Saturday, May 30, 2009


All this warm weather has me wanting to do some fishing. I'm going to go to California later this summer, and I'm wanting to do some fly fishing for native golden trout while I am there.

I'm still formulating my scheme, my plan if you will. I'll probably end up going up the eastern side of the Sierras near Bishop, California. The fishing isn't near as wild and wooly on this side of the Sierras, but it is a more doable proposition for me at this time. If I have to go alone, then this will definately be the place I'll be going, because it has numerous day hike streams, creeks and lakes that contain golden trout that can be reached via short day hikes.

If I can talk Billy Ray into doing it with me, we could go further north and west into the Golden Trout Wilderness. We'd do a bit more hiking and camping there, but we'd hit far more isolated and theoretically less fished high mountain lakes this way.

I've been reading about golden fishing since I was in junior high school, and it's always been one of those "someday" trips I would take. Since I'm having to go to California anyway, it only makes sense to add a few days to my trip and do some fishing.

I don't know how the fishing is yet for goldens, because the trails and lakes have just opened up in those high areas. The snows melt in May in most of those areas, although it is not uncommon to still have snows or patchy snow on the ground in July in the Sierras.

Most golden trout are tiny by comparison to other trout, and indeed, to other freshwater fish that I commonly fish for. You use super ultra light fly and spinning tackle, with spinning tackle having the edge on the high mountain lakes. You have to use barbless hooks so as to foster better catch and release, so the barbless hooks and ultra light tackle not only add to the sport but making catching a wary fish harder than it already is.

There are a ton of websites about those who seek these legendary fish, and this site is a good one that details treks for some of these elusive and rare trout.

I've got the gear, it looks like I'm going to have the time, so I'm going to give it a shot.

Bolivar's Back

If you are looking for some interesting entertainment this weekend, head on down to the Stingaree Music Festival and The Texas Crab Festival, two events which are co-happening at Bolivar Island (more correctly an island-like penisula and known officially as Bolivar Peninsula). You can find a wiki-byte of history of this interesting island here

You can find a much better and fully documented brief history of this important Texas hisory location here at

If there is any festival that deserves a portion of your expendable recreation dollars, Bolivar has got to be one of the most deserving recipients.

You can find details about the festivals here and it began yesterday and will end on Sunday, May 31st.

Like many native Houstonians, I grew up spending a lot of time with family and friends on Bolivar. The beach is big, even by Texas beach standards, and the fact you could drive on the beach made setting up a weekend fishing camp all the easier, since you didn't have to tote a tent and the voluminous supplies one needs when setting up a beach saltwater fishing camp from a parking lot or roadside across the oft-times rattlesnake filled sand dunes.

Many of my transplanted Houstonian friends fell in love with Bolivar over other area beach communities. It was almost always WAY less crowded than Galveston or Surfside beaches, and the isolated nature of the area just made it seem that little bit further from civilization than lots of places so close to big cities and towns.

So of course, Ike just devastated, if not decimated, the island and it's inhabitants. Before the storm, there were lots of beach houses at Bolivar and its neighboring towns. They were more rustic, more middle class, more real than the swankiendas that blanket Galveston now, and were more akin to what Texas beaches looked like 30 and 40 years ago. And that includes a lot of trailers, which is something you don't see on the pricey Galveston beachfront.

There were a couple of small grocery stores and a small motel and a couple of bars. I played not a few times at the infamous "Ships Wheel" in the 1980's, playing with inner-loop blues acts that went over well with the roadhouse, hard-drinking and hard living crowds that frequented it. Known as "The Wheel or Wheel" locally, it had a pretty good mix of weekender Houston beach home owners and renters and the full time residents.

Lots of good bands passed through The Wheel over the years. The last time I played there, back in 2002 over the Labor Day Weekend, I worked with a hard touring 9 piece Jimmy Buffett cover outfit out of Louisiana. Mutual friends had recommended me to them to fill in for their drummer who was taking a year off the road to birth and begin raising his first child.

