Trials and Tribulations…

We were up before dawn and camp was taken down and loaded into the vehicle in 10 minutes. Off we went.

We drove out of the forest and back to a highway and pointed the car West towards Oklahoma. We enjoy driving the backroads and seeing new scenery so we took a meandering route to get to Pine Creek Lake.

We even found a McDonalds and bought two coffees and a quick breakfast since we left without making either. Gotta have coffee!

We had never been to this part of southeast Oklahoma so were looking forward to seeing what we could. We drove over the Glover River and were stunned to see that the river was bank-to-bank and flowing fast. Really fast! Something wasn’t adding up.

After a long and winding route we finally arrived at the campground only to find the gate locked and a CLOSED sign in front of us. We looked on GaiaGPS and headed for another campground on the lake with similar results. When we drove over the dam we saw that ALL of the gates were open and discharging as much water as possible. Looking around we noticed about 2 feet of telephone poles sticking out of the “lake” with the power lines themselves being underwater. Holy crap! This lake was flooded…the campgrounds were underwater as well.

The Glover River was out of the question at this point. We quickly decided on a Plan B and started driving north towards Talihina Oklahoma. The Talimena Scenic Drive runs from Talihina OK to Mena AR and follows the mountain tops the whole way. We had never done the complete route so decided to do it today.

As we were driving by the Queen Wilhelmina State Park we noticed the campground was pretty empty. And with it being later in the day, we stopped and got a camping spot. The price was $19.89 per night. The real motivator was not time, but the showers we both needed and wanted.

When we checked into the campground, you have to go into the main lobby of the hotel. I guess we smelled really bad because they rushed us through and told us our campsite was #36…all the way at the end of the road LOL.

The plus side to camping here was the altitude. It was roughly 2600 feet so it was 10 degrees cooler. 85F is better than 98F back home! This mountain chain is the first significant barrier to any weather coming up from the Gulf through Texas. We could hear thunder in the valley below and saw dark clouds approaching so we rigged for rain. It never happened. The low that night was 70F so it wasn’t too bad. But it wasn’t the low-60’s like we had at Cossatot.

Needless to say, we were up early and on the road by 6am. We headed to Mena to complete the Scenic Drive and decided to head back to the Cossatot River.

Average Size of Velox in Our Favorite Streams…

As I’ve stated before, the Neosho-strain Smallmouth Bass does not grow to the same size as the Northern-strain Smallmouth. Habitat and other environmental conditions severely limit the growth potential of the Velox (Neosho-strain Smallmouth Bass.)

Our local stream conditions vary greatly during the course of a year. Floods and droughts are the biggest factors. Some years there is barely enough water to get your ankles wet and other years you are pushing the limits of safe wading. Yet the Velox perseveres!

I have spoken with biologists and have read various papers on the Neosho-strain Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu velox) to gain insight into this magnificent little fish. How they over-winter, seasonal stressors, forage and feeding patterns etc. etc.

And that’s also why I refuse to fish a stretch of river to death…I just pick a few prime spots and move on so that I am not negatively affecting a larger proportion of fish.

Knowing what this fish endures during a one year cycle makes me respect it even more. And the fish in the picture above is estimated to be between 8 and 10 years of age! Long live the Velox…

Holistic Fishing?

I was tasked with “riding shotgun” over our chickens today to make sure they were safe while free-ranging, and while sitting there on the porch, I began thinking about what my style of fishing might be called. The only concept that I kept coming back to was Holistic Fishing.

Definition…”Holistic”-adjective-Emphasizing the importance of the whole and the interdependence of its parts.

Makes sense to me. Fishing is such a multi-faceted sport that I don’t believe you truly stop learning during the entire lifetime of your endeavors.

I drew upon the Celtic Knot for the simple reason that it personifies the uniqueness of “perpetual endings and beginnings.”

There are an infinite number of parts that make up the Whole… some we are aware of and others we are not. I factor in the Mind, Body and Soul aspect when I go fishing. Again, it’s about the Whole. The weather, stream flow, season, water depth and clarity, who I’m fishing with and why I’m fishing on a particular day. How is my physical strength, am I stressed or relaxed, do I feel pressured by time or other people? And more specifically, how do these all inter-connect to produce a desired result? Do I actually need a result?

Everyone has heard the reference to “Being in the Zone,” and that is something I strive for whenever I fish. That to me, is the culmination of a good day. When I take in all of the sights, sounds and smells and my situational awareness is pegged. When the fish cooperate and I truly feel that I am in my element.

Being “One with the Fish” is such a cliché, but it is a valid sentiment. But it is bigger than that. Much bigger! Sometimes I feel as if my vocabulary isn’t polished enough to come up with the proper words to convey the message so other people might understand.

I need to do some more “thinking” on this topic and as such, I will consider this subject a Work in Progress…

The Reel Arrived…

So the reel (Daiwa Presso LTD 1025) finally arrived yesterday. In fact, Friday turned out to be a great day, despite a 4.2 earthquake, and with everything else going on. Now we can move on and stop the trivialities…we have more important things to do.

