Saturday, October 29, 2011

Before It's Too Late

The sun rose over a misty Columbia River early this morning as I was on my way to Wenatchee for the day.

It was a beautiful day, and would have been a good day to be at the lake, but once again this week other things called for my time and attention. Important things, things that also define my life. Just not fishing things.

Tomorrow, too, will be busy; no trip to the lake then.

So it's down to Monday, the last day of the season at the lake. I just checked on one more possible conflict and found that I'm good to go. I plan to be there early, before it's too late.

"Sometimes, I Am Startled Out of Myself," by Barbara Crooker

like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.
Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.
You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.
All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.
They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.
"Sometimes, I Am Startled Out of Myself," by Barbara Crooker, fromRadiance. © Word Press, 2005.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Trout Lake Report: Decidedly Octoberish

Just a few more real time adventures at the lake. Today was beautiful but chilly, especially, as is always the way, after the sun dipped behind the mountain. It was along this stretch just after I launched that I saw something I haven't seen since my first trip to this lake oh so many years ago.

There were a few fish tailing, working the weed beds, out and back, heads down and tails waggling in the sunlight. One of those tails was big, too. I had tied a Muddler on, expecting business as usual, and dropped it on their heads and stripped it over them several times, but I don't think they even noticed it. By the time I had tied a nymph on they were gone.

So I went back to a Muddler and worked my way leisurely along the weed beds picking up a fish or two here and there. The ones that were looking up.

Then the smoke began. Something bigger than a campfire was burning near the north end of the lake, and the northerly breeze was drifting the smoke over the south end. I wondered about my truck, and had a flash of me having to spend a frigid night in the lake in the float tube while a forest fire raged down the valley. But it wasn't too long before the smoke subsided.

It gave things a decidedly Octoberish look while it lasted. Reminded me of leaf burning when I was a kid.

The breeze drifted away with the smoke and a few fish began rising lazily to midges and the odd little Caddis fly.

I tied on an emerger and paddled around and caught a couple more fish. The water is definitely colder, and there is nothing sluggish about these fish now, even the little ones. They fight hard and never quit fighting, and they're out of my hand with a splash as soon as I get them back in the water.

As the shadows climbed the ridge the rises became fewer and farther between, so I tied on a Stimulator and drifted it behind me.

Nothing doing there, so I tried it with a black Muddler. Still nothing doing. By then my feet were about the same temperature as the trout, and I was losing the feeling in my thumbs. So I paddled in.

Later, when I took the tube out of the truck to put it in the shed, it wasn't wet, as it usually is; it was covered with a thin layer of ice, and the net was frozen to the seat.

Decidedly Octoberish.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Scarlet Sentinel

Our Fall colors are more muted than eastern hardwood forests and groves. I confess I miss the maples at this time of year, especially the vibrant reds.

So, like others in this neck of the woods, I love this tree. It stands high on a hill and can be seen for miles, a brilliant scarlet sentinel of Fall.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Trout Lake Report: Real Time

Time passes, and another season is winding down. On windy days like this one I get the sense that the wind itself is blowing everything away. But one thing stays the same, whether at the beginning of the season or the end: the hunger for real time experience. Real time: the real thing, right now.

That was today. The lake is different, the colors are different, than they were in May or August. But they're different than they were yesterday, if we only had the ability to see it. So we carve out time from our busy lives to get on the water whenever we can. It may be a day, or just a few hours or even minutes. But when we're there, in the moment, none of that matters. It's not August, or October; it's simply now.

That's where the trout live, I believe. It may be the most important thing they give us, the opportunity to enter into their timeless existence. If just for a moment.... Yes, they may feel the urgency now to feed in preparation for the approaching cold. But that's a biological imperative, instinctive behavior that has nothing to do with any sense of the passage of time. It's simply what now requires. And they do what now requires, no matter the time of the season.

So today I fished, with no sense of desperation at the dwindling of the season. Soon I won't be on the lake anymore, not until next Spring. But today I was there.

So I played with my Boatman, and got a few bumps and pulls, but no hookup. By then I was at this shoreline where the Stimulator had worked its magic on the last trip, so I tied it on again and began casting it into the pocket water between the weed beds and the shoreline.

It worked its magic again. First this hefty Rainbow.

Then this big-shouldered Brown.

On down the weed beds this smaller Rainbow risked a quick take, in spite of its recent brush with death. That was then, this is now; and now is the time to eat. 

When the weed beds ran out I paddled out into the open lake dragging the Stimulator behind me.

There were fish there, too, like these. Not so big, but just as much in the moment.

So what is a "season" anyway? There was only today, and there will be other days, all of them the real thing, right now. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Well, Alrighty Then

I found this in my truck today. Might have flown in as I had the door open taking stuff out. Or...might have been in there since I was at the lake on Tuesday. Either way, it's a Boatman.

Well, alrighty then.

Youth Sports Post: A Nifty Stiff Arm

When you have two sons playing football on two different teams it doesn't do to post animations of only one kid. So here's one of Isaiah pulling off a nifty stiff arm in that nice kickoff return last Monday.

Click for animated photo sequence.

Nifty, I.

Youth Sports Post: Jeremiah Shines

When you have two sons playing football on two different teams it doesn't do to post pictures of only one kid. So here are some of Jeremiah in the Eighth Grade game on Tuesday night.

I have to give Jeremiah his props. He played a very good game, something I couldn't see very well as I was taking the poor video on my sick camera. (The auto-focus is screwed up.) I saw it all as I played the videos on my computer, slowing them way down searching for decent screen shots.

