Category Archives: Fishing With Family and Friends

Sitting On A Deer Stand Remembering

Sitting on a deer stand on Thanksgiving Day is always bittersweet for me. I enjoy all the usual things, watching squirrels and birds, checking out the trees as leaves fall, contemplating life and the anticipation of seeing a deer. If I happen to kill one for the freezer it is like the cherry on top of an ice cream Sunday. The whole thing is good without the cherry, but the cherry definitely adds something.

The bittersweet part is thinking about past Thanksgivings. As far back as I can remember Thanksgiving involved hunting. First with my daddy, following our dogs looking for quail. Later, after daddy got rid of our dogs and stopped hunting quail, one of my friends, A.T., and I would follow his pack of beagles looking for rabbits.

If I could not quail or rabbit hunt, I would take my Remington semiautomatic .22 rifle and wander the woods looking for tree rats. There were no deer to hunt back then.

After college I started teaching school and the four-day holiday meant fishing trips to Clarks Hill. I would fish in the morning then go into town to have a family dinner. Those fishing trips are great memories, too.

Those days are gone. I know I will never be able to hunt with my dad again, and days of looking for rabbits and squirrels are over. Also gone are the huge Thanksgiving meals with my extended family. Mama had five brothers and four of them and their families lived near us. Daddy had five sisters and two brothers and some of them lived close.

Thanksgiving always meant big family gatherings. I was too young to realize the importance of family, and I was always in a hurry to get the meals over, so we could go hunting or I could head back to the lake. I wish I could go back and just sit and talk with family long gone.

I still get to enjoy thanksgiving dinner with my wife, mother in law and brother in law and his wife. That is great, but it too reminds me of all the family I have lost over the years. Life goes on and we adapt to changes.

If you have family, enjoy every minute you have with them at gatherings, not just at holidays but at all times. But do work in a hunting or fishing trip to make those memories, too.

Veterans Find Healing and Hope

Veterans Find Healing and Hope on Public Lands
from The Fishing Wire

A visit to America’s public lands is more than an opportunity to see an epic vista, learn about history and experience wildlife. It’s also good medicine.

Connecting with the outdoors can heal the mind, body and soul. For veterans, time in the outdoors can help them recover from traumatic combat injuries and find relief from pain. All across the country, Interior is partnering with groups to make it easier for disabled veterans and others to discover the therapeutic qualities of America’s national parks, wildlife refuges and other public lands.

Check out some of the inspiring partnerships and locations that are helping veterans find healing on America’s public lands.

Casting a line for a day of fun and fishing

Fishing is often the line that connects people to their public lands. Florida’s Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area is using this favored pastime to unite veterans and their families for a day of fun, friendship and fishing. This year, Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse hosted the 4th annual Veterans Fishing Classic as part of the Fisheries for Veterans Project — an effort to connect veterans to the therapeutic qualities of outdoor recreation, while promoting stewardship of public lands. The day was filled with fishing and tales of missed catches as 140 veterans and their families attempted to reel in a big one.

Veterans fishing public waters


Veterans and their families enjoy the lapping waves, coastal breeze and thrill of fishing as part of the Veterans Family Fishing Classic at Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area. Photo courtesy of Kathy Williams, FishingCommuities.org.

Preserving history and finding relief at Lake Mead

Deep underwater at Lake Mohave lies a historic aerial ferry that used to serve the lake in the 1930s. This unexpected spot at Lake Mead National Recreation Area is helping disabled veterans find comfort from painful combat injuries. Working with WAVES Project (short for the Wounded American Veterans Experience SCUBA), the park took six wounded veterans on dives to inspect and preserve the underwater artifacts in Lake Mohave. But there was also a benefit for veterans — they experienced relief from pain. Not only has scuba diving helped veterans with physical disabilities, it’s also helped those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. Learn more about how Lake Mead is working to give wounded veterans a fresh start through diving experiences.