The coldest temperature I registered here without wind chill was -13F which was on a Wednesday if I recall. And next week by Tuesday we’ll be up to 66F. I’m ready for Spring as I’m sure many people are.

We have plans to make, reconnaissance trips to consider and map explorations to do. We’ll have to purchase licenses and get gear and tackle ready. All of which comes from wanting to fish new waters.

Sometimes I sit back and think, “how absurd all of this is.” All of this energy and focus and expense for a fish that rarely grows to 3 pounds! But I can assure you that we earn every single fish we catch. Just getting to these waters takes planning and effort.

We would much rather listen to the river churning and bubbling than to the mindless drivel pouring from a TV. A brief excursion to escape the outside world.

I am reminded of a quote from Charles Bukowski…”We have nothing to lose, But ourselves.”

What’s My Fascination With JDM Gear?

For the last several years I have noticed that Major League Bass fisherman from the US head to Japan to learn new techniques that the Japanese use to catch big bass in heavily pressured waters. I’m not a diehard Largemouth Bass fisherman by any stretch of the imagination, but I like learning new things.

One day while going down the YouTube algorithm generated “rabbit hole,” I stumbled across Randy G. at TroutMagnetMan, and he was fishing with Japanese ultralight fishing rods. My curiosity was piqued and I began researching JDM tackle.

I look for “Quantum Leaps” when it comes to gear. Kind of like the Bamboo rods versus Fiberglass rods. And let me warn you now…if you get into this JDM gear, you will be doing a TON of research and language translation.

The Japanese are “Graphite Wizards” when it comes to graphite fishing rods.(For you golfers out there…Japanese made graphite golf club shafts are in high demand.) How they create these rods is impressive as well as the technological advancements that go into them. I used to think my fishing rods were light but I was wrong. My St. Croix 6ft 6in ML tips the scale at 4.5 ounces while my TenRyu 6ft 10in ML comes in at exactly 2.0 ounces. That’s amazing to me. And the sensitivity is off the charts!

Will all of this High Tech Wizardry help me catch more fish? I hope so. But I do know that shaving ounces will help me fish longer so the odds are in my favor.

I haven’t tried JDM BFS (Bait Finesse Style) fishing where they use baitcasting gear. But if you want to see a Master in action…that would be Angler Saito over on Youtube. His channel is named EnjoyFishingChannel.

JDM Spoons…

And here is a quick shot of a few of the Spoons I plan on throwing for the 2021 season.

From left to right:

  • Smith D-S Line Spoon 4 gram in Yamame Silver
  • Forest MIU Spoon 3.5 gram in Abalone
  • Daiwa Crusader 4 gram in Super Hot Blue Pink Tail
  • Daiwa Crusader 4 gram in Super Hot Rainbow Black

Spoons are huge in Japan for trout in both “Area” and “Native/Stream” fishing. Again, everything is specialized…Rod, reel, line, lure etc. and is geared to a specific fish species or style.

It’s a “DEEP RABBIT HOLE” to go down so be forewarned if your interest is piqued.

JDM Jerkbaits…

Here a few of the Jerkbaits I plan on using for 2021.

I replaced all of the treble hooks with Cultiva SBL-55M hooks in either size 6 or size 8. The only oddball was the Great Hunting 50F Flat Side which required Cultiva S-21 size 8 hooks.

If you ever get the chance to view any of the various Japanese company’s tackle catalogs, you will be amazed at the selection and specialization that you will find. Truly incredible.

From Top Left to Right and Bottom Left to Right:

-Great Hunting Heavy Duty 55S Sinking

-DUO Spearhead Ryuki 60S Sinking

-DUO Spearhead Ryuki 70S Sinking

-Daiwa Silver Creek Minnow 45S Sinking

-Lucky Craft Humpback Minnow 45SP Suspending

-Great Hunting Flat Side 50F Floating

As far as manufacturers go, I know the DUO Spearhead Ryuki 60S and 70S are made in Japan. The Lucky Craft Humpback Minnow Suspending is also made in Japan. The Great Hunting GH50 Flat Sides are made in Vietnam.

Just because it says “JDM” does not mean its made in Japan, rather it’s for the Japan Domestic Market. JDM purists generally do a lot of research before purchasing as they ONLY want “Made in Japan.”

I don’t see myself going down that road, but one never knows.

What’s the Connection?

So what is the connection to some of the stories I share and what my blog is about? The answer is the Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu). It’s my favorite fish to go after. I have made many trips up North to fish for these guys and so I try to share a few of the trip highlights. Be they humorous or fishing related.

Pound for pound, this fish is a great fighter and a scrappy one at that! I have read that a Neosho-strain Smallmouth Bass that is between 12 and 14 inches long could be as a old as ten years of age. As its name implies (Micropterus dolomieu velox) “Velox” in Latin means swift or rapid. Research shows that they mainly inhabit swift flowing streams and have not been known to establish themselves in lakes.

The Northern Smallmouth Bass does quite well in lakes and is highly sought after. At least in the Lower 48. I’ve encountered numerous Canadians that consider it a trash fish and much prefer catching walleye or even crappie. To each their own!

