Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Well Hung Pirate:


Get your mind out of the gutter girls!  I am talking about being a “Hanger”.  That is what we hammock campers call ourselves, a hanger.  For me it started a few years ago on a camping/kayaking trip to Pensacola Florida.  We were camping in a state park there for a week to fishing from our kayaks.  What we did not know was we picked a terrible week to go.  For four days it rain like I have never seen rain.  The whole campground was flooded and most of our tents were flooded.

Well not mine because I was on what I thought was a terrible camp site.  It sloped terribly, so bad that when I pitched my tent my head was 6” above my feet in the tent.  This was not good for sleeping but it did keep my tent from flooding.  Well after I dug a trench around the tent to allow the water to run around it instead of in it.  But it rain so hard I could not leave the tent for 4 days.  When I could, I left, I had enough!  On the drive home I told myself I would find a better way to camp.

After arriving home I started researching a better way to camp.  Not just to get off the wet ground but my old baddy has a hard time sleeping on hard ground anyway.  I tried pads and inflatable mattresses but nothing had worked.  Then after searching a lot of camping web sites I came across www.hammockforums.net.  After reading there for a few weeks I decided to give hammock camping a try.  I bought a Hennessy Hammock from a local outdoor sports equipment store.  And my first night sleeping in it in my back yard changed my life.  I now own about 11 different hammocks.

I won’t try to go into any real depth here since you can read all about them on the Hammock Forums web site, but the quick introduction is these camping hammocks are comfortable, so comfortable that I sleep in one about three nights a week at home.  As soon as I build a house, my bed in the house will be a hammock.  You can get these hammocks with bug nets and tarps to protect you from the elements.  You are hanging above the ground so no bugs can get to you.  You don’t have to have clear level ground under you.  Heck, I have hung on trees over water!  A good hammock can bet set up in about half the time a tent takes and taking it down is even quicker.  They also pack smaller and are easier to carry.

Go ahead, visit the Hammock Forums and learn about this hammock camping.  You might even see the Riverpirate there.  You too can be well hung in just a few days.

Here is just one of my hammcoks set up for camping.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Year With The Long Rod

I have dabbled in fly fishing for most of my fishing life, well since I was about 18 anyway.  But in the last few years, more and more of my fishing clients seem to be fly fishermen.  I figured if I was going to be able to guide these clients and help them catch shoal bass on the fly rod, I had better get a little more serious about using them.  I made a New Year’s resolution that I would use only a fly rod for the whole year of 2011.  That is one of the best resolutions I have ever made and probably the only one I have kept.

To be honest, I figured I would be little handicapped.  I knew I was not a good caster, I don’t tie flies (yet), and everybody knows big fish eat big baits not little pieces of feather and fur.  I was wrong.  I did cheat a little some this year throwing plastics on the fly rod (see last Blog) but I also caught some good fish on feathers and fur.  I did, however, learn that the long rod is not a handicap.  In fact, there were many days when I caught more and bigger fish than some of the people I was fishing with.  I also learned how to cast a fly rod pretty good, a difficult task sitting in a kayak or standing in a canoe.

Another lesson learned is a good rod and reel does make a difference.  I updated my rods and reels to some better equipment.  I am not saying you need to spend huge amounts of money on fly rods and reels for bass fishing but I know, for me, better equipment seemed to improve my casting.  If nothing else I had more confidence in the better equipment.  My favorite rods that I tried this year were the TFO BVK and a new rod by Sage called the ONE.  There is a huge price difference between these rods but honestly not a huge performance difference.  Either will improve you casting especially with heavier bass flies and the “not fly fishing” plastics I am throwing.

If you haven’t tried fly fishing for bass, or any other fish for that matter, you should give it a try.  Not only is it a lot of fun, it really is a very effective way to catch fish.  There are real advantages like faster and more accurate presentations, stealthier (is that a word?), and with lighter lures, even longer casts.  In fact, it is just awesome.  So awesome in fact that I intend to fish with a fly rod only again for 2012, heck maybe forever.  I have attached a few pictures of some of my better catches this past year on the long rod.  I think you will agree it is just awesome.




Monday, August 15, 2011

Plastics on The Fly Rod

Before I begin, I should warn you, if you are a traditional fly fisherman that believes only hand tied flies belong on the end of a fly line then you may want to stop right here.  But if you go fishing to catch fish and you understand the advantages of using a fly rod to do so, I am about to share something with you that will add to your success on the water.

