Kayak-In Camping

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photo: Scott Kroggel

My good friend, Scott Kroggel and I decided to do some kayak-in camping Friday night.

I escaped society a few hours before he did and went ahead to find a spot and gather firewood. I launched at Ebeneezer boat ramp on Jordan Lake around 4pm and cruised across Beaver Creek towards an area I had in mind.

We weren’t really going to fish, but I knew with cooling temperatures the fish would be shallow, especially in the evening, so I made sure to bring a few dozen crappie minnows along.

After unloading gear and gathering plenty of dry wood for the night’s fire, I sent a minnow soaring across the water on a float. The water was calm, as winds were light and out of the east, and after a few moments the bobber plunged under the water’s surface and I had the first fish on. The small largemouth bass fought hard, and was returned to the lake after a quick photograph.

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That bass was followed by another a few minutes later…

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Then, there was a lull in the bite and I decided to do a little exploring. I always enjoy figuring out what sorts of inhabitants use the same woods I do.

It’s good to see tracks from whitetail deer all around the lake again. EHD seems to be backing off from central NC’s deer herd. I hope for good. The sunset was really nice.

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It wasn’t long after the sun dove beyond the horizon that I started fishing again. I brought a red light-up bobber and soon enough it was dancing wildly across the water.

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From that point on, schools of crappie came through every five or ten minutes and while most were small, there were some slabs….

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photo: Scott Kroggel
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photo: Scott Kroggel
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photo: Scott Kroggel

Scott is becoming quite the photographer, and he spent a good portion of the evening perfecting his craft. Some of these pics are really cool.

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photo: Scott Kroggel
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photo: Scott Kroggel

A Season Ago…

To be a green leaf on a tree, to be unaware, yet alive. In the spring I would come forth, vibrant, youthful and strong. My spine would be devoid of aching; resilient, beautiful in form and measure. Early season thunderstorms would push me around violently, but I would hold no grudges, nor would I recall the fright of such shocking and intense imagery. Later, I would sway in the soft breezes of lingering summer days, I would feel the heat, and thirst for a drink at times, but would have no inkling of what was to come. To be born young, live an enviable life, only to fall to an unknown place at the end of the year. My colors would have become beautiful beyond explanation in my twilight; reds, yellows and umber. There would be no ceremony, no sadness, no remorse, no lost memories or tasks unfulfilled, nor dreams fallen short and unaccomplished. To live without the effects of a human life; would, I think be a gorgeous dream. And in the end, to go back to the earth from which I’d come, lacking the scars certain to be accumulated from this thing we call life.  

 

I think we, as a civilization, lost sight of something when we removed our bare-feet from the earth, and ceased to live hand-to-mouth. We lost the immediacy and intimacy of the hunt, the gratification of the enrichment of soil, the true purpose of angling, the essence of life. And from these losses, we have forgotten the smiles of our loved ones, which would have given us renewed energy on a daily basis, as we provided for them vital, clean sustenance in their youth, taught them ourselves, the patterns of the earth around us, the cycles of the seasons, and when this or that was best accomplished as they grew into young adults. This is valuable, this is meaningful, this is how we amassed knowledge, interacted with one another, and passed our days. We used to be born with, live with, and die with our families and our communities; just like the leaves from the trees that tower above us still. In those earlier times, as we wandered along, so unaware of our utter importance and self-awareness, we may have lived shorter lives, but I would offer we were much richer, and without a doubt, more alive. We made what surrounded us stronger by our individual and combined presence, and that was innate. It came forth without teaching or indoctrination. It hasn’t been so long, but we have forgotten. If one of our own was sick, we cared for them, if they were unproductive, we cared for them, if they were angry, sad or lonely, we cared for them, if they were lost, we found them.

 

Of course there is debate as to when we first walked this planet; a few thousand years ago? An immeasurable quantity? Or perhaps somewhere in between. But, just a short time ago, when the only weapons we needed were crafted with our hands, from wood and earth and that which we harvested from her, our communities, or villages were certainly devoid of the technology and convenience we see today. But we lived much purer lives. In every conceivable way we lived more honestly with our environment. Our food, our daily rituals, the way we medicated ourselves were all done in much different ways. Our water was pure for centuries, at least, our skyline uninhibited by pollution, our ground untainted by poison. But our technology causes us to forget, and our convenience is killing us. Lost without calculators to tally simple numbers, and do any of us remember how many phone numbers we used to be able to recall? I would be surprised if a tenth of those that may read these words even remember their closest family members numbers anymore. Now, we live apart from those which are the closest to us in the universe, and for the majority of our lives. We rush across the planet in myriads of different directions, to find our fortunes, to stand on our own, to forge our own path. We leave those we are connected to by blood and past lives as a right of passage under constant societal pressure and judgement; in such a rush to find our life’s calling; we leave it completely unawares. And we do so at the cost of every relationship we’ve ever known. And so we pay for this. We lose ourselves into a race for wealth and things. We are bound by artificial timelines to graduate here, marry and have children here, retire and die here. It’s a lie. And it has bred absolutism, the most heinous of human traits. But it has not only bred absolutism, combined with our technology, our systems of communication and governance; it has bred societal absolutism. This has not been seen or discovered or publicly studied in our times. Not only have we become a polarized society with absolutist views, which lie mostly on one side of the political spectrum, or the other, but we have also, and simultaneously decided in unison, to look away from the assaults the information age has begun upon our foundational belief systems; religion, governance, marriage, etc. And thus we have become a race of people allowing themselves to be removed from any chance at redemption, enlightenment or positive furtherance.

