Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Oh Lovely Rock

by Robinson Jeffers

We stayed the night in the pathless gorge of Ventana Creek, up the east fork.
The rock walls and the mountain ridges hung forest on forest above our heads, maple and redwood,
Laurel, oak, madrone, up to the high and slender Santa Lucian firs that stare up the cataracts
Of slide-rock to the star-color precipices.

                                                                  We lay on gravel and kept a little camp-fire for warmth.
Past midnight only two or three coals glowed red in the cooling darkness; I laid a clutch of dead bay-leaves
On the ember ends and felted dry sticks across them and lay down again. The revived flame
Lighted my sleeping son’s face and his companion’s, and the vertical face of the great gorge-wall
Across the stream. Light leaves overhead danced in the fire’s breath, tree-trunks were seen: it was the rock wall
That fascinated my eyes and mind. Nothing strange: light-gray diorite with two or three slanting seams in it,
Smooth-polished by the endless attrition of slides and floods; no fern nor lichen, pure naked rock...as if I were
Seeing rock for the first time. As if I were seeing through the flame-lit surface into the real and bodily
And living rock. Nothing strange...I cannot
Tell you how strange: the silent passion, the deep nobility and childlike loveliness: this fate going on
Outside our fates. It is here in the mountain like a grave smiling child. I shall die, and my boys
Will live and die, our world will go on through its rapid agonies of change and discovery; this age will die,
And wolves have howled in the snow around a new Bethlehem: this rock will be here, grave, earnest, not passive: the energies
That are its atoms will still be bearing the whole mountain above: and I, many packed centuries ago,
Felt its intense reality with love and wonder, this lonely rock.

Friday, January 30, 2015


Interesting contrasts provided when SE MN fisherman goes to NE Iowa:

(1) Keep fish year-round.  I like that part of the deal.  Because I like to fish my way along the stream, catching and releasing and keeping.
(2) More stocked fish.  Aggressive program that puts more catchable size fish in the water.  No qualitative evaluation of this fact; it is what it is.
(3) Per 1 and 2 above, many more people out and about fishing in January.

We had nothing going so I suggested I take a kid down for a long weekend; reply was that I too would love to participate so it came to four in a cabin.  Trout water visible from the second-story patio.  My original intention was to push hard to get at least one kid his first trout; but that dissolved quickly when it became very apparent that 3/4 of the group wanted to relax in warmth, reading and watching TV.  This always difficult for me to deal with; certainly in this case, but I resolved to be at ease with everybody doing what they felt like doing; was afterall a vacation of sorts.  Older son gave a modest effort with a jig and twister tail on a deep bend that I picked out for him...   no strikes; windy; he lost interest quickly and went back to rolling big snowballs and dropping them off the bridge.  Trout fishing may be some of the most difficult for kids.  I have to get it in my head that an adult can't project himself straight into the kids and expect that they ought to like hard work going after fish, enduring tough conditions to come out bright and calm on the far side.  Kids like comfort and warmth and security.  They like fun and they like catching fish but maybe they don't like working hard for them or beating themselves up to feel alive.

As it happened then, I walked the stream in the vicinity for maybe 3 hours on the first day.  Immediately saw that it would be very challenging, because (1) pretty crappy water, and (2) quite a few people around.  A lot of wide and shallow is what was offered up.  Only a couple good deep holes.  I was convinced that the fish would be only in the dark depths, so I stood over those and pounded away with streamers.  Three people came by while I was fishing.  I had never experienced that in a day of winter angling.  Moved or hooked four nice fish, but landed none.  I figured I'd missed my chances, given the situation.  I sulked around and started throwing the streamer into some of the shit water, smacking the surface as close to woody debris as I could put it (even if only a few inches deep).  This drew out three rainbow trout, two of which I killed and kept; the other wouldn't eat; would only chase and charge.  This did prompt me to reconsider some of the previously dubbed crap water but nothing came of it.  Two stocker rainbows with beat up, rounded fins and guts full of filamentous algae.  Would bring anyone to late afternoon beer.

