Category Archives: Fishing Ramblings – My Fishing Blog

Random thoughts and musings about fishing

Saying Goodby To President George HW Bush

SAYING GOODBYE To President George HW Bush
Today’s feature comes to us from The Outdoor Wire, our parent publication and her publisher/editor
Jim Shepherd from The Fishing Wire

President Bush


George H.W. Bush
Later this morning, the nation will say goodbye to former President of the United States George Herbert Walker Bush. With his death, we lose another member of what has been referred to as our “greatest generation” those World War II veterans who not only fought a global war, they came home and built what has arguably been one of the greatest nations in history.

With Mr. Bush’s passing, we also lose an advocate for the vigorous life of an outdoorsman. Bush, even in his later years, loved the outdoors, and many of the tributes paid to him over the past few days include recollections of trips with him to hunt or fish. Earlier this year, when fly fishing legend Bernard “Lefty” Kreh’s estate offered many of his mementoes at auction, one of the items included a handwritten note from Bush, thanking Kreh for a “great time fishing” with Mr. Bush. It also admonished Kreh not to “laugh at the picture of this amateur flyfisherman.”

The note and its admonition demonstrated two of Mr. Bush’s best qualities: valuing the worth of others, and a healthy ability to laugh at himself. After all, he used to recall that his mother had raised him not to have “big I” problems- to value others more than himself.

That servant’s nature was demonstrated by a life of service and focus on others, from being nation’s youngest naval aviator in World War II to penning a heartfelt note to an incoming President Bill Clinton who had defeated him – handily- in the elections. To Clinton, Mr. Bush wrote “I’m pulling for you” -and pledged his full support. It’s no surprise the two later became close friends. As Clinton explained, “He befriended me,” going on to say that he considered their friendship “one of the great joys of my life.”

Even as President, Bush worried about others. In fact, during a broadcast discussing the Bush legacy, my former colleague Bernard Shaw, recounted how Mr. Bush was concerned for his safety during Shaw’s life reporting from Iraq during Operation Desert Storm. After his return home, Bush invited Shaw to the White House, where Mr. Bush told him “Bernie, we were really worried about you.”

Bush’s handling of that war was widely criticized at the time. Today, his handling of that conflict and the collapse of the Soviet Union have led some historians to say he will likely be considered the nation’s finest one-term president.

Hs passing saddens many of us old enough to remember a younger, more vibrant Vice President Bush and his boss, Ronald Reagan. Being pretty new to the national news media at the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the unprecedented cooperation between political opponents.

Today, we lose one of those vital links to a scarce commodity between politicians: civil discourse and a desire to achieve the greater good.

As an industry, we should mourn the passage of our forty-first president because he, like the rest of his generation, realized the connections between man and nature. He was an outdoorsman and understood the circle of life.

Mr. Bush lived through adversity, from World War II to the tragic loss of a child, but accepted it all without bitterness as a part of the process of living life to one’s potential. He kept going without losing his belief in man’s ability – and responsibility – to do good.

On Monday, during a rare display of unity as political leaders came together to pay their respects to Mr. Bush, crowds gathered outside the capital rotunda where his casket will lie in state until this morning’s services. There, a 62-year old man who described himself as a lifelong Democrat explained standing outside in the cold as a way to pay his respects to a man “who gave his life in the service to the country,who did a lot of good things, but was a humble, caring person.”

A lady from Vermont said she was there because Mr. Bush represented an era where people “did the right thing and you care about America and that comes first.”

“I think maybe people need to start thinking about that a bit more,” she told CNN, “following that set of values, not fighting with each other, agreeing to disagree, doing what we’re supposed to do, take care of each other…not be at odds with each other all the time.

“Our country needs to come together,” she said, Regardless of what your political views are, I think everybody at heart wants to our country do well.”

This morning, as the nation prepares its final goodbyes to George H.W. Bush, I believe her outlook would have Mr. Bush’s wholehearted support.

— Jim Shepherd

There Are Good People Out There

Last year Jack Ridgeway introduced me to Randy and Wyatt Robinson. Wyatt was a student at Crosspoint Christian Academy and on the fishing team there. I tried to help them get ready for a high school tournament at Allatoona.

