Friday, April 28, 2017

Going small for big fun

The monster fish.  The bigger the better.  If it won’t break your rod why bother.  I hear this all the time.  I admit there was a time in my life where I had this outlook.  I wanted to catch the biggest fish.  While I was deployed to Iraq I managed to catch two fish that turned out to be world records.  I was pretty stoked.  Bucket list items checked off.   As I have aged the need to catch the biggest and baddest fish has faded.  Sure, I’d love to tie into a big ol Marlin or a bull red on the fly, who wouldn’t.  One of the things I have been doing lately is targeting quite the opposite.  I have gone small.  
Using my 2wt rod and tiny dry flies and nymphs I have been targeting the smallest fish I can spot.  I’ll give you a minute or two to stop laughing.  At first it was a fluke.  I was trying to catch some of the shell cracker bream in my pond when I felt a slight tug and wound up false casting a two-inch bream.  I looked at this tiny, scrappy little fish and thought about it.  I put the 6wt away and got my 2wt out and started looking for smaller fish.  I thought to myself, “Small fish, small problem.  This will be easy.”  I was wrong.  W-R-O-N-G.  I am telling you, I have not been this mistaken often but I am here to tell you it is a challenge and it IS fun.  

I am not breaking new ground here, I am not claiming to be the first person to think of this.  Most East coast fly anglers chase tiny brook trout in the streams of the South East on a daily basis.  Small rods, tiny dry flies, ultra-light tippets and tiny but beautiful fish.  For me it is bream and bass.  Sight fishing these tiny monsters has become a kind of obsession with me. Stalking the edges of the ponds where I live looking for them hunting bugs on the edge, watching them and trying to drop that fly perfectly so they jump on it.  It really is a lot of fun.  Being baby fish they are VERY skittish and will dart away at the slightest thing that looks like it may eat them, but that is part of the fun.

Not always does a tiny fish come to hand.  Sometimes they spit the fly, I rip the fly out of their mouth or on one occasion a 3-pound large-mouth decided to grab an easy snack.  The fly ripped out of the bream’s mouth and embedded itself in the side of the bass’ mouth.  With a 2-pound tippet I had to play the bass a while and the noodle like stiffness of the rod helped me to land this fish. 


 From my days in Colorado I have a ton of tiny dry flies.   Most I tied myself, but my eyes don’t let me tie anything smaller than a 4/0 without glasses.  I find that a size 20 Adams parachute works very well.  I am also partial to the Crystal Blue Persuasion created by an old friend for Brook trout.  It does wonders on pond fish.  Your typical BWO’s, bead head nymphs and even the old San Juan worm will bring fish to hand.  As with all fly fishing, match the hatch to your local waters.  Some ponds a Griffiths gnat, or a black ant fly will be the ticket, other ponds a Micro-Clouser or a micro Wooly Bugger may be the ticket.  I am not sure if a Micro-Clouser is a thing but I tie them up using mono-barbells I make myself for eyes.  Olives, browns, yellows and of course a TINY bit of flash work well and if you tie your own, don’t be afraid if it’s ugly.  Ugly flies catch fish too.   Get out there and give it a try.  It’ll be fun.  

 Almost every single neighborhood pond has bream in it, and they spawn every full moon from about May to November so there are ALWAYS tiny fish to chase.  Check out your neighborhood ponds and if you need gear The Lowcountry Fly Shop in Mt. Pleasant has everything you need.  Flies, tippet, leaders, fly lines, reels, rods, vests, hats, the list goes on and on.  They have some of the best local fly anglers running the place and Scotty and the Boys are always ready to share experience and even help you fine tune that tailing loop you keep throwing. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A good dog

Most of us have had dogs.  All shapes and sizes. For some of us these furry little balls of wagging tails and energy become so ingrained in our lives they become more than just a pet, they become part of our family.  Yesterday I had to put my best furry friend to sleep.  Her name was Daisy and she was a 14 and a half year old yellow lab.  A piece of my heart was torn out and taken with her. 
Fourteen years ago we answered an ad for lab puppies and we went to take a look.  As I walked to the pen there were four furry balls of energy all wagging tails.  There was a bruiser that I immediately wanted.  Big block head, stocky, he looked like the perfect specimen.  I had my daughters hold back a second and I entered the pen.   All the pups gravitated to the far corner of the pen.  The bruiser saw me and he whimpered and hid behind his sisters and cowered.  I was disappointed until one of the pups turned around and looked at me.   She stared at me for a second, seeming to size me up and then a goofy grin broke out on her face and she rushed to me.  I have never seen such a happy puppy before.  I knew then this was MY dog.  I didn't choose her she chose ME.  