I looked at a map for a while after everyone else in bed.  Decided to drive a few miles the following morning.  In the vehicle for nine minutes; parked on a crossing that I recognized.  I'd been there quite a while ago with a coworker.  A little more bedrock control in play; some decent water.  First deep broken run showed nothing, which surprised me.  It was very warm and by 9:15 AM I was over-heating in the sun even with light jacket.  No wind.  I appreciated this very much.  Second hole was a confluence, deep and flat.  I didn't get past that point.  You can visualize the scour hole; throw ahead of it, make sure everything sinks....   and when flies come through the hole give the slightest twitch.  It become a method and many fish were captured.  Top, middle and tail of the hole all showing fish.  They wouldn't scatter.  They were unawares.  I released a good number and had a limit <60 a="" after="" bit="" fishing="" hen="" just="" minutes="" nbsp="" ontinued="" out.="" p="" parking="" see.="" the="" to="" upstream="" vehicle.="" walked="" without="">

Meat hunt.

Actually ended up with four kept RBT on the first day; this water gave up two just before I turned around to head back.  Big beaver dam; have to figure some fish in the tailwater.

Suns out guns out; second day weather was nice.

There is the drift.  Money. 
Some useful information gathered in studying license options: (1) the 3-day license is $17 and the year-long license is $41.  The trout fee is something like $12, and if you but it for the 3-day, you do not have to buy another for your next 3-day license provided it's before Jan 10 of the following year.  I went with the year-round license, thinking I'd probably get out at least twice to bonk fish between this spring and fall.  Also learned that you can't keep another limit for your kid unless you buy another trout fee for him.  However, while the daily limit is five (5), the possession limit is ten (10).  So we came back with nine trout; five of which will be a chowder or gumbo for Super Bowl.  Share any recipes you may have.  I like soups a lot.

At that confluence hole the lead fly was an orange scud; probably top winter nymph of all time if you survey SE MN anglers.  But almost every fish ate this trailing nymph.  Bent the tip toward the end of the hour.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Calendar Year 2015 Report 1 

All designated trout streams in SE MN now open for anglers with a need to get out and look for the deep slow water.  I was not in a position to fish January 1st; rather, I looked in on a favorite stream on the 2nd; even then, had only 13:15 to dark as my allotment.  Just recently I sat with a guy who was lamenting the fact that he is two hours from the nearest trout stream.  Can't take for granted the fact that we live close enough to great water; we can drive a few minutes for a few hours of stream time.  In fact we live in a unique and special place on Planet Earth.  Various forces scraped away and carved deep and freed the aquifers to run in stream channels; dissecting bluffs.  We can't make trout streams; we can surely delete them but we can't make them.  So when I look at one I don't shrug my shoulders or pass it by without a good nod.  And further there is no better way to learn about the streams than to walk them; fish them.  See what magnets attract bug life; see where the fish lay up.  Know where the fish are holding; read water.
First hole fished in 2015.  Cast one: hook, play, LDR.  Cast three: hook, play, LDR.  Cast six or seven brought first fish.  A few minutes later, this fish was third to hand.  Rare picture of self here, main reason being to highlight the two pieces of gear pictured: Stormy Kromer cap (good cross of ball cap and stocking hat) and hand muffler (previously noted).  The SK hat has flaps that a guy can pull down over ears as needed.  Lifetime warranty.  Made in Michigan.  The muffler allows one to warm hands at will, without fumbling with any gloves.

Number of fish from the first big slow flat water found downstream of plunge pools.  This water isn't romantic: depth charge it with streamers; strip back; fish jump on. 

Another gear review item of note.  After many years my Simms waders have been retired.  Much good use.  At this point, many leaks.  I moved on to these Orvis Silver Sonics, which show a number of good features that really spoil a guy like me.  Gravel guards.  Straps that allow for easy lowering of waders at streamside (to water bushes).  Conversion to wading pants.  Tell you one thing it was nice to come in from fishing and not be wet.  Been a long time.  Thanks Orvis.

Few of these fish just decimated the 2 wt such that I couldn't see them for a good 10-20 seconds.  I really dig that aspect of the light gear; there is some mystery and anticipation and the possibility of losing.  In each case it turned out the fish were 12-14 inchers; great fish but not huge.  One was a footballer RBT that was around 14" I bet.

Tied up six basic bead chain eye LOD variations.  Lost three of them on this outing; which was good because it meant I was getting down.  One was lost to a giant strike in the big pig hole; never know what that was about but it was some force applied very directly to my tippet that shattered it on impact.

