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Posts Tagged ‘fishing’

Alright, I’m already a day behind and only one day has passed.  So there you go.  I’d like to say that cosmic weather along with perfect water temperature conspired to make the once in a spring hatch come off and I was busy catching fish so fast I melted my flyline.  I’d like to say that… but I can’t.  Between being a single Dad and my impending birthday (and the friends and dinners that come with it) I just managed to run clean out of time.  That happens so I won’t beat myself up about it.  In fact, I think being ok with that is something flyfishing has given me.

As anyone reading this knows, timing is everything in fishing.  In fact, timing on top of timing on top of timing ad infinitum is everything.  Right time of year, right time of day, right time in the moon cycle, right time in the weather pattern and on and on and on.  In fact, it not just timing at that moment that is important.  It can be the timing immediately following a PREVIOUSLY perfect timing that is important.  The right calm after the right squall that followed the right barometric pressure drop etc.  I’m not sure how far you could go back, but I doubt our tiny brains could wrap all the way around it anyway.  It all gets very large when you start thinking about it.  It also does a fine job of illustrating that skill can take you a ways, but luck and other mystical unknown forces will always hold the trump card in this sport.

Anyway, timing is important, that much is clear.  I’ve had to learn to be ok with dropping everything and hitting the water when it all lines up.  I mean,  I was always OK with it… but I had to get right about all the “should be doing something else” thoughts that come with it.  There are always blogs that were promised and laundry that could be done and floors that should be swept.  If you decided never to fish until everything was complete, you may never make it to the water at all.  The minutiae of life has a way of quietly swallowing up everything around it and if you aren’t careful you will one day look around and see that your whole life is simply moving from one minutiae to the next.  Sure, these things do need to get done, and they will get done.  In fact, I find they are all still there waiting for me when I get home.  It’s amazing how few things in our lives are truly as urgent as they feel.

You see, when I’m on the water my mind can’t be back home sorting laundry, or making the bed.  It has to be right there, in the moment.  If I’m not consumed by the fishing, I’m not doing it right and most likely I’m not doing it well.  So I’ve had to learn to stop worrying about where I should be or what I should be doing.  If I made the decision to go fishing, then fishing is where I should be…end of story.  Hell, fishing is a much more important part of my life and mental health than the damn dishes are.  So fishing has taught me to see where I am when I am there.  To live in that one breathless instant when the earth slows to a halt, the clouds stop moving, the soundtrack to our lives pauses and the fish examines my fly.  The longest instant in the world.

So no, I wasn’t fishing and yes I did promise you a blog. (There was an audible outcry across the globe when I didn’t post one.)  I was at my birthday dinner with two of my best friends, their daughter (who is my daughter’s best friend) and my daughter .  We laughed, ate great food and annoyed the other patrons at the restaurant.  That is where I was, and thanks to flyfishing that is ONLY where I was.  I wasn’t half there and half at work. I wasn’t half there and half at home worrying over a blog.  I was in that moment.  I won’t be getting that moment again so I milked it for everything it had.  If you gotta problem with me not meeting my blogging responsibility, blame flyfishing.   

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ONE MORE DAY UNTIL…

Every Day in MayEvery Day in May is a blogging challenge issued by How Small A TroutA Fresh Start, and Memoirs of a Flygirl. Other bloggers are jumping in. Don’t get left behind!

ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS: POST TO YOUR BLOG EVERY DAY IN MAY. Cinchy! Mayfly hatches, spring runoff, spawning fish, tulips, debauched May Day pagan rituals—blog it all. Blog to learn, blog to remember, blog to forget. Document May, the whole thing. We’re providing prompts for each day if you need them, but feel free to interpret, misinterpret, or post whatever you like.

Are you up to it..?

To accept the challenge and pass it on, reblog this kick-off post and graphic, then tag your May posts with “every day in May”. Don’t worry if you see this and May is already here; there are no late fees nor penalties for early withdrawal. To all you who blog about other stuff like scrapbooking or cupcakes or scrapbooking about cupcakes: copy this idea and do your own Every Day In May. One day left!

