Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Photo Bin - August 2016

The highlight of our summer - heck, maybe the highlight of our year - is the week that the grandkids come visit us here in central Carolina. It's a week that's affectionately come to be known as Camp Redbud. The highlight of the week (the highlight-of-the-highlight is pretty strong stuff) has become the daily trip down the hill. They are city kids in many respects, but are absolute fish when it comes to the water and it's darn near impossible to remove them from our neighborhood's eight-and-a-half acre pond.

I'll let this month's photo bin show you why.

This is how summer should look.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Day After

Image Courtesy of Jason Tucker

What do I know of public lands? I live in the east where the concept of wide-open spaces, owned by us all, is a beautiful abstraction. A concept to be envied and cherished and protected, but an abstraction just the same. Yes, we have our parks, but they pale by comparison to the western expanses. So when Jason Tucker suggested to the outdoor blogging community that we designate yesterday, September 13th, as Public Lands Proud Blog-In Day, I enthusiastically responded, I’m in. And I was, until I sat down to write my piece and discovered that I had little worth saying.

Our world is full of people who thump their chests and bellow loudly in platitudes based only on intractable opinions with little to no fact. They might be right, they might be wrong, but without substance it doesn't much matter. I try not to be one of them. So as the Blog-In arrived I decided that I’d wait a day and do what no one seems to do anymore. Instead of speaking, I would listen.

Here’s a small sample of what I heard:

... we are the only developed nation on the planet that still has wild lands; that has game available to anyone willing to buy a license and has places for people to go and enjoy nature in it’s honest, naked and raw form. For kids to learn, vacations to be had and memories created. We aren’t perfect but we are pretty damn good. 
Now there is a movement afoot to destroy that system. Washington DC is careening down the path of turning over Federal Public Lands to the states in a thinly veiled attempt to force their sale. My own local Senator responded to my request for an interview that the transfer of land was a necessary step to reducing government spending and balancing the budget. This transfer of Federally held land to the states has always met with the land being sold for resource extraction of development. In fact, the number of acres of State owned public land has shrunk almost 90% in some states. 
While environmental groups, sportsman groups and a number of other organizations have come out against the proposed transfer, only a massive public outcry will divert Washington from it’s current trajectory... 
Public Lands Proud - Dan Frazier, Hatches Magazine

My younger brothers wore hand-me-downs... It occurred to me this spring that the Superior National Forest — a name so familiar that I had to rediscover it — is four million acres of open public land. I’d been hunting and fishing within a tiny part of the southwest corner of it my entire life. I bought a paper Forest Service map. It’s four feet by six feet, both sides. It’s like the sun rose from behind a mountain, illuminating an entire kingdom I’d not known was there. That’s one hell of a hand-me-down. 
Tom Hazelton - We Are Lost Without It, Voyager Pursuits

The anti-public lands movement has never been about giving average American citizens more land or more access or more timber or gold or grass. From day one--as soon as the first lands were set aside—the movement has been about getting as much of the commonwealth as possible into the hands of the best connected and the most well heeled... 
Western states have been selling their lands since they were awarded them at statehood. New Mexico has sold off 4 million of its original 13 million acres. Nevada, awarded 2.7 million acres at statehood, has 3000 acres left. Montana has sold 800,000 acres of state lands so far. Idaho has sold 1.2 million acres. Colorado has sold 1.7 million acres. Arizona has sold off 1.7 million acres... 
When citizens forget what it is they fight for, things do change. They change big time, and for the worse... 
Hal Herring - The Return of the Public-Land Privatizers, Field and Stream

It’s hard to discuss this issue without appearing partisan. While opposition to the land heist is bipartisan, support for it comes exclusively from Republican lawmakers, and the corporations which fund them... 
According to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel, who has spoken out strongly against the heist, states couldn’t even afford the annual firefighting budget such large tracts of land require, positively guaranteeing their sale to private interests. 
Wes Siler - The Great Public Land Heist Has Begun, Outside Online

That night, my son and I sat in camp amid the enclosing dark pines—a glittering canopy of stars overhead—and talked and laughed and connected in a way we hadn’t for a long time. 
Randy Scholfield - Going Home to Public Lands, Trout Unlimited

While the true nature of public lands remains an aesthetic to me, simply knowing that they exist, and why, makes me sure that they need protection. From a purely practical standpoint, turning public into private usually screws the public. It’s the nature of our insatiable greedbeast.

