Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mid-May in Mid Wales

The Veil of May" by W.S. Merwin

"Spring Trees" by Jim Cox

No more than a week and the leaves
have all come out on the ash trees
now they are more than half open
on the ancient walnuts standing
alone in the field reaching up
through the mute amazement of age
they have uncurled on the oaks from
hands small as the eyelids of birds
and the morning light shines through them
and waits while the hawthorn gleams white
against the green in the shadow
in a moment the river has
disappeared down in the valley
the curve of sky gliding slowly
from before not seeming to move
it will not be seen again now
a while from this place on the ridge
but over it the summer will
flow and not seem to be moving

"The Veil of May" by W.S. Merwin from Collected Poems. © Library of America, 2013. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Trout Lake Report: Just Kidding!

You plan an evening trip, hoping to get to the lake by 5:00 at the latest. You load up and walk around to the driver's side and see the reason why the truck seemed to be canted at an odd angle: a flat tire.

It's the left front tire and since you park on the left side of the garage there's precious little room to get in and change it. It's not easy--lots of sweat, some tears, no blood--but you manage it.

The spare looks a little low, so you decide to go into town and pump it up.

You're just getting up to speed on the highway when you hear a scraping sound on the roof, then silence. You instantly know what it is. You brake, pull over onto the shoulder, and begin the walk back along the road to find your rod and reel.

The tools for changing the tire are behind the jump seat in the extended cab. To fold down the seat and reach the tools you had to move the rod and reel, which you keep stored there broken down into two sections. So you naturally put them on top of the cab to keep them out of harm's way.

They didn't fall off when you backed out of the garage, or when you stopped, shifted into first and started down the long drive, jouncing over the ruts. They didn't fall off when you crossed the railroad tracks and stopped at the highway, or when you accelerated through a left turn onto the road. No, they waited until you were on the highway going about 60.

You find them in the ditch. You give everything a quick visual once over. Everything looks OK. So you drive on into town, pump up the spare, and head for the lake. (You wonder if it's pushing your suddenly bad luck to risk the trip over rough roads on a spare without a spare. But you only live once.) 

You get there more than an an hour late. You rig up, putting the rod and reel on top of the cab where you always put them while you don waders and vest. You see how these things happen?

The last thing, as always, is to assemble the rod. That's when you discover that the reel is busted. The fall onto the highway has bent the case so that the spool can't rotate freely.

You think you might have an extra reel in your gear bag. No, you don't. Well, you find you can pry the spool out of the case, so you'll be able to unwind line and spend the rest of the evening casting and stripping as you usually do.

You're back at the channel. You kick out, pull the line off the spool, and begin to fish. Finally.

It's another warm, still evening.

You're working a muddler again.

But nothing is happening. You're thinking, No wonder, with the luck I've been having.

You just do what you did last time. After coming to the end of the willows on this side you kick across to the other side.

You like this side. On the last trip this is where the fish suddenly came to life. You cast into the shadows under a stately old willow. You have caught memorable fish out of here before.

You cast once, twice, into likely spots, and nothing happens. Of course, you think. It's my bad luck. It will surely send me home fishless.

You cast the muddler out again. And this time a fish sips it in, you raise the rod, and you get a hookup. You're relieved and happy as you strip it in. Your luck has changed! How foolish of you to give up hope! This is a good fish. It's surely a brown. Whatever it is, you'll take it!

You're reaching for the net when it comes loose. Splash, and it's gone. You sit there for a minute thinking, Of course, this is how it had to happen. You will not only go home fishless, you'll go home a beaten man.

The last of the sunlight is slipping over the ridge. Resigned to your fate, you kick along the shoreline flipping out the muddler and giving it a desultory strip or two.

And a fish whacks it. It's a feisty little brown--it jumps three times--and you net it!

You go on down the shoreline and another fish whacks the fly. That one too, a fine rainbow, ends up in the net.

And farther on, another brown that takes you into the weeds.

Then you see one of those half rise rings right up against a driftwood log, and you drop the fly within a whisker of the log. And a nose comes up and takes it down. One more very fine brown ends up in the net.

