Archive for the ‘trout’ Category


March 8, 2013
Lures and Flies


Lazy Ike and Lucky 13Lazy Ike and Lucky 13

Bomber and Tiny Lucky 13

Bomber and Tiny Lucky 13

Like many Southerners, I was ruined for church by early exposure to preachers.  So when I need to hear the sigh of the Eternal, I find myself drawn to a deep hollow between Fork Mountain and Double Top Mountain on the eastern flank of the Blue Ridge.  This is where the Rapidan River plunges through a hemlock forest and through gray boulders that jut from the ferny earth like the aboriginal bones of old Virginia.  This is a place of enlightenment for me, the spot where I received the blessing of my middle years.  Here, after three decades of catching fish, I began learning to fish.

Howell Raines, Fly Fishing Through the Midlife Crisis

Finally I get around to posting the three watercolor sketches I finished up yesterday afternoon (Thursday) after school, while inhabiting my Man Cave.  Tonight, I sigh with a deep sense of contentment, enjoying my first evening of Spring Break, not returning to school until March 18.

Though I doubt that I will get any fishing in during this break (there is so much work to do and I welcome the space for it), I have turned recently to watercolor sketching these vintage pieces of fishing memorabilia.

I am opening this meditation with these words from Howell Raines, whose book changed my life profoundly.  He and I live in parallel worlds–I learned to fish as a young boy, and it was always my passion, but when I took up the fly rod about ten years ago, everything changed in ways that carry religious overtones for me.

I have titled the top piece “Transitions,” because of my shift from bass lures to trout flies about a decade ago.  All the subjects in the sketch are vintage.  The lures are borrowed from dear friends of mine.  And then, a student a couple of years ago gave me a beautiful wooden box filled with vintage flies!  I have been randomly selecting them for watercolor sketches as well.  I dare not fish the vintage flies though.  I just love to look at them, along with a few vintage bamboo fly rods and antique fly reels I have acquired over the past decade–great for looking at and watercoloring, but not for real use anymore.  I treasure them like museum pieces.

Riverbend Resort, South Fork, Colorado

Almont, Colorado, about to enter the Taylor River

And of course, I couldn’t resist inserting a picture of myself during happier days.  The Taylor River, a few summers ago, lifted me out of this world of business, and inserted me into a paradise where time seemed to evaporate.  I felt those Howell Raines sentiments, with the Eternal breathing gently in my ear, and my heart palpitating every time a brown rose to sip a dry fly.  The babbling sounds of a Colorado mountain stream just have a way of changing the way I breathe the moment I step into the waters.

Finding the Seam


Thanks for reading.



Fly Fishing Troublesome Creek, Colorado

February 29, 2012

Troublesome Creek, Colorado

I have hit a snag, trying to find time from my school schedule to resume my Ridglea Theater watercolor.  Meanwhile, I’m posting my first fly fishing watercolor, created about five years ago.  The setting is Troublesome Creek, northwest of Denver, between the towns of Parshall and Kremmling.  I was guided by Bull Basin Outfitters, and thanks to my guide Bob House, had a fantastic day.  This was taken from a photo of my landing a 24-inch Cutthroat.  I did not even know my guide took the picture, using my camera, until two weeks later when I got home and began uploading photos from my digital.  I loved the composition, so I chose to render it in watercolor.  My favorite part of the painting is the stand of trees on the left border. I was working hard on the drybrush, trying to replicate an Andrew Wyeth effect.

A River Runs Through It

February 28, 2012

Finding the Seam

I have been hindered from working further on the Ridglea Theater watercolor, and did not want my blog to languish for more than a couple of days, so I am re-posting this watercolor of me fly fishing the South Fork of the Rio Grande in southwestern Colorado.  This is my second “poured” watercolor, and I still take delight in looking at it.  The original painting is still for sale at the Weiler House Fine Art Gallery (, and I still drop by occasionally to study it.  The background trees and water patterns were mostly poured, with a little brush and pencil work and salt added after the colors were set.