Having read what my peers have so passionately and eloquently expressed, I am even more in love with the abstraction and more certain that the reality needs to remain. So I’m here, a day late, to echo yesterday’s voices and, hopefully, to keep the conversation going. To keep the fight alive. The idea that I own a piece of this beautiful thing and that I, and my grandchildren, might one day partake of its wonders, fills me with optimism.

Now I ask you to do what I have done. Listen. Do your homework. Understand who’s grabbing your land for personal gain and who’s protecting it for all of us. And, most importantly, armed with that knowledge, take your conclusions to the polls this November. Vote for your land.

For when the smoke finally clears, what do you want the day after to look like?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Photo Bin - July 2016

I'm afraid that there's not much photographic evidence to prove that July actually happened this year. It was a lost month in any number of ways. Summer sat heavily on us, crushing most days into dust. Routine ruled. We were out before the sun rose above the tree line to care for the garden and spring plantings, to do the minimum to keep the wilderness at bay, then retreated into the house for the remainder of the day to escape the heat.

You'd think a lot would get done indoors, but somehow it didn't. We piddled. I noodled around with the guitar and Mary bent some reed into her beautiful basket creations. We read, though not nearly enough. We found our way to the pond for the occasional mid-day float, but at times it was bathwater and far from refreshing. We exercised. Some.

Bottom line, we let a month pass us by. I guess that was better than letting it burn us to the ground.

Fishing, predictably suffered. If we weren't comfortable in the water, imagine how the fish felt. I let them be, though they'd have probably ignored me anyway. The only outing of significance was a trip out to Falls Lake to chase some carp with my buddy Tbone. We managed one. And by we, of course, I mean he, though I poled a pretty mean Gheenoe to get us in and out of a tight space for it.

So this month's photo bin is but a single image, from that day on Falls, and you're lucky to get that.

My apologies.

What is a Photo Bin?

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Photo Bin - June 2016

There can be no more damning evidence of my total neglect of this blog than the fact that I haven't posted a photo bin since May. May, for God's sake! And it's not like it's a difficult thing to do. Dump the cameras, pick a couple of shots that I haven't used in real posts (like I've done any real posts lately), and tell its story. Easy. It's ridiculous that it's taken this long.

In my defense... Oh hell. There is no defense. Let's just go back and catch up. Start, here, with June. Maybe July in a couple of days. Then it's practically time for August. How time flies.

The cornerstone of June, the event from which most of the images that were dumped from the camera documented, was our excursion into Saskatchewan. For all the great fishing and weather and adventure, one of my companions summed it up best by saying "The highlight of the trip was the company and we brought that ourselves." So since my most stringent critic, my wife, always comments that I don't show enough people in my pictures, this month's bin is dedicated to my fellow travelers, shown above, looking like they're having a getting-the-band-back-togther moment. From left to right, Kris Kringle, Dirty Steve, and Captain Kirk. Couldn't have asked for a better lot.

A prettier one, yes. But not a better one.

I'd fish the world with Mr. Kringle, and have already put a lot of miles on the fishing odometer (not to mention a stamp or two in the passport) in his good company. This tarmac shot sums him up pretty well. Ready to go anywhere with a smile and a friendly swagger. No worries, mon, we're gonna have a good time whatever they throw at us. We usually do.

Then there's Dirty Steve.

I suppose that this is as good a time as any to talk about these nicknames.

With a constantly rotating lodge full of fisherfolk, the staff has to figure out a way to remember everyone's name. Hell, I have trouble remembering my own, now and then, much less a group of sixteen strangers. The crew at the Arctic resorts to nicknames. Shaylynn and D do the honors and have fun with it. "Kris Kringle" was easy, the jolly old elf, beard and all. The obvious choice for Chris Hunt. And I'm sure that he liked it, envisioning good little girls (and bad, oh yes, especially the bad) sitting on his lap.

So how was it that Stephen Zakur ended up as Dirty Steve? Mr. Kringle, again, is probably to blame. A nickname like that has his fingerprints all over it. And he was at the dinner table before us when it all got started so Dirty Steve never had a chance. Zakur took it in stride, though. Maybe even enjoyed it a little.