First a little background.  I have been fishing all my life, or at least most of it.  And while I have dabbled in fly fishing over the years, I have mostly used bait casters.  I have always considered fly fishermen at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to catching fish.  I am not sure why I thought that, but I did.  After some encouragement from a fly fishing pal of mine, Jim Neilson, I decided to pick up a fly rod and try it.  Since I don’t tie my own flies, I bought what my research said was the best flies for catching my favorite fish, the shoal bass.  They worked, sort of.  But I did not have the success I was having using some of my favorite soft plastics on the bait caster.

Despite many of my river fishing friends throwing big baits, I have always done very well with small crawfish and baitfish imitations on my bait caster.  Of course these small plastics required a little weight on the line to be able to cast them.  You just can’t cast a very light weight piece of plastic very far on a bait caster.  So one day I look at my old faithful small plastics and wonder if I could cast on my fly rod?  I asked around on a few sites and I got comments from “try it, it might work” to “that’s not fly fishing .“  But my pal Jim said “try it and let us know how it does.”  Thanks to Jim, I have had my best year on the river ever.  Not only has my catch rate increased but so has my success on big shoal bass.

It makes a lot of sense if you think about it.  This light weight crawfish imitation weighs about what a real crawfish weighs and this baitfish imitation weighs about what a real minnow weighs.  On top of that, the action from these un-weighted baits is almost exactly the action of the real thing.  Very erratic actions and slow falls just like an injured bait.  The un-weighted crawfish just tumbles in the current like a dead or dying crawfish.  What could be better?  A hand tied fly you say?  Not in my experience.

Hand tied baitfish flies do not dart side to side like this plastic baitfish imitation.  Hand tied crawfish patterns fold up when the feathers get wet and are not much more that a wooly bugger.  They will catch some bass but not nearly at the rate I have found with these plastics.  So what are these small plastic baits you ask?  They are the Zoom Super Fluke Jr. and the Yum Craw Papi.  Colors matter too.  My most successful colors are the pearl white and the baitfish colors for the Fluke and the Crawdad color for the Craw Papi.  Others work but these are the closest to the real thing I have found.

Throwing these small plastics on a fly rod is not real easy but with a little practice you can do it.  I use a 7 wt. rod.  A 6wt. seems to be just a little light and an 8wt. is a bear to cast all day.  A 7wt. also has just the right feel to make landing a big bass fun while not being to light that you cannot get them to hand in strong current.  I throw them on straight 15 pound fluorocarbon leaders.  No you don’t need 15 most of the time but 15 pound line sure helps if you get a wind knot and it hold up to a little more abrasion on the rocks.  Another little trick I have learned is using the right hook.  The back cast and the forward cast can “pull the skirts down” on these baits.  You need a hook that will keep them on and not slide down the hook.  The best hook I have found is the Gamakatsu Skip Gap hook.  This hook was designed to skip plastics under docks while holding them on the hook.  They work perfect for casting the baits on the fly rod.

You may not consider casting small plastics on a fly rod fly fishing, and maybe it isn’t?  But I can tell you one thing, if you want to catch more and bigger bass on a fly rod, these baits will do it or my name is not River Pirate.  Try them and let me know how you did.  I bet you catch more and bigger bass than you ever have on a hand tied fly.

The lures and hook:

The Craw Papi rigged:


The Super Fluke Jr. rigged:

The results:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Georgia's Bass Record

By now you have probably heard that Georgia’s world record largemouth bass caught by George Perry in 1932 has been tied.  Yep, a fellow named Manabu Kurita caught a 22 pound 5 oz largemouth bass in Lake Biwa in Shinga Prefecture of Japan, never mind that largemouth are not native to Japan.  I think official claims are that the record is tied.  But in my opinion if the bass weight is .00001 ounces more than Mr. Perry’s, the record was beat.  It was bound to happen sooner or later but it was a good long ride for our state.  But not to worry, Georgia has another record bass.  One I believe is of even more important and one I believe is not marketed as it should be.  

