Over the years I have developed a fetish of sorts for knives. I have boxes full and none really became a true Everyday carry knife for an outdoorsman. I am an outdoorsman so i never fell victim to the “tactical” knife trap. I want a functional knife that I can open a package, dress out a brace of upland birds, or dress a deer. Several years ago a purchased a havalon brand knife but the blades were a pain to change, especially with wet hands. Then in 2019 I came across the Outdoor Edge 3.5 inch Razorlite EDC. The knife only weighs 2.8 ounces and the blades are simple to replace. Outdoor Edge designed a release button for the replacement blades rather than make the operator fight with the blade and risk injury.
The replacement blades are stiffer than the other brands and lock in tight leaving zero movement in the blade assembly. The replacement blades are made of 6mm thick 420 J2 stainless and they are literally razor sharp. I carried this knife for over a year and the blades stay very sharp for a long time. We dressed and deboned 4 whitetail on a single blade. It comes in a couple colors but I prefer the black/blaze orange for field work.
If I was rating this knife on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the best it would be a very solid 5.
I have always been a lover of “dry flies” or poppers. As a predominantly warm water fly fisherman poppers have always had a large presence in my box. That being said, I have been tying my own flies for decades so, I tend to stay on top of new head styles and materials that hit the market. A few seasons ago I stumbled across the Double Barrel popper head from Flymen Fishing Company and have loved them ever since. The design allows for great noise in the water and that makes them perfect for feeding fish. When on feeding fish my poppers used to get lost in all the action, that is a problem I no longer have. They are also very light so casting them is a piece of cake, I almost exclusively use a 6wt Redington predator for bass fishing and it handles these with no issues,
The heads appear to be two cylinders welded together with uniform cupped face. That design moves a lot of water and can make some noise! The recessed sockets for they eyes keeps them from getting knocked off on the bite, I use Loon Outdoors UV resin over the top of them. The orange heads are my go to for smallmouth and the green for largemouth. The blue color has had some success on redfish in the gulf as well.
If your not a tyer you can still get the Double Barrel Popper from Flymen Fishing company as a complete fly. Give them a try and you will not be disappointed!
After two season of using these I can give them the highest marks!
Poppers, be they bass or panfish, are the staple pattern in many fly fishers boxes. They are also the most misunderstood patterns on the market. You can actually manipulate not only the profile of a popper but the noise it makes with the material you choose for the tail.
A dense tail material can make your fly ride nose up. This makes the “pop” louder and more obnoxious, which is perfect for feeding bass. Natural furs are dense but the right furs add a lot of action to a stationary fly. Plus the naturally translucent tips give the fly more of a minnow appearance. The down side to fur is that it tends to hold water and water is weight. They also make the fly set lower in the water as a whole. The upside to natural fur is durability. A properly tired in tail will last you through way more strikes than the more standard marabou.
The above is an image of Finnish Raccoon fur. I use this on most of my Double Barrel poppers from Flymen Fishing Company. These popper heads are ideal for natural fur tails as they are extremely buoyant and have a larger profile in the water. Note: When tying this material you have to be cognizant of tail length as long tails will foul on the hook during our cast. When I need longer tails I use a mono loop to keep fouling to a minimum.
Finnish Raccoon can be a challenge to find and it is expensive. I buy in bulk because its one of those materials worth its weight in gold.
Craft fur is a synthetic substitute for natural furs. Its readily available about anywhere from fly shops to craft shops, comes in just about any color you can dream up, and it’s very reasonably priced.
I don’t care for it on poppers for a couple reasons. First it does not have the uniform and translucent tips that natural furs have. Second is it has a tendency to just hang behind a fly in a straight bunch. This is perfect for certain saltwater or carp patterns, but is not an attribute to a fly that 90% of the time will get eaten while its setting still. Now there have been times when craft fur under a natural fur tail has been the ticket. Large pike plies are a great example of that. Again if you choose to use craft fur tail length is paramount. A long tail will require a mono loop to prevent fouling.
Marabou is the most common or most traditional of popper tail materials. In the early days this was the standard material for most top water patterns. The two main advantages of marabou are density, in short tails, and undulation in the water. Marabou is so pliable that you can get a better tail on shorter patterns. Its harder to get that bulk with natural fur without having to large of a tie off point on the hook. Marabou also has great action even when a fly is stationary.
Some people say “When one door closes another one opens” everytime something negative happens. Personally if one door opens as another is closing you’re probably in jail. As a year round outdoorsman I have found my seasons are like the proverbial doors. One ends as another is beginning. I finished processing the last deer of the 2020 season this afternoon, put some pheasants on the smoker, and tied a couple dozen flies for an upcoming trout fishing trip. See we have refused to let the election,covid, or a bit of civil unrest interrupt life. Our life revolves around a calendar of seasons, not the kind that make the leaves change either. This is a year in review of sorts and after reading this maybe 2020 was not so bad afterall.
