Sunday, June 30, 2013

Long Summer Evenings

Is there anything better than a trout stream on one of the first hot days of early summer? 

Yes, being on that same stream as the heat of the day bleeds into the cool hours of dusk! In June, the low light seemingly lasts forever. Bugs hover in the air over the swirling waters. The trout look up. We look down. And we all stare goggle-eyed as night finally wins out. You crawl up the bank and quickly peel off wet waders. You turn the ignition key and slam the car door silencing, at least for a day, the river sounds you love. You flip on your headlights to follow the two tracks leading you through the alfalfa field to the cattle guard and the asphalt that sends you home. 




Thursday, June 27, 2013

Final Installment on WW II

Interview with Newton Williamson of Grey's Point Bonefish Inn

To refresh your memory, Eric Wiberg is writing a book about German Submarines in WW II in the Bahamas. To see the original post about the survivors of the U-boat attack in FLY PAPER click here. 
The survivors arrive in New York City
Eric Wiberg summarizes the arrival of the survivors to Acklins Island saying:

"It turns out that after passing Hogsty Reef and arriving of Castle Island the 47 survivors and the body of Parson headlined north up the coast, looking for buildings and a landing. They found one by Pine Field, a small settlement on the northeast of Acklins, not Salinas after all. The adults were mostly out cutting bark ( Cascarilla bark is used to make the liqueur Campari. - Ed. ) so children like Newton Williamson and Remilda Cox ran down to the beach to meet the emaciated men. Then a child or two was dispatched to find adults, who were summoned from the fields and the settlement of Hard Hill. They bought some basic foodstuffs which were devoured on the beach.
Remilda Cox
Newton Williamson

Rev. Capt. Collie ordered his sailboat, which lay at anchor in Anderson Settlement a few miles down the coast, to go up the coast an bring them men south, which was done. The men then had a painful walk under the sun up the hill a few miles to Hard Hill where large cool stone buildings - the Methodist Church and the school house provided shelter (see photos).


Methodist Church
The old school house

Then they recuperated and the following day a modest service for Parson was held, and he was interred. When they were ready the lifeboat was abandoned and they all boarded the GO ON, which was quite a sizeable gaff-rigged sloop which was used to making the ocean-going run up to Nassau. They took the men around Castle Island, around Long Cay / Fortune Island to near Bird Island Rock many miles away off Crooked Island, where Betty Carstairs in the VERGEMERE IV intercepted them and rushed them by speed boat to Nassau in less than 24 hours....


HERE IS THE UNEDITED INTERVIEW WITH MR. NEWTON WILLIAMSON, AGE 78, OF PINE FIELD, ACKLINS ISLAND, BAHAMAS.... MAY 2013. 
By Mari Anderson and Fritz Damler & friends


Mr. Williamson points to where the survivors were first seen.