Da prompts:

1. May Day
2. home waters
3. current
4. tying
5. fishing
6. praying
7. working
8. hatching
9. grinning and laughing
10. conservation
11. waders
12. something completely different
13. Mother’s Day
14. rod
15. line
16. leader
17. fly
18. fish, fish, fish
19. more fish
20. greenery
21. bugs
22. runoff
23. safety first
24. memory
25. shoreline
26. lessons learned
27. bucket list
28. news
29. inspiration/aspiration
30. fish philosophy
31. achievement

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By this point in the evening, you’ve come to respond to the faceless voice from the poling platform behind you as though it were the voice of the Almighty himself.  Earlier on this February day you reacted to it’s instructions like they were learned suggestions.  Hearing, “2 o’clock, 45 feet out.” you would hesitate, peer into the water, try to confirm the truth of this phrase.  But you learned this wasn’t a question, or request he was presenting, and you had better not act like it was.  You had to take it on faith alone.  He is Moses from atop the Mount, staff firmly in hand, and when you waited for proof that those statements were true, if you waited to act on knowledge instead of faith alone, it was too late.  The school was scattering, the Reds were on the run.  You were trapped in the Hell that is only seeing the target after it has made itself no longer a target.

“Ok, 11 o’clock, 50 feet out.” Is the lastest commandment.  You stip furiously.  While He poled you around, looking into, what is to you, the unseeable, you have been blind casting; flailing about because action seemed better than non-action.  It probably wasn’t.  So now  you are left with too much line on the water and a frantic need to obey.  So you strip as fast as you can, until you have a manageable amount of line on the water.  And then you try to defy gravity.

The rod is drawn quickly back.  You line hand is hauled down and the water sucks on the line with all the tension it can muster.  Your 9 foot long rod is bowed beautifully.  Suddenly it is no longer a floppy willowy stick, it becomes a fiercely well engineered piece of equipment.  Arching to exactly the right shape to drag 25 feet of line smoothly away from the greedy water and send it flowing back in a perfectly straight line.  If you were a better man, this is all the energy you need to shoot that line perfectly forward to 11 o’clock, 50 feet out.  While this is His word, you are not a Righteous man with ease.  You will have to work at it.

So, you bring the line forward and shoot out 10 feet of line, stopping it short of laying it down on the water and sending it back into another back cast.   On your forecast the second time you shoot more line and again reverse course, drawing back into a backcast.  By now, He has got to be impatient, you start to think.  He gave a simple command, and yet you dally.  Your floating flyline can walk on water, and yet  you whip your fly around in the air rather than following the command.  You are working feverishly to get the fly to 50 feet.  A better man could have done it long ago.  But that man would not have had to work like you are.  Strained to obey.  This straining has certainly cost you fish in the past, and He MUST be frustrated.

On the third try you are at 50 feet and with a snap against the pole, you shoot your remaining line.  The snap, you know, means you have worked too hard, exerted more energy than is necessary.  You had one too many false casts.  With more faith in yourself, you could have shot to 50 feet on 2 false casts instead of 3.  No, matter, the fly in in the water.

The instant the fly hit the water, He said, “Ok Wait.” and you do.  You gaze into the distance.  Straining to see the Truth as He does.  To see the fish, know it’s direction and how close it is to the fly.  To eat that apple of knowledge and thus relegate Him to the man that pushes the pole, rather than He who Knows.  It is a goal you will never attain.  You think maybe you see a shadow where He is gazing, or a flash.  That is as close as you will get on this day.  “Ok, strip!” is the third command and you stip your line.

Three, foot long strips in, and the line goes taught.  You raise the rod tip quickly and firmly; saying in your head, “Just come up tight, don’t try to rip his face off.”  Now the fight in on.  Silently, behind you, without your knowing, a fist shoots up into the air.  A small celebration from atop the mount. It was your success He was after and your success He is cheering, unbeknownst to you.

