Wednesday, November 30, 2011

River Report: Once More Into the Breach

Once more into the breach. It was a lovely afternoon and the river and the sky were beautiful. I covered a lot of water and feel that I'm getting to know the river again. The Steelhead eluded me, though each good swing was rich with anticipation.

I had one strong grab on the hang of the fly, and the rush was sweet if short lived. It turned out to be a good-sized, very scrappy Whitefish.

Ah, but next time....

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Youth Sports Post: Paris and C Squad

I reported recently on a big win by Jeremiah's Eighth Grade team in an exciting overtime game. I think my words were, "This is the kind of win that defines a season." This is why that win is and will be so important:

Yeah, the last game didn't go so well. Others won't either. But as Humphrey Bogart says to Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, "We'll always have Paris."

Meanwhile, Isaiah, a Ninth Grader, has started practice. Last Saturday the various high school squads, boys and girls, played each other as a kind of tip off to the season. I have to say that Isaiah is now on "C Squad," the squad of boys not good enough to play on Varsity or JV. In his case it was because he had gotten himself into some academic trouble and had to bring a couple of grades up.

He was disappointed--steamed--but he has responded with a level of maturity that makes us proud. Not only has he brought the grades up, he has developed a loyalty to C Squad. My guess is that he will be promoted to JV soon, but in the meantime he is determined to help C Squad be as good as it can be. Their first game is Saturday. Go C Squad!

Click for animated photo sequence.

Monday, November 28, 2011

November Steel

A nice video capturing the perfect antidote for gloomy November musings.

November Pleasures from marty sheppard on Vimeo.

River Report: Fishing With Ghosts

For a fisherman, time is marked by moments on the water, a long silver chain of experience. Sometimes we think that chain will be endless, that it will suspend us forever between the past and the future. But nothing, not even us and the things we love, last forever.

The ghosts tell us that.

Mark and I went to the river on Friday afternoon. It was a mild day; the sun shone but the river ran cold. And we both knew we weren't alone.

There were the ghosts of the salmon, so recently alive and intent on the fulfillment of their life purpose, now dead--but not gone. With generations of salmon before them, their presence could be felt, a silent run of life still filling the river.

And there were others. I thought of those who had known this river before me down through the centuries, the First Nation peoples who lived in and hunted this valley, and probably fished this river. The river may have changed course here and there, but it has always been here, and the hills and ridges and mountains I see today are the same contours that shaped their world. They are still here, watching over the land that was theirs, pausing on the river bank to watch me as I fish.

There were the early explorers who floated down this river in their dugout canoes, the miners and the adventurers who traveled through this valley long before the first settlers put down roots. If you stand still and listen you can hear the dip of paddles, the jingle of bridles, as they pass.

Near the river is a canyon, a narrow defile a few miles long with sheer rock walls on either side. In 1858 an expedition of 167 miners, traders, and packers, coming from Fort Okanogan to the south, entered the canyon, a well-known short cut through the valley. They were on their way to the newly discovered gold fields on the Thompson and Fraser Rivers.

Chief Moses, of the Chelan tribe, had warned them that they would not be permitted to pass through the valley. His brother had been killed by whites just a few weeks before. But the expedition ignored the warning. Halfway through the canyon they became suspicious when they saw freshly cut saplings and brush, the leaves wilting in the summer sun.  A man rode forward to investigate, and Chelan warriors rose up from concealment and opened fire.

A battle began--more a standoff than a battle; but thee miners were killed and three wounded in two days of fighting. The expedition finally retreated, crossed the river very close to where I fish, and made their way on north.

I recently went outside late at night and saw, up on the ridge at the north end of the canyon, a string of wavering lights making its way slowly down the dark ridge. Someone was up there. It was easy to imagine a ghostly expedition, or a line of ghostly warriors, making their way down the trail.

They are here.

So are my own ghosts, those of my people who went before, who are no longer living except in the marrow of my bones and in my heart and soul. As I do every Thanksgiving, I thought of the first Thanksgiving I remember, a family gathering at the family farm in northern Indiana when I was four years old. What I remember most is the old farmhouse full of people, the people from whom I sprang, sitting around in the warm glow of a fireplace. Many of them are gone now, but they are with me always.

Just before we went to the river I learned that another of our uncles had died. He was my father's brother, the youngest of five boys who grew up on a farm in Iowa. My father and one brother are still living, but now three brothers have joined my Grandpa in death.

My Grandpa was a singer, and he formed the boys into a quartet that became renowned in that part of Iowa. They once sang at a Billy Sunday revival in Marshalltown in the Thirties. My aunt said last week, "Now they have a quartet again."