He made a nice run.

He made a nice catch, fully extended to snag the ball out of the air. Unfortunately, that video was too blurred for a screenshot.

He made some nice blocks, just enough to let the runner get by the defender.

And he made some nice tackles, the thing he tells me he enjoys the most. Here he's squaring up on the goal line keyed in on the runner. He hit him and drove him back for a loss. 

And here time stands still as he goes airborne for a touchdown-saving tackle, a feeling I imagine he will relive fondly for the rest of his life.

Click for animated photo sequence.

Our team lost the game, but Jeremiah did his part.

Great game, J.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Trout Lake Report: Bookends

I try to avoid it, but sometimes I have to bookend my fishing time between scheduled responsibilities. Such was the case on Tuesday. I had something I had to do in the morning, and something I had to do in the evening. That left the afternoon for fishing.

And what a gorgeous afternoon it was, one of the last of the mild days of October. It didn't even matter that the wind was kicking up its heels. The sun shone warm through the cool air of Fall, and the world was basking in it.

I fished on top again, stripping and towing big flies through the bounding main. I got some bumps on a big Muddler, and then caught a handful of little fish on the Carpet Caddis. I don't mind that. These are next year's good fish, and the following year's big fish--and they already act like big fish when they're hooked, even if they don't have the weight yet to back it up.

That said, I'm still looking for a memorable Fall fish. Something along the lines of that 22 inch Brown last October. So I continue to prospect up along weed beds, and in the pockets of open water between the weed beds and the shoreline. The last few trips I haven't moved a thing.

Tuesday, along a new stretch of shoreline, with a big Stimulator on the line, that tactic paid off.  I didn't catch a monster, but I hooked into two very nice fish, a Brown and a Rainbow.

Like two bookends.

Now, I caught little fish before those two, and I caught little fish after those two. So they didn't really bookend my catching--at least chronologically. But if you fish, I think you can understand how sometimes chronology has nothing to do with how you rank or arrange your catches in your mind. It's not the passage of time that matters, but what passes between your experience and your emotions, between you and the fish during those moments your worlds are connected.

So. Bookends. Beautiful bookends.

The Rainbow was the best fish of the two, fat and heavy. If there's one, there are others. And if there's one this big, there are others bigger.

I didn't mind at all when it was time to pack up and pick up my responsibilities again. I had enjoyed a wonderful afternoon. Not for the last time...


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Youth Sports Post: Isaiah Takes the Field

Isaiah was cleared to play after getting an MRI on his knee last week. He went on the DL a month ago, and the MRI showed evidence of a slight tear to the meniscus, but he's all better now.

These are screenshots from some poor video (my poor camera has been dropped one time too many over the last three years) of Isaiah making a nice return after a kickoff.

We got beat by three points in a hard fought game, but it was great to see Isaiah out there again.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Trout Lake Report: Hustle and Bustle

The lake on Friday evening was quiet. The light was muted and the water was still. But there was hustle and bustle on the road as hunters rattled and rolled in for the opening of deer season on Saturday.

The fish were quiet too, at first. Rises were few, and the fish seemed wary. An eagle hit the water across the lake, sending up a high sparkling spray. It flew over me, an Osprey scolding and darting at it, and there was a fish who hadn't been wary enough clutched in its talons.

I watched for opportunities, like the eagle, and dropped a little emerger near a sudden rise and caught this beautiful Brown. The eagle was perched in a tree eating his fish as I released mine.

My opportunities were sparse, the rises widely scattered and always, it seemed, in water I had passed through already. Midges were swirling in the air around me, and many were on the water. Where were the fish?

Then, at dusk, it was time, and the hustle and bustle began as fish started taking the midges. I paddled toward a noisy pod and found myself in the middle of hungry, eager trout. I had tied on a white-winged mayfly pattern, and they took it willingly as often as I could get it on the water before darkness descended.

As I paddled in, the lights of an occasional truck or camper still passed by on the road, and behind me I could hear an occasional rise. But I was ready to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Trout Lake Report: The Chill Descends

The first snows have dusted the high peaks as Winter begins its slow, inexorable descent.

It's long handles time, and two or three layers under the rain jacket is welcome in the chill of dusk. Tuesday was mild whenever the sun could break out of the windswept clouds, and chilly when it couldn't.

Beauty, however, is weather neutral, and it was on fine display.

The trout were cruising just under the rolling waves. They ignored the Bomber, but came up with a vengeance to whack the waking Carpet Caddis. Not all were hooked, their enthusiasm overpowering their aim. But some were.

Later, as the last of the wind died away, fish came to the top for wisps of midges and twirling caddis. Several came to my Elk Hair Caddis, and then to a Griffith's Gnat. These were little fish. I debated going deep, but stayed with my first love: dries on top.

Campfires were flickering on shore as I tied on the black Muddler and made a long loop through the smoky stillness. Canyon Wrens sang the day to sleep, and small fish bumped the fly or slashed at it and missed.

I made my way up the channel toward the truck, and as the Muddler reached the channel mouth a fish ambushed it with a sploosh and a jump. I felt it's weight for a moment--not the fish of a lifetime, but the fish of the day--and then the line went slack.

I was just wondering whether to try another cast in the gathering gloom, when the fish jumped again--and again, and again. I knew what that meant, so I wound the flyless line onto the reel and paddled in.

I shivered as I took off my jacket and tugged off my waders. In the glow of the truck's dome light, I could see my breath.