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I was the only car on the four lane interstate that morning.  Not surprising considering it was 5 am on a Sunday, but it still felt novel.  The vastness of a 4 lane interstate when there are no other cars around is both freeing and a little freaky.  The wide open pavement means you can drive with abandon.  At the same time it almost feels like standing on a roof top.  There no constraints to stop you… also, there are no constraints to save you.  It is not that it isn’t what I thought it would be like, the empty road.  It is that I couldn’t pre-create the feelings that it being like that would evoke.  About a week earlier I had received permission to fish a pond that I was very excited about, and I was finally on my way to give it a shot.  I had been told that the panfish and bass fishing in this pond would be something between falling in love and losing your virginity.  I had an idea that slight exaggeration was occurring, but none-the-less, I had the excitement of a man on his way to…. well…. get some.

It was a gorgeous morning.  Not a thought of a cloud in the sky and so still that exhaled cigarette smoke would just hang in front of you like the world had gone into slow motion.  The sun was just causing the collision between earth and sky to become visible in the east.  When she was up and in full fury that day, the sun would warm my little spot on the earth into the high 80’s, but not yet.  No, it was still a pleasantly cool 60.  It was a damn shame the 99% of the population would not being experiencing this little gift of time.

On a morning like this, the valleys of rolling hills in the area can sometimes be full of a dense fog.  I am not sure if it is a product of temperature differences, or moisture differences, or if it is natures way of ensuring that the requisite number of deer experience death via Chevy in order to keep the population in check.  But that is how it is, and it is cool to see and nerve-wracking to drive through.  This morning happened to be one of those mornings.  With no wind and the sun still not up to burn off the fog, some of the low spots were so full of this mystery vapor that for maybe 200 yards of driving the outside world had been erased.

I eased off of the pavement and onto the winding gravel that would descend into the area of the small pond.  This was not one of those hardpacked, straight as a string, gravel roads that one can comfortably traverse at 60 mph.  Rather this was a seldom used meandering little stretch of crushed rock and brown/orange dirt.  The lack of traffic and large looping curves made this a 30 mph job unless you thought you were a dirt track racer and are comfortable in a fishtail.  This is the kind of road that is there to remind us that slowing down and seeing can be worth alot more than the 6 minutes you save by hauling ass.  Despite my – Junior on his way to prom – excitement I was taking her as she comes.  The road looped and lobbed and slowly flowed down toward the pond.

I was just entering the curve that would whirl me directly toward the pond when the wall of white loomed up in front of me – ready to swallow my entire jeep.  The lack of impact as I entered the dense fog was almost surprising.  I am not used to seeing something so apparently solid and yet being able to move through it as though it doesn’t exist.  This was a serious fog.  I couldn’t see more that 5 feet beyond the windshield.  The only thing keeping me on the road was the change in sound as my tire left the gravel and began to tread on grass.  At that point I would know to correct my steering to keep me on the road.  So I pinballed my way down the road at about 5 miles a hour, eyes open as wide as they would go – not that that helped because I was driving by sound. I may as well have been blindfolded.

Eventually I parked in a small turn off.  I would later discover, once the entirety of my surroundings was unveiled, that miraculously I had found the right turnoff and parked as though I was an old hand at this.  I threw on my vest, strung up without tying on a fly, and started on foot in the general direction of the water.  You can always tell which way the water is because it is downhill from wherever you are.  The putt breaks towards the water.

Walking in the fog was stranger than driving in it.  Each step revealed an incrementally changing world. A slow progression as one plant was replaced by another and one tree grew slightly larger as it slowly entered the tiny bubble of reality that I was able to comprehend.  It was like watching time lapse photography of evolution. Behind me the fog swirled and eddied and slammed shut.  I was not cutting a path through the fog any more than a scuba diver cuts a path through the ocean.  All I was doing was fleetingly bringing into my tiny sphere of sensory perception pieces of a larger and hidden outside world.  Simply to have them erased from my immediate consciousness by my next step forward.

Eventually the water edge came upon me, as though I wasn’t moving forward, rather the rotation of the earth had brought it to me like a conveyor belt.  I sat on a rock and decided to get my wits about me.

