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.
Poppers, both large and small, have been a staple of fly fisherman around the world since the first angler saw a fish break the surface. The obsession with poppers among non trout anglers is equal to the dry fly purists in the trout world.
Many years ago I used to spend a lot of money on the old school Betts bream buster style poppers. Hell I would be lying if I didn’t mention I still have a handful of those old school bream busters in my vest right now. They were cheap and very effective. Even though they are panfish fly I have caught hundreds of bass on them as well. In fact my first bass on the fly was caught on one. I have always found it odd that most fly shops would rather close their doors than sell such a “cheap” fly.
Poppers now come in different shapes and sizes. Each shape and style has a very specific purpose. I tie flies professionally for Catch Fly Fishing and have learned, through many hours of testing, that popper head style has a definite impact on fish catches. I have also learned that popper paint has an impact on fisherman as well!
Poppers come in a myriad of sizes and shapes however, in freshwater is can be broken down into just a few key styles. First and most common is the cup faced popper head.
Cup faced Popper head
These are cupped like the front of a hula popper. This style is primarily designed to make the loud signature POP and attract fish. The Double-Barrel popper heads from Flymen Fishing Company are the best your money can buy. These heads are designed to really make some noise in the water. They excel at getting the attention of fish that are feeding heavily. When casting to fish that are in a feeding frenzy the Double Barrel popper head will not get lost in the chaos for sure.
Blockhead poppers are my go-to style for wary smallmouth bass. They are designed to push water but not have the highly audible POP of the cup faced style. These are not “aerodynamic” at all as they are designed to move a lot of water, and for the most part get the attention of a wary or resting fish. They may be a little harder to cast in the wind but the rewards outweigh anything else.
Pencil Style Poppers
Pencil style poppers are the real deal for times when you need to be stealthy, or when you are trying to imitate bait with a longer more symmetrical profile. They land softly, move less water, and with the right tail materials are perfect for those extra spooky fish. I use them exclusively when I need to dead drift a popper in warm or clear water situations.
Stay tuned as next up will be the different material choices for poppers and how the impact the fly.
From now until late fall the bass will absolutely destroy flies, especially poppers, sliders, and divers!
Lefty’s popper heads are large enough to get attention, but subtle enough to not spook cruising fish.
I recently finished the new book, Dumb Luck and the Kindness of Strangers, by John Gierach. If your a Gierach Fan you will love the book as it reads like your hearing the stories while standing in your favorite fly shop. If you have never read his work and you like fishing stories, that may or may not be about fishing, then this is a must read.
He has written some books that were sure enough page burners in the past but, this one has got to be some of this best work all together. He introduces readers to some new friends, and a dog or two, that truly bring the story alive.
The book has 22 chapters in total. Of those 21 chapters read like the Geirach of the past, captivating, easy to feel as if your standing there seeing the story pan out in real time, and his signature no bullshit style of writing. Then there is chapter 18 ,”Up in Michigan”. This chapter comes off as probably his best story ever written. When I finished the chapter I am positive I had went through every possible emotion that a person can have. Once again “Up in Michigan” was a fishing story that had very little to do about the fishing.