Something Fishy

Something Fishy
t Doesn't Get Much Better

Monday, August 29, 2011

Meredith's first fish

My three-year-old granddaughter Meredith was on the phone. “Grandpa, I want to go fishing.”
How old is old enough to learn to fish? Five? Six? What about a youngster that just turned three this spring?
Three is probably a little young I thought, but I didn’t want to tell Meredith she is too young. I knew her mother, daughter Michelle had prompted her. Michelle has always been an outdoors woman, plus she wants to keep the old man busy.
So, I told, Meredith, “Sure. That’s great. We’ll go sometime.” I figured she would forget about the request.
Then last week on my birthday, Michelle called and wanted to know what I was planning for the day. “Oh, not much. I don’t celebrate birthdays these days. Your Mom and I may go out and eat this evening,” was my response.
She said, “We’ll if we come up, Meredith wants to know if you will take her fishing?’ She wants to talk to you.
“Happy birthday Grandpa. Will you take me fishing?”
Of course, the answer was “Yes”.
I headed out to purchase some red worms for bait, and next rigged a rod and reel. For panfish, I use a spinning rod and reel with six-pound test line. Sometime with youngsters, I suggest starting the old-fashioned way with a cane pole. Yes, you still can buy them.
A cane pole is a good way to start, but probably not for a three-year-old. There is danger in trying to swing the pole and a line with a razor-sharp dangling hook.
I went to my rod-reel stash and selected a closed faced reel. (Actually, it is one my wife uses.) It is easy to use and there is much less chance of tangling the line. I had decided I would do the casting (training for that will come later), and Meredith would do the retrieving of the line by cranking the reel handle to bring in the line, weight, bobber, hook and bait.
When I opened the box of wiggling worms and showed them to Meredith, I got an “uh” and a funny look on her face.
After explaining that bluegill like eating worms, I threaded one onto the hook, and cast to a nearby pole sticking up where a dock once existed. Almost instantly, something pulled the red and yellow bobber beneath the surface.
“Wind,” I said exclaimed as I helped her hold the rod with one hand and wind the reel handle with the other. She excitedly turned the handle and slowly brought a struggling gill to the bank.
“I got one, I got one, Mommy, I got one.”
We caught another, put another worm on the hook, and then the fishing slowed. 
“The fish aren’t biting,”, I explained. “Why do fish eat worms?”
“It’s just a food they like, but right now they aren’t hungry.”
“Why” was the response.
“Apparently, they just aren't hungry. Maybe they’re taking a rest.”
“I don’t know”
I had no answer for that one. But, I was having fun.
We continued to fish, casting to several different locations. About 15 minutes later, we caught two more.
Meredith touched the fish as I explained how their fins can hurt. She also eventually touched a worm.
It is important with youngsters to make fishing fun. Try for panfish, which are easier to catch than bass. Be patient and don’t make it a chore. And don’t get exercised when they decide they want to throw rocks and sticks into the water.
I was surprised with Meredith’s attention span. I think it was as long as mine.
It never is too soon to involve kids in the outdoors. Most enjoy it from the time they can walk, maybe sooner. Meredith and her younger sister, Allison when they were babies liked riding outside in the stoller. When they were upset, a trip outdoors seemed to sooth them.
So what age is old enough to learn to fish. It depends on the youngster, but it may be sooner than you think. It was in my case.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Squirrel first of hunting seasons

