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Monday, November 12, 2018


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Cold November Rain...

The forecast for my hunting property was 100 percent chance of rain. Ugghh,  It seemed like every time I had a vacation day to hunt this fall it was raining. After killing a ten pointer last week and with venison in the freezer I just couldn't bring myself to sitting 20 feet up in a tree in the pouring rain again. Time to fish for a day or two till the rain quits then go climb some trees.
So the little car was completely stuffed with fishing AND hunting junk and off I went. South. South till I hit clear water. Which ended up being the Tennessee River, one of my absolute favorite places on earth. It rained pretty much the whole way which pretty much let me know what I was in for. But I was ready. A heavy fleece over a shirt. Then a lightweight frog tog rain windbreaker. Then an old pair of waders over all that topped by a rain jacket. Short of a dunking in the river I was going to stay pretty dry and warm.
As always the Tennessee did not disappoint. Five minutes in and I caught a nice striper, I'd guess 14 or 15 pounds. Yeah, I know, there's no photo of a 15 lb  striper.  Well.. I dropped it.  Down a huge flat slippery rock it went like one of those giant slides at the fair. Right back into the river. I did catch 6 or 7 other stripers just none as big as the first. Plus a carp the size of a dog, about a billion drum, a smallmouth buffalo and a nice blue cat. All on a big curly shad fished on a two ounce jighead. Yep two ounces, they have some current below those big TVA dams. 
Plus a couple walleye after dark including one that was an absolute pig. I'm thinking okay this is another carp or blue till it rolled up. Oh wow, please please please don't come off. I don't catch very many walleye back home in my smallmouth rivers and I was just thrilled with this one. 
No rain the next day, time to head for the hills of southeastern Ohio. Google maps didn't want me to take 75 all the way instead the route was  up thru Eastern Kentucky. What a swell drive. I did get stuck behind an Amish horse and buggy for a bit, then an old guy in an old pickup that slowly drove as much on the wrong side of a twisty road as he did his own and then I followed for a while a pickup with a huge whitetail buck thrown in the back. I was very much at home in Eastern Ky, I really need to find me some smallmouth streams down this way. 
Finally across the big river at Portsmouth and down a couple gravel roads to my place. More of a camping, scouting, tree stand placing trip than anything. By nightfall it was clear. Really really clear and the temps were dropping like a rock. By dawn my cars thermometer would say it was 21. But I had plenty of wood for the fire and stayed up half the night looking at the stars and counting shooting stars. Seven BTW and two of those were those big ones that look green instead of white. I also cooked an easy but fabulous camping meal that I highly recommend. Pork sausage, onion, mushroom and bell pepper sautéed in a bit of oil then when that is done dump in a can of Campbells Jambalaya and a pack of instant red beans and rice. Stuffed I crawled under the tarp shelter which was catching the sun and shielding the wind and took a midday nap in the woods.....

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The buck...

I pulled up to a parking spot in the lot. There across the street was where the old house was. I never was too attached to the place to be honest, too much of a maintenance nightmare too much money down the drain. I didn't mind seeing it leveled and gone. But down the street was a different story. Here at the end of the street were where the tracks were, leading from town five or six miles to the next town. Behind old factories and behind old farms, I've never met a soul here. Here I walked several times a week. This felt like home. The tracks were pure nature without the grand views of mountains or waterfalls, instead nature in the form of  blackbirds and groundhogs, thistles and muskrats in the ditches.

I used to come here and walk the tracks and think. Which was what I wanted to do today. Relive the hunt in my mind while it was still fresh. Walking the tracks, dead sycamore leaves rattling on the stones I remembered last night.

I'd been sitting there in the stand watching two squirrels quarrel when I heard a crunch. Not louder really but somehow heavier than the crunch of the squirrels I'd been hearing for the last several hours. The squirrels noticed as well and stopped their quarrel and set up on their haunches and looked in the direction of the sound. A few more crunches and out he stepped.

By now I was about a mile down the tracks at the third little bridge where the tracks crossed a small creek. I crept out to the edge and peered over. Here in the pool under the bridge was a multitude of small fishes. Chubs and minnows, in the clear water I could even see a couple darters hugging the rocks their fins splayed out and strong stripes on their sides. I sat on the concrete bridge abutment watching the fish as my mind wandered back to the buck.

He stepped out into view, materialized seemingly out of thin air in that way only deer can do. A couple more steps and he stopped and looked sideways. Almost posed, showing his profile. My god he was beautiful. I've seen much bigger deer, heck killed bigger deer but I've never seen one so beautiful. He looked simply regal standing there. I think that is what I'll always remember about this deer, him standing there looking so fine. I'll admit after harvesting forty or fifty they have blurred a bit, sometimes the memories get tangled up a bit. But I'm pretty sure this was one of those clear moments that come around every so often that always stand out clear and true over time. 

I slipped off the concrete and stepped into the little creek. I still had on my knee high rubber boots I'd worn hunting. A little creek is nothing if not a window into the past. I walked slowly upstream in a few inches of crystal clear water looking down. You never know what relics of the past you might find in a creek. I've found everything from mastodon teeth to corals from the bottom of ancient oceans to shards of pottery and stone tools. Not far from this very spot a few years ago I found a huge molar. A few days later the guy at the natural history museum said it was a bison tooth. It was hard to imagine wild buffalo here behind the stacks of old pallets out back of the factory. Ocean to mastodon to buffalo to railroad track, it all comes and goes eventually.