Experiencing the peace of wild Alaska

For seven years, disabled veterans have trekked to Alaska’s Delta River for world-class fly-fishing and to find peace in this remote location. The Delta River rises from a chain of 21 lakes surrounded by picturesque mountains and is known for its amazing Arctic grayling fishery. Since 2011, the Bureau of Land Management has hosted Project Healing Waters events here to raise awareness of the restorative values of public lands, and most importantly, to give back to those who have given so much to our country. As part of these fly-fishing events, veterans will routinely catch and release 25-100 Arctic grayling in a day, and at night they’ll share stories around the campfire — strengthening camaraderie, building relationships and connecting with their local community. The Delta River event is just one of many Healing Waters outings on America’s public lands. There are also float fishing trips on the Bighorn and Beaverhead rivers in Montana, both of which are ribbon trout fisheries below Bureaus of Reclamation reservoirs.

A participant of a Project Healing Waters event last year hooks an Arctic Grayling along Alaska’s Delta River. Photo by Matt Vos, Bureau of Land Management.
Giving hope by improving access to public lands
Whether it’s with a camera in hand or a shotgun, there’s something thrilling about sitting in a blind waiting for a flock of mallards to take off or listening to the wind whistle through the trees. But for wounded veterans or others with disabilities, the chance to hunt, fish and hike isn’t always a given. To change that, wildlife refuges in Washington have partnered with disabled veteran Rick Spring to build accessible blinds so that all visitors can experience the Pacific Northwest’s outdoors. Rick, who volunteers his time to improving accessibility on public lands, has built three custom blinds for two wildlife refuges — each one large enough to accommodate two wheelchairs. Rick hopes to expand the use of his custom-designed blinds to Oregon and then to the national level so more people with disabilities can have access to the outdoors. It’s Rick’s way of giving hope to injured veterans.

Discovering the restorative powers of the outdoors

The Upper Colorado River spans a unique and beautiful landscape, known for its diverse water features, gold medal trout waters, abundant wildlife and cultural landscapes along the Colorado River Headwaters Scenic Byway. It’s also an ideal place for therapeutic outdoor adventures. A number of organizations and outfitters host whitewater and fly fishing trips on the Upper Colorado River for wounded warriors. These experiences on public lands not only let veterans tap into the restorative powers of nature but also helps them build long-term support networks and connections.

Bonding with horses to improve health and well being

People often form strong bonds with animals. With a saddle and some trust, people and horses work together in a powerful partnership with surprising results. Equine therapy is a proven method to help patients recover from both physical and mental injuries, and improve their confidence, awareness and patience. At Rock Creek Park Horse Center in the heart of Washington, D.C., the Ridewell Program provides active duty military personnel and veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries and PTSD a chance to come to ride and learn about horses with the help of officers from the U.S. Park Police Horse Mounted Unit. Thanks to the teamwork, natural setting and the time spent with horses, doctors and families have noted improvements in their balance and mental wellbeing, as well as pride and joy in the wounded warriors’ accomplishments. These events are able to happen with funding provided through Rock Creek Riders, an all volunteer non profit organization that provides local children, active duty military and veterans the opportunity to heal through the power of riding.

Healing while hunting

Even though physical injuries can change veterans’ lives forever, they can always find adventure and rejuvenation at National Wildlife Refuge System lands across America. At the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, the annual deer hunt for disabled sportsmen is making sure all Americans have access to excellent hunting opportunities, regardless of their physical limitations. Since the refuge started the hunt in 2007 at the Lost Mound Unit of the refuge, more than 1,000 hunters from all over the country have participated. Much of the program’s success depends on partnerships to provide travel for hunters. As part of the program, the refuge also partners with a deer tracking service to make sure the hunters can locate the deer they shot. In addition to providing hunters with mobility limitations the chance to experience a high-quality deer hunt, the event also opens the door to all sorts of recreational opportunities that national wildlife refuges have to offer — from hunting and fishing to birding and hiking.

Calm waters bring peace

Known best for dams and reservoirs, the Bureau of Reclamation also plays a major role in meeting increasing public demand for water-based outdoor recreation facilities and opportunities. Using these resources, Reclamation has several programs with federal, state and local partners that support recovery and rehabilitation for disabled veterans. The Purple Heart Anglers have used Reclamation’s Lake Berryessa and New Melones Lake for several fishing events in California. At a recent event, disabled veterans were bussed to Lake Berryessa and paired with boat owners for a day of fishing. Reclamation concessionaires provided lunch, music and prizes. It’s a great way to say thanks to those who have sacrificed so much for our country.

Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving Day is all about tradition and giving thanks for what we have. In my family while I was growing up that tradition revolved around hunting and eating until I got the fishing bug bad. After college, for me it became a day to fish, and eat.

Before I went to college daddy had two pointers and we always hunted quail in the mornings while mama slaved in the kitchen, preparing delicious meals. We usually ate so much that daddy didn’t want to go back hunting that afternoon, but in my youth and energy I usually grabbed my .22 or .410 and went to the woods, looking for squirrels and rabbits.

After I got married and finished my undergraduate degree daddy had stopped hunting since quail had become so hard to find, and no longer had dogs. So I would go to our place at Clarks Hill and fish in the mornings, then get to town in time for a late lunch. That night I would head back to the lake by myself and fish the next three days before heading back to Griffin and work Monday morning.

One year mama decided to have our big Thanksgiving meal at the lake so I could fish more. She loved to fish as much as I did and understood my addiction.
When I got to the lake Wednesday afternoon after work mama was already preparing food for the next day. She told me several family members, my brother’s family and a couple of aunts and uncles, were coming to have dinner with us.

The next morning when I got up she warned me to be in for dinner. I told her I would even come in early enough to get cleaned up before eating. I caught a seven-pound bass on a Shadrap from a tree I had cut down into the water the year before.

After weighing it and releasing it, I looked at my watch. It was 12:01 and I thought how thankful I was that mama was having our big meal at dinner, not lunch. I went in about 4:00 to get cleaned up and could tell something was wrong. Mama, daddy and Linda were mad. All the family had been there for lunch, not dinner as I understood. They had all gone home by the time I came in.

The only thing colder than the looks from mama and Linda that afternoon and night was the cold turkey sandwich I had for Thanksgiving dinner. But they got over it soon and I had something more to be thankful for that year, they didn’t stay mad.

I am very tankful for the way I was raised by two loving, strong parents that were strict but forgiving. I wish everyone could have those memories and be raising their children that way.

If you have Thanksgiving memories and traditions, keep them going. If not, start them this year before its too late.

A Mother’s Story A Few Days Late

A Mother’s Story
By Hillary Hutcheson
Loon Outdoors
from The Fishing Wire

People often ask me about my first fish. Honestly, I don’t remember it. Something interesting happens when I’m asked about my biggest or best fish, or the one that got away. The fish I think about aren’t even my own…they’re my daughters’.

Ella and Delaney have never been wildly passionate about fly fishing. For them, it’s a like, not a love. I imagine it’s similar to how my old truck is stuck on my favorite radio station, and their only option is to listen to music that they didn’t choose. Sometimes they like the song and sing along…but usually they just endure it. They’ve been thickly immersed in fishing culture throughout their lives, so I’m not surprised they sometimes resent it. While fly fishing has taken me to remarkable places, it’s taken me away from them. There have been band concerts and softball games that I’ve missed because I was on the river or the salt. Their clothes have been ruined in the wash by floatant and flies I forgot to take out of my pockets. It’s no solace to them that they’ll always have a summer job in my fly shop…they’d rather it was a pizza joint or bakery. When Ella was in seventh grade, she told me she was “over it”. I asked why, and she said because a boy had come up to her at school and talked her ear off about the new fly reel he got for his birthday. And she was thinking, “dude, I don’t care…I’m not my mom.”

Since then, I’ve been more keen on taking them fishing when it’s their idea…not mine. They know I’ll let them bring their friends, listen to music on the boat, eat unhealthy snacks like those nasty Peachy-O gummy rings, and lounge on the beach in the sun throwing rocks as long as they want. I’m careful not to buy them fishing-related gifts, I don’t decorate the house in inescapable fishing decor and I no longer coach them through every cast. The result is that we are happily fishing together more often.

“And as their skills and desire grow, they’re catching more fish. And I remember every one.”

