Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The End Of Life As We Know It

I picked up some interesting news over on EarthSky awhile ago.

Astronomers believe that the Milky Way galaxy is on a collision course with the Andromeda galaxy. It might look something like this, with the Andromeda galaxy on the left.

Wow. The prediction is that a collision will occur in approximately 3.75 billion years.

Reminds me of an old joke.

So don't worry. It's 3.75 billion, not million.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Happy Birthday, Buddy

Buddy Guy, born George Guy in Louisiana in 1936. Made his first guitar himself when he was 13. Taught himself to play by listening to records of John Lee Hooker and other blues artists.

Been going strong ever since. 

He moved to Chicago in 1957 when he was 21 years old and was taken under the wings of the greats of "the Chicago Blues." Now he is the Chicago Blues.

River Report: Feeling Good

Jeremiah has been bugging me about getting to the river behind our house. He's been thinking it's low enough now to fish. So we went to check it out.

We tried to keep out of sight off the neighbor's land, and looked for some new access points. We slid in here but it was deep and had a silty bottom. So we did what we had to do.

We ducked hiked across the neighbor's land upstream to the access I've used since we moved in. It's a nice spot with a solid gravel bottom.

It also has a nice little run along the bank where the current has dug out a deep trough. Jeremiah thinks it would make a great swimming hole, and it would. But now we fished it, and I hooked the first fish on this stretch: a perfect 5 inch specimen of a smallmouth bass. That gave us hope, and Jeremiah came over to try his luck.

His new reel can cast a lure forever, and he tends to favor the long cast, so somehow he cast his lure right into that big tree. He went over to look for it and got distracted by the soft and diggable sand. While he was busy with that I moved back over and fished on down the run.

Right next to Jeremiah I had a strong take and caught a decent smallie.

Jeremiah found his lure and came back and gave it a shot, but didn't catch anything. Meanwhile I was seeing how far out into the current I could get. It turned out to be not very far. The flow is still very fast and strong.

If we were ospreys we could have gotten to the island. But that will have to wait until the water goes down a little more.

I climbed the bank.

Jeremiah joined me.

We started for home, but on the way Jeremiah went down the bank and waded in again. It got deep fast there, but there is a long, deep eddy downstream that seemed well worth exploring.

Jeremiah got a bump on his first cast, so he actually concentrated for about 5 minutes. Then he figured he wasn't going to catch anything after all, so he started messing around a bit. He cast way out, then began setting the hook on nothing--yanking it hard--over and over again. And wouldn't you know it, there was a smallmouth out there that couldn't resist that, and Jeremiah suddenly set on a fish. That was a fun moment, and he had a great time cranking that fish in. He swung it over and up onto the bank, and just as he was reaching for it, it jumped off the hook and was gone.

I told him he could count it, but he said no. He has an ethic, and he sticks to it: it's not a catch if you don't hold it in your hand.

So he went back to digging, and I fished.

And once again I caught a scrappy little smallie.

By then we were hungry and thirsty, and there was chicken on the grill back at the house, so we climbed the bank and headed for home through the field deep in summer.

Jeremiah could have been upset and frustrated, but he wasn't. He was in a great mood.

His brother even noticed it, and asked me, "What did he do, catch a fish?" I realized then that Jeremiah is growing into a real fisherman. It seems he's discovered what all true fishermen know: you don't have to catch a fish to feel good because you already feel so good just to be fishing.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Trout Lake Report: How Can You Improve On Perfection?

It was in many ways a perfect evening.

It was hot, calm, quiet--road dust hung in the air.

The fish were...introspective.

It seemed that small was the new big. No fish would come to a muddler. When they came up at all it was to sip one of the swarming midges.

I clipped the muddler. This time I would go intuitive rather than counter to it. I cast up along the bank where a fish had come up once. I waited, and it finally came up again--and I had it, a red-cheeked beauty.

I fooled it. Who would have thought that the man in the familiar float tube who always throws big muddlers had matched the hatch with a fine little #18 griffith's gnat on 5X tippet?

The word went out. No more fish were fooled.

It didn't matter. How can you improve on perfection?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Trout Lake Report: Remembering Mark

I've been fishing. Life goes on, and for me fishing is a part of life.

It was for Mark, too, until he got too sick to do it. He had diabetes and he was an alcoholic, a deadly combination that finally caught up with him.

He moved out here two years ago after going through toxic shock and being on life support for three days. I hoped we could get things turned around. But a year after coming here he went into shock again. I found him in time to get him to a hospital, but once again he was on life support for three days. Doctors were advising us to make end-of-life decisions when Mark woke up, pulled the breathing tube out, and recovered.

How many times can you go through that? After that we got him set up in a place where someone could keep track of his meds and keep an eye on him to make sure it didn't happen a third time.

That lasted about two months. Mark had a cowboy streak in him, and he decided he didn't want anyone watching over him. He wanted his freedom, come what may, which by then meant freedom to drink. So he got himself kicked out--no drinking allowed there--and moved into an apartment in another town twenty miles away. Where he could be alone.

And that's how he died. Alone. There was finally a systems fail that even he couldn't come back from. But that's how he wanted it. He might say that he lived his life to the end on his own terms, diabetes be damned. And that might be the only thing he finally felt he had any control over.

I went fishing the Saturday after we got back from our trip. Mark was already dead, but nobody knew it yet. It was a hot evening. On the way in, there was a bull snake crossing the road.

As I geared up at the lake, tiger swallowtails were flitting from bloom to bloom.

The lake was quiet.

I tried everything I could think of, but the fish wouldn't come to the fly.

I finally stopped taking photos and concentrated on the fishing. The last time I hadn't caught a fish at Trout Lake was sometime in 2011, and I wanted to see the streak continue.

But it wasn't to be. Something ended. It was time to start over.

After dark I trolled back to the take out, and then took one more loop hoping for a last minute catch. It didn't come, but something else did. A light came over my right shoulder, a brilliant silver meteor. It drifted down slowly almost to the ridge top and then broke up in orange sparks.

The bright trail of its passing remained in my vision well after the darkness had returned. 

I heard of Mark's death on Sunday evening. Monday was spent at the funeral home, at the police station, and at Mark's apartment. Monday evening I went back to the lake.

It was calm and beautiful, and there were fish.

I had lots to think about as the shadows moved up the mountain.

I thought about all the places here Mark and I had been able to fish, including Trout Lake. He was there only once, but I was glad that I could feel his presence through those memories.

At dusk I headed back across to the truck. One more fish came to the muddler as I drifted it behind me.

I beached the float tube and stood up. That's when I heard it. One loon calling, one loon somewhere over there in the darkness of that remote bay beneath that mountain. It called three times, that long, mournful wail that goes right to the heart of you.

Then silence.

I hadn't heard a loon call at Trout Lake for a long time. I've been back since that night, and I haven't heard it since.