TAPE 1:
Go on Helped w/ the rescue of the lifeboat and they landed in Hard Hill
Does that sound familiar to you – US sailors torpedoed in 1942 – 33 days crossing the ocean
You bringing something new to me now – I remember a ship sank and a number of men who were drifting for days – they came right here in the same settlement out there – I was the only one, me and 2-3 more of us right here, I remember it quite well
I was young very young – maybe maybe I was no more than 7 or 8 – 
From what we understand sloop GO ON towed their metal raft to Hard Hill
They towed it to Hard Hill – I can show you the spot
Yes I remember one of them did die, buried right in Hard Hill cemetery
Alfred Samuel Collie he was the pastor of the church
I remember that – I following you now..
What come’s to mind? Stands out/
Well all we know is that these people came ashore right out there – the boat came ashore only us here, children, our parents were working on the cays off the coast there – only was 3 or 4 of us, my sister in law she was the older one, they came in and we cooked for them b/c they didn’t eat for – 
Yeah, they didn’t have anything
We kept them at the school house in Hard Hill, we cooked and feed them what we had, corn grits and whatever
Then that evening, Sammy Collie, Alfred Collie then that evening they towed the other boat down to Hard Hill they carried the boat that they came in, then I think after they contact the commissioner them, then Alfred Collie he took them to Nassau on the GO ON . I remember it now, it rings a bell
Lifeboat – I don’t know if he carried it but the lifeboat didn’t stay around  it wasn’t around, I don’t know if he carried but maybe they took it with them? Yes
GO ON – well that was some of the biggest sail boat we had those days, went from here to Nassau and back and after a few years after sold it – 
To someone not on Acklins – sold it to another family islands
She was a two –master, had in it a little engine plus a sail. I remember it quite well now
How big was it? She was big, about maybe about 40 feet overall, maybe 30 feet on the bottom – bowsprit
Any photos? No all houses all mash up by hurricane in hard Hill, if something would have been in there but all destroyed, but a hurricane called Donna in 1961- whacked bird rock Landrail Point – yeah that was the one 
Laughter – such a young boy big deal for you
Very young we really only us a children, only one grown person, the other family members farming out there, go there to farm, get some bark and fish and – we were small about 3 or 4 of us and sister in law Remilda – she the one that did the cooking – she live till just a month ago now she in Nassau
I have her # you can call her – she has good rememberence – would love to get the # he would love to follow up. 
WILLIAMSON TAPE 2: 
The one, I know he was the captain, kept saying “food, food!” He went and trying to do whatever he could – and we gave whatever we had, and would do it again.
There are a few survivors of that who are still alive
This young man who is still alive feels it is an important to tell the story – if you would like to take a photo of where the men came in – right out there – straight down the road – I’ll go and drive – before you make that bend before you go that way – straight as though you going to the sea. Since you came this far, might as well (laughter) we were going to go that way anyway to talk with Leonard collie.
He might have some memories -
He was not living here then, he was out of Chester’s You are talking to the man now, whatever we could do then we did – I ain’t young now but that ring a bell back , as you say back then I remember there was a boat came in here and they say their sink ship out there and they say they was drifting for so many days, and they came right in the bay here, and from there we help take care of them until the other men – we didn’t have no grown people much here, so we went to the Hard Hill and told them about it, and they went this way, and that evening they took them all that way – that was the long walk
Yeah long walk to Hard Hill – do you remember the GO ON
Our account said the GO ON towed the lifeboat to that point NO NO NO the boat, they towed it from HERE to Hard Hill but the raft itself on its own – it arrived and it drift right in here – well god had that planned to them so it came through the channel – they didn’t even touch the reef, god had that plan for them, came in right to the beach here. Yeah I could go – would you mind… phone # just in case – they walk to beach. 
It’s tremendous – STANDING ON BEACH – Interviewer narrates:
So they hit here, your brother down there let them know then they brought the GO ON back here and then they took everyone down that way, towed em down there, they buried him at Hard Hill Cemetery then they took them overland to the Bight there and the mailboat took them (he says NASSAU) to Long Cay – yeah wow! What a story – he confirms by murmuring yes and saying Yes Mam.
DIFFERENT TOPIC:
Williamson says; Plane went down someone down there – she came here just to look at the place where the plane went down – maybe it gave her some kind of comfort – went down between here and Plana Cays. Very sad. To give her some comfort. Look at all that rope there in the pile.
TAPE 4 – walking in bush This is where you can’t see but I was born in the house behind that one that’s building – the roof that is showing, I was born right there – I was there and was looking out - and right there I saw this, boat, it came right here – right through the channel here..
Let’s go by the beach a bit more. Mr. Williamson you are one of the only people who has an eyewitness memory of this after all these years. 
W: Yes eye-witness (wind) – I kind of hesitate to remember because it was a long time, but after you came here and said there was a couple of people in this boat, then it came back to me. 49 people that is amazing. This boat came and all of these people – inaudible – I remember that, this boat came, right here, where we was. (sounds of walking in bush, wind)
It was right here – pointing on beach. “Get closer”
Now you are going to be a celebrity – laughter – wind
Around this point here…. Wind – they came in and how was it that the GO ON was able to tow them – Collie – Albert Collie, he lived in Hard Hill and the GO ON was anchored down there, so we were able to run down and tell him – I send my younger brother and another one, I send them…. They all died now. Passed away – we called them Policeman – 
What was the constable’s name – He had another one on Bain in the crew too - well we had one Bain in the crew too, all of them was from Hard Hill but he wasn’t the constable – they the one that took the body and buried it up in the graveyard up there – they would - when they do things like that in those days the government would pay the cost, take care of them and tow them to Nassau and feed them. 
Right – then the GO ON took them to Long Cay then another larger boat took them to Nassau – cause all they had was the mailboat but the mailboat never used to come here – took them from the other side, Crooked Island. They took them over there and sailed from there.
This is the place where they came – it bring it fresh to me now! Yes, laughter – brings it back (emotion)
Boat run from Nassau to Long island Crooked island Long Cay and Inagua they called it the AIR PHEASANT. Yes – laughter. Like the bird PHEASANT – yes she made the trip per week, she was big, 107 (or 170?) feet, it was a steam ship, it wasn’t like the DEBORNE (?) - it was owned by the salt people in Inagua – supply ship for all of Inagua – yeah. (ericksons and Morton owned the salt works in Inagua)
We can’t thank you enough – I was glad I was of some help – you were carrying in your head that would be so useful to people you haven’t met – Mr Parsons’ family would have appreciated what you did
There was only a little track road, you had to walk it – I had to walk from here to Hard Hill to school, from morning come back in the evening – I had a little horse one time but not for very long – we used to go 5 days to school and 1 day to church – 6 days – pity you didn’t have a dinghy you could sail down – we did that some times – coming back would be yeah – difficult
Pleasure to meet y’all – glad to give you something of an idea of what had took place up in here.
END WILLIAMSON INTERVIEW