         It seems like it should still be spring, and yet squirrel season is here already.  It’s the first of the fall hunting seasons, and opened Aug. 15 in the Hoosier state and a week later in Kentucky.
Squirrels are found throughout Indiana.  City parks and neighborhoods without predators spawn squirrels that will eat our of your hand, however squirrels hunted in woodlands almost seem like a different animal.
Any consistently successful squirrel hunter has a right to brag.  Squirrels in the wild are very wary, and most of them are taken by hunters in the first couple of weeks of the season even though here in the Hoosier state the bag limit is five and the season continues through Jan. 31 in Indiana and Feb. 29 in Kentucky.
Both gray and fox squirrels are found in southern Indiana and northern Kentucky, however there are more fox squirrels than grays.  The fox squirrel also is larger than the gray.  
The fox squirrel's tail is rust colored and the body's underneath is yellow or yellow-orange.  It tends to be stockier and longer than the gray with the average fox length a little over two feeling, including a foot long tail.  The weight usually is one- and-a-half to two pounds with some going as large at three pounds.
The fox squirrel runs with a lope a bit like a fox, however it probably gets its name from the red in its fur.
The hunter who rolls out of bed and makes it to the woods before daylight has the best chance at success.  Hunting is best during the first hour after daybreak, and during the hour just before dark.  
This time of year squirrels are found around nut trees gathering a winter food supply.  They take nuts from trees to store for the winter.  The nuts on the ground are eaten, but rarely stored.  Check under trees for cracked nut hulls to determine if squirrels are active in the area.
Squirrels use dens in trees, but also usually build a couple of leaf nests per year, and also "cooling" beds that are used in warm weather.  
Nests in tree tops are easy to spot and will help the hunter determine if squirrels are in the area.  However, no true hunter ever shoots a nest, even if he knows a squirrel is in it.  While it isn't illegal to shoot a nest, it certainly doesn't present much challenge and is not sporting.
Both shotguns and rifles are used for squirrel hunting.  Those deadeye hunter pride themselves in using a rifle and making a clean headshot, which does no damage to the meat.  There are even a few hunters who use bows, but it is tough shooting and usually means more lost arrows than squirrels for the skillet.
One of the best methods of hunting is to prescout and area to determine squirrels are present.  Then walk to the area before daylight, sit on the ground with your back against a tree and face west so that the rising sun will not blind him and will shine on the game.
If no squirrels are seen after a 30 minute set, walk quietly through the woods.  Don't walk with a steady rhythm and pause frequently.  Listen, look, and wait for squirrel activity.  If all else fails, walk without concern for noise into a likely area, and then stop and sit quietly for 15 minutes.  Then, if there is no activity, head for some biscuits and gravy.
While a young fried squirrel is mighty tasty, the best part is squirrel gravy made from the drippings and browned flour coating left in the frying pan.  The gravy on mashed potatoes or biscuits is wonderful.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Hobby turns into wonderful Appalachian museum

John Rice Irwin is a remarkable man--a man of vision and passion--passion for preserving the mountain way of life. Although in his early years, some thought his passion was excessive, and that may have been putting it mildly.
Irwin, a former teacher and superintendent of schools, early in life was inspired by the beauty of the mountains and valleys of Anderson, TN,. He began collecting and preserving small bits of the culture. However, there was a time when Irwin’s family thought his passion was bordering on insanity.
“My four grandparents gave me my original appreciation for the mountain way of life...The collection started in 1962 when I went to an auction at the old Miller homestead on the Clinch River just below the Norris Dam. Somebody was bidding on an old cedar churn, and I heard them say they wanted to make a lamp out of it. Somebody else wanted an old wagon seat to make into a table.
“I thought, “How terrible! These things are part of our heritage and culture.” I started making trips into the mountains, buying almost everything I could. Eventually I got the old General Burch Cabin, rebuilt it, and furnished it in meticulous detail just the way it should be. I bought a second cabin, and a third.”
He bought many items and some were given to him. Soon his garage was filled and he kept buying and collecting. At one point, his family had a meeting to try to figure out how to slow down his spending and somehow limit the time he was spending on the process, including hours he spent with the hill people he learned to love. 
He kept learning, buying, and collecting, and now his family is glad he did. What started as an exhibit in two buildings has turned into an authentic Appalachian village, a unique monument to the mountain lifestyle, and in the process the stately appearing Irwin has himself become a legend.
His 65-acre Museum of Appalachia near Norris contains a collection of more than 35 authentic log cabins and buildings, including the Tennessee home of Mark Twain.
“It’s easy enough to bring in an old log cabin, set it up and get everything right from a structural standpoint,” said Irwin la few years ago as we shared lunch in the museum restaurant, which serves food raised in the three gardens on the grounds. ”It is much more difficult to get every item just the way it should be. It is such things as the handmade corner cupboard and the little items on the shelves that really represent the culture of the people in this area.”
Irwin has been building his unique museum, which now is operated by a non-profit organization, for more than 30 years. However with a grin, he acknowledged it all started as a hobby which got out and control and took over his life.
“The truth is that I never had any idea of establishing a museum,” he added. The artifacts he collected number more than a quarter million.
At age 80, John Rice has retired from active management at the museum. He has nearly completed an autobiography, which will be published next. 
The museum’s annual Tennessee Fall Homecoming is held the second full weekend of October (this year Oct. 7-9) and attracts thousands of visitors from around the world. It has some of the country’s top bluegrass and gospel bands and stars performing throughout the event on five different stages.
John Rice plans to attend the homecoming, and will sign his previously written books.
Located 16 miles north of Knoxville, it is only one mile off I75, and is open daily except Christmas Day. It is about a five-hour drive from this area, so an overnight stay is advised to have enough time to fully enjoy the museum.
Free brochures and more information may be obtained by calling 865-494-7680. There also is a website at

