Thursday, June 30, 2011

Yes, You DO Have a Spot to Take Your Kids Fishing!

Take me out to the ball game....
Yup.  That's a sunfish. From a pond. Behind a baseball field.  The facts that it's a tiny fish, and that I caught 30 of them in 20 minutes, are pretty secondary.  I look forward to teaching my son to fish at a place like this.

I get emails from people almost every week who say, "I wish I could take my kids fishing, but there's nowhere near home in (insert Mid-Atlantic state) with any fish."   You know, maybe that's true in Arizona and northwest Texas.  But it's really not true on the east coast. 



There is no shortage of water with fish in it here.  There's just not.  But I can't seem to convince people of it, and I guess they don't have the same vision as I do.  The more I think about it, the more I think the problem is that when they say "there's nowhere with any fish," they are thinking there's nowhere like this with any fish like this and they don't have a boat like this:


This pic of KVD has been stolen and reposted so many times.....I'll give anybody credit for it who can claim it as theirs!

And see, I'd actually disagree with that too.  You may not have the boat, which means not having the ability to cover as much water in as little time as a pro angler, but normal people catch big fish in normal places all the time, with little more than live bait and a busted up old canoe (or a pair of shoes they're not afraid to get wet). 

But let's accept the totally shady argument that because you don't have a powerboat, you don't have access to big fish.   So I have to ask then - if you are really trying to fish with and for your kids, why do the fish have to be big?  Are you really eating largemouth bass at your house?

In my opinion (now having had assisted several friends with teaching their kids to fish), taking your kids fishing should be based on:

1. Teaching them basic water safety and basic fishing skills, i.e. casting and baiting a hook, not wading into moving water or water that has any real depth.
2. Teaching them the "feel" of hooking a fish and getting the fish "to hand."
3. Teaching them to be comfortable with the other things going on around the stream, pond, or river - from beavers to herons to snakes.  From cold water to hot sun.
4. Allowing them to explore at their own pace.
5. Having fun - or else all is for naught.  This means prepping your gear ahead of time, bringing a cooler full of snacks, and bringing a dry set of clothes for everybody. 

When you're feeling like there is nowhere to take the kids fishing, think about those 5 points above.  And then start to re-evaluate the landscape around you.  Some places to look:

  • Suburban streams that have flow in the summer months, and also have plant cover like lily pads, or animals like crayfish, that indicate decent water quality and food for small baitfish
  • Abandoned gravel and sand quarry pits (inspect the site for basic safety & no trespassing signs before taking your kids)
  • Stormwater ponds on college campuses (they are less likely to use chemicals to kill off the fish)
  • Older wetland mitigation areas surrounding highways and suburban developments - newly restored wetlands rarely hold fishable water all year, but projects built in the 1980s-early 1990s have deep pools that most certainly will hold fish
  • Small/old water supply reservoirs - if they're not open to fishing all the time, small towns usually have "fishing derbies" or other similar events to allow kids to fish a few days per year. 
These are just a few of the many types of fishing opportunities available in urban and suburban areas on the east coast.  In this age of google maps, there's no excuse for not knowing where some of them are, and then checking them out for "kid suitability" before you fish them.  You will catch fish. Eventually.  They will usually be small.  But not always.  And if you're still convinced that these "low rent" fishing spots don't hold big fish, well then you better not look at these pictures.




Nice largemouth at a stormwater pond overflow structure.  This could be you.


See the chain link fence? That's a stormwater pond. And a HUGE bass.



Peacock bass from the bank of a residential canal.  Not difficult.  Big, fun, fish.


And remember - pack a camera!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hank Discovers the Gunpowder River

This child is uglier, and maybe stupider,
 than my child.  Maybe it's that Mungo haircut?
Just sayin'.

As someone who's not formally trained as an environmental educator, I had, and continue to have, no idea of when Hank, my 21 month old son, will truly start differentiating between the indoors world and the outdoors world.   For the first year of his life, he clearly had no idea.  Over the last 9 months, he seems to have fallen into a mindset that the outdoors is really just a bigger version of indoors, with more stuff to see and a bigger space to explore.  And trust me, this is despite the fact that he gets outside every single day.

Today, I saw Hank's brain make a seismic shift away from that mindset.  It's hard to explain, but it was like his gears stopped and started turning in the opposite direction.

Long story short, I had to take the day off and hang out with him (sigh, cheap day care lady, not always so reliable).  Toward the end of the day, we had some free time and I hadn't spent any quality outdoor time with him.  We were in the neighborhood of the Loch Raven Dam tailrace (Gunpowder River), and I figured with the usual low flows, maybe Hank could run around on the gravel islands in the river.   The place has nearly 10 years of personal history to me (and my fishing, brother T's fishing, and my pre-blogging journal efforts), but that's all best handled in another post somewhere down the line.
I can't really explain the changes that are starting to take place in Hank, but on this day (and the following days we've taken him back to the river), I took pictures.  They tell the story a whole lot better.

Giant Horsetail - Pretty cool!

He pointed and said "Waddell" (water) for the first time!

It's not the bathtub.  It's not the beach.  So what is it?

He was just picking up rocks until I showed him that throwing rocks is fun, too

We had a great geomorphological discussion over whether these fines were colluvium or alluvium.  Just kidding.

Sopping wet, covered in wet sand, and using a rubber gasket (yay river trash) to whip the plants

The Hankster had such a great time, that we took him back to the river twice more over the weekend!


More rock throwing!

Don't really have a good explanation of what's going on here

Mommy told him to sit in the river, so he kind of did

Time for a bath, daddy!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Scout, Scout, Fish on the Lower Shore


  Cyberscouting is truly the devil.  Sure, there has always been an interest by outdoorsmen to get a leg up on the local landscape without putting in the effort, but the internet makes it deceptively easy - and a very dangerous prospect.

The more I use online tools to help find outdoor access spots, the more I'm reminded that I cannot (nor should you) ONLY use online information to figure out the lay of the land.  I've been an outdoorsman for quite a few years at this point, and I've spent a lot of time (for work and for fun) looking at and interpreting aerial photos and satellite imagery of beaches, wetlands and streams.  So I'd like to think I have a darn good idea of what a place will look like before I ever get there.  But you just can't take on-the-ground recon out of the toolbox of a responsible outdoorsperson.

