One thing you learn after being on this Earth for more than a half century is that everything is in constant change. Despite all of your efforts to keep them, close relationships sometimes fade, friends pass on, and nature is forever renewing itself in different ways. Nevertheless, I have also discovered that new friends and relationships are as exciting to nurture as the ones that were lost, and many times, the changes in nature have a way of working out for the best. Therefore, I view the past with reverence and some nostalgia, but always look to the future with a positive sense of marvel.
As another year approaches, I still look forward to being on Lake Lanier every morning listening to the haunting sounds of loon voices echoing across the fog-covered waters while waiting for stripers to explode the placid surface. Thankfully, some loons stayed at Lanier until near the end of May this past year, which was the latest we’ve seen them, and the striper and bass fishing were great!
2004 began, however, with me working desperately to go back more than thirty years to relive a passion of my youth…racing cars. The bug had bitten me again down at Sebring, Florida the previous fall while driving on a test day in the Panoz GTS.
Though I had given no thought to auto racing since the early 1970’s, I spent much of the winter building a Mazda Miata to hit the track again by late January. In the car that I built, I went through the novice, 4-day school at Savannah in mid February, ran 16 races with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and the National Auto Sports Association (NASA), 4 track days, and co-drove in the American Road Race of Champions Enduro at Road Atlanta in someone else’s car in November. I had no wrecks, no breakages, and won the 2004 NASA Southeast Spec Miata Championship. It was a blast!
Fishing wise, I spent the first few days of January, in the Florida Panhandle with my good friend Stan Rhymer and his son Blake sampling the great winter trout fishing at St. Marks. We caught hundreds of sea trout that were congregated up inside the mouth of the St. Marks River.
Most of the month of February was a numbers game with friends and clients catching big, tasty, slab crappies in secret holes north of Gainesville. Lake Lanier was in an upward cycle for crappies, and both numbers and size were above average.
Part of March and early April were spent catching migrating white bass, and 20 to 35 pound spawning stripers in the shoals and rapids of the upper Chattahoochee River above Lake Lanier. This action was followed by the always exciting spawning period for spotted bass on the south end of Lake Lanier. Clay banks and Swirleybirds accounted for 40 to 80 spotted bass most days during April and May.
I took a few days away from the great topwater fishing for spotted bass and stripers in early June to fish Green River Lake in Kentucky for muskelunge. Though we caught plenty of muskie in the 30 to 40 inch range, the guides on that lake were strange, and I wouldn’t recommend them.
Late June was filled with productive striper trolling on Lake Lanier, plenty of rainbow and brown trout on small Swirleybirds on the lower “Hooch,” and more than my share of spotted bass over structure with spottail minnows in the middle of Lake Lanier. Striper trolling continued to be good into mid July, but a wonderful trip near Shellman Bluff to fish with an old friend was too inviting to miss!
During early August, the stripers were hot an heavy on the south end of Lake Lanier using live, blueback herring in deep water. We caught plenty in the 10 to 25 pound size and made lots of folks very happy, but I spent the last week in August fishing for trout in the beautiful Northwestern part of our country and part of Canada.
Though I was deeply saddened by the loss of a dear friend in late September, great times spent with other friends softened the blow. In fact, many new doors opened when I tried my hand at birding in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and Mexico during the middle of October. It was a very eye-opening experience!
The last of October was spent enjoying the great fall fishing in Lake Lanier with my many clients and friends. As always, we caught a wide variety of fish that form into large schools to chase the protein-rich shad during the cooling process.
Early November found me on a wading trip with friends and other writers to catch redfish, trout, and snook along the beaches, bays, and islands near Tampa/Clearwater/St. Petersburg, Florida. I even caught a Tampa “Grand Slam” of a redfish, trout, and snook all in the same day.
Another trip to sight cast for huge trout and redfish and study the ecology of the area near Titusville and the Space Coast of Florida was both productive and educational. We packed a lot into a hectic 7 day and night trip.
The year will end as it began with the sounds of a loon’s lonely song penetrating the cold, foggy waters of Lake Lanier. But, it’s wonderful to sit in front of a blazing fireplace, reflect on the experiences and friendships of the past year, and look ahead with passion to what is to come.