Yet longing comes upon him to fare forth on the water.
- Anonymous, translated be E. Pound

Boots on the water is a phrase used often by JMontana.  Get out and see what's going on.  Quite a bit to take in here in SE MN: this day included a pheasant kicked up at six feet (good lesson in micro-habitat importance - it was in a narrow fence row), and then a big whitetail.  Deer highways everywhere; concentrated at pinch points. I was looking in the riparian veg for beds and across the stream at maybe 40-50 yards I saw a tail bouncing.  Stared for a few seconds and picked out really big antlers.  No telling how many points but they were certainly worn high like a crown.  He made it though all seasons.

Word on this streamer pattern.  It's easy and effective.  #6 long hook, bead chain eyes, marabou tail, chenille body and soft hackle (like grouse or pheasant) up front for collar.  What I like about this fly is that you skip the rib and palmered full body hackle, thereby eliminating a good piece of tying time/hassle, and yet you achieve the same basic shape and silhouette, even the leggy look with the soft hackle.  I tie a lot of these and beat up on both carp and trout with them. Make 'em the right size; make 'em drab. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

New Rules

Been out a couple times between deer season and Jan1 full winter opener.  This former trout fishing dead period was fully addressed by MN DNR and stakeholders such that one can now fish three of our SE MN state parks year-round (C&R only though).  I applaud the process and the decisions that came of it.  At the heart of the benefit is provision of another reason to walk streams in November and December.  I've heard reports of a lot of anglers out and about thus far on weekends.  In this case I was fortunate to have some time during the week, thus ran into no one with any manner of fishing gear; just a couple people out walking dogs and taking photos along the main trails.  Once the trails were behind me, no more persons.  One marked failure was that I did not pay special attention to likely locations for redds (except for where I put my feet, which is a habit for winter trout fishing: pay attention to where your boots meet the riffles).  I believe this is because I was pretty excited to be out, and most of the fish were stacked up in the slow/deep tails of pools (so didn't look at riffles much).  Will take some more focus regarding this matter in next outing.
Suppose I started around 10:30 AM and walked out around 3:30 PM.  It was cold and windy.  At one point my left hand was pretty numb; prompted me to walk up into the floodplain, set my gear down and warm up under some good cover.  Maybe 10 minutes and full bloodflow restored.  I'd note here that the past few years I've found a good compromise between gloves and not-gloves: those mufflers used by NFL QBs and hunters alike.  I wear one in winter.  Barely notice it (i.e. not that encumbering) except when I need it.  A person can often high-stick with one hand, keeping other warm.  Walking streamside both hands can be warm while rod tucked under arm.  Nice piece of gear; basic approach.  Probably $15 anywhere you look.
Streamers first (any streamer; I've made a point of not tying [what - are you out of flies I ask myself and the answer is always no you are not out flies you have so many hooks with materials tied just pick one and make it work like a bug or a minnow would work through the water]; rather trying to put what I have to use; clean out those boxes; becoming more and more apparent though that I need some drab typical sized streamers) - just casting up and across trying to move fish out of slower water.  Letting streamer sink to bottom and then retrieve.  This produced some good fish; no really big ones.  Had an urge to nymph, so did that for a while.  Then back and forth: nymph, streamer, etc.  Saw a couple great white-mouth takes on the streamer follows.  I think approx 12-15 fish, of which four were RBT.  No big fish but no dinks.  In a good show of irony every fish was perfect for the frying pan and yet every fish swam away without any sort of concavity in or around its skull.

Easy walking.

Stocker RBT.

BNT vortex.

Big blue/white clouser.

Thanks again for the new regs; good deal all around.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Old Bike Wheel

Last couple deer I had put on top of the Subaru and just thrown a rope over the rafter; hoisted as high as I could and nailed the rope; then drive car out from under.  Blood running down side window, etc.  Subaru is gone.  Prompted me to get fancy as depicted below.

Parts: old bike wheel taken after big kids wrecked little bike, hooks from a bungee, old chains from former canoe hanger system, rope, two lag bolts for cleat in work bench. 

Only assistance needed is son hooking knotted tag-end in the cleat.

