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Nature is the subject and the medium at Scott Hirschi Fine Wood Burning

nature

Fish are beautiful.  Even if you’ve only caught a handful in your life, you know that no two specimens are alike.  The scaling, colors, and spotting so unique, we anglers are just as anxious to snap a pic of our catch as get them to shore.  I’ve always thought of each one a distinct work of art.  I appreciate the hundreds of catches I see in my feeds each day online and while the photos do these fish plenty of justice, sometimes an artisan can bring out an even higher level of detail to catch your eye.  Especially for a memorable fish from a memorable trip, you can take your photos and make much more out of them.  Some catches can be transformed into a permanent keepsake to hang on your wall, decorate your man cave or complete your study mantle. Expressed in a new medium, your special catch can be seen in a whole new light.  This happens to be the work of Scott Hirschi and it’s called pyrography.

pyrography: the art or technique of decorating wood or leather by burning a design on the surface with a heated metallic point.

He takes some of the finest woods and turns them into gorgeous artworks that bring out the sometimes overlooked aspects of your catch.  To learn more about how he does this, we reached out to Scott talk more about him and his artwork.

Tell us about yourself. How did you get started as an artist and angler too?

I’ve been an artist and a fishermen as long as I can remember. When I was a kid, fishing was really my favorite activity. My family was heavily involved in stock car racing and that took up most of our summer weekends in Montana. But, on the rare weekend off, my dad would take us fishing and I couldn’t get enough of it. I remember wanting to fish every body of water that we would drive by and wanting to live in the small towns with rivers running right through them. When I got old enough, my friends and I would walk 5 miles to a small creek to fish all day. We would carry our rods and tackle boxes with very little water or anything else in the hot summer just to fish. I discovered fly fishing as a young adult and taught myself through trial and error. I still love it every bit as much and I fish a couple times a week on average throughout the year.

As far as art goes, I was always drawing. My coloring books as a kid had a blank page inside the front and back covers and that was always filled with drawings, mostly of race cars. I thought I wanted to be an artist and my focus turned to wildlife in middle school. I got a really small art scholarship to a small Wyoming college and thought I’d be a fine arts major. I wasn’t college material and didn’t last. I dabbled in pencil drawing and some pen and ink stuff off and on for many years. Then, about 8 years ago, I discovered pyrography (wod burning) and found that I was better with a burner than I was with anything else. I put a piece in a charity auction and it sold for much more than I was getting for my drawings. I loved the fact that it is different and you rarely are next to other wood burners when art is displayed. I also like the fact that almost everyone has tried it as a kid and that I’ve taken it to a higher level. So, I set out to see how far I could get with an uncommon media in the art world. Now, I’m in a couple Montana galleries and I’m making it into good juried art shows. This past March, I was in a show in Great Falls, Montana for their prestigous Western Art Week. I’ve been interviewed by Woodworker’s Journal, a national publication. My art is hung alongside some fantastic artists that I look up to. It’s only been three years since I got really serious about it and I’m enjoying every step of it. I have some great artists as mentors and they are very excited about the progression of my art career. At age 51, I’m now ready to do everything it actually takes.

A favorite fishing story. Maybe one that provided(s) art inspiration?

Wow, so many. Most of my favorite fishing memories are of specific fish that are difficult to catch. There was a large rainbow trout on the Missouri River sipping tricos that ignored every cast and every pattern until I finally fooled it with a rusty spinner that was just different enough to catch her attention. There was a large brown in gin clear water. I, somehow, made a perfect cast on the first attempt. I watched that fish move up to take the fly and just couldn’t wait to set the hook. So, I set it slightly prematurely and pulled the fly just before it actually took it. There was another rainbow on the Missouri feeding in a tough spot. I cast at that fish for nearly an hour trying to get the right drift until it ate the fly. I should use these and other personal experiences to inspire art, but it seems that, when I’m fishing, I’m fishing and, when I’m creating art, that is the focus. I’m more inspired by just the beauty of the fish and animals that I encounter. I do a lot of different wildlife in my art, but the fish really get the most attention. Every time I create something with a fish, I am inundated with inquiries about buying it. My galleries want more fish!

What are the unique fishing opportunities near you, favorite kind of fishing to do, tackle tips or tricks?

I live in one of the best trout fishing areas in the country. I am near the headwaters of the Missouri River and it flows very near to Helena. The Missouri as a tailwater is one of the best trout streams in the world. Also, the chain of reservoirs that it flows through are fantastic for trout, walleye, perch and more. I’m a short drive to the Madison, Blackfoot, Big Hole, Beaverhead, Bitterroot, Clark’s Fork and more. Helena is centrally located in Montana, so we really have it all for trout.


One of my favorite things to do is to fish the reservoirs for trout with my fly rod. I have a small pontoon and I can be on the water in twenty minutes. I love fishing chironomid patterns under and indicator for big rainbows. I also love to fish crayfish patterns by throwing them tight to the bank and stripping them. I’m also starting to figure out how to catch some perch and walleye on the fly rod. This smmer, I plan on targeting carp in the bays of Canyon Ferry Reservoir. Add to that many small mountain creeks and I have lots of great options!

Living in Montana has plenty of advantages.  For Scott, it’s not only a constant source of inspiration but also a good excuse to get outside fishing often!  To learn more about his work check out this link to his page or his Facebook page!


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Fly Fishing the City: A sewer runs through it

“Discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes” – Marcel Proust

 

It’s a part of our human nature that we long for adventure.  Being a fisherman means you are first an explorer. This need for new experiences is really part of our DNA. Fishing travel provides just a multitude of ways you can scratch this itch.  Tarpon on the Fly in Mexico, Giant Catfish in Spain, and an innumerable number of other adventures abound on earth to fill your bucket list.

