Thursday, January 27, 2011

Aaron Rodgers didn’t touch Salvelinus fontinalis on Sunday

The first Super Bowl I watched was XX, in which the Ditka-led Bears toyed with Tony Eason and the Patriots in what was to be one of those debacle scores that seemed to plague the Super Bowls of that era. So that was right around 25 years ago, and I’ve just turned 35, and recently ticked through the 2010 season which served only to prompt further mourning of the 2009 Vikings season that was ended by the fraudulent Saints who later got a picture taken with Obama right after they admitted in public that their goal was to injure Brett Favre. So all this layered on top of “Packers weekend” and a guy just can’t take it. One must devise an itinerary that will best the cheeseheads by simply downplaying their achievements and to some degree ignoring them. Here was that schedule for February 6-7, 2011.
(1) Saturday morning: take kids skiing. The short story here is that both boys skied for exactly 60 minutes, without one whine or plea to quit. This marked the first time in which I actually skied with them, as opposed to walking alongside to make sure they were okay. The young guy fell a lot but he never asked for help; rather he used his poles to stand his stout little body back up. He fell a lot because he tries to sprint in his skis, which is pretty remarkable and sometimes comical. The older guy is a more patterned and cautious fellow; he does controlled falls, sitting down on his skis when he gets going too fast. This was probably the highlight of the weekend for me: watching the boys receive smiles and words of encouragement from folks who passed or met them, and seeing that they really enjoy the activity.
(2) Saturday afternoon: team up with neighbors, and climb Chimney Rock over in Whitewater State Park. Perfect climb for kids of this age: long, but not too long. Steep, tough and very minor danger here and there, but nothing too bad. After skiing I figured maybe the boys would be worn out, but in fact they struck out in the lead and had to be reined in every few minutes. It’s quite a thing to stand up there and look out over the valley at the river that long ago routed itself a path maybe according to a rock here or a rill there kind of like a cow chooses a path in a pasture and then just ate its way down into the earth century after century and now sits at the bottom as we see it for this little snapshot.
(3) Sunday afternoon: 14:00 – 16:00: fish for trout in close vicinity to house. First two bridges I looked at had two cars each, so I passed on that because (a) looking to be alone, (b) good manners. Find somewhere else. So I peeked in on a less-traveled stretch and found no cars. No footprints even, other than those of cows. It came down to fishing three holes hard, for maybe 20-25 minutes each, with travel time and pondering time in between. At each hole I caught ~4-6 fish. Tandem nymph rig with indicator and one shot. Almost all fish ate the trailing orange scud. This was highly enjoyable. A few of the takes were subtle, some of them were jolting strikes that moved the indicator six inches or so across the water. Some strikes came immediately after the rig hit the water. Other notes:
a. Three brook trout were caught, in succession at one hole. The first was an absolute beauty: one of my favorite fish to date. On seeing this particular fontinalis, I immediately removed the glove from my left hand, put the fish on the reel and got serious about landing it. I didn’t measure it, but I know it was >12” and I believe it likely nudged up toward 13 but likely not 14”. Hard to say. Picture doesn’t quite do it up like it should, as is expected. This fish was one of a few that took the lead nymph, which was a crane fly larva imitation. It was holding back in the flat water just down from a plunge pool.
b. Of the brown trout caught, ~50% were fairly small. Of the decent sized fish, one stood out as a 13-14” fish that hit with a jarring strike, leapt twice and demanded use of the reel.
c. Never did see fish rise, but then again I didn’t spend a lot of time staring at the flats and slicks. Rather, I dug deep in the holes. On my way out, I observed midges to such a degree that it looked as though God had just taken his pepper shaker to the snow.
Mark it down for a good weekend, in spite of whatever happened down in Dallas. And in closing: I'm not that bitter, really. Age tends to diffuse intense rivalries.



There's a beating heart inside a rib cage that is wrapped in the painted canvas pictured below:

Smaller, but still remarkable:

Brookies came from this hole (HI work):

Peppered snow - midges everywhere:

Gear report: the Buff, used in combination with skull cap (Christmas present (thanks)), works well to cut wind.