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Update on WW II Story from Acklins Island


If you read the story involving the Bahamas in WW II, you know we were seeking more info on the the 47 survivors of a sub attack that sank their boat the Potlach. Those that survived the U-boat attack spent a month in lifeboat. They had a man die from a shark bite and incredibly made their way in the lifeboat from near Ragged Island past Inagua to eventually arrive at Acklins Island. From here, they got a ride on a yacht owned by an heiress to Nassau and eventually reached New York City.

If you haven't read this post, I urge you to do so. Author Eric Wiberg is writing a book on German submarines in the Bahamas during WWII which includes this event. He is trying to find out more info on what happened to the survivors on their journey from Ragged to Acklins Island. This is where I got involved in this intriguing detective story.

It all started after I sent Eric some requested info on Ragged Island and he replied:


Dear Scott,
Thanks very much for your prompt and very helpful reply - the contact you shared is the only direct line I have with Ragged Island (2 ships, Michael Jebsen and Empire Corporal, were sunk just south of Ragged Island in 1943 by a sub under Holtorf - U-598. I believe - as part of Convoy TAW 12J).

The POTLATCH survivors landed in the NE corner of Great Inagua, sailed their lifeboat to Little Inagua, then past Hogsty Reef, and made it to a point SW of Acklins Island off Castle Island. Then they waited till sunlight, sailed to a small community which was presumably Salinas, and from there were met with Constable Bain who took them in the GO ON to the Anderson settlement and they walked to Hard Hill. From there the skipper John "Jack" Lapoint walked to buy food supplies and contact Nassau. The 47 men stayed in a school and were looked after by local women. Second Steward David Parson (I attach his bio as well his death certificate in which the skipper lists his relationship as that of "friend"), died in the arms of the skipper within sight of rescue on their final day in the metal lifeboat.

Parson is buried, presumably in the Anderson or Hard Hill cemetery - any chance I could find someone locally through you that would be willing to look for the grave marker?

The Rev. Capt. Collie (not sure first name) officiated the burial. I have been in contact with Mr/Rev Hervis Bain of Acklins but it is very intermittent. I would really appreciate your help as a photo of the grave, which is one of only two providing evidence of all this history, would be huge.

