Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bumper Sticker Analysis

These just get to me man... It's not that I don't like this country - I just can't determine what people are trying to communicate to me when they place these stickers on their cars.

Proud to be an American
Interestingly enough, pride is one of the seven deadly sins: http://www.deadlysins.com/sins/pride.html
Why are you proud to be an American? Are you suggesting that you would not be happy with yourself and/or your life's accomplishments if you were not an American? Your life is what you should focus on... why would one ever be proud to have been born somewhere?

God Bless America
I think this one is pretty bad. If you are not saying "God Bless us All" then you are essentially implying that God should bless us more than he should bless others... as if we are somehow more deserving of his care than others. An interesting implication to plaster on the bumpers of so-called Christians.

Here's what I'd like to have on my bumper:

“With God all things are possible”–
that’s the beginning and the end
of theology. If all things are possible,
nothing is impossible.
Why do the godly then
keep slinging out their nooses?

-Wendell Berry

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Slump is Off

Here are details from most recent carp outing:

This carp slump had been killing me… the last 6-8 outings have resulted in zero fish landed. I needed some virgin water – or water that hadn’t seen many flies. Finally one day I happened to be driving by a certain river… had 30 minutes to spare so I went for it. I crept up to the hole that is frequented by wife-beater-wearers (see previous post), and as expected, it was TEEMING with carp. I would estimate 50-100 in this little hole, but it’s hard to say just how many were beneath the surface and out of my sight. They were not klooping, but they were actively feeding on something that was just below the surface – I could see big white mouths pulsing open-close-open-close. They were hanging out right on the seam between the backwater and the main current. I ninja walked through some woods about 50 feet away from them – hidden in trees… and they saw me anyway! Somehow they figured out that I was there, and they bolted out of there like a herd of horses – the water just erupted. I stood stone still in disbelief and looked around me… dark, tree cover and such a distance between me and the river – I couldn’t believe it. I leaned up against a tree and stared – the nervous water was now calm and not a fish was in sight… I just about started crying. Fortunately I pitied myself long enough to allow for the carp to return…. In about five minutes they were back – same numbers and same position. This time I looped way out of the way and came up behind them. I put a girdle bug on and started working my 4 wt Avid. Right away I hooked one, but I think it was foul, because after fighting for a while it popped off. I then broke off that fly on a fish. After that though I started working them over: I put the fly on the edge of the pod and let it sink… I kept in contact with the fly and if I felt anything at all I set the hook. This got me three fish – all right in the mouth… in fact, the fly was completely inside the mouth of every fish – I think because I couldn’t see the take and I was later on the strike than I would have been had I been sight fishing. For one of the takes I actually saw the end of the fly line twitch too – very cool. Two of the carp were only ~2-3 lbs, but one was around 5-6 lbs, and that one staged a beautiful run across the river… “run, run!” I was yelling because it’d been so long since I’d hooked a nice fish. All that in 25-30 minutes… can’t ask for much more. It was really hard to leave a mass of wriggling carp… as I’m sure you can imagine. I’ll be back though – I really like seeing so many fish – makes the outing very exciting. It felt like a hybrid of sight and blind fishing – I could see the group of fish but I wasn’t aiming at a particular one, and I couldn’t see the takes.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Gearing up for BWCA

The first step is to read up a bit in an effort to improve my smallmouth fly arsenal. I have done that.... So last night I fixed foam heads to bug hooks, and tonight I dressed them out to complete six poppers. Three are cylinder foam and three are "blockheads" that I tried to shape with scissors. These flies will make quite a ruckus as they rip through the water - very cool indeed. They are some mean, bad, dominating poppers. They kind of remind me of that scene in Pulp Fiction when Samuel L tells the robber to look in the bag of wallets for "the one that says Bad MF on it." These are some pretty badass flies, and I can picture being in the canoe with my dad and saying "hand me that popper that has Bad MF written on it."
Did some lake fishing in Crow Wing County this past weekend – here are a few notes:

(1) The fly rod kept up pretty well with the spinning guys (they outnumbered me 3 to 1). On our first outing, I matched their combined total of five LM bass. The water temps were high, so I was using my super fast sinking line – not fun to fish, but definitely the way to go in those conditions. It took a few minutes to get rolling, but once I did the fish started coming pretty regularly. Biggest caught on the fly was 14 inches… that was topped by a spinning caught 15.5 inch fish (credit to Dean R). We went out again later that night and it was slower – I only caught two LM bass… the spinning guys totaled 3-4 fish I think – small snakes and bass. The next day the spinning gear produced better (but probably not more) fish – Brian S caught a couple of nice pike in the 3-5 lb range… I was only able to manage bass, despite persistent pike hunting efforts with streamers. To top it off I caught a couple of slab sunnies on the micro rod – bow and arrow casts under a pontoon boat – very cool. I had a chance at a bass on the micro – he shot out from under the pontoon and quickly hit the panfish fly then immediately spit it out – I was too slow (totally taken by surprise) and I missed him!!! Oh man would that have been good.

