Friday, December 31, 2010

On Another Passing of Another Year

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A Short Testament

by Anne Porter

Whatever harm I may have done
In all my life in all your wide creation
If I cannot repair it
I beg you to repair it,

And then there are all the wounded
The poor the deaf the lonely and the old
Whom I have roughly dismissed
As if I were not one of them.
Where I have wronged them by it
And cannot make amends
I ask you
To comfort them to overflowing,

And where there are lives I may have withered around me,

Or lives of strangers far or near
That I've destroyed in blind complicity,
And if I cannot find them
Or have no way to serve them,

Remember them. I beg you to remember them

When winter is over

And all your unimaginable promises
Burst into song on death's bare branches.

"A Short Testament" by Anne Porter, from Living Things. © Zoland Books.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Badzai: Cold and Flu Season

This was going to be the week that I finally got on the water again. That nearby river looks so sweet on Google Earth, with three, four, maybe five bridges in the first ten miles upriver from the mighty Columbia, all with easy access and lots of bends and channels. Reports say it's fishing well, with nymphs taking most of the fish.
My box of big stonefly nymphs vibrated like a cell phone when I read that.
Then Sunday night I'm finally bringing the boat to dock after a hectic Christmas season, and the backwash slams me right into the pier. Literally.
No, I'm just kidding. Figuratively. What would I be doing in a boat?
What happened was the cold and sore throat I felt dogging me for a few days finally caught up with me just when the pressure was off and I let down. So I'm sick. May that be a lesson to us all.
But it's only Wednesday. I may have broken the back of this thing. There's still hope.
Meanwhile this looked real good to me. Maybe I'm still feverish.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Good Christmas

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Our Christmas was good in the best sense of the word; a minimum of glitz and flash, a maximum of warm glow.
It always starts on Christmas Eve morning with a breakfast hosted by Ben and his wife Sally and family. At 7 AM pancakes were already coming off the griddle, under the watchful eye of the deer who kindly provided the venison sausage this year.

Two of these pancakes fill you up.

But you want to make sure to leave room for the sausage--and eggs, and ham.

Almost 160 people went through the line and enjoyed breakfast with their neighbors.
That's good.
Much later, at 11 PM, it was the Christmas Eve Candle Lighting Service. Isaiah was a Wise Man, and Jeremiah was a shepherd, but Jeremiah was out of his costume before I could get this photo posed.

It's easy to think you're already tired by 11 PM, and there's much still to do before morning. Then the kids file in and take their places in the manger scene, the Christmas carols bring a flood of peace, the twinkling light of the candles revive your spirit, and you don't want to be anywhere else.
That's good.
It was a short night--always some last minute wrapping and stuffing of stockings--but we were up bright and early for presents. The kids are almost all teenagers now, and they already know what they're getting, at least as far as the "big gift" goes. But they still get up at first light and bug us until we get out of bed.
That's good. 

The rest of the day was spent relaxing and eating. I admit I dozed on the couch awhile, but there was still ample time to get the ham in the oven and prepare our Christmas dinner.
That was good.

Here's hoping your Christmas was good, too.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Norman

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Today is the birthday of Norman Maclean, the author of A River Runs Through it. Way back in the 80's, my big sister Nell, a long-time editor at the University of Chicago Press, and a sister who has done many good things for me, gave me a copy of the book. I wasn't fly fishing at the time, but I was missing the west. She thought I would like the book; I loved it.
Looking back, it was a bridge for me between my western boyhood and my current life in the west. His images--I could feel the heat of the mountain sun, smell the sharp scent of pine, and hear the rumble and ring of fast-flowing water--revived my memories of boyhood, gave a shape to my dreams, and provided signposts for my western journey.
It was a life-affirming story of a family--and especially two brothers--bonded by the act of fly fishing. It laid the foundation for the touchstone that fly fishing has become in my life.
I also take encouragement from the fact that Norman Maclean wrote the book when he was 70 years old. There may be something good in all of us just waiting for the time to write it down.
If you came to fly fishing because of the movie, do yourself a big favor. Read the book.

Norman Maclean teaching, University of Chicago, 1970.