I still remember the northern pike minnow Delaney caught on a handline with a hook and a Cheez-it. I remember the whitefish her best friend Julia caught on a fly she tied just an hour before in my fly shop. I remember the rainbow Ella thought was a stick until it jumped. Oh, and wait, now that I’m recalling all this, I DO remember my favorite fish! It was a cutthroat that Ella saw eating midges along a cliff wall and expertly rowed me into. I missed that fish three times, and every time she caught the eddy, rowed me back up river and gave me another shot. When I finally hooked it, she tried to hide a smile and mumbled something sarcastic about anglers who think they’re professionals. She rowed into the eddy again where she dropped anchor and Delaney netted the most important fish of my life.

See more like this and shop fly fishing products at www.loonoutdoors.com

Losing Patrick F. McManus

Voices from the River: Losing Patrick F. McManus
By Chris Hunt
from The Fishing Wire

Years ago, after being abruptly transplanted from the high-mountain meadows of Colorado to the hot, sticky pine forest of East Texas, I found solace in the loss of my Rocky Mountain roots in the writings of men like Bob Saile, Ed Dentry and Charlie Meyers.

And I found the spirit to laugh about my predicament—for a Colorado kid, being transported largely against his will to Texas amounts to a premature death sentence—in the words of Patrick F. McManus. There were nights, early in my Texas furlough, that I giggled through tears at the books McManus shared with the world. I read them under the covers, of course, by flashlight until the D-size batteries faded and sleep followed soon after.

Sadly, McManus died Thursday at 84.

His vivid descriptions of fishing and hunting with the characters that influenced his own upbringing in rural northern Idaho inspired me to adapt to my newfound home and make the best of it. While I didn’t have friends named Crazy Eddie, Rancid or Retch, or a sister he called the Troll, I eventually collected enough buddies an annoying little brothers to stir up enough mischief in the Sabine River bottoms to while away sticky summer days in a state my mother would have been horrified to see in person.

Pat McManus was my inspiration. In fact, he may be why I gravitated to journalism after high school and college, and why that journalism took on a serious outdoor-writing bent shortly after that.

I know I’m not alone in my adoration for the words produced by the outdoor humorist. To this day, I occasionally find myself using phrases from his books and back-page columns in Outdoor Life in conversation and giggling all over again. From his books ranging from They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They? to A Fine and Pleasant Misery (My favorite was The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard), he provided a source of outdoor artistry that motivated me and many others to get outside, uncover the mysteries of the outdoors and experience life away from the television. He was, in a sense, the Mark Twain of his generation, an unassuming, gifted writer who found humor behind every tree and under every rock. We should all be so lucky.

I’ve handed his books down to my own kids, but, sadly, their magic seems to have faded a bit in the face of hand-held screens and an ever-running series of Ridiculousness videos that keep young minds sadly captivated and entranced. My daughter read his books voraciously as a youngster. My son never caught the bug.

His death has inspired me yet again—I’ll try once more to gently push his words on Cameron and see if, by chance, he’s ready to let them stick. McManus’ stories are often silly and slapstick, but from his writings about his days spent as a near-vagrant youth following tracks into the woods to his later descriptions of fatherhood and family, he has provided generations of outdoors people with true joy. I hope my son can experience that, too.

Rest in peace, Pat. Thank you for leaving behind so much inspiration. Your words have made my world better, and I know I’m not alone.

Chris Hunt is the national digital director for Trout Media. He lives and works in Idaho Falls.

McManus was one of my favorite outdoor writers. Ronnie

Fishing and Hunting Traditions

Fishing and hunting have always had traditions that have been passed down generation to generation. Many of those traditions are threatened by a huge variety of forces. Will any of them survive?

In 1974 Jim Berry got me in the Spalding County
Sportsman Club and I fished my first bass tournament with him that April. Although I had never been competitive in anything, I fell in love with tournament fishing and am still fanatical about club tournaments 43 years later.

I did not play any sports in high school, never was much for games of any kind and liked solitary, contemplative activities like hunting and fishing. But something about bass tournaments changed that and made me want to compete in what had always been a different kind of recreation.

Bass tournament have grown to a huge business over the past 40 years. Top pros win millions of dollars over their careers and appear on TV and in advertising like any other pro sports figure. They are looked up to by many youth as role models.