For most, our job and home life precludes us from searching the four corners of the globe for new fish.  What the travel blogging community accomplishes is truly awesome for those who can swing it but for the rest of us, it’s about all we can practically manage to take a vacation each year or a short weekend out of town to satiate this need. While that is the reality for millions of anglers, one of the best aspects of this sport is that you can still accomplish plenty of new fishing experiences without stamping the passport.  Fishing firsts can be achieved in your own backyard if you’re willing to challenge your perception of a good catch or a good spot.  This year I’ve invested more time in uncovering spots to fish close to home.  Some are within reach of a short bike ride!  I’ve been amazed by what I’ve discovered.

After our CARPSTL group was formed earlier this year, I’ve met some really great guys that are in to Carp fishing and also know some interesting places about town to try.  I’ve found in recent years that the overlooked, undesirable fish species located in overlooked, undesirable locales can provide your most unexpected fishing adventures.  Joe Oelke from our group offered to show me around River Des Peres to see what we could catch on the fly.

The river Des Peres meets the Mississippi in south St. Louis. It’s known for one thing in particular; the smell. “The River of the Fathers” was named after the Catholic missionary efforts here in the 1700s. Floods here have inflicted damage to property, even taken lives and has led to efforts to channel the flow of water.  This is when the concrete “banks” were constructed.  It’s actually a mixed use sewer and storm drainage facility for thousands of residents. While it’s improved in water quality a lot over the decades, it’s not your picturesque Colorado trout stream. There are trophy smallmouth bass and trout waters just a couple hours away. So why bother fishing in this literal shithole? (just being presidential in my choice of descriptors here)

Guides and other serious anglers have discovered these opportunities in other cities.  A great example can be found in Houston with Danny Scarborough of Houston Fly Fishing Guide Service.  Running right through downtown is a drainage facility (the “concrete flats”) where a smorgasbord of fish species can be caught on the fly.  Tilapia, eels, Common and Grass Carp, Koi, bowfin, catfish, buffalo, mullet, redfish, bass, you name it.  Another great example is the LA River that has been the scene for famous movie scenes including Grease, Transformers, and more.  These aren’t just random anglers but sometimes professional fishing guides building their careers in what could be considered unconventional urban sport fishing.


Joe and I set out to ring in the Memorial Day weekend at sunrise Saturday morning. A short jaunt from the Walgreens parking lot and we were on the water. We’re seeking carp mostly, fly rod in hand. I have 6wt Berkeley Stinger rod I’ve had 25 years. Fly fishing has only recently become an obsession, brought on primarily in the pursuit of Carp on the fly. I’ve had some great fun landing carp on ultralight gear so fly fishing seemed to be the next curious step in this pursuit.

We were looking more than odd with our fly fishing rods and packs crossing Carondelet.  The bikers, runners, and random residents going about life were not stopping to ask what we’re doing and we were definitely the only ones fishing.  No worries there at all.  Undesirable species + undesirable locales=unexpected fishing adventures.

As we approach the shoreline, it’s clear (not the water) that there are no shortage of fish and activity in this river.  We spot gar near the surface, carp tailing and leaving bubble trails.  It’s maybe 10 minutes before we have our first fish – a short nose gar.  While some may throw them back on the shore, a gar is a great deal of fun on the fly.  They give good chase to most any offering.  For a newer fly fisherman, they are excellent practice.  Casting to targets you can make out regularly just below the surface greatly help in both accuracy and they also provide you some chances at long casts that can generate a catch.

We continue catching gar as the early morning quickly disappears.  Time is always evasive once you get fishing.  We cast to dozens of bubble trails and spot at least 50 carp but not one had interest.  The water clarity was too dark to ID them so our best guess was they were bighead or black carp or perhaps spawning with no interest in taking a fly.  Some grass carp were also evident near shore, feeding on and below random vegetation.

The landscape provided no shortage of views while we casted away.  Post-war bungalows and ranch homes from the 50s and 60s still line these streets.  The blocks untouched by modern home renovation standards like that seen in areas like Kirkwood or Brentwood where homes like this are leveled for a modern, more luxurious structures.  Much of the area still retains the charm of a bygone era.  Much like the fishing opportunity that is River Des Peres, this area has a peculiar beauty to be appreciated.

So yes, you are free to turn up your nose or plug it altogether if you won’t fish the River Des Peres but it’s your loss. There are a wide variety of species and in good numbers in select parts of this body of water.  You’ll get some crazy looks but you’ll also find some adventure.  This area is not unique to St. Louis by any means.  Get out and explore your local waterways.  Many teem with fishing opportunities to be enjoyed for those “seeing with new eyes”.



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Celebration Saturday: Fishing & Sobriety with Ian Wilson

Family

"So let me get this straight, you spend all that time and money chasing after fish, only to throw them back? "  It's a question I've heard most of my life as others try to understand the appeal of fishing.  Often this line of questioning comes from folks who pay $75 to chase a little white ball in miniature cars after driving all week back and forth to the office.  Or those who drop $20k and countless amounts after that on accessories for their beloved motorcycles.  We all have our passions, interests, and hobbies that truly make life worth living.  Fishing however is much more than just catching fish.  For many it's a form of therapy.  Fishing can, as this HuffPost article aptly describes, make us a better person.

