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Category Archives: They did what?

“Poaching Jack”

Even before the President of the Ostrich Society hit the gavel on the workbench, the attending members had been busy making final plans for their annual opening day trip to the several places (some never mentioned by name) that have been the site of their traditional rituals. Several groups had formed and the chatter between them all sounded like squirrels sitting on top of fences, teasing a dog by twitching their tails and chattering in various degrees of pitch.

It took several wraps of the ballpeen gavel to quiet the conclave so the president could call the meeting to order. A voice from the back of the garage made the motion to dispense with the usual formalities so the final plans could be made for the upcoming trips. A second was heard and the president struck the workbench again and recognized George Holloway.

George was fishing manager at the local Orvis shop and reminded the membership that Orvis was having a sale on rod and reel combinations and other tackle and he’d be glad to open the store for last minute purchases.

Oleg Johanson asked how much of a deal Orvis was giving. He said it would have to be a big one, to justify spending a thousand dollars on a rod and reel just to catch an eight inch fish.

Laughter broke out as George tried to make a rational argument about the cost of the new rods and reels, but soon realized he wasn’t making any headway as the comments kept coming followed by belly laughs at the mere thought of members of the Ostrich Society spending that kind of money to catch fish.

“Poaching Jack” spoke up with, “You don’t need a rod and reel at all. There are other, cheaper, ways to put fish in a creel.” Again laughter broke out as visions of “Poaching Jack” cranking the handle of his army surplus field phone as wires hung over a bank into the water and stunned fish floated to the surface.

Realizing the implication, “Poaching Jack” injected that they misunderstood. He wasn’t talking about doing anything illegal; he was talking about simply using your head to outwit the fish.

He was fishing the North Branch just south of the bridge in Lovell in front of a cabin on the west side where a Lab and Brittany were romping around. He was working a hole where a fish had been rising to a hatch of Hendricksons without success. He saw the fish, a nice brown, and it was slurping duns from the surface, but he just couldn’t get it to take one of his ties. Just as he was changing flies, the two dogs came splashing over wagging their tails, sniffing his waders expecting to get petted. The owner yelled for the dogs to come and apologized for their interruption of Jack’s fishing. It was too late; the fish had been put down. He moved further down seam and began casting to another fish. After a while he noticed another fisherman standing in the same spot he had been, casting to the same fish when the two dogs came out to greet him, putting the fish down in the process.

What he saw next gave him an idea. When the dogs sloshed through the water, the brown flashed and darted from the hole downstream into a channel that led to a small patch of vegetation and disappeared. Hmmm.

“Poaching Jack” was a tactician if nothing else. So he waded to a spot on the bank where he could observe and watched for a while to see if his plan had a chance of working. After an hour, and several fishermen being greeted by the two dogs with the owner apologizing each time, he decided the dogs were doing what they were supposed to, that being to keep people from fishing in front of the guy’s cabin.

After a while, Jack positioned himself downstream from the hole that held the brown and waited. Soon another fisherman appeared and as he began casting to the brown, the two dogs appeared and entered the water to greet the Piscator causing the brown to dart from the hole and swim into the channel heading toward the vegetation. Standing over the channel, “Poaching Jack” grabbed his landing net from the magnetic holder on the back of his vest and held it straight down blocking the channel. When he felt a thud he picked it up the net and admired the brown.

The membership broke out in laughter as Jack continued. “I was there with my old Pfleuger outfit and the landing net I won in a raffle last year and the whole thing cost me seventy five bucks.”

The preceding was recorded in the Ostrich Society minutes as THE TRUTH, WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH ….Give or take a lie or two.






Category Archives: They did what?

No Smoking

The September meeting of the Ostrich Society is customarily one of the busiest meetings of the year causing the President’s garage – the official meeting place of the Society -to overflow with members, some of whom only make an occasional meeting and this is one of them. Tables are crammed into the two and a half car garage and occupied by guys of like interests and long time acquaintances.

The reason for this overflowing turnout is because September marks the end and beginning of activities that have been enjoyed and participated in for more years than most want to remember. Bill Mason, one of the oldest in attendance was holding court at one of the tables as Chet Krause was tying egg patterns on his home made vise. It was such an odd contraption, the newer members couldn’t understand why he had it, especially since he owned a car dealership and money wasn’t a concern. But, Chet was from the old school which taught him to stick with what works and that old vise had been holding hooks for over 40 years.