The tiny piece of water I could see was smooth, making the pond look like it was made out of a mix of corn starch and water, rather than just water.  Like if you ran fast enough you could get all the way to the other side, but if you stopped for a second you would be slowly swallowed.  The sounds were incredible.  I don’t know if it was the lack of vision, or the moisture in the air, but all sounds seemed amplified and non-directional.  The birds were everywhere and unseeable.  From the Non-Newtonian pond came the splash of jumpers, the pop of Bluegills eating surface bugs and the BLLOOOOP of Largemouth Bass opening a hole in the surface of the water for the small frog to fall into.

The reason that reality no longer existed was immediately clear; silvery white cobwebs of steam lifted from the entire surface of the pond like cotton candy pulled for a cotton candy machine.  I sat in wonder and watched as the soul of this pond left it’s body and ascended.  After 20 minutes I decided it was time to fish.  I tied on a nice little yellow popper, stripped out some line, and pulled it into a backcast – bending my rod backward – and then rocking into a false cast – bending my rod forward – rocking back into a backcast and then into a false cast.  Holding 30 feet of line in the air.  On the 3rd false cast I shot my line forward streaming it through the line guides on my rod and into the unknown soul of the pond.

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The old Impala with a trunkload of fishing paraphernalia was just no longer doing the trick.  There were section lines I needed to drive down, minimum maintenance roads that needed explored and there was beginning to be smell emanating from the trunk that I feared was becoming permanent.  The time had come to get a vehicle that was more in tune with my habit of standing in water and whipping a stick around.  In other words, I needed a fishing truck.

I began my “search” in a way reminiscent of how I like to approach a stream.  I sat, thought, ruminated, pondered, and excogitated.  Once I had that out of the way, it became time to ask and answer some serious questions.

Would it make sense to trade in my car and get something new-ish?  This is a more complex question than it first appears.  First off, my 6 year old daughter loves that Impala like an old teddy bear.  We have had some serious adventures in it and there are memories in every nook and cranny of that interior.  Plus, it runs well despite having a lot of miles, making it hard to part with.  Lastly, and possibly most importantly, if I had a truck as my only vehicle I may balk at particularly hard driving.  Frankly, I was looking for something that would do the hard job, but that I could be fairly care-free with.  Or careless.  Or, some would say, reckless.  In all reality I was looking for something that someone else had already beat up pretty good, so I wouldn’t feel too guilty about adding to the damage at the margins.  I understand how little sense this makes.  I mean, something that hasn’t suffered any abuse can take more punishment that something that has, but for some reason the first dent is far more painful to me than the third.

What type of vehicle did I want?  The obvious answer is a pickup.  I needed something with high clearance and 4 wheel drive.  A nice (or more precisely not nice) used pickup would make the most sense.  The problem is I didn’t want one.  Pickups with the clearance I was looking for are pretty large.  I feel awfully manly in a large pickup, but I wasn’t looking forward to parking the thing.  I live in an apartment with limited parking and my space is pretty tight.  Ok, that is all just a lame excuse.  Did I mention I didn’t want one?  I wanted something fun.  This was supposed to be the vehicle I use as a way to go fishing.  And, despite how serious we become about fishing, it is more closely related to what you did when you called and asked your friend’s mom if Tommy could come out and play than it is to any serious endeavor of humankind.  So the vehicle is more like getting a skateboard than it is to getting a family car.  It should do what you need it to as a vehicle, but it should also be, well…………awesome.

So now I own a 1999 Jeep Wrangler.  Yeah I gave up alot of hauling room, and yeah it is louder on the highway than the cab of a new pickup, even with the hard top.  And yes, Barbie did have a pink one with a purple roll bar as her Barbie car at one point.  But hey, Patton rode around in one, and the freakin’ windshield lays down!!!  I pulled up to a fast food window to order and the lady asked me, “Can you please turn off your vehicle so I can hear you order?”  My daughter, in the backseat, patted the wheel well and said, “That’s just how beasty this sucker is.”  That is all the endorsement I needed.