We took her home and she began to settle into our lives.  She was smart as a whip and ready to learn.  I taught her basic commands and she had those mastered quickly.  As she grew she burrowed into our hearts and became a furry sister to my daughters.  We hiked and camped with her, she was there when my oldest daughter found her first Geocache.    As she grew she went everywhere with us.  Always ready to play, always ready to cuddle.  When we were in a bad mood she would come up and beg for attention and as we scrubbed her ears and rubbed her belly all the bad mood faded away.  She was always there for us.  She was also a master beggar.  No matter what we were eating she wanted some.  Those big brown eyes and triangle ears were too much and she usually got some of what we had.  

Daisy loved the water.  Except when it was raining, she didn’t want to get her feet wet.  I never could understand how a dog so in love with the water could be so weird about her feet getting wet.  She only ran off two times, she never experienced thunder until we returned home to SC and she did not like it.   Both times friendly neighbors found her and called us.  I never had to use a leash with her.  She always stayed close and listened so well, I wish my daughters had learned from her sometimes.  She loved the beach, the dog park, chasing her retrieval trainer.  As long as you threw it she would chase it down and bring it back.  Sometimes crawling she was so tired but as soon as you looked like you would throw it again she would pop up ready to go.  She was a loving dog and a needy puppy.  She HAD to be in contact with me.  Either bumping into me as we walked or laying on my foot as I watched TV.  She was never a hunting dog, she was just a pet, well we THOUGHT she was just a pet but she quickly became so much more.  

Daisy and I had a bond I have never had with another dog.  She was my animal soul mate.   As the years waned on and I had to deploy for months at a time, when I returned she was always there wagging her otter tail and jumping in my lap.  My wife and daughters all took care of her and she was happy with them, we all love her.  I could go on for days about her and our adventures and antics.  Her chasing me up and down the stairs as I whooped and hollered, her fast on my heels.  Hiking Stanley Canyon behind the Air Force Academy, sniffing every blade of grass and then swimming all over the reservoir ruining the fishing but still making me smile with her happiness.  The time we went camping and me and my buddies left food out on the picnic table and the next morning as she stretched and then became a ball of growling and protectiveness, I thought for sure a bear was near.  The bushes moved and I thought for sure the bear attack was on.  No, it was a rabbit and she made sure I was safe from its furry cottontail.  After she ran the diabolical rabbit off she returned proud as a peacock in her efforts to save me.  I have thousands of happy memories with her.  Thousands of memories,  and this is what keeps me going. 

Then one she all of a sudden could not make it up the stairs, she couldn’t hop up on the bed.  It made me pause and as I counted all my fingers, I had to take my shoes off to count more, I realized twelve years had flown by.  I picked her up and put her in her spot on my bed and thought about where the time had gone.  She was still happy and got around just fine but I realized she was getting old and the thought of her leaving us was fleeting.   We continued on as always, her playing and always being there.  She was Daisy and never changed.  Another year went by and she got a little slower but was still Daisy.  Then she was approaching her 14th birthday.  She had a seizure a few months before that but was still ok and had not had another.  It was hard for her to get up and walk but as soon as she was up she was fine.  I knew she was drawing to the end of her time.  As I watched her hobble up to the house, even with her smile and her wagging tail, I knew it.   I thought about it more and more and my heart sank each time.  Her 14th birthday came and we took her to the dog park.  We had her on a wagon and she smiled as we rolled her along.  She wanted down and she walked around, met some other dogs and was happy as a clam.  We gave her a birthday biscuit and even though she gave herself another seizure trying to swallow it whole, she recovered quickly and she was still smiling and wagging her tail.  

