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Where we fiddle with worms and body armor »

With the lawnmower disabled all thoughts of chores and responsibility were discarded in a hurry, and with only a scant few weeks remaining before silvery plankton eaters invade my waterways, I was intent on finishing up my spring project, rerolling the classic Texas worm rig into a fly.

Lake Berryessa being so close – and fish being visible and numerous makes for a good test bed. Clear water allows me to see the motion of the each faux rubber candidate, and visible fish allowed me to think victory as they approached – and defeat once they paused shy of eating the dang thing.

For “Dokter Frankenstein” only mass acceptance would be a surefire sign of a good design, as few tools in a bass angler’s arsenal are as consistent as a big purple jellyroll served with a side of egg sinker …

The wind was blowing a good clip on Saturday, and I’d planned on heavy flies and breeze, opting for a 10.5’ #7 Orvis I had purchased on eBAY some years back. It was a monstrous stiff rod, better suited for an #8, but was just what was needed to keep unwieldy flies from burying themselves in my hindquarters.

I opted for a Type VI sinking shooting head, as my plan was to fish the small coves that occur with regularity along the bank. As a right-handed caster I had to walk left to keep rod and line out over the water, and the cove indent allows me to cast to the other side and “walk” my “worm” down the far bank before stripping it back to me across the belly of the cove.

In these conditions you don’t have to cast far, as most of the fish are within 20 foot of the bank, getting the fly down to them fast enough is the real issue, and a real problem.

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The above picture showing a deep cove that allowed me to fish most of both sides, versus (below) a shallow cove that I could fish in a single pass down the bank.

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Mud plumes caused by wind and boat wakes keep me a bit less visible than normal, allowing me to splash around as much as needed when the bank is obstructed.

I was reminded of last week’s rib mash when I discovered the silver dollar sized hole I’d torn in the left boot when I slammed into the hillside. It was the shore-facing leg, and bothersome, but not as critical as the right boot which is planted deepest.

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Mix 15 turns of 3 amp fuse wire and 5.5mm bead to the front of a #2 wide gaped popper hook, and you’ve got the aerodynamic equivalent of the Spruce Goose, minus a few engines, and no ability to control its flight shy of the full head out of the guides to coerce the lumbering SOB away from an arse cheek.

Every puff of breeze brought an involuntary full-body clench, anticipation of impact shoved knees together, hat down to protect eyes and face, and cork grip white-knuckled knowing one of your limbs was likely in jeopardy.

I remember thinking to stuff my jacket in the rear pocket of the vest figuring it would staunch any bleeding. Arms were left defenseless as I’d be able to pry the hook out by sight, a back wound would have me operating by feel therefore needed additional protection.

While much refinement remains, the liveliness of the fly is without equal. But getting it to the water remains a bit problematic. The fish gave it a great reception, and I managed to catch both large and smallmouth on the fly in its debut.

Smallmouth430

Five inches of tough polyester ribbon yarn make the tail portion indistinguishable to the action of a rubber worm. I just need to lighten the fly to make it more comfortable to cast. As it is now the last 20 feet of the retrieve the fly is ticking off the rocks as you draw it to you, so it is making bottom early and prone to snags.

Smallmouth430_Cray

The crayfish was a welcome change up for those coves with shallow water. The bright colors make it quite effective in the mornings, and a bit less so at midday. I used both in the morning, and stuck with the muted tones of my Olive “worm” for the bright sun of midday.

The lake is starting to show a few aggressive fish, but the main body of the lake remains docile. All the folks I talked to on the bank mentioned  the visible fish ignoring lures of any type, a condition the locals insist are characteristic of “pre-spawners.”

We’ll continue to refine this beast over the next couple of weeks prior to Shad showing, on the surface the pattern holds some promise.

Decline in angling because fish doesn’t “taste like Chicken?” »

Pigeon_ChickenWhile fly clubs focus recruitment to replace their declining ranks, and the Membership Chair attempts to lure any demographic other than aging Boomers, their issues may mirror an overall decline in anglers as a byproduct of the US population becoming “fish averse” and “chicken centric.”

