Saturday, January 29, 2011

Youth Sports and Family Post: Isaiah

Like the seasons, youth sports turn from one to another without end. School play is over, but Isaiah is continuing to play basketball in an AAU league. The team has had its ups and downs, but Isaiah has had some good moments.
I finally discovered the Movie Edit feature on my camera (I've only had it for two years) and managed to craft a highlight reel from his play in two games last Sunday.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Photo Note

Click on photo for full size image.
A note on this photo. I had just dialed my camera up to full zoom, which means past the point of any hope of good resolution. I know this, but I can't resist getting as close as I can to these birds. When the eagle launched itself a Redtail hawk swooped out of nowhere and buzzed the eagle. Both birds reared up at each other for a split second, wings and tails fully extended. That was too much for a covey of quail in the brush on the river bank to my right and they flushed with a sound like a mighty rushing wind. And suddenly they were all gone.
That was a great moment. Wish I'd been videotaping.

Speaking of Which...


Click on photos for full size image.
Water, in all its mysterious forms--solid, liquid, and gas, has taken over the world. The thaw continues, and all  boundaries are blurred. The air lies heavy and the earth rises out of the snow and ice.
Lakes are still ice-locked, but covered in water. Rivers flow deep, but the ice flows with them, grinding out a hard song as it goes.
And the eagle fishes while the fisherman waits.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Long, Slow Dance of Light and Shadow

The last time I was on the river I got back to the truck at dark and checked the time. It was half an hour later than I thought it was. The light is slowly intensifying, lapping over the edges of each new day like a rising tide.
Each day on the water has been a participation in the long, slow dance of light and shadow.
The dance goes on.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Double Wing Delight

I spend a little time checking out fly tying videos, and there is a vast variety of good and bad flies out there. This one, found on the Daily Fly Paper Blog, fired up my imagination. It's tied for turbulent early season rivers, but man, it's fat and juicy--just what the trout at my lake really like. This, with a few alterations, may be the fly to wake them up this Spring. At least I'm excited about giving it the chance.
It's good to be excited in late January when the rivers are high.

Friday, January 21, 2011

River Going Down

Still too high to fish.

Life Beyond Fly Fishing

I suspect we all have talents and interests beyond fly fishing. My brother John does.
This is the way I usually see him (this was the Grande Ronde a couple of years ago) plying his considerable talents as a fly fisherman.

I just found this video, after a little searching, of the Freeport Players (Maine) in their annual Old Time Radio Hour production. Brother John (way too modest about all this) is the band leader/trumpet player/singer in the snappy black outfit with braces.

Way to go, Bro.
May we all have something we love to do when we can't fish.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Full Moon

River Rising

Good thing I didn't wait any longer than I did to get on the river.

The other river I checked out earlier this month shows a decrease in flow and level. Hmmm. I'll keep checking on that.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

River Report: Miss

Click on photos for full size image.
I missed the window. Prime time would have been last Saturday, I think. It was almost 50 degrees then, it was raining, and--key factor--the river was still down.  General wisdom holds that Steelhead go off the bite in rising rivers.
I had my trip all planned on Saturday, but complications arose that made it impossible to get away. Same with yesterday. And same today until about 3 o'clock when I was finally able to break away for a couple of hours on the river before dark.
I went where I could get to fast, the bridge run. The day was sunny and still relatively warm, but the river, while not blown out, was on the rise. There was still ice along the edges and on the banks, but the run was open. There were a few chunks of ice coming down the river. Most were small, but after a floe as big as a table top came bucketing along I decided to keep an eye out behind me.

I did the drill, working one of my new weighted flies on a sink tip through the length of the run. I wade down the middle and cast to both banks. That stretches out the casting muscles with a single handed rod. I think I can feel it in my shoulders tonight, an indication of how depressingly little I have been casting for the last two months.

The moon had risen by the time I reached the end of the run. Nothing else had risen. A miss.

