Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Catching Up

I realize that things have been awfully slow lately around here at NC Outdoor Ramblings. I could come up with any number of reasons (or excuses, truth be told) about why there has been a lack of blogging on my part, but rather than do that, I thought I'd share some of the highlights from the past few months that occurred while the blog has been neglected. I would say that I'm going to try to keep things updated a little more frequently around here, but then again I know better than to try to make a promise that I'm not sure I'll be able to keep. Since they say a picture is worth 1,000 words, I'll try to use that to make up for the thousands of words I'm behind writing on here.

Some of these pictures will have their own posts written in the near future, along with more details provided about the story behind them. Here's what's been going on since hunting season has kicked into full swing around here.

Dove and 20 Gauge
The season started off with a bang in September, much like it did in 2012, with the opening day of dove season. The usual suspects got together for the opening day hunt, and then a few days later I still had the dove hunting bug but nowhere to go since I was a guest of some friends on opening day and didn't have access to the cornfields we were hunting by myself. I decided to do a little scouting around at the farm I hunt, and found a few doves flying back and forth to the pond located below the barn. I found out that a motorized decoy and a little cover to hide in would allow me to have a few shots, and I decided to try out a new 20 gauge over-and-under that I had purchased after Christmas last year. The combination of decoying birds and the 20 gauge made for a couple of exciting afternoons, and some very tasty dove breasts for the grill.

Muzzleloader Buck

The week after dove season brought the opening of archery season in western North Carolina, and while I was able to get out and do a little hunting during September, I didn't have any luck. I did see a few deer, but never had a shot at any. Then came October and muzzleloader season. I had gotten a new muzzleloader for Christmas last year, and I was anxious to try it out. I guess now I should admit that my luck with a muzzleloader has been less than stellar. I had missed two or three deer over the years with a muzzleloader, and had never been able to successfully harvest a deer during muzzleloader season. In my defense, it did seem like bad luck because I was always very careful to make sure that my muzzleloader was sighted in, but for whatever reason my scope would get bumped or something else would go wrong. I'm just thankful that the shots I had taken at deer were clean misses, instead of wounding one and not recovering it. This year, I felt like maybe a new gun would change my luck. The first day of the season, I slipped in the woods after work and it wasn't an hour or so until two deer made an appearance. A squeeze of the trigger, lots of smoke and noise, and when everything cleared I had my first muzzleloader deer.
Making a European Mount
I decided I wanted to try my had at a little simple taxidermy after I harvested my buck, and with the help of a good friend who had done it before I made a European mount. I enjoyed the process, and I think that I will be doing this for any bucks that don't wind up getting mounted by a taxidermist. I think they make a unique trophy and great memento of an exciting hunt.


I was also able to film a couple deer from the stand during muzzleloader season. These two does and little spike were close enough to touch at one point, and it made for an exciting morning in the stand. During the time between muzzleloader and rifle season, I did get out and bow hunt a couple of times, but not nearly as much as I had intended to.

Two of the beagles working a thicket
As the end of November approached, I found myself getting more and more excited about the upcoming rifle season, and hopefully the rut as well. I was lucky enough to get an invitation to go rabbit hunting on opening day, which falls on the Saturday before our gun season opens on the following Monday. We had a good time and managed a few rabbits between all of us, and more importantly I got the chance to see the beagles work and walk a few miles carrying a shotgun. It just whetted my appetite for all the rabbit hunts that will hopefully follow the end of deer season next week.

Dave and I with his buck
After the rabbit hunt on Saturday, rifle season finally opened for us here in western North Carolina. I've spent every day that I could in the stand, and have managed to see a few deer here and there, but I have yet to pull the trigger. One thing that got me more excited than usual about this year's deer season was my father-in-law asked if he could possibly tag along for a few hunts. He is originally from northwest Pennsylvania, and grew up around deer hunting but had never been himself. He's always enjoyed venison, and I've noticed the last year or two just how excited he gets when my brother-in-law or myself have managed to get a deer. I've invited him to come hunting the last few years, but he took me by surprise when he asked to go this year. He was able to harvest his first deer while hunting with me this year, and this is a story that deserves its own post. I plan to write up the whole story for the blog very soon.