After a recent work trip to the farthest reaches of Maryland's eastern shore, I had four places I wanted to check for fishing and paddling, and to a lesser extent, duck hunting.  I had my 5wt fly rod and my light spinning gear with me, just in case they panned out and immediately seemed fishable....to partially validate my expenditure of free time so far from home.  The four sites were:

1. A pond in the woods behind a small shopping center.  Looked like an abandoned sand/gravel pit
2. A set of dragline ponds in what Google Earth showed as an ambiguously "public" property
3. A set of stormwater ponds in an office park
4. Two abandoned gravel ponds on confirmed state forest property

Site 1 was a disaster.  Far from being a cool, deep gravel pit, it was actually the stormwater pond for the shopping center.  The water was cloudy, brown, and full of trash, with pipes from the parking lot hanging out above the water.   Gross!

My visit to Site 2 was thwarted by a giant set of farm gates across the dirt road that was hung with about 20 "No Trespassing" signs.  My guess is that the landlocked forest and ponds have been purchased by the state or county, but that an access easement has not yet been negotiated with the adjacent farmer.  I was sure glad to find this out at 7pm during a scouting run, and not at 6am with a thought that I would be hunting or fishing those ponds that day! That sure would have been frustrating.

My luck turned at Site 3.  In Maryland, we always have to be careful of cyberscouting stormwater ponds because the state requires that most of them have protective fencing around them so people don't fall in and drown.  If you have to jump over a security fence to get to it, it's like metaphorically crossing the line between "Oh I'm just fishing here for a few minutes, Mr. Rent-A-Cop," and "Yeah, I am definitely trespassing."  Luckily these ponds had no fences at all but they did look pretty shallow for bass.  I'm sure they were full of sunfish and I'm looking forward to flyfishing them sometime this year, since the banks are mowed all the way down to the water.   There's one new (marginal) site for the inventory!

Site 4 was the first big success of the day.  Well-documented to be public, fish jumping through thick mats of vegetation as I was pulling the truck off the road, and with the far bank possibly far enough from the road to be a legal duck hunting spot.   The second pond looked (on the internet) even more promising, but I never made it there.  Why?


The vegetation was insanely thick and bass were jumping at bugs on the surface wherever there was a break in vegetation.  This made for some tedious flycasting, and I lost a green hopper fly to the weeds.  I switched to light spinning tackle and could at least control my casts a little better.  Even though I could tell that there were some monster bass in the pond, I turned my drag off because I knew that if a fish ran out the drag, I'd never see the fish or the lure again.  There were some exciting moments as "bulges of water" would come up quick behind my lure, but I didn't have my first solid hookup until I had walked about 3/4 of the way around the pond.

I tossed the same lure (generic floating goby in silver and black) to a weed-free spot next to an old, giant stump. Burned it back, below the surface, for just a foot and then CHOMP. I knew from that second that it was a bass, and assumed due to the area of the state (very far east and south) that it was a largemouth.
Surprise!




The only reason I can imagine that smallmouth were ever stocked here is because of the sand and gravel bottom.  It still doesn't make much sense.  But ultimately, who cares?  Only my second smallmouth of 2011.   Great way to end a little scouting side trip! 

I drove back up on the road and headed north, then west, back to civilization or something like it.  I had found my one new spot, and even caught a legitimate fish there.  Successful use of 90 minutes? I think so.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Duck Hunter With Common Sense Responds to Jeff Foiles

I'm sure we'd all rather be hunting than discussing this topic! Southern Maryland, January 2011

Two days ago, I posted an update on Jeff Foiles, celebrity hunter and alleged game thief. That blog post has been tossed around and re-posted a dozen times already, and not without comments from Foiles' supporters (and someone saying that for writing about it, I am a "bigger douche than Foiles can ever aspire to be."). Awesome.  As I was finishing up that post, I happened upon Foiles' official statement about the plea bargain he accepted - which (if the judge accepts it) will land him in federal prison for 13 months, cost him $100,000 in fines, and prohibit him for doing any hunting or guiding whatsoever for a period of 2-3 years.  In short, a life-changing but not life-ending (or even career ending) sentence.

The statement itself struck me as quite odd, and with 20 years of duck hunting in about a dozen states under my belt, I thought I'd add a few notes that might help Jeff and his team prepare their next press release.  Honestly, I used to bill $120 per hour for legal advice on wetland and wildlife issues like this. And I haven't testified in open court for a few years, so I'm rusty on cross-examination.  So fire away with your comments!

Today after years and months of trying allegations I can finally say I feel vindicated.
Response: Vindicated?  Bro, you are going to Federal prison for a year. 
Recommended for next time: "I believe a fair outcome was reached."

 The Federal Government conceded from 23 felony counts to 2 misdemeanors, Counts 2 & 5 of the original indictment.
Response: Your point? The Federal Government also "conceded" with Al Capone down to a one year federal sentence on misdemeanor tax evasion. Let's not go there.
Recommended for next time: "By negotiating severe penalties for 2 misdemeanor counts, the prosecutor felt it was reasonable to drop the remaining counts - including all felonies.

The “D& J Strait Meat Duck Club” (now “Fallin' Skies Strait Meat Duck Club”) which was the club at the time, was charged with a false writing act. It was owned during 2002-2008 by myself & partner Dennis Marschuetz and his son Jason Marschuetz.  They admitted to taking many over the limits and writing false names down. They were granted immunity pleas, along with many other guides at the club.
Response: Yeah, I know.  Everybody hates a rat (clinks beer bottles with Jeff).   Who cares?
Recommended for next time: Delete

Illinois club owners are bound by law to write down hunters’ names and kills. D & J also had a picking shed which also requires a log. This is where the false writing act came about.
Response: Hoss, it didn't "come about."   Sinus infections "come about."  Hang nails "come about." Dozens of admitted game violations committed in the presence of law enforcement over the course of five years didn't just "come about."
Recommended for next time: delete

One of the days was I & a Whitetail Properties employee; together we had killed 9 ducks, over by one. Mr. Jeff Evans (said employee) was also granted immunity in that incident, which was a false writing act violation.
Response: Why even bring this up?
Recommended for next time: delete.

There were a lot of days at our club that we roosted over 25,000 birds. Pits 25-30 foot long and 6-8 hunters in the blind. Some days birds would pile in, shooting fast & furious and adrenaline racing.
Response: What the hell does that have to do with anything? 
Recommended for next time: "The majority of these violations occured on days when I, as a licensed guide, did a poor job of managing shooters and their individual limits."

It’s hard at times to keep a good control as everyone is shooting birds falling into flooded corn.
Response: Jeff, this is precisely your job.  You have a commercial guide license that specifically requires you to ensure hunter safety (within reason) and compliance with game laws (absolutely, period).  "It's hard?"  C'mon dude.
Recommended for next time: WTF! DELETE!