I’m not sure how much I helped, but the last two years they have helped me a lot! I have met some great folks through fishing and they are two of the best. Sometimes I feel like our society has destroyed good people. If you watch much news, it surely seems that way.

But there are many good folks out there, more than you realize from all the publicity the bad ones get. Randy is dedicated to working with Wyatt, doing everything a good parent does to help his dreams. As his boat captain, Randy spends many hours in a boat, driving the boat but the rest of the time just watching them fish.

He also provides a great environment for a youngster growing up. Wyatt hunts and recently killed a nice buck. I’m not sure he realizes how lucky he is to grow up in a home like that, much like I did not realize how lucky I was as a kid until I moved away from home. I just wish every kid could be as lucky!

Cost of Common Sense Climate Change Hysteria

I always get a kick out of the claims of a true believer in whatever the current name for weather. They call me a “skeptic” or “heretic”, reinforcing my use of the term “true believer.” So far, they don’t demand I be burned at the stake, maybe that would produce too much carbon!

Both sides have scientific information on their side but ignore or make wild claims about the science they think supports the other side. But only one side, the true believers, claim the science is settled.

Science is never “settled,” new information changes it. After all, in the early 1400s settled science said the earth was flat, and in the 1970s it said we were due for another ice age by the year 2000 if we did not make drastic changes to our lifestyles. Sound familiar?

In 1975 while working on my first Masters

Degree I had to write a research paper on global cooling. The “settled” science then said our lifestyles had to change and we had to spend billions of other peoples’ money to avoid a new ice age, with glaciers covering half of the US by the year 2000. When that “settled” science didn’t work out too well for them they changed the name so it would fit any weather we had.

Closer to home for me right now, cancer research for the past 100 years has settled the question of why our bodies immune system does not fight off cancer. Science was “settled,” except for a few skeptics, that our immune system thought cancer was a normal body cell so did not attack it and nothi9ng could be done about that “fact.”

A few weeks ago, two research scientists, call them skeptics, won the Nobel Prize in medicine for their breakthrough research that found an enzyme in cancer cells fools our immune system into thinking the cancer is normal cells. They have been able to deactivate this enzyme in mice and the tumors were killed, offering new hope for a new cancer treatment that goes against 100 years of settled science.

My biggest problem with true believers is their claim that “common sense” demands the government spend billions of our tax money and we make drastic changes to our economy and lifestyles. The problem with using the term “common sense” tries to imply those that disagree are totally wrong, and any cost is worth it.

The U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that efforts to stabilize levels of greenhouse-gas emissions would require investments of about $13 trillion in the next 12 years. It also noted that reducing emissions would reduce the rate of economic growth, costing much more in the long term. Just the cost of switching from carbon fuels to alternative energy sources would cost 44 trillion between now and 2050.

That report does not mention the problem of reliability of alternative energy, the more dangerous smaller vehicles, and lack of and inability to accomplish some goals. For some, a tiny tin can car may be fine, but if you hunt or fish, especially if you pull a boat or trailer, they do not work.

Some will say we have to make sacrifices, but they almost always want others to make those sacrifices. Every time I see celebrities and politicians with private yachts and jets say I need to cut back on my carbon use I can only shake my head. One cross Atlantic trip for them to attend a climate conference in their jet uses more carbon that I will in a lifetime of fishing and hunting using my truck and boat.

Just like they want to spend my money, they want us common folks to change our lifestyles while they live in luxury, changing nothing. And they demand we make those changes immediately, before their “settled science” changes.

Another “settled science” claim is low lying islands will be uninhabitable due to melting glaciers causing sea level rises. They say sea levels have risen about 8 inches in the past 150 years and are predicted to rise another sixteen to 48 inches in the next 100 years. But almost every example of this I could find says the islands are getting smaller due to sea level rise AND erosion.

A 2017 study by Duval and other looked at 111 islands “threatened” by sea level and erosion changes. Their study covered the past 50 years and found only nine that had actually gotten smaller. Fifteen had gotten bigger, with the vast majority not changing.