Nothing is nailed or screwed into the woodwork; all put away after use.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Deer Hunting 2014

It's unlike fishing in that one generally can't "go get" the quarry.  Assemble all observations and information; knowledge of the landscape; data gained via various means.  Then set up to allow early and quiet entry and ascent of a tree.  Be quiet and watch carefully.  I appreciate this very much.  There is a good plus/minus discussion to it.  Deer may not come within your sphere of vision.  However, everything can change in the course of one second: from failure to memorable success and maybe even legend with the appearance of one creature.  So this has the potential to frustrate (e.g. 23 hours in a stand seeing no mammals that are not squirrels) but also provides the reason to keep on.  I listened to a guy tell a story once that was approximately this: The other day I was five seconds from the biggest deer of my life.  I was leaning against a fence post kind of hidden for maybe half an hour watching a trail.  I decided to call it quits and go home.  As I stepped forward my view increased such that I could see a little further beyond a rise and there I saw the buck that I'd been tracking and watching.  But he saw me too, because I moved.  If I'd waited another few seconds he would have walked right to me.  He proceeded to run away.  Never saw him again.
Overall I know very little about deer hunting.  A person can't study every facet of outdoor adventure with intensity; there is only so much energy and time afforded.  I met with failure for many years, trying to hunt public lands at ground level.  Quite a few years with no shots fired.  I believe that southeast MN is approximately 97% private ownership.  Lately I've been fortunate be part of a very small group that plans a private land hunt.  I've learned a lot and enjoyed the study.  Also, the act of leveling a firearm at a large mammal and firing it, while often reduced in discussion to a word or two (and sometimes spoken with incredulity at the barbarism [do try to avoid those crowds though]), is no small thing.  Lasting impacts; lessons; thoughts.  We did shoot a lot as kids - rabbits, armadillos, squirrels, grouse.  But the handful of times I've fired guns at large animals are imprinted.
The quick summary is that according to the deer I saw last year, I moved my stand about fifty yards to afford better view lines.  I was very pleased with the oak tree and what it offered up.  I could see the main ravine (up which last year's shot buck had walked) but I also gained firing range to the tributary ravine (several deer had turned off short of me last year, and walked up this way).  I could still see up to the ridge top too, which is a true highway and showed a number of emphatic rubs on pretty big trees.  So I sat this stand for twelve hours on day one and eleven hours on day two of the first firearms season in SE MN.  No deer observed at all.  Despite intense wanting of a deer and careful looking, be sure.  Our party broke up Sunday night, due to the storm that did cover all in ice.  I was able to return Tuesday night, and head out again Wednesday; world now covered in snow.  This alone was fascinating: all the deer sign further amplified and evident to even hacks like me.  It was cold too: 13 F when I climbed into the stand at 6:12 AM.  After 3.5 hours I got down because (1) I wanted to walk around, (2) I'd reached 26.5 hours in one stand without seeing a deer.  I struggled with the one more second clause but in the end figured I'd better change up.  The third man of our three-man party was not present on this day, so I started toward his stand.  He had seen two truly giant bucks on opening weekend (neither of which were shot).  En route on the ridge top I saw a number of trails in the snow coming from the other sidehill, over the top, and then down past his stand.  I disallowed overanalysis and just figured that'd be a good reason to get up in that tree.  After ~25-30 minutes I both saw and heard a deer coming down through the conifers (a plantation up near the top) toward me.  Same as last year, I immediately got the gun up.  Not the same as last year (when I thought for a long time that the buck I was watching was illegal), I started to shake a bit because my thoughts went to giant buck (given that a couple had been sighted here).  After maybe 30 seconds I could see it was not a giant and I got my normal breathing back, give or take a bit.  I strained to look closely due to the antler point restrictions and in the course of doing so I confirmed that one antler was missing.  But the other clearly had four points.  Interesting to note that even while one can look, count, repeat, etc. one still must draw a line at which you simply trust your senses.  Your senses can betray you; this is understood.  But I literally had to say just count the tines and then stop counting the tines and accept the count.  Then I decided I would shoot this deer.  It was not broadside but more or less facing me at maybe 25-30 yards.  If I'd required movement at this time, it would have made me and run.  But gun was already up.  Basically only my eyes were moving.  He wouldn't turn much so when he did at all, quartering away, I pulled up a mental diagram of the angles one must consider to get a projectile into the vitals cavity.  It required a shot through the front leg or maybe just behind it.  Pulled the trigger and the deer bucked up in shock, ran horribly awkwardly maybe 40 yards and piled up in the head of a ravine.  That was it; from zero to success in the course of a few seconds, but I suppose a few seconds buttressed on the hours leading up to them.  I'd say it was a challenging, fun, interesting, beautiful hunt; also further forged some bonds with people.  Filled our family stock with good meat.  I'm very thankful for the guidance that friends and family offer up; especially for the welcome I get to hunt this remarkable land.
View from second stand, looking downslope.  Many oaks.