Fishing has always been an outlet for me during the good but especially the challenging times in life.  During middle and high school, I didn't have many friends.  I didn't date girls.  Some of the friends I did have were getting into things that were not good for any of us.  While fishing didn't help me develop social skills at all, it definitely helped me develop an appreciation for nature.  A respect for all living creatures I could demonstrate each time on the water.  I learned how interconnected our world was and that ultimately influenced a belief in intelligent design when I had been an agnostic for years.  The quiet solitude of the shoreline made being a very introverted kid feel at home.
Rapala 10% Off FISH10 125x125

These days, the lake, the forest, the stream, the rivers: they still provide the much desired respite from work, family, and more that can be stressors.  For many, it's the only way to escape the man-made constructs of daily life.  The floruescent light, cubicle walls, and bathroom air dispensors of the office workplace weigh heavy on the human psyche.  Maybe it's that stack of laundry, house cleaning, and the fighting kids at home.  Whatever your reason, fishing is a great stress reliever.  It gets you outdoors, it provides some exercise, time with family, and for those challenged with addiction, it's a healthy habit away from the temptations of alcohol and drug use.

This feature looks at the story of Ian Wilson, a fisheries professional who recently celebrated three years of sobriety by getting an entire day out on the water to chase trout. This was Cinco de Mayo no less of course, one of the biggest party events of the year.  His message below on Facebook I found inspirational and I was curious to learn more about his story.  Lucky for us, Ian was willing to share.

"My amazing wife let me fish all day today to celebrate three years of sobriety.  Three years ago I couldn't have tied a fly to save my life, my hands shook so badly.  Tying has been a big part of my recovery from years of abusing my body with alcohol and drugs.  I highly recommend tying as a form of therapy to anyone in a similar situation.  Thanks for everyone on here's direct and indirect support.  It means a lot.  Tight lines and God Bless!"

Have you always been a fisherman or has that been an interest that’s developed over time? 

I am a seasonal fisheries technician for a government wildlife management agency based in Steamboat Springs, CO. In the winters, I teach adaptive skiing and snowboarding to people with cognitive and physical disabilities for a local non-profit.

I started fly fishing when I was a kid, probably around age 11-12. I fished a lot as a teenager and in my early 20’s, but stopped taking it seriously the more my drinking progressed. Now, living near a fantastic trout fishery has it perks. I get to fish around 150 days per year, even if just for a couple hours after work. I always have at least two rods rigged and ready to fish in my truck at any given time. I don’t subscribe to any one school of fly fishing, I just like to catch fish. More often than not, that means nymphing for trout. I do find dry fly fishing to be the most relaxing for me. Focusing on a drifting fly allows me to quiet my mind like nothing else I’ve found except maybe tying flies.

Below are a few of Ian's own fly tying creations.

Wire bodied soft hackle

Blue Wing Olive Emerger

Variation of a Charlie Craven pattern called the "Two Bit Stone"



At what point did you identify that your drinking was becoming a problem in your life? How did fishing play a role in helping with your sobriety?
I had known that I drank too much for years before I actually stopped. I knew I had to stop when after a doctor visit and routine blood work, my doctor called to tell me that my liver was in bad shape and I seriously needed to consider lifestyle changes. I took me over two years and three treatment centers of struggling to get 90 consecutive days sober. I just celebrated three years on May 5th. I quickly turned back to fishing and fly tying soon after getting sober. I found myself with tons of energy and enthusiasm for life once I wasn’t thinking about getting drunk all the time. Fishing gave me something to wake up early for, to be excited about.

Advice for others in general regarding how fishing can be a positive outlet that can keep them on track in life?
I have heard of people using fishing as a positive outlet in so many different ways, it blows my mind. In my opinion, getting outside, clearing your mind without drugs or alcohol, learning a new skill or method, and getting exercise at the same time is my idea of a perfect day.

Another great example of what's possible when you create new routines and experiences that don't involve alcohol can be found in Mike Fisher's story.  He set a goal to not only catch a fish in every state but to also help others on their path to sobriety in the process.  The film One Cast at a Time below is well worth the five minutes.

There are perhaps no better ways to spend a day celebrating independence from alcohol addiction than to spend it in an activity that helps you stay away from the temptation.  One of my "go-to" responses these days when people ask "why do you love fishing?" is that you can't get into much trouble doing it!  If you're finding yourself needing an escape, want to create a new healthy habit, or are struggling with addiction, fishing maybe helpful in your pursuit.  For actual help with addiction to alcohol, Alcoholics Anonymous can help.  If you're concerned you're seeing the signs, start by talking to your doctor or counselor today!

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A trip across the pond: Fishing gear for a variety of European Species with Jamie Sandford

Life is short and the fish to be caught are many! There are so many places to fish throughout this planet.  It’s a fact that has only become more and more apparent in recent years as the global reach of the internet empowers anglers to not just pursue new places to catch the fish they love but to also introduce them to new species of fish that reside in countries far from their own home waters.  With the goal in mind to continue expanding our angling borders here on River King Fishing, I sought out one of my Facebook friends in England to shed some light on what’s available there. We love Carp fishing here and that also applies to my buddy Jamie Sandford.  I came to know Jamie and others through one of my favorite Facebook pages, Carp Champions.  Jamie’s even recently designed a new line of ‘bespoke/alternative’ Carp patterns available on the U.K. market from Barbless Flies.  To learn more about Jamie, I included the below bio on Jamie straight from their page for it’s succinct background provided.

Jamie Sandford is 28 and lives in the North-West of England. He has fished from a very early age and in particular loves Lure fishing. Jamie enjoys fishing for a variety of species both in the U.K. and Abroad and has been lucky enough to catch some very special fish from Flats in Portugal, Rivers in Spain and Lakes in France. In recent years he has taken a real interest (and become a leading light) in one particular method – CARP ON THE FLY.