All this claim of change is based on computer models of our climate. But those models are only as good as the programmer writes them, and they depend on data input that can be manipulated. If you have a computer, you know how unreliable they can be. Auto spell correct is a computer model on your phone. How accurate is it?

I took a cruise up Glacier Bay National Park a few years ago. The naturalist told us the open water in the bay was 110 miles long. In 1764 when it was discovered it was covered by glaciers. They had retreated 110 miles in just over 250 years. And the fastest retreat took place from 1860 to 1870. I guess it was all those Civil War SUVs! There are 1045 glaciers in the bay and some of them are growing, not retreating. Why? They are not affected by climate change?

If our settled science is correct, our environment has always changed and probably always will. I have seen a lot of different weather in my 60 plus years outdoors, but climate changes very slowly, not fast enough for a person to see.

I have faith in human nature enough to know we adapt to climate change and thrive no matter what happens. And I see no sense in doing all the drastic, expensive changes to our lives because some computer models and true believers say its “common sense.”

Raking Leaves and Eating Pecans

I have noticed a few leaves starting to fall around my house. And while in town Monday one tree with pretty yellow leaves was showering them down every time a little breeze hit it. Its about leaf raking time!

I miss folks using rakes rather than leaf blowers. Their whine around the house is bad enough but that sound on lakes in the fall is almost as irritating as the whine of skidoos. Its hard to fish in peace.
But they surely are convenient and easier to use than a rake.

We had a huge pecan tree in our front yard where I grew up on Iron Hill Road in Dearing. There was another big one in the side yard and two smaller ones on that side near the road. Another big one was just past mom’s flower garden on the same side.

Those trees provided hundreds of pounds of pecans each fall, but also produced what seemed like a million bushels of leaves. I hated the boring, tedious job of raking leaves, made even slower by having to stop every pass and pick up pecans. But I did enjoy cracking a few open and eating them to break the long hours.

We would start at the house and rake everything to the ditch out front, where we burned them. I worried that my “pet” red ants in the bed in the ditch, where I had fed them flies all summer, would be killed but they always started scurrying around as soon as the ashes cooled.

I spent a lot of time in that ditch. There were always a few pecans we missed, and they were nicely toasted in the leaf fire. I would scratch around in the ashes, finding enough to keep me happily full. Mom was not quite as happy with the conditions of me and my clothes!

For some reason I never even thought of jumping in piles of leaves. I see many cartoons of kids and dogs having fun in leaves, but we were working. And I would never consider scattering them and having to rake them up again.

After cleaning the yard dad would take a long pole and knock remaining pecans to the ground. Sometimes I would climb the trees as high as possible and shake the smaller limbs to do the same thing.

We had three kinds of pecans, but I never knew the names. One tree had what we called “papershell” pecans, big nuts with very thin shells. But we did not get to eat them, they brought the highest price, so we sold them.

Another tree, the one past mom’s flower garden, had “peewees,” very small nuts. They were not worth much but we sold them, too, since they were such a pain to crack and open for little meat.

The other three trees were just regular pecans and we ate many of them. There were always bags of them in the den, where we sat at night watching TV and cracking them and picking out the meat. Some went into our mouths, but most went into the freezer for toppings for mom’s cakes and pies. We often roasted a pan while cracking them and also later when they went from the freezer to the oven.

I miss eating those nuts but not the raking leaves!Raknig

Fantastic Fall

I love this time of year. Shorter days and cool mornings hint at a big change, and everything responds to it. Plants start turning dull green and brown, dying back, storing food in roots for the winter. Game animals are more active, seeking food to help them survive the lean days to come. Bucks leave hints they are getting ready to rut.

But best of all to me, bass move out of their deep summer lairs and look for food, much like wildlife. They are easier to catch for both reasons. And it is much more comfortable to be on the water looking for them. Most pleasure boaters are staying home and many part time fishermen leave the water for fields, woods and football fields.

Topwater can be fantastic in the fall. To me, there is no more fun way to catch fish than seeing them hit on top. But I like catching them on spinnerbaits and crankbaits, both of which work well in cooler water. And for big fish a jig and pig is hard to beat. That bait imitates both bluegill and crawfish, both favorite foods of big bass.