That pretty much wraps up my ramblings for the last few months. We've got another week left of rifle season here, and after that I'm looking forward to doing some rabbit and squirrel hunting. Also, I've found myself thinking more and more lately about smallmouth bass and rising trout. I do believe I will have to start tying a few flies and looking for some warm days where I can get up to the mountains to try to fool a few trout. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy what little is left of deer season, and enjoy spending time with my family over Christmas. As always, thanks for stopping by and reading my ramblings.

- Joseph

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Pop's Lures

This post was written over a year ago, when I first started the blog. It's been sitting in the draft folder ever since, with a revision or two over the past year as I've tried to edit it and make it exactly what I wanted. I have been waiting for the right time to post this, and decided that since today is Grandparents' Day, it was time to share it. I want to dedicate this post to the memory of all four of my grandparents: Jim and Essie Hord and Lib and Dick Hamrick (also known as Pop to me and my cousins). They shared with me the outdoors and supported me in my journey as an outdoorsman. 

"Pop! Pop! Let's go to the basement and look at your fishing lures!" My maternal grandfather, "Pop", must have heard these words or something very similar every day when I was little. I stayed with my grandparents during the day while my parents worked, and even at four years old the fishing bug had already bit me. My grandfather, who had the patience of a saint, would just smile and say "Ok, let's go take a look." We would go down stairs and sit on an old couch and Pop would open up the old metal tackle boxes that to my four year old eyes were treasure chests.
Pop's Tackle Box

One by one, we would look at the lures and Pop would tell me what kind of fish they caught or the name of the lure. I remember well looking at old lures with names like Punkinseed, Water Dog, and a lure Pop called the Whopper Stopper. The striped bass that hung over the basement fireplace was caught on a Water Dog, and I can't remember now what the big largemouth that hung in the den was caught on but I'm sure it was in one of those boxes.
Bomber Water Dog - One of Pop's

 Pop was a fisherman for most of his life, and he used to have an old Johnson outboard motor in the basement that he would take up to Lake James or Lake Norman and put on a rental boat to fish. He often talked about buying his own boat, but by the time I came along Pop's fishing trips weren't as frequent and he never did buy a boat.
Pop and six year old me with a trout

He still loved to fish, though, and often in the summer he would take my cousin and me, along with my parents and my aunt and uncle to one of those trout ponds where you pay by the pound for your catch. These ponds were near either Marion or Little Switzerland, NC and we would have fun catching trout that would wind up on the grill that evening back home. I don't remember Pop fishing much on these trips. I think for him it was a way to help introduce us at an early age to fishing, and these ponds were about as close as you can get to nonstop action. I'm sure Pop wanted us to catch a lot of fish and have a good time without the chance of getting bored with fishing. I'm also sure that Pop couldn't have known at the time that when I got older, trout fishing would become one of my favorite pursuits, although now it's usually with a fly rod in mountain streams.
The "Whopper Stopper" 

I also remember Pop taking the hooks out of one of the Whopper Stoppers for me to use when I wanted to practice casting in the yard. I spent a lot of time casting to imaginary bass behind their house, and caught a lot of whoppers, if only in my mind. Another lure that I distinctly remember asking Pop about a lot were what he called sea trout plugs. Later on, when I began saltwater fishing myself, I would learn that these were Mirr-O-Lures, and that they were one of the popular choices for catching sea trout in the waterways around Oak Island in the fall. I never caught a sea trout on these lures, because my trips to Oak Island were in the summer and I fished for trout using live shrimp. Even so, I always felt like I was following in Pop's footsteps fishing for the same fish at the same location that he used to.
Sea Trout Plug - aka MirrOLure

It's funny how things can come full circle, as I sit here writing this blog post in the den of my grandparents' house, which my wife and I bought, in a recliner in the same spot that Pop's recliner used to sit. I think Pop would be happy to know how much I enjoy fishing now, and some of his old lures sit in a display case on our coffee table as a reminder to me of where it began.
Some of Pop's Lures on display