From the Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday of author Norman Maclean, (books by this author) born in Clarinda, Iowa (1902). He grew up in Montana. He taught English at the University of Chicago for many years, and built a cabin in Montana, near the Big Blackfoot River, and he spent every summer there.
After he retired from teaching, at the age of 70, he wrote his famous autobiographical novella, A River Runs Through It, which was published in 1976 by the University of Chicago Press. It was the first work of fiction the press ever published, and it was a huge best-seller and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
It begins: "In our family, there was no clear line between religion and fly fishing. We lived at the junction of great trout rivers in western Montana, and our father was a Presbyterian minister and a fly fisherman who tied his own flies and taught others. He told us about Christ's disciples being fishermen, and we were left to assume, as my brother and I did, that all first-class fishermen on the Sea of Galilee were fly fishermen and that John, the favorite, was a dry-fly fisherman."

 The Maclean family, Norman and brother Paul.

 Norman Maclean, right, and friend George Croonenberghs, Diana Lake, Montana, 1949.
George tied flies for the Macleans, and was a technical advisor for the movie.

 The Big Blackfoot River, 1905.

The Big Blackfoot River, modern day.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

There We Go...

It happened. Tomorrow will be longer than today.

Sunrise:7:47 AM PST
Sunset:4:03 PM PST
Length of Day:8h 16m
 Tomorrow will be 0m 3s longer.
Moon Rise:4:41 PM PSTMoon Phase
Moon Set:8:10 AM PST
Moon Phase:Full
 99% Illuminated

What are you going to do with those extra three seconds?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Those Long Summer Evenings On the Water...

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Winter getting you down already? Do not despair.
Those long summer evenings on the water are beginning as we speak. We now teeter on the cusp of the Winter Solstice when the tilt of the earth will tip back toward the sun, and the long flood of light and warmth begins anew.
The actual celestial moment will be 3:38 PM tomorrow, local time. That makes tomorrow night the longest night of the year, but tonight will certainly be long enough. And, due to an extremely rare convergence of the solstice with a total lunar eclipse, tonight will feel darker than usual.

Multiple astronomical events are lining up for a rare display of synchronization tonight as a total lunar eclipse overlaps with 2010's winter solstice.
Depending on the location, late night December 20 or early morning December 21, the full moon will be darkened by Earth's shadow as our planet passes between it and the sun. December 21 is also the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, after which the days will begin to grow longer. Coupled with the lunar spectacle, it means we're in for an especially dark eve.
According to The AP, North and Central America should both be able to view the entire eclipse, which is estimated to take about 3.5 hours. Total eclipse will begin at 11:41 p.m. PST on Monday, or 2:41 a.m. EST on Tuesday -- so obviously West Coasters will have a better chance to catch the magnificent sight without dragging around heavy eyelids and needing an extra dose of espresso the following morning. If you want to set an alarm to catch a brief glimpse of the amber moon, NASA recommends 3:17 a.m. EST for the optimal impression.
According to, NASA reports that this is the first time an eclipse has coincided with a solstice since December 21, 1638, and the next one won't come around again until 2094. The extravaganza in the sky doesn't end there, however, as the Ursids meteor shower will also be taking reports that this particular annual show is rarely witnessed compared to its brighter counterparts, but stargazers will have an especially exceptional chance to view the display this year because of the eclipse's darkened sky.

I went out at dusk--4:00--and realized we would not see the eclipse or the meteor shower tonight. No, the clouds were lowering and the snow was drifting down, and the darkness was already settling into every fold and crease of the rock face. But I thought I felt a shifting under my feet...

Two more nights, and then everything changes. I'll build a nice fire and hunker down. But I'll be dreaming, not of a white Christmas, but of the blessed return of the light, and of those long summer evenings on the water.

A Moment of Peace

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"...the dog shall lie down with the cow....
They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain...."
--Isaiah 11:6-9

