Monday, November 23, 2015

A Day In the Woods

"You're late, you sonofa..." I sneered to Chris as he threw his gear in the back of my truck.  "I know, I know" he responded before I could get another word out.  A few things I'm never late for- fly fishing, grouse hunting and church.  Well, sometimes I'm late for church.

Grouse hunting in the Laurel Highlands of Pennsylvania is tough.  You have to do homework to find covers at the right age, and even when you do find them, the grouse are often still tough to find. It's no longer the "golden age" of grouse hunting from the turn of the century, a time described in books by George Evans, Frank Woolner or Burton Spiller- about grouse and woodcock numbers that are plain hard to fathom.   Grouse are, and always will be, where you find them.

Those days may be long gone, but it is what it is.  Its a long walk in the woods, at a wonderful time of year, with nobody around.  Most folks I know have turned in their fly rods for archery gear, or revert to watching football on weekends.  Nothing wrong with either, but for me, I'm on the endless journey to use every drop of daylight.  Grouse hunting is something I plain love, I look forward to the cold, the frost, and the long hikes across ridge. The shots made and missed, pulling on my old torn brush pants and shirt, still stuck with thorns and briars you always seem to "find" at the wrong moment.

I love the gear.  From my Stormy Kromer waxed cotton cap, my old boots, and trim, small frame European sxs 20 gauge or Belgium made Browning shotguns, I'm in. all in.  There is an air of romance that surrounds grouse hunting in its gear selection.
Classic combination- Ruffed Grouse, Stormy Kromer and Belgium Browning A5

And don't forget the dogs.  Its an amazing thing to watch solid dog work and be a part of the process.
Belle, one of the greatest English Setters ever

We headed off to a cover I rotate in every other year.  It has produced birds in the past and it's about that age where it will still hold bird, but on the old side.  Another two or three years and it will be outgrown.    Right now it's full of Greenbriar, which is always found where grouse are found in these parts.

I gave Chris the log road while we worked the hillside, busting through brush and thickets.  "Bird UP!" I hollered as a woodcock thrust through the brush out ahead of me.  I raised my gun, shot once and swear I had him.  I worked my way over to what I thought was a downed bird and he flushed right at my feet, straight towards me and over my head.  Chris was in my line of sight so I refrained and let the bird pass.
American woodcock and Ugartechea Boxlock 20ga

Swear words always sound better in the woods, echoing off the hills.  Followed by laughs and "Nice shootin' up there!" out of Chris.  It's part of the fun.  The excellence of the day is the summation of its parts- the woods, the birds, the fun, the friends, the laughs.

We converged at the end of the cut and proceeded to finish this cover with the best part last.  I always seem to bump a bird out of this part.  Sure enough, we just passed a thicket 25 yards between us and a thunderous flush of a mature bird rocketed out of the cover right behind Chris.  In an instant he raised, "BANG" and the bird was down.

.... "Nice shootin' up there!"

We hit another cover, to no avail.  A little snow started to fall and we both decided to call it a day.  I'd like to say I remember all the trout I've caught, all the birds I've shot, but I know that's not true.  But as I sit here and think of grouse hunting, what I remember is the day.  Every one of them. The fun we had, the laughs, the jokes, the friendship.  The birds are of importance, they command pinnacle of respect, the highest honor in the woods, but the day, friendship and the company is the savored memory.

RIP , Belle, you were one of the greats

Friday, November 6, 2015

Andros Bonefish

A little late on this edit, but hey, It's been quite a year!  I had the pleasure of spending 10 days in the Bahamas with two good friends early this year and man was it a good time! Check it out:

Friday, October 30, 2015

Fall Hunting

St. Etienne Vercar with Holga
Some images from recent upland hunting days.  I enjoy hunting all upland birds, but have a soft spot for woodcock.  Bumped my first one this season tonight in the woods.  Missed it horribly with both barrels, but proceeded to reflush it four more times- vowing not to shoot at it- with a gun anyways... I was determined to get a pic of it on the ground.  I carry my camera with me often in the woods.  The little russet feller got away on me every time. 

Managed a stocked pheasant tonight however.

Tomorrow I will walk the woods for grouse, but in PA we can also shot turkeys starting tomorrow.  We'll see.
Dale with a cockbird from a recent hunt
ooohhh.... soft spot for vintage Belgium Brownings....and shallow depth of field...

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Recipe for an Awesome Fishing Trip

Sitting here, reflecting on the last 10 months, I've been blessed with opportunity to partake in some pretty epic caka. Near and far, on opposite ends of the earth.   There are still some epic adventures ahead this year.

When I think back to what made the best trips, the "BEST TRIPS," it boils down to a few things.   Here's my attempt to dissect the affect in an effort to replicate the cause....