I had met the band in 2001, when playing a benefit show in Clear Lake City, Texas. I was playing with a smaller and different Jimmy Buffett cover band, again as a substitute, and was wowed when the huge 9 piece band followed our set with some massively arranged and orchestrated Buffett songs as well as their own strong original music, all done in that twangy-bluesy-rocking-countrified rare mix that is Gulf Coast Music.

So I ended up playing one night of a two night run for this large 9 piece band as my audition for playing more gigs with them. They had some great originals and were covering nearly the entire early and mid-Jimmy Buffett catalogs. The band leader and I didn't quite gell for some reason, but I got along famously with the rest of the band. I later did a couple of gigs with them at this very cool floating bar and restaurant on Lake Travis just outside of Austin.

The Gulf Coast of Texas, Lousisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida have a unique flavor to their music. If you want to call it country-rock music, it is, but with a bluesy feel, topped off with the twang that only a band that has two guitarists playing through big tube amplifiers can provide, because often one is using a single coil guitar like a Stratocaster or Telecaster and the other guitarist is playing some kind of humbucking equipped guitar.

So this weekend down at Crystal Beach, one of the communities on the Bolivar Peninsula, you can find good eating and lots of GREAT music with the proceeds going to help rebuild that community.

I'll write more about Bolivar and some of my adventures and memories from there later, but for now, it's time to go get in the water!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Crazy Australian

My longtime friend Paul is known as The Crazy Australian. Mutual friends, when inquiring of his welfare, don't ask "how is Paul?", they ask "how'se that crazy m-fing Australian friend of yours?".

I miss Paul and wish I could see him more often. Problem is, he's living in the Sydney, Australia area right now, and I'm smack dab in Texas. He's a good enough friend that he was best man at my wedding. He's the kind of friend that I can go for 5 or 10 years without physically seeing and immediately upon seeing each other, we're right back where we were the last time we were hanging.

He's been a friend for a long time. When I moved to central Texas to finish my college degree after a few years of policing in Houston, Paul was one of the first folks I met. A fellow student, he lived off campus with another fella *who came to be known* as John Juan, but John Juan is another story entirely.

I became his roommate for quite a while, and we had lots of adventures together. Mostly though, I was, as his mother said "a severely calming influence" upon Paul. Paul was the king of hair-brained ideas for fun but more often just for the excitement, with only one out of a hundred having a snowballs chance in hell of succeeding. I was about three years older than Paul, and we became close friends quickly, as did my long-time best friend Billy Ray.

I tried talking Paul out of doing a lot of stupid shit. Sometimes he even listened.

Paul is, indeed and in fact, Australian by birth and by citizenship. His mother, an impressionable and attractive young English lass, went to Australia on a holiday and met Paul's father, who was then and now a singer in an Aussie rock and roll band. Marriage and Paul ensued, and then divorce and Paul's mom moved to America, where she married at some point Paul's stepfather and other calming influence, David.

Paul could've gotten American citizenship at any time, having been raised from the age of seven in China Spring, Texas, just outside of bible-thumping Waco. As important as his father and step-father in shaping Paul's life was his mother's brother, a secret agent type for the British Empire who had been in the famed special combat unit the SAS prior to entering MI-6 or whatever secret agency he worked for.

Paul had an Aussie accent with a Texas twang, if you can imagine that, because that's the only way I can describe it.

So Paul has been back in his homeland for nearly 10 years. After a somewhat successful career as a competition white water kayaker on the east coast, Paul moved back to his homeland as he said he always wanted to do.

Paul's kayaking career was something he started in his early 30's. When I first met Paul, he was going to college and was also in an aviation education program for a dual degree at a specialized aviation school. The school taught them and got them certified to fly everything from a single engine plane to huge Air Force transports and civilian jetliners like the 707 and the 747.

The reason I will never, ever fly in a plane with Paul piloting is because I have personally witnessed Paul doing "touchdowns", or as it is known in the vernacular, "just trying to kill yourself in an aeroplane".

