Thursday, December 13, 2007

Porch visitor from The Wild

We have a new visitor to the front porch, Pat Possum. We call the critter Pat because we cannot tell if Pat's a female or a male. Guess we'll have to wait for the babies, or lack thereof, to know for certain.
Anyway, the cats don't seem to mind sharing and the dogs have not figured out what to do with Pat, chase it or ignore it.
Pat is kinda cute and doesn't make more of a mess of the front porch than the cats. In fact, she makes less mess than my two stepsons, who leave all sorts of stuff lying around where normal people can trip over them.
Does anyone else think Pat's a cutie?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Car dies in the wild

It was not the best weekend of trout fishing. Most of the time, I spent on the side of dirt roads with a broken down car. The first time, I was near a house, used the phone and got Mrs. Koontz to pick me up. Two neighbors took part of the car apart and got it to running so I could make it to the cabin. We spent an hour looking for a little metal piece Yank, a transplant from Canada with a thick accent, dropped as the sun gently set over the hills. It began to get cold, drizzly and threatening snow.
The next day I bought a new distributor rotor button, put it in with the help of Rodney, another neighbor who kept me entertained by talking about a 26-inch rainbow he caught near my cabin and a 31-inch brown his dad caught nearby.
Well, the car made it back into the forest as I headed back to work, then died about a gazillion miles from nowhere, and nowhere near a phone. I hitched to the hatcher, called the tow truck and waited, and froze, for 5 and a half hours.
And the nice Wildlife officer told me about the 30-inch brown trout HE caught just up the road.
Hey, stop it. I left the rod in the car, about a gazillion miles away.
I got the car to the shop, the took all day before looking at it, and then told me the bad news. It was not dead, but it was severely injured. At least 3 big bills.
The next day while I waited I fished. At last, I was near trout with all my stuff. The trout were sipping bugs off the surface too!
For two hours, I made up for all the frustration of the previous three days. My first three casts to the home waters mirror pool produced violent splashes and equally violent line breaks. I lost two flies within 30 seconds. These trout were HUGE.
I did begin to land some, though, including one of the prettiest brown trout I have ever seen and a couple of scarlet-cheeked rainbows.
I lost count of the smaller fish. Boy, was that fun.
Sorta softened the broken car blues.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wild views from the Parkway

This is a nice view of Looking Glass Rock from the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Brevard. It is also near a lot of little streams full of wild trout and is not much of a drive to some other rivers that have stocked trout and special regulations, like Delayed Harvest and Catch and Release at the North Mills River and the Davidson River.
Recent rains have helped the low-water situation, but we are still far behind what it should be. You can still cross most of these little creeks without getting the tops of your socks wet, but the water is now getting too cold for wet wading, and I reluctantly took out the old waders last week for some fun on the North Fork of the French Broad and some secret places. I hooked a nice rainbow with a BWO dry but lost him after a brief battle during a steady afternoon drizzle that finally chased me under the bridge.
Did better on the little water, still with a dry fly. Caught some pretty rainbows that were lit up like holiday decorations but nothing of any size. Perhaps this week?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wild day on the North Mills River

Well, the colors are beginning to fade into our memories of the fall of 2007, with the mountains looking more like piles of rusting cannon balls instead of bowls of colorful jellybeans.
In spots, to be sure, the color still dazzles. The ride to Asheville over Saluda Mountain is awesome with sparkling reds and golds lining the highway. I wonder why there are not more accidents since the display is definitely distracting. At my cabin near the Blue Ridge Parkway, the maple in the front yard turned golden, then barren, within one week's time. It actually looks a little ragged, like something has chewed and scratched the branches bare.
Across the street, I found one lone maple leaf, standing out like a gleaming ruby in a pile of rock.
It's a pretty time of year. It's also unseasonably warm, and I have tried to make the best of the nice days to get to some new trout streams like at the end of the paved road along the North Mills River. I found a peaceful, mirror-smooth pool where you have to ford the creek or turn around, and the fish were sipping midges off the glassy surface with some regularity, though I never actually saw any midges fluttering in the air.
I used long, sometimes graceful, casts and let the fly settle quietly amid the rise rings. Then, I watched the fly slowly float over the fish while I took in all the scenery, the magnificent red oaks towering overhead with just enough foliage left to give the sunlight a reddish tint. The air smelled crisp and clean. My mind wandered...
Then, there was a splash, I jerked awake to discover I had a trout on the end of my line and I brought him in to admire. Before I was finished at the pool - it was the only place I fished for two hours - I caught two browns, two rainbows and four brook trout, all apparently stockers except for the brightly-dressed browns.
Funny thing, fishermen passed by, stopped to look and kept going all the time I was there. They all said they had been having little luck.
I smiled.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wild little hybrid trout