Many a cripple would be found later, as dogs hunted making us “over the limit”.
Response: Hoss, are you arguing that you cannot count, that you can't call the shot properly, or that you do not pay attention to what your hunters are doing? "Many a cripple" not found for hours? What?  How many did the dogs leave out in the corn, then? This is not the behavior of normal, everyday hunters.  This totally bizarre statement would be more defensible if you hadn't produced this DVD with your face on it!:


It doesn't read "1 Over the Limit - The Dog's Fault!"
 Recommended for next time: In the past, I have made light of hunting parties perhaps being "one over the limit" because of the combination of high quality hunting  opportunities and poor hunt and hunter management by myself, or more often, by my partners, and/or my employees.  There are many ways that a hunter or a hunting party can be "over the limit," and those reasons range from nearly unavoidable (most common) to totally intentional (rare, in our case). However, I now see more clearly that over the limit is over the limit - and illegal, and managing individual limits is an important part of my responsibilities as a licensed guide.

One thing no one did at the club or anywhere was throw one away!
Response: Ugh. Why bother?
Recommended for next time: delete.

We wrote it on the register & cleaned the bird. Everyone should know that just because 3 guys went to the pit they all shot & came in with less than a 3 man limit doesn’t mean 1 man can’t claim he killed over the limit. It’s “party hunting”. As a club owner you do not have to ever be on the property to get that ticket.

Response: Jeff, you know that the club owner (meaning guide service, not necessarily landowner) is absolutely going to get charged if clients were instructed/encouraged/allowed to shoot over the limit, because the guide - I'm sorry - "club owner" owns the commercial guide license and the rights and responsibilities of the license transfer to his employees. 
Recommended for next time: delete

I at the very least feel at rest as the accusations of taking bands by shooting birds in parks was dismissed!!! I have hunted for 48 years and am proud of each and every one I have killed and only wish I had the 4 lanyards full that was stolen from me back. Of all the accusations that I have lived with that was the worst.
Response: I agree with you there.  I'd love to know the story of where that tale came from, and who at US DOJ was responsible for picking up this story (apparently a story with no backbone and no legs) and running with it.
Recommended for next time: place this statement prominently at the beginning.  It's important for your business, and important to other hunters who see the ethical slide between taking a few extra birds illegally (not good) to baiting and killing birds illegally, out of season, in a safety zone, etc.

I have read hundreds of pages of immunity papers from many people. It was hard to understand why they picked me until I read where my ex-wife, Andrea Foiles Nicolay had requested the Fed. Agents to the house. The accusations that they were told were all accusations that I was never charged with. A bad divorce with an ex living with an ex employee is a bad deal!
Response: Jeff, you know what's a horrible defense?..... "Yeah I'm guilty, and volunteered to spend a year in federal prison without even having my guaranteed day in open court, but it's cuz that woman done turned me in to the law."  THAT is a horrible defense.
Recommended for next time: WTF! DELETE!

When it comes down to it my choices were very clear, take 2 misdemeanors, server punishment
"Server punishment?" Explain?....
Recommended for next time: proofreading by someone with a high school diploma
and get to enjoy the sport I love in a very short time again with my son and friends
Channeling my dad: "Guess you shoulda thought about that when you were breaking federal law in two countries."
Recommended for next time: use this line at least twice in your statement

OR a long hard trial with a false writing act charge (which is a felony) and never having a choice to enjoy that again. It seemed simple but again a choice I didn’t think twice about.
Response: For the sake of politeness, I'll let this drop.  Jeff could have entered a guilty plea at any time over the last six months.
Recommended for next time: delete - defer to the sincere and honest line about wanting to be able to hunt with your kids.  Everybody understands that.

Once reading the Federal document that stated they were “Charging one of the highest profiled hunters to stop the Commercialization of Waterfowl Hunting” I knew where I stood.
Hoss, you use horrible grammar.  Fact: you were indicted federally in two countries.  I sure hope you "knew where you stood." For the sake of your clients and investors, I hope that you quickly grasped the gravity of that particular scenario.

Recommended for next time: WTF! DELETE!

To me that was telling us all from manufacturers of shotgun shells, boats, decoys, calls, and club owner they were on a mission.
Response: Again, that sentence is an abomination.  How about some proper verb tenses and correct punctuation?  In legal terms, a "reasonable person" would think that your statement is delusional. A mission to do what?? to decoy manufacturers?

Recommended for next time: WTF! DELETE!

Am I innocent of never ever killing an extra duck or goose and not knowing they were written down falsely? No, I totally admit I did that.
Response: The plea deal signed by your attorney states that you did it yourself, and instructed other people to do it.  That is not at all the same as "not knowing."
Recommended for next time: "As a result of this painful process, I have had to admit to myself, my family, and all American hunters who support migratory waterfowl with their tax, stamp, and license dollars, that I have committed wildlife violations on several occasions throughout my 40 year career (representing thousands of additional days afield when I did not commit any violations whatsoever).  I know that although most of my violations were accidental, uknown to me, and/or honest mistakes, that is small consolation to the American hunting community.  The realization saddens me and I will be even more diligent in following game laws in the future."

Did I do this everyday as I have hunted across the US, Canada, Mexico & Argentina for years for 5 months or more at a time.
Did Jeffrey Dahmer kill people and eat them every day for years for 5 months at a time? No.  But those bodies still piled up.  Actions have impacts, Jeff.
Recommended for next time:  Delete - defer to above recommendation

No Just look at the # of days & locations. 90% of the time it was a pure adrenaline rush without sound thinking and times more than not an honest mistake.
Response: "Pure adrenaline rush without sound thinking?"  This is your job we are talking about.  That's a non-defense if ever I've heard one.  What about the times that it was not an honest mistake (i.e. a few instances that the Federales have on video)? Recommended for next time: WTF! DELETE!

I accept responsibility for the things I have done and I accept the punishment for those acts.
Response: For the record, in this short statement you have accused back-stabbing/lying employees and partners, their children, your ex-wife, your ex-employee who is ...seeing.... your ex-wife, your dogs (really?), your own lack of ability to count to 5, your overactive adrenal glands, your tendency to "mistakenly" illegally fill out legal harvest forms, anti-hunting, anti-business federal prosecutors, and worst of all, your clients of being responsible for putting you in these situations, and each time that one of those other factors did not come into play, well then, you just happened to make an "honest mistake."  Is that how someone accepts responsibility in YOUR family? Ouch!
Recommended for next time: Keep this statement - it should appear to a reader to be solid and sincere, but delete all the crazy blaming that is entwined through the other parts of your statement.