Friday, December 17, 2010

Pere Marquette Journal: Entry Four

From May 5, 2004:
(Note: I present this as a record of a novice Steelhead fisherman. I wouldn't fish over spawning fish today, and am glad I live where the swing is king. But then, never having caught one--well...I did what I did. What is the statute of limitations, anyway?)
It started out to be Trout Time. The trip was good, and the Rest Area was finally open. I rolled into Baldwin and picked up some 1X tippet for streamers, and a trout leader. The day was in the 50's, a welcome change from the cold. The river was beautiful, and I picked up a couple of little Rainbows on my newly-tied Black Matuka.
As that was going on the first canoes of the season came banging and wallowing past full of high school kids observing Senior Skip Day. They were loud but polite, apologizing for their noisy interruption.
Shortly after they were gone I came upon a trout holding on a lip of gravel. I could see him clearly and tried to tempt him with the streamer. No dice. So I tied on a length of 6X and a little bead head nymph. On the third drift over him he turned, looped back and up, and took. It was beautiful, and when I held him in my hand he was a chunky 14 inch Brown. Very nice.
I decided to range as far downriver as I could and came to one of my favorite stretches, a shallow, fast stretch, cobble bottom, and flowing through cedars and pines. I immediately saw big fish holding on the gravel stretch in fast water. Steelhead! So, what the hell, I started lobbing egg flies at them. There was a pair doing their spawning thing, and another fish hovering like a ghost behind them. I took it to be a big trout hanging close hoping for a meal of fresh roe. I started aiming for him. By now I was throwing a whitish nuke egg with a pink center, and I could see its drift.
After many lobs I suddenly came up tight on a fish. There was a great boil on the surface and my reel whined as he took off downstream in the strong current. What followed was a long, exhilarating fight in which my reel and 4 wt rod were tested to the max. The fish jumped, and I was certain I was onto a Steelhead. My concern was that I may have foul hooked him.
I was horsing him away from snags, trying to get him out of the current, using everything that 8 lb tippet could give me. I finally got him into some slower water fifty yards downstream from where I hooked him, and guided him up onto gravel in the shallows until he lay there gasping.
What a beautiful fish! A buck, bright reds and deep greens, a good-sized hump and a great yawning kype. And the best thing was the fly firmly in the corner of his jaws. I measured him on my rod, and he turned out to be a heavy twenty-seven inches. I carried him out into the current and revived him until he twisted out of my grip and swam slowly off. Perfect in every way.
I wanted more, so waded back upstream, but didn't land another one. I had another hookup, but my suspicion, based on how he twisted off the hook, is that he was foul hooked.
How do you top that? I headed back upstream and checked my favorite bend for any rising trout, with no luck. So I headed back to the city very satisfied with a day that had turned out to be Steelhead Time.
To be continued.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

River Report: Fishing

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That's the main thing; I was fishing today.
Our weather has been on the warmish side, hanging in the mid-30's for over a week, and things have been thawing out after our early bout with cold and ice. We still got a beautiful snowfall Saturday night.

The world was swathed in snow Sunday morning, but the eaves were still dripping and the thaw continued.

Last night it rained all night, sometimes heavily. It was supposed to continue today, but instead the sun came out. It was an astounding 48 degrees this afternoon by our thermometer. I had already made plans to fish today, but now it was mandatory.

The river has been ice free for a few days now, and today it looked positively Springy.

There's still snow and shelf ice along the banks, but other than a quick descent of this steep path to the river it didn't give me any trouble.

I expected the river to be up, but, inexplicably, it was down a bit from my last outing. Perhaps the rise is still on the way. But today the bridge run was wide open and inviting.

I made three passes through the run, with three different flies, staying deep, and doing my best to swing slowly and majestically. I didn't move anything.
But I was fishing.

The world around me may have been thawing, but after two hours in the water my extremities were going the other direction. So I waded to shore and picked my way carefully over the ice and out of the river.

These are the weather windows we look for around here, and should this one continue for a few days, or when the next one comes, I hope to range a bit farther afield.

Now that the new truck has been broken in, has had me drive it in waders, and even now has my gear stowed inside, it's ready for a road trip.

There's a river not too far from here, and back in September a guy I know said he caught four Steelhead in one morning there.
I've been thinking a lot lately about fishing--and about that river.

Best Fish Photos, 2010

And while we're at it, two special categories:



Photo Blogs Worth Perusing

No matter where you are or what the weather, you can go anywhere and do anything via photos. Here are a couple of photo blogs that will see you through the winter.

Thanks to Fly Fishing In Yellowstone National Park for the heads up on this site. is a collection point for photos from all over the globe in a variety of categories. This is excellent, inspiring stuff, what everyone with a point and shoot aspires to.

Focal fish

And, thanks to The Trout Underground Fly Fishing Blog and a few other blogs for passing the word on this one. FocalFish is a collection of photos by fishing guides, so you already know it will be just what you're looking for. This is also excellent stuff, what everyone with a point and shoot aspires to--and sometimes achieves.