This is called a Tiger Trout, I believe. Caught this little guy in a creek near the blue ridge parkway this summer. I have never seen anything like it but I am told it is a hybrid of Brook and Brown trout. It had some interesting colors, with red-tipped fins and a little butter yellow on its belly. Pretty little thing. Too bad they are sterile, so I probably won't ever catch another.

Wild thing tries to grab Mrs. Koontz

Is this the wooden creature from below? Or is just the biggest, baddest, twistingnest vine I have ever seen.
We found it along the Davidson River last week. Kinda spooky.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wild-looking rock church

Well, I really wanted to try and catch a few trout - I could spot the rings on the water's surface as we crossed a bridge - but Mrs. Koontz and I didn't have that much time to tarry, so we instead took a little hike beside the Davidson River to check out the little Methodist church adjacent to one of the campgrounds. The church was built with rocks from their surrounding area and is open each Sunday at 9:30 a.m. for services, mostly for the campers.
There's more to the story, but the builders managed to spell out English Chapel with some of the rock, which they installed over the front entrance.
We saw a really huge vine by the path also. It was curved interestingly enough to make a perfect seat for tired hikers.
It was a nice day with a gentle breeze tossing falling leaves around like butterflies in the air. There was still some color left in the trees, but it's going fast further up the mountain.
I don't have any idea how good the fishing was Sunday, and I only spent a half hour Saturday fishing a couple of my favorite spots. The trout were out.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Happy birthday Marine Corps

Marine Corps Birthday: (excerpt from Warrior Culture of the U.S. Marines, copyright 2001 Marion F. Sturkey)

All U.S. Marines are gung-ho. But, few can match the vision and total commitment of the famous 13th Commandant, Gen. John A. Lejeune. In 1921 he issued Marine Corps Order No. 47, Series 1921.

Gen. Lejeune's order summarized the history, mission, and tradition of the Corps. It further directed that the order be read to all Marines on 10 November of each year to honor the founding of the Marine Corps. Thereafter, 10 November became a unique day for U.S. Marines throughout the world.

Soon, some Marine commands began to not only honor the birthday, but celebrate it. In 1923 the Marine Barracks at Ft. Mifflin, Pennsylvania, staged a formal dance. The Marines at the Washington Navy Yard arranged a mock battle on the parade ground. At Quantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Marine baseball team played a Cuban team and won, 9 to 8.

The first "formal" Birthday Ball took place on Philadelphia in 1925. First class Marine Corps style, all the way! Guests included the Commandant, the Secretary of War (in 1925 the term "politically correct" didn't exist; it was Secretary of War, not Secretary of Defense), and a host of statesmen and elected officials. Prior to the Ball, Gen. Lejeune unveiled a memorial plaque at Tun Tavern. Then the entourage headed for the Benjamin Franklin Hotel and an evening of festivities and frolicking.

Over the years the annual Birthday Ball grew and grew, taking on a life of its own. In 1952 the Commandant, Gen. Lemuel C. Shepherd Jr., formalized the cake-cutting ceremony and other traditional observances. For example, Marine Corps policy now mandates that the first piece of cake must be presented to the oldest U.S. Marine present. The second piece goes to the youngest Marine. Among the many such mandates is a solemn reading of the Commandant's birthday message to the Corps.

