There’s a few places on the map that feel like old friends and McMinnville, Tennessee is one of them in my little world. Driving down back roads that I shouldn’t know but do and knowing what’s around those areas make it feel like a funky home away from home. I definitely have a soft spot in my heart for the Home of Southern Musky as the Tennessee State Senate just proclaimed McMinnville and Warren Country, Tennessee to be. This year the Hardly, Strictly Musky event kicked off at the Foglight Foodhouse, an awesome little food spot right on the river. If you’re in the area you need to stop by. I hear the etouffee is amazing. Before dinner, Todd Gregory of Towee Boats gave a quick run down of the rules for the event. The last rule is always the most important rule anywhere you fish; Don’t Be An Asshole. It’s the simplest rule people love to ignore. If you’re an asshole, stay home.
Here’s where I should say that this year for me was a bit different. My boat partner had to bail. Work called and he had to answer. An aside here, a lot of folks think working in the fly fishing world is glorious. It can be I guess, but it’s still a job and sometimes that job can get in the way of fishing. Luckily my friend Tom decided to come down from Minnesota and my friend Jeff came in from Missouri. We’d decided we were going to spend the weekend helping Todd out as much as we could, fish when it felt fishy, and just have fun taking pictures. No serious faces, no stress, just fun with friends. Team Ozark Pile Voyageur was all about volunteering.
Watching Buddy McMahon’s musky mural coming together was my favorite part of the weekend. Buddy has some serious skill and it was put on display for all McMinnvillians to see. Friday night we met up at the Collins River Bbq and Cafe for dinner and beers after a long day on the water. The Pig Farm crew showed off some of the bounty from the Get Trashed event. Get Trashed is where people fishing take a few minutes from their day and fill a bag with trash from the river. Pretty damned cool idea from the Farmers. Stories were shared and after a few drinks everyone headed to their cabins or tents to get back to the water in the morning. Some of these diehards were sleeping in their vehicles in the parking lots of boat launches to secure a spot. That’s dedication.
On Saturday morning, Jeff, Tom, and I headed out to do a little fishing. We saw three fish but none came to hand. The fishing was tough that day. Blue bird skies and the fish seemed to get lockjaw. We floated a good section and then ran up a section to see if there were any fish. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, there weren’t. Well, there probably were but they were laughing at us. We decided then that we should just spend the rest of the day cleaning the river. Our plan was to load my boat and truck with tires. I called Greg Morgan who organized it and said where can we get rid of the tires if we pull say 50 of them out? After much back and forth, we found out the problem with tires. No one wants them. You get charged to dispose of them. So if we cleaned them out of the river, we couldn’t afford to pay for disposal. So we filled 6 bags with trash. As an aside, next year I hear there will be a dumpster where we can get rid of tires! That’s huge for the river! We get that nastiness out of it and everyone will benefit.
We bounced off the river and headed back over to Collins River BBQ for the final night of Hardly, Strictly Musky 2015. The trash bags were unloaded and we were greeted by an incredibly happy Todd Gregory. He’d just gotten a message that Alan Broyhill had landed a 49 1/2″ musky. That was the only fish caught that day. Alan hit a homerun in the bottom of the ninth inning. Crazy how that works out some times. Congrats to Alan on the well deserved fish.
(photo credit: Peter Taylor http://www.ptpix.com/)
After dinner the swag was handed out. This year there was a mountain of swag from sponsors Towee Boats, Costa Del Mar, Scientific Anglers, Cohutta Fishing Company, TFO Fly Rods, Southern Culture on the Fly, Hunter Banks Company, 3 Rivers Angler, Vedavoo, Flymen Fishing Company, Wetfly, Clutch Tactical Fly Rods, SMITHFLY, SIMMS, Mayfly Coffee, SP3 Lubricants, MYSTIC Fly Rods, and the best prize of all, a custom guitar painted by Brad McMinn.
The winners of Get Trashed? Team Ozark Pile Voyageur. We scored some nice Patagonia gear, a rod, and random swag packed in the bags. Next year, we’re pulling tires til we’re tired..
And then as soon as it began, it was over. That’s really the only bad part about the Hardly, Strictly Musky event. It ends way too fast. Everyone packed up Sunday, some fished, and some like me, hit the highway as the sun was coming up for a long drive home. 2016 Hardly, Strictly Musky looks like it’s going to be even bigger and better so make sure you tell work you’re busy and sign up when more info is released this winter.
I want to especially thank Todd Gregory and his Towee crew for putting on this awesome event. The sponsors and the anglers for showing up. 80 anglers from 17 states is no joke for a fly fishing tournament that’s not really a tournament in the dictionary sense. The musky tribe keeps growing and that’s a good thing.
Lastly, thank you to Eric, Mark, and Matt Grajewski, Chris Willen, and Mike Schultz for letting Tom and I sleep on the most damned comfortable couches in the McMinnville area.
Until next year, friends…