While we both love and spend so much time on Carp, we also wanted to learn more about the other species and techniques used in Europe to catch them. Jamie was kind enough to share his views and experiences.

Tell me more about your favorite fishing when you’re not pursuing Carp on a fly rod?  A big part of my fishing has primarily been lures. I have been lucky to fish abroad for the last ten years and mostly in Europe. Countries such as France, Spain and Portugal. One of my favourite places in particular is the RIVER EBRO in Spain. Here I target:

PERCH
CATFISH
BLACK BASS
ZANDER


I often take a guided trip towards the end of the year (September) with PRO PREDATOR FISHING ADVENTURES, Run and owned by British angler ‘Lee Carpenter’ who’s details can be found on Facebook.

Travel

Intrigued by Jamie’s mention, I had to find out what exactly is a Zander.  Turns out it’s a member of the Perch family and while not of the same family of fish, Walleye are part of the same Genus (Sander) so they do have a resemblance to Walleye.  Perch happen to be the most represented fish species in Europe and the Zander even has some representation in the United States.  Less foreign of a species is of course Black Bass.  Americans might take offense at their prized gamefish being known as a “coarse fish” in parts of Europe.  Per Wikipedia, it’s not a scientifically based designation but more a perception that developed among anglers from the past.  Much like how Americans perceive Carp as “trash fish”while Europeans hold them in high regard as a sport fish.

“The distinction between coarse fish and game fish has no taxonomic basis.[2] It originated in the United Kingdom in the early 19th century. Prior to that time, recreational fishing was a sport of the gentry, who angled for salmon and trout and called them game fish. There was a view that other fish did not make as good eating, and they were disdained as coarse fish.[3][4] Coarse fish have scales that are generally larger than the scales of game fish,[2] and they tend to inhabit warmer and stiller waters.”

In stark contrast to the above opinions which diverge greatly as you cross the Atlantic, fishing for Black Bass in Spain pretty much mirrors what we do here in the United States surprisingly.  I enjoyed this excerpt from The Essential Guide to Coarse Fishing, titled American Style Freshwater Black Bass Fishing and a Recipe for Success

“Normally a pair of anglers share a small fibreglass boat, which they manoeuvre, using an electric trolling motor to steer them silently near to the bank where they cast to shore using favourite blue or gold Yensen and woodchopper spinning lures. Or they may prefer to troll up and down the reservoir to locate fish using rubber worm wrigglers. This is an exciting way to fish, the bites are frantic and the fight explosive.

After a successful morning, the catch is filleted and barbequed: with the rest of the family lunch is served by the shore with a glass or two of local wine. Angling in Spain at its best is a reflection of Spanish way of life in general and is very much to do with friends and family.”

That last line goes a long way in underlining the universal appeal of fishing.  You don’t need to be in Alabama or Washington to enjoy catching bass, grilling what you caught, and then washing it down with your beverage of choice.  Be it a full-bodied English Ale or an American lager that could be described as beer-flavored water, at the end of the day fishing is a great pastime and avocation to share with those you love.

Back to Jamie’s own experiences in Spain on the River Ebro.  Below is a quick video summarizing some of the Bass they caught there.

Fishing Gear

What does fishing look like on the River Ebro in Spain?  

A weeks fishing from a boat often includes fishing deeper sections of the river as well as shallow, Clear backwaters where bass and perch can be found amongst structure. Drop-Shotting softplastics and jigging weighted shads often scores Zander and Catfish in the deeper water, However, On my most recent trip (Sep 2017) Fishing Crankbaits in water up to 50ft scores many takes from a variety of species – Including a Perch, Zander and a bonus Carp, Which I lost in the snags of a sunken tree!  The picture of the lures above show the style of medium to deep diving lures used by myself and these are brands such as ‘Molix’ and ‘ILLEX’.

As you can gather from my interview, there are a variety of similarities and some differences in our fishing techniques and experiences.  A unifier for sure however is the love of the catch.  The pursuit  and strategy involved as well as the challenge to catch greater numbers and of course sizes of fish.  Much like runners seeking their new PB, we anglers pursue new records as well.  It’s great fun and a fantastic way to enjoy the outdoors whether you’re fishing the Thames, the Ebro, or the Missouri!


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Tenkara Carp Fishing with Donavan Clary

A reoccurring theme on this blog is that of curiosity.  Anglers are explorers first and we seek adventure in not only the species we pursue but where and also in the methods employ to do the catching.  We are endlessly curious about the ways to get a hook in a fish’s mouth.  There’s lots of ground we’ve covered already with carp: Carp on the fly from multiple angles, conventional carp fishing, carp fishing on Gyeonji, so why not try catching carp on a Tenkara rod?

 

First of all what is Tenkara?  Per Wikipedia: Tenkara fly fishing is a traditional type of fishing practiced in Japan. Primarily used for mountain stream trout fishing, tenkara is one of the most popular methods of angling among fresh-water mountain anglers in Japan.  Tenkara rods resemble the long, flexible construction used in fly rods to help cast line rather than lures.  You will often find overlap among fly fishing enthusiasts and those who take to Tenkara.  What’s missing here however is the reel.  Tenkara rods are fixed line, meaning you have no drag to rely to help tire your catch.