All my best and I recommend you go to www.uboatsbahamas.com and follow the drop-down tabs for ATTACK NARRATIVES and SURVIVOR STATEMENTS for the POTLATCH or any other ships and you will find a lot of detail including original documentation.
Thanks again
Eric

Then last weekend, I got this e-mail from Eric. He had some good news:

Dear Scott,
Some generous soul through a B&B owner on Crooked Island [Mari Anderson-Ed.] physically went - at their own expense - for a day in a car to the site of the POTLATCH landing, and you won't believe what they found.... eye witnesses, photos, the graves, the church, the school - everything but the schooner GO ON which I understand was a gaff-rigged sloop and has long since "gone on"...
Best,
Eric


I asked Eric for more details. He sent me the e-mail from Mari Anderson who is one of the "generous souls" who went to the site of the Potlach landing to get more info. Here is her e-mail to Eric:

Hi Eric-
We had quite a day.  We have lots of photos and some audio recordings that I’ll put in your dropbox sometime tomorrow, but for now, let me hit the high points.

David Parson is indeed buried at Hard Hill/Anderson’s Cemetery, as corroborated by two people who were in Hard Hill when the sailors were there, but after many decades and many hurricanes, no marker remains, if there ever was one. 




There are, however, several old cement slabs with no identification.  It’s possible one is his; also possible sand and time have covered over the exact spot.

It’s a very beautiful place.  Almost all the identified graves belong to members of the Collie family, which brings me to:

Reverend Clemese Alberta Collie Cox, 86, a lifelong resident of Hard Hill and the daughter of Capt. Rev. Samuel Collie, co-owner with his brother Alfred (I’m sure you already know this) of the ketch Go On. BTY, everyone who remembered the Go On spoke of her as a two-masted boat, so, Fritz tells me she was a ketch, not a sloop? - more on that later.

Capt. Collie lived to be 95 and was pastor of the St. Mark’s Baptist Church in Hard Hill for over 50 years. When he retired, his daughter Clemese took over, a role she continues to this day.  

Clemese Cox remembers the men, the fact the one died and was buried in the HH Cemetery and that they housed and fed them at the school.  She said they had a service for him at the Baptist Church prior to his burial. Doug recorded our conversation with her on his iPhone, so you can hear for yourself.  She is a sharp and delightful woman.  We took several photos of her, too.

The school is still standing.  We took photos it inside and out.

The Old School


We were then referred to a man named Newton Williamson, 78, of Pine Field. Mr. Williamson was 7 years old when the survivors arrived.  His account is different from the sequence of events on the U Boat page, but here goes:

Mr. W was at home on the hill overlooking the beach in Pine Field when he and his brother and sister saw the boat sail onto the beach. He took us to the spot (got photos) and also showed us the ruins of his childhood home. He reported that the men immediately asked for food.  The youngest boy was dispatched to HH to fetch help.  Capt. Collie returned to PF with the Go On and towed the men and metal boat to HH, where they walked or were carried into the settlement - a distance of a couple of miles.

I did ask him specifically if the Go On had been towing the metal boat when it landed.  He said no.  Best for you to hear this for yourself on the recording, I think.  Interesting, though, huh?

As for the Go On, the folks we talked to who remembered it all believed it was sold at some later date and went to another island.

No leads on Constable Bain or the metal lifeboat.  Lots of head-scratching on that one.

Anyway, lots of fun.  Wonderful people.  Some sweet photos coming your way tomorrow.

Best,
Mari


Newton Williamson


YES, TO ALL OF YOU THAT HAVE FISHED ACKLINS ISLAND, THE MAN WHO FIRST MET THE SURVIVORS WAS NEWTON WILLIAMSON! YES, THE NEWTON WILLIAMSON, OWNER OF GREY'S POINT BONEFISH INN AND A MAN I HAVE KNOWN FOR 20 YEARS. I HAVE NEVER HEARD THIS STORY BEFORE!!

I thought this was so incredible, I'm including the entire interview with Rev. Williamson in the next post. This interview gives an wonderful insight into the Bahamas during World War II. Newton was only 7 or 8 years at the time. I'll post the interview in the next few days.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Good to Go for Trout in Wyoming?




According to my desktop widget, river levels were dropping. I had been closely watching these graphs for weeks and now it finally appeared our streams might be good-to-go. Last week, flash flood warnings had been issued when heavy thunderstorms laid siege to NE Wyoming.  Ping pong ball-sized hail, vicious winds and drenching rains became seemingly everyday events which spiked the hydrographs and put an end to my fishing plans.



