Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Bad news for Great Lakes anglers

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asiancarp.jpgIt now appears that Asian carp have breached the multimillion-dollar barrier designed to keep them from entering the Great Lakes.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, carp have been found just 8 miles from Lake Michigan, 17 miles beyond an electronic barrier built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Biologists believe the species, which has a tendency to dominate any ecosystem it enters,  could ultimately wreck sport fishing in the Great Lakes. Recreational boating could suffer as well; the carp tend to jump when spooked (see photo), and have been known to clobber unsuspecting boaters.

bigbuck.jpgIt’s the weekend before the big event! West Virginia’s firearm season for bucks begins Monday. If all goes as expected, roughly 300,000 hunters will be in the woods and the weather should be a lot better than it was last year.

Division of Natural Resources officials expect a better-than-average buck kill. Look for a harvest somewhere in the 70,000 range.

Some things are too pretty for words

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The Internet can be a wonderful place!

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/tz_EgxMVVTY" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Above is a link to a YouTube video of Jeong Park, a South Korean woman and a magnificent flycaster. The video shows her casting, in real time and in slow motion, with single-hand and two-hand fly tackle. The casting is impressive, and the little wrinkle she tosses in at the end of the video is a show-stopper. Enjoy.

The catchy musical accompaniment, in case you’re interested, is Boney M‘s version of “Rivers of Babylon.”

gandstand.jpgWith buck season opening next week, the timing on this is especially unfortunate.

Gander Mountain Co. is recalling 13,000 hang-on fixed-position tree stands. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the stands have been known to fall because the securing clasp opened unexpectedly.

The recall involves the GMT101 and GMT103 models (pictured).

Details are here, on the CPSC Web site.

Say hello to Khloe

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khloe.jpgWelcome to the world to my brand-new grand-niece, Khloe Addyson McCoy. She was born Tuesday at 1:50 a.m. (don’t babies ever get born during business hours?). She’s a petite little thing: 5 pounds, 13 ounces, 18 3/4 inches long. Mom, Dad and baby are all doing well.

Know where I can find a nice camouflage sleeper, newborn sized?

Florida catch leads to piranha scare

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flapiranha.jpgFlorida fish and wildlife officials are taking no chances with their latest foreign invader.

When a Palm Springs teenager landed a red-bellied piranha at a nearby fishing hole — and when investigating biologists found another piranha alive in the pond — crews quickly showed up to poison the pond with rotenone. The kid lost his favorite fishing spot, but at least the state avoided a brush with yet another invasive, potentially dangerous tropical species.

The Palm Beach Post has the complete story.

kidtourney.jpgThe Future Fisherman Foundation has come up with a novel idea that, if successful, might help create a whole new generation of tournament anglers.

Called “Tournaments for Tomorrow,” the program asks fishing tournament organizers to charge anglers a few bucks extra to compete in their tournaments, and to donate the money they collect to Tournaments for Tomorrow.

The money would then be used to fund youth-oriented fishing programs such as Physh EdHooked on Fishing — Not on Drugs, and the Boys’ and Girls’ Club’s C.A.T.C.H. initiative.

Details on the program are available at The Outdoor Wire.

Hippo attack turns Disney stereotype on its ear

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crochippo1.jpgMaybe now people will believe just how dangerous hippos can be.

A Czech wildlife photographer, Vaclav Silha, recently captured images of a fully grown Nile crocodile being killed by an enraged hippopotamus. The Telegraph has the story and photos.

We in the United States have a hard time imagining that a hippo could do that. The hippos we see mostly are in cartoons, where they’re pink and chubby and oh-so-harmless. Not so in real life. The 2-ton mammals have long, razor-sharp fighting tusks that can quite literally bite through a human being. They’re notoriously ill-tempered. In sub-Saharan Africa, hippos are considered (along with the Cape buffalo and the crocodile) to be the creatures most dangerous to humans.

A tribute to a friend

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In my column this week, I pay tribute to the late Charlie Heartwell, one of the finest fly tiers West Virginia has ever seen:

When anglers “match the hatch” on West Virginia’s trout streams, they owe a debt of gratitude to Charlie Heartwell.
Heartwell passed away Oct. 19 at the too-young age of 72. The state’s trout-fishing community mourned his loss.
Some fishermen knew Charlie because of the years he spent as the Division of Natural Resources’ trout-hatchery supervisor. Most, however, knew him as a creator of exquisite trout flies.
On evenings, weekends and holidays, Charlie would hole up in the basement of his Beverly home and tie dry flies, wet flies, nymphs and streamers – 20,000 to 25,000 of them a year.
Like many commercial tiers, Charlie worked at lightning speed. From the first wrap of thread to the final whip-finish, he could fashion a standard winged dry fly in about 2 1/2 minutes.
Few tiers can manage that kind of speed, let alone do so while turning out perfectly proportioned, perfectly balanced, perfectly elegant flies. Charlie could, and did. Each of his flies was a tiny work of art.
I first met Charlie 30 years ago at Trout Unlimited’s Fly Fishing School. Charlie was there to give a fly tying demonstration, and to talk about trout-stream insects and the flies that imitated them.
When they introduced Charlie, the camp’s organizers went over his bona fides – a Ph.D. in fish diseases, the man in charge of all Mountain State hatcheries, supplier of flies to tackle shops around the country, etc. The buildup had me expecting some impossibly highbrow lecture filled with Latin scientific names and loads of entomological jargon.
Then Charlie spoke. “I’ve come to talk about ‘critters,'” he said.
Charlie had a remarkable talent for taking complicated, highly technical material and expressing it in words anyone could understand. He went out of his way to help fledgling fly fishermen, especially those who attempted to tie their own flies.
We became friends. He critiqued the flies I tied and showed me how to make them better. He gave me lessons on proportion and balance that I use to this day. He helped me build speed and efficiency.
Steve Brown, a DNR colleague of Charlie’s, enjoyed a similar friendship with him. In the 1970s, Charlie spent a great deal of time working out a “hatch chart” for the Mountain State – a chart that would tell fishermen when certain insects hatch, and which flies to use to imitate them.
“Charlie developed the hatch chart, and I got to be there to watch as it happened,” Brown said. “We did a lot of kick-seining to collect nymphs. We carried jars of alcohol around to preserve the bugs in. Charlie developed a whole series of trout flies based on the insects we collected.”
On one of those fishing-cum-research expeditions, to the headwaters of the Elk River near Slatyfork, Charlie and Steve enjoyed a day they’d long remember.
“We must have caught 50 fish that day, from mid-sized brown trout to rainbows in the 16- to 17-inch range,” Steve recalled. “The fish just wore us out. I visited Charlie in the hospital a few weeks before he died. We talked fishing the whole time. He asked if I remembered that day at Slatyfork. I said I did. Charlie looked me in the eye and said, ‘Best day of fishing I ever had.'”
People who don’t fish think fishing is all about the fish. It isn’t. It’s about the people you fish with, and the memories you collect together.
For those of us who knew Charlie Heartwell, the memories are warm. And rich. And lasting.