Monday, January 30, 2012

My Boots

A day on the stream. A day on the pitch.
Storm trooper brogans. Ballet slippers.

Four pounds of Schoeller®-dynatec high performance abrasion-resistant mesh panels and Vibram sole
Eight ounces of Ultrathin Pittards 80 SD Lite Leather and eCell cushioning
Carbide chipped, zinc plated Hardbite Star Cleat Studs
Molded PU scimitar firm ground-hugging traction

Built to survive. Built to fly.
Built, both, to keep me boot-side down through slick runs and hard challenges.

Simms. Puma. G4s. Cellerators.
Drying side by side
While I lie on the couch, barefooted, recovering from their wearing
Recovering so that I can go out and do it again.

A day on the stream. A day on the pitch.
Me and my boots.

Note: Under the category of Things You Might Not Know About Mike, my other recreational passion is soccer. FÅ«tbol. The beautiful game - though it may not look quite so beautiful now that I'm in my late fifties. But I'm still running around like some crazy kid - with an emphasis on the crazy - and hope to continue for a while longer. That is, when I'm not fishin'.

Friday, January 27, 2012

On the Tracks

St. Croix Imperial 8'6" 5wt
Orvis Battenkill Mid-Arbor III
Scientific Anglers Mastery Series Trout WF-5-F
Norfolk Southern Timber and Steel

On my way to Trestle Pool
To fish the falling waters
Tramping down these well-worn rails
Towards another Smith River skunking

Fish or no
It's good to be out here again

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Sandwiches, 'Shine, and the Space/Time Continuum

"Never let the lack of a sandwich stop you from having fun."

Unable to find a flaw in his logic, I accepted Chris' generous offer to assemble a stream-side snack for me. We had crashed, for the night, at a convenient inexpensive hotel in blustery Boone, sandwiching a night's slumber between a day on the Watauga and one scouting new Caldwell and Wilkes county trout waters. He was digging through his larder, preparing for the next day, and took pity on me and my cuisine de Clif.

With little in the way of a coherent narrative, I simply offer these three disparate images from the outing. A bonus photo bin, of sorts. The first pretty much speaks for itself - a warm, dry night's sleep under the 8.

The next day's scouting landscape was miles and miles of country road, winding through the foothills of the Appalachians, small streams running just beyond each guardrail.

This image's yesteryear filter seemed appropriate as the roadside view has probably changed little since the 40s when 'shine runners barreled through these passes, revenuers hot on their heels. This is, after all, a backfire away from the birthplace of NASCAR - a country lap or two from the old North Wilksboro Speedway - and it's early stars spent their night jobs running wide open through these hills.

We were looking for trout, but they proved as elusive as the feds had found those flying flathead 8s - those lightning loaded 'forty Ford coupes - smelling of corn.

The final shot was taken by Chris who pointed the camera at me but somehow cracked the space/time continuum and captured an image of my father, an old dirt tracker himself, hat-head and all. Not bad for a guy who also makes a mean summer sausage and crisp cheddar on hard roll sandwich. The banana chip and peanut trail mix wasn't bad either.

No one eats better on the stream than Chris. No one.

Thanks buddy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bloodknot - In the Chair

The latest edition of Bloodknot has hit the newsstands (newswebz? interstands?) with the second annual Blogger Issue. We here at Mike's Gone Fishin' are thrilled to be a part with In The Chair. We're even more thrilled to be sharing the pages (screen?) with some very good friends.

Oh, and a big thank you goes out to my dentist who, after fixing my cavity, gave me free rein in the torture chamber examination room to take some pretty cool shots for the pub. Here's one more.

Note: For space reasons - at least I think for space reasons - the Bloodknot piece was edited/trimmed. If you're interested, drop me a line and I'll send you the director's cut.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Photo Bin - January 2012

Gray days. This month's bin is muted, dressed in drab, but deeply lovely none the less. Dark days have a majesty all their own, eliciting both a hazy, ethereal focus on what is visible and a visceral, instinctual perception of what is not - what is beyond the pale, misty veil.

These shots were all taken from the doorways of our shrouded home, looking outward for answers, finding few. Finding instead a muted, subdued world, deprived of a primary color.

The sun will return, we know, but for the moment it's easy to wrap snugly within the fog and savor the chill for what it means.

Savor that we feel so deeply.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

These Woods

What know these woods of our passings?
How could we think they should care?

We’ve done little to deserve their compassion

We've defiled them
Scarred them
Pushed them far from our lives

They should have no use for us

But as I stumble along
Head bowed below bare branches
Gathering tinder for this week’s fires

Fires to warm our now somber home
Fires to pierce the desperate chill in our hearts

These woods comfort me
Embrace me
Soothe me with calm, gentle silence
Wrap me in their blessed endlessness

For man is animal
Like fox and deer and bear
Despite our attempts to deny it
Despite our claim to be more
Man is animal

And these woods embrace all of their innocents
Even the wayward ones

They celebrate our birth with their spring
Energize our life with their summer
Acknowledge our maturity with their fall
And mourn our return to the roots with their winter

And winter is here
Winter is here

So together we mourn a return to the roots
These woods
and I

Friends, I promise that I will not continue to burden you with my sorrow. I simply wish to express a deep gratitude for the wave of thoughts and prayers that has washed over us these past several days. Support such as this holds us up and for that kindness we thank you.