As much as I love tournaments, I fear we have lost something. Fishing has become a media spectacle with live coverage of tournaments, interviews with pros, some of whom are cocky and showy, and way too much glorification of their skills.

Growing up I sculled wooden jon boats for my uncles, paddling quietly so they could cast their lures in farm ponds. Those were learning times for me, with quiet conversations discussing everything from fishing methods to the mysteries of life. Catching fish was fun and I loved it when I got a turn to fish, but it was about so much more.

Now bass fishing consists of screaming around a lake in a bass boat, often at 70 plus miles per hour, working hard to get a bite rather than relaxing, and showing off with everything from fist pumps to dancing around on the boat, often with exclamations that would make you think catching a bass was the same as scoring a touchdown.

It takes skill to catch bass consistently and there is no doubt good fishermen are skillful. But to listen to some fishermen when they catch a fish you would think they have achieved some great victory. It is like they overcame some huge handicap to do something no one else could do.

Tournament fishing did change something else. In the past most fish caught were eaten. Catch and release has become a religion for many bass fishermen, with anyone keeping bass to eat condemned. But some of this religion only extends to show.

One tournament trail bans nets for several reasons but one often used is that netting a bass harms it, removing the protective slime on their bodies and lowering their chances of survival when released. But in those same tournaments fishermen are shown “boat flipping” bass they hooked.

Boat flipping is getting a bass near the boat and pulling it out of the water with heavy tackle. The bass flies through the air, slams into the carpet in the bottom of the boat and thrashes around until the fisherman can pick up.

There is no way that does less damage to the fish than a net.

Most tournaments have become about money and fame. That is why I like club fishing. So far, my clubs don’t make it about money, although some want to raise entry fees and turn it in that direction, with higher payouts. There are some bragging rights in doing well in those tournaments but most of it is low key with few show-offs.

The Federation Top Six tournaments have moved in the wrong way in my opinion. When I started fishing them in 1979 there was competition, mainly for the right to move up to the regional tournament but some between clubs for bragging rights, not individual glory. At the first regional I fished with the state team in 1983 the 12 of us worked together, sharing information every night and trying to help everyone do good and finish high as a team. Our team won.

The last one I fished in 2010 it was everyone for himself, with little information sharing on the team. It was so bad that one night when I told the team of a small pattern I thought I had found another team member told me I could not fish those places, those were his fish. Our “team” finished near the bottom.

In the past you fished with someone from another club and shared the places fished during the day, with each of you having half a day to run the trolling motor. You had to qualify for the Top Six by doing well in your club the year before.

I fished the Federation Nation Top Six at Lanier this past week, after this was written. Now, with that Federation, clubs still send teams but others can “buy” in, paying to enter the tournament even if you didn’t make the club team. It a pro/am format, with the boater having control of the boat all day. Entry fees have gone up and it has become more cut-throat.

If it went the way I am afraid it will go, it will be the last one I fish.

I will continue to fish club tournaments as long as I am able. Maybe its my age, I am not keeping up with the times, but I hope I never see the changes locally I am seeing at the state level and up.

Something about fishing has been lost. There is nothing wrong with tournaments, but sometimes I miss sitting in the back of the boat, sculling for an adult while they fished and shared their life experiences and knowledge with me.

Getting A Start Outdoor Writing and Club Tournament Fishing

Today is something of an anniversary for me. In the second week of March, 1987, 30 years ago, my first column ran in the Griffin Daily News. Its title was “Crappie Time In Georgia” and, as suggested, it was about spring crappie fishing near Griffin.

Jim Berry gave me a chance to start writing by sponsoring that column. He and the publisher of the paper at that time worked out a deal for Berry’s Sporting Goods to sponsor a column and Jim knew I wanted to be a writer, so he gave me a chance to do it. That was the start of my second career and I am grateful to Jim for giving me a start.

Many say a job where you go fishing and hunting and write about it is the best job in the world and I agree – most of the time. From my start here, I worked into writing for Georgia Sportsman Magazine, Georgia Outdoor News, Alabama Outdoor News, some other magazines and a web site. I started writing for GON in 1988 and since 1996 I have written the Map of the Month article every month, missing only one issue in 21 years. AON was started about nine years ago and my article has run in it in every issue published.