Like the U.S. Marine Corps itself, the annual Birthday Ball has evolved from simple origins to the polished and professional functions of today. Nonetheless, one thing remains constant, the tenth day of November! This unique holiday for warriors is a day of camaraderie, a day to honor Corps and Country. Throughout the world on 10 November, U.S. Marines celebrate the birth of their Corps -- the most loyal, most feared, most revered, and most professional fighting force the world has ever known.

*and God bless Chesty Puller

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Looking for a wild weekend fishin'

Reports I have seen call for water temperatures around 40 to 42 degrees this week. The forecast is for sunny, fairly warm weather in the 60s or high 50s, so that's good enough for me to wet a line, perhaps in the North Mills River or the DH water on the East Fork of the FB. At least the colors will still be sparkling and I may even catch a trout.
Last weekend did not do much of anything, except for those two little brown trout I caught near the bridge in my neighborhood.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Wild trout streams come alive with rain

The water was still up and in good fishable condition this past weekend (Nov. 3/4/5) but I did not get out for more than just a few minutes Saturday.
Scared some wild rainbows sipping midges off the surface, then moved downstream on the North Fork of the French Broad and nailed a couple of browns with a No. 16 caddis.
The water was cold and I put on the waders for the first time since March. The sun ripped through the orange/red/yellow trees and felt good on my face.
I heard the North Mills River along the Delayed Harvest section was good during the week, but I had horrible luck trying to fish it on a Saturday a couple weekends ago. It was crowded and the water got hammered.
The East Fork of the FB continues to draw hordes of well-equipped fly fishermen. Too many people on the weekends but still not as crowded as North Mills.
On the plus side, the foliage at North Mills was incredibly beautiful the end of October, but I didn't catch much.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Wild streams full again

Well, it has been awhile since there was much water in the neighborhood's trout streams. But the recent rain changed all that. Shame I hardly had a chance to wet a line. I spent most of the weekend running errands and trying out the new troutmobile after junking the old one, and then the brake's on Mrs. Koontz's Shopmobile gave out.
Sunday, close to dark, I tied on a big Adams parachute with a bright calftail post for easy visibility and hooked and lost a bunch of little wild rainbows. The one fish I actually landed was foul-hooked, and there is no honor in that.
The previous weekend I spent a good portion of Saturday on the North Mills. The fall colors were magnificent ... like fishing in church with the sun's rays cutting through overhanging trees bright as stained glass.
It was pretty, the water was still low and there was a flyfisherman for every trout. I elbowed my way past a couple, threw a elkhair caddis onto the water and hooked just one trout. It was my first time there on the North Mills, a Delayed Harvest river, so I spent most of the time out of the water just wandering around, kicking up leaves and breathing in the wonderful air. It was a good day.
My wife had my camera, but I got some good shots on the East Fork of the French Broad, another Delayed Harvest stream, the previous weekend. I slayed em with dries there one day and got skunked the the very same spot fishing over the very same obstinate trout. Go figure.
My little home creek should be good this Saturday. Perhaps I will have it to myself.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Wild trout and tangy ice cream

It mostly rained on my parade Sunday afternoon. I had planned to do a little exploring in the Pisgah National Forest, seeking new waters to fish for little wild trout. I got to the entrance of the forest at Brevard, took a right and just had to stop for some of Dolly's home-made ice cream. They make up their own flavors, changing them from year to year. I have about four I keep going back for but the best of the best has to be the strawberry, mango combined with just a touch of red pepper that you do not notice until you stop licking the cone. Then, there is this unusual after taste. It's a nice burn on the tip of your tongue.
I then rigged up my rod so the rain could begin. It kept it up, sometimes brutally so, for an hour or so. I didn't even wait for it all to stop but instead danced shirtless in the rain with my head thrown back to catch some raindrops on my tongue. (remember the pepper?)
It had been so hot during the week here in Shelby that by the time Saturday rolled around I was ready for someone to stick a fork into just to see how done I was.
It was so hot, potatoes cooked in the ground and corn popped in the field.
With the rain, the temperatues dipped like they had fallen over a waterfall like a tourist without a brain. felt wonderful.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wild dogs took my baby!