Touchdowns involve acting like you are gonna land but then at the moment when your wheels hit the ground, you give it the gas and pull up and take off again, without ever really landing. Per se, I mean.

Now, touchdowns are taught to every pilot in their training. There are a myriad of reasons why a landing might need to be aborted, such as a flat tire or an obstruction on the runway, so learning to briefly touchdown then take off has it's place in all pilot training.

Except Paul wasn't doing it at school on the runway under controlled circumstances. Paul did it at pastures and more dangerously, roads with electric wires on telephone poles. I know because I once happened to be fishing in a pond located in a remote portion near Fort Hood Army Base in Killeen, Texas and saw him do what is called "an illegal touchdown", i.e. in a rocky dangerous hilly area, next to the lake I was fishing at. Scared the heck outta me and the danged fool nearly crashed into some huge rock hidden by a bush.

Paul missed his calling as a stunt man. I've seen him jump out of planes on multiple occasions, fly a wide variety of planes large and small, slow and fast, and just do a bunch of daredevil stuff in so many facets of life. Off-Road racing. Check. Scuba diving. Check. Parasailing. Check. Extreme surfing. Check. Bungee jumping in some extreme circumstances. Check. I've never seen him break a bone but he has come oh so close a thousand times.

The point of this post is, that if all stays on course, Paul will be getting married later this year. And he'd like me to attend as best man. So I have to go. Deal is, the wedding will be *at this point in the planning stages* in Fiji. Worse case scenario, the wedding will be in Australia.

Although Paul has had *many* relationships since I've known him, *some even serious*, this is his first marriage. All I know is the she is "Brazilian" and has a 20 year old daughter, therefore I gather she is in her late thirties or early forties. She apparently "comes with money" as a friend of mine used to describe the born rich, and treats him well and loves him dearly.

I'm sure he will marry as I did, on or at a beach, and I can understand Fiji as a destination marriage location. All I know is, I already know what fly rods and ocean fishing gear I'm taking, and yes honey, I know we'll have to pay extra to ship my tackle box and fishing rod case. I'm not a light packer when it comes to fishing expeditions, but that's another story.

So either way, I'll get to spend some time with the Crazy Australian.

Random Vampire thoughts

As I was doing some quick shopping at my local mega-grocery store, I was *once again* struck by the large number of people that have tattoos. And not just say, a tattoo of a strawberry on their shoulder, hidden under clothing, which the owner got because all the other sorority girls got one.

The area where I dwell, like many areas of this country, is filled with tattoo'd masses. They're everywhere, it seems. I ask tatt rats all the time, why did you get a tattoo. Many of them tell me so that they can be "individual" and "different" from everyone else. Everyone else that also has a tattoo. So they are trying to be different by being like everyone else who is trying to be different by being like everyone else.

And the more commonplace that having a tattoo becomes, the more brazen and un-hideable locations seem to be becoming popular. Like the neck tattoo.

Now, I'm talking about the big hunkin' neck tattoos in places that can't be hidden, like on the sides of necks where long hair doesn't cover. I don't know what motivates a person to get their name, their baby's name, their woman's name, their families name, or most commonly it seems, their baby's daddy's name, written in some kind of Olde English gothic script about 3" tall and RED letters on the side of their neck.

So my random thought of the night is, what if those idiots with neck tattoos are really vampires. Or maybe, like in the Blade movies, the ones with the neck tattoos are not the vampires (or at least the vampires in charge) but are the hoi polloi of the vampire race. Because I mean really, what self-respecting vampire would be stupid enough to have his or someone else's name tattoo'd on their neck.

If that were true, that the tattoo'd masses of neck art were really vampires then there would be a lot of frickin' vampires out there.

I'm just saying...

Next, I'll post about facial piercings and werewolves.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Jupiter Ray

I had an appearance in a dream last night of an old drumming friend of mine, Orville Strickland, known amongst his friends in Houston music circles as "Jupiter Ray". My good friend and longtime bandmate El Bar used to always greet Orville as Jupiter Ray, BABY! From the late 60's until his untimely death, Orville was known among my friends as Jupiter Ray, Baby.

