Thursday, January 31, 2013

Zen and the Art of Outboard Resuscitation: The Chronicles of Peeber, Part 2

My first boat was a 1980something Sears Gamefisher 14' V hull tin can with a matching 15 horse outboard. I bought it for 800 bucks on a trailer and I still got screwed. I didn't really know anything about boats when I got that Gamefisher, but I knew I wanted(needed) a boat. We were living in Charlotte. I had quit the band. Major renovations were complete(bullshit) on the house, and the job was stable and steady. I was bored to death and just about a year into fly fishing, so I was full throttle excited about catching 10" stocker trout....and genuinely believed it couldn't be any better. I used to be intimidated by fly shops back then(it wasn't that long ago, and they weren't even real fly shops), so I would walk in, grab a rod or two and wiggle them to death with a 100% serious scrutinizing squinty eye. I didn't tie yet but I was interested, so I would check out the materials from the far corners of my non squinty eye and hope that no one noticed.....I wasn't ready to even have a conversation about it. Far too intimidating, it was. So, I'd wiggle rods and look at stuff that I pretended not to look at, do my best not to talk to anyone, and I'd walk out with 40 dollars in magazine's tucked under my arm. In one of those stacks I must have read an article about fly fishing for bass on lakes because I had a major revelation, and began my fly fishing world anew. The frantic search for watercraft followed immediately. I was distracted at work. I was distant at home. My brain was swollen with nonstop banter ping-ponging, rattling, smashing and bashing, whizzing around at ludicrous speed....canoe? That's a lot of paddling, but there's no motor or gas. But what if I want to take someone with me, or get one of those cool dogs like in the fly fishing mags? And there's the paddling. So, it's a jon boat. Flat bottom? V hull? But jon boats cost more...and the trailer...and the motor...and the gas. So, it's a kayak. On, and on, and on....for weeks, or maybe days(possibly hours) until...I picked one. I ultimately knew nothing about fishing boats, or the water I would be fishing, or anything useful at all to help me make an informed decision. I knew I wanted a boat so I got a boat. It sucked. Everything about it sucked. The v hull made it waaaaay too tippy. That motor was a 1.5 horse with a 15 sticker factory applied. Soooo damn slow. It never planed once. It would feel like it was going to, but then I'd either run out of lake or run out of gas. It was a pull start, but at some point, for some reason, the starter had been removed. So, you had to pull off the cowl, wrap a rope on the flywheel and give her a spin. It wasn't that big of a deal, and I didn't know any better. There are also NO starter assemblies available for a 1980something Sears Gamefisher 15hp POS. Anywhere. In the world. It took me a month and a half to actually get that motor running before I could get the boat on the water. The guy cranked it up(dry) in the driveway(front yard) before I handed over my 8 bills. Ok!! I'll take it. It was fucked. And so was I. Totally clueless. But I fixed that damn motor. I rebuilt the carb. I replaced the impeller and changed the oil in the lower unit. Changed the plugs. Still nothing. Fuel pump. Gaskets. Fuel lines. More gaskets. More gaskets. I'd order a part, wait a week for it to show up, and realize that wasn't the problem(or all of it anyway). That is not the most efficient way to perform simple maintenance and repairs on a 20 year old outboard motor that was originally sold in a place where they also sell loads and loads and loads of women's pants. I didn't know any of that. I just knew that I had 800 bucks sitting in my driveway(front yard) and I wanted to go catch a feature articles worth of trophy largemouth on a 8' 4 weight with 5 times tippet and a #12 wooly booger. I learned a lot in that boat. A lot about boats and motors. A lot about fly fishing. A lot about fish. I learned how to pole a boat in that boat. I learned how to cast farther than twenty feet. I learned how to cast twenty feet accurately. I learned that aluminum boats are loud and spook spooky fish. I learned that I was able to peer into the previously unfathomable world of simple(incredibly simple) 2 stroke combustion engine repair, and solve problems with intuition and common sense(trial and error). That boat was an education in what it sometimes means to be a man, and it boosted my confidence to unreasonable levels. Karmically, I must have needed an ego check. I needed to be reminded that although I was able to get one small, simple outboard motor running predictably and reliably(mmmmm..mostly), that I was not ready to go to work as a custom motorcycle builder....or even a neighborhood lawn mower repairman for that matter. I had/have inadequate tools. I'm a total slob. I can tend to be a gorilla, and I am severely patience challenged. It's a thing. It was determined that the boat/motor partnership would be broken up. The little 1.5 horse was being replaced by bigger and sexier horses. When I found the replacement, I was so confident in my outboard mechanic's skills that I didn't even crank it up. I could tell just by looking that this was fine vintage. Well maintained. It's gonna start right up. And it did. Just like the Sears 1.5 did the first time. And that was it. It didn't turn over again for six years. I was doing some 'tuning' when the idle speed adjustment screw broke off in my gorilla hand. My karma broke it. I needed to be humbled. I looked for a replacement for a while. Never found one and finally gave in and sent it to the neighborhood 2 stroke repairman. He was checking the compression and the starter rope went limp. That was the end of his diagnostic testing and his professional opinion was that it was a worthless piece of shit. Humbled, emasculated, deflated, I cleared a spot for it in the back corner of the shed. It haunted me and taunted me. I tried to forget it and covered it in other failed projects. I was offered a fifth of what I paid for it one time(Guess who that was). No dice. I knew I wasn't beat yet. She was just waiting for the right boat. Karma wins again.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What a Piece of Craft, The Chronicles of Peeber, Part 1