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My first flyfishing experience was a (very well) guided flyfishing trip in Breckenridge, Colorado.  I had not so much as picked up a flyrod in my life and the amount of information that was thrown at me on this first weekend was astounding.  Our  guides presented us with a half day class on entomology, knot tying, casting, the names of various stream structures (such as riffles, undercuts, etc.) and a primer on what types of locations fish were likely to me found.  It was really an astounding to me how much there was to know.  These two men did a fine job of explaining the why’s and wherefore’s of everything they were teaching us and I left that half day class feeling well armed to undertake this proposition.  I mean hell, I had been fishing as long as I could remember, how hard could it be?

Well, it was like anything.  A class on it, or reading a book, will leave you over-confident and under-prepared for actually undertaking the tasks being described.  The casting was atrocious, I was totally befuddled by the fly box, or more precisely what fly to choose from it, and locating fishy looking spots was a helluva lot easier on a whiteboard propped up in the back of a pickup than on the stream.  Still, I knew what I was SUPPOSED to be doing and it was just a matter of learning the nuances that would allow me to become more proficient at those tasks.

The one thing that I could absolutely not get a grip on was spotting the fish.  I mean, I can see a rise as good as the next guy.  A foot long fish eating a bug off of the surface is hard to miss.  But these guides could see fish that were underwater and that were STAYING underwater.  I have very good eyesight and I am really good at spotting game, but I couldn’t see this fish for the life of me.  I tried squinting, squatting, and cleaning my sunglasses.  Of course I had come with the required polarized lenses, but there must have been magic in the glasses these guys were wearing.  By the halfway point of the second day the answer had become clear.  These men were obviously super-human.  They had been endowed, on the planet of their origin, with the ability to see through water as though it isn’t there.  I mean we aren’t talking about peering to the bottom of a glass of drinking water after all.  This is moving water, with a choppy surface distorting everything.  And the chop is moving so the distortions are changing.  On top of that the sun in is shining and reflecting off of the water.  This was like trying to do an Eye Chart that is stuck on a pole while riding the Teacup ride at the fair.  A Herculean feat.

I found it truly disheartening that there was no way I would ever be able to spot fish like these people could.  Fishing for fish you can see is a big part of the enjoyment of flyfishing to me.  I love that fact that flyfishing is somewhere in between sitting on a bucket watching a bobber and stalking a deer.  Unfortunately, I was apparently deer blind.

As our final hours approached I found myself walking past my uncle, who was on the trip with us, as I leapfrogged to a new spot.  I stopped to chat and he mentioned his frustration with not being able to spot the fish.  We were standing together, looking at the top of a stream that others could see the bottom of and bitching to each other about our failings when one of our two guides approached.  I told him our troubles and he smiled.  Then then pointed far upstream of where we were casting and said,”Look up there.   Every once is a while there will be a small window of smooth water traveling down the stream.  Find one and follow it with your eyes.  It will give you a survey of what is beneath the surface.”  He then walked on ahead to help my brother get a fly out of his hair.

Uncle and I stood there, looking for the magic window of smooth water.  Soon one appeared and sure as hell.  If you followed it with your eyes, and you worked to see through the water and not see the water, you could get a traveling view of the world beneath the chop.  A small moving square of knowledge and insight.  A fleeting pane of clarity.

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Last Sunday night I had to do one of those things that make you lose your appetite.  Something that you have to do over and over, even though once seems practically emotionally unbearable.  Right on schedule, my old companion, the lump in my throat joined me.  The one that we have been trained to have, not so much as a prelude of crying, but rather as the obstacle around which the sob cannot find a path.  It is a strawberry piece that gets stuck in the straw of your strawberry milkshake.  No matter how much better it would be to get the lump out and just let the milkshake come, there is no forcing it.  I wonder if I taught myself to have that at about the time I learned to not cry anymore when my feelings were hurt.  At any rate, that is where I was.

