Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A moment of twang, please.

Earl Scruggs died today.  I discovered Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson simultaneously when I discovered the "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" album from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.  I started picking the banjo about a year later, though after more than a decade of messin' around with it off and on, I'm still just a novice.

There are only a few things that lift my mood almost instantly, and listening to good banjo picking is one of those things.

Here's to you, Earl.

Brayshaw pretending to be Earl, circa 1996.

Friday, March 23, 2012

New Products for Spring

Stopped to peer over a bridge on my way home today, and saw a carp feeding voraciously.  I find it mesmerizing - almost like staring at a fire.  It's such a different kind of fishing, carping is, from so many of the other types I do.  How could anybody not like it?

When I looked over the bridge, I saw some discolored water right away, and before long saw the clouds of "fresh" mud coming up.  In a few minutes the fish had worked its way into shallower water, and I could see it, and then the orange lips (Ohh, how I love them!!) flaring as it fed.

It's a high traffic bridge, but it would be a great vantage point for filming the stalk, cast, and slurp.

Of course, within 10 minutes, it was pouring down rain, just as predicted.  I suspect in the morning there will be no point in going back.   

Now I'm drowning my sorrows in hard liquor.

Please join me.  Grab a glass, sit back, and take a tour with me.  This is Buffalo Trace bourbon.  It's very good.

Buffalo Trace.  It's very good.
A few weeks ago, I was visiting my father and finally got around to bringing home, for purposes of Culvert posts and, maybe, musky fishing, two large boxes of old musky lures.  Some of these are about 20 years old, and I purchased them.  Others are older, purchased by my father or, in some cases, his father.  His father is, of course, The Musky Man, and if you haven't read that story, you should.  Read parts One and Two.  

Among the lures in those boxes was this wooden jointed Pikie Minnow, made by the Creek Chub Lure Company from Garrett, Indiana.  The world-record largemouth bass was caught on a Creek Chub lure. 

Jointed Pikie Minnow

1931 catalog page

How to catch muskies

I'm working my way through these as I go.  This is Bushmill's Irish Whiskey.  I don't particularly care for it, and not just because Jonny is English.  It just doesn't do it for me.  I suspected as much when I bought it, having tried some other Irish whiskey a few months before.  But it seemed necessary to round out my collection.  Does anybody have any fucking idea why the font just changed?

Irish.  Not English.
Now I can't figure out why all my text is centered.  Jonny, fix this shit later, OK?  Here we have a couple of Musky Thrillers by the Suick Company, out of Antigo, Wisconsin.  These are a classic lure, made famous back in the 1930s when Frank Suick started catching a lot of big muskies on them. The smaller one here is a bit beat up, but the larger one, with the box, appears to have never seen action.  The paint and the hooks are pristine, despite that the box appears to be fairly old.

Suick Musky Thrillers.
These large topwater spinners are Musky Haws, from the Marathon Bait Company.  This is the lure that Grandpa caught the big musky on.  When I opened the old boxes, there were these three, plus several more off-brand spinners that were virtually identical.  I asked my father why he had so many Musky Hawks.  "Somebody catches a huge musky on a lure, you go buy more of them."

Musky Hawks: Marathon Bait Company.  You should buy several.

This is a wheat whiskey from Bernheim.  It's a lot like bourbon, but by using wheat instead of rye, the distillers make a smoother whiskey.  I like this stuff, too.

Wheat makes it smooth.

The Famous Grouse Scotch Whisky.  This was the first in my collection.  Not this particular bottle, mind you.

Famous Grouse: required.
The larger lure pictured here is a Musky Ike, a larger version of the famous Lazy Ike lure.  These lures were made by hand in Fort Dodge, Iowa in the 1930s, eventually made on wood lathes, and then, in 1960, the company started making them out of plastic.  This large one is wooden.  The smaller lures are called "Fly Ikes", and so far as I can tell, they are little bitty Lazy Ikes designed to be fished with a fly rod.  They're small enough that they'd be easier to cast than a Clouser Minnow, but the hooks are so damn small that I'd be afraid you'd never get them out of a fish's gullet.