Declining sales of seafood reflect a population leery of fish on numerous levels, including; elevated mercury, the pen-raised versus wild caught controversy, increased prices, and unfamiliarity with preparation.

problems include the confusion and mixed messages surrounding claims that certain types of seafood are high in mercury, fears stirred up by organizations opposed to growing genetically modified salmon, a lack of awareness of which types of fish are healthy, and a failure of the industry and supermarkets to better promote fish. MSN Money

Couple those issues with the information (or disinformation) prevalent with environmental issues, the perceived rape of third world coastal fisheries by developed nations and their fleets of factory ships, and the uninitiated may feel the entire fishing experience off-putting.

Fisherman have always hated the taste of fish so we’re not helping things either…

Seafood company officials aspire to emulate the chicken industry, where consumption has boomed to nearly 82 pounds in 2012 from 34 pounds in 1965. If the industry can ease consumer fears and develop more convenient products, John Connelly, president of industry trade group National Fisheries Institute, said at the Boston show that there’s "nothing to preclude us from having the kind of exponential growth the poultry industry had." MSN Money

While I adore an optimist, Mister Connelly’s note above suggests there are “exponential fisheries left unexploited” that he can use to supply all those new converts with chow. I would assume seafood harvests are now in decline as all known fisheries are under harvest.

Any thoughts of explosive growth in seafood consumption should likely be accompanied with a couple of new oceans, and a continent or two.

Harry Potter’s wand would be hexagonal or quadrate »

magicI called it “selective accreditation,” as it is frequently employed by parents to point out despite paying for your college education, next to their life-long accumulation of wisdom – you are still an infant.

Fishing, thankfully, is loaded with similar magics and credentials of convenience.

While fishing at Lake Berryessa, before my ill fated rib mash, I found myself pondering how fishing, science, and magic shared an uneasy relationship, how credentials are granted and just as quickly taken away, and like the movies, a contemporary angler must suspend disbelief to ply his craft with a straight face …

… and as I scuttled around the edges of the lake watching for fish and snagged lures, I encountered the familiar five ounce tuna cans – all of which met their fate at the hands of a knife wielding sadist.

Tuna being an easy chum agent, given its ready availability and oily nature. When stabbed repeatedly with a knife and thrown into the lake will dribble its oily goodness and purportedly draw fish to the area.

At least that’s the scientific reasoning. The movie-magic-disbelief relied on gelatinous ground, as if scent of the oily Tuna is the draw, and tuna being a blue water fish found only in the ocean, and this being fresh water, how is anyone sure it’s attractive to freshwater fish?

An average trip to a supermarket can produce a half dozen edible items that smell to us like rotting something-or-other, gym socks, or much worse. Considering neither chum nor quarry has crossed paths with one another, who’s to say we didn’t accidentally pick the Limburger of oily scents?

… and if five ounces of chum is able to draw fish, what about the gallon of fuel leaking out of your bilge, the cigarette butt you flung idly into your wake, or the ounce and a half of room temperature beer you poured into the water prior to cracking something colder?

Toss in all the asphalt-fossil-fuel scent that washes into the lake when the roadway above is rained on – the oils from transmissions and crankcases, the little bits of humanity jettisoned out of car windows that with each downpour edge closer to the lake, and scent … suddenly gets really muddy.

Five ounces being enough to draw fish closer, but how does that compare with a couple hundred pounds of brake dust, powdered radial tire, and a thousand other manmade scents entering the lake via the rivulet behind you?

I’d like to buy into the science, but I think even the science depends on magic.

I’ve never seen a saltwater fisherman filch a big knot of Powerbait onto a 3/0 stainless and fling the combination into a school of stripers, nor have I seen the pier fishing crowd use salmon eggs for perch, so why isn’t the converse true? …

… and if the pier fisherman chuckles, insisting “ … that’s silly, perch ain’t ever seen a salmon egg …” can’t we make the same case for a landlocked pen-raised trout?

Historians agree that science and magic play a role in the maturation of society, which is why both are found in every society on every continent, however remote. Science is the ability to explain natural phenomena, and magic (often called religion) explains all else.

For anglers, science is boring and egg headed – which is why we skipped Biology in High School, and why should the pendulum swing too far towards the explainable, we flock to the indefinable. We know our sport is steeped in magic, and we know it to be the true source of fishing’s awesomeness.

Anglers use the term “luck” to describe that which cannot be explained, for us “luck” and magic are the same.