If you’ve ever caught a carp, especially of decent size, you may already be skeptical.  Carp are some of the strongest fighting freshwater fish, renown for their powerful runs that will snap lines or even pull in your entire rod and reel in your lake or river if you’re not attentive.  I’ve brought a few reels to an early demise over the years from all the abuse the drag would endure getting them to shore.  Fly anglers love catching carp as one of the fish they can rely on taking them into their backing which doesn’t happen as much chasing trout, panfish, or bass.  So what makes someone think that using a fixed line fly rod is an appropriate or even potentially successful way to catch carp?  It sounded like a heartbreak in the making but following some of Donavan Clary’s catches of carp on the fly, I noticed he was doing this successfully on Tenkara.  Donavan has been a fly fishing guide guide in Oklahoma chasing trout, striper, and gar for over 20 years. Donavan has also done Carp fishing trips and is offering carp on Tenkara trips specifically too.  I was fascinated and had to learn more and he was happy share more of his methods behind the madness in the below guest post.

Carp on tenkara.  It is possible. It is fun. It is very fun. I started fly fishing at 8 years old in the Ozark mountains for trout. Over the span of 37 years, I’ve chased dozens of fresh water species with a fly rod and several saltwater species.
Lately, Carp are my obsession and what I’ve been learning how to catch over the past 6 years. Carp are unbelievably smart. They fight like crazy and are a challenge like no other I’ve encountered. Early last year I was challenged by a close friend to catch and land a carp over 10# on a new tenkara rod.  A challenge I accepted with a smile all the while worrying about on the inside.

I had bought two tenkara rods to play with a few months before and had not even taken them out of their tubes. After accepting the challenge I started researching carp on tenkara and planning my attack on the carp at the local carp hole!

I tied several patterns that I knew would work. I found several common carp and one smaller mirror feeding on a shallow flat.
I approached and made my presentation, the first fish took my fly and in a few short seconds, broke me off and robbed me of my fly. Over the next few weeks I kept attempting to land a trophy carp on a tenkara rod. I’ve learned how to do it and I love it!

I stress the fact I’m completely new at carp on tenkara. I have hooked and lost far more than I have landed but I have caught, and taught others how to do it and I’m going to share it with you.

1. The biggest factor is fish. You have to have fish if you are going to catch one.
2. Setting. Keep in mind you don’t have extra line or a drag system to help you. You are going to have to locate carp in a setting you have the advantage. Away from structure of any kind. In an area you can chase them down and fight them.
3. Gear. You need good high quality tippet and leaders. I’m a fan of fluorocarbon and believe it benefits me. That being said, I have caught a lot of carp with monofilament and wouldn’t pass up using it if that’s what I had available.
4. Your approach is key. Don’t alert the fish. Get your fly to them without spooking them is half the challenge.
5. Hooking up and catching up is crucial. When a big fish makes a run, you have to be able to take chase and tire the fish out. Without losing your fly.

All of your common carp flies will work on tenkara. Standard tenkara rods designed for carp will catch carp. The challenge is getting close enough to present the fly and then staying hooked up.

Everyone who fly fishes needs to chase carp. Everyone who carp fishes needs to try catching one on a tenkara rod.
Carp on the fly is cool! Carp on the fly using a tenkara rod… There’s nothing cooler!

If you’re interested in booking Donavan for a fly fishing trip in Oklahoma, check out his Facebook page.  If you’re looking to get a carp on the fly yourself, on Tenkara even, check out his other page for more information.

 

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Angling and Art meld beautifully in Slackertide gear

Fishing Gear

At River King Fishing we want to shine a spotlight on a variety of fascinating topics and people from the world of fishing. This has led us to interview fishing guides, authors, photographers, and now added to this mixed bag of fishy content will be fishing artists. I could think of no better place to start this new line of features than with Richard Blanco from Slackertide and EddyRedd.

Located at a distinctive intersection of fishing, art, and pop culture that Richard created, Slackertide manages to bring out the best in all three. Iconic images of 80’s Hollywood films, classic rock and country music, SNL comedy legends in their most memorable roles, and more are viewed through the lens of the modern angler. It’s not just his talent for sketch but the truly uncanny skill Richard brings is in the pairing of characters, references, and fish.

Tangled up in BlueFlounder Pounder

If we possessed a sliver of this creativity, it would seem these fishing + pop culture parallels might be more obvious. As if already dwelling somewhere in the subconscious mind of a collective of serious anglers with an equally serious mental catalog of movie, TV, and music references.  But like Picasso once said,  “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working”.  This feature should serve as inspiration no matter what you’re passionate about. What follows in my interview with Richard is proof that you can make something very real and significant from your own ideas, if you’re doing the work to make that vision come to life.

Tailer Sunrise

Tell us about yourself.  How did you get started as an artist and angler too?  Richard Blanco aka @Slackertide on instagram is an illustrator, graphic designer, and artist who just tries to make some funny and cool fishing art. I started using the name Slackertide because I thought it worked well with the art I was making.  Most of the characters I draw are in some way slackers. My generation were often called “slackers”, and everybody knows slack tide is the best time to make art.

Although I’ve been making art my whole life, I only started mixing art and fishing about 2 years ago, so it’s been a pretty recent turn of events. I made an abrupt change in my style which just happened to coincide with me picking up a fly rod for the first time. Prior to that I was making mostly abstract work, and selling primarily through galleries. Nowadays its mostly all fishing artwork and graphic design done primarily for a brand I’m helping to launch called Eddy Redd.

What’s been your best fishing experience or that has provided you inspiration?  Well my favorite day of fishing ever was on the flats off of Harbour Island in the Bahamas. I just couldn’t ask for better set up. Perfect weather, turquoise gin clear water, and I hooked into two nice bonefish… my first bones ever and on the fly too! The experience definitely inspired a few designs.