1. Plan. Sounds obvious, right? This is the old Boy Scout motto: "Be Prepared."   Know where you are going- at least in a general direction.  Do your work up front to find takeouts, put-ins, where the flyshop is, where you can stay or camp, and anticipate the weather.  There is no feeling like driving 14 hours, only to find out that this far north, 6" of snow was still a possibility in mid-May.... and you only brought a single fleece.   Be careful not to overdo it.. see #4.

2.Pick your Partners, pardner.  This is critical.  You are going to be traveling long hours, far from home, camping, stuck in a boat, tent, or in the backcountry for an extended period of time.  This can be fun, or this can be miserable.  Too many alphas, or not enough alpha can be a problem.  You need to find balance in who you take with you. 

3. Stop and smell the.... Musky. We all started fly fishing out of enjoyment.  Whatever your reasons, it had an element of joy attached.  Don't forget that.  It's not about just the fish, although, the fish help.  (ever fish for musky? then you know what I mean!)  Take it all in.  Wherever you go. Catch some awesome fish, get some awesome pictures, but don't define your trip around that alone.   Don't leave with regrets... "I wish we would have....."
4. Be Flexible. Kind of contradicts #1 a little, but have some flexibility.  The weather will change. Rivers will blow out. Hatches will end. what you may find, may be even better than what was planned or even expected.  On a recent Bahamas trip, we had high winds, but otherwise great conditions.  We did some exploring on a tidal creek and were rewarded with an epic morning of some of the silliest micro-Tarpon I've ever encountered.

5. Laugh.  You will remember that funny stuff that happened along the way, far longer than that 20" trout.  Do this long enough, and trust me, you will!  Come home with your face hurting from smiling and your sides hurting from laughing.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Less-than-a-minute of fun times in the Laurel Highlands.  Wolf Rock overlook hike with the kids on a foggy afternoon.

....And.... October 7-9 Use the code below at STORMY KROMER for 20% off a single item!

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Great time of year. Awesome weather.  Scenery is all good.  Crisp mornings.  The traffic in the woods and on the streams is low.  Lots of people watching football, getting their last games of golf in and folks are getting ready for fall hunting seasons.  Perfect time to be fishing. Other than the creeks are all low and suffering a month or more of severe dryness.

The spring fed creeks are cold.  Cold is good.  This weekend I visited a few familiar ones and some that I've been away from for a while.  Trico spinner falls are dwindling but still bringing fish up to feed.  Moved some fish on the banks to streamers. Caught a nice fish on a cricket.

Kinda wish it would stay like this for a few more months!

Sunday, September 20, 2015


It's fun when they eat.  It's even a little more fun dealing with the aftermath. Had a little of both this weekend.  Fished some "squatchy" looking water, turned some behemoths, and landed a few of the esox variety.  Terrifying eats that don't end as planned- missed hookups, fouled flies, broken rods, trout-sets or plain bad luck all happen.  It's salty when it happens more than once on a trip and you haven't touched a fish yet.

You miss one violent, topwater eat so close to the boat you got splashed.
...................Then another.

Your buddy says "Aw, you got the best of him anyway, it's all about the eat.
...................Yeah. Yeah.

.......Then you walk away with your pike consolation prize. 
What a terrible thing for me to say.  Pike are an amazingly aggro, violent fish.  I'll take consistent visual pike eats any day, all day.  I take my comments back.  The pike was the prize in a lake that outnumbers them with musky. I found the needle in the haystack.

It's always fun.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Microadventure: SUP Style Farm Pond Bass on the Fly

What is a microadventure?  It's that thing you do when you don't have a ton of time to go far, spend all day to fish or be in the outdoors.  It's the close-to-home escape, a way to flex your soul from the daily grind.  Prepare for alot of these from me....

MICROADVENTURE: SUP Style Farm Pond Bass on the Fly:

Thursday, September 10, 2015

back in the game

I'm back.  For several years, I had a blog "The Happy Trout Chronicles." This ended up getting hacked, broken and unrepairable.  I deleted its remains and moved on.  For a good while, that was... that. Since then, I upped my photography work, went on many adventures, learned a few things, and started "Down_ Home_Flyfishing" on Instagram.   I blog-partnered with Erik over at "The Powderhorn Chronicles" and shot up a few blog posts from time to time.

What you can expect to see is plenty of DIY adventures, outdoor experiences, lots of photography, lots of fly fishing related talk, wood boat design, sasquatch sightings, my short video edits: MICROADVENTURE, some giveaways and the latest projects I have in the works.

Check out the additional pages to this blog- Boatshop and Swag- these will be under construction as fall progresses into winter.