But I remember my uncle from the time I was growing up in Idaho. He had been in Idaho for a long time, and was a true Westerner. And he was a fisherman, and was often there as my father and brothers and I went in search of trout in streams and lakes. He is with me now as I fish.

In early dusk a cold wind picked up and the temperature started to drop. I climbed the bank, stepping where generations of deer have gone down to the water, and made my way back to the truck.

Mark was already there, beginning to warm up.

Some ghosts we left at the river. But many went with us as we pulled out onto the highway below the canyon and climbed the hill for home. But that's good. They watch over us.

And they wait.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

by Linda McCarriston
Every year we call it down upon ourselves,
the chaos of the day before the occasion,
the morning before the meal. Outdoors,
the men cut wood, fueling appetite
in the gray air, as Nana, Arlene, Mary,
Robin—whatever women we amount to—
turn loose from their wrappers the raw,
unmade ingredients. A flour sack leaks,
potatoes wobble down counter tops
tracking dirt like kids, blue hubbard erupts
into shards and sticky pulp when it's whacked
with the big knife, cranberries leap away
rather than be halved. And the bird, poor
blue thing—only we see it in its dead skin—
gives up for good the long, obscene neck, the gizzard,
the liver quivering in my hand, the heart.

So what? What of it? Besides the laughter,
I mean, or the steam that shades the windows
so that the youngest sons must come inside
to see how the smells look. Besides
the piled wood closing over the porch windows,
the pipes the men fill, the beers
they crack, waiting in front of the game.

Any deliberate leap into chaos, small or large,
with an intent to make order, matters. That's what.
A whole day has passed between the first apple
cored for pie, and the last glass polished
and set down. This is a feast we know how to make,
a Day of Feast, a day of thanksgiving
for all we have and all we are and whatever
we've learned to do with it: Dear God, we thank you
for your gifts in this kitchen, the fire,
the food, the wine. That we are together here.
Bless the world that swirls outside these windows—
a room full of gifts seeming raw and disordered,
a great room in which the stoves are cold,
the food scattered, the children locked forever
outside dark windows. Dear God, grant
to the makers and keepers power to save it all.
"Thanksgiving" by Linda McCarriston, from Talking Soft Dutch. © Texas Tech Press, 1984.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Best Fish Photos, 2011

We have snow on the ground here, and more on the way. Seems like Winter has settled in early and for good. Maybe that's why I was drawn today to my photos of the season past.

This was a great season on the various waters around here. As I pored over photos the memories came flooding back of family and friends on the water, swimming, fishing, and just having a good time. That's what it's all about.

It was also a great fishing season for me. I caught my best Steelhead ever in my own backyard river way back in February. In April I caught bright, fresh trout, and some slab Bluegill on the early season lake. I caught Lahontan Cutthroats in early summer in Cutthroat Lake. In mid-Summer there were eager little trout in the mountain streams in spite of the high water. At various times there were Bass and Bluegill and Perch with the boys on the warm water lake.

And always there was Trout Lake. This was arguably my best season ever there. For the first time since I began fishing there I can say I caught fish on every trip, and on some trips I caught more than I ever have before.

All that makes for a lot of memories to go to sleep by on these long winter nights.

Here is a celebration of those fish, a collection of some of the best photos of the season past.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Youth Sports Post: Jeremiah Helps Team to Big Win

Props to Jeremiah and his Eighth Grade basketball team. They played their top rival last week, a team that towers over them, and won in overtime, 30 to 25. The key was swarming defense; they held the other team scoreless in the overtime period.

Click for animated photo sequence.

Their record is now 1 and 2. They have improved immensely since game one, and this game has boosted their confidence sky high. They could rack up a few more wins. But even if they don't, this was the kind of win that defines a season.

Way to go, guys!

"Falling Leaves and Early Snow," by Kenneth Rexroth

In the years to come they will say,
"They fell like the leaves
In the autumn of nineteen thirty-nine."
November has come to the forest,
To the meadows where we picked the cyclamen.
The year fades with the white frost
On the brown sedge in the hazy meadows,
Where the deer tracks were black in the morning.
Ice forms in the shadows;
Disheveled maples hang over the water;
Deep gold sunlight glistens on the shrunken stream.
Somnolent trout move through pillars of brown and gold.
The yellow maple leaves eddy above them,
The glittering leaves of the cottonwood,
The olive, velvety alder leaves,
The scarlet dogwood leaves,
Most poignant of all.