Last night, I had a delightful phone conversation with a dear friend and former student currently residing in Colorado.  After I hung up, I realized that it has been over two years since I visited that lovely state and entered one of those mountain streams.  As a matter of fact, I haven’t taken out my fly rod in several months, and I’m really getting the itch again.

When Norman Maclean’s novella A River Runs Through It was released as a motion picture in 1992, I was just finishing a Summer Seminar at Oregon State University, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  I knew then that fly fishing was something I had to take up, and though it took about another eight years for me to get into it, I have not been able to lay it down.

I cannot describe how my breathing changes when I step into a crystal clear Colorado stream, and peer into those pools, scanning for rainbows and browns.  I take such exquisite delight in watching the seams dividing slow current from fast, and current from pool, and watching the trout line up outside the fast water to watch insects drift by.  My heart jumps into my throat, every time I see the flash of a trout rising to take my fly as it bobs and flows past in the current.  I miss Colorado desperately, right now.

I close with my favorite line from the late Professor Maclean:

Eventually all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.  The river was cut by the world’s gerat flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time.  On some of those rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.

Thanks for reading.

Fly Fishing Watercolor for the One-Man Show

September 9, 2011

Finding the Seam

My breathing changes profoundly the moment I step into a mountain stream with waders and a fly rod.  There will never be enough of those precious moments, so every time I journey to the Colorado high country, I breathe a prayer of gratitude.  The crystal clarity of a trout stream moving over the rocks from the basement of time contains a beauty beyond the reach of my words.  Henry David Thoreau said “time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.  I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.”

It took a number of years for me to work up the courage to watercolor a fly fishing composition.  My wife took this picture of me fly fishing in South Fork, Colorado.   I chose to pour this composition, masking out tree patterns and pouring pure watercolor pigment from bowls onto the soaked paper.  Sprinkling salt and spritzing the drying pigments created a number of satisfying textures in the foliage as well as the surface of the stream.

I am now counting the hours toward the opening of my One-Man-Show.   Forty-two watercolors are in place at the Weiler House Fine Art Gallery (  The show opens Saturday night 5-9:00.   This watercolor has been framed and is now hanging in the show.  I’m proud that my friends get to see the painting at last.  I’m deeply satisfied with the depths of colors and the effects created by the pouring technique.

Thanks for reading.

Fly Fishing on the Brazos Watercolor Sketch Finished

February 27, 2011

Fly Fishing the Brazos

I decided to add a diminutive fly fisherman working the currents in the lower left-hand corner of this sketch.  If I decide he doesn’t “work out,” then I’ll crop him out when I mat and frame the composition.  I’m glad to have another watercolor sketch “in the box,” and delighted that I had yesterday’s outing/odyssey.  But now I’d like to finish up that Eureka Springs BIG painting.  I’m getting kind of tired of looking at it and want to sign it off and drop it off.

Thanks for reading.


Escape to the River for Plein Air Painting and Fly Fishing

February 27, 2011

Highway 16 Bridge over the Brazos

Plein air study of Brazos River Bridge

Saturday offered a break-out day for me.  I set out early in the morning for a two-hour drive west to the Brazos River near Possum Kingdom dam.  Rainbow trout are released there on five different occasions throughout the winter months.  The day was wide open, as my wife Sandi was attending two separate equestrian events in Weatherford.  Along the way, I had to stop at a classic auto show, where I photographed a row of six Hudsons from 1937-1956.  I will no doubt be creating some watercolors of them sooner rather than later.  I also encountered an “Edward Hopper” painting composition–a magnificent Victorian house high on a hill, bathed in the morning sunlight.  Stopping also for a breakfast add-on, as well as a gasoline fill-up, cooler of ice for (hopefully) rainbow trouth and some bottled water, I began to wonder if I would make it before noon.  I did.