Pop taught me a lot, and more than that he had the patience to tell me the same stories and look at the same old fishing tackle day after day. I'm sure he got tired of it, but he never let it show. I hope that I inherited some of his patience and understanding, because without a doubt I inherited his love for fishing.
Bomber Lure

There are several people that have had a major influence on my love of the outdoors, but my two grandfathers and my Dad were the earliest influences. I will always be grateful to all three of these men for their guidance and for the passion they instilled in me at a very young age. I hope someday to be able to pay it forward when I have children and grandchildren and help them the same way Pop helped me. Maybe someday they will have an old tackle box full of my lures, and a lifetime of memories.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Sunday, August 11, 2013

It's Been Awhile

It's funny how time seems to slip right on by, whether or not we pay attention to how fast it's going. This summer, the blog and the fishing both started out strong, with several trips and several posts coming on the heels of each other. Since then, a combination of out of town trips, and rainy weather have kept me away from the water, and more often than not off of the computer as well. This past week, I decided that it was past time for me to go trout fishing, with my last trip for trout being my almost unsuccessful hunt for brookies more than a month ago. Other than a smallmouth trip a few days after that, I hadn't been on the water at all this summer.

This year has been a strange one, with almost daily rain and several instances of flooding in our local area. My go to summer spot for smallmouth and redbreast sunfish has stayed at a level that is too high and muddy for me to feel comfortable wading ever since my early summer trip down there. With most trout fishing involving a minimum one hour drive each way, I'd been hesitant to go only to wind up in a thunderstorm that would put an end to the fishing.

Stream Side Break Before the Rain
With the start of a new school year fast approaching, I knew that chances to escape to the mountains would become fewer and harder to come by, so last Tuesday my uncle, (who helped me develop my interest in fly fishing and fly tying), and I decided to take a chance and see if we could get some fishing in. We headed to an area that we both had fished in previous years, with the intention of fishing higher up in the headwaters than we had been before. We were able to fish about an hour and a half before a heavy thunderstorm came in over the ridge and put an early end to the day. I had several strikes from fish, but either they were refusing my fly at the last second or my reflexes were rusty, because I only hooked two for just a split second before they managed to get off. I missed all the other fish entirely, but my uncle was able to catch a few while fishing upstream from me.

I didn't want my last trip of the summer to end with a skunking, so as soon as I got home I began making plans for at least one more trip back to the mountains. I had several locations in mind to try, but in the end I decided that I wanted one more shot at the trout in this stream. I knew from past trips that this watershed holds some nice sized wild fish, especially by NC standards, and this area is also one of my favorite spots to fish. It could only be my imagination, but the water here seems to be colder and clearer than anywhere else I fish on a regular basis, and the views upstream of some of the highest peaks on the East Coast only add to the experience. I mentioned to my brother-in-law my intentions of going back, and we agreed to give it a try on Friday afternoon. He had just recently purchased a fly rod, after a couple of seasons of borrowing one of mine, and we both figured that this would be a great opportunity for him to get his new rod out and hopefully break it in on some wild fish.

First Trout of the Day
Remembering the storms of a few days before, I kept a close eye on the weather forecast and the radar before we headed out. I was afraid that the trip would be over before it started when we ran into some heavy rain about 20 miles from our destination. Luckily, this was an isolated cell and the skies had cleared by the time we made our way over the Eastern Continental Divide and down the other side of the ridge to our destination. We both started out fishing Rio Grande Trude dry flies, one of my go-to summer patterns when I can't identify any sort of hatch. Usually these flies are good producers for me, but this time it seemed like I was doomed to a repeat of Tuesday's experience. Several trout struck at my fly, but they either refused at the last possible second, or hit and were gone too quick for me to set the hook.