Musky Ike and babies.

 Have you noticed that my text is no longer centered?  I can't explain it.  In any event, this is Bulleit Rye Whiskey.  Rye was, of course, the whiskey that the first American distillers, such as George Washington, were making before they discovered how useful corn could be for making bourbon.  This rye has some bite to it, and it's far from my favorite, but I felt it necessary to include it.  I'm drinking it now, too, and one thing I've noticed is that this blooging software has a spellcheck feature.  But look: it can't fix my misspelling of "blogging"!  How ironic is that!?

Rye:  even blooger can spell that.

Tennessee whiskey, by Jack Daniels.  Not a big favorite of mine, but this bottle was free, courtesy of my father-in-law (who drinks Grouse).

Tennessee Whiskey: I can't remember how they make it.

Some spoons.  The Daredevil is a classic, of course, especially the red and white.  But I was always partial to the Johnson Silver Minnow, the spoon pictured at the far right.  One of these, with a pork rind and trailer hook, brought a lot of pike to hand.  I can barely write "to hand" with a straight face.

Who doesn't like spooning?

Alright.  This is real fucking funny.  Ha ha.  Why is this text centered again??!!  Jonny!!!!!!

Here are a few more lures.  The Cisco Kid plugs come from the Suick Company.
The Jitterbug, by Arbogast, that most people know is the little one designed for largemouth bass.  But these Musky Jitterbugs are huge, with three sets of treble hooks.  They go "glug...glug...glug...KA PLOW!!!!!!!!", where the kaplow part is the pike hitting it.

The Mepps spinners are classic pike and musky lures, and you should have some.  The Rapala crankbiats come from Finland, which is why I can never figure out whether it's pronounced RA-pala, with the accent on the first syllable, or ra-PA-la, with the accent on the second.

Cisco Kids

Jitterbugs.  Glug...glug...glug...KAPOW!!!!

Mepps Spinners

Rapala.  Rapala.  Let's call the whole thing off.
I noticed above that the blooger software can't spell crank bait either.  And look, not only is my font aligned left now, but it has changed yet again.  SOme say whiskey makes people mean, but this is simply not so.  If it did, this blooger software would really be pissing me off right now.  But it's not.  At all.

This is Evan Williams bourbon.  This is affordable, and very good, stuff.  I call it my "everyday whiskey", although I do not drink it everyday. Typically, I don't drink nearly as much of it as I have tonight, either.  But I call it my "everyday whiskey" because it's good, but nothing special.  When guests come, they can drink your whole bottle, and you won't even sweat it.  You just go buy another.  When I first started drinking it, my wife couldn't remember the name, and kept calling it "Bob Evans".  This is funny if you live in the midwest as I do.  

Everyday whiskey, but not for every day.

Well, it looks like we've reached the end of our little tour.  Jonny will come along later with the little trash can he carries on his wading belt and clean up this post for us.  Thanks Jonny!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What gives, Chandler?

Recently, while poking around the viewing statistics page of The Culvert, I noticed this obscene spike in views.  I've seen this before, and it always means one of two things: either we've been picked up by some website trying to sell penis enlargers, or The Trout Underground has featured another Culvert post.

Well, sure enough, Chandler has squeaked* us again, hence the big spike in views.  And we're certainly grateful for it.  More views inevitably leads to greater and greater riches.

But as I was staring at the views spike, a revelation hit me square between the eyes.  This graph looks suspiciously like the streamflow chart for my local stream...the local stream that I have not been able to fish because every damn time it approaches fishable levels, we get another gully-washer and my carp flats and smallmouth pools turn into Class 6 whitewater.

For reference purposes, this stream is fishable at Gage Heights well below 4.0, and 12.0 is about 2,000 CFS in a stream that fishes well at about 75.

