Tuesday, October 30, 2012


He slips quietly into the water and gazes upstream. None of the nervous energy that permeates the opening moments of a typical outing is visible in his carriage. Quite the contrary, his shoulders slump with a grave weariness that resonates in the wispy mists that cling to the surrounding liquid surface, the numbing hush of distant whitewater, the dark edges of this secluded sanctuary.

It’s been difficult times.

He stands motionless, his soft stare remaining upward. He looks not for the dimples of rising trout or for the emergence of this morning’s hatch or for the locations of prime feeding lies. His focus, if there is focus at all, is much farther away. Beyond the cascade. Beyond the distant bend. Beyond his understanding, though he tries his hardest. He looks for an answer.

He looks for why.

After what seems an eternity he lowers his eyes and surveys the water close at hand. This trip was to be an escape from that which cannot be escaped, from the weight of it; an unconvincing capitulation to the harsh truth that the stream continues to flow despite his heart’s deepest certainty that all things should have stopped. He did.

But ingrained muscle memory eventually overcomes bone-deep inertia and he gently strips line onto the moving waters, a mossy green strand that drifts away behind him like sweet memories departing on the currents of time. With a quiet ease he retrieves these memories and sends them airborne, his subdued cadence imparting a graceful fluidity to his cast, a quality seldom experienced, before.

Remembrance swirls hypnotically around him in long, lazy loops. He surrenders to the rhythm, puts the weight aside, and lets his mind ride the soaring silk. He thinks of nothing more than the movement of arm and rod and line, the tumble of water, and the silent drift of a dainty wad of deer hair. He loses himself in the minutia. He forgets everything else…

…but for only a moment.

It’s a start.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Photo Bin - October 2012

The fall change is just getting started here in the North Carolina Piedmont so I loaded the long rods into my four-wheel-drive time machine and leapt a week into the future, seasonally speaking, by driving northward into southern Virginia for a day on the Smith River. The colors, and the day, were spectacular.

The Smith regularly kicks my ass but I keep going back, this time to explore a promising stretch of the tailwater that I'd seen but not fished. I'd tried to hit it this past summer, but a double-nymph-rig tangle of diabolic complexity on my opening cast and a surprise early dam release thwarted me before I could get a fly properly soaked.

This day, however, was more than I could have hoped for and I can't wait till the cascade of color finds its way to my neck of the woods.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Grow Gather Hunt Cook

I don't get excited, these days, about trips for the mail. Sure, it's a nice walk down the ridge, along the winding gravel road, but what typically awaits in our rural box is disappointing. Junk. Bills. Solicitations. If it wasn't for the exercise and the chance to listen to the birds, it wouldn't be worth it.

But not this week. This week I was looking for something. Something good.

I have had the great pleasure, these past couple years, to follow a captivating blog out of Australia - Rohan Anderson's wonderful Whole Larder Love. Now, to my great delight, he's published a book to accompany his online work that advocates and celebrates "the innate need for a relationship with nature through the soil, plants, water, and wildlife." It was delivered today.

There is a sense of satisfaction from getting your hands dirty, nurturing your food from seed, and enjoying something that nature has provided, while inevitably spending time outside in the elements to make it all happen. Our basic primeval needs can be satisfied with some time spent out in the fields, foraging in the forests, and hunting and fishing as our ancestors did. Our affluent, post-industrial-revolution society looks down its nose at this rugged lifestyle, preferring the conveniences the civilized world provides. I know which I prefer. - Rohan Anderson

Whole Larder Love, the book, is many things: cookbook, gardening primer, gear advisor, hunting and fishing journal, survival manual, education tool, father's gift to cherubic children. It's a dirt-to-table roadmap and a peek into the fascinating lifestyle of a gifted individual who's investing his soul into the pursuit of a simpler, healthier, more natural way to live.

And it's unbelievably beautiful. Roh's camerawork is as earthy and appealing as the natural lifestyle itself. It was this imagery that captured my attention two years ago and it continues to delight me today. If you're into that kind of thing, Whole Larder Love is a lovely addition to your coffee table, though that alone seems a terrible waste. It needs to be used.

