Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Some Important Questions

If it snows on Leap Day, does that count as another day of Winter?

Or can we keep on pretending that it's Spring?

For All You Leaplings and Leapers

Everything you could possibly want to know about Leap Year.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

River Report: The Right Stuff

I finally returned this afternoon to the realm of the Eagle--and the Swan, and the Trout. It was a day of high overcast, temperatures above freezing, and, I presume, a dropping barometer as a result of a big storm rolling in off the Pacific.

I waded up to the Glide, and never was the name more appropriate than today. A juvenile Trumpeter Swan was gliding over its smooth flow. We get a few Trumpeters every Spring, and it's always a cheering sight. I've never seen a solitary bird, though, and my guess is that this teenager somehow got separated from the flock. Or, based on my experience with teenagers, managed to get separated from the flock.

I took a long, slow pass through the Glide. The river is low, lower than it appeared to me as I drove over the bridge last weekend. I went deep and small, but found no fish. The surface was covered with tiny midges--what I've seen called Snowflies--and every once in awhile I heard a little splash, and once, turning quickly at the sound, saw the rapidly dissipating ripples of a rise.

By then--I admit it--I was a bit chilled, and had little to no feeling in my thumbs. The temperature was at a good place, but a persistent wind and the icy water did their work. I waded downstream and across and climbed up under the bridge out of the wind. My thermos was in the truck nearby so I got it and took a little warmup time with some hot coffee. You know, sitting by a river having a cup of coffee is one of the things I hope I get to do in heaven.

I had been wondering how the Bridge Run might fish with the lower flows, and especially where the run dumps into a deep, slow pool and backwater. So I climbed down on the downstream side of the bridge to check things out. As always, others had been there before me.

I found that the big tree that had been lying in the middle of the run since last June's high water had somehow shifted over against the bank. That's good news. It opens up the run again. With the low water I was able to wade through the silty backwater and out to a higher and firmer gravel bar. It was like old times; this is where I used to stand to fish this stretch.

I went at it for a good long time. On one swing I felt a good bump, then another, and another. I knew it wasn't a Steelhead, and at first decided to let the fly keep swinging. Then it whacked the fly again, and I lifted and hooked up with a nice trout. I worked it in close enough to see its flash and color before it came undone.

I fished on and snagged the bottom twice, breaking the fly off each time. Then I hooked another trout and it was deja vu all over again. I lost it just as I could see it flashing in the darkening current. I thought sure I was going to have some fish photos tonight. But what I have is that sensory memory of those bright, pulsing lives at the end of the line. That's high pay for an afternoon's work.

I had been standing in the river for a long time, and I was cold again. I waded out--those first steps over the cobble on numb feet make me feel like a baby learning to walk--and climbed back up to my sanctuary under the bridge. One more cup of coffee, and some time to reflect on the day.

I was happy. Steelhead or no Steelhead, this was a day with all the right stuff.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Youth Sports Post: Unmistakable Signs of Spring

I've seen the Redwinged Blackbirds and the Robins, but today there were more unmistakable signs of Spring up at the high school. The baseball team was working out in the gym, the track team was running in the elementary school gym, the tennis team was shivering down the hill on the courts, and Isaiah and the soccer team were out on the pitch kicking the ball around. It was the first day of practice for Spring sports.

A Spectacular Alignment

I was privileged to see a rare and marvelous thing this evening, one I will likely never see again. I was looking at the moon, Jupiter, and Venus in their majestic alignment in the western sky when a light rose over the ridge to the right. It was the space station. With the sun reflecting off its massive array of solar panels, it shone as brightly as Jupiter.

I've seen it before, and it moves across the sky as fast as a high jet, but with breathtaking silence. It was traveling from the northwest to the southeast, and it arced right between the moon and Jupiter. Farther on, it slipped along Orion's belt, then gradually faded out of sight over the far eastern ridge.

I would call that a spectacular alignment of heavenly bodies.

Illustration from EarthSky, with my addition of the Space Station.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Good News

I reported earlier the closure of Washington rivers to Steelhead fishing. In digging deeper I discovered that while many of the rivers are indeed closed, my river remains open until further notice. The ice is off, the flow is just right, and temperatures are above freezing during the day.

This eagle soared over the field outside our house for awhile last week, then made its way purposefully back toward the river.

Think I'll join him.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Oregon: Pacific Coast Interlude

Last Sunday afternoon Mark and I headed to the coast at Bandon. There had been the possibility of 25 foot breakers, but we didn't find any of those. What we found was the freshness and beauty of the north Pacific. We started on the north side of the mouth of the Coquille by the old light house, picked our way over the amazing amount of  driftwood, and walked out on the long jetty.

We drove around to the south side of the river mouth and wandered down that beach. The tide was out and we were able to see a bit of sea life in a tidal pool.

There were a few fishermen stalking the beach looking for surf perch.

We didn't see any caught, so I got this photo off the internet. There are several species living all along the coast, and there seems to be a very active group of anglers going after them.

On the way back to camp we looked for Roosevelt Elk at all the Elk Crossing signs, and then, after we had stopped looking, we came upon some in a field right outside the town of Coquille.

I had managed to stay ahead of most of the waves, but I got caught once and got a good soaking just over ankle high. So, back at the lodge, it was time to settle back and get my wet boots in front of the fire for awhile.

Oregon: The Trouble-Free Skunk

Oregon was beautiful. This past week has been crazy. It's the paradox of "retreats." You go to get away from it all, and end up having to catch up with a backlog of it all when you get back. But it's still worth it.

It rained most of the time we were there, but once in awhile the clouds would part and the sun would glitter on the dripping greenery.

Our home away from home was the lodge...

And its fireplace, which had a crackling, fragrant fire going constantly.

It was chilly and windy much of the time, and the fire felt good.

If you wanted, you could go to the other side of the building, heated by a woodstove, and lay back on a soft couch and just look out the window and think--or dream.

On Saturday morning my brother Mark and I wandered over to the sweat lodge to help with preparations for the afternoon sweat.

We helped haul and stack wood over and around the pile of volcanic rocks. Later, heated red hot, they would glow in the darkness of the sweat lodge, and, with a hiss and crackle, transform the cold water dashed on them into clouds of hot, purifying steam.

In picking up wood we uncovered this Ensatina Salamander. We carefully covered it up again.

Then we uncovered this Rough Skinned Newt. They are one of the most toxic newts known, and would be fatal to a human who was foolish enough to eat one. But Garter Snakes prey upon them with impunity. We covered this one up again, too, with hopes that its refuge might be overlooked by any hungry snakes.

Once the fire was going strong it was time to go get the blankets.

We layered them over the sweat lodge frame until not a speck of light could get through.

The sweat was good. By the time it was over the afternoon had become evening, and it was too late to get to town to see about fishing licenses. That was OK. We decided to spend the next afternoon at the beach.

The creek that runs through the camp, a trib of the Coquille River, was slightly off-color and a little high. But it would have been fishable except that the camp doesn't allow fishing. They have spent many hours restoring salmon spawning habitat in the creek, and it's a sanctuary for the fish.

I found a great post on The Caddis Fly this week. The writer heads out on a solo fishing expedition on the Oregon coast just two days after we were there. It's a grueling, life-threatening day of man against the mountains, and streams and rivers that are just a little too high and a little too colored. He gets skunked.

We got skunked, too, but with a lot less trouble.