In the afternoon thin blades of cloud
Move over the mountains;
The storm clouds follow them;
Fine rain falls without wind.
The forest is filled with wet resonant silence.
When the rain pauses the clouds
Cling to the cliffs and the waterfalls.
In the evening the wind changes;
Snow falls in the sunset.
We stand in the snowy twilight
And watch the moon rise in a breach of cloud.
Between the black pines lie narrow bands of moonlight,
Glimmering with floating snow.
An owl cries in the sifting darkness.
The moon has a sheen like a glacier.
"Falling Leaves and Early Snow" by Kenneth Rexroth, from The Collected Shorter Poems. © New Directions Publishing Corporations, 2003. 

This poem, and others on this blog, thanks to The Writer's Almanac.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Happy Birthday, Claude

This is a belated birthday wish for the impressionist painter Claude Monet; his birthday was last Monday. But it's heartfelt. I am moved by his work, maybe because of his ability to capture every glint and glimmer, every mysterious mood and movement of the element of water. He obviously loved water, as I do. But whatever the subject, he was able to reveal the boundless beauty of this magnificent world.

Here is just a taste of his work, from his series of water lily paintings. These photos don't do the paintings justice, but they still have the power to inspire.

Monet said, "I would like to paint the way a bird sings." He did. Happy birthday, Claude. And thanks.

Friday, November 18, 2011

All Shook Up

A little early morning excitement around here. The center was about 10 miles from our house. It woke up the family--and me, but I didn't know what had awakened me. Jeremiah says he heard it, says it sounded like a giant semi rumbling past the house. Amazing.

Posted: Friday, Nov. 18, 2011 - 10:43 a.m. PST 
Early morning earthquake jolts the Okanogan Valley
By Dee Camp
The Chronicle

     OMAK – A 4.6 magnitude earthquake jolted Okanogan Valley residents awake at 5:09 a.m. Friday, Nov. 18.
     The temblor was centered six miles northwest of Omak and five miles west-southwest of Riverside at a depth of 7.4 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
     It hit suddenly, with several people reporting a booming, rattling noise similar to a train or a snowplow. The quake tapered off, lasting 10-15 seconds.
     “There was a bang and it shook,” Conconully Mayor Sam Martin said.
     He said he’s not aware of any damage, though there are some cracks in the masonry walls of the town fire station. Officials are trying to determine if they’re new cracks or existing ones.
     The dam holding Conconully Reservoir seems to be fine, he said.
     Pat Byrd, who lives near Green Lake west of town, said she was just waking up when the quake hit.
     “I thought a propane tank blew up,” she said. “The house jerked several times. Then I thought maybe Mount St. Helens blew up again. It took me a bit to figure it out.”
     The house, built in 1860, “is so old, I’m surprised it didn’t fold up like an accordion,” she said.
     She said the impact caved in two walls of her root cellar. Her home is about two miles from the quake’s epicenter.
     The area is underneath a second-floor bathroom and bedroom, “so it’s kind of an important part of the house,” she said.
     Okanogan County Undersheriff Joe Somday said no structural damage has been reported in the county, other than Byrd’s root cellar, though the dispatch office was inundated with phone calls right after the quake.
     Bridges were checked. The sheriff’s office monitors Enloe Dam on the Similkameen River, but there was “nothing of concern,” Somday said.
     The earthquake “gave people something to talk about,” he said.
     Lynne Brougher, spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation at Grand Coulee Dam, said there’s no evidence of anything to be concerned about at the dam. Instrumentation was monitored and a visual inspection is being done.
     “Nothing has caused any concern,” she said.
     Jean Berney, Conconully, said her son Raymond’s bed is on wheels and moved around a bit.
     “It sure did wake us up,” she said.
     As far as she knows, there was no damage at her ranch, though there was “a bunch of rattling.”
     Twisp resident Carol Sorg said she thought at first a snowplow was going by, but then her house began moving. There was no damage.
     The quake was the second this week in the area. A 2.5 magnitude earthquake struck at 6:56 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, just west of the Friday quake, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
     Wednesday’s quake was eight miles west-southwest of Conconully and 13 miles east-northeast of Winthrop.

A Year On The Fly: The Christmas Deal

Glad to help A Year on the Fly get the word out about a deal on some sweet prints of endangered trout available at a great price. (And yeah, by doing so I get entered into a drawing for a free print of my choice.) I wouldn't mind getting these for Christmas myself. Check them out and help out a guy who, like all of us, needs to support his habits.

A Year On The Fly: The Christmas Deal: Order Your Rare Trout Prints Today! As a gift to my loyal followers and the many other that stop by on occasion I have decided to offer a sp...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

River Report: In Motion

In a previous post I talked about the reasons I hadn't gotten to the river yet. But I was becoming more and more aware of another factor working its influence: inertia. "A body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion."

So this evening I sucked it up, made the necessary switches, and hit the river. I worked the Bridge Run thoroughly, using a sink tip and weighted flies. I was definitely getting the flies deep; I lost two of them on snags.