The buck took a few more steps forward. The squirrels just turned and matter of factly just hopped away giving the ground to the buck. Now I was looking at him thru a beech tree still holding most of it's leaves. Screening me as well. I ever so slowly began raising the bow. He seemed completely relaxed. Or at least as relaxed as a buck out in daylight can be and I remembered clearly thinking I think I have a chance here.

While reliving the encounter with the buck I'd slowly waded upstream picking up the odd fossil here and there, even pocketing a couple to add to the pile next to the flowerpots at home on the patio. then there it was, a small bird point lying on the creek bottom. I held it in my hand and tried to imagine the hand of the last man holding it. Three hundred years ago? Three thousand? Who among us will ever create anything that lasts much beyond his lifetime? Sure our children will remember us but they too will die and their children will die and then there will be nothing of us left. But here by the oddest chance this man created this thing that lasted thru time. Would the modern arrow that hit a twig in flight a couple weeks ago and was lost last a fraction of this time? Probably a few decades at most. What better a talisman to remember a bowhunt by than a stone point?

Another step and the buck stepped out from behind the beech and into the open. I made a terrible shot. One of the worst I've made on a deer in years and hit him high. Perfectly high and he took a leap and piled up right under the tree. It had been a long season, full of drizzle and rain every time I went out. Long wet days spent staring out into an empty silent woods and then suddenly this beautiful deer and there he was lying right under the tree. I spoke out loud sincerely thanking the woods and thanking the spirit of the deer before climbing down. I've never been a whooper or a hollerer after a kill. Anytime you kill something it is a solemn moment. Pure and right with nature but solemn. Anyone who has ever gutted a deer or cleaned a rabbit knows this is damn serious business and I'm never self conscious about thanking the deer and the woods afterward.

I turned and began heading back down the creek towards the tracks. A doe that had stood back in the brush and had let me pass without my noticing flushed in a blur of motion and flashing white tail when I turned back towards her...

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Fall football...

Haven't fished too much this week, trying to get things done around the house since much of next month will be spent up a tree chasing whitetails. Tonight was just too pretty an evening not to sneak out for an hour. On a 1/8th ounce jighead and Coomer 3 inch smoke metalflake grub fished on six pound test since the river is as clear as it ever gets. In about three feet of water next to current and about thirty yards up from the deepest slowest hole in this section of river

Wednesday, October 24, 2018


I go over the last little rise in the path where I can see the river. What the??? Yep there is a guy fishing the spot. My spot. A spot that has produced as many big fish for me as anywhere. I watch for a bit. He's got nice tackle, a backpack, expensive waders. He's even fashionable.... #$@%
I back slowly away. If the river was 70 degrees I might wander down and say hi but it's that last bit of the good stuff. When you fish those special places you have spent years sniffing out. Those places you keep tucked away for just a couple weeks each fall that you wouldn't tell your sister about. %$#^&
Okay plan B. Back to the car and I drive downstream to another not so good spot. Little did I know the fish god was about to reward me. I just walked down made a dozen casts and then Thump. Hey this seems like a pretty good fish. I'm actually thinking big saugeye till it jumps. A beautiful cover of field and stream jump. Just a fraction past the 20 inch mark on my rod. One of the nicest fish of the entire year. It's funny as big as she looks in that photo it really doesn't do her justice. On a Vic Coomer paddleswim fished on a 1/4 ounce jighead in about six feet of water below right below some faster shallow water and about a good long cast upstream of a big eddy where she will spend the winter. It was a pretty swell walk back to the car under a gorgeous full moon as dark began to fall...

a bit of fishing

So yeah I hadn't posted any fishing pictures in like a week and a half or two. I guess you fish too much when people start messaging you asking if you are all right. Then I got a few messages like hey I'm really catching fish, if you want you can come here and I can help you... The truth is with the fall bite delayed by all the warm weather at the beginning of the month the peak fishing hit right when bowhunting started. So every moment has been spent hunting or fishing or unloading hunting stuff and loading fishing stuff or vice versa and just trying to cram it all in. So here is a photo dump of fishing photos from the last seven or eight days. The fishing has just been outstanding with smallmouth murdering a big triple wing buzzbait at first then a Vic Coomer paddleswim as the water cooled off. I also wasted a few days chasing one fish, I hooked and lost twice off the same rock two days apart as big a smallmouth as I've ever seen around here so I hammered that spot for a few days with no luck. Except for the Ohio River the four other streams I fished are as low and clear as I've ever seen them this time of year. One of the highlights was a trip where the sun was hitting the water just right and I could sight fish smallmouth, stalking and casting to them and watching two fish fight over who was going to get to the lure first. Low point was ripping a six inch gash in my waders tonight on the wrong side of a 53 degree river I had to wade across up to my waist a mile from the car. Luckily I did have some hunting clothes in the car and I stripped naked in the parking lot. Again luckily no one pulled in right then. I found quite a few hybrids in the Ohio river from about a half pound up the ones you see in the photos. No giants but a lot of fun midday between hunting trips. Speaking of giants it's the first paddlefish I've seen posted this year so I'll answer the usual comments. It's a paddlefish or spoonbill catfish, whichever you want to call it. Yes they are endangered in Ohio and yes I released it. If you fish either below the dams or out in front of deeper creek mouths in the Ohio river in cold weather you have a good chance of snagging one while trying to catch hybrids or sauger. Once it gets a bit colder there will probably be quite a few posted on here. Every now and then someone even catches one below east fork or ceasars creek dam but the vast majority come from the Ohio. One cool thing about them is sometimes they will even jump two or three times which is what this one did besides trying to completely spool me. Tonight the river was 53 with cold weather forecasted for every day this week so the main peak of the best smallmouth fishing is probably passing though winter can be trophy time. All in all it's been a pretty swell couple weeks.