Magic is why we believe fiberglass is better than cane, as the science can’t give us a convincing rationale. Why graphite is better than glass, boron is better than both, and if it’s ribbed with titanium, or the blank has unsanded scrim, or is light, heavy, long, or short, has raised the performance bar yet again …

Unfortunately even with rods that cast themselves we fail to let the rod practice during the off season and tie the same wind knots regardless of the boons of technology.

Science follows along obligingly and reminds us that Boron is a metal filament (and what idiot would wave that in a lightning storm), and we skip  those pages in the Fly Shop catalog to find the next unfounded rumor – GMO modified cane that excretes carbon filaments as a byproduct of photosynthesis.

Eco-friendly awesome, until we realize Monsanto holds the patent …

Fishing stores have pandered equally to science and wizardry. They delight in selling us snake oil in as many flavors as colors, and do so with the same rhetoric used by drug dealers; merely providing a service to a clientele that would buy from someone else if not them. While many items will prove unfounded and silly a few years from now, retail’s role is simple pimpage, and as sales and “hotness” are proportional, science provides them empty spots on shelves to stock some new eye-scorching magical goodness.

Science suggests that were you able to devote adequate resources to research and were able to explain all phenomena each angler would be successful on every outing. Anglers know should science gain an ascendancy over magic and we were consistently successful we’d despise the sport, as our successes were now ordinary and no longer a testament to suffering and Manhood.

“Matching the Hatch” gains a brief upper hand for a couple of decades, until mottled and natural becomes ordinary, and the pendulum swings back to married snippets of swan and Indian Crow, and iridescent opalescent, and the colorful magics take over.

Thankfully.

And when the latest periodical insists I dump everything for its Ultra-Violet imbued equivalent, and I confirm that scientists have yet to decide whether my quarry has rods or cones, semi-receptors, or is blind as a bat, my thoughts turn to eBAY and how I’ll slurp your castoffs as if by magic.

Ensuring that despite Sirens attempting to lure me to one camp or the other, I trod the path of the balance and avarice, ensuring my hoard of laughables are buried under a stack of recent purchases and no longer visible.

Only if you spell his name backwards will he disappear »

I remember being horrified when I found out that Mister Mxyzptlk was able to stomp the guts out of Superman despite the dizzying array of superpowers The Man of Steel possessed.

Being an imp from the 5th Dimension, Mister Mxyzptlk was able to channel bad luck to his assistance. Every time Superman attempted to thwart his crime spree, the blow would decapitate some old lady in a crosswalk, or his super-heat-vision would fry some school bus full of kindergarteners…

… and I’m convinced I am firmly in the grips of something similar …

… broke a tooth Friday on the stone part of a “stone-ground” tortilla. Saturday, “Gopher Team Six” unearthed a monstrous rock just under the grass canopy of the rear lawn, and the mower was destroyed in an instant.

Having played this game many times I realize eventually the worm will turn and my ill fortune could turn into a monstrous day afield wherein everything below the water ate everything I tossed their way …

… but hanging off that large root above the rock outcropping while negotiating the forty-five degree slope of the lake was asking too much. Just as I had maneuvered to safety my feet slid crumbled the shale below and I bounced off a big rock outcropping that mashed ribs and robbed me of breath. I did manage to retain my grip on the root despite my sudden full fetal, and gasped out the obligatory, “double f**k me” once I had enough breath …

… Swearing profusely being the aerobic form of walking off a nut shot …

Newly reminded that my streak of poor luck was in full swing and thankful I hadn’t broken another rod, I wobbled up the cliff while wheezing in pain, hoping there had been few witnesses.

Chores being dangerous and fishing being doubly so, I opted for finishing the day afield like a proper dandy, thinking the pursuit of wild flowers couldn’t manifest itself into anything worse than a bee sting.

The idea was sound enough, but all attempts to record the adventure were scuttled by Little Meat, who apparently is just that and all HAM.

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I thought orange flowers were distinctive and represented little chance of malady, he thought they needed watering …

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I thought white flowers would make a pretty picture, and he thought the 2500 pound bull needed exercise … most of that being in my direction.