Seems that most of the pictures I have of Steve this trip are grip-and-grins. It's probably because he caught fish all week long. I smoked him the first day (he's still pissed about that, and for good reason, but that's a story for another time) but the rest of the week he put more pike in the boats than any of us, by a lot. Every time I turned around he was happily chomping on that damn cigar and hauling in another. Good times.

He needs to go ahead and retire so we can do this more.

Finally, there's the Captain. Captain Kirk. Kirk Deeter. He knew that nickname was coming and I could see him wince as it arrived. I wonder if he hates Start Trek for what it's done to him.

I've spent lots of time on the water with Chris and with Steve, but this was my first time out with Mr. Deeter and it was a treat. He tolerated my trying to pick his brain about this whole fly fishing writing thing, though we spent more time discussing music and futball and a myriad of other topics we found in common.

A quiet sort, Kirk is, but he kept us in stitches each night as we slipped off to sleep in our summer camp bunkhouse. Sharing a one room cabin with these three guys was a gas.

I look forward to doing it a lot more.

There you have it. The band, and a fine one it was. Kris and The Captain and Dirty Steve. As I said earlier, I couldn't have asked for better.

What's that you ask? My nickname?

It's not important.

What is a Photo Bin?

Monday, August 8, 2016

And Now A Word From Our Sponsors

What's he doing?
He's taking a picture of his reel. And a beer can.
He's doing what?

I totally get it. To regular anglers, we fly fishermen can seem a bit strange at times. And those of us who dabble in the media, stranger still.

He's taking pictures of his reel and beer can.
I don't know. You ask him.

So I guess it's no wonder that Daniel and Otto seemed a bit perplexed as I hunched in the bottom of the Crestline and rattled off a string of shots of my, well, you heard them. I suppose it's not something they see their sports do every day.

So I tried to explain to them how Sage was good enough to send me their new 6200 series reel to give a try, and how nicely it matched up with RIO's InTouch Pike and Musky fly line and my new G.Loomis Pro4X Long Handles Predator pike rod. How it was good to feature such things on the blog and other media outlets. How fly fishermen are pretty much all gear junkies, deep down, and liked to see such things.

I went into detail. How I find it hard to review reels. It holds line nicely doesn't seem quite enough, though the 6210 did it quite well and looked good doing it. How I couldn't really give the drag a good test as pike didn't run like, say, a bonefish, and that I'd only put a couple fish on the reel this week and the 6210's had started up smoothly and confidently and how it felt solid, without a shimmy. How it felt like a good reel that begged for more rigorous testing.

And how the RIO line with it's short head and powerful front taper did the trick, carrying these big northern pike flies beautifully and how it was well-coated for these cold waters and would be perfect for the winter conditions we'd be fishing in for musky down south. How I'm a big RIO fan.

And that the G.Loomis was a nice surprise, an impulse purchase before I came here to the Arctic Lodge in Saskatchewan, and how it threw these sodden streamers a country mile and had the 9/10 backbone and extended fighting butt to manage these ornery four-foot toothy creatures. How I liked the green.

The beer? Well. It was just really good beer.

And as I finished all this explaining I looked up and noticed Daniel's eyes, and attention, had drifted off to the water again. Where, in a moment, he pointed. Big one there, at the edge. The camera was hastily put down, we dropped a fly on the beast's nose, and all of the advertising was forgotten.

But in the back of his mind I know that Daniel was still thinking. These fly guys are weird.

In the end, though, he had to admit. They're pretty good fishermen.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Missed Opportunities

Sometimes I have to kick myself. I'm supposed to be a story teller. A reporter. But more often than I'd care to admit, when looking through photos of recent adventures, I'm confronted by the story angle I didn't pursue. The question I didn't ask. The opportunity I completely missed.

This picture of Daniel, studying the water, struck me in just that way.

I fished with Daniel for three days in Saskatchewan, out of the Arctic Lodge, and enjoyed every moment. We covered hundreds of miles of Reindeer Lake water and caught as many pike as we traveled miles. We laughed at each other's jokes, gave each other good-natured grief, and generally did what fishermen do. We fished. But I should have dug deeper. There was so much more to learn than how to catch northern pike. Stuff much more important.