There are eight species of black bass recognized in the United States.  The largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass (both Alabama Spots and Kentucky spots, they are separate species now), shoal bass, redeye bass, Suwannee bass and the Guadalupe bass all make up the recognized black bass species.  Actually I believe the Bartram’s bass is also a separate black bass species but that has yet to be scientifically confirmed.  Of these, eight, possibly nine species, Georgia’s has all but one, the Guadalupe.  The Guadalupe is native only to Texas.  No other state can make that claim.  That seems to me to be a record Georgia should be proud of and one Georgia should advertise and promote to fishermen around the world.  In a week or less in the spring a fisherman could visit Georgia and catch each of these species with little to no problem.  For any bass fisherman, that should be a reason to Go Fish Georgia.  Why is that not a part of the Governor’s Go Fish Georgia campaign?

Why does Georgia hold this record?  The record is due to one resource and that resource is Georgia’s rivers.  That’s right; rivers hold the key to this Georgia record.  While some of the black bass species can live in lakes or reservoirs some like the Suwannee and the shoal bass can only live and thrive in flowing waters.  Add to this the fact that Georgia has cooler waters in the north end of the state where some like the smallmouth live and warmer waters in the southern end where the Suwannee bass live and Georgia has all the right waters to allow these many black bass species to thrive.  In fact, it is possible in some of Georgia’s rivers to catch as many as 5 of these black bass species in the same day on the same river.  That is another record Georgia should be proud of.  If you do not yet understand the importance of Georgia’s rivers read on.

 Along with these black bass, Georgia’s rivers contain sunfish of many species, stripers, hybrids, gar, Grinnell, jacks, many species of catfish including the sometimes enormous flathead, sturgeon, American shad and many other fish species most people don’t fish for.  So as you can see, Georgia’s rivers have a nearly endless variety of fish to pursue.  Even Georgia’s world record largemouth was a result of its river system.  The record largemouth caught by Mr. Perry was caught from an ox-bow lake off the Ocmulgee River.  An ox-bow lake is a small lake formed when the river changes it course and an elbow of the river is cut off from the main river flow.  These ox-bows are fed by the rivers when they flood with some still connected by small streams to the rivers.  Do you see the importance of Georgia’s rivers now?

Yes Georgia still holds a bass record.  A record only possible because of Georgia’s rivers.  A record Georgia should not only be proud of but one Georgia should promote.  A record a young fellow from Japan can never break.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Pirate Looks At 50

No, that is not an original title.  Jimmy Buffett wrote a book of the same title when he turned 50 (a good read by the way).  My life is not as interesting as Jimmy’s so it is not worthy of a book.  I thought a blog was more my style.  I love telling stories of my fishing adventures.  I have even written about a few of them in a local Georgia Sporting magazine.  I figured, as I look age 50 in the eye it is time to start writing these stories down before I am too old to remember them.
I look at 50 with both sorrow and wonder.  I am sorry I have wasted so many days of the first 50 years of my life and I wonder what the next years hold.  I have already tasted the fear of death with a heart attack last year just before turning 49.  It has been a long year of depression.  Depression set on by the realization that I am not that immortal young man anymore.  But I have come out of it with a greater understanding of life and what is important.
I use to think “he who died with the most toys wins” and I worked hard to have a lot of toys.  But now I realize it is the simple things in life that are most important.  A tug on the end of a fly rod, the sound of the river running through the shoals, a glass of good single malt scotch (probably the most expensive of my vices), a campfire shared with friends, laying in a hammock.  Yes it is time to slow down at 50 and enjoy the simple things in life.
I am not sure what the future holds but I am sure God has a plan for me or else He would have taken me last year.  I do know that I have plans for the future.  Those plans are to fish, to fish more than I ever have, to fish with friends, old and new.  To fish places I have never fished and places I have not been since I went there as a child with my Grandfather.  My Grandfather…….now there are some memories.
My Grandfather started me fishing when I was old enough to hold a pole.  My first fish was a bluegill as I recall.  So big he almost pulled me off the bank and into the pond.  Pound for pound (my pounds against his) that was probably the largest fish I have ever caught but more importantly it was that fish that started my passion for fishing.  I have since fished all over the southeast following my Grandfather around as a young boy and fishing bass tournaments as a grown man.  But no matter where I fish or what I catch those simple days on the pond or river with my Grandfather were the most fun.
It is time to stop blabbering about the past and to move forward and make new stories to tell.  So here I go and here I will write them down for all to follow.  I hope many of you will join me but if not at least follow me.  This is going to be fun.  See you on the river.