Ghostbusted

What are the unique fishing opportunities near you? I live in South Florida. So there is nearly every kind of fishing opportunity you can think of. There’s great freshwater fishing for bass. The inshore bite is superb. Walking the beach sight casting is always fun, and of course theres loads of offshore. If I could only fish my area for just one day, I would suggest inshore fishing the mangroves & docks. If offers the opportunity to hook into a wide variety of great fish from snook & jack crevalle to sea trout and smaller tarpon.


Richard’s work should inspire you. There’s creative, untapped potential in us all.  Add to that, today’s internet age is leveling the playing field so everyone can make their own platform to create, speak, or to shout their message and share their talents. Marrying those talents with our passions can create impressive works, even entire businesses from what were once only thoughts in our mind. Whatever you’ve got cooking in your mind, don’t let it marinate up there anymore! Start serving that stuff up! Let people tell you it’s terrible, then make it better. Don’t lose another day to woulda, coulda, shouldas, or maybes!

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working

 Pablo Picasso

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Gyeonji Fishing for Carp and more with Devin Biggs

A favorite show to pass the time on the daily commute is The Orvis Fly Fishing podcast with Tom Rosenbauer.  In an episode late last year, Tom was answering an emailed question about how to convince more anglers that fly fishing was better or “the way to go” instead of a conventional rod and reel approach.  Tom simply replied that fly fishing was “just another way to get a hook in a fish’s mouth.”  I loved this frank response because when you boil it all down, it not only applies to fly fishing but to most any fishing method. A foundational theme found throughout the content of this blog, this venture called River King Fishing, is that we write for the endlessly curious angler.  This latest installment looking at fishing for carp with Gyeonji rod is no exception.


By now you can guess we love carp fishing. That love was born from their pure fighting ability. Carp will give you a run for the money. Long runs will leave your drag smoking, taking you into the rough stuff, and when you think you’re ready to net your catch, it starts all over. You need a reel to successfully land these fish (or so I thought). My favorite way to catch carp has been using under-matched, ultralight gear to up the challenge.  That has evolved to include fly fishing this year so now it’s the long runs into the backing and their brutal pulling power that makes catching carp so great on the fly. So when I first saw a Gyeonji, I have to say I didn’t think it able to handle a carp.

I wouldn’t have likely come across the Gyeonji had I not become familiar with Gyeonji Neardic and Devin Biggs. If you’re looking for an introduction (and some inspiration) as to what is Gyeonji,  this fantastic video outlines some of the basics.  Gyeonji rods can be used for a wide variety of species but why not start with carp? I was completely stunned a manually spun reel would successfully manage the above mentioned fighting prowess of the carp. If you’re curious yourself, have a look at his channel to see some battles first-hand.

What follows is my interview with Devin where he lets us in on what Gyeonji in the United States is all about.

Tell us about yourself and your favorite fishing. Do you have favorite species, waters and approaches?

I have always loved fishing. I grew up in Northern Wisconsin, “Sportsman’s Paradise”, in an area with dozens of clean, natural lakes as well as the confluence of the Chippewa River and Mississippi River. My favorite angling style has always been river bank fishing. There are so many different species that you might hook in a river with a minnow, cut bait or nightcrawler. I selectively harvest and enjoy eating the fish I catch, but I also appreciate the amazing diversity of fish species that we have in our local waters.

How did you get into Gyeonji fishing? What about your rod design? How does it differ from the Korean Gyeonji rods?

Like many other anglers, I was intrigued by the viral video from Great Big Story that featured Korean angler Jung-Hoon Park fishing a mountain river with the traditional Gyeonji gear. Before I ever tried fishing with a Gyeonji rod, I could imagine this as an effective approach that distills the angling challenge down to its most basic elements. The Gyeonji rod has no gears, mechanical drag or any other moving parts, but relies instead on a practical design along with simple bait presentation and fish-fighting techniques.

Since there are no sellers here in the US with Korean Gyeonji rods, I wondered if I could build my own. My design resembles the Korean Gyeonji rods, but instead of using a pair of vanes as the rod-end spool/winder, my rods (designed as the Gyeonji Nearctic product line) are assembled with three or four vanes. Korean anglers usually fish the traditional Gyeonji rods in the current of a stream or river, with the rod spun in the fingertips to drift downstream and retrieve. The design of the Gyeonji Neartic rods, on the other hand, allows for a cast with weight because the line can easily peel off the spool. With the right combination of line and weight, these rods can cast to 30 yards or more. The Gyeonji Nearctic rods can thus be used for many kinds of waters and fishing situations.

How have you used the Gyeonji rods for Carp fishing? Do they have any special advantages or limitations for Carp?

Gyeonji rods are not well-suited for use with lures. Although they can cast with pretty good distance, it takes some time to set up each cast by carefully winding the tip section of line onto the spool. For this reason I mainly use with bait (live bait, Carp bait or cut bait) by casting or drifting a baited rig. I’ve found they work especially well with species and rigging where the fish is likely to hook itself on a sharp hook.

 

These are my two favorite approaches:

A. Circle hook rigs for Catfish
B. Bolt rigs for Carp.

When bank fishing, I leash the Gyeonji rod securely with a length of cord and then rest it in a telescoping rod holder. When a strong fish gets hooked and starts its first run, the rod spins in its holder for easy, low-tech bite detection. With such simple gear, Gyeonji fishing is especially thrilling during battle with hard-fighting fish. As long as you pay attention and learn some basic technique, a rod matched with the right line and terminal tackle can handle large, powerful fish. Carp are my favorite quarry to pursue with the Gyeonji rod. Carp fishing provides almost infinite possibilities for settings in all kinds of lakes and river and spectacular battles with tough, fast-running fish.

carp fishing

Gyeonji rods are short, measuring only 24” to 30” in length. Longer conventional gear rods can of course cast considerably farther and they can also provide an advantage for leading hooked fish away from weeds & snags, but I’ve found the Gyeonji rods are otherwise comparable for most situations. Landing a fish can be easier with the Gyeonji rod. Since you can wind the line on the spool right up to the fish’s head, you don’t have to also manage an extra rod-length section of line while netting the fish.

