Well the all along the South from Louisiana to Georgia, the South is getting a dose of the legend, myth, and quackery that some have called climate change. But seriously, I can only imagine how beautiful the Blue Ridge must look under a veil of snow. Fortunately I fished the most Southern tip of the Blue Ridge over the holidays in balmy 50 degree weather.
At the beginning of the Appalachian trail in the Hiwassee basin, I was able to touch a few native browns in the headwaters of the Noontootla river. I scouted the Toccoa delayed harvest section for next visit (it was blown out). I also found opportunity on the Smith and Amicalola creeks during my two weeks in Georgia with the in-laws. Put a nice dent in the No Nonsense Fly Fishing Georgia guidebook, but I’ve only just begun to explore all the coldwater fisheries here. Most Georgians don’t even know they have 4000 miles of trout streams in Northern GA. I keep thinking I should be taking more advantage of the TU website to find fishing companions when I travel. In fact, I hope in just a few years to be able to take my daughter to one of those spots I’ve come to know so well, that she’ll be guaranteed her first Georgia trout on her first cast at least.
This is a Painted Redstart that I spotted in my yard this morning. I can’t begin to tell you how lush my backyard and neighborhood is in Spring and Summer, with mature trees hundreds of feet tall, full brush and surrounded by parkland with marsh and meadow. I think this attracts a wide variety of birds to our little “flyway.” As I’ve seen all the usual suspects over the past year, including the rare Baltimore Oriole in my yard at one point. Anyway, hope it doesn’t turn into an obsession. I’ve already got one, but now I’m wondering what I could do to our backyard to enhance our resident and migratory birds stay with us?
While visiting the in-laws in Atlanta over the holiday, I managed to sneak out for a short side visit to Athens with the wife and baby. The plan was to walk the downtown and grab lunch at one of Hugh Acheson’s places, either the National or Five and Ten. Being a Sunday though, things were slow or closed. Neither of Acheson’s places were still open for brunch by the time we got to town. Fortunately, we were able to hit Onward Reserve. OR are among the few highly curated and high-quality modern but traditional menswear and lifestyle shops in the South. OR was born out of the online flash sale site 5 Mile Club, but now has two retail storefronts, one in Atlanta and the original in Athens.
Walking through the shop, I kinda wish I hit this place before my recent work trip to St. Simons Island… OR carries several hard to find top notch southern apparel brands, including their own-label brand. You can find Southern Marsh, Smathers & Branson, Cotton Bros, Social Primer, Martin Dingman for example. They also carry iconic brands like Barbour, Hudson Satler, J.W. Hulme & Co. Their Filson selection is pretty damn good and mixed in you’ll find Beretta, Wm Lamb & Sons, and even Yeti coolers. I was just window shopping but couldn’t leave without a set of Smathers & Branson knit rainbow trout coasters for the man-cave.
They also have an immaculate and well-put together website. Their cracking website has a an extensive selection of “Made in America” goods, and a great blog with stories and recipes from the OR guy’s adventures. You can find guidance on many tasks in the OR man’s life from making Venison poppers to picking a hunting dog, and from tips on being a groomsman to how to stock your bar. Its short, to the point advice that can instantly improve a guy’s life. So, If you’re in Atlanta (Buckhead) or Athens, they are absolutely worth a stop in. They’ll make you a Makers and Ginger if you’re so inclined while you browse. Or hit the website or wait a just a little while because they’ve got expansion plans for Nashville, Houston, Charleston and DC.
After our walk around downtown, we knew we needed to eat something, so we hit Mama’s Boy on the way out of town. It was a balmy 50 degrees so we sat outside and ate fried green tomatoes, biscuits and gravy, and short rib hash, while washing it down with some the best strawberry lemonade I’ve ever had.
So many things to be thankful for in 2013 its kind of unbelievable. Everything centered around the birth of our daughter of course. We bought and moved into a new home in Silver Spring, and soon after had our girl, Yunah Anne. Then I doubled down at work with conferences and business travel to Austin, LA, Boston, Nashville, Manchester, Charlotte, New Orleans, and Kansas City. Somewhere in there we celebrated the traditional 100-days thing and had family travel to NY, Atlanta, Grafton (VT), and the Shenandoah. We got the house in shape and enjoyed the bountiful garden though I must have raked several tons of leaves (thank you suburban living). Phew! I can’t believe how fast it goes. You have to pay attention every day or you miss things. The fishing was pretty successful despite being so busy at work. I dragged along the fly rod on my business trips, but it was only worth it once or twice really. I don’t like to fish rushed. I managed to fish the Gunpowder several times, the Rose River, the Chattahoochee, the Youghiogheny in Western Maryland for the first time, as well as the storied Battenkill in Vermont. I got skunked on the Savage River, Dukes Creek (GA), the bay in Assateague, Virginia (my only saltwater fishing), and on the Toccoa River (GA). And over Christmas holiday in Georgia I fished the Noontootla, Amicalola, Toccoa, and Smith Creek (but I’ll save that for a separate post). Here are some highlights…
When I was in high school I was in the Environment and Conservation club. I remember camping trips in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. We swam in cedar creeks, stained red by the roots of the trees that lined the banks. We planted dune grass on the bluffs from one end of Ocean City to another. I remember the scent of patchouli wafting from the first girl I liked as we made posters about recycling and watched old national geographic and wild kingdom films on a rickety movie projector after school. On occasion we took our seine and combed the surf and tidal pools of the beaches and waded knee-deep in the sulfurous bogs of Great Egg Harbor looking for rare snails, blue crabs, picking up litter while cursing the jetskiers. I read Thoreau and Emerson and Sagan. My romance with Nature blossomed walking the beaches at dawn surrounded by the morning song of the gulls. And when I went to sleep at night with the window open to hear the sound of the distant surf crashing and peak up at the stars, I dreamed of someday being a great naturalist like my heroes Muir and Roosevelt.
Well romances fade and I obviously did not become a park ranger or write epic tomes about the sea or go off to the woods to live alone. The dream still lingers in my soul though, and I crave the feeling of full self-awareness that comes from being close to Nature. I realize that when we love Nature, we are truly loving ourselves. Its not much, I know, but taking a moment to share Nature’s gift is a way to ensure others can experience that love too.
So here is my unique take on the holiday gift guide this year. Happy holidays from deadbait.
A day flyfishing the Rose River in Syria, VA. ($95)
Walden (Leatherbound) by Henry David Thoreau
Timberland Earthkeepers ($180)
Patchouli Diptyque ($28)
Opinel Pocketknife ($17)
Woolrich Logan Ridge Blanket ($136)
The new Filson X Horween has dropped. Oh boy, there go my plans. I didn’t want this holiday to be about material things and I wasn’t going to get anything for myself this Christmas, but I might have to be more open-minded. Two storied companies have come together to put together quite a line of vegetable-tanned leather totes, wallets and bags. They are unmistakenly Filson, and unmistakenly Horween. I’m pretty sure if I pick up the leather tote I will be giving it to my daughter in 17 years to take with her to college. Hmmm, its so nice she just may have to inherit it.
“Good enough is an enemy, ” says Skip Horween. “We want to do each thing we do the best way we can do it.”