Thursday, August 29, 2013

Surf Fishing

 When driving a truck I used to love laying over anywhere within walking distance of the ocean. I could always spend a day doing nothing but watch the waves although the main thing I liked about it was to dig my fishing pole out of the truck and see if I could catch anything.

   On one trip I ended up getting stuck down on the Texas coast for a week end. I was close enough to the coast to be able to drop my trailer and bob tail over by the beach. Nice thing about having a sleeper on the truck it's just like having a motor home. I spent most f the first night sitting by a small fire, drinking coffee and listening to the waves. The next day when I woke up there were some guys on the beach doing a little surf fishing. I wondered down to see how they were doing and what they were catching.  They were catching fish that looked like big perch to me, they told me the name of them but I can't remember what it was, I do remember that they said they were good eating so I decided to give it a try.

   I didn't have the same kind of fishing gear that the other guys had. I only had a small spinning reel where most of the other guys had big surf reels but I did notice that one of the guys was wading out into the surf. I figured if I waded out also I'd be able to get the lure far enough out to be close to where they were fishing.

   I waded out till I was about knee deep and started casting away, to my surprise I got a hit on my third cast. I was so surprised that I missed setting the hook and lost that one. That fish didn't get hooked but I was! I figured this was going to be lots of fun and a pretty easy way to get me some supper. It only took about four more casts for me to get another hit and that time I caught it. It wasn't huge or anything but it looked like it was big enough to fit in a skillet. I carried it back to shore with the intention of cleaning it and taking it back to the truck to put in the cooler for later.

   Now, I really only needed one fish for supper but I was enjoying wading around in the gulf and catching them. Since it was a long time till I needed to worry about supper I decided I'd wonder back out and see if I could catch something bigger. The only part of the deal I didn't like was the need to carry whatever I caught all the way back up to the cooler. While I was thinking about that my little pea brain came up with a plan (any one who has been reading anything I've ever written will know what happens when that occurs), I dug through my tackle box and found my fish stringer. It was the metal kind with the snap hooks to hold the fish. My brilliant plan was to hook the end through my belt loop. That way I could hook whatever fish I caught to the end snaps, keeping them in the cool water and leaving both hands free for fishing.

   Back down to the shore I went. I went out knee deep to start with but didn't even get a bite so I slowly worked my way till I was just a little over waist deep. The waves had picked up a little since the first trip so I was really having to be careful not to get knocked on my butt every time one came rolling in. I must have been out there fighting those waves for close to a half an hour before I managed to catch the first fish. I was pretty happy even at that because this one was a little bigger than the first one. I stuck my pole under my arm and got him attached to the bottom hook on my stringer. I could feel him tugging at the stringer but I knew he was no where big enough to make me fall so I ignored him and went back to fishing. I was in a hot spot now because it seemed like I got one at least every other cast. Most of them I turned loose but I still ended up with three good sized ones on the stringer over the next hour. I figured I only had another hour of day light but I was having so much fun I decided to stick it out and see if I could get at least one really big one. The other guys had already left but one of them stopped by to see how I was doing and showed me the snapper he'd caught that must have weighed at least ten pounds. That's what I had my heart set on even though he told me it was really rare to catch something like that while surf fishing.

   The sun was just starting to slide below the horizon when I finally decided to call it quits. The waves were picking up even more and I was starting to have a real problem staying on my feet. I hadn't caught a big one but I had added one more to the stringer. I could feel them yanking on the stringer and I had to brace myself a little extra each time a wave came in because they seemed to be adding an extra yank every time a wave came in.

   I was reeling in my line for the last time when  I felt a really hard yank from the stringer.  It took me by surprise because I hadn't felt anything near that hard in all the time I had been out there. For some reason I just thought it had been a combination of all the fish jerking on the stringer at the same time a wave had passed and continued to reel in my line. The next thing I knew there was an even harder yank and I was over my head in the water.

