Nice Finished Project #4

Joyce wanted a shelf for icons and crosses.  So, I made her this:

Joyce’s New Shelf

It’s made out of the big box’s best pine, which turns out to be unnecessary when painted.  It was built with hand tools, except the dado for the back, which was done on the table saw.

It’s hung with a French Cleat.  The dados for the shelves were made with saw and chisel, and cleaned with a router plane.  I’m pretty happy with how they came out.  I painted it with three coats of milk paint, and finished it with three coats of boiled linseed oil.

Now, I have to finish the basement wall’s sheet rock.



Record rains have meant that our rivers have had heavy flows and the lakes above the tailwaters have been way over the TVA’s target levels.  Sometimes, though, when tributaries below the dams are high, or are expected to be high, the TVA cuts tailwater flows to prevent flooding.  These are opportunities.

Hidden Holding Pool in Plain Sight

Yesterday was such an opportunity.  Mark, Jan, and I jumped on it.  Everyone had a great afternoon and caught plenty of fish.  In the process, I achieved a few finally’s.

The first finally was that I finally got to fish one of our tailwaters.  I think it’s the first time this year.  Record rains have created a record fishing drought.

The second finally needs some background.

Our tailwaters are pounded.  Dozens of guide boats drift the rivers every day.  We also have plenty of wade fishers, and access isn’t unlimited.  You need to take a strategic approach if you hope to fish over fish that haven’t already seen a bunch of flies.

One of my strategies for finding relatively unpressured fish has been to develop a portfolio of fishing spots that other people don’t fish, even in heavily fished locations.  In practice, this means spots that drift boats can’t easily reach, spots where the wading might be more challenging, spots where you have to wade or hike past obvious holes. or spots that just don’t look that fishy but do hold fish.

Let’s call the hole in the picture above Spot X.  It doesn’t look particularly fishy.  In fact, it doesn’t look much different than the water all around it.  But, it is different.  It’s a bit deeper and it holds quite a few trout at low flows.

I’ve been aware of Spot X for a while.  I waded through it once and made note to come back and fish it someday.  Bill S has fished it and caught quite a few fish.  I never got around to fishing it.

Yesterday, I determined to fish Spot X as soon as we decide on where we were going to fish.  I rigged up and walked right to it, finally.  I caught a bunch of trout too, mostly brown trout nine to thirteen inches.  It was a good second finally, and I’ll be going back.

The third finally also needs some explanation.

Very good fishers are quick to change what they are doing when conditions change or the fish don’t respond as expected to whatever the fisher is doing.  I have a bad habit of not reacting quickly to changing conditions or conditions that don’t meet my expectations.

Our tailwaters have been high and muddy.  I figured that it was time for junk flies.  I ran a couple of them through Spot X a few times.  Nothing happened.

I noticed a rise.  I ran my junk flies past the fish.  Nothing happened.  Well, something did happen.  The fish ignored my offering and a couple of other fish rose.  Then, a mayfly flew right in front of my face, not twelve inches away.

I can take a hint, if the hint is obvious enough.  This was obvious enough.  I changed to a dry-dropper rig and immediately started catching fish.  Finally, I promptly made a change.  Will I react in time next time?  Probably not, but there’s a chance.

The final finally, number four, needs an explanation too.

I’ve fished the Blue Winged Olive (BWO) hatch the past two winters, and the fish have kicked my butt.  I catch a few, but everyone else catches more, lots more.  Bill S might catch five or seven, or more for every one I catch.  Stubborn is again part of the reason.

I’ve been determined to catch fish under all conditions with a Euro Rig.  Usually, it will work, but it doesn’t always work.  It definitely doesn’t work for the BWO hatch.  I’ve found the hatch is in shallow and relatively calm water.  What you really need is a long gentle cast.  Some people can do this with a euro rig.  I can’t.

Yesterday I had a nine-foot rod with a conventional line and leader.  I also had my winter dry-fly box with all BWO patterns.  A dry-dropper rig was the hot ticket, and I I finally caught fish during a BWO hatch.

Sometimes you have to fish on the fish’s terms if you want to catch any.