Well, that was the headline in the newspaper years ago when a woman in Australia told authorities that a wild pack of dingos dragged her baby into the Outback.
These vicious-looking critters keep the bears away from the cabin. Haven't seen old momma bear in several years. She used to come around and leave claw marks on the apple tree and sign on the ground.I guess Bo and Booboo and Hero and Susie and Fraya keep em scared.
They wanted me to put their pictures on the blog.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Cooking the wild blueberry pie

We finally got around to cooking the pie with those wild blueberries Mrs. Koontz and I picked the previous Monday. I was surprised they were still there in the fridge. Anyhow, we picked through the berries, added a little less than half cup of sugar (coulda used more), a cup of flour or thereabouts, some cinnamon and some nutmeg. We used the double pie shells made with shortening, not lard. Seemed like it cooked for more than an hour but that's not right...I think you bake it 35 minutes, then remove the aluminum so the crust on top browns nicely.
We topped it off with whipped cream, but the consensus was it would have been better with vanilla ice cream.
I hope there are some berries left in the patch when I get back up there.
The finished product disappeared before I could get a photo. Perhaps next time...
The photo shown here is of my two grandsons, Patrick and Spencer, at Virginia Beach. They love blueberry pie also.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Girls in bikinis pick wild blueberries

We went hunting for some wild blueberries the other day and found a ton near the Blue Ridge Parkway. (That's as close as I will come to giving the location away). As we picked away, people would slow down to see what we were doing since we were still visible from the road. My reaction was to turn my back, to give the impression I was doing something more private than picking blueberries. Folks have been known to slam on the brakes and rush up the hills to get the berries you had intended to pick yourself. The ruse works. Nobody stopped.
I had meant to include some blueberry health tips in my outdoors column Saturday but got to writing about fishing and forgot about writing abut the blueberries.
We had intended to make a pie with about 3 cups of the berries, sugar and cornstarch but Mrs. Koontz could not find a piecrust that did not include lard (pig fat), so she got this little tart shells, which are cute but as I left Tuesday to come back to work they had still not been filled with blueberries and cooked in the oven and cooled and covered with whipped cream.
You think there are any left at the cabin?
Well, you gotta have faith...
Oh, yeah, we chased those girls in bikinis away.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Wild song about fishin' blues

Thought I would try to add this to the web site since it is about fishing and I love to fish, especially for wild trout in the wildest of places.
Hope this works.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Wild One as a Simpson character

Well, how do I look as a guest on the Simpsons? I only had room for one of my dogs and one of my cats (the others were watching another show).
They have this neat Web site where you take a photo of yourself and change it into a Simpsons' figure.
Just google and have it. It's fun.
But I have my doubts about the importance of a good photo or even a photo of yourself.
I made three, including two co-workers, with just my photo. You do all the work putting the pieces together until you get the hair, glasses, turtleneck shirt or whatever and so on.
It's good clean fun (is that an oxymoron?)
The scary thing is I pretty much resemble this guy, though I did clip the ragged part of my beard this morning.
Go ahead, give it a try.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Bear walks on the wild side

Last week while coming down route 276 off the Blue Ridge Parkway, I looked up to see the funniest looking dog I've ever seen loping across the road about 200 feet ahead. He really did have a funny gait, kinda clumsy but cute. When he looked up my way, I realized it was no doggie. It was a black bear, which of course is not that unusual in the Pisgah National Forest, and he just kept on getting on, quickly disappearing up the bank and into the forest.

My friends in the city of Asheville have spotted more bear in their backyard than I have in the National Forest, but then where I live there are more trees for the bears to hide behind than in the city.

Well, I did not get a photo of Mr. Bear. He would not stand still long enough. Plus, I didn't have the camera.

But I did want to put something wild on the site, so I put in this photo of a falcon taken just over the hill near Courthouse Falls. He knew how to sit still for a photographer.
I got the trout fishing eagle photo from a friend via e-mail and just can't resist showing it all. Wish I could fish like that. All I have is a fly rod.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Birds on the wild side

While taking photos of the mountains from the Blue Ridge Parkway, I notice a pretty blue flower down the bank from where I was standing. I zoomed in with the camera and snapped a couple of shots. I then went on with my usual routine and looked for a place to fish.

