Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Photo Bin - June 2015

Summertime, and the livin' is easy

Easy, that is, as long as you don't mind it hot. These days, you get outside and get it done in the morning and then settle into the house and enjoy the air conditioning for a while.

So it was early that we got out on the pond and I introduced Jackson to the long rod. Being the good outdoorsman that he is, he took to it quickly and picked up his first fish on the fly, pictured above. He graduated quickly from brim to bass as he later boated a nice four-pounder, but only after a beastly bucketmouth crushed his popper, took him under the canoe, and tailwalked on the other side before spitting the bug. It's a moment that I know he'll never forget; the kind of moment that shapes us as fishermen.

After a good bass or two, a cooling dip always feels good. This is what a child's summer should look like. The pond to yourself. Come back and visit again soon, Jackson. I thoroughly enjoyed your company. And next time we'll get that big guy.

The other way to cool off is to sneak away to the Appalachians for a little hiking. Follow the trail for a mile or two, find a nice big rock sluice, and simply  chill out. It feels odd walking these woods without a 4wt, but I did it for many years, backpacking this watershed, before finding the fly rod. It was here that I learned to love hiking and camping along these beautiful small streams. The migration to fishing them was inevitable.

Sharing this place with the best of friends is a joy and the perfect way to appreciate the season. Go ahead. Let it be hot.

So hush litte baby, Don't you cry.

What is a Photo Bin?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fathers and Sons - A Father's Day Repost

Summer 1982
Durham, North Carolina
Rice's Farm pond
My father, my son, a Zebco and a few zealous bluegills

Dad, I'm glad that we finally saw eye to eye
Glad that I grew to understand
Wish that those last five years could have been twenty-five

Son, I simply wish I could touch you one more time
Just one more time
I miss watching you grow into the man that I know you would have become
Miss it desperately

Don't let being Fathers and Sons get in the way
of being fathers and sons
Today is more precious than you know

My father, my son
on my mind this weekend

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Fish Don't Care

Gonna rain in an hour. Gonna rain hard.

He'd pulled through the boat ramp with his F-150 and trailer of canoes and made the pronouncement like it was the end of the world. We nodded and kept loading the boat. He wasn't the only one with a weather app. After a minute he shrugged and drove off, presumably to warn the rest of the unsuspecting world of the coming cataclysm. That, or load his family and worldly goods into the flotilla of Old Towns in preparation for the floods.

Did we look like a little rain was going to scare us off?

Fishing in the rain's no problem, as long as there's no crackly stuff. A solid rain shell, appropriate wet storage, and good company is all that it takes. And, as the old saying goes, the fish don't care; they're already wet.

Someone had to say it. It's, like, a law.

We threw poppers till the bottom dropped out, then kept right on throwing them. Just ripped them harder so the smallies might see them in the riot of rain splashing the surface. That is, if the smallies were there. You couldn't tell by us.

A front either makes them eat or shuts them up, Dave said.

Pretty smart guy, that Dave.

So we pitched poppers and bitched at the weather. Neither were particularly effective. But what else is there to do on a five hour float when it's sometimes hard to tell the difference between above and below?

One thing's for sure. The fish didn't care.

Note: A huge thanks to my good friend, Pile Cast's Dave Hosler, and to my new fishing buddy Tom Grimes for a fun, but wet, day on Indiana waters. I called, short notice, and they made it happen. That's what this wonderful fly fishing community is all about.

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Photo Bin - May 2015

I've been a bit of a slug, here of late. No major reason, but the phrase "death from a thousand cuts" keeps coming to mind. Little things. Small loses. Change. But I'm coming to realize that it's part of the process; why visits with aging parents turn into discussions of flagging health, old landmarks bulldozed, and who's passed this month. Yesterday's gone. We don't have to like it but it's best to make peace with it and do the best that we can with what's next.

For life, and photo bins, go on.

So if the big picture seems bleak, look for a small one and work your way back up. A new batch of praying mantises appeared on the porch the other day. Cute little guys, in a close encounters sort of way. (For reference, the pink petals of this trailing vinca are about an inch from stem to tip.)

It helps to stay busy and creative. I fish and dabble with my camera and pen. Mary tends a garden, does a little writing of her own, and creates fantastic weavings from natural materials. Here a willow bark basket, made the other day, supple and soft as a fine piece of leather. I simply love her work.

And friends. Always friends. Even if they regularly kick your ass on the water with their funky ties and color selections. Even if they wear Duke hats. (Yes, I know. If it ain't chartreuse, it ain't no use.)