But It had now been dry for a week. Every day, I drive across a bridge that takes me over Little Goose Creek so I monitor this stream on a daily basis. This stream was now a bit off-color, but I could see the bottom. I thought it was time to give one of my favorite prairie streams a try. I loaded up my gear and drove south. About 30 minutes later, I pulled off an asphalt county road, rattled over an old cattle guard and swung into a verdant alfalfa field. I stepped out of my outfit into the knee deep grass. We were only a couple days off the solstice, yet this ranch had a summer feel to it.


I rigged a rod and grabbed a box of flies before I peered over the bank and into the riverbed. My heart sank. This stream was much higher than the creek near my home. Water was rolling over riverside grasses and had that cafe au lait, you're-not-gonna-dry-fly-fish/ you-might-get-skunked look to it.

With this cloudy water, I thought there would be no mayfly or caddis hatches and even if there were, the fish wouldn’t be looking up. If I could catch a fish it would no doubt be on a streamer or a nymph. I thought the fish would be in the "soft" water meaning eddies, near the bank or in the tailouts of runs. I didn't think they would be in the riffles. The water was too cloudy and moving too fast for them to pick out anything edible.



I put on a huge foam beetle with a hare's ear dropper three feet below the big bug. As I hiked across the alfalfa field, a dry breeze blew 90 degree air in my face. I muttered to myself knowing these conditions were far from ideal.

In the first run, I focused on the tailout. I made a few casts into the fast water at the head of the run, but didn't expect anything. I didn’t fish the run too long instead impatiently choosing to move upstream to look at a long slick hoping someone might be eating off the surface. But there were no risers. I waded up the long slick to the riffle now convinced I was going to have to put on a streamer to get any fish today. Well, at least it was a beautiful summer day I told myself. This never works! I wanted some action and wished it was next week when I knew the fishing would be better.

I waded up to the top of the slick and cast my rig into the slightly faster water at the bottom end of the riffle that fed the slick. As my eyes were averted while watching a fawn drink beside its mother, I thought I saw my beetle stall on its drift. I failed to react and  made the same drift on the next cast. The beetle bobbed again. I struck and a fish was on. Surprised, I reeled in a 14 inch bow. Now I rarely catch small fish on this stream. Usually I work hard to catch a few fish, but they are usually over 20 inches, so the size of this fish intrigued me. Maybe the high water had flushed some smaller fish in from upstream. Maybe this would be the harbinger of things to come with a new class-size arriving with the recent floods.


Pondering the significance of this catch, I waded up the run soon picking up fish after fish in faster and faster water, all on the nymph. The fish were all 14-16 inches. I had six or seven fish before I lost count. They were all stocky, well fed browns and rainbows. If this was the future on this stream, I could live with it! In the next run, I again caught nothing in my "soft" water and started picking up fish in the faster water of the riffle. 


These fish were slamming my nymph and obviously had no problem seeing it in the fast cloudy water. I had been so wrong that I stopped wading and took a moment to “self assess”. I concluded I was an idiot for at least three reasons... they were:
1.) The fish were going to be only in the "soft" water. WRONG!
2.) They couldn't see my fly in the cloudy fast water of the runs. WRONG!
3.) My day was going to suck. WRONG!


 I had been wrong and my attitude had probably ruined the first run. I made a note to try it again on my way back to the car. After all these years trout fishing, you’d think I would have learned my lesson to be open minded and positive... but no, today I had to learn this lesson all over again.

At the head of the run, water shot over a small ledge and pooled into a deep slot. I knew this from fishing the stream previous years at low water. I threw my rig into the very head of the riffle and something immediately smacked the nymph... hard. As I pulled back on my rod, a big bow jumped 4 feet out of the water. After a strong dogged fight, the fish was netted and measured at 19 inches. She was a deep, full bodied hen... Rubenesque if you will! I picked off a few more in the 16-18 inch range and could have quit for the day very happy...wrong and contrite... but very happy!

By the time I reached the next pool, I was almost mellow having melted into that content state that only a successful day brings. I fished the tailout, but only half-heartedly since I “knew” now the fish were most probably in the runs. Then I thought, you’re doing it again! You were wrong once, so don’t be fool again. I told myself to fish this "soft" water without preconceived notions.