Looking upslope toward the pines.  The deer was shot at the center of the photo.

It's impactful to see the black hole these slugs can punch.  After he crashed into the ravine head, I took out a clock and watched his one visible leg (sticking up at odd angle) for twelve minutes.  It did not twitch.  I got down at that point and walked over to this image.   

It was a long route to get the deer out of the woods, but it was downhill.  Plus I was very happy so no logistics or difficulty really mattered much at that point.

I came back on the last day of firearm season A and went out with the landowner, trying to fill third of three tags.  Walking out I took some alternate routes along the ridge top.  It is well known that many deer take refuge in the cedars along the steep slope (top of which seen here).  Too rugged for people to manage it.  The trails in and out are obvious, as is the "highway tunnel" through the sumac, which I am walking here.

Where one river meets the Big River.

Good country.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Whitewater State Park and paleozoic sea day, October 2014

Game Seven Carping

October run continues; into November.  I think a guy can get into some decent action in these months.  As noted previously the fish I'm seeing are grouped up either moving slowly or milling/stationary.  No fish tailing.  A few half-looking in rocks along bank.  On this day here maybe a week ago I found some moving groups, none of which would offer any individual shots.  I spotted one solo fish from above; I marked and ran down and he tried like a MF to eat the fly but he couldn't find it for a while and when he did I set the hook when I saw a mouth pulse and there was no resistance; no connection.  This is common and part of the overall calculation and consideration.  It was in this 0/1 mode that I found a solo fish who looked ready to go; found him from a high vantage point; one that does not offer a good fishing opportunity.  But I was overcome by the brash posturing of this fish and I could not let her be down there, looking in the rocks and feeling safe; hunting in spaces pivoting and looking in, picking up and setting down.  I stood about 30 feet above her and stripped off line, steeple casting.  Watching for people that I might hook on backcast.  Then high eleveation dap was in play; sure, the fly fell into the water about four feet from the carp.  Still unawares.  It had been a while since I had such a fantastic and dramatic view of a large fish doing a cat pounce.  This was a very deliberate spotting of a prey item followed by a fish pushing with a hard tail forward and then down.  To settle on a fly.  This all lead to an involuntary moan of the sort of ahhhhhh etc.  Mainlining at its finest you might figure.  I picked up the rod to an absolutely glorious bow; glorious and also hilarious because I had my arm threaded through various ironworkings.  I went hand over hand to get the rod above the guarding safety mechanisms and then did a poor job of gauging to which of the four compass points I ought to run.  For some reason I chose that with the greatest amount of wild rangy scrub brush and the steepest step down to the bank.  This meant an elaborate show of weaving a fly rod (now throwing backing, as indicated in the photo) and line through a bramble-ridden-death-maze meant to shatter graphite rods and beat them with sticks and stones.  All with various persons bipeding around looking on.  All with an 8 lb fish putting the screws to me.

After working through the Mirkwood Forest I got to the bank, and figured I had time to take off shoes and socks; fish wasn't going anywhere.  I'm usually willing to jump in with boots on; just fine.  But I had to walk home from the river, up hill 0.6 miles steep and I didn't want wet boots rubbing the various fringes of my feet.  This fish scaled at 8 lbs.  They all look bigger from above; fact. 
Got a couple more, stalking the banks.  Pried one away from a milling group.  Found one half-looking in a deep pocket behind a woody debris pile.  The last one showed this scale pattern.  I have heard people call this a full-scaled mirror.  But back in early 2000s I heard multiple guys call this a "muddler."  Unclear to me just what term rightfully applies.  Pretty though; pretty scale pattern.