I encourage all hunters to be ever so diligent. Remember Party Hunting is illegal!! As a club owner make sure records are accurately kept by ALL individuals making entries. On those occasional days that the ducks are everywhere, don’t get caught up in the moment and shoot over your individual limit. Over the limit is over the limit. Also, as a club owner, hold your guides accountable on how they act. Club owners are held accountable for things you do AND what your guides do as well.
Response: I have a feeling that this paragraph is what your lawyers told you to put out as a press release.  That would have been a raelly good, smart business move.  I'm only telling you this as your friend, and as a duck hunter with common sense.
Recommended for next time - Keep it.  This is great, and honest, and any reader can tell it's from you, personally.

The statement I would have advised Foiles to release:
Today, after months of legal discussions with the US Government and my attorneys, I have accepted a plea offer on two misdemeanor game violations.  I believe a fair outcome was reached.  By negotiating severe penalties for those 2 misdemeanor counts, the prosecutor and my legal team agreed that it was extremely reasonable to drop the remaining counts - including all felonies.  The majority of the violations listed on the original indictment occured on days when I, as a licensed guide, or employees of mine, did a poor job of managing shooters and their individual limits. I accept responsibility for the things I have done and I accept the punishment for those acts.


As a result of this painful process, I have had to admit to myself, my family, and all American hunters who support migratory waterfowl with their tax, stamp, and license dollars, that I have indeed committed basic wildlife violations on several occasions throughout my 40 year career (representing thousands of additional days afield when I did not commit any violations whatsoever). I know that although most of my violations were accidental, uknown to me, and/or honest mistakes, that is small consolation to the American hunting community, my investors, my sponsors, and my fans. The realization saddens me and I will be even more diligent in following game laws in the future."

In the past, I have made light of hunting parties perhaps being "one over the limit" because of the combination of high quality opportunities and poor hunt and hunter management by myself, or more often, by my partners, and/or my employees. There are many ways that a hunter or a hunting party can be "over the limit," and those reasons range from nearly unavoidable (most common) to totally intentional (rare, in our case). However, I now see more clearly that over the limit is over the limit - and illegal, and managing individual limits is an important part of my responsibilities as a licensed guide.

The following few years will be challenging for my family and I, as I serve out the terms of my sentence on these two misdemeanor violations.  One thing I can say for sure is that the day when I can return to the duck blind with my sons and my friends cannot come soon enough.

(Jeff's words here) I encourage all hunters to be ever so diligent. Remember Party Hunting is illegal!! As a club owner make sure records are accurately kept by ALL individuals making entries. On those occasional days that the ducks are everywhere, don’t get caught up in the moment and shoot over your individual limit. Over the limit is over the limit. Also, as a club owner, hold your guides accountable on how they act. Club owners are held accountable for things you do AND what your guides do as well.


Jeff Foiles' original, uninterupted statement:
Today after years and months of trying allegations I can finally say I feel vindicated. The Federal Government conceded from 23 felony counts to 2 misdemeanors, Counts 2 & 5 of the original indictment. The “D& J Strait Meat Duck Club” (now “Fallin' Skies Strait Meat Duck Club”) which was the club at the time, was charged with a false writing act. It was owned during 2002-2008 by myself & partner Dennis Marschuetz and his son Jason Marschuetz. They admitted to taking many over the limits and writing false names down. They were granted immunity pleas, along with many other guides at the club. Illinois club owners are bound by law to write down hunters’ names and kills. D & J also had a picking shed which also requires a log. This is where the false writing act came about. One of the days was I & a Whitetail Properties employee; together we had killed 9 ducks, over by one. Mr. Jeff Evans (said employee) was also granted immunity in that incident, which was a false writing act violation. There were a lot of days at our club that we roosted over 25,000 birds. Pits 25-30 foot long and 6-8 hunters in the blind. Some days birds would pile in, shooting fast & furious and adrenaline racing. It’s hard at times to keep a good control as everyone is shooting birds falling into flooded corn. Many a cripple would be found later, as dogs hunted making us “over the limit”. One thing no one did at the club or anywhere was throw one away! We wrote it on the register & cleaned the bird. Everyone should know that just because 3 guys went to the pit they all shot & came in with less than a 3 man limit doesn’t mean 1 man can’t claim he killed over the limit. It’s “party hunting”. As a club owner you do not have to ever be on the property to get that ticket.



I at the very least feel at rest as the accusations of taking bands by shooting birds in parks was dismissed!!! I have hunted for 48 years and am proud of each and every one I have killed and only wish I had the 4 lanyards full that was stolen from me back. Of all the accusations that I have lived with that was the worst.


I have read hundreds of pages of immunity papers from many people. It was hard to understand why they picked me until I read where my ex-wife, Andrea Foiles Nicolay had requested the Fed. Agents to the house. The accusations that they were told were all accusations that I was never charged with. A bad divorce with an ex living with an ex employee is a bad deal!


When it comes down to it my choices were very clear, take 2 misdemeanors, server punishment and get to enjoy the sport I love in a very short time again with my son and friends OR a long hard trial with a false writing act charge (which is a felony) and never having a choice to enjoy that again. It seemed simple but again a choice I didn’t think twice about. Once reading the Federal document that stated they were “Charging one of the highest profiled hunters to stop the Commercialization of Waterfowl Hunting” I knew where I stood. To me that was telling us all from manufacturers of shotgun shells, boats, decoys, calls, and club owner they were on a mission.


Am I innocent of never ever killing an extra duck or goose and not knowing they were written down falsely? No, I totally admit I did that. Did I do this everyday as I have hunted across the US, Canada, Mexico & Argentina for years for 5 months or more at a time. No Just look at the # of days & locations. 90% of the time it was a pure adrenaline rush without sound thinking and times more than not an honest mistake. I accept responsibility for the things I have done and I accept the punishment for those acts.


I encourage all hunters to be ever so diligent. Remember Party Hunting is illegal!! As a club owner make sure records are accurately kept by ALL individuals making entries. On those occasional days that the ducks are everywhere, don’t get caught up in the moment and shoot over your individual limit. Over the limit is over the limit. Also, as a club owner, hold your guides accountable on how they act. Club owners are held accountable for things you do AND what your guides do as well.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Celebrity Duck Hunter Jeff Foiles Cops a Plea, Headed to Federal Prison

"Crime Scene"  Duck Calls - You can't make this stuff up!


12-1-11 Update - Jeff Foiles has begun his prison sentence at the Marion Federal Prison Work Camp. 