Though I've found no temporal connection between these spikes, the resemblance of form is uncanny, don't you think?

I think it's pretty clear that Chandler is behind this. 

I'd like to fish soon, Tom.  Please...

- Brayshaw

[* Editors comment:  It's called "tweeted". Brayshaw does not use "social media".  Our apologies.  He just doesn't know any better.]

Monday, March 19, 2012

Don't Even Think About It

No hope is what we give ourselves every time, at least if we have sound control of our egos (Culvert readers are proper adults who shun Angling Expert Status and thus are comfortable in this bracket). But they fuck us up, these trout streams, and we tend to lie, you see. Even when we say we're Just Going for a Few Casts, what we're predisposed to want and thus expect is rising trout/stripers/carp, and big ones too. I have found (I am now convinced) that when I actually believe - in a very, very pure way - that the fishing/weather will suck, it's as likely to be really, really good.    

This was Saturday. I was to be kayak fishing with the boys on the Sabbath, not on Saturday (the first sign that the fishing would be really, really good, on Saturday); so even when the chance arose, I didn't know where I'd go and thus gave no advance warning for my small brain to start cultivating a switch-back scenario where expectations of greatness are longed for in a played down, English-Jonny-doth-lie-to-himself, sort of way. So I threw a half-arsed text to Zakur about the recent performance of Stream X, sure in the knowledge that I'd be following his lead assuredly into the valley of Other Things that are not fishing. It was entirely unexpected, then, when I met young Z at 2pm, primed with short fly rods, cigars and The Flask.

But we had no hope because this was all impossibly ad hoc, see. And this is almost certainly why there were caddis and stoneflies and midges everywhere. And trout risings, pretty much, everywhere. The stream hadn't been stocked. These weren't stockies. (I don't know if this matters, but when you first find a slew of rising fish and realize what you might be in for, and then realize they're wild, it just gets that bit better.) The stream is big enough to be tough, but small enough to be personable and familiar. Medium sized, basically. And running a perfect height of finest London Dry Gin, this day that does not exist. No other anglers were visible, and I was in shirt-sleeves, but of course.

The first fish was a beautiful little brown trout.  

The reel conveys to the reader that English Jonny is a fly fisherman, not a worm hunter.

Bugs were everywhere, but I had a cigar.
Orange trout backs were porpoising to stone flies in clear, deep water; the scenario that is so lovely we think it cliched only because we lie that it can never happen when we want it so badly. Anyway, it's pretty much the finest thing I will ever see. Two large trout working a log jam midstream. My cast is some kind of nymph leading to a caddis dry on the dropper (yes, I know that's all wrong, but I'd rigged for nymphs and lazily clipped off the tail nymph when confronted with rises). At Z's insistence, I knelt on the cobble at the pool's head, and when the caddis went under, it was eaten by this: 

This is a beautiful creature, and quite possibly the nicest looking specimen I've wrestled with.
Up-date: Here I am playing that fish. It was rising next to the jam on the right. I'm grateful that this picture captures the bend in my little 7' 4wt, which is smaller than my ears.
The next up-stream riffle and bend was alive with rising brown trout, and by now I'm remembering - through a haze of muddy fumblings with stripers and carp - just how supremely satisfying it is to be privy to such a thing. Again Z played the perfect host, all but letting me have best vantage from above the riffle, where three casts later, this delightful trout is running hard to the foot of the pool, giving me rare pause to actually think about the drag on my trout reel.

Best Trout River In The world.
We fished on, walking the banks, poking hither and yon. Zakur missed a few takes (he clearly needs to adopt my new Dry Fly Below Nymph Rig; article coming soon!) and I fished in that half-arsed way you do when you've had plenty of cream already. It was a superb day. 

Medium sized. Zakur knows this stream like his study.

Oh, and Sunday's trip went just like we planned it.

My back is in spasm. No fish did we catch.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Worms make sexy time.

A potential double.  Don't screw this up.

Tuesday Night:  Catch the bait.