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A Traveler’s Perspective: Cypress stands and Crappie slabs at Reelfoot Lake

While it's great fun to research, interview, and ultimately write about great fishing travel opportunities for the entire family, when you get to instead do the catching firsthand, well that's of course much better.  I was lucky enough in March to get to fish Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee.  A short 3+ hour drive from St. Louis, Reelfoot provides a variety of outdoor opportunities for anglers. Big Crappie, Catfish, duck hunting, and eagle watching are synonymous with Reelfoot Lake.  The Crappie are especially the draw during the spring season so I was grateful to try it out with my friend Hosea Bartlett.

Reelfoot Lake

Another draw to this area is the unique natural beauty that surrounds you.  Reelfoot was formed in the earthquake that ravaged this part of the country in 1811.  An earthquake so significant, the Mississippi River flowed backwards for hours due to the violent shift of the landscape starting near New Madrid.  The United States Geological Survey describes the event like this:

The earthquakes caused the ground to rise and fall - bending the trees until their branches intertwined and opening deep cracks in the ground. Deep seated landslides occurred along the steeper bluffs and hillslides; large areas of land were uplifted permanently; and still larger areas sank and were covered with water that erupted through fissures or craterlets. Huge waves on the Mississippi River overwhelmed many boats and washed others high onto the shore. High banks caved and collapsed into the river; sand bars and points of islands gave way; whole islands disappeared. The region most seriously affected was characterized by raised or sunken lands, fissures, sinks, sand blows, and large landslides that covered an area of 78,000 - 129,000 square kilometers, extending from Cairo, Illinois, to Memphis, Tennessee, and from Crowley's Ridge in northeastern Arkansas to Chickasaw Bluffs, Tennessee. Only one life was lost in falling buildings at New Madrid, but chimneys were toppled and log cabins were thrown down as far distant as Cincinnati, Ohio, St. Louis, Missouri, and in many places in Kentucky, Missouri, and Tennessee.

A notable area of subsidence that formed during the February 7, 1812, earthquake is Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee, just east of Tiptonville dome on the downdropped side of the Reelfoot scarp. Subsidence there ranged from 1.5 to 6 meters, although larger amounts were reported.


Rapala Husky Jerk_125x125

Visitors today take in the view of a lake that is punctuated with stands of Cypress trees throughout.  The bald eagles make their nests in these trees and make for some great viewing while you wait for the fish.  The lake is mostly shallow, averaging about 5 feet with the deepest part of the lake not even 20 feet deep.

Cypress Point Resort

Our package included a two night stay, boat use, minnows and crickets for bait.  You can't forget the all important free coffee in the morning too!  The room was perfect for two guys just looking for a comfortable place to sleep between fishing and eating.  What stands out at Cypress Point is the great service and attentiveness to your needs.  The staff are full of energy and always happy to help you get setup for fishing.  They usually have what you need before you remember you need it. The lures, gear, and of course the boat ready to go when you are. An all around great service experience here.

David Blakely's Guide Service

We booked an outing with David Blakely who Hosea had hired before.  We got plenty of rain Friday so on Saturday morning the lake did not look good.  David was actually concerned we might not be happy with the result and offered to take us out Sunday instead.  We chose to still give it a go and while it was still raining on the way to the lake, this was our view setting up at the first spot.

This fishing experience was much more than I expected. Crappie don’t grow to 10-20lbs. They’re not known for their leaping ability. They don’t particularly fight hard and don’t take you along for the ride on 25 yard runs. We weren’t wielding ultralight gear but extra long baitcasters, pulling these fish straight up from a depth of only a few feet.


The challenge showed up however in the ebbs and flows of the bite. 10 minutes, maybe 30 go by with nothing. Suddenly there’s 3 rods bent with Crappie totaling 5 lbs. You have seconds to respond or they’re gone as the hooks will pop out or tear through their paper mouths.

David thrives as a guide in this environment. He’s got a net under your fish by the time you react to a bite. He’s as committed to you getting these slabs in the boat as humanly possible. Quickly moving from Port to Starboard and in between the 3 seats on the bow, he keeps the keeps the lines rigged, at the productive depth, and off the timber. It’s quite an operation!

While the fight is short bringing in these fish, keeping up with the action on the bow will undoubtedly keep you entertained. Hosea and I just had a blast. To boot, the end result of 24 Crappie totaling 39.7lbs was far beyond our expectations.

Later we had a true southern style lunch at Boyette's Dining Room. I considered the frog legs and quail before going with the fried shrimp po boy. While the fishing is of key importance, the food is up there in priority too!


After our early day on the water with David, we took out a boat ourselves, already included in our package. David even helped us get started with mapping out a locatiuron and an approach to use to catch Crappie. Cypress Point provided the minnows and we were off. We found a quiet cove in an about 20 minute boat ride. Fishing was slow and we only had a drum to show for our efforts but the lake was just gorgeous!

Cypress Point has staff on hand who will filet your catch. That day the going rate was $.50 a fish so for about $10 we enjoyed a beer that evening and outsourced the mess. Hosea shared some lively conversation with the team there while I grabbed a hot shower.
We grabbed dinner at Blue Bank Resort and enjoyed a great variety of appetizers, including some deep fried pickles and chicken wings. The strawberry spread on the free rolls are just killer too!