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I thought yellow flowers was breathtaking, he thought it appropriate to drop deuce, fortunately for all of us, he was discrete …

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I’d throw a stick in the opposite direction and when the shutter clicked the beast was mid-frame and smiling. I think I’ll drive slowly to work tomorrow … with blinkers on …

… or perhaps pull the blinds and simply go back to bed.

Rio Tinto opts out of Pebble Mine »

miningThe global mining powerhouse, Rio Tinto, will divest itself of its share of the Pebble Mine, donating its 19% stake in the project to a pair of Alaskan charities.

The Pebble Mine has been the focus of much heat and wrath among the both environmentalists and the angling crowd, given the overall region is responsible for an enormous salmon population and many attendant industries.

My Carbon footprint is more a muddy boot track »

After spending the morning listening to the throaty bellow of twin Evinrudes echo off canyon walls, and admiring the resultant rooster tail that accompanied each watercraft’s emergence from the launch area, I’m thinking the average boat wielding Bass fiend may be a victim of his own mobility.

I’m perched precariously on a 30% slope carefully fan-casting to anything I can reach, and the flotilla of corvettes and beer barges pause just long enough for a couple of casts before mashing gas pedal and disappearing to greener pastures.

I can’t blame them for enjoying the adrenalin rush, nor the wind in their hair, I just think them a bit giddy knowing all that watery real estate has neither crosswalks nor stoplights, and there’s nothing quite like announcing your presence with authority.

Berryessa_BankSlope

Lake Berryessa is only a scant twenty minutes distant, allowing me to swing by periodically to see whether the Bass are on their beds and burble some poppers to see if the top water bite has started.

While the pitch of the exposed bank can be hell on ankles, the lake was is excellent shape given the drought, with only 30 feet of bank above the waterline. You can walk around the margin pitching flies into the shallows pretty effectively, so long as you walk in the direction that keeps your casting shoulder pointed towards the water. That keeps leader and flies out over the water instead of bouncing off bankside rocks and brush.

All the little coves and depressions along the shore line give you ample opportunity to fish, with one side invariably shaded and others featuring weeds or the occasional downed tree. I wear a pair of lug-soled hip waders to give me a bit more range of motion, as I can stand in the water where it’s flat, and provides a bit of separation from the bank ensuring you keep the fly over fish, instead of scrambling around unhooking it from accumulated brush and rocks.

The Bass are most certainly on their beds, but appear more intent on mating than eating, so it appears a trifle early yet.

Bass_nesting

The above shot shows a smallish (2 lb) fish and her beau hovering just off the bank on the bed. I trundled a crawdad imitation past the pair without them acknowledging me or the fly. The larger fish is around six pounds, and was worthy of nervous lip chewing on my part. (I am unable to determine sex reliably, but I marked them with a best guess based on observation of behavior.)

As today is the start of a general warming trend, I’d suspect the coming weeks hold potential for some spectacular fishing.

Bass_BerryJPG

I did manage to find a few fish early, before the boats starting rocketing about and while shade dominated the coves …

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All of the fish had a weakness for my ribbon yarn Crayfish (#2), built with a fistful of long fiber iridescent cactus chenille that I dyed for shad flies, married up with a generous dollop of ribbon yarn and rubber legs.

Yarn_Crayfish

A pair of large black bead chain eyes mounted in the tail position ensure the fly sinks dramatically, which is useful when fishing the deep water that a canyon lake presents. A simple pattern that take about the same amount of time to lose as to tie, ensuring the handful lost in fish and brush are not overly missed.

All that’s needed is a Toyota Prius Monster Truck »

Deer_HAir_TruckAfter multi-million dollar advertising campaigns touting “tax free” zones for New York startups, how Texas is “business friendly”, Massachusetts insists, “Take a Real Vacation”, or Montana’s “Get Lost in Montana”, Michigan has entered the fray by making itself extra appealing to fly tiers …

Fly tiers … because the high dollar tourista have already been lured to larger states. The 20-something social media moguls gravitate to the Big City, the Hip Hop squillionaires insist on similar digs, leaving Michigan attractive only to us economically challenged middle class types, and the the occasional marijuana kingpin whose entourage contains a bevy of canny tax lawyers that minimize their obligation to state revenues. 

… and Michigan’s subtle, yet frugal, message makes me think that California, “the Land of Fruit and Nuts”, might be better served by the sudden exodus of me and the fluttering horde of moths that pursue my collection of animal dander.