Hunting video star Jeff Foiles has made a last minute plea deal with Federal prosecutors, admitting that yes, he broke numerous federal game laws, on numerous occasions, and also instructed other people to break the law on numerous occasions.   Foiles' trial, originally scheduled for late January 2011, was set to begin (for real) on July 5th.  Or....10 days from now.  Of course, if you heard Jeff's PR statement after the plea deal, you'd hear that 1 year in federal prison means that he has been "vindicated."  I guess federal prison means different things to different people.
I'll write again soon to dissect exactly what Foiles admitted that he did, admitted that his company did, and denied (with government agreement) as part of the plea deal, and see how that stacks up against the penalty he's receiving - reported by Illinois' State Journal Register to be 13 months in Federal Prison and a $100,000 fine
But right now, let's consider what the words of a man (or a woman) are worth.  In my business and my life - and probably yours - they are worth a lot, or they're worth almost nothing.  Let's see what Jeff Foiles had to say this past winter, upon hearing of his indictment:

 Jeff Foiles an American Sportsman, respects the law relating to regulations of wildlife and hunting, and now faces an indictment (charges) accusing him of acting in violation of that respect.




Now, I'll give you that "respecting the law" does not necessarily mean "obeying the law."  So let's just take a tiny look at the plea deal and see in what ways Jeff Foiles "respects the law relating to regulations of wildlife and hunting." (thanks again to the SJ-R for quickly getting and posting these documents!)
 
1. "If a game warden appeared, the group could claim that the birds had been killed by the guide and/or the cameraman."  Wow.  Doesn't sound very respectful of the law.  I guess party limits aren't the worst game ethics violation a hunter can make.
 
2. "The defendant falsified and instructed others to falsify" harvest records and game tags.  Now wait a second, that seems a little on the edge of "not respectful" of the game laws.
 
3. "It was also a common practice for the defendant to use information which hunters had left at the Club on prior occasions to cover overbags."  Which means if you visited his farm on saturday and then some other hunter killed too many ducks on sunday, Foiles would just enter your name in the log book (a legal document provided to the state!) and say you were there sunday also.   Come to think of it, that sounds like complete disrespect of the game laws.
   
Let's look at his post-indictment statement once more:
 Jeff Foiles an American Sportsman, respects the law relating to regulations of wildlife and hunting...

Above are three mild examples (of 15 detailed in the plea agreement) of Foiles' true level of respect documented in the plea deal. In the end, I'm not sure that Jeff Foiles' mind has been changed by what transpired in over 5 years of investigation by two countries and two American states, or this six month court battle that could have resulted in him being banned from hunting for life, fined millions of dollars, his home, vehicles, and belongings seized, and in prison for a dozen or more years.  I can't imagine that a year in prison (or whatever he really ends up serving) will change that one way or the other.   He's a talented businessman and he'll be back in business as soon as he's legally able to, on all possible fronts. 

What's Jeff Foiles' word really worth? Based on what he's admitted in court and what he's said out of court, my personal opinion....well, you can guess what I think (as if that really matters).   My guess (as I have not interviewed him to ask him) is that he's just another man who honestly believed that federal game laws did not apply to him when it was inconvenient, and that (I'm still guessing) the biggest crime committed here has been the widespread double-crossing by his employees and partners who took plea deals and immunity deals from the Federales.  To my uninformed mind, Foiles appears to be most sorry that he trusted other people, and of course, sorry that he got caught

Haunted, No House

video

Turn up the volume

I was sitting in the rain in the kayak in the headwaters of Maryland's Chester River, right at the Delaware border, and I started thinking.  This type of thinking occurs when you are stuck in a tiny plastic boat in a thunderstorm, in the temporary and basically false shelter of an old cypress tree.  As the rain and thunder intensified - cementing my decision to remain in this shady harbor -, and the daylight began to fade into the evening, I started to think.  I considered all the people who have been in that exact place, stuck in a summer thunderstorm, or snow squall, or hurricane's eye over the last several thousand years in which the place was used - or crossed- by humans.  How many battles, or pursuits of game, or frantic searches for life-saving herbs (or doctors) were hurriedly moving across this headwater swamp, only to be stopped by nature?

Who has been to this place, and been held hostage by its soft ground, shallow water, and changing weather? The Lenape only arrived 600 years ago, finding an archaic swampland with no people at all.  But they were not the first. Downstream at the mouth of the Chester River, spear tips date to 14,000 years ago.   Those people - called the Clovis People in the western states - hunted mammoths and other giant creatures all along the river until that entire ecosystem vanished at the end of the Ice Age.  Did they make it upstream to this place? Did they suffer through ice storms and hurricanes and hail storms to conduct trade with other human outposts or were they chasing herds of mammoth to feed their families?

The English met the Lenape here in the 1680s, intent on bleeding this little swamp for its furs, timber, and soil.  They ditched the swamps and built dams to hold back the floodwaters.  They fought mosquitos...and the Lenape, for a time.  The area was largely ignored during the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the American Civil War, despite being only 30 or so miles (as the crow flies) from Baltimore.   The end of the Civil War brought a mill dam, roadways, bridges, and a railroad here - almost eliminating the possibility of another man or woman ever being dominated by nature in this ancient place.

I will never know the names or the circumstances of the men and women who sat in this swamp and waited out the rain, or the snow, or the lightning.  How many died, and how, and whether they knew they were bound to die here. But they were here.  If you sit still for long enough in the rain, in a tiny boat, you can sense it.  I was nearly sure I could hear them, and I must admit that I am curious what their thoughts were about my odd presence, in this old forgotten place, on a rainy night in June.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Gear Review: Smith Proof Polarized Sunglasses


Yeah. Basically, these shades are awesome.  After Hank punched a lens out of my 5-year old Ray-Ban Predators (MSRP $159) last summer, sending the glass lens plummeting to the asphalt (crunch!), I bought some cheap ($30) polarized sunglasses and enjoyed about 10 months of headaches and poor polarization.  However, I recently (FINALLY) saved up enough duckets ($90 on sale, MSRP $119) to buy a pair of Smith Evolve Proofs, in my signature tortoise shell (awesome matte/flat finish) with brown polarized lenses.  I am doing everything I can to keep them out of Hank's general purview.  But on the plus side, Smiths come with a lifetime warranty (suck on that, Ray-Ban!). I've wanted a pair since learning about the brand in 2003 from an Army Corps of Engineers biologist, but I never found the right pair at the right time until now.

I frequently wear sunglasses 10 hours a day for work, or 5-6 hours straight for fishing and hunting.  The lenses have to be quality.  The frames have to fit my gigantic cranium and my big old German nose.  The Evolve Proofs fit the bill on all accounts.  While in the brightest conditions (sunny day at the beach), I was left wanting a little more tint, that is true of every pair of brown lens sunglasses I've owned in the last 20 years.  The lens has been ideal for driving in the sun, being out on the open water in anything but the brightest conditions, and when fishing, I hesitate to ever take them off.  Even when the sun is going down. Smith says the lenses are constructed of "TLT Carbonic" something or other, but since I bought the shades for almost full price, honestly I don't feel obligated to really research that topic!  So far, they seem to be hard to scratch and easy to clean, both of which are important to a guy who spends a lot of time in the mud........and getting whacked in the face by tree branches. 

