Thursday, April 28, 2011

GSMNP II: More from the trip

Freak snow storms (how freak can they be in the GSMNP?) had the Park delay opening by a full day. That delay was in addition to the unpublished, unexplained late opening by a day compared to the published opening day on the website. That explained, however, the young man in the parking area having slept in his car the night before. He looked awesomely disheveled, and for a moment Chris and I both wanted to be him. While we were waiting for the park to open, we entertained ourselves in the fine town of Sevierville; an Orvis shop was rumored to be there.

Driving over to S-ville was eventless; arriving in S-ville was also eventless. For some reason, the bums who run and work in the Orvis flyshop in Sevierville don't get to work until some time past 7:30am. Shaking our heads, we loitered on the front porch and checked the chalkboard of very authentic looking hatch and water information. It was then and there, on that rustic porch, our hearts began to sink. They didn't quite sink yet, it's just that they knew they were on the edge and just about to be at that tipping point where the only thing that can happen is f-a-l-l. Water levels were all "HIGH" across that damn board. We shrugged it off (or tried to), figuring this was a chalkboard on a fly shop's front porch--it's all for the tourists. It probably hadn't been updated in weeks. We will be....fine.

Heading back to the campsite came after one more stop. Walmart. The pilgrammage of pilgrammages had to happen for fishing licenses (hey, they're open at 7:30!). We hunted down someone to issue us something official, paid up, and marvelled at the fact that the Walmart there sells fly rods. We are used to seeing nothing but catfish rigs with poles as thick as my upper thigh. While waiting/paying/getting official, Chris asked the nice lady if she knew if there were any water purification tablets around. Standing in the camping/hunting section, we figured the answer would be a quick "yes" and a short point to a few feet away. No, she directed us to the "pet department." Why? Because it's Sevierville and that's where they keep them. Unfortunately, they must have been out of stock or something....we never found them. Apparently there is a high demand for purification tablets among local pet owners.

Arriving back at the campground, we saw that the "Road Closed" sign was still firmly in place, and there was no way of getting in. We waited and watched, and finally the debris and timber were cleared sufficiently for the road to reopen and allow us some access. Having waited most of the morning away, we skipped setting up camp and went straight to fishing.

Much debate over coffee and ragged-out nerves and temperaments from the all-night drive led us to a hike up into the mountains not far from the campsite. The fresh snow really had us doubting if we were on the trail: "I think this snow is just covering the trail; we gotta be on it, right?" We wandered, checked the map a hundred times, compared our wanders to the map compared to the little creek (little is a joke, it was supposed to be small...but was presently whitewater death that sounded like a horizontal waterfall). We were not quite lost and not quite found; we were sort of just lound, or maybe fost. Either way, fishing was damn near impossible in that water. Just looking at it gave the impression that any Brook Trout in it had been beat to death a day or so ago and their sad bodies washed miles downstream, out of even snagging range. Of course, that wasn't the case...but we were fost and had to occupy our minds with something.

We legitimately crossed the water twice, and both times confused the hell out of us on the map. You would think that definitive points in a landscape and a very good trail map would match up such that there is no doubt of location. We thought that, and were wrong. We did finally find ourselves on the map, and the real trail (boy did it look BIG compared to what we thought was the trail!). We tried to fish two and a half times, and we tried to enjoy that...but this was just not our day for fishing or hiking.

Discouraged, we pressed onward a bit in dim hope of calm, fishy, minimal headwater. Getting closer to dark and no closer to headwater, we turned back on the trail and pointed ourselves at our empty campsite. An hour later we arrived there, but very much with the feeling of being turned down by that cute girl a grade above you when you finally got the courage and opportunity to ask her out. Damn.

This half-dead spinner summed up the situation perfectly.

We set up camp, or something that looked like one and gathered our senses. We pep-talked each other; we pep-talked ourselves; we pep-talked the whole trip. We had all the next day and the water is only falling (well there was that snow-melt...ignore that) and we have seen the water. Really, we had nothing to go on except intel that was completely negated by the weather and water conditions ("Man, you guys came at a horrible time; this is just an unusual amount of water"). We decided to go back to that S-ville fly shop and see what they knew beyond what they scratched on the tourist chalkboard. As it turns out, it wasn't touristy.

We got some information out of the guy there, but that meant we had to pretend to really be about to buy something. Forty-five minutes of caressing rods, opening and closing little wooden and aluminum fly boxes, and the always-convincing walk-by-the-fly-case with a ponderous pause thrown in here and there. Once, I even picked up one of the little things, grunted, and replaced it after a long inspection. I was convincing...but wanted information. Real information, not information that gets handed out for free to every dude who walks in, spends $1000 with his wife (only $300 was on fly gear, the rest was on dog shit), and asks where the best place is to learn to fly fish and catch a "real Smoky Mountain trout." I think the desperation/exhaustion/desperation in our eyes took the place of the thousand bucks and dog collar. We were pointed in a genuinely good direction by the guy, and I swear he looked jealous. He looked at us the same way we did at the guy sleeping in his car. We were defeated, but we were "those guys."

In then end, Chris caught 2--landing one for a photo. I caught zero, but had the distinction of not having missed any. I didn't even get a bite the whole trip. I fell in, three times. From the perspective of many, it was a total failure of a trip. If you know Chris or me at all, you know it was anything but.

We never did find those purification tablets, though.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Contest Coming

To say thanks to those who already follow and to encourage more, I've all but decided to do a "Blog Cabin" sort of rod build and contest. I haven't worked out the exact details yet, but the basic works will be options for the rod build that readers will vote on via poll.

At the end of the build, I'll use a number generator to draw one voter as the winner who will get the rod.