You feel better. And somewhere in the songs of the frogs and the honks of the geese you imagine you hear a voice saying, Just kidding! Sorry about the reel.

The spare gets you home safe and sound.

You Win Some, You Lose Some...

Monday, May 25, 2015

"The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner" by Randall Jarrell

B-17 in heavy flak over Germany. US Air Force Photo.

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

Randall Jarrell served in the Army Air Forces in World War II.
This poem was written in in 1945. He provided this explanatory note:
"A ball turret was a plexiglas sphere set into the belly of a B-17 or B-24 bomber, and inhabited by two .50 caliber machine guns and one man, a short small man. When this gunner tracked with his machine guns a fighter attacking his bomber from below, he revolved with the turret; hunched upside-down in his little sphere, he looked like the fetus in the womb. The fighters which attacked him were armed with cannon firing explosive shells. The hose was a steam hose."

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Day the Music Died

That would be April 30 this year when Grooveshark shut down.

Grooveshark was the online music service I used to embed lots of music on this blog over the past few years.

Turns out Grooveshark had failed to secure rights to the music they streamed, and the result is that they were forced to completely cease and desist.

I didn't realize until recently that all of the embedded music on this blog disappeared the day Grooveshark disappeared.

Sorry about that. Goes to show that, in this internet climate, you need to be careful about which pirates you're pirating music from.

I'm looking for another music streaming site that enables embedding of files. I'll let you know when I find it.

"Perdre et Gagner" (Win and Lose)

Sight nymphing in France, sans indicator. You win some, you lose some. Ouch.

"Perdre et gagner" from Fran├žois Goursaud on Vimeo.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Trout Lake Report: The Right Place at the Right Time

Wild roses are blooming at the channel access. The rich scent hangs in the warm, still air.

You tie on a brand new muddler.

You get a hit immediately, and miss it. You go back, get another hit, and miss again. Or is the fish striking short? You don't know. You go in for a third strike and hang up on the driftwood. You kick in to release the fly and look down into the fishes' lair and wish you could see more from their point of view.

You kick back out and work the shoreline around the channel and out into the south end. Things are slow, but when you do find a fish tucked into the willows it hits the fly, but you continue to miss. You even strip in to check the hook point. Yep, still there.

You switch to a bead head leech and troll your way across past the RV village at the far end. No noisy takes disturb the evening calm.

On the other side you tie the muddler back on and start working the shoreline back toward the channel.

Bingo. It all comes together.

All hit the fly with the intent to kill. There are no misses. All are healthy and well-conditioned and fight surprisingly hard for their size.

What's different from before? Some mysterious nuance of light as the sun slid behind the ridge, you suppose. Or the fish simply decided, for their own good reasons, that it was time to eat.

We don't need to know everything; we just need to be at the right place at the right time. Most of the time we won't know when that is until it happens.

As though to confirm your thoughts, after a long stretch of shoreline without a take, it happens one more time.

Once again, for one more trip, this beautiful lake has been the right place at the right time.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Trout Lake Report: Fun In the Snow

It's snowing when you get to the lake. Cottonwood time already. You're glad to be fishing in the snow in shirtsleeves.

You do the muddler thing around the north end. Right away you see a sly rise under a bankside tree. You cast to it and strip. A yellow shape comes up under the fly and turns away at the last minute. You drop it in again and let it sit. The fish takes and you hook up--briefly. The brown thrashes off the hook. You keep going.

You work past the inlet. Things are slow. So you double back to find that brown again.

You don't see any rises, but you know where he's likely to be. You lay the fly in under the overhanging branches of his hideout. He's on it in a flash. This time you net him.

The #14 did the trick.

You hear another fish working inside a strip of submerged willows, so you go in and go for it. The fish resists, and you lose the #14, and the #10, in high tree branches. It was fun trying, though. Smart fish.

You go back to the inlet area and continue with a different muddler. Nothing comes to it. As dusk settles in a few rainbows are rising out in open water. You tie on an old Adams and miss a few and catch a couple.

You cross over to the other side before it gets too dark and work a muddler again. No hits this time. But that's OK. It's been a good afternoon.

The crescent moon smiles down as you head for the take out. You're smiling, too.