly boxes, zingers that only partly retract, creaky pliers, patched waders, a cracked stream thermometer, two vests; a belt pack, hook files, wading shoes,  a dry patch smeared with blood from some forgotten injury, a 7-piece rod that somehow survived a nasty fall, a clip-on magnifier, four dozen other odds and ends. Some I use each time I’m on the water; some will die of old age having never been wet.

Another pile is spinning gear: a couple of reels and a spool of eight pound monofilament, two boxes bulging with plugs, poppers, jigs, cranksbaits, hooks, and sinkers, a small backpack stuffed with more boxes, line, plugs and pliers. It’s a regular wintertime routine; this sorting gear and clearing of the mind.

Wife: “Do you still enjoy it as much as you used to?”

Me: “The fishing? Or this.”

Wife: “Well, both.”

I do enjoy messing with my gear; although when I’m finished it’s rarely anymore sorted out than when I began.

The fishing?

I can no longer deny that middle age has arrived; if for no other reason the chronic ache in my back serves as a persistent reminder. But they are of little concern to me; the age or the ache.

I have an increasing number of friends and colleagues whose fishing passion seems to have cooled; tempered by an increasingly hectic work and/or family schedule, health, age . . . a dozen other factors, some manageable, others not so much.

I watch this declining angling interest with a sort of detached yet disturbed amusement, vaguely acknowledging that it might someday affect me, although I can’t foresee it. I remain  frantic to fish, more so now than ever. I want to fish everywhere; catch everything, or try to.

For 2014? Work harder. Work smarter. Fish more. Pray more. The last two goals are directly connected to the first two but are themselves strangely intertwined. After all, when Jesus wanted men he could depend on he first went to the docks.

A happy and safe New Year to you.

Adults Behaving Badly

While working at my desk this morning a radio news program played in the background. It droned on about the government shutdown and the debt ceiling and while these are critically important issues the revolving comments by our political leaders became like static. Simply put they were adults behaving badly. I finely switched to a sports program, where the bad behavior at least had a humorous, lighthearted quality. 

Were I in charge, I believe I would thank our political leaders for their service and send them home. All of them. Democrats. Republicans. Independents. Moderates. Conservatives. Liberals.  Then hold special elections next week to fill every office, the only requirements being that those elected report to work immediately and show results.

It’s a good thing I’m not in charge.  I think I’ll go fishing this afternoon.

Travel Plans

Thinking about a September road trip that would require fishing and camping gear and include places named Three Forks, Hell Creek, Yellowstone, Little Missouri, Cow Creek . . . probably a few more.

Details to come.

New Zealand Surrenders Possible World Record Brown Trout

The Fishing Wire reports that a New Zealand angler has landed a 42 pound 1 ounce brown trout. If confirmed, the monster would set a new International Game Fish Association all-tackle world record for the species. The current brown all-tackle record is 41-8.

Otwin Kandolf caught the big fish while angling in a canal downstream from a salmon farm on the South Island.

Details at www.thefishingwire.com.

Carp Madness

While a dozen or so commercial fishermen labored on Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley to haul in enough Asian carp to claim the $10,000 winner’s check in the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife-sponsored www.fw.ky.gov Carp Madness tournament, Chef Philippe Parola www.chefphilippe.com was telling anyone who would listen why carp should be treasured as a culinary treat.IMG_6312

“It is all quality,” Parola said, while filleting a 20-pound silver carp. “It has a very clean taste. It is a bony fish but aside from that you have one of the best fish, ever. There is no downside to this fish.”

Parola later offered samples of fried carp (a delicate and delicious white meat) and something he called “carp cheese balls,” fried and about the size of a golf ball that, while tasty, featured more cheese flavor than fish.

On the water the tournament had become a two-team contest. Fish were weighed as they were brought in (unlike a bass tournament anglers could bring a load of carp to the scale at any time then continue fishing) and by mid afternoon Barry Mann’s team had weighed 17,647 pounds and Heath Frailley’s crew had hauled in 15,275 pounds of carp. That was three tons more than the nearest competitor.IMG_6228

Full results tonight and a full report in Sunday’s Louisville Courier-Journal www.courier-journal.com/outdoors.

Notes on John Merwin; fisherman, writer, mentor

John Merwin died last month; Feb. 20, to be exact. Merwin was well-known in fishing circles; his accomplishments warranting a eulogy in the New York Times. Among other achievements, of which there were many including authorship of The New American Trout Fishing, he served for a while as fishing editor for Field & Stream. Some of the folks at that fine publication have gathered some of John’s best works along with a few personal remembrances at www.fieldandstream.com. It’s worth reading.

I worked for Merwin briefly, when he served as regional editor for Field & Stream and I served as a regional contributor. We weren’t close and only met once. Most of the work communications then – as now – were handled via e-mail. I don’t recall Merwin ever complaining about anything I sent him. I took this silence as a supreme compliment.

Several years ago I somehow got myself invited to a F&S meeting. It was someplace in New York state. I don’t remember where. Merwin was there but this was before he took over regional duties. The meeting was winding down. My friend Scott Bestul (who later became the F&S Whitetail columnist) and I were having coffee with John. Bestul and I were a bit starstruck but during the coffee and chat I got the nerve to ask John to give me a fly casting lesson. He said yes. When Scott asked to join us John refused his request, framing his answer in something of a joke. I assumed this was so I wouldn’t embarrass myself in front of my friend, who was and remains a skilled fly caster.

Merwin rigged a rod and I follow him beyond a stand of trees were no one would see us. The lesson was basic. The same things I had read (many times in John’s books and articles) dozens of times. But standing there beside Merwin, who was one of the best and most knowledgable fly fishermen in the world, things changed. I became a different fisherman. And, ultimately, a different writer.

We spent several minutes together; John casting then watching me cast, making corrections, giving suggestions, taking the rod and showing me things it would have taken years to discover on my own. So relaxed was it that I forgot for a moment that I was getting a personal minute with someone who could arguably have been considered the best in the world at what he was doing. it was a sobering thought.

He then told me something, a prediction of sorts, that I won’t repeat here. At the time I thought he was mistaken but it turned out that he was correct. I did ask why he thought the way he did. His answer stunned me. It still does.