Last weekend, I was distracted by fly fishing, and at the end of the day, too pooped to get out the easel and paint, so this time I decided to reverse my priorities.  I set up my French easel alongside the boat ramp and tried to capture this magnificent Highway 16 bridge over the Brazos.  I worked as quickly as possible, mostly wet-in-wet, and then did some sharper definitional work, enough to capture where the details would lie.  The sun grew hotter, my back and neck started to ache, so I broke down the easel, rigged up the fly rod, struggled into my waders and boots, and descended to the river.  Like last week, I lost four and managed to get one on the stringer.  I guess that’s what comes with a barbless hook (for me, anyway).  The size 20 elk-hair caddis does manage to lure 10-12 inch trout to the surface, and I’ll never cease feeling the thrill of watching a riser bust the surface.

By 3:30, I was feeling weary, and knew that I had a two-hour road trip waiting for me, so I packed it in.  On both legs of the trip, I thrilled to the reading of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, narrated by Matt Dillon.  The timing was funny, as I encountered the row of parked Hudsons in Weatherford, just 15 minutes after Sal Paradise asked Dean Moriarty how he had gotten across the United States so fast to visit him.  Answer: “Aw man, that Hudson goes!”

Thanks for reading.  I’m still tweaking this watercolor and may have a different “look” by tonight.  Either way, I plan to be through with it by today’s end.  I have bigger fish to fry!

Fly Fishing Watercolor nearly finished, Halloween 2010

October 31, 2010

Fly Fishing in South Fork, Colorado

After letting this one sit for several months, I took it out this evening, hoping to finish it.  I have another festival coming in two weeks, and would love to complete some of my unfinished pieces lurking in the shadows of my disheveled studio.  This started out as a poured watercolor, and I’m trying to ease off on the brushwork, not wishing to wipe out some of the wonderful accidental effects that came from pouring and salting, mostly on the water and in the background thicket.

Compared to my other works, this is a larger piece, measuring 18 x 24″.  I need to get comfortable once again with larger watercolors.  I’ve been working the 9 x 12″ size for about a year, and fear that I’ve gotten too comfortable there.  I guess that’s a major feature of success in creating art–breaking out of those restrictive “comfort” areas.

Thank you for reading.

Finished the Small Fly Fishing Composition, October 26, 2010

October 26, 2010

Thunderstorm Rise

I finally finished this small 9 x 12″ watercolor that I started several weeks back.  I had never gotten around to finishing the hands, fly rod, and some of the foliage details.  I have another large fly fishing composition in progress that began as a “poured” piece.  Hopefully I will be posting it soon.

Thanks for reading.

Another attempt to paint on a miserably humid day, September 26, 2010

September 26, 2010

Troublesome Catch

This small watercolor I worked on during my second day of the Jazz by the Boulevard festival in Fort Worth.  The humidity index was off the charts, and I couldn’t keep my sweat off the paper!  I was pleased with much of this composition, and actually signed it.  But now I’ve changed my mind and will go back into it.  I believe the water surface needs more attention, and I’ve never been pleased with the color and value of the fly fisherman.  I’m thinking about sanding out portions of him and trying for a lighter re-do.  I don’t like how he disappears into the picture, and don’t want to darken him further.  Perhaps a more khaki color is needed in the clothing.  I’m very pleased with the cloud burst (that was an accident).  But I’m dissatisfied with the pair of pastures on the left side of the composition.  I think I’ll leave the foliage as it is.  This was a quick watercolor sketch, and I think it still has some possibilities.
Thanks for reading.

Unmasking the Fly Fishing Watercolor, July 8, 2010

July 8, 2010

South Fork, Colorado 1

Southfork 2

Southfork 3

Southfork 4

Southfork 4

I’ve just peeled away all the masking fluid from this piece, and to say I’m excited about what has come to light is an understatement.  I have finally learned how to draw with masking fluid, indeed even to paint with masking fluid.  For years all I had to show from masking was blobs of white on the paper that had to be “doctored.”  Now I pause, because I’m not sure exactly how to render all these white areas.  But I’ll figure out something.