In the summer I would take this opportunity to try out a fishing spot.  I like to look for a new stream, somewhere that I had to be intellectually engaged in the fishing and thus distracted enough to wait out the sting.  I liked to look for new or challenging water, usually moving water.  That way the repetitiveness of cast and strip that I find attractive at times on lakes and ponds was not there.  It is those times when my mind leaves the fishing and I find it pondering relationships, or work, or other non-fishing topics.  It was this mind wandering that I looked to avoid.  So I found flowing water with fish that could see me.  More difficult, or at least engaged, fishing that demands my attention.  That is what I do in the summer.  It is early Decemeber.

I decided to get a bight to eat – at this point I am avoiding my quiet apartment at all costs – and head in the general direction of the eateries in my home town.  Somehow, I discover that I am on a hiway and have passed all the food joints.  Did I mention the loss of appetite?  I was driving out into the country without even making the decision. I had apparently decided, unbeknown to myself, to head to the river.  I wish I had a better explanation than “it just happened” but I honestly don’t remember deciding to go to the river.  It was just happening and I didn’t have the energy to stop it.

There is no good explanation for going out there.  At 7:30 at night in South Dakota in December it has been dark for over two hours.  I did have my gear in the trunk and my license in my pocket, but the bank sign of the way out of town read 19 degrees so fishing was not a realistic possibility although I think that at the times I was still convinced that I would at least try a cast or two.  It was as though there wasn’t a question.  This was what needed to happen and I wasn’t going to have a say in it.

The place I was headed could safely be called my home water.  It is a 30 minute drive from my place and I have spent by far the lion’s share of my fishing hours working this stretch of water.  I am still learning about it, but it is the water that I know best.  There is nothing inherently attractive about this place.  It is not the greatest fishing spot around, in fact some people view it as an inferior spot that inexplicably works sometimes and can be defaulted to when the better places aren’t.  Nor is it a secret, I have fished with many different types and met some real characters on this stretch of water.  It is known to produce, although not necessarily in the size or type of fish that people around here are looking for.  Nor is it the most romantic water int he world, being in a cow pasture and near a road and all.  There is no magic here.  Well,  at least the magic here is not accessible to everyone.

What this place does have is sound.  There is a very nice riffle over large basketball size rocks, leading to a narrowing of the channel.  That, obviously, speeds up the water as it slides in a deep run under a Works Projects Association era bridge immediately into a nice little fall over some Volkswagen size boulders, splashing into a picturesque pool immediately adjacent and connected to a large still pond.  The current shoots straight through the side of the pond and exits in a beautiful riffle as it spreads across a gravel bed.  The cacophony created by this varied water-scape means that a turning of the head is all that is required to change the sound completely.

Alighting from the car, I realize that no fishing will occur on this night.  First of all, I am wearing my Puma tennis shoes with soles so grippless that bar floors can become skating rinks.  Secondly, I have on my leather coat that causes me to ponder why cows don’t freeze to death every winter.  Lastly, the sandpaper sensation on my face caused from walking in the 19 degree air does what it does ever winter.  It tells me “Screw this up, be unprepared or less than vigilant on a stone and you will be lucky if your ears are all it will cost you.”  I love that realization.  I force it upon myself at times.  The thought that I am in a situation that plausibly could kill me.  I require something like that, something to contrast daily life against, to remind me just where I am and what I am.  I think people say it makes them feel alive.  I would say it reminds me that that is all I am.

So, there I am, lump, pumas and all.  I put my hands in my pockets and walk out on the bridge.  I am here for some reason, lets see what it is.  Peering over each side of the bridge I get excellent views of the water, black and oozing it appears.  I can hear all the different instruments being played by this stretch of water.  Winter cold in SoDak means that the air can’t hold any moisture so the stars are close and obvious.  There happens to be a full moon on this night and it shines so brightly that as I meander back of forth across the bridge I continually jump thinking headlights are coming down the road.  I can hear a deer crash through the 6 foot high grass.  There is no wind at all, so if I stand stock still a sort of body heat bubble forms around me and I don’t feel cold at all.

I walked around for something like 45 minutes before I decided to get back in the car and drive home.  By then the lump was gone.  In fact I felt pretty good.  No major life realizations to impart, no new wisdom gained.  Just not as bad as before.  like maybe I should go write something.

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