The conversation at the table centered around the annual salmon trip to the Betsie River. The “Shakers” as those sitting with Chet were known, were making final plans for their annual salmon camp. Chet was tying flies while Bill finalized the logistics and assigned each member going a job. When all assignments were handed out, they raised their glasses of two fingers of bourbon and toasted another year of what they hoped would be many more to come.

Across the room was the non-smoking section. Smoking wasn’t allowed not because they wanted to be politically correct, but because Al and Jake were reloading shotgun shells and there was gunpowder on the table. Al was loading 12 gauge shells on his Sizemaster re-loader and Jake was reloading 20’s. They had been saving hulls from past hunts and from skeet and trap rounds which others had contributed to as well. They liked to reload so it was their job to provide the shells for grouse camp which was about to take place the first weekend of October and last two weeks. There were nine regulars who made the trip and it was decided long ago that any new members who wanted to take part would have to be voted on by the original nine. Of course, there was criteria applicants had to meet, such as having a good grouse dog, only hunt with a double barrel shotgun and provide a case of fine bourbon as an initiation fee (the first two requirements could be waived by a majority vote).

Calling the meeting to order, the President announced that the October meeting would be canceled since none of the Board would be available because they were either at salmon or grouse camp, and some would divide their time between both camps. A motion was made by Lars to dispense with the usual business which passed unanimously.

After several hours of tying flies, reloading shells with plans having been finalized, all that remained was the usual closing of the meeting. The President made the comment that the Society ought to have a ceremony of sorts to mark this annual transition from “fins to feathers”. Horace McCain who was sitting at the tying table smoking his pipe filled with Cherry Blend tobacco, rose and as he walked over to a trash can to empty his pipe bowl, tripped over Jake’s lab and dropped the pipe from his mouth which landed on the reloading table spilling embers of lit tobacco onto the table and into loose grains of gunpowder that had fallen from the re-loaders and were now ignited by the lit tobacco. As the powder flashed, Al and Chet knocked over the sack of shells which rolled all over the garage floor, the dogs lying around the room were waiting for a “dead bird” command after smelling the burned gunpowder and Horace broke his glasses when he fell. Chet Krause ended up with hooks in his hand and the President began hitting the workbench with the hammer which substituted for a gavel all the while laughing uncontrollably..

“When I said we ought to have a closing ceremony, I didn’t mean for it to happen immediately.” He said.

Two more fingers of bourbon was poured and this account was entered into the official minutes of the Ostrich Society as THE TRUTH, WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH …..give or take a lie or two!





Category Archives: They did what?

Feathers Don’t Grow On Trees!

Twice each year the Ostrich Society amends their meeting schedule to accommodate the members in their pursuit of Natives and Bonasa Umbellus. (For the uninformed, that’s brook trout and grouse.) So it was a surprise when the President of the Society called for a meeting at this particular time of year to discuss an item he deemed to be of extreme importance to the membership as a whole. He didn’t elaborate, he just set the date and time and issued the dictum that all were expected to attend.

By the time the ball-peen hammer hit the workbench in the President’s garage calling the meeting to order, the membership had already availed themselves to “two fingers” of bourbon and were engaged in discussion about the importance of the meeting, wondering why the President would interrupt his annual trek to the Manistee during the Hex hatch.

There was speculation that the Society had lost its debate with the State over its status as a “non-profit” because the State Liquor Control Committee noticed the Society’s volume of bourbon purchased, and threatened to make the Society apply for a liquor license. Others surmised that the City had noticed the racks of rods, waders and other necessities in the Presidents garage during an inspection for an addition he applied for and accused him of operating a sporting goods store. It wasn’t a problem as far as they were concerned, they just wanted him to pay a personal property tax on the merchandise he had for sale – no one could believe one man owned all those rods and other related equipment until Mrs. President set them straight.

The President was in no mood to be distracted. “Quiet down and pay attention. What I called you here for is of immense importance to everyone and we need to decide on a course of action.”

Suddenly you could hear a pin drop. The President had never been so serious.”As you know I spend most of the summer on one trout stream or another and this year is no exception – and most of you do too. I stop in local fly-shops to catch up on local happenings and the latest stream conditions and I always check out their supply of flies and feathers.”