I was wondering what to try different when I noticed a few yellow mayflies (I'm guessing sulphurs?) and Yellow Sallies flying around. I remembered reading in an article one time that a lot of the older Southern Appalachian fly fishermen swore by flies with yellow on them, and I had a few sulphur patterns in my box that I had tied a year or two ago in hopes of catching a hatch on Pennsylvania's Oil Creek. The sulphurs never showed back then, but luckily I had left these flies in my box. I tied on one, and on the third or fourth cast a nice little rainbow nailed the fly like it was what he had been looking for all day.
Brook Trout

This gave my confidence a boost, and after fishing a few more pools, I came upon a pool that had a small tributary creek flowing in from the right side. In my past experience fishing this stream, I usually caught a mix of wild rainbow and brown trout, but I had also heard from my uncle that several of the smaller tributaries had healthy populations of wild brook trout. I was surprised when a nice wild brookie ate my sulphur, and I wonder if this trout was one that had originally come from the tributary and made his home in the main river. Either way, it was a nice surprise and gave me hope of possibly catching all three species of trout that call these waters home. This was also one of the nicer wild brook trout that I have ever caught, and I thought it was kind of ironic that a trip especially for brook trout earlier this summer yielded mostly rainbows, while a trip where I expected to catch rainbows and browns gave me one of my bigger wild brookies to date.

Biggest Rainbow of the Day
With a few fish caught, and the dreaded skunk avoided this time, I worked my way on upstream picking up a few more healthy little rainbows on the sulphur. A few hundred yards upstream, I came upon a nice deep pool that had a small log laying through it and looked to be the perfect hangout for a nice sized fish. On my second or third cast, a rainbow trout about seven inches long ate the fly and came to hand after a short tussle. Normally, I figure that with wild trout I will get one shot at each pool and if I catch a fish or miss one that usually is the end of it. For some reason, I just couldn't quit thinking that there must be a bigger fish living in such good habitat, and I decided to give it another cast or two before moving on upstream. I made another cast and as the fly drifted over the edge of the submerged log, a nice trout rose and ate it. This one gave me a little longer fight than it's smaller pool mate, and turned out to be a beautifully colored wild rainbow trout about ten or eleven inches long.

A Great Ending
At this point, I decided to retire the sulphur as the big fish had finished what a few previous trout had started, chewing the fly up to the point where it wouldn't be fishable. I had a few more sulphurs in my fly box, but for the sake of experimenting I decided to try a Tennessee Wulff since most of the water was fairly swift and broken and I was having some trouble keeping the sulphur floating. I figured I should stick with the yellow color, since this seemed to be working well and I figured the Wulff style dry would be able to stand up to a little rougher water. I managed a few more small rainbows on the Wulff, and the last fish of the day for me turned out to be that elusive brown trout I was hoping to catch. I was surprised, because out of all the trout I caught, the brown was the only one that jumped. It put on quite a show, jumping three or four times before I brought it to hand. This fish rounded out an excellent day on the water, and even though I haven't been able to have the quantity of fishing trips that a normal summer usually has, this one definitely made up for it in quality.

Trent's First Fish on the New Rod
To make a great trip even better, my brother-in-law Trent got a chance to get his new fly rod out and take a nice wild rainbow on a Royal Wulff to break it in. We both agreed that a nice nine inch wild trout is a great way to christen a new fly rod, and hopefully it will only be the first of many many more. Hopefully as the weather starts to cool and fall approaches, there will be time to make a few more trips up to the mountains in search of beautiful places and wild trout. It seems like no matter how many times I go, it is never nearly enough. This is why I try my best to slow down and take it all in each time I'm privileged enough to be on a mountain stream. I hold on to these memories to help tide me over until I return again.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Returning to the River

After going up in the mountains in search of brook trout, I finally got the chance a few days later to head to the local river for the first time this year to try for some smallmouth bass. I had planned back in the winter to try fishing down here earlier than in previous years to see if the bass were more active in the cooler weather of spring, however the wet weather conditions made me put these plans on hold. This is a fairly large river, at least for around these parts, and all the rain had it too high to safely wade. At one point in the spring, the river flooded and peaked at over 14 feet on the USGS gauge. Flood stage for this river is 12 feet, and to put that in perspective normal flows when I usually fish it are around 2 - 2.5 feet on the gauge. Even at this level, there is a good bit of water and lots of holes to watch for. There was no way that I was going to try fishing here until things had settled down and flows had stabilized.