(2) Spin fishing is so damn easy. I’m not trying to act superior or snobby either… It’s just ridiculous though – the second we got out on the water the first night, Dean R picked up a spinning rod with a leadhead grub on it – threw it out and started cranking it back. Then, without any active imparting of movement on the lure or thought of where it was in the water column, he drew a strike… no hook set at all, and he says “I’ve got one already.” He proceeded to crank just as he had before the fish was on. No line left the reel, and the fish was horsed in. Effective – YES; fun – not sure; a result of fishing skill – not sure, but it didn’t seem like it. Spin fishing is deadly effective, and will usually produce more fish than fly fishing. However, it is no where near as fun or involved… and it focuses one’s mind on results instead of process and method. No offense Deano - just discussing fishing methods.

(3) Popper fishing is so damn fun. The first night was all subsurface, but after that I started using some divers and poppers… Even though LM bass are weak and can’t compare to carp or trout, their surface takes make up for their lack of fight. Little poppers for panfish is one thing, but fishing these big glub-glub monstrosities is something else… at any second a huge fish could just crush it – that is the ultimate in anticipation. Seeing the hit is outstanding. A couple times I was able to watch a hit just under the water as a diver was pausing – very cool – saw the bass come in from the side and nail it… bright colors of the fly jolt for a second, then disappear.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

This guy can sing the ABC song and he's recently bumped his counting range from 1-10 up to 1-20. What he says and what he does now - wow... most amazing.

Friday, August 18, 2006

James got to hang out with his extended family a couple weeks ago - he had a great time. Here are a few images... I love to see these kids together.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

July 2006 was the first month in a long, long time in which I did not have the privilege of cupping my hands around a trout in a stream. Even in Dec/Jan/Feb of 2005-06 I caught a few stream fish... But I've been busy with many things, and when I've been out lately it's been chasing carp.

Today though, I was too close to good water to pass it up. I watched the DNR shock a stream in the afternoon - had some homegrown buffalo and cheese, then wheeled it back home with a pause at one of my favorite streams - just to break up the trip. There were hoppers everywhere... tied on a foam imitation and wove it around the air and the water - pretty cool. No hits though, and finally, after I worked over some really trouty water (got nothing) and proceeded to watch about 8 nice fish - 3 of which were easily in high teens - shoot away as I walked by, I said heck with it and put on a nymph rig.

Wow, is it drastic to go back to all those points of weight on your line after fishing nothing but carp flies, poppers or dry flies for so long... I was all out of sorts - getting tangled and everything. It took a few minutes, but finally I got it out there, and from a great hole, I landed the first trout since my sabbatical: a beautiful, deep, strong brown crafted in heaven by the hand of God himself I think - perfect peaches and teals and reds and rings around spots... This fish was easily 18" long, and demanded my respect in every way. I felt so good I actually sat down in the stream (I was wet wading and that was beautiful too) holding the fish so I could get my eyes down close to her world. Everything was right. A side note is that the fish fought really hard - kept bullying into weeds like a torpedo and I was sure I wouldn't land her... but I kept the pressure on and the #18 pink squirrel held true.

I only fished for an hour or so, and landed only two more fish... but they made the perfect triad: a brook trout of handsome nature, and a 11.5" brown that was also very deep and is currently in a stasis in my freezer. Everything I could want from fishing in one hour. The water was cold and dead clear and I saw no human beings. The only other note is that, as you can probably guess, the woods are lovely but also very dark and deep at this time of year... stinging nettle and prickly ash abound everywhere. When you wet wade, your light pants become naught but another thin epidermis through which said plants can easily penetrate. Thus, it is the land, not the water that causes problems for wet waders.

Thank you, thank you fish for allowing me to meet you today after work.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Colleges, Cows and Contentment... hehe.

Your very own Northfield Planning Commission just voted 4-1 to recommend approval of a CUP application to put a regional stormwater pond in the floodway of the Cannon River. In this location, it will be inundated during high water situations, rendering it useless. That means that at times, all trash, salt, gravel and whatever else from the entire developed area out by Target will be washed, unabated to your river. You may see this material tumbling down your pretty waterfall in Bridge Square. There were no fewer than five letters submitted to the Commission, from supremely qualified agencies/entities that outlined concerns and shortcomings regarding this proposal... they were all ultimately ignored. The vote was in favor of a system that, in order to squeeze in under the requirements of the floodplain ordinance, sacrificed its functionality.