She was on her daily pills and they seemed to keep the pain at bay in her back legs, she still got up and went outside.   She still smiled and wagged her tail and loved attention.  Then one day she couldn’t get herself up.  I helped her outside and she managed to walk around and do her business but she wasn’t wagging her tail.  I knew it was time.  My heart stopped and broke a little.  I had looked for every glimmer of hope, I was grasping at any straw that told me she had a little more time.   Every time I saw her struggle I thought of two more ways to make her more comfortable and give her a little more time.  Then I ran out of glimmers, I ran out of ways to make her comfortable and I knew this was it.  I realized those glimmers were for me not for her.  I felt ashamed and angry at myself for doing this.  It wasn’t fair to her, who had given every shred of her being to make us happy.  I knew I had to let her go.  

I called my oldest daughter, she made arrangements to be off work and the rest of us gathered.   We got her a big ol cheese burger and cheese tots for supper and made her a pallet of blankets to rest on. The next morning I made her a big ol plate of scrambled eggs, one of her favorites, and we all fed her and petted her.  She loved the attention, she was smiling and happy.  Happier than I had seen her in a long time.  The Doctor arrived and we all sat around her as he gave her a shot to calm her down and sedate her.   We all sat around her petting her and crying.  We all said our final “see ya laters”, none of us could bear to say good bye.  The doc gave her the final shot.  As we all held each other and held her, she was gone.  She was off across the rainbow bridge to rejoin our other pets and family.  We all spent some time with her her and I finally gathered the courage to wrap her up for her final drive.  

I just got the call that she is ready to come home.  Her ashes will be placed in a beautiful stone box and she will reside next to our other pet on the piano.   She is gone physically from our lives now but will remain in our hearts forever.  

Rest in peace my friend.  You were loved more than any other animal in my life.  You will live on in my heart forever.  I miss you.

Daisy Duke Bergmann
December 28th, 2002 to April 18th, 2017. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Orion Coolers

We all see the stickers in truck windows touting their favorite coolers.  We all as outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen, are always searching for the best cooler we can find that will keep drinks cold for extended periods, keep catches and meat cold and preserved til we get home.  It used to be there was one choice, but times have changed and there are a few others on the market now that offer the same quality and other little touches that make them more interesting.  Personally I am currently pretty impressed by Orion coolers.  Made in the USA, by Jackson Kayak, they are the tops of quality and function.  Of course being made by a kayak company, you know they are top quality and will last as long if not longer than that sturdy kayak you have.  

Why “Orion”, well Orion, the ‘Great Hunter’ of Greek legend, was well known as a skilled hunter, master of beasts, and master of the seas. There are many legendary tales of Orion and his adventures in the wild. A great huntsman, Orion was set amongst the stars by the God Zeus upon his death, forever stalking the heavens. Orion’s strength, dominance, skill, and timelessness are all traits of Orion Coolers.  In my opinion it is a perfect name for this cooler!

These rotomolded coolers pack the same ice keeping qualities as their counterparts and have those touches that, in my opinion, make them the top of the choices.  I currently have the Orion 25 in the Dorado color.   Currently they offer TWENTY SIX different colors.  They do have solid colors but the majority are multi colored and they look pretty awesome!

Compact and highly portable, the Orion 25 is easily transported by canoe, car or kayak, and the preferred size for shorter outings and day to weekend use. It makes a good casting platform on small watercraft like SUPs, Gheenoes, or flats skiffs.  

Starting at the top, the standing pad makes this the ultimate casting platform for the front of our skiff.  It cushions your feet, keeps the cool and allows you to stand there for longer times.  On the corners are 4 tie down points that double as bottle openers.  Made of aluminum they are corrosion resistant and don’t add a lot of weight to the cooler.  The low profile camming latches don’t grab your fly line and keep the cooler closed securely and of course that keeps everything cold inside longer.  It is certified bear proof and can easily be locked up or locked down.  The sides feature YakAttack tracks on the side that allow you countless options for mounting rod holders, drink holders, tie downs, camera mounts.  Basically if it can be attached with a YakAttack or Ram mount it can go on here.

Inside the rotomolded shell is a best in class two-inches of foam to ensure that cold stuff stays cold.  There is a fully functional tray system inside as well that is perfect for those PB&J’s for that afternoon lunch break or snack.  The handles are looped through line and there is an indent to grab the cooler itself that makes it a breeze to carry by yourself or with a friend.  

Overall the quality, features and colors make this the number one cooler to have in your boat and in the field.