Jupiter Ray was never in the armed forces but on Memorial Day, that's who I seemed to be thinking about. I pulled a copy of some recordings I had of Jupiter Ray playing with one of my old bands, Dick Cheese and The Crackers, which was active in Houston from 1989 to 1997. Every now and then Jupiter Ray would sit in on that gig, and he was always welcome to do so, and occasionally when his busy union musician schedule would permit, he would sub for me in that band or several others. I have a video now on dvd of Jupiter Ray sitting in with The Crackers at a fundraiser we played for a friend of mine named Norma who was running for judge in Houston back in the early 90's, playing the excellent song "Baby please don't go".

It's been over 13 years since brain cancer took Jupiter, but I still remember him as if it were yesterday. His drumming was off the charts, and usually he'd play what you wouldn't expect a drummer to play in a given song. But after watching him play some unique beat or riff to a song, even well-known songs with well-established rhythms, you would realize just how hip what he was playing was.

I had just married when Orville came out of remission the final time. He had been fighting brain cancer for several years, beating it against all odds. And then it came back. Through it all, he was upbeat as a person could be under those circumstances, in fact, I always thought it quite heroic that he could be so manly about the whole thing.

Back then, all of our friends gathered regularly at the home of El Bar, a well known Houston musician who went under the a/k/a of Dick Cheese in that band. Being single, El Bar had a full band rehearsal setup in his dining room, complete with amps and drums and a small PA. Many impromptu jams occurred during normal visits at ole' El Bar's house.

In any event, I'm rambling, but I wanted to take a few moments and remember my good friend Orville. When I can find a picture of that rascal I'll post it here, or better yet, when I figure out how to post a video I'll post that dvd I've got of Orville sitting in with us, which brings me to the point: I think the fundraiser was on a Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend, which is why I'm thinking about Orville.

Although there were times he was certainly not feeling well, and a lesser man would've given up, Jupiter Ray didn't. And really, seeing him performing when he was undergoing all this stuff, was so damn inspiring, hearwarming and indeed, bring a tear to the eye heroic, because when I heard him play, he was spot on. Absolutely in the pocket and on time and in line.

Of course, that was not true about Jupiter losing his touch. I had some traveling to do that year and when that ass fired Jupiter, I ended up paying Jupiter out of my own pocket to sub in The Crackers for a few gigs for me. Cracker gigs normally netted about $30 or $40 bucks a member back then, so I would throw another $50 in so Jupiter could keep his bills and rent paid.

I remember Jupiter telling me on his deathbed that his dying wish was that this bandleader be banned from his funeral, and the offending bandleader was banned, amidst much verbal commenting from said bandleader when he wasn't allowed to attend the funeral.

Here's a short obit that the Houston Press ran at the time of his passing:

"Bang the drum slowly... Veteran drummer Orville Strickland, an influential and highly regarded member of the Houston rock scene for many years, passed away February 1. He was 44 years old. Among the many bands that featured Strickland on the kit were the Cold Cuts, Dr. Rockitt, the Blasting Caps, Ezra Charles and the Works, Theresa James and the Cheaters, the Hightailers, Ronnie Hall and the Green Onions and Jerry Lightfoot and the Essentials. He was a member of Musician's Local 65 for more than a quarter of a century. "Orville was playing with Big Sweet at Love Street in 1967, before he graduated from Westbury High School," says Tommy Dar Dar of the Sheetrockers. "I think playing drums was the only job he ever had."
A memorial jam was held February 8 for Strickland at Dan Electro's Guitar Bar. He's survived by his parents, Tom and Doris Null of Oklahoma City, his sister Pamela Null of Boulder, and his longtime friend Deliah Stafford of Houston."

