Johnny Carrol Sain's blog

Red in tooth and claw

Wilderness at home
Photo: Don DeBold / cc by 2.0.

We got our first laying hens for a couple of reasons: free-range chicken eggs taste way better than store bought (it’s not subjective, there is no comparison) and for organic pest control.

A nearby faraway

Standing outside the woods, peering into it, became ritual
Photo: Johnny Carrol Sain

“When I call to mind my earliest impressions, I wonder whether the process ordinarily referred to as growing up is not actually a process of growing down; whether experience, so much touted among adults as the thing children lack, is not actually a progressive dilution of the essentials by the trivialities of living.”

The snake advocate

Catching of venomous snakes by nonexperts is stupid—monumentally stupid
Photo: Johnny Carrol Sain

Serpent encounters are part of growing up in Arkansas. My first introduction was through Sunday School, in the pages of an illustrated Bible, with the depiction of a serpent wrapped around an apple tree. This was pre-kindergarten age. I learned that snakes once had legs and could speak before being driven onto their bellies to eat dust and rendered dumbstruck simply for offering Eve an option. Sure, the option was directly opposite what the Almighty had commanded, but I never viewed the snake as an archetype for evil.

How to save the world

First, you'll need a mason jar
Photo: Johnny Carrol Sain

For seven days and seven nights the rain came in drizzles, downpours and late-winter mist. When the sun finally appeared on the first of March, the golden rays summoned a dramatic transformation. Spring had been waiting just on the other side of those rains as the first wave of tentative green blanketed the neighbor’s horse pasture. Spring beauties and bluets had popped up in the yard while trout lilies glowed like an ethereal promise in the somber woodland behind our home. And from the freshened rivulets and filled forest potholes came the melody of frogs.

The new front in the war on public lands

Congress' latest, shameless handout to big business is one you probably haven’t heard of
The North Umpqua is one of the nation's most beautiful river and is known for its steelhead and salmon runs. 34 miles of the North Umpqua have been designated as a BLM wild and scenic river and this section has been set aside as fly-fishing only (photo: Bob Wick/BLM).

The sellouts are tremendously talented at coming up with clever naming. Who could be opposed to citizens uniting or a foundation dedicated to our heritage? Likewise, who among us dare say we oppose resilient forests? What sorry SOB could possibly be against a bill that claims to protect our woodlands, a bill with that pluck and hardiness, that quintessential American tenacity baked right into the label — the Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2017, AKA H.R.2936, 115th Congress?

Me. I’m the sorry SOB opposed to it. And you should be as well.

I don't like the word sportsman

It's a primal thing, not a sport
Photo: Ray Gadd

Bullfrog tadpoles are big, easily fat as my thumb and a little longer. They’re obvious while resting on a pond’s mud flat or among the rocks in a tumbling creek. They wear the typical cryptic olive-brown camouflage you’d expect to see on an aquatic creature that can easily slide down any number of gullets, but their sheer size makes them conspicuous, or at least to me it does. I don’t see how any green heron or kingfisher could ever miss them.They look like plump, lazy little morsels, easily captured by even the sloppiest of attempts.

But they ain’t.

Downstream

This is not where you put a massive, manure-spewing industrial hog farm
The Buffalo River (photo: Johnny Carrol Sain).

I’d lamented about rained-out local creek smallmouth fishing all summer long. High water had made fish tough to find and often posed a wading hazard. But just an hour’s drive north of my home, the crystalline cool flows of the Buffalo National River resembled something closer to normal summer conditions. Ever since the fly rod — an elegant tool for a more civilized angler — found its way to my hand last fall, I’d dreamed of a trip to the iconic Buffalo River.

Green menace

The futility and stupidity of the American lawn
Photo: Johnny Carrol Sain

Man versus nature is a common theme in America. The idea that Europeans whittled a civilization out of wilderness is one of the tired old narratives crammed full of erroneous assumptions and misinformation that has reinforced this idea. Even an education can’t turn back the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, message pumped into our brains from an early age that we are supposed to subdue nature; bend it to our will. And this is often motivated purely by ego. Lawns are the perfect example.

Trans-Angler: Old habits

Trouble getting stuck
Photo: Cameron Rhodes

In the journey to refinement of my piscatorial pursuits, I’ve fundamentally changed everything I knew regarding, rods, reels, casting, lures, and giving life to lures. Casting was the first hurdle and, though there are still acres of room for improvement, laying a fly in the water is not the voodoo art I once thought it was. Even the dreaded Clousers are becoming more responsive. And I’ve started to experiment with different casts. Roll casts aren’t too tough as long as line is in the water, providing just the right amount of drag.

Trans-Angler: Clousered

Some flies have a mind of their own
Photo: Johhny Carrol Sain

I’ve been at this fairy wand fishing thing for over four months now. This year’s peculiar winter, or rather lack of winter — a blessing from the climate change gods of doom — meant rarely a week went by that I wasn’t able to spend time on the water’s edge or at least practice casting in the yard. I caught a few fish. In fact, I’d lay a wager that I caught more fish this winter than any winter prior.

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