Nice brown trout, caught on the way out. Last fish of the day:

I'm developing crows' feet.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January 17, 2011

Driving down an unplowed road the other day: down from I-90, spiraling toward a valley bottom. The road was narrow, unplowed and showed one set of tire tracks in front of me. Steep drop off to my left. Very steep. It was an exercise in strengthening nerves and focus. Could not take much time to look off at the hillsides. I should have stopped and gotten out becuase the view was deserving of some time. I was late though, hunting down WFF streamside. I probably dropped 100-200 feet into that timbered valley. Every farmhouse felt secluded. Each had its own little world to keep up. Good place to spend part of an afternoon.

As for the fishing, it's all wrapped up in this video, put together by WFF. He pretty much nails it.

I'd fished this stream before, but never this reach. Like it a lot. Learned a bit more about it in the field and then later in the office. Will be back in spring if not again in winter. I like the seclusion. I sit and wonder if maybe the wooded hills are vaguely like they were before Eurpoeans came along and I tend to think yes, they are approximately what the folks saw 10,000 years ago. That's a comforting feeling for me: to know that not everything is completely jacked up in lights and muddled up by people and battered and made gaudy, etc. Leave some places be and just let folks walk through them.

Also important to share places like this and I do so with my kids to the extent practicable at this time. I'd have them winter fishing if I were not 100% sure they would ask to quit after a few minutes. Kids seek comfort. And isn't it funny that now as adults, some of us seek out hardship and challenge and discomfort because we know we're dying standing up and dying walking around inside all day just rotting and becoming soft? Seeking out challenge, strife, etc. Nothing too intense like mountain climbing but just looking to have that completely safe and comfortable feeling displaced so you can feel like a man (not a macho man but rather just a human man).

The more I sit and rot inside pissing away at a computer screen and drawling into a phone receiver, the more I'm reminded of how important it is to get out and suffer some hardship in pursuit of something better. Jesus is it important. And we're not even talking real hardship here. Just get sweaty under that coat while your face is chilled by a cold breeze. Walk along the stream and see what's really out there. Even if it's difficult to find the time, and you feel guilty for leaving your kids, and you have to burn some fuel to get there, do it anyway. If you don't, you will die, plain and simple. Dead man walking is no good for anybody.

Anyway, check the WFF report (thanks for good planning and the candor that ensued), and the pics below. Should motivate you to get out and feel something good.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Stumbling into 2011

Had a big homily prepared for first 2011 post: all about the merits of fishing, how time outdoors, under duress is required in one's life, etc. It was set to be pretty good. The first line is: People aren't born mad, they're driven mad... The edge has been taken off momentarily though. Maybe revisit later on during next lull. At this point, suffice it to say that I was burning up going from office to home to office to home to office to home all day every day for going on maybe two straight months. Man was it burning a bit. I needed to get out and sting my face with some good wind.

I had used a tent patch kit to cover a gaping hole in my hip waders. They are my preferred winter gear. I took a flashlight inside them in a dark room, and looked for any little points of light escaping. Didn't see any. Apparently there were many that I missed though, because the second I stepped into knee-deep water, it was as though I was wearing a couple of collanders on my legs. Immediate inundation is the phrase that comes to mind. Usually not a big deal, but it was low teens F on this day, and it wasn't a small volume of water. I usually get a little wet in winter, but not like this. So I was slowed a bit, pondering what to do. Eventually I figured that as long as the water stayed in liquid form (which I knew it would) and I moved around a lot, it should be okay. Indeed, after standing and casting at a given piece of water, on picking up to leave my right leg felt like a rounded stump. I'd walk five minutes or so and my foot would come back to me. In short, this situation became more than uncomfortable for me, and thus my goal changed to simply catching a couple fish and then getting my hippies off.

First fish of 2011 - salmo trutta - was sitting in this current, hanging just under that ice shelf. Took the trailing gray scud of a 2-nymph rig. Classic slow descent of strike indicator.

I couldn't make myself get downstream of this water (numb foot and apparent difficulty with bank and angle), so I just took the indicator off and let the rig sink downstream... then tightened up on it and swung it across. Second fish of the year was a nice rainbow probably 13-13.5" that ate the lead nymph: pink squirrel in focus.

After catching that rainbow, I gave a look around and tore myself away. Drove home a couple hours early. Not the end of the world but minor downer, as I'd watched the trailer for this outing a hundred times and it was really good.

And the next day my foot was still sore/tingly. Nothing resembling anything serious though.