For the past week I had been watching the USGS flow gauge like a hawk and hoping that the passing thunderstorms we had almost every evening wouldn't raise the water level or cause the river to become muddy and unfishable. With a few days of fairly clear weather, and a Sunday afternoon free after church, I decided it was time to take a chance and check things out. I gave my brother-in-law Trent a call and we made plans to head down there and give it a try. Everything looked good on the Internet, but the only way we would know for sure would be to take a ride down to the river and see for ourselves. I was a little bit anxious, not knowing how the flooding had affected the riverbed and wondering if my favorite area to fish would be unrecognizable.

Results of the Flooding
Once we arrived and hiked the trail downstream to our usual fishing area, I was relieved to see that things more or less remained unchanged. The river bottom here is fairly rocky, with large shoals and shelves of rock that must have resisted the scouring effects of the floods. I did notice that some formerly shallow spots were now deeper, but other than that there wasn't much effect from the floods. If anything, the flooding created some new bass habitat in that stretch of the river. I was shocked to find a round bale of hay sitting in the river, especially since I don't know of any farms for a couple miles upstream from where I was. This had to be another result of the recent floods. From a distance I thought that it was a beaver lodge, because we had observed some recent beaver activity in the form of felled trees on our way in. I was a little disappointed to discover that it was actually a hay bale, but it did give me greater respect for the sheer power of this river.

Redbreast Sunfish
I started out fishing one of the poppers I had recently tied, mainly to give them a test drive and see how they performed. For some reason, I haven't had too much success catching smallmouth on top in this particular river, although I have managed a few on poppers in the last few years. Streamers have been much more consistently effective for me, but I figured that it was worth experimenting for a little while with some new patterns. I did catch a few redbreast sunfish on the poppers, and missed a strike or two that could have been a bass, sunfish, or who knows what.

First Smallmouth of the Year

After fishing the popper a while, I figured it was time to get serious and switch to a favorite streamer pattern to try to get my first smallmouth of the year. My decision may or may not have been influenced by Trent telling me about having a few nice bass chase the streamer he was fishing with. Once I switched flies, I finally hooked up with my first smallmouth of the year. It was a chunky little bass, but it made up for its size with attitude. After I caught this first bass and fished a few more pools without another strike, I decided to try a popper again in the hope that the increasing cloud cover would cause the fish to be more inclined to eat a top water offering.

I had high hopes of getting a bass on one of my new poppers, and it almost happened - but not in the way I was expecting. I caught another redbreast on the popper, and then fished my way downstream to a spot that had been deepened by the recent floods. It looked like a good place for a bass to hang out, with deeper water and lots of rocky structure. About this time, the clouds had increased and it started to rain. I don't know if this had anything to do with it, but the fish suddenly turned on and starting biting. I had a few missed strikes on the popper, then hooked up with another nice redbreast sunfish. As I was playing the fish, my fly rod suddenly bowed deep, and I thought the fish had wrapped me around a log or rock. I put some pressure on, hoping to get the fish out of whatever it had wrapped up in, and to my surprise a big smallmouth came partially out of the water and spit out the redbreast along with my popper that was still in its mouth! I don't want to try to guess exactly how big this bass was, but I can say without a doubt that it was bigger than any I had caught down here before. It had completely swallowed a nice sized panfish, and seemed to do it without any trouble. After my initial shock wore off, I brought in the redbreast, which seemed none the worse for having been swallowed and regurgitated, and released it.

One to End On
I switched back to the streamer in the hopes that the big bass hadn't been spooked by the experience, although I knew it was probably a long shot. To my surprise, I didn't catch the big one but did catch two smaller bass from the same hole. One of these would be the biggest of the day, a fat 12" smallmouth that came to hand after my camera batteries had died. The other one was the last fish of the day, and a nice way to end the trip. By this time, Trent had fished down to where I was and was kind enough to snap a picture with his phone for me. I was shocked to find these smaller bass sharing a hole with one much larger, and even more surprised to catch two more fish after all the previous commotion. I'll be back to give that big one another shot, and I won't soon forget the day that a bass ate a popper and a sunfish at the same time!