I waded to the bank and climbed out at the only place I can without wading on into chest deep water, or wading back upstream against a sweeping current for fifty yards. There's a muddy trough right up against the bank which is usually waist deep, but with today's rising water it was well up over the bottoms of my jacket and vest. It's not an easy climb, either, up the steep muddy bank and out of the water. But, once again, I made it.

I changed tactics and rigged with an indicator and my new nymph. This is the first time I've used an indicator for Steelhead since my Pere Marquette days. I drifted that nymph deep all through the tailout of the run, well downstream of where my longest cast can reach when I'm coming down the run from the bridge.

Another miss. I stood in the snow in the dusk and felt that I had done everything I could in the time I had. In fact, I discovered that my restless spirit felt rested after leaning for awhile on the strength of the river, and I felt a deep sense of satisfaction in having hunted well.

General wisdom says the next window will come when the river starts to drop again. Steelhead get more aggressive then. Tomorrow a cool down is forecast to begin. Who knows how long the river will be up--or how high it will get. Or what the weather and ice conditions will be when it does go down.
For now I can honestly say I'm satisfied to wait and see.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Friday, January 14, 2011

Skunked Flies

Click on photos for full size image.
Felt good to get back to the vise for awhile. And I got to really experience the advantages of one of my Christmas presents, wireless headphones. I could sit on the other side of the room and listen to music without a long cord wrapping around my neck or yanking the headphones off my head when I leaned down to get into a drawer.
I was rusty. But trusty. I plugged away. I started with a long buggy shellback design. I still have confidence in these nymphal boys. The shellback is a basic trout design, but I think it could attract Steelhead in the same way a stone fly nymph does. Here's hoping. I tied this on a #8 4X streamer hook.

Then I went after the Skunk fly pattern. I have less confidence in these; maybe I'll just call them Skunked flies.
As usual, I use what I have and make adjustments as necessary--or as they occur to me suddenly in the fever of the creative process. And then there are those changes that are simply accidents or the result of laziness. I forgot the tail on this one, and the wing looked a bit heavy after I had secured it but I didn't take the time to unwrap and thin it out. But I think it works with the marabou collar.

This one got a tail, and I took pains to make the wing sparse. Pretty nice.

I tied both of these on a #6 salmon hook, and I weighted them pretty good.
It occurs to me that I tie like I fish: I get a basic idea of what I'm going to do, based on certain acquired skill and knowledge, and then just throw something out there and see if it works. And I never really know if a tie works until I get out there and fish it.
That's next.

Skunk Fly

There could be no more appropriate name for a Steelhead fly. Pretty, too.
I started looking over some patterns tonight and found this on the HMH site. It has inspired me to spend a little time at the vise before calling it a day. My version won't look exactly like this one. But I like the big body/wide rib and thick collar/sparse wing combinations.

January Thaw

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A long time ago when I lived among the corn fields of Iowa the farmers swore by the January thaw. Then, and in the years since, wherever I have lived, it has seemed to come without fail around mid-month.
It's here now. Yesterday and last night the temperature held steady just above freezing, and this afternoon it climbed to 48 degrees. The forecast calls for more of the same over the weekend and into Monday.

Along with the high temperatures today came blue skies and sunshine, a pure gift; we were supposed to have rain.

So the melt is on--for now--and the sound of dripping eaves fills the air.

Must be time to fish. More rain and overcast is supposed to be on the way. Any spike in the river flows should hold off for a day or two. The ice, I hope, will recede, maybe even break up. Things are coming together.
I'm on it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Zero Holding

Zero Holding

by Robyn Sarah 
I grow to like the bare
trees and the snow, the bones and fur
of winter. Even the greyness
of the nunneries, they are so grey,
walled all around with grey stones —
and the snow piled up on ledges
of wall and sill, those grey
planes for holding snow: this is how
it will be, months now, all so still,
sunk in itself, only the cold alive,
vibrant, like a wire — and all the
busy chimneys — their ghost-breath,
a rumour of lives warmed within,
rising, rising, and blowing away.