Links to both these sites are in the right hand margin of this blog.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Pere Marquette Journal, Entry Three

From April 7, 2004:

"A Wednesday this time, grabbing some time in the midst of a hectic Spring. The trip Tuesday night was one of the good ones; I hit the zone early and sailed my way north through the budding dark. Unfortunately, the Rest Area was still closed, but I drove straight on to the parking area south of Baldwin and had a few good hours of rest. The temperature was much more Spring-like, in the 40's.
Dawn, or soon thereafter, saw me at Ed's again getting legal for 2004. Then off to the river, this time at the Clay Banks access. I immediately met a guy who said he had been fishing all night with no luck. 'I hate to tell you,' he said, 'but there aren't any fish.' By which he meant Steelhead.
Undeterred, I geared up and headed for the 143 steps down to the river. (Note: There's a long wooden stairway down to the river. Fine going down; a real test of stamina going up after hiking and wading all day.) It was a beautiful day, just cool enough at the beginning to wear my flannel shirt and jacket, but it wasn't long before they were rolled up and stashed in the back of my vest. I was comfortable in shirt sleeves the rest of the day.
My main problem this trip was a lack of commitment to Steelheading, though I hoped at the beginning it would turn out to be a strength. I took two reels--one sinking and one floating line--and tried a variety of techniques to get flies down to the Steelies. This time I saw a few, though always wary, and always moving somewhere, never holding in plain sight. All that was well and good until I saw a few trout rising enthusiastically to Little Stone Flies fluttering on the surface.
I couldn't resist rigging up a trout leader and casting a dark Elk Hair Caddis at them. The drift was nigh impossible, trying to get the fly into slack water near the bank across a very fast tongue of current shooting around a submerged tree. But it was an enjoyable challenge, and I managed a couple decent rises, but missed a hookup.
So the rest of the day I was alternating lines and leaders and trying for Steelhead and trout. Just one trout rise would get me reeling in, looping off the heavy Steelhead leader and looping on the trout leader and dry fly. It was fun, but I caught nothing.
During the day I watched an angler near me hook, play, and land a nice Steelhead. (That's when I had reeled in, looped on the heavy leader, and started after Steelies again.) That evening as I arrived at my car he was a couple parking spots down taking off his waders. He asked me how the trout fishing was. I told him I had seen him land a nice Steelhead. 'Yeah,' he said. 'We've been here for three days, and this was the best day by far. I managed twelve hookups, and landed four.'
I made some wistful comment about wishing I could learn more about Steelhead and graduate from beginner status, and he said, "Well, it's location. Knowing where they are." Just enough to re-intrigue me and get me thinking that I'll try it again in the Fall.
But I think next time will be Trout Time."
To be continued.

More "Youth Sporting Events"

A recent commenter wrote that he expects to find here "pictures of beautiful fishes beautiful water and mountains and the occasional youth sporting event."
Yep, another post on basketball. There are only a couple of games left, so the mainline sports will soon take a backseat to the outdoor sports.

Jeremiah and the Seventh Graders finally won a game. By one point in a thriller. Jeremiah made his usual contribution, including these two sweet shots, and some tough D at the end when they held the other team scoreless for the last minute or so. They're now one and six, but they were thrilled with the win.

Isaiah and the Eighth Graders lost their most recent game, but their record stands at four and three. Isaiah's individual effort continues to impress me, especially on defense, like this block. He got called for a foul, but, of course, I thought it was clean. And once in awhile he'll surprise me, like with this nifty lay up.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Over Chief Joseph Pass

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If you look for "Chief Joseph Pass" on a map of Washington, you won't find it. Instead you'll find "Sherman Pass."  I'm just trying to correct what was obviously a mistake.
The good general did end up in Washington State for a time after the Civil War, and, as the Secretary of the Army after Grant was elected to the presidency, he directed the campaign against the native Americans throughout the west. He would famously say, "War is hell." But, like many of his contemporaries, he also believed in giving hell to the Indians wherever they "impeded progress."

So the state lawmakers, in their wisdom, named a beautiful mountain pass after him.
Meanwhile, Chief Joseph tried to lead his people to safety in Canada. With just a handful of warriors protecting hundreds of women and children, he successfully eluded federal troops for months, defeating them repeatedly in running battles, until finally surrendering just short of the border. He famously said, "I will fight no more forever." He lived the rest of his days on the Colville Reservation in Washington.

So the state lawmakers, in their wisdom, named a dam on the Columbia after him.
What? Has to be a mistake.
So for me the pass is Chief Joseph Pass, the dam is Sherman Dam. Makes all the sense in the world to me.

So today the boys and I drove over Chief Joseph Pass to Spokane and back for orthodontist appointments. Isaiah took this shot as we were nearing Republic, the mountain town nestled at the foot of the pass.

 I took some more shots as we climbed...

Reached the summit--at 5,575 feet the highest pass in Washington State--and started down the other side.

Then Jeremiah took the camera, and, after a shot of his current reading material, finally started taking shots out the back of the truck as we wended our way down through the fog and snow.

It was beautiful.

P.S. We're having a thaw. I hope to be fishing before the week is out.