I don't know what to say.... other than I absolutely wasted my time collecting and distributing those comments. My wife and child sat at home, while I burned my time being ignored and steamrolled. Most of all though, I am thankful for all of the time put into the comments that were submitted - and sorry they were cast aside like peanut shells at a Twins game. I am very discouraged, because I put forth my best effort in soliciting comments from the right people, and it didn't make a damn bit of difference. Do I want to wait around for months to work on the shoreland ordinance, only to have sensible, just and community-based recommendations be trumped by "progress," development, subdivisions, and money? I don't know yet.

I'll write some more later.... and somehow provide the public with the details of it all.

In the meantime:
Colleges, Cows, Contentment:

Colleges: we're already formulating dreams of acquiring land from the colleges that "should be developed" and "is right in the way of the corridor" - heck, maybe by 2050 the great institutions will be surrounded by more mini-malls, and all of the natural lands they hold will be paved.

Cows: they are a token image - cute but no longer representative, unless you consider the milk in Cub foods that was shipped in from some other state.

Contentment: this may be the only slogan component that will hold true, because as each generation comes of age, standards erode and expecations crumble. Our kids will probably be content to sit in front of the TV, eat processed food and dream of dollar signs.

As a parting thought, here is an excerpt from your very own King James Version... just so you righties can be reminded that it's not just the flaming liberals who hold positions against unbridled development:

"Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth! "

Alternative translation:
"Such is the sin of these - they build house upon house, plant field joint to field, until there isn't space, [so] they [you] shall be left alone in the land."
The 7/10 Rule

Problem is:

Most (many?) people don't care

Most people don't know

Many who do not know
Wouldn't care even if they knew

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The take is in fact the premiere moment, and I was reminded of this last night. In fact, this event was confirmation that you don't even need to fight or land the fish really... An amazing take can be written into your brain - it seems that the tip of a fly rod can etch grooves in your mind like a laser writes to your CD-R. Case in point - I can't flush that big carp from last week out of my mind - the leviathan that sucked in my fly in perfect fashion... the pig that I released by way of breaking my line at a tippet knot. Tragic is what it was... Last night was just as good though.

I have had some success the past few nights ripping poppers around on the glassy surface of the lake on which my father and his wife live - caught some nice 1-2 lb bass, and even coaxed two pike to the surface - one of which sheared me off immediately in an acrobatic eruption, the other was landed only because I lipped him (also a great missle-like take). Both of those fish were relatively small though. In general, action has been intermittent and okay... not fast, furious or outstanding. Popper fishing is great though... BIG popper fishing is even better because it keeps the little ones away. Back to last night then - cast for ~20 minutes, and got no action. The only notable item was that my brother told me he could easily outfish me using a leadhead minnow with a plastic body. I didn't deny it - he is a great fisherman... but I tried to mention something about process as compared to results. After he and my father retired for the night, I went looking for some virgin water (I've worked over the weedline around my dad's dock, and I think they are somewhat educated (or pricked) by now). Neighbor was not around, and apparently he doesn't mind if folks use his dock... so I ran over there as the mosquitoes began to appear in exponentially increasing fashion. On my fourth or fifth cast of a carefully made deer hair popper, here is what happened:

The fly plopped down on the outer edge of the weeds, and just on the outside of the bed, I saw a barely-discernable movement... thinking back, I can't remember what I saw, but I remember seeing it. That motion gave me pause, and that pause allowed for a fish - a BIG fish - to make a WAKE while cruising just under the water surface toward that popper... while making the wake, it seemed to be moving its head from side to side - kind of like it was saying "AHHHH, I'M GONNA CRUSH THAT THING... AHHH, HERE I COME!" When it got to the popper, a nice water-bass WHOOMBP sound hit my ears and the fly disappeared in a turbulent swirl. I knew the fly was gone (no steel leader) - I actually remember thinking to myself "it's gone" - but I set the hook anyway and my limp line came floating back to me. My mouth hung open for a while, and I stared at the water. I wished the fish well and told him that the barbless hook will probably fall out very soon. All in all, it was one for the ages - even though I never felt the weight of the fish or witnessed the square-dance he could have performed on my 5/6 wt.

The best way I can summarize it is with music: while I was watching that wake move toward the popper, the drum roll was reaching a crescendo... when the fish struck, someone hit the cymbal, and as I pulled in the fly-less line there could be heard a long, constant bass tone signifying the drama of it all.

Esox lucius - Google it if you don't know the name. I'll be looking for more of the same imagery tonight. If I can get my dad to come out with me, you may be treated to a photo.