The photo doesn't really capture the texture of the frames - they are flat-brown and are slightly rough to the touch - no gloss finish.  Apparently the plastic in the frames is recycled.  I'll tell you one thing - they are the lightest wrap-around sunglasses I have ever owned.  They also haven't fogged up like my old Rustys (1998-1999), Oakley Fives (2 pairs, 1999-2005), or my more recent Ray-Ban Predators (to the least extent of those listed) used to do, which probably has to do with the fact that the frame is more square, and toward the sides of my face, sit a bit away from my eyes.

It's only been a month, but I'm hoping that the Smith Evolve Proofs and I will have a long, steady relationship in the field.  Check them out for fit and tint the next time you're in the market for technical glasses - they may not be exactly what you're looking for but you won't be sorry you tried them on. 


River Mud Gear Grade:
Fit: 5/5 - large but snug.
Lenses 5/5 -  some of the better lenses I've owned
Weight: 5/5 - Very light.
Field Utility - 5/5 - strong performance
Overall Grade: 5/5 - buy these.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Swamp Truck Is Internationally Known!

How close did I come to getting the truck on 2 wheels? Pretty close.
So, my truck and my sweet new Cooper AT3's are featured for at least 1.36 seconds in Cooper's new ad for the AT3 tire.  Watch it here.  Also a shout out to my cameraman T Dogg, who would've been in for a long day if I flipped the truck, since I have no winch and didn't even bring my tow strap that day.  Not our smartest day, but a good one nonetheless!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Kayak Fishing The Upper Chester - What Marine Forecast?

Rain? Naw, it's not headed over here.  Wind's blowing the other way.
Work and dinner with a nonprofit donor took me to Maryland's eastern shore for the day.  I thought I'd drag the kayak out for the first time in 2011, and if those weren't enough bugs to get out, I figured I'd take my new Cabelas TQR 5wt fly rod to a 1860s mill pond (previously a forested swamp) in the headwaters of the Chester River, near the Delaware border.  Have I ever fly fished from a kayak? No.   Was the forecast for a 40% chance of severe thunderstorms? Maybe.  Did I let these minor details get in my way? Duh, of course not.

Wow, the wind's shifting directions.  Getting a little wet.
This mill pond is actually a great habitat for warmwater fish - the bottom is sandy and there is a great freshwater supply from seeps and springs all along the length of the impoundment.  The water is nice and clear, and I could see bass beds everywhere. 

I was really intent on catching a big largemouth on a fly, so every time I got a hit on my spincast gear, I'd immediately switch to the fly.  Yeah, that didn't work at all.  Not a single strike on a nice big green hopper.   My casting and "water whipping" definitely wasn't a factor ( ha ha).  Again, with the "never fly fished from a kayak before " thing. Apparently, it's harder to keep your line flying above the water, when your casting arm is only 16" out of the water.  Who knew?  Didn't really matter - once the wind shifted and the thunder started rocking the lake, the bite shut off entirely.  And then things got real in a hurry.
Thank God for the tree I was under.  It got nasty QUICK!
Not the evening I had in mind

The wind fully shifted around and went from about 10-15kt to 25-35kt, bringing actual waves to the side of the swamp I was trying to fish.  The skies opened up and thunder roared.  I started crushing that water with the paddle and found shelter under a big old cypress tree after a few minutes of frantic searching.  Luckily I had put my Marmot PreCip jacket on under my PFD before I left the ramp, so I was able to put the hood up and just put my head down and wait for the rain to let up.  Which it did about 30 minutes later. 

I continued to fish, but it was clear that everything was spooked.  A few big bluegills bum-rushed my light spinning tackle but never even bit.  When the sky opened up a second time, I sighed and paddled through the waves, back to the boat ramp.  Unwilling to give up despite the fact that darkness was setting in and the rain was not relenting, I decide to fish the tail race of that old mill pond. I fished there once before, in 2010, seeing many more big fish than I caught.  Despite the horrid fishing conditions, I caught a few moderate size sunfish and this world-record-setting golden shiner.  It was a weird night.  But I've had weirder, and worse.
I wouldn't call this an "attractive" fish....

Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer Drinks, You Gotta Love 'Em

I've never lived anywhere that didn't have hot summers. Even Boone, NC, at 3600', frequently has 85-90 degree days....and God forbid you come down the mountain into the Carolina foothills, to be welcomed by 110 degree heat, 100% humidity, and some nice smog coming over from Charlotte and Winston-Salem. Baltimore's not much different - a mild summer day is one that doesn't reach 92 or so degrees. We hit 106 with 80% humidity (a 112 degree heat index) last week.  Here at our house, we eat and drink very seasonally, and we are definitely eating and drinking like summer is here for real.

My (real life and blogging) friend Denny over at DennFinn did a little post recently on her favorite warm weather refreshments.  I can't get it out of my head - they all seemed so delicious!  So I'm literally going to copy her post concept and give you my own:
 
Lime Drinks: First of all, you can't have a hot summer without lemonade, limeade, and margaritas.  How you make all three, or what brands you prefer to buy, are up to a huge range of individual tastes.  But for us, one thing we keep on hand all summer is Simply Limeade.  Limes and cane sugar. That's it.  It tastes amazing on its own in a glass of ice, and you can't come up with a better margarita base that doesn't involve you squeezing your own limes.  The lime tastes fresh and tart, and the cane sugar is extra sweet.  It's good.  Runner up: El Paso Chile Company's Natural Margarita Mixer.


Ginger Brews. Ginger beer and ginger ale can be enjoyed any time of year, but the best ginger beers are great summer drinks because they aren't overwhelming with a mediciny-ginger aura.  The absolute best I've found is Maine Root Ginger Brew.  This is a light and lemony ginger beer with a pronounced ginger bite.  Unlike some of the other famous brands, they don't try to kill you with ginger while strangling you with syrup.  Runners up: Barritts (Bermuda) and Reed's Premium (NYC?).




Wheat Beers - Over the last 10 years, the number of traditional style summer wheat beers has definitely exploded.  My pick for best of the bunch? UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen Unfiltered, brewed by Harpoon (MA).  While nowhere near the best wheat beer on the market, this is a special summer beer.  The raspberry sticks with you through the whole bottle....without getting sweet.  It's a wonderful recipe for hot afternoon cookouts.   Runners Up: So many!....Southern Tier (NY) Heavy Weizen and how about Flying Fish (NJ) Exit 11.  Both are technically better wheat beers, but not quite as summery.



