Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"One Place to Begin" by John Daniel



You need a reason, any reason--skiing, a job in the movies,
     the Golden Gate Bridge.
Take your reason and drive west, past the Rockies.
When you're bored with bare hills, dry flats, and distance,
     stop anywhere.
Forget where you thought you were going.

Rattle through the beer cans in the ditch.
If there's a fence, try your luck--they don't stop cows.
Follow the first hawk you see, and when the sagebrush
     trips you, take a good look before you get up.
The desert gets by without government.

Crush juniper berries, breathe the smell, smear your face.
When you wonder why you're here, yell as loud
     as you can and don't look behind.
Walk. Your feet are learning.

Admit you're afraid of the dark.
Soak the warmth from scabrock, cheek to lichen.
The wind isn't talking to you. Listen anyway.
Let the cries of coyotes light a fire in your heart.
Remember the terrible song of stars--you knew it once,
     before you were born.

Tell a story about why the sun comes back.
Sit still until the itches give up, lizards ignore you,
     a mule deer holds you in her eyes.
Explain yourself over and over. Forget it all
     when a scrub jay shrieks.
Imagine sun, sky, and wind the same, over your
     scattered white bones.

"One Place to Begin" by John Daniel from Of Earth© Lost Horse Press, 2012.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Trout Lake Report: Last Trip of August

The lake drapes itself in autumnal beauty for the last trip of August. I won't be back to the lake until September. There's another road trip in the offing. Mark's going with me one more time--his last trip. We're going back to Kansas where he'll be laid to rest.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Trout Lake Report: Half-Past August, and All Is Well

You've been fishing other waters, delaying a return to Trout Lake. The last trip there was troubling. You caught three fish, and three fish died, even though you did your best to revive them. After that third one you kicked in and quit early. You guess that the fish are stressed by the heat, though that has never been a problem in the seven years you've fished here.

But you give the lake a rest--for as long as you can stand it. Then, with your summer quickly passing before your eyes, you need to go back and take stock.

It's still hot, but not in the hundreds anymore. You hope that will make a difference. You also go to the north end where the inlet is still feeding the lake. The water is noticeably cooler there.


You launch and begin a slow kick across the lake. There are fish rising here and there, and things feel much more alive than the last time you were here.

You're casting a little green butt stimulator off to the side, letting it drag out straight behind you, then casting it to the side again. You happen to be looking when a fish takes it with the perfect porpoising rise. It's breathtaking in its compact efficiency.

The fish is strong and fights hard. It dives into the weeds, which aren't far below the surface, but you manage to horse him out. You work him in quickly and keep the net in the water, but when it swims away it seems a little worse for wear. Maybe you lifted it too far out of the water after all.


You get to the other side and fish the inlet and the shoreline all around it.


There are fish working and you get follows and short rises. You switch to a new muddler and move out along the reeds that have risen as the water has receded. You've seen rises in there, and the muddler is just right for twitching through the reeds without getting snagged. You get a splashy take.

This time you try to keep the trout under water.  When it's time to release it, you tip the net and put your hand under the fish in case it needs reviving. But it's off like a shot. That's more like it.


You feel better. Things seem to be getting back to normal. You begin to thoroughly enjoy the game of cat and mouse with the fish in the reeds. You get another take, but the fish dives into the weeds, leaves the fly there, and keeps going. He jumps once as if to say, "Not today, pal."

On down the reed line, though, another fish rises. You drop the fly in the rise ring and he takes it. You use the same release routine, and this fish, too, explodes out of the net and is gone.


It's good to be back. The water is down, the weeds are up, the fish are getting active again. It's going to be a good fall. You think about that as you begin the kick back through the weed beds to the truck.


Halfway back you come upon a fish working, so you stop and work the muddler. It takes two casts and the fish is on it. You're surprised and happy to see the flash of yellow in the darkening water. It's been awhile since the lake has gifted you with a Brown.


Nothing like a Brown to begin to put you in a fall state of mind. You're grateful.


And you're reassured. It's half-past August, and all is well.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Cutthroat Lake Report: Another Magical Time in Another Magical Place

I was up near Cutthroat Lake the other day, so I stopped by, took the rod out of the truck, and fished from the bank for awhile. The lake was calm, and I saw a cruising fish, but it was already too far past me for a cast. Then, a few minutes later, it came back. I had just cast out a light colored streamer, so I stripped it in quick and got it in front of the fish--and it came over and took it. I was feeling pretty proud of myself when it turned on the jets and ran right off the hook.

Time to get back to Cutthroat Lake and give it a real try.

On the way up, this doe and her fawn crossed the road in front of me, then stopped. I stopped too and looked over where they had come out of the trees and saw this fawn's twin still waiting to cross. I got out of its way and headed on to the lake.


It was another hot August day. I started with the muddler I still had on and worked over to the east shore. There I looped on a sinking tip, tied a red Matuka streamer on the tippet, and started to troll along the drop off.


The line slowly tightened on my finger and put the brakes on the float tube. Really, I thought for a second that I had snagged something. Sometimes that's a metaphor, and sometimes it's a fact. I set the hook hard and finally felt life at the end of the line. This big hen, heavy with eggs, did a lot of head shaking, and took one long deep run, but mostly it was like reeling in a bag of cement. But she sure was pretty.


As she swam away she reminded me, with her big belly, of a marine iguana.


As I was getting reorganized I managed to get the matuka hooked to my wading boot where I couldn't reach it, so I broke it off and tied on a woolly bugger. I proceeded to troll around the lake, and tried two or three different flies.


It was a lovely time out on the water.


I didn't find any more fish, but I found solitude, beauty, and peace.


I got back to the truck as the evening was deepening into dusk. I wasn't ready to go yet. I was hoping for an evening rise. I've been there on other August evenings when the wind dies, the lake becomes like a mirror, and one or two, then three and more big fish begin sipping bugs off the top. Now I saw some caddis fluttering around, and callibaetis began to dance over the water.


I took off the sink tip and tied on a little caddis dry. I drifted around and waited to see what would happen. The callibaetis were thick. Dragonflies, and, later, many, many bats, sliced and diced their way through them. And the sky put on a show.


But the wind didn't die. And the fish didn't come up. But when I finally kicked over to the takeout I wasn't disappointed in the least. And when the big old moon rose up over the mountain it just confirmed what I already knew: it had been another magical time in another magical place.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Rising Above It All

A mountain pilgrimage. Getting high for native Redbands. Dark light and light shadow in piscine form. Bright fly swims, blinks out. Eye adjusts: a living ripple on the line--and gone. Or, sometimes, in hand. And always, after you descend, in your consciousness, swimming, swimming high overhead.