This beautiful run has a very long tailout with two distinct tongues at the top that roll off a rock garden. Midway downstream, the two tongues meet to flow along a grassy cutbank. As the currents mix, the waters pass under two Russian olives trees that provide an afternoon parasol for any sun-shy trout. I flung my awkward dropper rig under the first of the olives making sure to throw a curve cast so the nymph landed upstream allowing the beetle to hit near the bank. It's hard to give yourself a chance with the up-fly when you're using such a long dropper rig. Often I put the nymph on shore or in a tree branch when I try to land a big dry next to the bank.



This time I was lucky. The moment the big beetle hit the shade near the bank a huge fish confidently swiped at the fly rolling to show a bright yellow belly. I knew this was a big brown and probably a male. He took off downstream.  I fumbled with my line hoping to clear it before I was screwed. I struggled to keep him out of the next run and with only inches to spare, he turned and chugged back upstream. I knew that was it and soon had him in the net. He was over 21 inches and more importantly, he promised great things for this stream this summer: lots of smaller 14-18 inch fish and apparently, some big monsters. I picked up another 20 inch brown in the fast water at the head of the run and another similar brown that hit my beetle as I dragging my fly behind me thru the rock garden! Unbelievable!


So now I started fishing everything: the runs, the softwater next to the bank, any structure and after this last fish, I added skating the beetle to my repertoire. It all worked! I caught some 12" dinks and a 22" hen brown next to the bank in very "soft" water on the nymph. I caught a few 16" fatties in the shallowest of runs and a 20" bow near a log jam. I first saw the ‘bow flash the beetle so on the next cast, I popped the bug away from the logjam eventually getting an impressively powerful strike.


I did not change my flies all day! At the end of the day, the beetle had no rubber legs left, teeth marks throughout its body and a tattered orange collar. The nymph was stripped to a bead and some dubbing. This was cheap fun: two flies and three feet of 3X tippet. Let’s call it 6 bucks worth of gear! 

It was a hell of a day and one that made me remember to dispense with pre-conceived notions, keep a positive outlook despite the conditions and play the game out... you really never have any idea what might happen. Each day is a new puzzle filled with hope and mystery.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hank Patterson Episode #7 - The Essential Gear


The world's greatest guide discusses equipment. This is a must see for any serious angler:





Monday, June 3, 2013

Mongolian River Guide Zolboo

Taimen, Zolboo and happy clients!


Here is an article on Mongolian guide Zolboo from Rare Planet entitled:



Campaign for Sustainable Fisheries Management/Onon River, Mongolia


Zolboo is a great fellow! I'm sure those of you that know him will appreciate this article.
(I love the English used in this article!)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Latest Issue of Sea Life Seychelles

The TAM TAM
Sea Life Seychelles magazine (which is published in the Seychelles and edited by Arnold Chetty) reprinted an article I wrote about visiting this archipelago in the early 1990's. This was before there were any 5-star resorts on Alphonse or La Digue Islands and before most, if any, fishermen had heard about the islands.
Larry Dahlberg's group comes in and we reluctantly leave Alphonse Island
On those early trips, we used the Tam Tam liveboard to access St. Francoise Island from Alphonse Island where a narrow airstrip had been cut through a copra plantation. The Tam Tam was captained by an eccentric Englishman named Martin Lewis. I went on to do many trips aboard the Tam Tam. These islands were a very wild place back then and the fishing was absolutely incredible!

The strip on Alphonse. The resort was built on the point to the left.
Martin Lewis is his breakfast attire
Russ Dilley with a St. Francoise bone
On my first visit, Larry Dahlberg came in with his film crew on the charter we were using to go home. We split the expenses and it worked out great. Larry subsequently did a couple shows which aired on his HUNT FOR BIG FISH TV series. These TV shows let the world in on the fantastic opportunities for bonefish, milkfish and GT's the islands had. The rest as they say, is history. Now, everyone knows about the Seychelles. Believe me, the islands reputation is well-deserved! I feel very lucky to have been one of the very first fly fishermen to have fished the Seychelles.

Here is the article about the early days in the Seychelles titled FLY FISHING / THE EARLY YEARS.