They were with him so far; heads were nodding in agreement. He went on.

“At two shops I saw empty and almost empty racks where hackle used to be displayed. I thought it just a matter of poor inventory control until I found the same thing at the third shop. I asked about why they would be so devoid of feathers and was astounded at the answer.” He had everyone’s attention; no glass touched anyone’s lips as he continued.

“Kids, young kids, girls to be exact were buying any and all feathers they could weave, clip or tie into their hair. It’s so popular that beauty shops are offering the service and guess where they get the feathers from? That’s right; from the same places we buy them to tie our flies.”

Carl, the lawyer of the Society spoke up suggesting they needed to stock up and buy them from the net. Others agreed and thought they had solved the problem until the President continued.

“I checked into that and found it just as hard to get them ever the inter-net and for the same reason. It seems the feather merchants who we’ve been making rich over the years are getting a windfall from this new found use for their feathers. I even checked e-bay and found one neck being bid up to $385 and the bidding wasn’t over.”

Now glasses were refilled and large gulps were taken. Some even reached for their wallets. There was no doubt the President had stumbled onto something serious enough to call this meeting.

It was time to offer a plan of action. “While I was talking to Andy in the last shop, a teenager came in with enough feathers of various colors in her hair I thought she might be from one of the Tribes. I was tempted to ask her if the display of feathers had some significance but decided to just listen. Finding the rack empty, she asked Andy when he was going to get more and could he order some rainbow colors.”

The members got puzzled looks on their faces. They were intrigued by the rainbow comment.

“It seems she thought the feathers were synthetic and were made at a factory. You should have seen the look on her face when Andy told her the feathers came from chickens and there were no rainbow chickens available.”

“You mean you kill the chickens to get the feathers?” she asked. “Ooooh gross.”

“She had the same reaction my wife had when we passed a farm with calf pens and I told her that’s where the veal she orders at the Roma comes from. The last time we were there she ordered spaghetti.

Suddenly they knew what they had to do.

These minutes are submitted for the record to be THE TRUTH, WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH ……give or take a lie or two.


Category Archives: They did what?

Controlled Drinking

The meeting was called to order at 7:30 sharp by the President of the Ostrich Society in the usual meeting place with the usual members in attendance. There was business that needed to be disposed of and for the first time in months there was no motion from the floor to dispense with the usual order of business and get straight to a discussion of the up-coming trip to fish camp at Warlo’s Creek.

It had come to the attention of the President that a couple of new members had been complaining about the drinking habits of the Society and being from a younger generation, they thought it was time for the “old timers” to clean up their act and make the Society more in tune with the times.

Rumors being faster than lightning, it wasn’t long before the word got out to the “old timers” and still being in the majority, they decided to nip this insurrection in the bud. So after a few phone calls, it was decided that the issue should be put to rest and a resolution be made part of the by-laws.

The President spoke first and directed Harold, leader of the “youngsters” as they were called to make their case. Harold, a manager at the local phone company said the Society was becoming the laughing stock of the community because of their out of touch attitude about alcohol. It was pointed out to him by his wife who heard it from a friend of a neighbor’s wife who was told by a member of the sanitation crew that picked up garbage the day after a Society meeting, that there were more bourbon bottles in the trash in front of the President’s house than in the trash of the local bar. In short, it was embarrassing to him, being a member of the Society and all.

He went on to say, after talking to other members, he discovered he wasn’t alone in his thoughts so they came up with the following resolution:

Be it resolved that any drinks poured at a Society function be poured by a person designated as bartender and all drinks would be of the same size and amount. No member shall be allowed to consume any amount of alcohol in a single drink greater than “two fingers” in volume in a designated glass.

Thinking about the situation, Jake Johnston, one of the founding members of the Society, spoke up endorsing the resolution and adding that the bartender should be an elected position. Harold and his supporters were stunned but agreed.

The President struck the gavel on the workbench and asked for a show of hands of all in support. It was unanimous. He then asked if there were any nominations for position of bartender and Jake nominated Oleg Johansson who sheepishly accepted the nomination and was elected before Harold or his friends had a chance to think about what just happened.