Monday, August 15, 2011

It's not my birthday, it's opening day

For many years, Aug. 15 has been a special day. Yes, it’s my birthday, but that’s not what makes it special. It is the opening day of squirrel season in Indiana.
Most of the time it is a really hot day. It’s not the kind of day one normally thinks about hunting, but it is the opening day of the first of our hunting seasons. Even if just for a few minutes, I feel compelled to make it into the woods.
And, while I don’t expect to shoot a squirrel, heading to the woods is my symbolic gesture for starting a new hunting season.
Unfortunately, my right leg is gimpy. I really can’t walk the way I’ve always loved to do. I doubt I do much hunting today, but I may sit under a hickory tree with my rat terrier Tyler and remember those fun season openers of the past. I may not even take a gun, but I’ll be hunting in my mind.
Wow, wouldn’t fried squirrel gravy over biscuits be great tomorrow morning?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer days great for wade fishing

        While we’ve had a bit of a respite from sizzlin’ summer heat, we still have plenty of warm--maybe-hot weather ahead before the cooler days of autumn arrive. 
Fishing action slows during the hot days of August. Fish don’t feed as agressively during hot days at most lakes, and anglers slow down as well. Few want to sit in the hot sun and fish.
During these “dog days of summer” it’s tempting to stay indoors and enjoy the air conditioning. However, if you want to get off the couch, warm summer days are good times to take to a stream. By wading a smaller stream, you can counteract the heat, cool off, and with a little luck catch fish for the dinner table.
Stream wading is one of my favorite types of fishing, especially in warm, summer weather, but the key to a fun wade is a stream with a rock or sand bottom. Trying to wade in the mud is not fun.
A rocky stream usually is clear this time of year, fairly easy to wade, and the deeper holes and riffles are likely to hold smallmouth and rock bass. 
When the water is still too cool to be comfortable, I’ll don a pair of waders, but this time of year, I prefer a pair of shorts and my Teva rafting sandals, which also are great for canoeing and rafting. But, I also frequently just use an old pair of sneakers. However, I recently purchased a inexpensive pair of wading shoes, which keep gravel and sand out of the shoes.
I never wade into deep water or water that I can’t tell the depth. A life jacket is a good idea, and vests like Sospenders are great because they inflate only when needed, and they are light weight and cool. Unfortunately a regular life jacket can be mighty hot as well as cumbersome when wading.
In most smaller streams, the fish will be found in the deeper, cool holes. However, it is easy to underestimate the fish a small stream will hold.
One of the reasons I enjoy fishing creeks is I catch fish. They may not be lunkers, but there usually is a lot of action, and that is what I enjoy. I’m not worried about size, and more often than not the fish are released back to the creek anyway.
If I get hot while wading, I simply wade in a little deeper and cool off. I can usually find plenty of shady spots, and that often is where the fish will be found. Small pockets behind large rocks or below riffles also are favorite fish hiding spots.
I have a neat Flambeau soft tackle bag which hangs around my neck. It also has a strap that struggles to make it around my waist. It contains everything I need on the creek, and opens to form a little tray hanging on my belly where I can lay pliers or a lure while I am preparing to tie on the lure.
I either use an ultralight rod and reel or a flyrod. I have a small Zebco UL 4 Classic reel and and a Ouantum Micro MS00 that I like with four-pound test line. And yes, I’ve been surprised by a catfish or jumbo carp that eventually snapped the line, but it was still fun.
When I use a flyrod, sometimes I fish traditional flies and poppers, but sometimes rig with a hook and live bait that I cast, and let drift down throw the deep holes. When a fish straightens out the line, the fun is on. One of my favorites is a nightcrawler rig which has a spinner up front along with several red beads. A live crawler threaded on the hooks makes it mighty enticing to whatever is hiding beneath a log or behind a big rock.
Indiana has plenty of good wading streams that have good public access, but smaller streams may have private land on both sides and you’ll need landowner permission to fish. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Smallmouth record holder honored

