Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Catfish Hunter

For those of you who planned to strip down to your jeans, wade into the Green River, stick your arm into a dark hidey-hole in the mud bank, let a giant catfish clamp down on your fist, pull it out, wrestle it into your canoe, fry it up and eat it, you should know that's not legal in Kentucky until after June 1st. See: 301 KAR 1:410. Taking of Fish by Other than Traditional Fishing Methods. That's when noodling season begins.

On the other hand, there's a good chance you'll get a pardon from the Governor:

On Dec. 29, Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher pardoned the first nine persons indicted by the special Franklin County Grand Jury which reviewed evidence from prosecutors, and their charges were later dismissed. During a statewide-televised address in the Capitol rotunda announcing his pardons, that was interrupted repeatedly by a cheering crowd of political appointees, Fletcher compared the violations specified in the indictments as no different from “noodling out of season." Noodling is a form of catfishing by hand. The next day Fletcher asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege when called to testify before the grand jury.

Here's the story picked up by the New York Times. Governor's Troubles Threaten G.O.P. in Kentucky

Noodling means no hooks, no lines, no rods, no reels. Just hands. Caveman fishing. It's also properly called "grabbling" and in some areas hogging, tickling, or dogging. The person doing the grabbling wades into a body of water where catfish are known to lurk, then reaches underwater and starts feeling for holes in the bank, in logs, under rocks and so forth. Catfish are found in holes when spawning. Female catfish lay their eggs, then a male cat moves in to guard the eggs.

Grabblers reach blindly into the holes because they know if a male cat is on guard, it will bite their fist. Then they can pull it out with their arm buried in the fish up to the elbow or higher.

You never know for sure what's in the hole you're probing. It might be a catfish. Or it might be a snapping turtle, a beaver or a snake. Some grabblers wear gloves. Most, however, believe this hinders the sense of touch necessary for determining the type of creature in the hole, its position and the best method for capturing it. In the vernacular, it's the difference between going "scuba" and going "natural".

There are some big tournaments around the country, like the Oklahoma Catfish Noodling Tournament in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma ("Not Your Ordinary Small Town").

Here are the current and former queens of the Noodling Tournament:

And there are some some big-ass catfish:

Do yourself a favor and watch the "Girls Gone Grabblin'" Video: HERE

From "Goodbye to a River"...

Some grabblers whom Davis Birdsong knew - do I remember that James Lemmon, deceased, was among them? - once located an enormous yellow cat at the spot where Squaw Creek and the Paluxy come together into the Brazos. Though he would let them touch him without moving, there was no question of anyone's being able to wrestle him out from under the deep-hollowed bank where he dozed, nor did such offerings as a ripe dead kitten on a great hook attached to sash cord even make his whiskers quiver.

Wanting him with that heat of desiring that has nothing really to do with meat, and digs back so far in the relationship of man to beasts and gets so tangled with "sport" that it disrupts all agreeable semantic theorizing, they puzzled.

One, inventive, went into Glen Rose and got a blacksmith to make him a short iron harpoon. He tied it with a rope to an empty oil drum, and followed by his companions and the blacksmith and that considerable fragment of the town's population who'd gotten wind of the affair, went back to the river. Shrugging off help, he stripped and jumped into the water with his apparatus, dived bearing the spear back into the monster's dim cavern, jammed it into his side, and got his shoulder broken in two places as the big fish came out, well stuck. Whooping along the shore, splashing through the shallows and swimming when they had to, the rest of the crowd chased the bobbing, racing drum for a half-mile down the river. When it stopped and the catfish rolled up to the surface dead and they took him out, he weighed 117 pounds.

Maybe that's the shape of pretechnological American sportingness. There was risk, and the guts to plunge against the risk. There was ingenuity, and practically no ritual. There was joyous illegality. There was success, and a hell of a hunk of meat in the end. If it was a long way distant from that pink-coated, view-hallooing pursuit of the uneatable by the unspeakable that Surtees ironically loved and Wilde satirized, it was at least something in its own right. Is still, even...

"Goodbye to a River" pp. 246-47.


Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Is that a Stormy Kromer on the Boy From the North Country?


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Stormy Kromer

Here is a wintertime RRCC product endorsement.

Ralph Frese, the legendary owner of Chicagoland Canoe Base, once said "In my opinion, one has only matured in the sport of paddling when you can discover as much adventure in exploring a local swamp or marsh by canoe as in running whitewater or traveling to far-off lands."

Which brings us to the Stormy Kromer cap. The ear flaps give it the kind of style that requires the same kind of maturity. Like putting fenders on your bike.

Plus it's got all of the other requirements to make it on the RRCC approved list. Traditional like a duluth pack, practical like the Chuck Box , a little different like a three string banjo.

Here are the reviews:

Dakota Country, November 2005. The original Stormy Kromer cap, born and bred in the harsh climes of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Nothing else comes close even 100 years later...

Outdoor Life, September 2005. Go hunt deer awhile, then trudge back home over the frozen fields to feed the cows. You can do it all in this wool hat...

Deer Hunters Equipment 2005. Looking for a serious hat for cold weather? Look no further than the legendary Stormy Kromer...

Walleye In-Sider, April 2003. Of historical importance as well as excellent function, the legendary red Stormy Kromer Cap, named after a colorful railroad engineer of the last century, has been revived...