 

We have become accustomed to violence and death, suicide and addictions as if those we once cared so deeply for are lost, in such short periods, for we no longer seek to find each other when we are gone, because we don’t go home at night anymore. What we become conditioned to, as humans, is horrifying. And we cannot see it for the trees. We don’t see individuals anymore, we see numbers. We don’t think anymore, we regurgitate and judge, and we do so based on a lack of knowledge, not a wealth of it. We read memes online and take the thought as scripture, as long as it fits our narrative, or our fractured view of the world we reside in. Even though an eight year old can create a meme. We watch one media outlet, as long as it tells us what we want to hear, and we lose the rest because it’s ‘negative’, or depressing, and we don’t want to hear the bad stuff ‘our side’ is capable of. And so we marginalize ourselves, long before anyone else has a chance to try.

 

I believe we took a wrong turn in the path of humanity a short time ago, and we see the painful results of this almost on a daily basis now. The only good news I can perceive, even though we seem to think it was so long ago, it was only a season, and if we can remember what family is, what true loyalty is, perhaps we will find our way back to what used to be the most important things in life.

 

I haven’t written this to debate anything, nor for ‘likes’ or ‘shares’, nor to alarm anyone. I personally have a lot to do yet. I wrote it because I think we all need to hear it. But honestly, if there is ever a next time, hopefully, I’ll be a leaf.

Jordan Lake Bassin’

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I had a couple hours after work the other day and decided to hit Jordan Lake for the last hour bite.

The weather has been back and forth, but I’d been noticing north winds on the lake when I drive to work in the mornings, and with days getting shorter, I figured I could find some shallow fish. Didn’t have much time, and I would be in the yak, so I opted to leave the stripers alone and go after largemouth bass instead.

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I found them feeding almost straight off after getting to a place that’s always been productive for me this time of year. I saw a small pod of threadfin-shad busting the water, actually leaping out, and after throwing a small crankbait, I was hooked up.

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The fish weren’t full-on busting, but at times small pockets of surface busting cropped up and I was able to take advantage. The fish were mostly small, until I had the double-hookup (feature photo). Those bass were the biggest of the outing; it was just a fluke they were caught paired. I wish I could explain the excitement of this sort of phenomena occurring on freshwater lakes to non-anglers. It’s easy to get flustered and make mistakes, but if you calm yourself and focus, you can catch fish after fish til you leave; really non-stop action.

I caught everything on a small crankbait and a small spoon and had to really burn the baits to get bit. After trolling a bit when the fish seemed inactive, and only getting a few more bites, I headed to the ramp.

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Southern Charm is Now Selling My Cedar Scrimshaws!

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The unique boutique and gift shop Southern Charm is now selling my cedar scrimshaws.

Located in the Cary Towne Center, at 1105 Walnut St., Southern charm sells all kinds of original artwork, jewelry, glassware and crafts. It’s the perfect place to find one-of-a-kind gifts for those hard-to-buy-for family members and friends. They work with local artists and craftsman and also offer all kinds of products that can be customized for you, like my Star Sign pieces!

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I’ve shopped there myself for Christmas presents and met the owners a while back, which led to us reaching an agreement. So, I am really excited to be able to say we’ve signed contracts and cedar scrimshaws are in the store!

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So if you’re looking for unique gift ideas this holiday season, or you just want something original for yourself, please go check out the stuff at Southern Charm. You’ll be supporting a local store and local artists, and it is much appreciated!

Here is the product description for cedar scrimshaws.