   Talk about being confused! I had no idea what was happening. I knew the fish had yanked me off my feet at the same time my brain was telling me there was no way those little fish could do that. I went down so quick that I hadn't been able to even get a good breath before I went under and now I was trying to push myself off the bottom and get my head above water. Part of me was panicking and needing to breath while the other part realized that I was pushing against the sand with both hands which meant I had dropped my fishing pole somewhere. I finally managed to get to my knees which put my head above the water. I took a huge gulp of air which turned out to still be mostly water which made me start coughing and gasping trying to get rid of the water and get air at the same time. Just as I got a good breath there came another hard yank to my side and back under the water I went.  

   I still had no idea of how I had ended up in the water but all I wanted to do was get out of it! I was trying to push against the bottom with my hands so I could get my legs under me. I stabbed my right had toward the bottom when I felt something like rough sand paper move under it causing me to all onto might side. More confusion! What in the hell had I put my hand on! My brain was sparking trying to figure out what it had been at the same time my body trying to let me know that if I didn't get some air right now I was going to be in a world of hurt. I had managed to roll over and get both hands on the bottom and was able to finally shove myself up. Thank god there was a break in the waves and I was bale to get my feet under me and stand up. I turned my back to the waves to help kept my balance and was doing my best to cough up water and breath in some air at the same time. I just stood there for at least a minute  trying to catch my breath. My eyes were burning from the salt water and I was having trouble opening them all the way so all I was getting was a fuzzy view of the water in front of me. I caught a glimpse of something dark moving through the water in front of me but I still couldn't see well enough to tell for sure what it was.  I was just beginning to straighten up when I felt another hard yank from my side and damn near went back down it the water. It wasn't quite as bad this time though and I was able to stay on my feet. What was going on? All of a sudden two things came together in my mind, hard jerk and something dark moving through the water! I didn't have any trouble at all standing up straight and getting my eyes wide open at that thought. I whipped my head around a couple of times to see if there was anything in the water and sure enough, there it was, a dark grey fin cutting through the water, heading right toward me!

   This time my brain knew exactly what to do! It was telling RUN,  the problem was my body wasn't listening. I really wanted to run but my legs just didn't seem to want to cooperate. I guess it was kind of lucky that I was already wet up to my waist because the only response my body did make would have been real embarrassing if I hadn't been. I just stood there, frozen, and watched that fin come right up my right side. There was a big swirl in the water and I felt that hard yank again. For just a second I thought the thing had taken a big bite out of my leg and the only reason I wasn't feeling any pain was because I was in shock. In the next second I realized I was wrong when I saw my stringer come floating to the top of the water. I realized  the yanks I had been feeling had been that shark grabbing the fish I had on the stringer!  I still just stood there like a dummy watching the fin move away from me through the water and was still standing there with my mouth hanging open when it curved around and started coming back toward me again. Finally the brain and the body started working together! Now, mostly I seem to have trouble getting the hook either snapped or undone from them cheap stringer but this time I had the stringer off in a split second. I didn't even think of what I was going to do once I had it loose from my belt loop, I threw it right toward that fin, turned and took off running toward the shore. I didn't know if the shark would go for the fish or come after me and I sure wasn't going to wait around to see. Normally trying to run through the water, even when it's only knee deep is a real pain but this time  it didn't seem to take me more than a couple of seconds to make it back to dry land. My knees gave out after a couple of steps onto the shore but I still crawled another 50 feet away from the water before I stopped.

   I sat there on that beach shaking like a leaf and trying to catch my breath. No sign of a fin in the water. I don't know if the shark went for the fish or if I scared him off when I threw the stringer at him but at least he was gone. It took another 20 minutes before I was calmed down enough get to my feet and head back up to the truck. I noticed along the way why I was able to get the stringer off so quick. I hadn't bothered to open the hook like I thought I had, since my belt loop was flopping around I figured I had just yanked it off.
   I went surf fishing several times after that but never again did I ever hang a fish stringer off my belt!  

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Getting It Together

   Sometime a person just needs a little time out to clear your mind. There are about as many different ways of doing that as there are people. As for me, every once in a while I like to get just as far as I can get from other people. That might just be part of me being anti-social but to me, since I've spent so much time being out in nature by myself that it has become very relaxing. Sure, sometimes I enjoy having a friend along on these trips. It's fun sitting around a campfire and visiting but I have discovered over the years that I'm very happy with just my own company. I found when I was in Alaska that I have no problem going for a few months without seeing or talking to another person so I really don't have any problem with a week or so hanging out by a creek or river.