That time is not quite here yet. In a few more weeks a jacket will feel good running down the lake first thing in the morning. Days will still be hot, with clear skies and bright sun. The bright sun positions bass in shade, another thing that makes them a little easier to catch.

The three Griffin bass clubs will make our annual trip to Lake Martin in three weeks for our three-club, two-day tournament. That is my favorite trip of the year. We usually catch a lot of bass and have a lot of fun.

All too soon fun fall weather will deteriorate into the cold, dead winter. Enjoy it while it lasts!

I’m A Climate Change Skeptic

Here we go again.

As soon as Hurricane Florence started looking like a major storm, the global warming fanatics started their usual mantra that their favorite belief would mean more, bigger, stronger, fatter, terrible hurricanes every year unless we immediately change our lifestyles and spend massive amounts of other peoples’ money.

Those true believers just make themselves look even more silly by such hyperbole but they do it every time. Remember Hurricane Katrina in 2005? Those exact same claims were made then. But there was not another major hurricane that hit the US for seven years, until Hurricane Sandy hit us in 2012. They again started their claims after Sandy.

Those fanatics claim folks like me are “skeptics,” and seem to want us treated like the Catholic church treated heretics in the middle ages. They say we must accept their version of science, but they ignore anything scientific that disagrees with their belief and condemn those that point this out.

A simple Google search shows hurricanes have actually decreased over the past 100 years, and that is with better observation and reporting availability. There are all kinds of data out there, interpreted in many different ways. But one chart, showing hurricanes striking the US by decade, shows fewer since 1950 than in any other time since 1850. Others show the same thing, with major hurricanes coming in groups, with four to six years between cycles.

Al Gore predicted Lower Manhattan would be under water by 2015. ABC “News” in 2008 repeated that claim and also said gas would cost more than $9 a gallon and milk $13 a gallon by 2015, all due to global warming.

In his doomsday movie “An Incontinent Truth,” Gore showed a glacier calving and used it to show how glaciers were rapidly retreating now due to global warming. I have been to that glacier in Glacier National Park and watched it calve. The naturalists on board told us that glacier had retreated 110 miles in the past 100 years, the fastest retreat taking place between 1860 and 1870. I guess it was all those civil war SUVs!

Last week the weather guessers said no chance of rain Sunday during the Flint River tournament at West Point. Around noon it poured so hard my bilge pumps came on. Another afternoon this past week
I took a picture of water flooding off my roof while looking at the “prediction” of zero chance of rain for at least the next six hours.

Yet those same folks that can’t look outside and tell if it is raining try to make us believe they can predict two tenths of a degree temperature increase 100 years from now.

I wish I still had the paper I had to write in 1975 for an Environmental Science class I took while working on my first Masters Degree. “Settled” science at that time proved we were entering a new ice age, due to man’s activities. The cure? You guessed it. Same as now, change our lifestyle drastically and spend lots of other people’s money.

I have seen a lot of weather changes over my life. But I have not lived long enough to see climate change, it takes place over thousands of years.

Hurricanes are destructive and dangerous. Weather can kill you. We should take its dangers seriously, but weather is a short-term event and it does change drastically day to day and year to year.

I will remain a climate change “skeptic.” I hope it does not reach the point where the true believers burn me at the stake for disagreeing with them.

Strange Fishing Bait

What is the strangest bait you have ever used to try to catch a fish? I have tried some weird things, and some of them even worked!

When we used to run trotlines, jugs and limb lines at Clarks Hill for catfish, little bream were our best baits. But one time I heard little chunks of Ivory Soap would work, so I cut up a couple of bars and tried it. Never caught a fish on it though.

One summer Uncle Slaton and his family camped with us at the lake. We fished for bass during the day and ran hooks at night for cats. He came in for lunch one day with a nice channel cat and said he got it off a trotline that was baited with black plastic worms.

Since I had some old ones we cut them in half and baited up a line with them. Nothing on the line the next day. Then he told me he was kidding; the line was baited with cut fish. The joke was on me and I will never forget it.