Instead of employing the Madison Avenue’s word artists, Michigan opted to exploit its native fauna, by removing any restrictions to Steel Belted Radial season, and adopting an, “if you kill it you can eat it” bylaw governing its roads and waterways.

“While fresh roadkill like deer can be consumed, I introduced this bill at the request of several constituents who have asked to use roadkill for various purposes, such as hunting, composting or salvaging the hides,” Booher said. “This is about reducing regulations and saving taxpayer dollars.”

It’s a match liable to make other states wish they’d pandered to us more openly, given our ranks are swollen with aging and stable taxpayers with a monstrous appetite for asphalt kinetics and deer hair.

All that remains is adding a roll cage to a Toyota Prius so you can sneak up on game like Gunther Prien sliding into Scapa Flow …

You’ve been with the Boldness, now nap with the Oldness »

guide_serviceScience suggests bold and aggressive trout are likely to dominate their peers, and being carefree extroverts, have the highest likelihood of eating our flies and lures, therefore enjoying a very short dominance …

… and those same scientists have inadvertently bred for aggressive, outgoing, social trout, used to rubbing shoulders in concrete pens, ensuring great numbers of them will be needed to guarantee species survival, as they lack the wily, shy nature of their wild counterparts.

Science also suggests boldness is inheritable – and should the aggressive, outgoing, fearless trout be lucky enough to mount something other than a loose fold of your wader leg, their progeny will also be bold, outgoing extroverts.

It is only reasonable that the last couple hundred years of angling and our relish for killing anything of size, has selected for shy, finicky, and introverted fish. Better yet, similar logic should hold for Mankind, given the bold social extroverts were likely the first ones out of the trench, and war, plague, and saturated fat, has seen fit to thin the ranks of extroverts and ensure species survival lies with “wild” or shy types.

Oracle: I’d ask you to sit down, but, you’re not going to anyway. And don’t worry about the vase.
Neo: What vase?
[Neo turns to look for a vase, and as he does, he knocks over a vase of flowers, which shatters on the floor.]
Oracle: That vase.
Neo:
I’m sorry–
Oracle: I said don’t worry about it. I’ll get one of my kids to fix it.
Neo: How did you know?
Oracle: Oh, what’s really going to bake your noodle later on is, would you still have broken it if I hadn’t said anything?

… and is the successful angler so because boldness catches aggressive, and rushing to the creek forgetting to lock the car door, or checking for your license, or remembering lunch, catches more fish than us reserved fellows that use turn signals in traffic, and don’t “low hole” those that arrived before us?

Flies and tackle have certainly become bold as they’ve jettisoned somber and become bright and colorful again. Gone are the drab earth colors and camouflage finishes of the shy, stalking angler – replaced by tinted aluminum and the harsh hues of mini-mall neon.

Fly fishing periodicals are obviously catering to extroverts. Their pages depict an incessant litany of fashion, exotic locales, and eye-searing colors, suggesting boldness and audacity is unaffected by mounting debt, weakening economy, nor the indiscriminant accumulation of gear.

Perhaps their readers have read of their fate and are aware that continually low-holing the riffle, borrowing flies from your pals, or relying on Malaysian 747’s to get to those exotic locales, often ends badly – and both accumulated debt and dominance are erased in the resulting mushroom cloud.

It’s no secret that successful anglers stand little chance of reproduction, given their penchant for inclement conditions, incessant mosquitoes, and taint that follows all blood sports. Left to the female of the species, our extroverts have little chance of passing on their boldness given the only thing romantically linked to fly fishermen are beer and the Law.

… and wardens, being stalkers and introverts, aren’t liable to be attracted to boldness unless it is out-of-season, over limit or undersized.

And all this time I’d assumed fly fishing was merely a place for us antisocial types to pick on things smaller than us. Now I know us wily old guys are critical to the sport, as the outgoing extroverts are systematically eliminated it falls to us to propagate the species.

Which explains our relish for making fools of ourselves attempting to ignite the interest of something half our age … and why our numbers continue to dwindle …

Felt soles and Dirty Feet exonerated of Didymo bloom, say it ain’t so … »

feltsoleThere’s new evidence published today that’ll have the fishing community in a tizzy, given their common belief that unclean anglers and felt soles are the root cause of the intercontinental spread of Didymo.