I'm thinking I'll start this at 35 followers--realistic and hopefully soon enough to not forget about it.

Mohawk Refinish

I acquired a very early version of the Horrocks-Ibotson Mohawk 1600 "Buddy" 'glass rod this week. It was donated to a yard sale, but then pulled from the sale and listed online for sale. I still got it for a steal, even considering this is a cheap rod. I've wanted to do a refinish for a while, and this rod gave me the perfect opportunity. It'll get a complete re-work with all new components (minus ferrules). As it sits now, it is a raw blank with a new grip completed and ready to have it and the new seat mounted.

(I'll post more, larger photos as the project wears on; I didn't have time today to post more than a collage.)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lonestar State on the Fly

Before heading down on our bonzai-trip to East Texas, Chris and I took at day-trip to middle Missouri to refresh our warmwater fly skills. I had fished so much through the winter, I forgot what it was to have a non-trout on the rod...and what it took to get it there. This little BG was my favorite catch of the day; you can see the first shades of spawning colors starting to shade down. That, my friends, is very good news.

I robbed the weed line of this little bass, my first catch in TX! If you aren't familiar with Buffs, please do so. They are amazing, effective, sort of stylish (??), and make you look like anything from a pirate to a robber to a safari-man. I finished the 5wt 'glass rod in this photo a day before leaving for TX. I was able to find a Martin MG-7 to pair it up with, and boy oh boy do I like that old reel. It performed very nicely.

Chris is on the phone and his conversation went like this:

Chris: "Hey there, how's it goin?"

Dude: "Good--hey, how's the fishin?"

Chris: "Man, it's freakin' windy! Wind like you wouldn't believe!"

Dude: "Caught anything?"

Chris: "'s unbelieveably windy here."

It really was windy, but we managed (to not hook ourselves or each other). The wind was sustained 20-30mph with gusts into the 40s. That part hindered the fishing, but we tried to be patient, cast carefully (ok, we were just chucking, but we would have been casting if not for the ridiculous wind), and time things right.

Chris showing me how it's done. He turned me on to the Buff, by the way.

He was happy as a clam to be back in TX, back in warmwater, and about to be back into big 'gills.

Chris took delivery of his MHX 4wt 9 footer just minutes before we left STL. I'd been dragging this build on for...months. He was patient, and I think fairly happy with the build. His heart was set on fat bluegils, and the 4wt just wasnt' the right tool. His old Orvis 2wt sure was though!

I worked non-stop through the week prior to leaving on rods, trying to get them done. I decided on white wraps on the black 'glass blank for my 5wt 8footer. I'm still undecided about the aesthetics, but the wraps did their job either way and held the guides on. Can't complain about that!

"Yessir, I will take one of those!" The fishing was slow at times, very slow; we entertained ourselves in various ways. My cheekbones were as sore as they've ever been; thinking back on the trip we did laugh a lot...and painfully hard a few times. It's becoming a theme of trips with Chris that things rarely go as planned, the fishing can really stink at times, and we end up making the best of it and laughing a few weeks worth in the space of two or three days.

Chris fished his 2wt Orvis more than any other rod, and for good reason. That old Orvis does the job with style and grace! I give Chris a lot of grief for "going Orvis," but fishing his stuff these days has changed my opinion about the "O" brand. I still think there is a lot of gimmicking going on, but they do have some great rods that are top-performers. Go figure.

Chris laying out some line, stalking those 'gills!

We stayed in a house owned by some of Chris's TX friends (helps to know all the right people!), and it was absolute bliss to sleep in a bed, eat real food, and be around normal people on a fishing trip. Pretty amazing really.

I built the three on the left and Orvis did the one on the right.

All these rods saw action, fish and WIND. We realized how many rods we brought when we had to carry them back from the dock. We brought....enough. Rods were everywhere on the house porch, staged in various conditions of readiness. I don't think the locals quite knew what to make of us and our feathery concoctions, but they were totally accommodating.

Two fiberglass, three graphite, all fishy.

The second day we found the big stuff. The hungry, eager, powerful stuff. Oh yes, we found the 'gill honey hole! We immediately turned to squealing, giddy kids having far too much fun.

Coppernose Bluegills fight H-A-R-D!!

What a chunk!

I had read about and lusted after Coppernoses, but never had the chance to catch one until this trip. Seeing those frankenheaded coppery heads was a definite highlight. We just don't get too many 'gills like this up in MO.

Chris' goal was to catch a 10"+ bluegill. He did it, but blew right past the 10" mark and landed on the 12" mark. Typical for Chris.... He sure was happy though.

That's over 20" of Bluegill there, and the result of a really fun double. Did I mention "honey hole?"

Those Bluegills knew how to put some bend in my Lamiglass 3wt and make themselves look and feel super big. I don't think it gets too much better than huge 'gills on light 'glass. Yessir, I could have done this all day.

My first Warmouth, another great moment.

It's Bucketmouth time!

This guy put up a worthy fight, but the new 'glass eventually overcame and Chris netted her at the side of the boat.

We kept catching on-and-off through Sunday, but sadly then had to leave to make the next stop (Dallas) before driving back on Monday. We both agreed we'd be back...with big smiles on our faces as we nodded our heads. Oh yes, we are going back.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Coming Soon

While I have been fishing, I haven't been writing. The good news is
that in the next few days (ok, maybe longer) Ill have more photos,
stories and whatnots up for more time-wasting pleasure!

I still have to finish the recount of GSMNP, for which there are more
episodes and photos worthy of sharing.

I'll also throw something together about Chris and my most recent trip
to Texas. I'll try to make the post as good as the trip. Anytime
'gills, Buckets and Texas are mentioned together, you sort of figure
it's gonna be good. It was.

Be patient O faithful followers!