Sometimes it gets hectic due to deadlines. Last Wednesday morning I got up and left before daylight to make the five-hour drive to Wilson Lake in northern Alabama to meet Sloan Pennington to get information for the AON April issue. We fished the Wheeler tailrace for a couple of hours and I caught a three-pound smallmouth and Sloan got a smallmouth almost that big and a 16-inch largemouth that was the fattest bass I have ever seen.

After spending a few hours looking at places to put on the map that will be good in April, we went back to the tailrace and I caught the biggest hybrid I have even landed. We estimated it weighed about 12 pounds, half again as big as the eight pounder I caught a few years ago at Clarks Hill. It was much bigger than that one.

A few minutes later Sloan hooked another strong fish and when it came to the top out hearts stopped. I had told him if he could catch a five pound plus largemouth or smallmouth I could probably get a cover shot and this largemouth looked to weigh seven pounds plus. After a hard fight in the current he landed it and I took dozens of pictures.

I got in my car there about 6:00 PM “Georgia” time and headed four hours east, toward Carters Lake. I spent the night in a motel in Resaca and met Bill Payne Thursday morning at the ramp on Carters, a deep, clear mountain lake. It is very different than any of the lakes in middle Georgia that I usually fish.

Bill tried to show me how to catch the big spots Carters is known for. He landed one about five pounds and about a dozen total. His best five weighed about 20 pounds, a great limit of spotted bass. I left there at 3:30 PM, just in time to hit rush hour traffic in downtown Atlanta. What should have been a 2.5 hour drive ended up taking almost 3.5 hours. After almost 14 hours driving 700 miles I was glad to get home!

Now the actual work begins. Doing the research for articles is the part. Sitting at a keyboard for three hours for each article is the work part.

Another anniversary, a full circle type, is also happening. In 1974 Jim Berry invited me to fish an April Spalding County Sportsman Club tournament at Clarks Hill. Now, 43 years later I seldom miss a club tournament in that club or either of the other two Griffin clubs.

Kelley Chambers works at Berrys now and I met him there a while back when buying essentials for a fishing trip. We talked over the weeks about fishing. Kelley fishes out of a kayak a lot but he is fishing his first club tournament with me today at Oconee. I think he is about the age I was when Jim took me to my first tournament.

Farewell Wade Bourne

R.I.P. Wade Bourne
By Frank Sargeant, Editor
from The Fishing Wire

He was a fine man, and he ended in a fine way.

My friend of more than 40 years, mentor, co-worker and sometimes-competitor, Wade Bourne of Clarksville, Tennessee, passed away December 15. He was 69. If you follow hunting and fishing in print, on the Internet or on radio or television, you know who Wade was. He was an iconic figure, the guy all of us in the business aspired to be. And not because of his success; because he was a man’s man, a man of honor and intelligence and ability and good humor, and also one who never took his own celebrity seriously.

Wade flew a bomber for the Air Force in the Viet Nam conflict, and never spoke of it unless you pried it out of him. When he was done with the service, he could easily have come back to a high-dollar job flying for Delta or United, but he never wanted to be anything other than an outdoors writer, and he was–as good an outdoor writer as it was possible to be.

We became friends because we were close to the same age and both hooked up with B.A.S.S. and with Southern Outdoors Magazine, and often wound up on hunting and fishing trips together along with Dave Precht, Larry Teague, Colin Moore and Bob McNally–all of whom went on to make names for themselves in the business.

Wade was one of the best anglers I ever had the pleasure of sharing a boat with, and he was also an outstanding turkey hunter and waterfowler. Flipping through my files from back in the days when media folks used film cameras and shot Kodachrome, I find shots of Wade dragging big strings of sea trout at the Chandeleur Islands, holding up an impossibly fat gobbler in south Alabama, and lining up on some fast-moving pintails overhead in a flooded pasture in central Mexico.