So anyway, this Memorial Day, in addition to remembering all of the brave and valient soldiers who have defended this great nation, I remember Jupiter Ray, because he was always a good friend to me.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My tribute to Leon Hale

For those of you not from Houston, Texas, Leon Hale is a columnist extraordinaire for the Houston Chronicle. Now in semi-retirement, he does a column a week. He's a Texas man with a Texas wit and wisdom that has always reminded me of a Texas Mark Twain, albeit not quite the smartass or enigma that Mark Twain could be.

Leon has been a featured columnist for the Chronicle since the early 80's, and I've been a regular reader since he began writing there. Over the past 20 years, every spring Leon would tell the tale(s) of his annual spring fishing trip to the James River in the Hill Country.

Leon and a group of friends make the annual trip for fishing and friendship. The James river runs from Kimble County into Mason County where it joins the Llano River about 15 miles south of Mason. Over the years I've read of their flycasting for river bass, particularly the Llano Bass, a species found only in the Llano and James Rivers and a few of their creek tributaries.

This year, best friend Billy Ray and I set out for that locale. That part of Texas is beautiful, pure and rough and clean and trecherous at the same time. In addition to varied species of fish such as largemouth bass, Llano bass, perch, crappie, catfish and big-ass alligator gar, lots of critters inhabit that remote area, like bobcats and possibly mountain lions, skunks, armadillos, possums, wolves, coyotes, raccoons and of course, scorpions (my kid calls them scorpios) and a variety of poisonous snakes (primarily rattlers and water moccasins).

We got there late on a Friday. By the time we had loaded in the cabin, which overlooked the confluence of the Llano and James Rivers, we had just enough time to shinny down the bank and check out the fishing terrain. As we were staying on a working cattle operation, there were nice cattle paths all along the river bank. There were several deep channels in the Llano river at this point. and we were in good position for one of them for bank fishing, and one could easily be waded to from a gravel bar "island" that was right next to shore.

There were plenty of other places to fish, but having so many holes right next to the cabin was nice. The fishing was so good that that we stayed in a 200 yard vicinity of the cabin, despite the fact that there was 1000's of feet of river frontage that we had access to on both the James and Llano rivers.

Billy Ray and I had both read numerous annual stories from Mr. Hale, and a few were about fishing at this very spot. It seems he and his friends vary spots and rivers in this general area, returning in May of 2009 to the Llano river a little south of were we were at in Kimble County, down towards Junction, Texas.

It's beautiful country out there, and whether you call them bill hills or small mountains, the terrain is simply breathtaking. The clear, clean rivers and creeks that run through this part of Texas are spring fed. Some are clear as gin and some have a clear green tint to them.

The clear green tint, of course, reflects more plentiful nutrients, and thus a better food chain. Some rivers, like the Medina River north of Bandera, Texas, are crystal clear except where deep pools that are 10 or so feet deep and in slow sections of the river. Life thrives in these pools in rivers like these, and the color and beauty of the water in these Hill Country streams and rivers rivals any carribean paradise lagoon that exists.

So once we began fishing, we began catching, which is always a plus on any fishing trip we take. Billy Ray and I have taken so many fishing expeditions over the past 26 years where we caught nothing that if we catch anything we are grateful. Don't get me wrong, we catch fish, but when we don't , it doesn't ruin the trip at all.

But here we caught fish. Nice river bass and a few perch. Billy Ray spent some time trying to hook a huge gar that was trolling the river edge vegitation, and I kept hooking bass in whatever vegitation was growing at the shoreline and into the water.

We set out big saltwater surfishing rods, casting multi-hook rigs in the deepest river channel closest to us and kept baiting them throughout the day Saturday, and although something kept taking the worms and Berkley stinkbait I was using, we never hooked anything. We used big saltwater rods because we could cast a heavy weight (to hold against the river current) about 75 feet to that closest deep channel. In any event, we caught nary a catfish.

And that was fine with us, as we had a nice time at that place. The cabin had a balcony overlooking the broad expanse of the Llano river at that point, and although we didn't have Leon Hale there with us sitting and discussing the world's problems, we had another good friend, Mr. Jack Daniels, for a nice cool beverage on the porch.