Oleg took his place behind the makeshift bar and began performing his duties of pouring out glasses of bourbon, two fingers worth at a time.

Now Bill spoke up and made a motion to dispense with any other business and get straight to planning the trout opener trip to Warlo’s Creek. The motion was seconded and approved and discussion was had about what flies to tie in preparation and who was making the trip.

Vises broke out and Hendricksons (duns and spinners) were tied along with blue wing olives and several attractor patterns. Several new patterns were discussed and tied with new material and two hours later there were several dozen flies piled on the table.

Oleg had been too busy being bartender to tie his own so Jake made up an assortment for him and thanked him for his service. All applauded in agreement.

By the end of the night there were two more empty bottles of bourbon in the trash than normal which didn’t go un-noticed by Harold. But how could that be? Members weren’t pouring their own drinks anymore, there should have only been half the amount of empty bottles there were in the past.

Just then Oleg came over to shake Harold’s hand thanking him for his vote for the new Ostrich Society Board Position. When Oleg wrapped his hand around Harold’s, Harold pulled back in pain as this mound of muscle enveloped his hand and squeezed leaving only a wrist to be seen sticking out from Oleg’s grip.

Jake, Bill, the President and the other “old timers” laughed uncontrollably. Someone finally spoke up thanking Harold for his good idea of getting a controlled pour of two fingers per drink. “By the way, did you know Oleg was a lumberjack in Wisconsin and was known as having the biggest hands in Dorr County?”

The meeting was adjourned at 11:48 pm and these minutes are respectfully submitted as THE TRUTH, WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH……give or take a lie or two!


Category Archives: They did what?

The Shakers!

Every organization I’ve ever belonged to has at least one splinter group within its ranks. These are usually like-minded people that somehow end up influencing the direction the organization takes. Clicks, as they’re called, can also be like-minded people that walk a different path from the crowd and could care less what anyone thinks, but don’t interfere with day to day operations as long as they’re left alone to do their thing.(Sort of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” situation.)

The Ostrich Society is no exception. Within its ranks is a group of trout fishermen so set in their ways that haven’t changed since dry flies were tied to catgut leaders and silk line, cast from bamboo rods to rising fish – always upstream; some wearing herringbone tweed with shirt and tie. Every opening weekend of trout season, these guys camp at a secret spot on a river they never reveal, in tents. It’s been their ritual for over fifty years and a couple of them have attended every camp.

Though others know of their existence, few are invited to join because the “shakers”, as they’re known throughout the Society, are about as tolerant of new ideas, equipment and techniques as Seamus is when I change his dog food because I think he’d appreciate the change.

Every opening morning of every opening day, the “shakers” wake before dawn, fire up the propane griddle and begin the ritual of preparing pancakes, thick sliced bacon, toast made from homemade bread and brew coffee from a white speckled porcelain coffee pot so old the outside is now black from years of sitting on an open fire. They don’t set an alarm clock, they just all seem to roll out from their sleeping bags at about the same time – some think it’s because these guys are so old they don’t really sleep; every two hours they stumble out of their tents, in the dark, shoeless, cursing when they step on pine cones, twigs or things crunchy, on their way to heed nature’s call … hence the name “shakers.”

The camp consists of a wall tent that serves as a kitchen and dining room, several other tents for sleeping and collapsible chairs usually ringing a fire pit. No campers allowed. Chores are shared without fanfare – they’ve been doing this so long, they have a routine that goes without much saying. The only exception is Bull Johansen, who has been cooking pancakes since the first camp. At 78, he still flips pancakes, but looses focus sometimes and forgets they’re up in the air. (Someone stands next to him to remind him the pancakes he just flipped will come back down).

There is something to be said for following tradition and ritual; it’s comforting to look forward to the rekindling of memories that can’t really every be duplicated. The fun is in the doing with friends on a river you know and consider your own. Everything else is the glue that binds the memories together, year after year.

One of the rituals the “shakers” engage in is the fish fry. Though they return more than they keep, pan fried brookies cooked in bacon grease over an open fire is a must. Everyone contributes and the big cast iron frying pan has held many brookies, each time rendering them perfectly cooked with onions, green peppers, a little garlic and potatoes. Coffee with a shot of bourbon puts the finishing touch on the meal and gives a head start to dampening aches and pains from sleeping in tents on still cold nights.