Wade expanded into syndicated radio and finally into TV, and did a wonderful job in those venues, too; unlike many of us who write, he was a natural on camera, and he had a deep, rich voice that was perfect for the venue. He was the voice of the largest syndicated outdoors radio show in the nation, going to over 200 stations, and a co-host of Ducks Unlimited TV for 20 years. He wrote six books, and was a strong voice for conservation and hunting and fishing access throughout his life.

He won a ton of awards for his writing and broadcasting. In 2003, he was inducted into the Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame. In 2005 he was inducted into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame. He received the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in October 2014. In 2016, he received the prestigious Homer Circle Fishing Communicator Award from the Professional Outdoor Media Association and the American Sportfishing Association, generally recognized as the top national award for outdoors writers. I guess if there had been anything else, he would have won that, too.

Wade lived on a fine old farm that had been in his family since before the Civil War. He built his house right over the log cabin that had been the first home of the family–it became the living room–and he once told me the story of his grandfather walking home from Georgia at the end of the war, coming down that road in front of the house, and of his grandmother unable to recognize the bedraggled, starving skeleton that presented itself at the door.

Wade was cutting down a Christmas tree on that farm Thursday afternoon when he was felled by a heart attack. Though it was much too soon, I can’t imagine he would have rather gone any other way.

He will be truly missed in this holiday season by his family and friends, and by the millions who knew him through his work.

R.I.P., my brother. I hope they have pintails and sea trout in Heaven.

What Is Pro Angler Jimmy Houston Doing Now?

Catching up with pro angler Jimmy Houston

Editor’s Note: Today’s feature comes to us from Kevin Kelly at the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources
from The Fishing Wire

Jimmy Houston

Jimmy Houston

The growth of outdoor television and an expanding library of videos available online means anglers no longer have to wait until weekend mornings to get their fill of fishing shows.

Viewers would tune in each week to ESPN, TBS and The Nashville Network to watch the likes of Jimmy Houston, Bill Dance, Roland Martin, Hank Parker, Jerry McKinnis and others catch big fish, and lots of them. As entertaining as it was, there was educational value. The shows introduced generations of anglers to new equipment and new lures, but also taught them new ways to fish.

“There is some satisfaction in the fact that you’ve been a part of the sport growing to what it is today,” Houston said.

Now in his early 70s, the pro bass angler from Oklahoma, known for his shaggy platinum blond hair, infectious giggle and penchant for planting kisses on fish, remains one of the sport’s best-known ambassadors. He continues to keep a busy schedule fishing selected tournaments, filming his television show and making personal appearances. Last summer, one of those appearances brought him to Kentucky.

Houston is no stranger to the state and raves about the quality of the fishing on Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake.

“Bass fishing is better right now than it’s ever been in the United States,” he said. “You have a lake right here close by, Kentucky Lake, and its sister lake, Lake Barkley, those are some of the greatest places to fish in the country.”

While in the state for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky Speedway – he drove the pace car – Houston filmed a segment fishing with Fox NASCAR in-race analyst Larry McReynolds at one of the ponds on the track’s property. McReynolds had never caught a fish before, Houston said.

“We caught eight or 10 bass and Larry caught two,” he said. “The first one he caught was about 12 inches long and his first question was, ‘Would that win a fishing tournament?’ I told him it depended on the tournament and how big they needed to be. But, no, that probably wouldn’t win any tournament. We still had a lot of fun.”

For anybody trying to teach a new angler to fish, one of the keys to success is keeping it fun and simple.

“Where so many of the dads make the mistake, particularly those who love to bass fish, is they want their kid bass fishing,” Houston said. “They go out there and throw a plastic worm around for two or three hours and don’t get a bite and think they’re going to get a bite on the next cast. A kid does it for about 20 minutes and says, ‘Dad, this isn’t fun.'”

Farm ponds, small lakes and any of the Fishing in Neighborhoods program lakes across the state are great places to take a new angler. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources stocks FINs lakes with rainbow trout and channel catfish. Some also receive stockings of hybrid sunfish.

“Start them out on something where they can catch fish,” Houston said. “Depending on where you are, that might be a lot of different species. It might simply be bluegill in a farm pond.

“A kid will have just as much fun catching bluegill because they can catch them. They don’t really have very long attention spans, so if they go very long without catching a fish they’re going to get bored with it.”