It’s not particularly complex.  You wait until dark, and if it’s raining lightly or at least recently rained, so much the better.  It seems to me the best places are lawns with some open patches.  Too much grass is too much grass and too much dirt is too much dirt.  The nightcrawlers come out, looking to mate, and can be spotted glistening in the light of your flashlight.  The flashlight must be bright enough to see the worms, but a very bright one will put them down quickly. When I was good at this, I knew how to use the sweet spot of the flashlight’s glow to spot the worms, but to then use the glow’s periphery to keep the worm illuminated without alarming it. 

What you do next, or rather how well you do it, is what determines if you’re a worm catcher or not.   Most nightcrawlers will not be completely out of their holes, and they can retreat surprisingly quickly once spooked.  It’s essential, therefore, that you grab them quickly and, if at all possible, grab them by the part closest to the hole.  Fortunately, they’re color-coded: the part of the worm that is darkly-colored is farthest from the hole.  So grab the pale end.  They will instantly attempt to retreat, and they’re slippery, so many will slip through your fingers. If you do get a good grip, you must apply a steady pull.  The reason you must apply a constant pull is that the worms have setae (small bristles) that they use to hold themselves tight to the hole.  Eventually, they tire and the setae relax. However, if you pull too hard you’ll break the worm in two.  This won’t affect the quality of the worm for fishing, of course, but broken worms are a sign of shoddy work.  Do your job and do it well.

Because the worms are here to mate, you will sometimes - and, under the right conditions, often – find mating pairs.  This is your chance to score a double.  Last night, I scored just one but, to my credit, it was the only double I saw.  I recall nights when I was younger where I got dozens of doubles in a single night.  There were a lot of things I could do multiple times in a night when I was younger.

I’m a bit rusty, and it’s harder for me to walk all hunched over, but by and large, I’ve still got it. In the end, I suspect I caught about 20 nightcrawlers.  Many were small to medium-sized.  The biggest ones are rare and hard to catch, as it should be.  They don’t get big by being easy to catch.  I missed a lot of real bruisers, but caught a few.  It’s true that I can buy a dozen worms from the local Wal-mart for about two dollars, but I’m glad I didn’t.  My lower back is killing me, but it’s the good kind of hurt.

Wednesday: Catch the fish.

I had high hopes.  But though the air temperature might be 78, it takes a while for the water to warm up, and I’m not a very good early-season smallmouth bass fisherman.  It turns out, though, that I’m pretty good at catching striped shiners.  I managed to pull four or five of these out of one spot using nightcrawlers, and then later got three more on small marabou jigs drifted under a bobber.  Unfortunately these fish are unremarkable in all ways.

Silver shiner.

Eventually, I managed to take this single small bass from a favorite spot just as I was about to give up. 

Year's first.

Moderately satisfied, I decided to end the day and head home for a cold beer but not before walking a recently scoured gravel bed for arrowheads.  I came up short here, too, but instead scored this very nice trilobite fossil, the only one I’ve ever found. I sent the photo to a trilobite expert I knew during school, and he thinks he might be from the family Dalmanitidae.  It’s probably about 400,000,000 to 450,000,000 years old, give or take a few.  This makes it more remarkable, in many ways, than a mess of striped shiners.

450 million years old

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pulaski Skunk

For now, just pictures:



38 Zero Gs

Wet English

Lots of these.

The Jet Boil. Pure genius.
Bright, warm, Spring sun.
Saw a Bald Eagle here (note: blue skies).

Time to go home (note: cold, wet.)

Note: Shitting down with snow.

I caught this one in 2010. It's for Sam.

Friday, March 2, 2012

From the Vault: Anadromy

Herring are already showing up on the Cape, and this event reminded me of young Brayshaw's very first article on The Angler's Culvert. It's been a number* of years since these early works, and I wanted to recount this one, about the cycle and about herring. I'm sure readers will agree -- it's a bobby dazzler.
Herring Fly

*Exactly 2.