January 18, 2021

Labor Day Weekend in Cherokee

Note: This post was originally a longwinded Facebook post from September 7th, 2020, but since I went trout fishing so infrequently in 2020, I figured that I should re-post it here. If nothing more than to be able to find it again in the future, as Facebook isn't so good for things like that.

Labor Day Weekend in Cherokee

Heading into the long weekend I was sort of nudged by KC to head for the hills. To go back to the mountains, enjoy the outdoors, and take advantage of that last moment of summer freedom before everything gets crazy on the work front. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I headed to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Now it being a holiday weekend, I knew going in the park was going to be crawling with people. I tried to find a last minute campsite to no avail, so instead stayed at a motel. I suppose with COVID, people are less keen to stay in hotels. It was probably the right choice anyway as in passing the KOA, it looked like the infield of a NASCAR race. RVs everywhere and no social distancing going on whatsoever. No shortage of Confederate flags either... 

Mountain towns are great. I stayed in Cherokee, which is probably on the medium to larger side of a southeast mountain town, but nowhere near the over the topness of say Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge. For those that live on the coasts, equate them to a kitschy beach town. (For my Philly friends, Wildwood). Same flavor, different location.

You get a lot of tourist trap roadside attractions, (such as Santa's Land Fun Park & Zoo, where you can pet grizzly cubs - did we learn nothing from the Tiger King?). Most of them in Cherokee are Native American themed (for obvious reasons). Let me tell you there were no shortages of places to buy "real Indian moccasins"... The mini golf looked fun though, I was tempted to grab a putter.

Finding food was a bit of a challenge since most of the local eateries are dine-in establishments like pancake houses and "country kitchen" restaurants. As such, for those that wanted to remain distanced, the drive-thrus at the local Wendy's & Burger King were overwhelmed. 

I tried the BK drive thru on Saturday night. The poor kid at the window had to explain to everyone that their soda and ice cream machines were both down. You could only order like Coke, Dr. Pepper, and Sprite. Wondering how those flavors worked, I ordered a Dr. Pepper and rolled up to the window only to see another kid coming out of the back clutching 6 2-liter bottles of soda in his arms and cracking into one of them to pour my drink. I felt so bad, but couldn't help but laugh. It was probably funnier in person. The ice machine worked though!

Fishing was pretty fun. While most people crammed the banks of the Onconoluftee & Raven Fork Rivers outside the park to catch recently stocked fish (for real, it was bonkers, it looked like opening day crowds back home in PA), I went more off the grid and pursued a bunch of small, wild rainbow trout in three different streams inside the park. 

Fishing in those places is pretty fun, it's a full body workout as you have to hop over rocks and boulders to make your way up the creek. Successfully leaping from rock to rock I kept shouting "PARKOUR" in my head. Although I'm sure from afar I looked nothing like those cool viral YouTube videos... Maybe more like Michael, Dwight, & Andy in The Office...

Oh, and there were elk! All the times I've been to GSMNP I've never seen the elk. They were everywhere this time. That was cool. 

After elk viewing I stopped at a picnic area to make a PB&J lunch and a tour bus full of Amish people showed up. Suddenly I was surrounded by bonnets and suspenders. It was very surreal. I would have taken a picture, but I don't think they go for that. But then again, I wouldn't have thought they'd ride around in a tour bus either.

Anyway, after an eight hour drive last night I'm back home now. Hope everyone is enjoying a well deserved Labor Day wherever you're at! Eat an extra burger or dog and drink an extra beer tonight. You deserve it! 🍔🌭🍺

January 13, 2021

Licensed to Fish (& Drive)

Can I Check Your License?

Fishing licenses... while necessary, unless you're set to electronically "auto-renew" or perhaps have gained lifetime status, they're not always the first thing you think about when it comes to essential fishing gear.

Pennsylvania is one of those weird states where you buy an annual fishing license that is only valid for the calendar year. 

Doesn't matter when you buy it, it turns into a pumpkin at midnight on December 31st. I'm pretty sure all of the other fishing licenses I annually renew - Florida, Georgia, North Carolina - have rolling dating. Buy an annual license in March, it expires next March, you get the idea.