Last summer I sold a boat. It was a 15' side console jon boat that I had set up for carp fishing in lakes. It had a poling platform, dual batteries with an inboard charger, a custom floor and front deck that I built, etc, etc. It was sweet, but with a toddler and a mountain relocation I really didn't have time to go, or a place to take that boat. I traded down for a raft with a fishing frame and since that suits my water here....I expected it would be my one and only. Then came the carp cup......where we fished out of Ryan's IPB flats boat on some crazy fishy water just absolutely filled with carp. Unfortunately that water is 2 hours away, so I stopped by some potential nearby carp habitat on the way home, and then dove into craigslist head first. Being poor-ish is hard sometimes, but it forces you to be creative and resourceful. I had an old('66-ish) Johnson 20 horse buried in the barn that I had earlier presumed dead, or at least not able to live without a feeding tube(and what kind of life is that, anyway?). Turns out that being poor-ish also has honed my mechanical skills(or possibly just my motivation), because she now runs like a '70s 15 horse..... Motor fixed, I went into serious craigslist mode. Found some real gems, but the universe just wasn't cooperating. So I waited. And I was restrained. I think I looked for a month before I found 'the one'. That's 2 lifetimes in patience challenged years(months/days/minutes), and I am severely patience challenged. It's a thing. The challenge with buying cheap(really cheap) jon boats is that they are bought and sold in a matter of hours. There are so many dream chasers out there who have always had an imaginary boat parked in the garage(who am I kidding - the front yard) right next to that badass 1984 Trans-Am, and mountain of Busch Lite cans(ie, the retirement fund). What that means for successfully obtaining one of those dream snatchers is precise timing and decision making. You find it, you go. You'll know it when you see it. As you haul ass down the highway, dropping responsibilities like my mom drops f-bombs(seriously), the anticipation builds. You are convinced that this is an incredibly good deal, and you're sure this guy has no idea what he's giving away. He must be more broke than me... Poor fella. Hard times. Too bad, so sad! It's mine now sucka! 100 miles of road eaten alive, and a last minute scramble to find an ATM in a trailer park of a town(or a town that's just a trailer park), you pull into the driveway(the front yard), and there it is right behind the retirement fund. It's your NEW bote! You have to remind yourself to remove the shit eating grin and pull back on the excitement reins, because this guy is hard times. He's experiencing a profound loss. He's giving up on a dream. Also, you need your game face. You're fully prepared to hand over the benjamins you're clutching in your pocket, but he doesn't need to know that just yet. Time to have a look see. Point out all the faults. Make sure he knows that he's asking too much. I don't know why, that's just how it goes. The problem with this scenario is that you now see all of the faults, and that shit eating grin has started to slump. Hmmmm. He explains away the dents and the holes, and offers to include the 40 crappie rod holders for another 50 bucks. I got unother battrie, too. This un werks just fine, but ye have ta clamp this wire to this'n, and wiggle this'n just a......Oh shit. What have you done? This boat is a near worthless, hole ridden, broken, dented, illegal hunk of scrap metal, and the trailer isn't likely to get you home. The shoe's on the other foot. Who's wearing the shit eating grin now? The ride home is a little different. It's slow. Real slow....cause the trailer is violently swinging side to side while at the same time bouncing, bouncing, bouncing. Welcome to reality, dumbass. You just bought a boat.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Egg Bitters

Thanks to Gregg Martin, my brother in carp Ryan Dunne, and the US Carp Pro forum my eyes have been opened. I feel free. No longer do I need to look upon egg yarn as a derelict, lunch hole, I give up so I’ll throw this, impurity of a fly tying material and way of life. I have seen the light; and carps can see egg yarn; and so can the angler. In certain ways egg yarn is the perfect carp fly material. In other ways, it’s still awful and an abomination. I try to walk that line and live a fly tying life of balance, so I offer you the egg bitters. Put it in Carp!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Shack Nasties

The weather has been sucking. Thank Jeebus that our bun in the oven decided to cook just a little longer. We wouldn't have made it down the driveway last night, much less the 30 mile twisty drive to the hospital. I'm hoping for Tuesday, which will be 65 and sunny.
In between watching Shaun the Sheep and playing Paper Jamz I've been googling up black drum... for some reason I'm obsessed with catching one right now. I've never seen one in the daylight of reality. I've never had the opportunity to cast to one. I've never caught a redfish for the same reason. But, it's just gotten into me that I have to catch a humongoid black drum. Once I can cast to some carp it will likely subside, although that's still at least a couple months away. South Carolina/Florida/Lousiana/Texas trip is being planned for sometime within the rest of my life, although probably not very soon.....cause of the baby and all....and the 2 year old....and I'm impoverished.....and I'd probably just blow it anyway. At least I'll have one fly that probably won't work for whenever that trip happens.
Look at how big this damn thing is. Don't you want to catch one too? That's Murphy. I stole his photo since he gets to catch big ugly fish and I don't.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

3rd Annual Scof Tie One On A-thon

I'm very excited to be tying(and eating, and drinking, and socializing) at the Third Annual Southern Culture on the Fly tie-one-on-a-thon. I had a great time last year...No, really. I had a great time. There are some heavy hitters on the roster, so I'm humbled and honored to waste a space at the table. Big fun for the taking. Come have some. It's all for a good cause.