January 1st found me knee deep in a trout stream, as it has for more years than i care to admit. This is all thanks to my dear friend Jim Mauries and his fly shop Fly South. Many moons ago we all would catch the first fish of the year on New Year’s Day. Coldest year was over a decade ago on the Caney Fork RIver with a couple other fly shop bums. It was about 19 that day and was a brutal day to be outside, let alone standing in a river. We had to wait for the sun to get on the water to get it warm enough for the fish to even feed. We caught our fish and that was that. It’s not a contest its a way of saluting the previous season and welcoming the new ones. 2020 found me in the Duck River tailwater alone, I seem to the the only one left who does not have the family issues that plague some of my friends. I caught my fish, had coffee on the river alone, and left the river gloriously happy.
February was a transition month. We spent time cleaning gear, removing treestands, and blinds. To some this probably sounds a lot like work but to us its as a part of hunting season as the hunting itself. At least once a week we chased some trout on the local rivers and maybe a bass or two if the sun stayed out long enough. A rabbit hunt or two this month as well. Deer hunting is done and small game hunters now own the woods. Besides the 20 gauge needed a good workout before the season closed.
March brought me to the shallows of my local lakes with a fly rod. The warmer shallows and mudflats bring the largemouth bass out to feed. My mind says we were in shorts but normally it’s still cool enough that we were wearing jackets. March is consumed with small ponds, lakes, and certain rivers. March also brought numerous dinners of fresh crappie because, anyone can catch a crappie in March, according to the old timers. Then one day it happened and we heard a turkey gobble…
April found me chasing bass in the duck river and redfishing in South Carolina. There were long nights tying flies for the much anticipated smallmouth bite on our local rivers. April is pretty much dedicated to catching bass with a 7wt Sage Fly Rod for me. My boy likes to chase those thunder chickens and float the river a lot. I guess I can’t complain he could be setting on his ass waiting for a stimulus check!
May has always found me hunting squirrels as I am fortunate enough to live where we have a spring season. It’s hard to beat fried young squirrels and gravy! That old 16 gauge has put a bunch of them on the plate for sure.
June is always a prep month for deer season. Mineral licks, Protein feeders, and trimming all potential treestand shooting lanes. We throw out cameras this month as well. As bad as I want to dislike technology I must say that I do enjoy watching our deer as they grow antlers and shed velvet. This year we used Trophy Rock 465 and we very pleased with the results. After years of being careful what we shoot these are a great examples, of what some elbow grease and trigger control can do for small properties. That’s right I said shoot not harvest as we dont harvest deer around here. We hunt them, shoot them, process them, and eat them.
July is all about Fly fishing the rivers around the southeast. That could be because it hot as blue blazes here in Tennessee in that month. We are also shooting sporting clays at the Nashville Gun Club & Limestone Hunting Preserve during this month as well because… aw hell who needs a reason to drag out the shotguns and have fun anyway.
August is the start of small game season here in the great state of Tennessee. In my house we all learned to hunt small game before hunting deer. I think this a missed crucial step for kids nowadays. Early August is food plot maintenance and the setting up of treestands for Archery season. In addition to the Normal sporting Clays every other weekend we now shoot 3D archery a couple time a week. We really put our Bear Bows to the test shooting through the heat of the summer. I might try to squeeze in an early morning or three on the river catching bass or trout. Wait who am I kidding there is no might I will be standing in a river a dozen times this month.
September is the most glorious month of year, except for the other 11. Small game season is in full swing and we are allowing a lot of squirrels to meet their maker. Dove season, the first wingshooting opportunity of the year, opens on September 1st. The last couple seasons I have opened the season up with a Dove/Wild Hog hunting in texas at MANX Outfitters. Plus the last weekend in the month is when deer season begins! If you don’t have a thermacell Tennessee archery season might not be for you!
October is all about Bowhunting and Fly fishing. The deer are moving and this fish are biting at about any moment. Dove season is open as is squirrel season add in hungry smallmouth bass and you have a blueprint for a great month. I don’t leave home without a survival kit including a bow, Shotgun, .22 rifle, two fly rods and enough flies to stock a small fly shop. Wing shooting may, or may not be good depending on the heat.
November brings conflict to our house in that deer,waterfowl,small game, and wingshooting seasons are all in full swing. So we do the best we can and just do all three plus fish a time or two as well. This year was no different. A little deer hunting, a little fly fishing, a lot of small game hunting.
December is all deer hunting and bird hunting for me. Now my son is one of those weird kids who wants to be cold and wet while shooting 3.5 inch shells at some ducks that may or may not show up. This season I took a week break from Tennessee and went to Prairie Wildlife in Mississippi for for some upland hunting, The trip was so amazing that I will be headed back on February of 2021 just to scratch the proverbial upland itch.