I didn't turn any Steelhead, but I caught two nice trout. This is the best one. The smaller one hit when I had maybe 60 yards of line out and made one lovely jump way downstream. It felt good to have a trout in hand again.

On the wade out against the current I did that little dance you do as your foot slips off a rock and the current plays hell with your feet, doing its best to keep you from finding purchase. I was turned completely around when I finally got my footing, but I was still up. My hands are finally thawed out, but my feet have a ways to go yet. I'll let you know if my chest cold turns into pneumonia.

But I'm in motion again.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Reward of a Job Well Done

Like my father before me, and maybe like fathers everywhere, I sometimes worry that my sons aren't learning a strong work ethic. So I was a little surprised when Jeremiah and his friend Ian went out Friday afternoon on a day off from school and split and stacked our first load of wood. I had gotten a good start on it, but there was still plenty left to be done.

Isaiah and his two friends were inside playing Oblivion--Kim had taken them in that morning to finally pick it up. It wasn't long before Tim and Marshall came outside and wanted to help. I asked Jeremiah later if he had read Tom Sawyer. He hasn't; that's a pleasure still ahead of him. So I explained how Tom makes whitewashing the fence--a job he hates--look like so much fun that he gets his friends to pay him for the privilege of doing it for him. Jeremiah liked that.

Tim and Marshall finished off the last of the wood, except for one final piece. There was a bit of a contest to see who would get the honor of the last lick.

Soon that piece, too, was split and stacked. And just in the nick of time. That night it rained and snowed.

I thanked Jeremiah for his hard work, and for his excellent timing in getting the work done just before the rain. Jeremiah, who never misses an opportunity, asked, "So how much are you going to pay me?"

So I gave him what my father often tried to give me: wisdom. I said, "The reward of a job well done is to have done it."

He loved that.

But he hasn't bugged me about money since. I think he learned Friday--though he'd never admit it to me--that there might be something in that old saying after all.

Thanks again, J. Good work.

Speaking of Rivers...

This is superb.

Voice of the River from Maks Roslovtsev on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"The White," by Patricia Hampl

These are the moments
before snow, whole weeks before.
The rehearsals of milky November,
cloud constructions
when a warm day
lowers a drift of light
through the leafless angles
of the trees lining the streets.
Green is gone,
gold is gone.
The blue sky is
the clairvoyance of snow.
There is night
and a moon
but these facts
force the hand of the season:
from that black sky
the real and cold white
will begin to emerge.
"The White" by Patricia Hampl, from Resort. © Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1983.

"You Just Keep Thinkin', Butch..."

Fishing certainly helps me get through the tough times, but so does thinking about fishing.

This is an awkward time of year for me as I make the transition from lake to river. There's certainly nothing complicated about it logistically. Just take a few fly boxes out of the vest, add a few, pick up a different rod, and go. There's not even a float tube to mess with.

The awkwardness comes with the emotional adjustment. I always miss the lake for awhile; the lake itself, and the Lake Experience. It's the "Where did the Summer go?" problem. You get home at 5 PM, it's November for crying out loud, it's dark and cold, and you still wonder how you got here. The better the Summer, the more you miss it; and this was a very good Summer at the lake.

Eventually though, your thinking starts its Fall migration, and you think less about the lake and what was, and more about the river and what's to come. So you suck it up, layer up, and hit the water.

I've been thinking more about the river, and especially the changes I discovered when I checked it out a few weeks ago. The high water in May and June left a tree in the bridge run, and shelved away a whole section of bank there. The result is a deeper, bigger run tailing into a deeper, bigger pool and backwater.

That has to be good, from a fish perspective. The problem the last time I was there was getting flies down into those mysterious depths. I had come without a sink tip, or weighted flies, or even weights.

So I've already put the sink tip in the vest, and I've been playing at the vise. I got some big tungsten beads, about a pound and a half each, and tied up a few deep divers.

And I wrapped a ton of lead wire on a few more.

I think I can get those down where they need to be. And I'm starting to think about what it feels like when you hit pay dirt. But I'm also thinking about how I'll play a good Steelhead there if I hook one. I used to lead it into the backwater, which is too deep to reach now, and tail it, or beach it on the bank that's no longer there. Now I think I'll have to work it through the strongest current to get it close enough to have a chance to tail it.

That's something to think about.

The main thing is, I'm thinking. Soon now, I'll actually get to the river. With recent events I decided to stay close to home for awhile for Jeremiah. Then I caught a chest cold from Isaiah. But all that is working itself out. It's almost time.

Meanwhile, I'll keep following Robert Redford's advice to Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:  "You just keep thinkin', Butch. That's what you're good at."