It was a good afternoon.



Got Wood?

Back in the early 80’s when I was learning to climb, I asked a famous climber, Mike Graham, about the best way to learn how to aid climb.  His answer was “Go do an aid climb.”

I never did an aid climb.  None of my climbing friends were interested, and the specialized gear is expensive.  But, the advice has served me well.   It’s why I bought a bunch of wood:

Bunch of Wood

I wanted to learn to do woodwork.  So, get some wood and work it.

That wood is what a local mill calls a Random Package.  It consists of red oak, maple, ash, poplar, and maybe a bit of walnut.  It’s rough cut and wet.  It was cheap too, only $200.

Need to Keep it Dry

People ask what I’m going to do with the wood, and the answer is “Anything I please.”  That’s flippant, of course.  The real answer is learn how to work wood.  I should be pretty good by the time I get through it.

Local friend Mike and I resawed a four-foot piece with a handsaw.  There was a hidden knot in the middle of it.  That and the wetness dulled the saw.

Getting the wood ready to use will keep me plenty busy for a while.  I’m not going to get the wood pristine, that will be done on a project-by-project basis.  Instead, I need to sort it, cut it to length, remove the unusable portions, dry it, and move it.

The wood is currently blocking the garage door I use to get my lawn mowers in and out.  I’ll have to mow the lawn within 30 days.  So, I need to get on it.

When I actually use the wood, I’ll straighten and flatten it with a hand plane.  I’ll use a handsaw for projects that require resawn wood.

My first project is to improve my workbench.  The new top will be about six feet by eighteen inches of red oak.  I have some big pieces of maple.  I’ll use at least one of those for an apron.

I’ll be posting about the tools I’ll be using.


It Rained Big Last Night

Our bedroom is in the basement.  So, we don’t hear a lot of weather.  That’s mixed.  We sleep well, but both of us like the sound of rain.  Maybe it was better that we couldn’t hear it last night, because there was apparently a lot of rain.

Overflow 1

My first clue was when I took Jimi to school.  Within 200 yards, there were two debris flows, big ones with rocks, bottles, mud, and pieces of tree.  When I took Merri to school, I saw more evidence.

The pictures here are of an insignificant creek.  It might even go dry sometimes, but not anytime soon.

Overflow 2

I saw more debris flows, lots of water on the road, and a rock as big as a bowling ball.  I would have stopped to take the rock out, but a tow truck was picking up a car right next to it.  I figure he got it.

One of the things that always amazes me is how fast these things get cleaned up.  The two big flows by the house had been cleared by 7:30.

I don’t know if it was the County or someone down the road who cleared the debris flow.  It could be either one, I’m always impressed at the quality of government services here.  I’m also frequently impressed at people’s willingness to help others here.

Either way, it was quickly removed, and I appreciate it.

Eighteen and Beautiful

No, we’re not talking about Joyce when I met her, but the title would work for that.  We’re talking about this morning’s weather.

A Cold Morning

I was a bit concerned about this morning’s weather.  That’s the softening from all those years in Coastal California.  Temperatures in  the teens and below still seem to be violations of the cosmic contract.

The schools were on a two-hour delay this morning.  So, Joyce and I slept in until 7:30.  That’s unusual, but more unusual was to come.

The sun was just hitting the trees on the ridge across the river when I took Missi for her morning walk.  They glowed with a near-golden color.  There was no wind.  The humidity was low.  It felt warmer than it was.

It got better.  The sun was higher when I took Missi out again.  It actually felt nice.  Strange how 18-20 can be nice.

Then, things deteriorated.  The forecast winds came, big winds.   They brought clouds and humidity.  They brought cold, and it’s going to stay cold.  Today’s high is forecast to be around 25, and winds are expected to reach 40 miles an hour.  That’s windy.  That’s cold.

That’s a good day to stay inside and tie flies.

Lots of places are colder this morning.  Much of the upper Midwest won’t reach zero.  That’s one reason I don’t live farther north.  Tennessee winters, mild as they are, are more than cold enough for me.

I’m glad, though, that I got out early and saw the day at its best.