Sufix Castable_120x60

The next morning we repeated the process taking out a boat on our own, this time trying a spillway. The temperature had dropped almost 20 degrees overnight so the fish were not cooperating. We were grateful for having gone out Saturday while the getting was good! The experience of 2 trips with really no success helped underline how essential the expertise of a fishing guide can be. That is especially true of Reelfoot Lake. The boat ride between the ramp and our spots was a labyrinth where a newbie could quickly get lost. Your guide can literally be the difference between catching the largest poundage of Crappie you’ve seen and getting skunked entirely. We’d gladly recommend David if you’re considering a trip to Reelfoot Lake.

The experience was one that any angler would appreciate. I admit I’m only lukewarm on Crappie fishing but wanted to try something different. I was really impressed by the great time I had. My family really enjoyed the Crappie bake that Sunday night too. It really changed the minds of 3/4 of us about keeping and eating fish. I’ll always be a CPR (Catch-Picture-Release) practitioner primarily but on rare occasion, keeping a good eating fish is highly rewarding. Crappie are hard to beat in this regard!

If you already love Crappie fishing and are looking for a great opportunity to get into some big ones or some solid numbers in a beautiful setting, Reelfoot Lake is hard to beat. You may have some time left in this spring season but even if not, there's plenty of other great fishing there year round that's worth a look. You'll be impressed. I know I was!

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Fishing fun for the whole family at Kentucky Lake

Fishing fun for the whole family at Kentucky Lake

Kick'n Bass Kentucky Lake Crappie

Our first Adventure Finder location to feature is Kentucky Lake.  Kentucky Lake is known for it's fishing.  Smallmouth, Spotted, Largemouth, White (5lb state record was caught here), and Yellow Bass, Crappie, Sauger, Catfish, you name it.  It's 250 square miles of solid outdoor recreation and is about 200 miles/3 hour drive from St. Louis.

Rich Bay from Kick'n Bass has ran his guide service in Benton, Kentucky for years like his grandfather before him.  He welcomes visitors to come enjoy all that this lake has to offer.  What I noticed about Rich's guide service was the appeal for the entire family.  A variety of fish to catch, comfortable accommodations, and an experienced, knowledgeable guide.  I reached out to Rich to learn more about why he chose to become a fishing guide and learn more about his story.

 1) Tell us your story.  How you got into the profession and why you do it?  

I love to fish and meet new friends! I have fished my whole life. My goal is to share my lake knowledge and fishing techniques with other fishermen to make your day on the water both fun and rewarding. My greatest satisfaction is seeing happy fishermen and women with a big smile on his or her face.

After 20+ years as a fireman I was blessed enough to retire to my favorite place in the world, Kentucky Lake. Following in my Grandfathers footsteps as a fishing guide is a dream I’ve had since I was a boy and now I’m living my dream!!! And now my grandkids are learning. My goal is to share my lake knowledge and fishing techniques with other fishermen to make your day on the water both fun and rewarding.

 

2) What's been your favorite experience/fish story you've seen first hand as guide?  I'm on the water a lot whether guiding or not, searching for those special areas that attract game fish and finding out the best baits and patterns that work here on Kentucky Lake. I am in the fishing business to pass on things I have learned to you, the angler. Not only will I put you where the fish are, but I will also teach you how and where to use lures and techniques that you may have only read about. Everyday I learn something new, which helps keep my excitement of fishing going.

My favorite story was a family from Louisville, Ky. The dad was a Child head and neck oncologist...tough job. He brought his four children along for a catch whatever bites trip. We fished in a steady rain most of the day. Those kids smiled and laughed and hollered in joy for every fish we caught.  One of the most rewarding trips I've ever had! 

 

3) What are the fishing opportunities where you guide on Kentucky Lake? When are the best times for a given species? In March I start spider rigging for Crappies until the water reaches to 50+ degrees. At that temp, I start pulling crankbaits for crappies in the deeper bays.   I made this video with Kentucky Afield TV awhile back as an example.

Once May rolls around it's Redear/Bluegill time. When found on their beds there is no better fighting fish...and tasty too! Once June comes in I start casting Steelshad Bladebaits and Ken's Hybrid Spinners for Whitebass and Yellowbass. Then near end of August and beginning of September I switch back to pulling cranks for Crappies. Of course, during all of this fishing, a mixed bag of fish species will be caught. Largemouth, Catfish, Sauger etc.

Paducah, Kentucky is a short 35 minutes or so from Benton where Rich is located.  There is plenty to do in town as part of spring break or an extended weekend trip.  The kids might enjoy the River Discovery Center where they can learn about the importance of rivers to everyday life, especially in the Midwest.

http://www.riverdiscoverycenter.org/

There's plenty of shopping, dining, and a variety of activities in town for the kids between bowling, paintball, roller skating, movies, equestrian sports and more.

https://www.paducah.travel/things-to-do/recreation-and-sports/family-fun/

There are plenty of great accommodation options for the whole family in Paducah.  A great place to start would be the Holiday Inn.  With a very high Traveler Rank on TripAdvisor and their solid reputation, this is a strong one to consider.

Another highly rated option for consideration in Paducah is the Candlewood Suites.

If you want stay in town near Rich, a simple, low-cost option in Benton for a guys-only fishing trip could be the Benton Inn.

To book Captain Rich for your trip to Kentucky Lake, his contact details are below.

Captain Rich

270-205-7603

http://www.kicknbass.net/

Facebook: @kicknbassguideservice

 

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