When I got home and downloaded the photos of the day, I noticed that my blue flower was in fact an Indigo Bunting, a brightly-colored bird.

It is not so much that the bird is unusual or rarely sighted, it is not. They are everywhere.

It's just that it fooled me so well while I was snapping the pictures.

He didn't even try to blend in, like most other wild things, to survive. In fact, he stood out.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Red lizard walks on the wild side

Say hello to Larry the Lizard, a little scarlet colored reptile I found the other day in my yard. Cute, huh?
I let him go in the high grass, hoping that would be enough to keep him safe from the cats. I thought about putting him in a terrariam, but the cats would get into that too.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Walking on the wild side of ideas

A fishing column with little to do with fish.....

With thoughts of rivers in my mind and a bottle of water in my hand, I decided to take the Blue Ridge Parkway Monday afternoon.
It’s usually a beautiful drive to the cabin, and the sky was full of cottonball clouds puffed up against a cerulean background, a perfect day for taking photographs.
I had a few hours to kill.
Why not sail along with the dips and rolls of the two-lane scenic roller-coaster highway, drink in the sweet summer air and catch a few brook trout at Graveyard Fields?These are things I take for granted.
The higher into the clouds I drove, the darker the clouds became. A light mist sprinkled the car’s windshield.
My photogenic clouds began to lose their luster and by the time I hit above 3,000 feet, the sky was gray as a dull rock. The clouds kept spitting on my car with a steady, indifferent drizzle.I gulped some of the bottled water. I expected the rain to get worse so the day’s flyfishing, which included a fair hike into the valley where the trout were, would be ruined.
I like comfort.Where I was headed is rainforest wet, with 70 inches or more precipitation a year. Riding high into the clouds, I was as surrounded by water as if in a pool.
Everything was wet.These also is something I tend to expect and take for granted.It’s not like this everywhere, though. There are places, I had been reminded Sunday, where life’s most precious requirement is rapidly dwindling or gone. There are once mighty rivers in this world that have all the depth of spit on a rock.
So what? What can one person do about it?This has nothing to do with flyfishing and everything about caring about others. The story of Ryan Hreljac is inspiring: As a first grade student in Canada about 10 years ago, Ryan learned from his teacher that there were children dying in Africa because there was no clean water to drink.
Ryan did not think that was right.So, the little boy in Canada saved his money. After four months, he had $70. Ryan kept doing household chores to help support nonprofits like WaterCan and Free the Children.Ryan never stopped.
Today, his little effort has swollen to a million-dollar organization — Ryan’s Well Foundation. ( date, the foundation has helped pay for 266 wells in 12 countries serving 435,343 people in Africa.That’s nearly a half-million human beings.
That’s awesome.That’s the difference one person can make.I feel puny.
I thought about Ryan as I gulped the last of my bottled water. I climbed higher into the clouds while the insolent drizzle washed over the mountains.
Water is just one battle in the war against world suffering. The United Nations calculated that if the developed nations’ population spent just 0.7 percent of their incomes, more than 500 million people could be lifted out of poverty and 300 million would no longer suffer from hunger.
The lives of more than 30 million children under the age of five would be saved. The Millennium Development Goals include eradicating poverty and hunger, fighting diseases like malaria and AIDS, reducing child mortality and promoting primary education.
That seems like a big piece of pie to bite into. This was all too much to swallow at once as I searched for a break in the clouds, a tiny slice of blue with perhaps a ray of sun peeking through.
I was ready to catch trout. I finally caught a couple, lost a couple and then left my fly in the trees as the light went out. Life is good in the mountains of western North Carolina.
And then I paused. It is not this good in some other places, I thought, but I am just one person.
And what can just one person do?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Flying on the wild side

I found this dragonfly perched on my car's radio antenna the other morning. He looked as if he was trying to tune in a station. Because he had a brownish-red tint to his body, I figured he must be one of those Ashy Clubtail (Gompus lividus) but I am not certain. They are found throughout North Carolina and are frequent springtime flyers in the state.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

We have some new guys in the newsroom and they have been helping me hold up the roof while the roofers do their thing fixing the leaks. Here is a photo of us in the newsroom. Note: they are CUB reporters.