We used a lot of other baits than live bream, too. I heard catfish really loved cut mullet since they are oily, so we would buy one at the grocery store, cut it into one-inch chunks and bait hooks. It worked, but not as good as live bream in my opinion.

We dug bait, too. Big swamp wigglers worked well but for some reason catfish did not seem to like the white grub worms we sometimes dug up and tried. And mole crickets never worked well. Maybe they had a bad taste.

If you run lines, stick with what works for you.

Digging Dirt

I liked digging when I was young. It was not something I had to do, and my body didn’t mind so much. Everything from digging for red wigglers for bait to trying to dig a hole to China kept me busy.

We had 11,000 laying hens in seven houses behind our house. The water troughs drained constantly behind each house, making wet and very fertile dirt the worms loved. It was easy to get a coffee can full of great bream and catfish bait.

On our annual family trips to Ocala Florida to see my aunt, uncle and grandmother, I could not resist digging in their back yard. The sandy soil was great when compared to the dirt at home. I lived on Iron Hill Road, appropriately named for the red clay and red rocks everywhere.

In the week we were in Florida my brother and I would often dig holes deeper than our heads, only about 4.5 feet deep probably. The older folks would jokingly ask if we were trying to dig to China and we took it seriously. We thought we could.

Digging for Indian artifacts and buried treasure was always fun. After reading Treasure Island I was convinced pirates had somehow found their way to our farm and left chests of gold and jewels. Although I never had a map, any unusual rock outcropping had to be a marker for the loot.

One of my cousins lived on a farm a few miles away and I would go spend a few nights several times during the summer. Another cousin lived next door and we spent all the days outside, fishing the creek behind their houses, exploring the woods and generally having fun.

In their field there was a huge boulder, so big we could hardly get up on top of it. It was the only one in the area. My cousin got the idea it marked a grave, much like the pyramids. Although the rock was round, it was buried a couple feet deep in the ground. I spent many hours with them trying to dig down on one side, so we could roll the boulder to the side. And they worked on it almost every week. Even with cut saplings as pry bars, we never so much as rocked the rock.

The only sandy soil on our farm was along Dearing Branch. Every summer my friends and I tried to dam it. A dozen yards downstream from where the branch came under the fence on our property line two trees about four feet apart narrowed down the channel. Above it was a wide pool of water.

The trees made a perfect place to make a dam. We managed to drag an old crosstie and put it in front of the trees. Then we spent hours digging up sand, putting it in old crocker sacks to make sand bags to put around it. Our sandbags got too heavy to move with the wet sand in them, but we learned to fill them half way up, drag them in place then finish filling them.

We must have moved tons of sand over the years. Digging it out of the pool made it wider and deeper. But no matter how much we worked, the first big rain would wash out our dam, and fill in the pool with new sand to move.

As I got older digging became more purposeful. My first house in Griffin on College Street had a full basement that got water in it every time it rained hard. I finally figured out a French Drain ditch along one wall would help.

Daddy visited and helped me dig a ditch along that wall. The lower end was ground level, but the upper end was almost eight feet deep. We spent hours digging a ditch about two feet wide along that wall, putting a couple of feet of gravel in the bottom around a perforated drain pipe, and filling it back up.

That did solve the problem.

There was no good place for a dam on our property since the branch ran along the property line, but my mother really wanted a pond. Daddy got the idea of putting one in a field that was somewhat workable since it had a drain across it. He had a dam built across it and after a heavy rain it did fill part way up, but there was not enough drainage to keep it full.

The neighbor a few hundred yards away had a pond with the dam near our property line, but there was a hill between it and momma’s pond. So, we dug a ditch across the hill, put a pipe in it and put a water ram at his dam.

We had to dig down eight feet at the top of the hill and the ditch ran about two hundred yards. I spent many hours in the bottom of it with a pick ax since there were big rocks there. But we managed to get it done and kept mamma’s pond full.

When I moved to Pike County in 1981 I wanted a garden. I cut the trees behind my house, clearing an area about 150 by 200 feet, got it cleaned up and tilled up some beds.