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Monday, July 1, 2013

Looking For Brookies

A few days ago, I decided to go fish a stream that I hadn't been to in a couple of years. This particular stream is managed under the NC Wildlife Resources Commission's Catch and Release Artificial Lures Only regulations, and as of the last time I fished it contained almost exclusively wild brook trout. Although it had been a while since I had fished this creek, I had fished the stream that this creek is a tributary of several times since I was last here. The main stream is mainly a wild rainbow trout fishery, with an occasional wild brown trout. This tributary had always been a brook trout stream, and I was in the mood to go try to find some of North Carolina's only native trout species.
NCWRC Regulations Sign

Brook Trout From the Last Trip Here
The last time I fished this stream, I didn't catch very many trout, but I did manage to catch my largest (and most colorful) wild brook trout to date. I had high hopes of trying to repeat that performance, but to be honest my biggest reason for fishing for brook trout is the sheer beauty of these fish and the places they live. I knew that this particular stream wouldn't disappoint in that regard, and fish or no fish, I was looking forward to exploring some pretty country.

The Start of the Journey
The journey began where the Forest Service road ended, and it was a short hike up the old roadbed to a little one lane bridge where I knew there was access down to the stream. The road up the mountain parallels the creek, although at times it is fairly high on the ridge above it. This road has been closed off for as long as I have been coming up here to fish, but the old roadbed serves as a handy trail to hike back to the truck after a day's fishing. I appreciated this open road hiking even more after a day spend climbing boulders and bushwhacking through rhododendron thickets in search of trout. I don't know if Forest Service personnel use the road, but it does seem fairly well maintained. I've never been all the way to the end or fished this stream up into the headwaters, but I would like to hike and fish my way further up the mountain one day just to see what's there.

First Trout of the Day
Once I reached the old bridge and entered the stream, it was like I was in an entirely different world. There was no cell phone signal, no noise from the highway, no TVs or radios. All I could hear was the sound of the stream and the noises of the mountains. I worked upstream, fishing a Thunderhead dry fly, and missed a few trout before I hooked up with the first one of the day. Imagine my surprise when a wild rainbow trout came to hand, instead of the brook trout I was expecting. This was a little bit of a shock, because there is a fish barrier well downstream from where I was fishing that was put in place to help preserve the brook trout population in this stream. I don't know if the rain and high water we have had this past winter and spring allowed the rainbows to migrate upstream, or if someone thought it would be a good idea to do some stocking of their own. This had me a little concerned, because I began to wonder if the rainbows had replaced the brook trout in the years since I had last visited this stream.

One of the many plunge pools on this creek
After catching that first rainbow, I decided to continue on upstream to see what other surprises this little creek might hold. It has some excellent looking trout habitat, with plunge pools that were surprising in their depth on a creek this size. It took some careful wading, and many times climbing out on the bank, to navigate my way upstream without getting in too deep. It was a little disappointing to fish so many good looking pools without seeing a fish, but I was fishing a dry fly the majority of the time. I wondered briefly if a dry and dropper or nymph pattern would have served me better in these deeper holes, but I decided to stick with the dry fly.

Wild Rainbow

After fishing several pools without a strike, and spooking one or two trout along the way, I hooked up with another wild rainbow trout in a large pool. This trout ate a Rio Grande Trude, another one of my favorite summer dry fly patterns for these small creeks. I had made the switch to this fly after donating the Thunderhead to the rhododendron. At this point, I was starting to wonder if my search for brook trout was becoming like looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I was having a great time, and enjoying the challenge of fishing this small stream, but in the back of my mind I kept wondering what had happened to the brook trout that I remembered catching here. Had the rainbows displaced or out competed them? Were there any left in the creek at all? I knew the only way to answer these questions was to keep fishing.

Wild Brook Trout
Finally, after donating the Rio Grande to the rhododendron and switching back to another Thunderhead, I hooked what I had been searching for in the last pool of the day. It was a young brook trout, but I took it as a good sign for the future of these fish in this particular stream. I figured that where there are small trout, there must be bigger ones somewhere. I do think that at least a couple of the trout I missed were brook trout, because I thought I caught a flash of orange belly when the trout took a swipe at my fly. I can't say for certain that's what they were, but I'd like to think that there is still a thriving population in this creek.