Photo by the late Hugh Morton

Thursday, July 5, 2007

walk some more on the wild side

Trout fishing has been a little spotty, as well as hot and dry, for the past month but we did get a little new water for the ancient rocks in my favorite rivers. The Davidson River, though hammered almost every day during the summer, continues to give up trout, even to each other. I watched, fascinated, for about 20 minutes as a brown trout about 20 inches long tried tyo swallow a 10-inch rainbow. He wallowed from one side of the pool to another, never getting his meal all the way down. I thought something was weird when he ignored every fly I tossed his way ( I thought he was sipping mayflies, ha). I don't know if he ever got that lunch down. Talk about indigestion.

I had a little luck on the French Broad, using a #20 black caddis on smooth, quiet water the color of cafe a'lait. I had a long float, my mind wandered and then the fish hit. I jumped. He was a nice wild brown. I scared the rest of the fish in the pool, I guess, so I moved up to the fire station where my pet trout hang out less than a mile from home. Nothing much happened until almost dark. With a #16 tan caddis on a 6X tippet, I got a brown to hit when I twitched the fly across the surface. A couple more smacked my fly upstream.

The rhododendron has exploded, leaving puffs of pink and white throughout the Pisgah Forest. The look like little snowballs in the branches.

I saw very few yellow stones this time (July 1, 2,3) Caught one sized 16 and put him inside my flybox, then caught another the next day that was about a size 20.

When the water turns dingy, I like to fish black marabou streams. My favorite is a one-feather fly I tie on #6 hooks or larger. (see photo) It's the easiest fly I can think of to tie in a hurry, perhaps at streamside (I keep a briefcase tying kit in the car). Use a really big fly, and you're good for fishing largemouth. A little smaller and you're ready for smallmouth bass. I start with wetting the feather, tying in at the bend of the hook, making the tail, then wrap up the rest over the shaft to the head, tie it all and voila.

Friday, June 22, 2007

walking on the wild side

Some more walking on the wild side.

I have some friends in Asheville who, in the middle of the city, encounter more wildlife than my wife and I do in the middle of the Pisgah National Foresty. They have been having problems with black bears sneaking into their backyard and now they have a turkey that likes to park atop their car. They shooed it off before it left any deposits on the car roof.

Strange happenings everywhere.

The laurel has been awesome this past month and the rhododendron are now in full bloom also.

Despite the recent rain, our rivers and streams west of here are still agonizingly low. the Davidson River, I am told, is the lowest its been since World War II. Pitiful.

Speaking of pitiful, I watched a rather large brown trout try to swallow a moderately sized rainbow trout in the Davidson River a couple Sundays ago. I tried to cast a fly close to the brown and then realized he had his mouth full. I watched for about 15 minutes as the big trout struggled to swallow the smaller fish. He never did while I was there. I guess his eyes were bigger than his stomach (or mouth).

THE craziest thing I've ever seen on the river

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Of snakes and fishes

One of my cats brought home a little ring-necked snake the other day to play with and torment. The snake was dead by the time I noticed her jumping and dancing around with the little reptile, so i spent the next half hour taking pictures. My border collie, feeling left out, went hunting across the street and brought home a rainbow trout, dead of course, and looked at me like he was expecting some sort of reward. Since I read that raw fish is bad for a dog's liver, I picked up the slippery corpse and gave it a proper burial at sea, sort of. I tossed it into the river.
I did not take any photos of the dead fish. It was not a wild fish, just something that escaped from the hatchery nearby, so I did not feel too much remorse. I place a higher value on wild trout than with the farm fish.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

the funky trout

Here's a photo of a little weird looking trout I caught a couple of weeks ago near our cabin in Transyvania County. Interesting markings???