I don’t mind catching either to be honest. I tend to over-glorify the smallmouth bass and definitely place it on a pedestal. Even to the point where I don’t keep them, instead, releasing them immediately.

When I’m up North I tend to target the Smallies almost exclusively. Sure I’ll keep a walleye if the opportunity presents itself, but the Smallies go back. A long time ago I read something about how old a trophy Smallmouth would be…(if I recall correctly) it was around the 15-20 year mark! To me that’s incredible…but I’m not a Fish Biologist. Knowing how many other toothy fish are swimming in the same lakes…living to that age says a lot!

And that’s yet another reason why I have such respect and reverence for the Smallmouth. In my mind, it is a worthy opponent that deserves my best efforts. And I’m grateful for each and every one I catch…dink OR donkey! Thanks for reading.

Don’t Ever Tell Me I Can’t Do Something..

It’s April 1998 and I’m rapidly losing my ability to walk. Sciatica is killing me…pain in my back is excruciating. I was 27 years old and had recently passed my 6 months probationary period at a new job. I was left with 2 choices…put a gun to my head or go see a doctor.

The X-ray and MRI showed my back was broken in two places. I was involved in a head-on car wreck 2 years earlier, Valentines Day 1996. I just didn’t know it.

The damage was so bad that my Orthopedic surgeon pulled out his flip phone and called my insurance company direct. Surgery was the ONLY option. I remember him putting his hand over the phone and asking me if I needed time to think about it or if I was OK with surgery. This was a Wednesday. I said I was fine with the surgery (desperate for relief). I was on the operating table that Friday morning.

It was a 7 and a half hour surgery, everything a Neurosurgeon and Orthopedic surgeon could do to a lower back…they did! It took 29 staples to close up that 7.5 inch incision, the end result being that it looked like a zipper! I was classified as a 1 percenter. After I had healed from the initial surgery, the doctors said there wasn’t much in the way of physical therapy for it. They started listing off things I’d never be able to do again.

At moments like that a person has 2 choices…go with the flow or swim upstream. I mentally started swimming for the “spawning grounds!” If you’ve ever seen salmon trying to surmount a waterfall, you’ll understand. That’s what it seems like…an insurmountable obstacle. I started pushing myself HARD.

One year after the operation and I was back to playing soccer, rock climbing, backpacking and fishing. I was able to portage my beloved canoe again deep in the Wilderness (and a good fishing buddy put a handicap sticker on my canoe…lol). Six lag bolts and two rods gave me my life back. Where there’s a will there’s a way! Never tell me I’m done!!! I’ll tell YOU when I’m finished.

23 years later and I’m still going….

I Thought I Wanted to be a Fishing Guide

After my first fishing trip up North, I thought I “might” want to be a fishing guide. In my mind it was my dream job. On several occasions throughout the years I have been offered guiding positions with several outfitters. Believe me, it was tempting. I truly felt honored by their offers, but the timing was never right.

But the “timing issue” was a cop out. In reality, I just couldn’t stomach being around people who truly didn’t belong there, in what I considered God’s Country. They belonged in a National Park setting or KOA…not deep Wilderness. Ask anyone who has fished with me a full day and they’ll tell you that I don’t say much. I don’t suffer fools very well either. If you talk the talk then you’d better walk the walk.

I’ve seen a grown man throw a hissy fit because they didn’t have enough milk for their cereal. Nevermind that we’re 60 miles from anywhere. I’ve seen grown men sit in a chair for a week reading the same Wall Street Journal and drinking themselves into oblivion when they professed to be hardcore fisherman.

In 25+ trips up North, I’ve had the pleasure to fish with four REAL fishermen(women). They fished hard, all day long. They didn’t complain, they did what needed to be done and we had great days on the water. We bonded around the evening campfire by reliving the day’s events. Those folks passed muster! And to be clear, I made it known to any and all that went with us what was expected of them and what the conditions were like. Zero Lodges, Zero Room Service. Everyone had a job to do.

Our trips were Spartan affairs. We roughed it and earned every fish we caught. We portaged and paddled everywhere we went as if we had to pay our dues and show respect to the Fishing Gods. Those three gentleman and one lady earned my respect and gratitude. They earned every bit of those adventures. (In fact, I married that lady!)

So it boils down to people skills! I’m a loner by nature and changing diapers and wiping noses isn’t something I’m willing to do for an adult. Not happening. My initial thoughts of becoming a Fishing Guide were doomed to failure from the start. I’m just not Guide material. And realizing that was a good thing. And I’m sure it was a good thing for everyone else to. My passion for fishing is still intact and never became a job I hated.

My River/Stream Essentials

Anytime I find myself on my local rivers or streams fishing, you will find these items on my person.

  • A homemade pouch that holds my plastic baits and jig heads.
  • A Sawyer Squeeze water filter. It allows me to drink from the river without having to carry extra water bottles which add a lot of weight.
  • A spool of Seaguar 6lb fluorocarbon leader material.
  • Loon mitten clamp hemo-cuts.
  • A Victorinox Alox Solo pocket knife.
  • A mini Bic lighter.
  • Abel nippers..
  • A ziplock bag containing a small chamois for cleaning my eyeglasses and sunglasses.