The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism will bring some of the biggest names in country music to El Dorado Reservoir next week for its four-day Dam Music Fest.
On April 22, 2012, I headed up to the State Lake north of Topeka with my buddy Scott Stormann, who is also the bassist of Echo Lake, to catch some fish.
I've been friends with Scott since junior high and we've been fishing together for several years. It seems like every time we go up to the State Lake, Scott lands a huge bass. A lot of people complain about the State Lake, but the truth is that it's got some nice-sized fish in it, which is exactly what we found out on this trip.
Scott had been fishing at another spot right before I got there. It was around 7 p.m. and we were hoping to do a little bass fishing while the sun was still up and then switch to catfish once it got dark. No sooner had I gotten all my tackle and rods out and started baiting my hook than I hear a huge splash and Scott's fight begins with this MONSTER fish. I dropped the hook I was baiting (my right hand still covered in blood from the chicken liver) and picked up my video camera with my clean hand. As I ran over and began filming, we could tell right away that this fish was huge. Scott battled the brute and finally managed to reel it in and get a hand in its mouth. We took a few photos and weighed and measured it. The largemouth came in at just over 5 pounds and was a little over 20 inches long. Scott said it was the biggest bass he'd ever caught and I couldn't help from laughing... so much for this lake having no big fish! What happened next though floored me.
This story was published in the Washburn Review. Be sure to check them out!
For a band named Echo Lake, it's only natural that the founding fathers of the group love to fish.
Drummer Matt Mirsch, senior music education major, and bassist Scott Stormann, who is coming back to Washburn after taking a few years off to work, created the popular Topeka-based funk band while earning their diplomas at Seaman High School in 2006. Several years and a few new band mates later, the band has become a local favorite thanks to various gigs they've done in the area, including the Jayhawk Theatre Revival in 2009.
However, when the pair of North Topekan rockers aren't practicing for an upcoming gig or studying, they spend a good chunk of time at various fishing spots, mainly the Shawnee State Lake just north of Topeka.
"Scott has an addiction," said Mirsch. "I fish because I like to eat, Scott fishes because he's addicted to the adrenaline rush of the catch and he should probably see someone about that. That's all I have to say about that."
The two began fishing together in high school, but said they just recently started fishing frequently again this summer.
"We used to fish every now and again, because Matt's dad was a big fisherman and my dad was," said Stormann. "We've been fishing since we were little, but this summer we really started fishing a lot, like hardcore. I've been going out every weekend and Matt comes along probably once every other weekend with me and we've been going catfishing and bass fishing."
The other members of the band—lead singer Dave Hess, guitarist Michael Spangler and saxophonist T.C. Gomez—are all from Washburn. Hess recently graduated with a degree in vocal performance, while Spangler is working toward a business degree and Gomez is working toward a music education degree. Stormann said they've never managed to get the whole band together for a fishing trip, joking that it was mostly because Gomez never had enough money for a fishing license.
"Dave came out once... he's a better singer than a fisherman," said Mirsch.
Saturday was a big day for Country Stampeders. The last time headliner Brad Paisley performed at the largest country music concert in Kansas, he put on an incredible show, and many of those returning for Saturday night's performance were aware of the sort of theatrics he had in store.
However, before he even took stage, there were a few other big name performers in Jerrod Niemann and Blake Shelton. Niemann, who was born in Harper, Kan., but raised in Liberal, Kan., sang a few of his most well-known songs, including "Lover, Lover" and "What Do You Want?" He also sang "Good Ride Cowboy," a tribute song for fallen country singer/rodeo star Chris LeDoux that he co-wrote for Garth Brooks and a few of his funnier, yet lesser-known songs such as "The Buckin' Song" and "For Everclear," a hilarious song about his party days in college. He topped it off with a cover of "Santeria" by Oasis, which was phenomenal.
Brendan Handy gives Rouse Outdoors a thumbs up at the 2011 Country Stampede.
Country Stampede 2011 began on Thursday, June 23, for many country music fans. However, for me it began on Friday.
I made the annual trip to Manhattan, KS, with my best friend from high school Brendan Handy and my mom, who has been taking me to the Stampede each year since my senior year of high school. It's kind of a tradition.
This year's lineup was exciting for me because two musical guests who are well known for their fishing songs (Brad Paisley and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) would be in attendance. Brad Paisley is one of my all-time favorite musicians, but we had to wait until 9:30 p.m. on Saturday to hear him. Instead, we got a chance to listen to a legendary band Friday in the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, as well as Lady Antebellum, the headliner, and Joe Nichols. We arrived at the Stampede at just around 5 p.m., grabbed a turkey leg and a drink from the concession stands and went to find our seats near the middle of the crowd on the right side. However, before we even got seated, we heard a familiar voice over the videoboard. In front of the entire park, WIBW meteorologist Jeremy Goodwin proposed to his girlfriend Nichole Pemberton, who is sisters with one of my friends from high school. She said "Yes," and the crowd roared in approval. Then the music kicked off.
Josh Rouse is an outdoor enthusiast from Topeka, Kansas. He is the Outdoors Editor for The Topeka Capital-Journal.