One of the many millipedes
The hike back out was a lot easier than the trip upstream had been, once I found a place to climb back up onto the old road. I did see signs of some insect life along the creek, with a few Yellow Sallies and small mayflies flying around. I didn't see any rising fish, so I'm thinking that these must have been the remnants of an earlier hatch or the hatch was very sparse. Another thing that surprised me was the number of millipedes that I saw hiking into and out of the creek. There seemed to be a thriving population of them in the area along the creek.

I do know that this little creek holds some bigger secrets than the ones I was lucky enough to discover on this trip, due to some hints that the creek gave up from missed strikes. Now whether these secrets are brooks, browns, or rainbows, I'm not going to try to guess. I do know that I will be back to do some more exploring on this creek, and to enjoy the solitude that comes with small streams and wild fish. This little creek is a challenge, but one that is a lot of fun to try to figure out.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph

Friday, June 28, 2013

Reflections on a Year of Ramblings

Today marks the one year anniversary of NC Outdoor Ramblings. To be completely honest, I'm amazed that it has been a year already since I started this blog. This first year has definitely been a learning experience for me about the world of blogging, and I wanted to take just a few minutes to reflect on the previous year.

To start with, I began the blog June 28, 2012 on a whim after having a conversation with my wife. I had been reading several outdoor blogs, and really enjoyed them and the unique perspective that each one brought to my favorite subjects - hunting and fishing. I was talking to my wife and mentioned to her that I thought being an outdoor writer would be an interesting career, never mentioning to her the fact that I had been playing with the idea of starting a blog. I always knew that a career in writing probably wasn't in the cards for me, and I never had any aspirations of making money off of my writing. I just enjoy being able to tell a story about the outdoors. My wife actually was the one who suggested that I start a blog, and that's when I admitted to her that I had been playing around with the idea for a while. Her suggestion was the final push I needed, and NC Outdoor Ramblings was off and running.

Initially, I struggled with the theme for this blog. It seems like the majority of the blogs that I read on a regular basis are fly fishing blogs, and for a while I thought about making my blog only fly fishing related. A few things kept me from doing a strictly fly fishing blog. One of the first reasons was that I knew in the winter time, I would struggle to find things to write about as I was likely to be out hunting instead of fishing. I figured that I didn't fish enough or tie enough flies through the winter months to have enough fresh content for the blog. Another reason I decided to stay away from a strictly fly fishing blog is I wanted to have the opportunity to write about my experiences with everything outdoors, not just fly fishing. I figured that if I made the blog name relate to fly fishing, people might be surprised to find lots of hunting stories or posts about the garden on here.

Finally, I decided to make this a blog about the outdoors in general, and I figured that would include fly fishing, hunting, and gardening - three of my favorite outdoor activities. This way, posts about an occasional hiking trip or neat pictures from the backyard or garden would have a home on the blog. Looking back over the posts from the past year, I can see a definite theme to them based on the seasons. In the spring through late summer, the posts were mainly about the garden and fishing trips, and along about September the focus switched to hunting until around the end of February. This pretty well sums up the way a typical year in the outdoors goes for me, although there are always the exceptions of late fall/winter gardening or fishing trips.

Starting off, I had no idea if anyone would ever be reading this blog, or if it would wind up being just an online journal of my (attempts at) writing. Over the past year, I feel fortunate to have made some connections with other bloggers in the outdoor blogging community, both through the Outdoor Blogger Network and through comments left here on the blog. The online world continues to amaze me, because I never would have thought about "meeting" other outdoors people in this way a few years ago. I've discovered some great blogs by writers who put me to shame, and I've hopefully been able to improve my own writing just a little in the process.

As I start my second year of writing this blog, I am looking forward to continuing to share my outdoor experiences. Thank you to everyone who has stopped by here to read, leave a comment, followed the blog or added this blog to a blog roll, liked the Facebook page, or followed me on Twitter. Hopefully this time next year, I will have lots of new experiences to reflect back on.

Thanks for stopping by!

- Joseph