And always, always embrace the new. Our Sammy's gone now, but Zeppelin's here. His introduction to you all is long overdue as he's been with us for more than a year. A beautiful Aussie, sweet of nature and with energy to burn. I swear that he sheds a small animal's worth each day but that's small price to pay for the companionship he's given us. He's the dog of the house now and we couldn't be happier.

Well, I guess that's it. Big month on tap so it's time to shake these doldrums and get on with living. Stick around. Maybe there'll be more interesting pics and I won't whine so much in the next photo bin.


What is a Photo Bin?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Wilderness Dog Sammy

For the past few years, the last thing I’ve done each and every evening has been to pick him up from his bed in the living area, carry him down the back deck’s steps into the yard for one last wobbly constitutional, and then return him gently to his kennel in my office for the night. Only then have I been ready for sleep.

It’s the most mundane things that you miss.

In time, such things become threads in the fabric of your life. The staying subconsciously tuned to any small noise that might suggest that he’s caught in a corner or under a chair. The listening for his small raspy breaths to try to keep track of which of the many pet beds, scattered about the house, that he's settled into. The responding to any whimper that might suggest the need for a trip to the yard. The juggling of meals and medications and subcutaneous fluids that have kept him comfortable and with us. A geriatric terrier takes some attention.

And yes, there were "good" years. Many. The stories I could tell. But the last have also been good in their own way, our lives woven more tightly through a dependency and a dedication and a tenderness that is hard to comprehend, much less describe. Man and dog intertwined by needs at their barest. But the threads have been pulled and our cloth has unraveled. Things here just don't fit quite the same.

Now there’s no reason to keep the door to the basement stairs closed, lest he tumble down them. No reason to excuse ourselves from the party every three hours to run back to the house for a moment of relief. No reason to take each first step with care in the likely event that he’s settled underfoot, just to be close to us.

For the past few years, the first thing I’ve done each and every morning has been to ask “Is Sammy awake yet?”

It will take some time before the answer settles in.

Godspeed, little Wilderness Dog,
Scourge of squirrels, chaser of deer, defiler of tall weeds.
Go run with the big dogs once again.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Moronidae Abdominus

Give it to me straight, doc. It's bad, isn't it?

Well, there's definitely a problem. Tenderness. A bit of swelling. The early onset of some significant subcutaneous bruising. Does it hurt when I press here?

[unprintable response]

Okay. It’s near your appendix, but I don’t think that’s the issue. Appendicitis would have started closer to your navel, not there between your ribcage and right hip. It’s definitely too low for ulcers and I doubt that there's a blockage of any sort, especially if you’ve had a decent bowel movement recently.

It was the highlight of my morning.

Then this is something else.

You don’t think it’s… it’s…

Now, let’s not jump to any dire conclusions until we’ve explored all possibilities. Do you have any other symptoms?

None that I'm aware of.

I have an idea. Let's see your right hand. Yes. Look. Abrasions at the inside of the joint on your index finger and on the pad of your thumb. And do you feel that tightness in your forearm? Tell me. Have you been in or around Weldon, NC at any time in the past few days?

Actually, I was. Friday. How’d you know?

I thought so. It’s the epicenter of a nasty outbreak we’ve been seeing lately. I’m quite certain that what you have is something called moronidae abdominus (in layman’s terms, “striper belly”) and is caused by repeatedly grinding a 9wt's fighting butt into your midriff when leaning into big Roanoke River rockfish. You caught a lot of them, didn’t you?

As a matter of fact, we did. A lot.

Then that's definitely the problem. Thankfully, this affliction isn’t serious, though contagious as hell. I could give you a prescription for something called Tenkarin, but, honestly, it’s pretty lightweight and more effective on folks of delicate constitution. I think that if you just take it easy for a few days and limit your activities to, say, 3wts for bluegill or trout, you should recover quickly and be back to fighting real fish in no time.

Before the spawning run ends?

You can try. Let your pain be your guide.

It usually is, doc. It usually is.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Photo Bin - April 2015

People. As has been recently noted, Mary says I don't put enough of them in my photographs. She's usually right about such things (a most troublesome characteristic, I assure you) so I'll try to do better in this month's bin. Pictures with people...

I'll start with a goodbye, of sorts, though hopefully a temporary one. Out of the blue, last summer, Tim Shulz dropped me a note of introduction from Michigan's Upper Peninsula, relaying that he would be coming south to the Triangle on a several month sabbatical, and wondered if I might share some local fishing intel. Instead of simply advising, we shared a number of waterways (and a brew or two) during his relocation, including a fine couple of days last week on the Davidson.

And since I'm also bad about depicting fish in my images, above is evidence of Tim's fishing prowess. One of those monster Davidson browns. Good thing you got him early, buddy. In a few years he'd be puttin' a hurtin' on that bamboo twig that you wave.