Like how he'd been guiding this lake for forty-four years. How it had changed in that time. How the people, both those who lived here and those who came to fish, had changed.

Like his Cree ancestry and his involvement in the Paul Ballantyne First Nation. How his people are interwoven in the northern Saskatchewan landscape. How they exist and thrive in this harsh world.

Like how his grandchildren live with him, call to him, Papa, as we pass them as they swim in the cold lake waters beside his camp on the shore opposing the lodge.

Like how he was a tribal sheriff, or MP, or some manner of peace keeper that makes sense in the Cree context. I never fully understood, but that's not surprising.

Like his interest in the moose tracks along the shorelines and his knowledge of the movement of pike and his ability to identify birdlife from incredible distances. His connection to this place and its creatures.

Like how he lost a son, though this is a subject that we are both slow to discuss. We let it pass with a simple acknowledgement, a trite agreement that there's nothing remotely just in such a thing, and a prolonged shared silence. A bond wrapped tight in emotional barbed wire.

So I herewith apologize to you, dear reader, for failing to do my job. For not bringing back the story of a fascinating man, his community, and his history. A history that has as much to do with this beautiful and rugged lake as it does most anything else.

And, more personally, I apologize to Daniel for not getting to know him, and his story, better. In my defense, I was enjoying his company too much to pry.

I guess I'll just have to go back and get it right the next time.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


I am captivated by tree-lined shores
Sharp-edged delineations between water and sky
Where the world turns upside down
Where the heavens are reflected, shimmering
Where existences mingle and take on alternate affection
Interleaved edges of reality, air and liquid
Fluid, each, in their own etherial ways.

Here, Saskatchewan.

Note: On most browsers you may click on the images for a better look.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


We banked hard right and lined up the dirt airstrip, barely contained on the small island. No margin for error in any direction, short or long, starboard or port, lest a watery touchdown be had. "Your seat cushion may also be used as a floatation device" suddenly took on pertinence.

Reindeer lake, dotted with hundreds of similar spruce-clad keys, albethey runwayless, stretched below us to every horizon. Visions of big northern pike danced in our heads as the Beechcraft danced on the north winds and dropped from the sky, touched down on the freshly graded runway, and taxied to the end where it buried its front wheel into the soft edges. The challenges of trying new aircraft in remote locations.

Out of the hold came the baggage, and into the waiting Crestliners. Well, most of it anyway, as some five hundred pounds had to be left behind, temporarily, to insure that we had the juice for the flight. Chris swears that we all stared at him when the weight problem was announced, but I promise you we were more discreet than that. We'd grabbed what was important, anyway. The rods and reels. Our clothes could follow at their leisure. The only second thought was not having that windbreaking rain shell as we motored from runway to lodge in the cool Saskatchewan spring air.

A small price to pay for arrival.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Out the Window

Friday, July 1, 2016

Flin Flon

It’s no secret that I hate commercial air travel. From the booking to the security gauntlet to the crowds to the litany of little indignities endured as one travels the terminals (and I think the term “terminal” is completely appropriate) of our major airline hubs, it's the evilest of necessities. And the cattle cars they call airplane cabins... Don't get me started.

But, on the flip side, I am fascinated with the little stuff. From tropical isle hoppers to tundra puddle jumpers, small aircraft are a joy. It would be easy to put down the fly rods and just fly if I could limit my birds to de Havillands.

So I was happy to escape even the comfortable confines of Winnipeg airport to board a more spartan Beechcraft for the final leg of our northern excursion. I was further thrilled when we dropped onto a modest airstrip outside of Flin Flon, a small mining community located on the central boundary of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, for a quick stretch of the legs and a refuel. Though it was a working Monday morning, the one-roomed terminal was closed so we wandered, instead, to an adjacent hanger to get out of the way while the Beech's tanks were topped off. What we found was a feast for the imagination and fodder for the camera.

Here's a baker's dozen of shots from that aviation toy box, a steampunk playground, the hanger at Flin Flon.

My only regret was that I left the Nikon in the Beechcraft and had only the point-and-shoot to play with. All for the better, I suppose, for had I carried the big gun, I might have just stayed in Flin Flon and missed the fishing altogether.