Side note: Pennsylvania was also one of those states where you had to display your fishing license externally while fishing. I think they stopped that last year, but I certainly always enjoyed pinning that sucker on my hat (like this dude from Opening Day 2011), fishing vest, or pack. It was very "Pennsylvania," and I continued that practice even once I left, to many a fishing buddy's bewilderment. 

I figured I'd get my full money's worth and renewed my Pennsylvania fishing license for 2021 last weekend. Check that box before I forget. Now, will I get to fish in my favorite Commonwealth in this calendar year? Who knows, but I'm certainly hopeful, so fingers crossed. And if I don't, no big deal. I like to think that money goes to fishing programs and conservation in some form. I mean I know it's supposed to, but who really knows.

So, go ahead and check the expiration date on your fishing license. If it's expired, or expiring soon, go ahead and renew it. Don't get caught on the stream without it...

Oh, and while you're at it, it's also a good time to renew your Trout Unlimited membership or whatever other conservation-based thing you do. I also did that... although I'm sure TU's physical mailing seeking additional support will not slow one bit. The amount of money they must spend on postage... holy smokes.

Embarrassing Pennsylvania Licensing Story

When I got my Pennsylvania drivers license back in the day, I breezed through the written test, but failed the actual driving test twice... yes, twice... before I finally passed.

Looking back at it now, it was totally ridiculous, but it's the truth, and I own it. 

The first test, I failed, I think because I didn't do well on the parallel parking. I don't really recall, but I know I totally botched that part of the test. May have done something dumb like miss a turn signal as well. It was very embarrassing putting my mom's Plymouth Sundance in park and exiting as a defeated teenager.

So then for my second test, I went to a different testing station. One that was supposed to be "easier". I think I coasted through a stop sign within the first 5 minutes, so that one ended quickly, didn't even get out of the parking lot. It was traumatic, I've mostly blacked out the experience, although I still awaken at night in a cold sweat when pieces of that memory haunt my dreams.

For the third test I went back to that same second "easy" testing location and (somehow) finally passed. I knew I'd pass once I got out on the road, even though I still don't think I parallel parked all that great. Whatever... it was probably the equivalent of getting all D's on your report card, but the teacher passes you anyway because they never want to see you again.

Years later, I think I'm a pretty good driver. I know I eventually got pretty good at parallel parking from living at a house with street parking growing up, although in the suburbia in which I live today I ironically never have to test that skill.

In Florida, I don't even think there's a driver's test. Seems that way anyhow...

January 12, 2021

Dragon Tails and Wœrms

So my attempt to rediscover fly fishing blogging started off ok...

But then last Wednesday happened, and kind of knocked me off my game. You know, January 6th... yeah, that was pretty, well, you know.

Anyway, I'm going to ease back in this week. The goal is to keep the lights on over here, whether I'm actually fishing or not.

Last weekend was chilly by Florida standards, in the 40s, so I didn't bother getting out. The bass just aren't that frisky when there's a chill in the air... and that's okay, just sort of need to know one's limits.

Enter J. Stockard...

Instead, I paged through some of the mailings I received. Most notably, the J. Stockard fly tying catalog. As when it comes to fly tying, and all of the little doodads and widgets that can go along with it, I firmly believe a print catalog is the best way to peruse the merchandise. An internet website just doesn't do the shopping experience justice in my opinion.

I don't tie particularly complex flies, but I think I might play around with two things this upcoming year. 

The first is UV resin. Back in the day I used to know the stuff as Clear Cure Goo, but I guess that brand name went under at some point. I still haven't taken the plunge, and I think I want to finally give it a try. Don't really have any patterns in mind, but seems like it'll be fun to mess with.

The second is what this catalog calls "dragon tails." My daughter calls them worms, or more appropriately "wœrms." She buys them like 5 for a dollar or something at Dollar Tree, ties them to strings and makes them move around like a puppet for Instagram movies. Shoot, I had these as a kid and I think it's something the younger teen set is doing as retro, quirky humor. There's memes and that stuff too.