I quickly found that in the spring, usually soon after I planted seeds, rain water running off the land behind me came right through that area. It did not run fast but it kept the ground too wet. So, I dug a shallow ditch down one side and across the lower part of it. That kept the soil in my garden dry enough to let the seeds germinate.

My digging days are about over but I still have some fond memories of moving dirt.

Rain On A Tin Roof

Afternoon thunderstorms the past few weeks brought back memories of the 1950s and early 60s. I lived in an old wood farm house with a tin roof until I was 12. The sound of rain on a tin roof instantly transports me back to those long, lazy summer days.

Many nights I went to sleep to the sound of rain drumming on the tin. Now I can hear that only if I keep a door open, so I can hear it on my tin roof wood shed. And I don’t do that much since air conditioners don’t work as well with open doors. Bach then that was not a problem since we did not have air conditioners.

Fans provided a little air movement and some cooling. Often at night when there was no rain I would put a fan at the foot of the bed, drape the sheet over it and let it blow up and over me as I went to sleep.
I think that is why I sleep better to this day with a fan running at night. Back then, rainy nights were usually cool enough that the sound of rain was all that was needed for a good night’s rest, but the fan ran anyway.

Weather was very different year to year back then, just like now. Some summers our home-made swimming hole on Dearing Branch would almost dry up due to the lack of rain. Others saw us trying to rebuild our dam almost every week since hard rains washed it out every few days.

We had other ways to beat the heat, too. An ice cold watermelon under the shade of the big pecan tree in the front yard was a great way to cool off on a hot afternoon. And running around under sprinklers under that same tree was fun and cooling.

Every few weeks we kids got a special treat. A couple of times each summer we got to go to Thomson and swim in the cement pool. It was always full of kids and the chlorine in the water made my eyes burn, but it was fun and cooling.

Even better was a trip to one of the two local ponds where the owners had made swimming areas, with sand beaches, diving boards and platforms. For a whole dime we could spend the day at Shield’s or Ansley’s pond, cooling with friends.

Shield’s Pond had a three-story diving platform. The top one was about 15 feet above the water and it took me years to build up the courage to jump from it. I never did try diving, it was just too scary.

When I fished local farm ponds I waded in jeans and tennis shoes. That kept me cool while I tried to catch bream and bass. And I discovered hidden stumps, channels and drop offs with my first “depthfinders,” my feet.

Rainy afternoons make me miss those days even more, when things were simple, and life was easy, for a kid.

Getting A Hook Out Of You

Hooks in your body are no fun, but there is a good, easy way to remove them if they are where you can get to them. And it helps to have someone else do it since you need two hands. You can’t do it alone if a hook is in your hand or arm

There are good illustrations of the process on-line, but you simply put a loop of heavy cord around the bend of the hook just above where it goes into your flesh, hold the eye of the hook against your skin, and jerk the hook out.

Holding the eye against your skin tilts the hook, making the barb go out the way it came in without catching. And popping it out quickly reduces the pain to almost nothing.

That would have worked well when I set the hook while cranking a big crankbait at Lake Martin. It hit a limb and I thought I had a bite, but when I set the hook the plug came over the limb that was just under the water, flew through the air and landed on my upper arm. One of the back treble hooks stuck in past the barb, going in far enough to have the other two against the skin.

My partner that day was a big, burly, tough guy. I told him what to do but when he looked at the hook he almost passed out and had to sit down. Since I could not reach the hook with both hands, I took a pair of needle nose pliers, grabbed the hook at the junction of the trebles and jerked it out.

I did not want to quit fishing and go find someone to help since we were miles up the river and the fish were biting. Luckily there was no pain and no blood at all. That injury never hurt even later in the day.

Sometimes it is best to just jerk the hook back out the way it went in but that can cause the barb to tear meat as it comes out. But it is usually less painful that cutting the hook and pushing it the rest of the way through.

It is important to have an up to date tetanus shot when you get any injury like a hook in you. For that reason, I keep mine current. You never know when you will hook yourself, but it will happen, all too often.

If you get a hook in you, I hope you have someone with you with a strong stomach!

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