Cedar Scrimshaws are created by utilizing dead-standing Eastern Red Cedar from NC. First, the pieces are cut to size, and then sanded to accept the artwork. Then, the artwork is hand-drawn on the wood. Afterwards, the pieces are either entirely or partially engraved, adding depth to the artwork, and then further enriched by adding mixed-media such as pastels, chalks, ink, color pencils and even water colors. Finally, the artwork is sprayed with Krylon to protect from an oops. The reason I choose cedar is simple. You can see it all across our country driven into the ground on farms for fence posts. It’s tough, rot-resistant, the grain is gorgeous, it’s insect resistant (termites won’t touch it) and it even smells fantastic! Pick up the piece you’re looking at and give it a whiff. Each hand-crafted, one-of-a-kind piece has a wealth of character in its grain and cracks, and don’t worry, the outer layer cracks a touch when the tree dies, but that’s the extent of it. Just don’t take it swimming haha, and these pieces of fine art are to be kept indoors in a temperature controlled environment. We can also offer the ‘Star Sign’ pieces for any month you want, just ask a Southern Charm employee to take your information and we can get a personalized, fully original piece of art just for you.

Late Summer Striped Bass Fishing

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Late Summer Striped bass fishing can be very tough.

But Captain Stu called me yesterday around 3pm and said he was ‘trailering his boat and headed to the lake’. I took a quick look at the barometer and it was dropping. There was weather around, the south-westerly wind was light, and it was nice and cloudy…we got on the water around 4pm and decided to run around and look for bait.

Normally, this time of year on our area freshwater impoundments, we are headed towards turnover as the thermocline (if its present) starts to bring the low-oxygenated water from the lower layer of the lake to the top. The stripers are as skinny as they’ll be, as they’ve been chasing bait all summer, trying to stay alive, with an incredibly sped-up metabolism. They just feel like crap, they start to scatter, and they can be very difficult, even when and if found, to get to bite any kind of hardware. Throw in fishing on a lake recovering from a massive kill and, well you get it. I didn’t have much for expectations.

But we caught fish. We started out in deep water, but found no bait, then as we moved shallower we found 15-18 feet of water to be the zone. We pulled spoons and crankbaits over marks and bait for almost an hour without so much as a tail-slap, then when approaching a point a channel catfish doubled over the first rod. Stu fought it and it looked like dead weight. I figured we’d treble-hooked it. But then it started fighting, we thought it was a striper, but it was just a 2 or 3 lbr. I noticed the wind had picked up and thought that was what had triggered the strike and that ended up proving out the remainder of the afternoon. Our strikes came at times when drizzle started or the wind changed. So as we bounced cranks over another point, during a light shower, a decent largemouth pulled a rod down as I was working the deck. Stu got that one too, maybe 2 or 3 lbs again, but it fought him good.

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He likes to run with 6.5’ poles with 10lb test to get more bites. I’ve been warning him about trolling with that light of line……A few minutes later two rods rolled over and the rod I had been working on, to remove a spoon and add another crankbait started bouncing wildly. I knew it. I boat flipped the 17’’er on the troll to help Stu, which appeared to have a bigger fish, but he lost it. Shucks.

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But we had our first target fish. After that the bite died, we ran through the area a few more times, but we had plenty of time. We hit another spot, fully intending to return, and hit a crappie straight off, but then fished that area another hour without a bite. After checking a few other areas, but finding no bait, we returned to the first location and dropped lines. Stu hit the same run on his gps and doubled over one of his ’light outfits’. I grabbed the rod and looked at him and smiled. The fish was pulling drag going for another county and wildly shaking its head. I tried to hand him the rod, but within five or six seconds, before he grabbed it, I felt the line snap. It was a big fish. Of course we debated it a bit.

He’s right on one hand, on many occasions; I have found that a lighter rod and line, on the troll or casting, will out-perform a stronger setup, as far as strikes, but on the troll, with other lines in the water, if a big fish bites a light setup, the only real option is to reel everything in and dead-boat the fish. But we didn’t have time for that. The fish broke us off so fast we didn’t have time to think of that. We pulled around a little longer and noted the wind die down, bait started coming up and the water column had obviously dimmed considerably. We pulled in the gear and hit a spot I know that will often give busting action when protected from the wind, and the breeze was right. We only had a few more minutes, but we found bait up top and within a few minutes noted surface crashing about 50 yards from our position. Stu managed one more bass out of that commotion, while I was jerking a skitterwalk that walked its walk with impunity. It was another schoolie which was quickly released. We called it a day, grateful for the handful of fish which consisted of four species, and trailered the boat in the dark. 

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Whitetail Scouting with Capone

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I took Capone scouting for whitetail sign this morning on state land I’ve hunted for years.

Fortunately, the temps in NC have come down considerably, along with humidity over the last several days. It appears the ‘dog days’ of August may have peaked. And that’s fine with Capone and I.