I typed all that to say this to you all. There is no doubt 2020 brought us challenges like we never could have imagined. It pushed us all to the brink of disaster and not everyone came out of the other side of this. There has never been a year I could point to and say it was horrible until 2020. Yet after reading this I realize that I was, and always will be living the dream, because I CHOOSE TO BE BLESSED. I hope we can all count our blessings and let the door close, or as I prefer let the seasons change.
I think, no matter how great our careers are, we all get to the point we want a break. Well 2020 put me in the NEED a break category for sure. It was on the day I realized that I had to get away that my friend called. He asked me to meet him at Prairie Wildlife, in West Point Mississippi, for some upland bird hunting. I about fell down trying to throw boots, shotguns, ammo, and clothes into the truck. My GPS said I would be there in a scant 4 hours and 9 minutes. I left my house at 0700 and rolled thought this gate at 1105. I had no idea this place was the wingshooting lodge of the year until I arrived.
Once I arrived the check in process was very fast and efficient. I signed a waiver and was pointed to my room. It was room number one in the main lodge and directly across from the never ending coffee pot, talk about a win. Still not able to decompress, I unpacked and sat down to check my email and see what was happening at work. My itinerary said cocktails at 6 and dinner at 7 that night so I snuck in the very rare nap. Mind you I had not been past my room since I arrived. After my much needed nap I ventured down the hall to the dinner room and that’s when it hit me, my phone had not rang in hours. Upon further inspection I discovered my second win of the week, little to no cell service! Now I could eat my dinner in peace but, not until after a good strong drink or two. When I walked into the main room of the lodge it was as if the stress of 2020 melted away like the ice on a spring creek in March. There was a fire in the fireplace, taxidermy on all the walls, and fine shotguns on display everywhere. I had the place to myself for about 30 minutes and I am positive I never moved from the couch in front of that glorious fire.
The taxidermy in itself was a display of artistry. Everything from predators to upland game to deer. They had a room full of relaxation.
Moving on the the food… I am the guy who can eat a can of beanie weenies, heated on an exhaust manifold, and be happy. I was not expecting 5 star meals three times a day to say the least. That first night was Redfish, that I am sure was swimming less that a day before. After dinner and a few drinks I felt the stress of working in transportation begin to lift from my shoulders.
On day one we were treated to a euro style tower shoot. I had never participated in one of these so my expectations were a little cloudy. After we finished I finally felt totally decompressed and to say my Browning 725 got a workout is an understatement.
After the tower shoot we were treated to a world class lunch and an hour long nap! I felt like I had passed and was in heaven. That evening we did walk up hunts for birds that had gotten away from the tower earlier. It was a real treat to hunt Pheasants and Partridge behind good working dogs.
That evening they served a pork ribeye for dinner. I am not sure how I did not know about this dish but you can bet I went straight to a butcher shop when I got home. It was delicious and paired with fresh vegetables and a baked sweet potato.
That evening we were taken to the Black Prairie Helice range. I had never shot helice so I really did not know what to expect. All I can say is as soon as Helice is available at the Nashville Gun Club I will be giving them a lot of my hard earned money. Pictures would not do Helice justice so do yourself a favor a look it up and watch the videos. It’s very different than sporting clays, Skeet, or trap. Honestly it’s a game where the wingshooter is better prepared than the target shooter.
Day two began similar to day one with a marvelous breakfast promptly at 8 am. (Now I had been soaking up that fireplace since 5 am). We then headed out for a mixed bag upland hunt. I hunted with a guide by the name of Todd Robertson. He and his dog izzy were a pleasure to hunt with. His pace matched mine perfectly, even with my bad hip. I am sure this was by design as he was a consummate professional, and an easy guy to hunt with. If i typed a thousand words about his dog Izzy it would not be enough as she was an amazing pointer!
That afternoon we were treated to the very first waterfowl hunt the lodge had ever had. Once again the folks at Prairie Wildlife went above and beyond. I am not a waterfowl hunter as I prefer to be moving behind a good upland dog. However this was just way to much fun! The picture below is a result of a group of 18 hunters.
Day three, our last day, was a sad day for me. I was watching the sun come up, over one of the many managed lakes on the property, and my phone beeped to make me aware of a litany of voicemails I had missed. I had to do what any professional would have done in that scenario. I turned the damn thing off and got another cup of coffee.
We ended the adventure with a final upland hunt, again I choose to hunt with Todd and Izzy. No one knew but Izzy looked just like my first bird dog from way back in the late 70″s. This morning i didn’t not see Izzy pointing I saw my old Partner Sam and her Last Point. It was a glorious morning of wingshooting, laughing, and fellowship. I know my dad in heaven was walking beside me with his trusty Ithaca Model 37 featherlight 16 gauge.
I left Prairie Wildlife both recharged and relaxed. The entire staff made an impression on me that I will remember forever. My only regret was I did not hunt with Benny, the lodge manager, or Mr. Jimmy and his dog Gabe. That’s why I will be back down there in february to chase birds and maybe catch a bass.