"Zero Holding," by Robyn Sarah, from The Touchstone. © House of Anansi Press, 1992.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Be the Redtail?

 Click on photos for full size image.
There was an Air Stagnation Advisory for the valley this week. It seemed fitting, and not just for the air quality. It feels like nothing is moving. It may be that emotional back eddy that can form just past the riffle and run of the holidays. Or it may be the simple fact that I haven't had a fish on the line since November.
There was a time when I hung up my rod in the fall and waited for spring. There was a simplicity in that. It meant that winter weather and schedule and sickness simply didn't have any impact at all on fishing--because there was no fishing.
But that was before I lived in Steelhead country. Now the opportunity to fish exists virtually year round. Let me rephrase that: it's legal to fish virtually year round. But all too often in winter the opportunity just isn't there. Schedule, sickness, and especially the vagaries of the weather, all impact the ability to get out and fish. Add to that the fact that the fisheries and the fish are more limited in winter and you get the potential for far more frustration than in summer. Send out the Fishing Stagnation Advisory.
Then I saw the Redtail.

It sat in the tree, simply waiting, for a long time.

I doubt that it was comparing in its mind the travails of winter hunting with the ease of summer hunting. I doubt that it was feeling frustrated or impatient. It was just hunting, doing what it does the way it needs to in the environment in which it finds itself.

While I watched, it lifted out of the tree, drifted a few feet on the wind, folded its wings, and dropped like a stone into the grass, talons outstretched. I waited to see what it had caught. But when it lifted up again its talons were empty. A miss.
It flew slowly over to another perch, settled down, and began to wait--and hunt--once again.  

It seemed so familiar: long periods of waiting, a flurry of activity, and, more often than not, a miss. The lesson, I thought at first, was that I needed to be the Redtail. Maybe the real lesson, the one that puts things back in perspective, is that, after all, the Redtail is me.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Poetry Reading: "Drinking Song" by Jim Harrison

Drinking Song
by Jim Harrison

I want to die in the saddle. An enemy of civilization,
I want to walk around in the woods, fish and drink.

I'm going to be a child about it and I can't help it, I was
born this way and it makes me very happy to fish and

I left when it was still dark and walked on the path to the
river, the Yellow Dog, where I spent the day fishing
               and drinking.

After she left me and I quit my job and wept for a year and
all my poems were born dead, I decided I would only
               fish and drink.

Water will never leave earth and whiskey is good for the
What else am I supposed to do in these last days but fish
               and drink?

In the river was a trout and I was on the bank, my heart
               in my
chest, clouds above, she was in NY forever and I, fishing
               and drinking.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

River Report: Cold Hands, Warm Heart

Click on photos for full size image.

A week ago we were in another of those weather windows with temps in the upper thirties. I would have made today's trip then, except I got sick. Now that I'm feeling better the weather has gone frigid again. We've had a string of days under freezing with nights in the teens. But I made the trip anyway; I had a window, and not fishing chills the soul.

The truck is great. The heater works and everything. So time on the road was a pleasure. It's around an hour to the mouth of the river, and I drove upstream another half hour or forty minutes--who knows, maybe it was another hour--just checking things out before turning around.
It is a sweet river, but of course today it was full of ice. But this stretch looks good for when things open up a little more. The Mergansers looked fat and happy.

On down the road at this public access site there was plenty of evidence that someone's been fishing. It looks real good, and there's plenty of room up and down river.

I decided to go ahead and string up here and at least get the line wet. I eschewed waders this time and stayed on the rocks and cast out along the edge of the ice on the far bank.

It felt good, and I got a few good swings in before I had to start clearing ice out of the guides. I was fishing, but today it was mostly symbolic: planting the flag in new country, and staking a claim to a new year on the water.

It was cold, but also beautiful. I was glad for some shots of the icy water.

I'll go back during the next weather window. But I'm glad I went today. As the saying goes, "Cold hands, warm heart." And as I sailed along Mother Columbia on a course for home, I thought about how sometimes ice in your guides can warm your soul.