   The best way to spend an evening. Watching a fire and listening to the birds and squirrels. I will have to admit that the woods up here are kind of silent compared to the ones down home. There aren't as many birds living in the forest here as the hard woods down there but them little pine squirrels make up for it.

   A great place to take a morning walk. out a mile down and back but I do it several times a day. One morning just at daylight just in that one mile walk I saw Elk in the valley to the left and even more exciting, a deer walking down the trail in the one to the right. Seeing a deer in this area wasn't that exciting but the mountain lion stalking along behind it was. The only bad thing was that the wind changed. As soon as they got my scent they both took off.

   What better way to pass some time after your morning walk that sitting on the side of a fast flowing creek and trying to catch some supper? Lots of trout in this creek. I know there are folks that say they don't like trout. All I can say is they've never one pan fried over a campfire with just a tiny bit of oil, salt and pepper and a view like this. There is no kind of food a person can make that tastes as good as something like that. It's the place that really adds the flavor!

   Of course if you want to add something to the trout, wild shrooms are really hard to beat! Never cared much for shrooms as a kid but once I found out how good they taste while out in the woods I gather them every chance I get. I am careful though since I only know about half a dozen different kinds that I'm sure are safe to eat.
   If you happen to be out in July Or August and you get the urge to take a bath you won't find a more beautiful than this. Of course you might want to make sure it's a really hot day and you only want a quick bath because this water is only about 10 degrees above freezing on the hottest days!

   This is one of the main reasons you might want to be out here. Just kicking back and enjoying the views. It is fun to share things like this with friends and family but every once in awhile you just want to  soak them in by yourself. It's OK to be greedy and store them up as privet treasures in your mind. Something you can recall on those days when the world seems to be such a crazy place

   So, if you every feel the urge to just get out and recharge your batteries, go for it! If you can't find anyone to take along you can always go by yourself. Who knows, it may turn out that you really enjoy your own company.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Down Home Stories: Mud Bugs

Down Home Stories: Mud Bugs:    There is one thing you can almost always find to eat down home and that is mud bugs, better known as crawdads or crayfish to you city...

Mud Bugs

   There is one thing you can almost always find to eat down home and that is mud bugs, better known as crawdads or crayfish to you city folks. I always thought the best thing about mud bugs was the catching part, unless you happen to be out in the Arizona desert and you haven't had anything to eat in three or four days. I have been in that situation and the feeling of your backbone chewing on your navel kind takes the fun out of spending a lazy day on a creek bank trying to catch a few.

   When I was a kid back in Oklahoma the main thing we caught them for was fish bait and the main way we caught them was by seining the farm ponds. I always loved dragging a seine through those ponds. You never knew what you were going to pull out. It could be perch which we would use for bait when we set trotlines for catfish, crawdads, which were good bait for most all kinds of fish from bass to crappie and more than a few snakes,  which for some reason, no one else seemed as happy to catch as I was.

   You could also fish for them . All you needed was a piece of string and something for bait. This was a good way to keep the little kids busy and out of your way while you were fishing. My uncles would tie a piece of bacon on a string and set us on the bank. If you drew the string out of the water slow enough the crawdads would hang onto the bait long enough to get them up on the bank where you could grab them. Of course if we did catch any the older folks would take them to use for their bait.

   There are lots of folks down south who know hundreds of better ways to cook mud bugs but since I grew up around people that didn't eat them I pretty well had to learn on my own. As I got older and had the chance to taste some of the other meals using them I quickly discovered how bad most of mine were. My first attempt was just to pull some hot coals off to one side of my fire and toss a few of them directly on the coals. I was really hungry that day and a little desperate. It surprised me how good they tasted even allowing for the hunger herbs.