David Hayes recently was honored for his world record smallmouth catch 55 years ago at Dale Hollow Lake.
To honor his catch, the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Department spearheaded an effort to have the auxiliary boat ramp at the Dale Hollow Resort State Park renamed the David L. Hayes boat ramp.
The honor is especially fitting as over the years there was a struggle to have D.L.’s record reinstated after it had be wrongfully denied him a half century ago after a man, apparently jealous, accused him of cheating.
It’s a long story, but a number of people helped investigate the case and finally obtained the record and long-overdue recognition of D.L.
I was fortunate to spend an afternoon a few years ago with D.L. and his wife at the Leitchfield home, and hear him relive the story of his record catch.
On the morning of July 8, 1955, he was fishing with his wife, Ruth and son, David. He began a trolling run in the Phillip’s Bend are aof Dale Hollow, which is partly located in Kentucky and partly in Tennessee.
    After Hayes cleared a point near what is now Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park, the biggest smallmouth bass ever caught by an angler struck his pearl-colored Bomber 600 lure. 
The 27-inch long smallmouth bass that Hayes reeled in from the Kentucky side of the lake that day weighed 11 pounds, 15 ounces, a world record that still stands today.
    To commemorate this legendary catch, the auxiliary boat ramp near the site of the catch is now named for D.L.. The sign marking the ramp includes a life-sized image of the record fish. 
    “Now anglers that launch or take out their boats at Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park can compare their trophy catches to the world record,” said Chad Miles, administrative coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. 
    The ramp dedication was a collaborative effort of the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Kentucky Department of Parks and Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.
According to a news release from the KDFWR, art collectors also have the rare opportunity to purchase a copy of the Hayes smallmouth bass painted by nationally recognized wildlife artist Rick Hill. 
The Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Foundation is offering 100 prints individually signed and numbered by Hill. Proceeds from the sale will benefit conservation education efforts across Kentucky. The painting depicts the life-sized fish.
         A print signed by Hill and Hayes now hangs in the lobby of the Mary Oaken Lodge at Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park.
    Prints are available for purchase online at
As to D.L.’s record, Ron Fox of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency never doubted the validity of Hayes’ record, and was one of the people who pushed for D.L.’s record reinstatement.
Tennessee never rejected the record and always counted the fish as its state record, and Fox worked hard to have it restored as the world record. The Tennessee agency investigated and sent its findings to the world record agencies.
Fox and Ken Duke of Bassmasters made a trip to meet with the International Gamef Fish Association, and Hayes credits them with getting the record reinstated in 2005.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Microchips help return pets

        More than a decade ago, two of my English Setter bird dogs disappeared in different incidents. One was never found, the other returned.
Then several years ago, my two rat terriers escaped from the motorhome while parked in a remote section of a campground in North Little Rock, Ark.. I spent a sleepless night until they returned just before daylight. Having perts disappear when traveling is especially worrisome.
 I never knew if the two terriers, Augie and Buddy were chasing a deer, or maybe found an attractive female somewhere on the other side of the woods. Anyway. it was a welcome sound to hear them a the RV screen door, just before sunrise.
A year ago when we obtained a rat terrier pup, the vet suggested a tracking microchip. This summer, I decided it was a good idea. and had one placed on Tyler.
A microchip implant is an identifying integrated circuit placed under the skin of a pet. The chips are about the size of a large grain of rice and are based on a passive radio frequency identification technology. It apparently is a simple, safe vet procedure for the vet. (I don’t think Tyler even knew the chip was implanted.}
There are several competing microchip registry firms. After a family vet, personnel at animal shelters or a breeder places a chip, it is tested and the ID number and information about the pet is listed with a registry service. Tyler is listed with a service called HomeAgain.
When a pet goes missing, several actions can take place. The owner of the missing pet can report it to the registration firm. If the pet is found and the chip scanned with the information reported to the firm, the owner and or vet will be contacted.
Among the information listed with HomeAgain is our email address, and on a monthly basis, the service sends me an email newsletter. The most recent one caught my attention. It contained information about five of the many 2010 successes reconnecting owners and their pets.
One of the successes was posed by a lady named Genevieve from Washington, D.C.
She wrote, “ Eighteen months ago I lived in San Diego when my dog ran away. I posted signs in the neighborhood, local stores, used a pet amber alert that called a radius of 10 miles and 500 calls, called all the shelters, and posted numerous ads on, but after four  months of searching, there was still no sign of finding him. 
“Two months later, I moved back to Washington, DC, praying my dog had found a home with a loving owner. 
“Two weeks ago, I get a phone call from the San Diego shelter, they scanned his chip and they found Zen! He was well taken care of, had recently been groomed, did not have any wounds and was as friendly as ever.
“He must have ran from the people who had found him originally him. A neighbor found him, turned him into the shelter, they scanned his HomeAgain chip and.....boom after 18 months missing...Zen and I are reunited and it feels so good. 
“I had to have him shipped from California to DC, but ultimately, we haven't skipped a beat. It took him 10 minutes to walk in the house in DC and he remembered he was home. 
“Thank you HomeAgain for being such a reliable company. I have recommended your services to all my pet owning friends,” wrote Genevieve.
HomeAgain is my dog Tyler’s registry because it is used by my vet. Others probably are good as well. There is no guarantee a microchip will reunite you with a missing pet, but no doubt it will increase the chances.