The fly tying industry is taking those worms, adding  a 1000% markup, and selling them as tails for flies for those seeking warmwater monsters. Sounds good enough to me. Lilly doesn't know it yet, but some of her wœrms may be going missing very soon.

Looking forward to taking that first grip and grin photo with my version of a worm on a string... and a hook. Perhaps I'll even keep the googly eyes intact. Can't hurt, right?

January 4, 2021

Wandering Through the Woods

 A Walk in the Park...

Sunday morning was nice and cool in Jacksonville. It was overcast, a bit misty, and in the low 60s. Just a lovely temperature to be outside. Yes, I could have gone fishing, but I didn't. Instead, stretching the legs felt appropriate, and I took a leisurely hike on the sandy trails of the Julington-Durbin Creek Preserve about ten minutes from my house.

One of the nice things about living in an area that's being (perhaps too rapidly) developed is at least they've been good about keeping greenspaces open for recreational activities. This little cache of nature is bordered on most sides by shopping centers and residential neighborhoods, but once your inside, you'd never know it.

Here are few photos from the five mile loop I took. Unfortunately, didn't see much wildlife, but it's not uncommon to see tortoises, turkey, or deer back there.

Related Suburban Development Note:

When I moved to Jacksonville and got a kayak, the first place I broke it in at was the Durbin Creek, which is part of the Bartram Canoe Trail, as mentioned in this post from back in the day. Well, back then, the creek was accessible down a gravel road that ran right off the main road down to the water. Fast forward 6 or 7 years, that gravel road is gone as there's now a fancy overpass going over the creek and each side is gated off.

I was pleased to see that after investigating retention ponds for fishing opportunities in the parking lot of the giant shopping center they built nearby, that they actually did maintain access to the creek. Although you can't drive down to the launch, they built a nice little boardwalk down to the water where there's a little floating dock. 

It's not exactly the most convenient way to access the creek with a kayak or canoe, but it can be done, so I thought that was pretty great. I thought the access was lost forever. 

I'll have to do a little more exploring in future days to see if there's an easier, nearby spot to "put in," perhaps accessible from the other bank; my guess is that there is, I just need to find it.

January 3, 2021

A New Rod, Because Why Not?

Treat yo' self...

While I'm not the worst tenkara rod collector out there, I've still got more than my fair share... and honestly more than I can ever use on a frequent basis. However, when this rod popped up in the "Tenkara Trading Post" a little before Christmas at a killer price, well, I couldn't pass it up. And thanks to the USPS, it arrived yesterday!

Red like a Sith Lord's lightsaber, sexy like an Italian sportscar, and packs down small like a... um... I don't know, whatever else packs down small. After last year's nonsense, heck we all deserve something nice, right?

So this Tenryu Furiabo TF39 zoom rod has found a way into my quiver, alongside my other 13 tenkara and fixed-line rods. If it proves enjoyable to fish with, perhaps I'll have a little garage sale on a few of the lesser handled models. If not, I don't think I'll have a problem re-selling it at a fair price given it retails new at well over $500. 

(Either way, then I can buy that trout spey outfit I've been dreaming about - LOL!).

So now I'm looking forward to getting it bent. The question is if I should take it to the neighborhood pond and catch a bass or 'gill, or perhaps wait for my first run up to North Georgia or North Carolina for trout. I have a feeling it'll be the former, simply because I won't be able to wait that long.

Related Note:

The individual I bought this rod from was Tom Davis, you know the guy that does all the tenkara rod reviews and fishing videos at Teton Tenkara. The same guy Matt Sment & I did a video interview with over at Tenkara Angler last year.

Anyway, I thought it might be worth adding that Tom recently released an e-book called "Teton Tenkara Flies and Kebari Collection, Volume 1." As such, Tom got a little more of my money on Friday as I picked that up as well. 

Example screenshot borrowed from Teton Tenkara

In paging through the pages of the 20 flies, recipes, and notes on how to fish them, this is proving to be a very informative resource. One I think anybody that has an interest in tenkara, or even fly fishing with wet flies might enjoy. Check it out!