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. There's something to be said for being an old hat in the North Woods town. The Strormy Kromer hat, that is, which has been the cap of choice for generations here...

Mine's black. Are there any among us who have "matured in the sport of paddling" enough to get the plaid?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Glory Hole

You may recall that last year's put-in was nearly ideal. But sometimes the best sections of river are the hardest ones to get to. Like the Piney in Spring of '06 which was 4x4 only...

The steep mud banks at Mr. Buford's farm on the Elk were tough...

But nothing can prepare you for what we'll have to go through to get on the river this time. Launching at the Green River Dam requires first getting our canoes and gear past security and over the razor wire.

A short paddle to the drainhole.

An exciting, 700-foot elevation drop.

Then out the other side, into the spillway, and head on down to Three Hundred Springs for lunch.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Whisky River

There's an announcement coming soon regarding the menu, but let's go ahead and address the whisky question. As everyone knows, we try to have a sense of place about what we're drinking. Thus George Dickel on the Duck, Jack Daniels on the Elk, Bald Pussies on the Piney, etc. Now we're going to be paddling in Kentucky so it has to be bourbon, of course, and the official bourbon for the Spring '07 RRCC canoe trip will be Old Grand-Dad.

Old Grand-Dad's source is as close to the Green River as any of them, but we mainly chose it because we could use a president like Give 'Em Hell Harry right now:


In the privacy of his study at last, Truman could sip a glass of his favorite bourbon, Old Granddad, and confer with her about the issues of the day, while she edited his speeches.

“Bess, there are sons-a-bitches who want to tear this country down, and there’s hardly ever been a better time for them to do it. Why, we’re still recovering from the war, and right on top of that, I don’t have to tell you, we had almost two million men out on strike in the mines and the railroads, in the electrical and meat industries, in steel and automobiles. I’ve got that damned lying Bolshevik son-of-a-bitch blocking all our best efforts to get aid to Eastern Europe, and we’ve still got people starving in Greece and Turkey, and more trouble brewing over Palestine.

She let him vent it all, not even remonstrating with him over his salty language. Bess, herself, had been known to swear a bit, if a private occasion demanded strong talk.

“And now,” he continued, "this very house we’re living in has absolutely got to be rebuilt, and no delay about it. I can see those bastards over on the Hill have their eyes on it. They know what it would mean to the American people–to the world–to see this great symbol of democracy flattened to the ground during these dangerous days. We cannot allow that to happen, Bess. George Washington built these walls. He insisted they be constructed of stone, he had a hand in every inch of the planning, and he entrusted it to the rest of us small fellows who would come after him. We can’t let the president down, Bess.”

From "Secret Lives of the First Ladies" by Cormac O'Brien

Tommy Rowles, who has been mixing cocktails at New York's legendary Bemelmans bar in the Carlyle Hotel for 48 years now is a throwback to the old school. There’s an oft-told story of how he found Harry Truman, a lifelong bourbon drinker, at the bar one day ordering an Old Grand Dad on the rocks. As the story goes, Rowles, who fancies beer over booze, told the former president he personally could never stomach the stiff whiskey. Truman, nodding toward the mob of reporters outside, said, “If you had to walk 15 blocks with those guys following you, you’d drink this too."

From "The History and Stories of the Best Bars of New York" by Jef Klein



Did you know: the "old grand-dad" on the bottle is old Basil Hayden himself and the distillery temporarily changed its name to the "American Medicinal Spirits Company" during prohibition and maintained production for the benefit of the "lame, hale and blind."


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Revised Packing List

Sleeping Bags
Kitchen supplies
Paddles, lifejackets
Fishing rods and tackle
Camp chairs
Pepper Spray
BB gun pistol
Trench coat
Steel mallet
4-inch folding knife
3 feet of rubber tubing
Large garbage bags
$600 cash
Latex gloves
Adult diapers so we can paddle all day without stopping

Saturday, February 03, 2007


This is a reminder to the member who recently borrowed the Big Daddy Skillet: don't wash it when you're done! It's all about tradtion and flavor. And here's some literary support for our policy...

[From the National Museum of Forest Service History's 100-year anniversary commemorative cookbook]

A timber sale on what is now Glacier National Park was the first winter assignment for R.L. Wiesner in 1909. He wrote, "There was a ranger who was on furlough throughout the winter staging at the station here and I batched with him during my assignment on this sale. Generally speaking, we got along fine. There was some difference, however, in our ideas on the handling of the sourdough jar. He didn't believe it should ever be cleaned out. He said the 'green' that formed around the edges wouldn't hurt anyone. He also objected to dumping out the tea grounds because it took too much tea for the next brew if there were no old grounds to start with, and I was advised not to wash the frying pans as washing wore them out. He said he had used them for twenty years without washing them. I had no reason to doubt this statement.

Here's just a sample of the different flavors and varieties of e. coli Big Daddy is currently carrying...


Osso bucco

Unidentified neckbone

Homemade italian sausage

Sourdough pancakes


Buttermilk pancakes

Elk or squirrel...hard to tell

Meat and Three

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Camp Axe

We continue to gather chattels in the off-season. Last week a member won the guitar pictured below in a poker game at the Panther Creek Hunting Club in Owensboro, Kentucky (not far from the Green River, actually) and donated it to the club. You got to know when to walk away...and know when to run...