Pale Ales
Pale ales, often coming in at 7, 8, and 9% alcohol, require special circumstances to be enjoyed in the summer.  Air conditioning (or a bonfire), lack of dogsitting or babysitting duty, lots of friends, and a totally free evening are minimal requirements in my opinion.  My pick? Southern Tier (NY) Unearthly IPA.  It's not for the faint of heart, but the bitterness doesn't try to asphyxiate you the way that some of today's most popular IPAs do.  It's extra hoppy of course, but the fact that the ale is aged in oak barrels makes for a complex taste that won't knock you over after just one drink.  Runners Up: Dogfish Head (DE) Shelter Pale Ale - their least bitter pale ale, and Bells (MI) Two Hearted Ale.

Cheap Lagers/Ales
So, you're mowing the lawn or spending the day on a hot, sunny beach.  What you need is a good old fashioned light beer.  The main problem with light beers, especially American lagers, is that they taste (and smell) like old, wet shoe leather unless they are absolutely ice cold. My pick? Rolling Rock (PA).  I love this beer for the summer, and always have.  It actually tastes decent, comes in cans and bottles, and (I recall) is only about 4% ABV.  Runners up: doesn't matter as long as they are really, really cold.

Whatever you choose to drink this summer, please do it responsibly.   If you're planning to drink a lot, do what I've done for years now - designate a driver AND show up at your destination with a sleeping bag in the car.  Whatever consequences you may face at work or at home for staying out all night, it'll mean nothing compared to the anger and sadness your family will feel if you pick up a $5,000 DUI, kill yourself on the road, or worse, kill somebody else.  Please think ahead!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Seasons Changing, Gardens Changing

The fall-planted garlic has given all it can - it's done now

I think one of the neatest things about outdoor bloggers, whether we are writing about New York City, New Delhi, or New Orleans, urban windowbox gardening or bobber-fishing an Arkansas levee, is that we have our minds, hearts, and senses right in the dirt of God's green earth.  With any stability there's the natural, animal tendency to grow complacent and used to the routine ("Yup, going duck hunting again today, it's pretty cold"), so the change of seasons is really the time when we really notice how dynamic a place the earth can be.
The romaine bolted - super bitter and headed for the compost bin
The shift from spring to summer is upon us right now in Maryland.  It's been drastic and quick, and easy enough to sense by thermometer alone.  Air Quality Red Alerts.  Heat indices in the 110s. School closures.  Nope - doesn't take a genius (or an outdoors blogger) to tell you that it's summer now.



Here comes the summer squash!
  But spending time in the outdoors - whatever your outdoors may be - gives anyone a chance to really watch how steadily and unstoppably the earth is actually moving around the sun.  To watch and understand how things struggle to survive in their infancy, triumph through growth and setbacks in their life cycle.  The most successful individuals of any species are rewarded with a chance to reproduce and then to continue to live a long life - for most species it's measured in hours, days, or maybe even weeks -followed by an ultimate, unavoidable death.   When you're outdoors, you see it.  I've been working hard in the garden since the thermometer went from 78 to 106 a few weeks ago, and I've been watching it, in all its fascinating glory.


Fall-planted Salad Bowl leaf lettuce has been great to us
Struggling tomatoes and peppers are on the move.  The spring planted spinach turned into delicious food for us - selectively picked so it can continue to live.  The fall planted spinach bolted and was killed by us. The leaf lettuce has been amazing this spring, and I'm letting it live (while being cut) for as long as it can hang in there.  The romaine? Bolted and bitter.

I started off in March with several hundred seedlings under the lights. We're down to about a dozen cuttings of sweet potato and a half dozen peppers that will be planted where the lettuce is currently marching toward its death.  The basement plant lights and shelves are empty.  Turned off.  Open space on the workbench where just two months ago, I was mixing soil a few times a week.

Herbs!
I'd been pretty sensitive toward the warm weather herbs so far this spring.  No longer.  I cut the tops off of parsley, basil, and cilantro with no regard for the plants' survival.  It's summer - it's their time.  I cut a handful of provence lavender sprigs for Amy - they smell amazing.  48 hours, I coudn't tell that it had been cut.

Slugs, a huge presence in the garden just a month ago, have all been fried out of their homes.  The rabbit nest in my lettuce has been vacated.  I don't think any of the rabbits survived.  I have a much bigger rabbit now.  I almost got him the other night.  He (she?) is big, fast, and smart.  The caterpillars are here, they're enjoying the dying lettuce and the nearby tomatoes and peppers.  I've put off chemical control so far, but I sense an application of Bt (a anti-caterpillar bacteria bomb) might be coming soon.






No change is more evident than my own offspring.  I certainly feel more tired and beat down than I did at age 24, but no more so than I did at 33 or 35.  Hank, however, changes every day.  He is soaking up so much information from the world around him.  He knows of TCBY only as the "ice cream place," and we are not teaching him letters yet, but somehow the other day he pointed at the TCBY sign and yelled "T! C!"  In addition to "NO! No! No! No!" he walks around saying things like "I (I'll) get it." and "My nana (my banana)!" The change is really striking if you just stand still enough to watch it.  Here he is last week - my sweaty, boogery garden assistant (his primary duties are to carry around PVC stakes and pick up rocks):



And here he is in the garden one year + one week ago:

I can't imagine Hank being any "way" than the "way" he is right now.  Back then, he couldn't even crawl. Or talk.  Now it seems like he does everything except speak well and dress himself.  And even with all the time I spend observing the seasons outdoors, I still don't understand where the time is going, or why it's slipping away faster and faster. But my God, as years continue to slip by, the ride's getting more and more awesome. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Is Any Public Fishing Spot Really Secret?

There are two real fishing spots within two miles of my house.  Neither are amazing, but both will do in a pinch.  One is an abandoned 1800s water supply reservoir for Baltimore City, which I've been fishing for 10 years and have purposefully blogged about it (here and here to name a couple posts) - without ever naming the place.  The stream below it is known as a great spot for 10-12" smallmouth bass.  I've not fished it since I started blogging.  Both are within a local park  (owned by the city, leased by the county) named after a certain Confederate fellow.

When I first started fishing there in 2001 or 2002, it was depressing to see people lining the banks with 6, 7, and 8 rods and bobbers, obviously keeping every single fish they caught (which is alarming, since the lake is totally contaminated with Chlordane, an old termiticide and one of the most potent insecticides KNOWN TO MAN).   Despite perfect conditions on many trips, I had a lot of really awful days fishing there over the years, mainly (I think) due to fishing pressure (esp. subsistence fishermen) and water pollution (old stuff plus new pollution coming downstream).  I have also caught a decent number of fish over the years. 