It's Gettin Squirrely

My Uncle Steve gave me a couple dozen squirrel tails and some bucktail from the great and powerful Illinois north a while back(quite a while back), that I put in the freezer. I never actually forgot about them, I just never could get everything together to get them cleaned and treated. I cleaned out the freezer a few weeks ago and decided it was time...way past time. For the last few weeks they've just been enjoying the natural freeze/thaw cycle of nature and taking in the views as they've hung in bags, soaking up salt. Non-iodized salt is pretty amazing stuff when it comes to dead animal parts. We had a few really warm days since I hung them up and i was expecting at least some rank funkiness, but there was none. They're all dry and relatively clean. I washed a few select tails today, and may experiment with some dying in the near future, but for now just used the fox squirrel as is. A cranking wood furnace will dry anything out in a matter of minutes, but I did add some more salt just to make sure.
Some of these squirrelies must have been monsters. The biggest tail has hair that's almost 3 inches long.
I've got smallies on the brain, so some squirrley clousers were in order.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Step right up....step right up

As soon as I finished my carp swap flies I joined another one. I try not to get involved in too many due to my penchant for burnout and procrastination, but these are two awesome swaps, and I'm lucky to be participating. It's not like I'm doing much else anyway. It's wet, cold, and we're waiting on a, I tie. This one is a smallie swap from the Drake. There will be some badass flies sent my way, so I'm a little nervous. It's my first Drake swap and I don't want it to be my last. Besides fouling, rabbit strips are the perfect bass fly material as far as I'm concerned. The little bit of bucktail tied before the rabbit strip should help that, but it will still foul. They always foul. "No biggie" and "it'll be worth it", says the guy who's sending you unfished rabbit strip flies and getting some proven patterns in return.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Swap is a wrap

I finished up my Fly Carpin 2nd Annual International Almost Famous Carp Swap Extravaganza flies in record time. I generally haven't even rolled out of fly swap bed this early on... but the weather has helped the motivation, and gave me some time to tie as well as organize my space a little better. We've had nonstop rain since Sunday-ish. The creeks are swollen, the rivers are raging, and roofs are leaking. No need to load the kids and farm animals into the boat just yet since we're expecting several inches of snow tonight, so we've got that going for us.
I ended up tying 3 sets of ten. Orange Egg Bitters
Olive Egg Bitters
And I'm calling this one 'The Yiman', cause that's the guys internet handle that I stole the pattern from.
The gang's all here
They'll be in the mail sometime soon....before the deadline at least.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


Fresh new issue.....

2nd Annual International Fly Carpin' Carp Swap

I'm really excited that this is happening again. McTage at Fly Carpin' is graciously hosting this amazing and completely unique swap once again. Last years was pretty incredible and I got flies from Barry Reynolds, John Montana, Pat Cohen, JP Lipton aka the roughfisher, Gregg Martin, the host with the most Trevor Tanner, and several other talented and creative tyers. Last years wrap up is here. I got a head start on my flies because my wife's due date is rapidly approaching, and since we live 45 minutes from the hospital, on curvy mountain roads, it's nearly guaranteed that the next significant low pressure system(blizzard) we get will send us slipping and sliding to the baby factory at 3am....Although it's 70 today, so I'm drinking beer and tying flies. I started tying these a few weeks ago after I finally got some Clear Cure Goo, thanks to my good bud, Kyle. This shit is amazing. I realize that I'm one of the last people on earth to discover it, but in case you're more in the dark than I am....check it out. It's expensive, but it is totally worth it. These flies are basically bitters, but instead of setting up several, epoxying the heads and letting them dry....i just tie the flies, and then use some brushable goo to form the head. Put the light to it for a few seconds and they're done. I'll never turn back. Enough with the pimpin'..... Easy like Sunday morning.
That fulfills my swap requirement of 10 flies per tyer, but I'd like to contribute more, so I'm tying 2 more sets of 10. Not sure what yet, so I'm experimenting.
Check the Fly Carpin site or Facebook page for updates.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

DIY Light Box

I got tired of my shitty flies looking even shittier than they really are so I built a quick and dirty(and free) light box a while back. I'm not a photographer, and I don't own nice equipment, but I do like to photograph my flies and preferably have them appear as though someone with more skill than I tied them. Lighting makes a big difference. Here's a before:
And after:
As you can see, lighting makes all the difference. Grab some wood scraps, landscape cloth(or a sheet, large doily, old wedding dress, etc, etc), and some staples and make a box with it. Put some lights in, on, and around it. That's about all there is to it. Well....sort of. That's all there is to this one.