The article, “The Didymo story: the role of low dissolved phosphorus in the formation of Didymosphenia geminata blooms,” cites research done in both Canada and New Zealand (by their respective governments) that suggests anglers have little to do with Didymo blooms.

Ouch.

Specifically, it mentions the linkage between our feet and the spread of Didymo bloom has proven less of an issue since the original indictment, “On the Boots of Fisherman” was published in 2009.

“The analysis of these data entitled, ‘On the Boots of Fishermen: a History of Didymo Blooms on Vancouver Island, BC’ was published in Fisheries (Bothwell et al. 2009), with the statement:

….all of the evidence suggesting that recreational fishermen
have played a role in the movement of Didymo regionally
and globally is circumstantial.

Nevertheless, the publication was widely accepted as an
important step in initiating management actions aimed at
controlling the spread of aquatic invasive species. Yet,
the explanation for the spatial and temporal occurrence of
blooms of D. geminata as the result of human vectors was
based on coincidental timing.” (my italics –KB)

Unfortunately us fishermen don’t get a free pass to trod crap through the watershed, as the article plainly suggests that we might have introduced the lifeform to the continent, but introduction of the diatom doesn’t provide the environment for it to bloom.

“However, while the presence of cells is obviously prerequisite, introduction alone is not the cause of bloom formation.”

Instead, the research suggests four factors are attributable to the natural occurrence and reoccurrence of Didymo, and are man-influenced issues consistent with exploitation of the planet and unrelated to shoe hygiene per se ..

“… we propose four mechanisms operating at
global or regional scales that could potentially result in a
decline of Phosphorus, i.e., oligotrophication, entering fluvial systems.
We outline the following as hypotheses of the potential
ultimate causes of D. geminata blooms: (1) atmospheric
deposition of reactive nitrogen resulting from the burning
of fossil fuels and urbanization; (2) climate-induced
shifts in the timing of snowmelt and growing season that
decreases P(hosphorus) inputs to rivers; (3) N(itrogen)-enrichment of landscapes
during agricultural and silvicultural activities that result in
greater retention of terrestrial P(hosphorus); and (4) a decline in marine derived nutrients, particularly P(hosphorus), resulting from widespread depletion in spawning salmon. Although these processes do not apply to all regions, they are not mutually exclusive and could act synergistically. These processes are in need of further investigation for their role in driving blooms of D. geminata.

Rather than demand the revocation of your state’s felt sole ban, and the subsequent restoration of your favorite footwear, note the final sentence of the above quote, “further investigation is needed.”

I caught hell the last time I mentioned the issue, and am likely going to do so again, but it just proves my initial beef that crowd-sourced science via fly rod, pitchfork, and public outcry, is typically a bit less exacting than that practiced by the fellows in white lab coats.

Slingblade says, “Like Coors .. it’s the water” »

I was asked about the pending Turkey season and what was the local outlook, and while I typically hover around fish I do cover a lot of unkempt and out-of-the-way turf, as getting to the water without being shot, bitten, or arrested takes me all over the drainage.

Oak_Turkey_onHoof430

This year the quarry is constrained by water, and the above turkey track still had the edges folding into the depression – meaning the bird was braving the exposed bank at midday.

Turkey being notoriously shy creatures and despite your being surrounded by a flock of 15lb birds, can get by you with nary a bush moving to show their passing.

My allergy with “No Trespassing” signs often has me bursting out into their midst without warning – as the circuitous path necessary to give the angler plausible deniability takes me into inclement areas. Avoiding landowners, ambitious dogs, and the 300 beehives I disturbed accidentally – means I occasionally have to move blindly and without benefit of friendly terrain.

… and scaring hell out of the big-arsed birds means I usually emerge with a couple of extra tail feathers given their hasty departure.

Hunt water. Hunt the path between the roost and water – and it shouldn’t be too terrible surprising if the roost tree is closer to the creek than last year.

The lack of water means the ground remains hard and flinty, so I’m not seeing the usual scrape areas they work with them big clawed feet.

The lakes I hit last week had an abundance of tracks near the water’s edge, and that means they covered 300-400 yards in the open to get there.

A canny fellow would take advantage.

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