Houston’s daughter used to accompany her parents in the boat while they pre-fished before a tournament. When she got tired of fishing, she always had something else to keep her occupied.

“We’d let her bring all her toys and stuff,” Houston said. “She’d get down on the floor of the boat and make her a little tent by the console. She’d play with her toys, get up and fish for a little bit, and then she’d go back to playing.”

Many of the anglers who grew up watching fishing shows on weekend mornings are finding the roles reversed now. Teaching a new angler to fish helps ensure the future of the sport.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s NASCAR or baseball or football or anything. They’re the future,” Houston said. “So it’s an honor to get to take kids fishing. It really is.”

Author Kevin Kelly is a staff writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Get the latest from Kevin and the entire Kentucky Afield staff by following them on Twitter: @kyafield.

Why I Love and Hate Fall

I Love and Hate Fall!

I always looked forward to September with dread and excitement. I hated the fact that school was starting back. Gone would be the long, lazy, fun days of fishing local ponds, damming Dearing Branch, building tree houses and camping out in the back yard.

But fall also meant hunting seasons were near. Dove season opened soon after school started, easing the pain a little. I could not wait until squirrel season opened, usually in September back then, and rabbit and quail seasons followed in November.

When I was growing up there was no deer hunting anywhere near me. There were not enough deer to hunt and the Department of Natural Resources was stocking deer and trying to get them established. By the time I started high school in the mid-1960s it was still rare to see a deer. If anyone saw one crossing the road we talked about it for a week.

Daddy didn’t fish and hunted little, but we always got to go to dove shoots on Saturdays during season. And we had two pointers we spent many hours following through fields near the house to find quail. Bird hunting with him was always special.

Since daddy didn’t get to go hunting except on Saturdays, I squirrel hunted by myself or with friends. We often went after school and hunted all day on Saturdays when bird season was not open. I could walk out my back door and be in the woods in five minutes. I knew where every pine the squirrels liked to cut pinecones grew and the location of favorite white oak trees where they fed.

One very special place was behind my house on a ridge beside Dearing Branch. There was a huge white oak tree about three fourths the way up the slope and it was always loaded with acorns in the fall. And it was usually loaded with squirrels. I spend hours sitting near that tree waiting on bushytails to come to feed. It was a magical place for me.

I hunted with a .410 shotgun or a .22 rifle. In those much younger days I could shoot squirrels in the head with my .22 and used it when the leaves fell. But the shotgun was better early in the season when the trees were full of leaves and the squirrels harder to see.

One trip with my friend Hal stands out in my mind, even after 50 years. We had ridden our bicycles to Harrison’s pond, a favorite fishing hole in the summer, but this time we had our guns. It was about five miles from my house but we thought little about the distance.

Hal shot a squirrel with his over and under .410 and .22. It had a rifle barrel on top and a shotgun barrel underneath. I always wanted one but my daddy said I could make do with what I had.

The squirrel Hal shot ran into a hollow about 20 feet off the ground. We never let anything get away if there was any possible way to get it but it seemed impossible on that one. We came up with a plan. I rode back to my house, got a saw and hatchet, and headed back to where Hal waited by the tree in case the squirrel was able to come out.

We cut that tree down about three feet off the ground, planning on getting the squirrel out. When we cut it we looked in the hollow stump and could see hair. I grabbed it and pulled a dead squirrel out. It had died after crawling into the tree.

While we were celebrating getting the squirrel, I noticed the wood chips and sawdust in the stump moved. I looked and saw more hair, so I shot into it with my rifle and pulled out another squirrel. That made us look closer, and we again saw hair, shot into it and pulled out another squirrel. We got three out of that hole!

We ate anything we caught or killed and three squirrels made a decent number for squirrel and dumplings that night. My mother could cook anything. I often thought she could take and old hunting boot, season it and cook it and it would turn out as a gourmet meal!

We ate a lot of squirrel, rabbit, quail, dove and all kinds of fish. My mother often said a fish was big enough to keep and clean if it would make the grease smell. She especially liked the crunch tips of the tail and fins after deep frying little bream.

I have great memories of growing up wild in Georgia and hope many other kids are making those memories right now.