   This is one that turned out to be my favorite woods food. It's gonna be hard to do a recipe because you just add what you got or can find.  Crawdads, as many as you can catch, leave the shells on. Fish, I have used perch, bass, crappie and catfish so again it's whatever is biting that day. Fillet them and cut into chunks about one inch by one inch. Cat tail stalks, two good size ones, peel the outer leaves and cut the inner core into one inch pieces. Sheep Showers, about a tablespoon full of the leaves (can't help you much here, we never knew the real name for them but they are a clover, mostly three leaves, with a real bitter taste). A handful of wild onions and if it's in season and handful of dock. Mix em all together and and set the pot on a bed of coals from the campfire. Add more wood t the fire as needed to get it boiling and keep it there for at least twenty minutes. Separate the mud bugs and eat the rest as a stew.

   You can also use a boiling bag if you don't have a pot. My bag was a large piece of deer hid (hair off). I cut a row of small slits around the edge so I could hang it over the fire or use it to line a small hole and use hot stones to get the contents boiling. As long as you don't let  it boil dry the hide won't burn.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Down Home Stories: Heading Home

Down Home Stories: Heading Home:    Seems that no matter how long you've been gone, once an Okie, always an Okie. I'll be going down to visit Stanley the last two we...

Heading Home

   Seems that no matter how long you've been gone, once an Okie, always an Okie. I'll be going down to visit Stanley the last two weeks of May anf the first week of June. The first thing out of my mouth when I tell folks about the trip is that "I'm going back home".
   We won't be doing any prospecting down there aal though I am thinkin about taking the metal detector along just in case. We are going to be doing a lot of fishing and maybe even a little noodling. Really looking forwar to that. I may even get the chance to do a little squirrel hunting.
   The big event will be a pot luck dinner at Schulter School. We had a great turn out the last time I was there and I'm really looking forward to this one. My oldest Daughter will be coming down and if things work out right I'll get to meet my grandsons, finally! If everyone makes it that seems to want to there should be lots of family some of which I haven't seen in close to 40 years and a lot more that I have never meet.
   Keep ya posted.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Down Home Stories: Quail

Down Home Stories: Quail:     Quail    Here's one that I happen to really like. You can do this at home but to make it really special you need to be ...



   Here's one that I happen to really like. You can do this at home but to make it really special you need to be out in the sagebrush country of eastern Oregon or northern Nevada. 

   First off you need to get some Quail. How many will depend on how many folks you're going to feed. I think Quail is a pretty rich meat so I only need a couple for myself. How you get them is up to you. Since I'm not talking store bought here, make sure you know what the game laws are for which ever area you're in. To me the best way is to trap them. You can make a bird trap using small limbs fro the sagebrush as the frame and the bark as string to tie it together. You can also snare them using anything from fishing line, shoelaces or cordage you can make from sagebrush bark. Yes, shooting them will work but you really need to use a rifle and go for the head shot. There's just not enought meat to be wasteing with a shotgun.

   Any time I build a campfire I always dig a shallow pit and line it with rocks and build my fire n top of the rocks. This gives me a nice fire inside an enclosed area so I don't have to worry about it spreading, an oven if I do find something like a Quail that I want to bake and hot stones that I can use in a boiling bag in case I find something to make a stew with.

   Keep in mind that Quail, like most other wild game, are very lean meat. You can pluck them just like a chicken and save the skin. I try to do that if I'm going to roast them but for baking or stew it's not worth the trouble most of the time. I guess that would depend on how hungry you are.

   For this idea I just rippend the fethers off, skin and all. Cleaned tem good, saving the heart and  kindneys which I left in the body.  I added salt and pepper then stripped the end leaves off some sagebrush. Crush the leaves and rub over the outside the add more to the body cavity. I also stuffed  three fruits from a prickleypear catus in to the body. (you don't need these but I just happened to run across a patch that morning and pick quite a few of them)

   Wrap the birds in cat tail leaves (soak the leaves in water first) Strip a few pieces from the leaves to use to tie them.

   Scrape the stones from your fire pit and sprinkle a thin layer of dirt over the coals. Place the birds in the bottom and cover with the stones. Replace any hot coals yo have scraped out and re-build your fire.

   I keep a small steady fire going for about three to four hours. Doesn't have to be a hugh bonfire. Just enough to keep the stones hot.
   Pull them out, unwrap them, sit back and watch the sunset as you enjoy a great meal!