A raccoon visited us on our first night there, breaking into the beverage icechest that we had left on the cabin's landing. Finding nothing there to his liking, as we watched from the cabin door window, he played around with an empty pepsi can that was in the fire ring from a previous visitor and then cruised on off.

The town of Mason is a mighty clean town, straddling the verge of the Hill Country and West Texas. Although the weekend we were there the local newspaper bemoaned the closing of the town's only nursing home, there were numerous very good restaurants to choose from and the economy didn't seem too bad there.

It's not like Fredericksburg, a tourist and shopping mecca. Mason has a quiet respectability that is calming and soothing.

I'm no stranger to this area, having had college roommates and friends that hailed from both Mason and Llano. I've spent more time in Llano but Mason is a little smaller and perhaps a little slower than Llano is. Both are very nice Texas towns.

So like Leon Hale, I think Billy Ray and I will make a springtime fishing trip to this area a new tradition. We already have our wintertime fishing trip for the rainbow trout that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stocks throughout much of Texas, so this will be a good addition. Although we have not been salt water fishing in some time together, we've both been going saltwater fishing regularly and it's only a matter of time until we add a fall fishing trip to the mix.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I'm back, or at least I think I'm back. I started this blog a few months ago but due to some issues beyond my control, I abandoned it. I've had to rename it, and give it a new url, but even though the names have been changed to protect the innocent, my stories are the same.

I like fishing, and I like musicianing. I don't do either for a living, but I've done them both for a long, long time. And I don't currently get to do enough of either, for my liking.

My email address is called el fishing musician because, well, fishing musician was taken and I live in Texas where the spanish influence is heavy, which is at the very least a bastardized concept. But I digress, which I do alot.

I play in two bands right now, and go fishing every chance I get. Salt or fresh, river, stream or lake, pretty much anywhere I can get to and engage in fishing. Fishing is my golf, as it were.

I plan vacations around fishing. When I take trips for business or pleasure, I might not always be able to do some fishing, but I always try to scheme a way to do some fishing. I've been going to California several times a year and of course the wonderful scenery out there just beckons you to go forth with rod and reel, whether by the ocean or in the mountains. Which in California can at times be salt or freshwater fishing within mere miles of one another.

I've done some saltwater fishing on several occasions there, and it is nothing less than a hoot. You catch fish. On ocean fishing charters, I've caught so many fish I got tired and rested the last third of the trip. I had limited out and gave my limit to social security retirees who fished for food. They didn't seem to be catching many fish, and not many of the kind they wanted to eat. Of all things, it was in December and offshore from San Diego, but the fishing was more on that I had ever known in a lifetime of fishing. I'll tell that story one day, and about how my travel companion Lee decided he didn't want to use our free day in the middle of the seminar to, as he said "waste it going fishing in winter". Instead, he played video games in the hotel lobby. Each to his own.

The second best time I've had fishing was also in salt water, oh so many years ago in South Padre Island, Texas. On a family vacation, staying at The Sand Castle condos on the bay side of the Island, there was one night fishing on the pier where I just couldn't stop catching fish. They were smaller fish than the huge ones I caught years later in San Diego, but were prolific in numbers and in species. I even caught several varieties of angel type fish, which I haven't seen before or since in the bays of the Gulf of Mexico.

But that evening in South Padre was some thirty-seven years ago, back in '72, when I was just a lad. That was when it only had a couple of hotels and a couple of condos. The rest of the inhabited part of the island was stilt beach houses, some quite nice. The Bahia Mar hotel development by either Pan Am or Braniff Airlines had just opened, and it was fancy.

This is, of course, before spring breakers and MTV discovered Padre Island and before high rise condos replaced the iconic Texas stilt beach houses that filled the residential area of South Padre Island.

I'll try to regain my loyal japanese readers soon, but until then thought I'd talk about fishing.