The verse above just wanted to come along.

Thursday, January 12, 2012



I apologize, now, for my upcoming absence from these pages. A day. A week. A month. How long I do not know. For at my feet lie the fragments of my dear Mary’s heart, shattered this week when her first born, my eldest stepson, unexpectedly lay down his head, never to lift it again.

I must now steel myself and begin to tenderly pick up each raw shard. To do what I can to help put each precious piece back in its place. But the truth of the matter is that when her heart burst, a large piece was flung far, far away. Thrown to a place from which I will never be able to retrieve it. So, even with the finest of workmanship and puzzle-perfect placement, there will always be a hole that cannot be filled.

I know this for I have such a hole.

So forgive my absence while I try to do for my Mary what she so lovingly did for me, ten years ago, when my youngest lay down his head. When it was my heart lying in fragments at her feet.


We'll forever miss you, son

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Rise and the Fall

Morning on the Elk

After a balmy, practically tropical, New Years Day, the temperatures here in the Olde North State took a nose-dive, falling through “seasonal” and into the down right arctic. The dip chilled our Appalachian streams to frigid levels and drove their finned denizens into a deep lethargy, if not absolute catatonia.

Mid-week was not the time to be on the water.

So we looked towards a late week rebound in the thermal conditions - and a day on the Elk River - figuring that trout would also snap back, pop off the bottom like jack-in-a-boxes at the quick warm-up, hungry after their brief hibernation, ready to be caught.

We should have known better.

For along with the mid-week winter temperatures came snow covered steamsides and ice encrusted waterways. We were greeted with a classic winter tableau – a pristine white riparian corridor scored with an orchestration of soothing white noise. Winter fishing is a treat for the senses.

Dressing Warm

The submerged stream thermometer registered a frigid thirty-six as the sun struggled towards the treetops, but the day was forecast to clear and temperatures were projected into the lower fifties. It would take a while, though, so we gamely nymphed small and deep, hoping to get lucky and place a stone or midge on some trout’s nose – the only way we were to entice a strike. And, in the crystal clear, frigid morning waters, we managed our first few fish of this new year – wild browns and ‘bows. But we wanted, we needed, it to warm up.

Watch what you ask for. You might just get it.

2012's First Fish

By mid-morning, the struggling sun finally shook its solstictic shackles and began to warm our faces and the woods around us. It also warmed snow and ice. The temperature mercifully rose, but, to our surprise, so did the stream. Crystalline flow turned into the slate blue/grey of the melt, obscuring footing and limiting underwater visibility to near nothingness. Despite the warming air, the already chilled waterway assumed a glacial feel. Our day on the Elk was done.

Abandoned Power

Sure. You western fisherman are saying, “Well, duh!” But us southern boys know little of snow and even less of real winter. What do we know of The Melt? Who knew that rising air temperatures might mean falling liquid ones? Yes, you did. Yes, we’re slow.

Pretty, but too big for the day.

But, my Rock Mountain friend, did you get to fish yesterday?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Day So Nice That It Sucked

It was an absolutely beautiful day and I feel cheated. I’d been dreading the plunge for weeks. Tried not to think about it last night. It was supposed to be miserable, painful, hard. It wasn’t. It needed to hurt. It didn’t.

I’m conflicted. I’m pissed. I’m relieved. I’m wet.

This year’s New Year's Day neighborhood traditional polar plunge, our fourth high noon splash-in-the-pond, was ruined by the weather. I know that, as you read this, many of you are watching the snow pile up. I envy you. Here, the official record keeper of our yearly madness noted 63-degree air, 50-degree pond water temperature. Downright balmy. Awful.

Boo Hoo, you say? Sue me. It's not my fault you live there.

But I figure that if you are going to do something crazy, let it be really crazy. Let it be sleeting and 28 degrees and require ice clearing before the plunge. Then you have something to talk about. Then you’ve certified your insanity. But no. Blue skies, a gentle breeze, shirtsleeve weather. You get no credit for going in on days like today. Folly wasted.

And to add insult to injury, this year we had a fire. Two, actually. Ceremonial, I suggested.

But half-naked, full submersion in 50-degree water is no picnic – I’m usually wearing waders for these kinds of dips - so our dive into the pond was not for everyone.  Just the committed. Or those that need to be. And those ceremonial fires gathered the faithful, as fires often do, and kept us lunatics from bolting for the showers immediately after the dunking. The innard-warming libations, left over from last night, didn’t hurt either. Hair of the dog.

Actually, truth be told, it was really the good company that held us together. Birds of a feather shiver together.

But still. 63!? Give me a break. Where’s winter? Next year… Just wait.

I hope that it sucks then too.