Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rocky Ford Creek Report: Into the Clouds

The river was back last week--while I was gone. Now that I'm home it has gone bye bye again.

So I packed up and headed south to Rocky Ford Creek. The omnipresent clouds were draped over the ridges.

Up on the flats the road climbed right into them...

And then left them overhead again as it wended its way down the Grand Coulee toward my destination.

Rocky Ford was open for business. There were a few other fishermen, but not enough to constitute a crowd. Ducks were whistling by overhead, wrens were chattering in the cattails, and a male Marsh Hawk, ghostly white, flitted by. And yes, there it was, surprising but unmistakable: the chirring of red-winged blackbirds. The earliest I've ever heard them.

The fish were active, too. I began with a small muddler, and twice fish came up, nosed it, and refused it,

I tied on a peacock soft hackle. It took awhile, but I finally put it in front of a good fish working a little backwater between clumps of cattails. A slow retrieve enticed a solid take. I carefully worked it in.

This was a slab of a fish, hard to handle. I managed one photo before it muscled up and out of the net, and lay gasping on the ground. I tried to hold it in one hand and take a photo with the other, but I couldn't get my hand around its girth enough to control it. So I guided it into the water--with two hands--and watched it revive and swim away.

That's when I discovered that the soft hackle was gone, likely snapped off during the leap from the net. So I elected to go with a dry again. I tied on another muddler. I cast to areas where I saw fish moving or rising, kind of like trying to shoot fish in a barrel. Again it took awhile, but when I found the right fish, the take was immediate. Another fine Rainbow.

This too, was a strong fish, hard to handle. When I was releasing it I saw that the tippet was wrapped around it--too late. It bolted, taking the tippet and the fly with it.

That was it for a time. I continued to work on top, getting enough bumps and follows to keep me committed to dries. I lost a pretty little stimulator in the cattails, and tied on another one as daylight began to fade.

That was just the fly the third fish was looking for. It inhaled it, then began a long series of jumps. I played it while moving over to get the net. I was watching the fish tailwalk, trying to give it some slack, when I made a misstep and my right foot slid into the pothole behind me.

Before I could do anything half of me was in the pothole, and half of me was out. And the fish was still jumping. With every Rocky Ford fish I need to kneel down in the mud in order to reach it with my net, but this was beyond the pale.

I managed to climb out, covered with mud, and eventually netted the fish. Another beauty, not as big as the others but twice as acrobatic.

I released this fish and climbed back to my feet thinking that a long-handled net, like the ones I've seen other fishermen use here, would be a good investment. And perhaps an inner tube for around my waist.

By then it was dusk, an owl was hooting across the water, and I was done. I reeled in, gathered up my pack, and hiked back to the truck.

Soon I was rolling down the highway thinking about my fly fishing adventure and climbing into the clouds again.

Monday, January 26, 2015

"Twilight Comes" by Hayden Carruth

"At the Edge of Dusk" by Catherine Hyde

After Wang Wei

Twilight comes to the little farm
At winter's end. The snowbanks
High as the eaves, which melted
And became pitted during the day,
Are freezing again, and crunch
Under the dog's foot. The mountains
From their place behind our shoulders
Lean close a moment, as if for a
Final inspection, but with kindness,
A benediction as the darkness
Falls. It is my fiftieth year. Stars
Come out, one by one with a softer
Brightness, like the first flowers
Of spring. I hear the brook stirring,
Trying its music beneath the ice.
I hear - almost, I am not certain -
Remote tinklings; perhaps sheepbells
On the green side of a juniper hill
Or wineglasses on a summer night.
But no. My wife is at her work,
There behind yellow windows. Supper
Will be soon. I crunch the icy snow
And tilt my head to study the last

Silvery light of the western sky
In the pine boughs. I smile. Then
I smile again, just because I can.
I am not an old man. Not yet.

"Twilight Comes" by Hayden Carruth, from Collected Shorter Poems 1946-1991. © Copper Canyon Press, 1992. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Family Post: Celebrating a Family

I'm back. I flew out Tuesday before dawn and flew back Friday night. This time I left my computer at home, so was incommunicado as far as the blog was concerned.

I met my brothers in Kansas City and drove with them through the Flint Hills to where my parents live. My sister would fly in later in the day.

There were hawks on almost every perch, flocks of singing meadow larks, and skeins of geese winding and unwinding overhead.

During our visit my brothers and I had time to take in some of the sights in the area. We drove up to Lindsborg, a Swedish heritage community, so my brother Pete could pick up a gift for his Swedish wife.

We went to the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson.

It's the home of many exhibits documenting the rise of our space program, including an SR 71 Blackbird spy plane and a full-size space shuttle mockup...

A lunar lander...

And the actual Apollo 13 capsule.

We even strolled through a Bass Pro Shop on our way back to Kansas City on Friday.

The real purpose of the visit, though, was to celebrate my Mother's 90th birthday on Thursday. My Dad is 91, so both parents are now nonagenarians.

It was a bittersweet experience. When we sat around the table in the assisted living facility where they live, we were the whole family together again.

But we were keenly aware of the family members who were not there. There would be seven children, and now only four of us remain. (The top three in this photo, and the baby on our sister's lap.) And we wondered if we would ever all be together again.

That is the way of things, and of families. Looking through old albums in our parents' room we were able to put our own time and loss in perspective. Looking at old photos like this one of our Great-grandfather Jeroby, on the left, we were reminded again that each of us in the family comes and goes, but the family lives on. And we live on in our family.

So we celebrated a birthday, and we celebrated a family. Happy birthday, Mother.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"Geese" by Faith Shearin

"On Winter Winds" by Morten E. Solberg

A gaggle of geese return to our street each winter
while migrating from one place to another.
They arrive in January, around my husband’s birthday,

and I am surprised to find them behind our house,
honking like cab drivers in traffic. Most leave with
babies but one pair can’t manage to have any;

I’ve watched them sit for years on a wet nest of death,
warming unhappiness. It is only when the other
geese swim past them, proudly displaying

a line of live chicks, that they realize they have
failed again, their eggs silent beneath the love
of their feathers. My neighbors and I don’t agree

on much but we all watch these geese from our
windows, with binoculars sometimes, our breakfast
growing cold on the table. We wish the unsuccessful

ones would have a season of luck, their eggs healthy
and well placed, for each of us has known the pleasure
of spring, the way it feels for something closed

to open: the soft, heavenly weather of arrival.

"Geese" by Faith Shearin from Moving the Piano. © Stephen F. Austin State University Press, 2011.

Teton Glory

It's a good time to be checking Tetoncam on a regular basis.