Unfortunately, it's been closed to the public almost since I last fished it in 2009.  It's managed by Baltimore County....let's see what their website, last updated on April 4, 2011, says about it:

XXXXXXXX Park is scheduled to reopen in Fall 2011. This XXX acre park was recently leased to Baltimore County and is currently closed while construction and renovations are taking place.


So imagine my surprise when I checked the DNR's self-serve, searchable fishing report today and I read this:

Excellent Sunday fishing


Type: Freshwater
Region: Northern
Location: Lake XXXXX
From: Ellie S.
I have to report my adventure at Lake XXXX this past Sunday. My good friend Jonathan Frees (pictured here) and I have fished together for years. I have fished this lake many times. It is my opinion that this is one of the finest fishing spots in Baltimore City..or County depending on who you ask.

This picture proves it. We had a ton of fun. I have fished the attached lower portions of the XXXXXXX river with similar luck. Crappies and pumpkinseed galore on fly. The Largemouth in this photo was caught on a minnow popper. The others on plastic worm, spoons, and a very cool grasshopper popper. I had to show some love for a much appreciated refuge so close to the city. A beautiful spot, and a great day. Hope you enjoy.

OK.  So this lake has been closed to the public for nearly three years because of the ridiculous water pollution, unsafe pedestrian access, homeless camps, etc.  So I'm equally frustrated that people are fishing it illegally, and also that they left a permanent record of their great fishing trip to my "secret spot." (more on that in a bit).

But it begs the question, In this age of bing, google earth, and cyberscouting, is there such a thing as a secret spot on urban public land?"  Maybe.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this certain spot has been abused, neglected and overfished for years - maybe decades.   The only reason that I used to be able to catch bass there (prior to the park's closure) is because I was willing to work harder than almost anybody who fished there.  Honestly, I'm jealous that some folks (Ellie and friends) could pop in there through the construction fencing and catch fish so easily!  Jealousy, indeed, is at the core of the "secret spot" mantra.  When I think of Ellie and her friend casually fly fishing that reach, kept out of the hands of poachers for 3 years now, I get jealous.  Can't help it.

But we're missing a huge point here.  Appreciation of these lesser-known spots, whether they are beaches or mountain streams or urban ponds, is what keeps them in existence and open to the public, so some government agency doesn't drain them/pave over them/close them permanently.  And I think this was the goal of Ellie and company.  Despite her best efforts, no one will travel from outside the County or City to fish this spot. By that same logic, if the City or County decide to permanently close it to fishing, will anyone outside the County or City care? Probably not.  That would suck for people like Ellie.....and me.  Just another insult to that little, promising fishery, I suppose.

So I guess what I'd implore you to do is to not post such bold advertisements for "lesser known public spots" on public websites, to be read, interpreted and used far outside of your sphere of control.  But at the same time, I encourage you to take new people to your fishing, hunting, paddling, climbing, and surfing spots - or to even email a buddy a map of the place.  While it adds "1 more person" (really "1 more person" + three of their friends) to the land-pressure equation, it also adds "1 more ally" to keeping these places open to the public and at least slightly managed by the agencies who own them. 

There is such a thing as a secret public spot in urbanized America- it's just that it's a secret to you and 5,000 people you don't know, who like you, also don't get out to fish nearly often enough. 

Promise me something - do the resource a favor, and tell some people, but not everybody, about it if you're lucky enough to know of a special place like this.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Fishing Without Your Head


This is work - I can rarely complain, but it doesn't mean the job is easy or stress-free

I put the Appalachian Mountains in my rearview and headed back into Maryland's piedmont, head still spinning.  Buddies, it was a tough week.  I spoke at a project dedication ceremony for the first time - a new thing to learn, at a point in my career where there aren't a ton of those.  The fact that I really specialize in coastal work and this was a brook trout project in far western Maryland made it more complicated. 

In an unrelated story, I was reprimanded at work (protocol, not material issues) for the first time in 7 years, and only the third time in 14 years.  I'm still pretty rattled from the experience. And of course at home, we have Hank The Tiny Terror, who is definitely being a challenge right now.  Honestly, I was glad to have 6 hours on the highway today, in addition to the three hours I spent at the project dedication.  I guess I really hoped that some of the stress, tension, and insecurity would slip away as I wound further down, down the mountains, down off of the Blue Ridge, and back into the land of gentle hills corduroyed with young corn plants and patched with old tobacco barns.


It was 530pm, sunny day, about 90 degrees with near 100% humidity, when I arrived at Prettboy Reservoir, which is between Hanover, MD and York, PA.  Brutal conditions, but I know this spot is deep and cold......maybe something would work? Since I'd be shore fishing in the heat and sun, I knew that big bass would probably not be in today's equation, and I'd acquiesced to that fact already.

It's been 3 weeks since the last time I wet a line, or even got outdoors (beyond the garden) on my own, and I just needed some relief.  It's almost like I was demanding some sort of stress reprieve from the reservoir and the fish.  Funny thing was, I was trying to concentrate on my fishing, and it just wasn't coming.  I was having trouble selecting lures (which I never do - it's instinctive).  Trouble tying knots (unusual).   Trouble placing casts (rare). And trouble bringing fish to shore, which was quite a shock. My head was not in the game at all.
One of many smallmouth I hooked, and the only one I was able to bring to hand

I lost a solid 3lb largemouth on an X-Rap by setting the hook after he grabbed it, but before he had closed his mouth - I almost took the hook in my own eye.  Watching that big fish rise off of a sunken tree about 8 feet down (the water's very clear) and inhale that lure.....I admit, that was almost worth the price of admission.   I lost a very nice smallmouth, maybe 15", at the water's edge, in the vegetation.   Lost a dozen other panfish and smaller bass during absent-minded retrieves.  Hung lures in the trees repeatedly for no reason, and was really lucky to not lose any.  The weather and the laziness of the fish didn't help matters, but I couldn't even tell you where my head was.  Rarely do I have such a hard time fishing (when fish are present).  I'm so much better than that.
Little Greenie

I guess I really hadn't noticed that as I've become a better angler over the last 10 years, the best tool in my tacklebox is actually my mind.  I've never really thought of it that way, because it's fishing, which is equal parts fish hunting and fish biology, both of which I have been doing for a very, very long time (30 and 26 years, respectively).  Today was a day that sure wish I had brought my mind and spirit with me to the reservoir, instead of leaving them back at the office with my personal imps Worry, Angst, and Paranoia.

Because God knows, those three idiots didn't use it to catch fish today.
What a beautiful place - it's a shame my mind wasn't there to enjoy it