Safe travels home, my friend, and just in time for the UP fishing season. Well played, sir.

For the past few years, our Easters begin with an egg hunt and potluck brunch with good friends in our neighbor's funky woodland garden. Time with this crew of usual suspects is always a joy, especially true as we celebrate the arrival of spring. This year's weather was spectacular and the eggs well hidden. Can't ask for much better than that.

And since it's spring, it's time to start thinking about next winter's heat. Some friends were clearing a few dying trees from their paddock area (llamas and donkeys) and asked if I'd like some wood. Sure, I replied, if they had some nice hardwoods. I arrived home, a few days later, to find a bit more than I expected lying above the house; beautiful white oak that'll burn quite nicely. I've got some serious splittin' to do. My new exercise plan.

Finally, a photo to improve my people-per-picture ratio. Here's the crew from this year's 4th annual Live Free Cornhole Tournament, honoring the memory of my step-son and benefiting the Georgia Tech scholarship that we've established in his name. A solid week of rain broke clear for just a handful of hours, perfectly accommodating the scheduled time of the gathering. Umbrellas and towels, brought in the expectation of a dreary day, were set aside and a wonderful (and competitive) time was had by all under bluebird skies. The only water that fell were a smattering of tears sprinkled amidst the laughter. That's exactly how such memories should be treated.

I guess people aren't so bad after all.

What is a Photo Bin?

Thursday, April 16, 2015


What do the pictures that you take say about you?

In an ongoing effort to improve my photography, I have begun to attend a small county-based camera club. (There are, no doubt, many of you who think I should join a writing group as well, but one impossible task at a time, if you please.) As a new member - and somewhat of an oddity as a fly fisherman - I agreed to present a slideshow of some of my favorite fly fishing images. Twenty-to-thirty minutes’ worth of show and tell. Selecting and paring down to a manageable number of photos was a tough proposition, but when I sat back and looked at the final set of seventy-seven, I learned some interesting things.

In no particular order, these revelations were:

I dig abstraction. The photography of our sport, and I guess of sports in general, is hyper-realistic. Crystal clear images of action. Each droplet of spray, each scale, captured in minute, perfect detail. An instant of precision. The best do it very well and I envy them for I have neither the talent nor the lenses to manage it. But at the end of the day, I find myself gravitating to more obscure and interpretive images. A vignetted panorama of orange and yellow speaks to me of a Baja sunrise as well as any sharp-edged photo. But then, it certainly helps if you were there.

I'm fascinated by water and light. Many of the images that I chose featured prominently the dance of sunlight on waterways. You can’t be a photographer and not worship light and you can’t be a fisherman and not love the water. Blending them both is a joy. And we’re fortunate in that the sport puts us on the water when the light's at its best; the golden hours around dawn and dusk. Sometimes it’s hard to decide what to do – fish, take pictures, or just look and appreciate.

I like it dark. I seem to have an affinity for low light images. Shadows and silhouettes. Mists and mornings. Small details appearing out of the gloom, focusing your attention on a few simple, finite elements. High ISO and low visibility. Things of dreams.

I'm just an old softie. “Painterly” my buddy Bob White calls it. A reduction in clarity and adjustment in saturation can bring a brush-stroked look to an image. And when the colors are soft and the subject lends itself to it, you get pieces that looks like they came off of an easel rather than out of a camera. I’m fascinated by the creative process, in general, and to mix the medias in this way is most interesting.

I hate humanity (or at least wish it would take a long walk off a short jetty). Mary has one regular criticism of my photography. "Where are the people?" It's a legitimate question as I seem to point the camera at everything else - horizons, objects, even nothingness - but seldom at people. And when I do, it’s usually at their backs or in silhouette. Of the seventy-seven images in the slideshow, only two depict faces with enough detail by which the subject’s own mother might recognize them.

I’m not sure what this means.

I break the rules. I shoot into the sun. I tilt horizons. I assume crazy angles. Most of the time I know that I'm doing it. It's important, I think, to know the rules to break them effectively and if you're going to go astray, do so with a purpose. But I have to admit that now and again I am the benefactor of one of those happy photographic accidents that occasionally grace the clueless.

[insert picture of fish here]

Where’s the fish? There’s not a single fish in the entire fly fishing slideshow. Not one. I was shocked when I realized it and can only come up with two possible explanations. First, that they are apparently not what’s most important to me - that it’s all the “stuff” around the endeavor that draws me to the sport. I’m okay with that. After all, I regularly suggest that the most boring part of fishing stories is usually the fishing itself. It’s everything else that’s of real interest.

The second explanation is a simpler one, and the more likely. I'm not fisherman enough to catch anything worth photographing.

Perhaps I've learned more than I really care to know.