I’m going to have to brag on my buddy a minute. I got Capone four years ago this month, and like most boxers, he has a surplus of energy. I do my best to walk him daily throughout the year, but the hottest days of summer are very difficult on short-nosed dogs. They just can’t deal with it.

So we’ve taken advantage of the recent weather trend. I tried to take him to Umstead Park this morning, but the place was a madhouse, so we opted to hit the real woods. I don’t bow hunt anymore, so I wouldn’t normally scout this time of year, but with the outbreak of EHD central NC has been dealing with over the last several years, I wanted to see what sign I could find.

I’ve never taken Capone scouting, or hunting for that matter. With no way to cover his scent, or his enthusiasm, it never seemed like a good idea. But he has really been turning into a great dog, and friend. I have him on the boat all the time and he knows where to go and what to do when fish start hitting the deck; he’s a real pro. So I figured it was time to see how he would react in the woods with me when I’m trying to stay undetected by wildlife.

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And he did not disappoint in the slightest. I had him off leash the majority of the morning as we stalked the woodlots and fields for sign of wildlife. When I stopped, he stopped, when I crouched, he seemed to sense what I wanted of him, and he walked behind me, which he never does on trails or sidewalks. He knew something was different about the way we were moving through the woods. It was impressive.

There was a good steady breeze that covered most of our noise as we walked through the dry undergrowth; overgrown from the last several years declining travel by man and animals. EHD, a horrible hemorrhagic disease, had a bad swath that hit central NC, mostly around the lakes, as that was where the gnats bred that carried the virus to our deer herd. They laid in the lake mud, where the waters receded from lack of rains in summer, and bit deer on Jordan, Kerr, and Gaston lakes, as well as others. It was a vicious cycle. Whitetail deer get bitten while hydrating, then the disease makes them feverish. They can then only return to the water for relief, and they die there; never able to recondition their internal temperatures. Boaters were sometimes finding 10 to 50 deer a day during the summers of 2015 and 2016. I estimated the herd where I have frequented the woods for years was decimated by as much as 70%. Mother nature and her very real cruelty is always visible to those who go to her hidden places and truly explore her treasures. I used to go out and see 3 to 10 deer per sit during a season, which over a three month season would turn into roughly 70 or 80 deer sightings in a single season. But over the last three seasons, I’ve seen less than 20 deer total. So I’ve passed up on most of the sightings; won’t shoot a doe anymore.

But, to my surprise, we started finding good sign right off.

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I found several sets of doe tracks in a few predictable places, then came across the buck tracks near a dwindling water hole. We busted a deer a few moments later, but never saw it, and it never blew.

Then, after stalking to a place that I passed a doe last season, Capone and I heard a deer blow and scamper off. But there were two yearlings that seemed to take no note of it. They were about fifty yards ahead and into the wind. The mother had heard us coming and warned the young, but they never heard us and certainly never winded us. I watched them a few moments, then they finally walked off. Capone was very composed and I rewarded him for it. I really couldn’t believe he stayed put.

Our exploration led us to a winding creek bed that was bone-dry. We’ve been in drought again this summer in NC. Capone and I followed the snakelike path of sand and hard clay through the forest for at least two miles and found a spot to hydrate ourselves (luckily I’d brought water for both of us) and watch a few travel routes for a while. Capone chilled and we sat in silence for almost thirty minutes.

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After our uneventful break we headed back towards the truck. We were probably three miles from the road, and back on the trail; perhaps twenty minutes later, and just as we hit the top of a hill, we heard walking in the leaf litter to our left. Capone and I stopped simultaneously, and a young spike, in full velvet, walked out of the woods and across the path not twenty-five yards ahead of us! We stayed crouched and after a few seconds, two more deer hopped out from the same place to cross the path. I kicked myself for having my camera in the backpack. The second was at least a two-and-a-half year old 8pt, in full velvet, and the other was a second spike, also with velvet clad antlers.

I looked down at Capone and again gave him praise for being so silent and for remaining at my side. I did grab his collar after the first deer, but if he’d wanted to bolt, he could have. We stayed there a few more minutes, but I was sure that was all we would see. Batchelor groups this time of year almost never have more than three male deer. But that was the first such grouping I’ve witnessed in at least four years. Very encouraging.

We had almost reached the road when I spotted a box turtle in some grass in the path. Capone walked right over it and actually hit it with his foot. I turned him around to see it, but it took a few seconds for him to register what he was seeing. Then, once he’d done so, he obviously didn’t like the shelled-creature and pulled away from it; apparently he has a turtle issue. I laughed and thought to myself, ‘that’s ok, he did great today’.

So we exited the woods and hit the road. I was encouraged by the amount of sign and the sightings, but as usual, the reward had nothing to do with the quarry.