The camp lasts five days and when they break it down they leave nothing that indicates they were there; they take as much pride in their cleanup as they do in the setup.


Category Archives: They did what?

Bad Cop; No Donuts!

Bad Cop; No Donuts!

The meeting was called to order at 7:30 sharp by the President of the Ostrich Society. It took several strokes of the make shift gavel (a half full bottle of Bass Ale) to quiet the members and get their attention for the preliminaries that needed to be addressed.

John made a motion to dispense with the preliminaries and get right to the important stuff.  It was seconded by Bill. The President called the question and all answered in the affirmative.

The agenda moved along to the item Fishing Reports which generated questions of “Who, where and how”. There was no hesitation by members to share fishing conditions on various rivers the membership fishes. Bill began by giving a report about conditions on Big Creek saying terrestrials were the ticket for brookies and an occasional brown. He declined to elaborate on which terrestrial or where on Big Creek the action was taking place. After a few “boos”, he sat down and poured two more fingers of bourbon.

Alf opined next about the lack of fish on the North Branch and was met with “Who sez?” by a voice in the back of the room. Harold stood and reported he caught several nice brookies and, after dark, landed a nice 20 inch brown on a mouse on the North Branch and said the only people who think there is a lack of fish on the river are those who tie their own flies…enough said. Laughs erupted as Alfred flashed but sat down as Bill handed him another two-fingers-of-bourbon..

Bruno, Alf’s black lab who  was lying under the table, got up to see what all the commotion was about. Bill scratched him behind his ears and said, “Don’t worry boy, your master isn’t being hurt; his feathers are getting a little wet though.” Bruno’s tail wagged and he turned to reclaim his spot under the table.

Alf was still smarting about the insult hurled at him by Harold but decided to let it go mostly because he didn’t want to give anyone the opportunity to bring up an old mishap he took plenty of ribbing for last year.  Alf was fishing for steelhead on the Clinton River by Yates Dam across from the cider mill that sells donuts. Since Alf can’t pass a bakery or anywhere fresh baked donuts, cookies or rolls are baked and sold, he bought a half dozen and ate a couple while checking out the river for signs of fish. When the fish are in, you can see one jump the spillway every now and then. They were in.

Alf ate four of the donuts and decided to begin fishing. He put the remaining two in his chest pouch on his waders, strung up his line and entered the river. He fished with heavy tippet and tied on an egg pattern cluster. He cast the eggs upstream and across and let it drift downstream over a rocky section of bottom. After several casts, he remembered the donuts in his chest pouch and took one out. “Man”, he thought, “these fry cakes are really good.” As he chomped away at the fry cake, suddenly his rod nearly pulled from his one handed grip. Donut still in his mouth, he grabbed the rod with both hands and began to work the fish eventually getting it within sight, then to net. As he bent over to net the fish, the half donut still in his mouth, suddenly dropped and washed away in the current. From shore a voice yelled, “nice fish”.  Alf turned to see a County Parks Officer watching him. Al, still holding the fish, leaned down to release it after letting it regain it’s strength, when the last donut dropped from his chest pouch and it too was swept downstream with the current. By the time Alf got to shore, sensing the officer wanted to talk to him, he noticed the officer was writing something on what looked like a pocket pad. When Al finally climbed out of the river, the officer handed him a ticket for littering.

“What’s this for?” Alf asked.

“For littering,” said the officer. “I was going to let the first donut you threw into the river go, but when you threw the second one in, I decided I had to cite you for littering. I figured you were chumming with the donuts for suckers and landed the steelhead by mistake.”

Alf made the mistake of complaining to the Society at a meeting about this stupid park officer, but after he was done, instead of support, he became a legend and gained the reputation of the club’s token sucker fisherman – soon the fisherman part was dropped. The reason Alf couldn’t get any sympathy from the membership was, he was a cop before he retired and everything just seemed to fit… Bad cop; no donuts.

The meeting continued with the usual bantering about this and that. Seamus went from table to table looking for handouts and after the bourbon went dry, the meeting was motioned adjourned by Herald; seconded by Alf.

Meeting adjourned at 9:45.

The preceding is the Truth, Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth……give or take a lie or two.




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