So my mailbox trips have been rewarded and I'll dig deeply into this wonderful work in the coming days and weeks and years.

I just wonder what will motivate me to go down the hill tomorrow.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Salt Substitute

I leaned back for a moment, closed my eyes, and breathed deeply the
spicy bouquet of salt, sweat, and scorched cork.

That was going to be such a good opening line. It rolled around in my head the entire three hours that I followed Bill’s boat trailer taillights down Highway 70, east towards Cape Lookout. A good line, yes, but now I can’t use it. For while there was plenty of salt and a fair share of sweat, no reels were harmed in the making of this post. No drags were toasted. The albies were nowhere to be found.

I have to admit that my saltwater fishing experience is thin, but one thing that I’ve come to learn is that while you might hit our North Carolinian blue waters with a target species in mind, you often end up fishing for something else - fishing for whatever’s decided to show up. A salt substitute.

The redfish are not being cooperative? There are probably speckled trout running along those same grass lines. No cobia hanging around the buoys? You can bet there's bluefish chasing mullet in the surf just to the west. And if the autumn bait ball blitzes aren’t being driven by false albacore, then catching the Spanish mackerel that are creating the chaos is a mighty fine fallback.

We listened to the crackle of the radio, eavesdropping on the guides as they, too, searched for pods of the armor-plated torpedoes. And, in between the static they're-not-here-eithers, we crashed one feeding frenzy after another, putting deep bends in the 9wts, catching substitute mackerel and blues - that is, when we weren’t hastily tying on new clousers after our previous offerings had been shredded to the hook or sawed off at the 40lb mono. They're toothy buggers, you see.

So while we failed to truly test our Abels and Lamsons or to get reacquainted with our bright fluorescent backing, we did just fine with the stand-ins. We may have missed the albies, but, when you come right down to it, it’s the place and the company that typically makes the trip worthwhile anyway.

And for that there’s simply no substitute.

Note: That was Friday. Sunday, I hear, the albies were all over the place. What can you do?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Buck Sunday

Looked up from my desk a few moments ago to see five whitetail bucks wander across the ridge above the house, thirty or so yards from my window; a couple of nice eight-pointers in the entourage.

Look out ladies.

Fine way to start the morning.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


There are still a few around. Young ones. We've considered pulling the feeders, sending the little buggers on their way, not wishing to keep them too late in the season. But the books say they'll go when they're ready so we continue to indulge the little rascals. If nothing else, they'll have a full tank for the long flight south.

Note: Between last Saturday when I composed this post and today's publishing, a cold front blew through. The hummers seem to have taken the cue. They're gone. Safe journeys, little guys. See you next tax day.

Monday, October 8, 2012

It's Not You, Honey. It's Me.

Meetup location sounds good. I'll give you a call when I leave Harry's with the boat. I plan to bring a spinning rod along with my fly rod. I've been catching some bass on swim baits on the pond here at Five Points. So feel free to bring a spinning rod if you want.

It took some digging, but I found it. Tucked into the backmost corner of the deepest reaches of the basement. Hidden behind a flaccid float tube and a roll of plastic deer fencing. Draped in cobwebs and dust. The forgotten stick. My old 5’9” Shimano BW-2593 Bull Whip Graphite Fightin’ Rod. Medium Bass/Walleye Special Action. Quantum Escalade loaded with Fire Line. Fat black jitterbug, still strung from some midnight foray to the pond down the hill, years past.

I was young and foolish then.

But we ended up using the darn things. A surprisingly stiff breeze chopped the lake. A blast from the north, forcing us to cast a blast from the past.

I remembered what it’s like to send a weighty lure sixty yards with a flick of the wrist. No false cast. No double haul. Never mind that a decent hookset from that distance is unlikely. It was startling just to watch it fly.

Jitterin' the bug. Walkin' the Zara pooch. Slingin' spinnerbaits. Deep-divin' big-lipped cranks. Bass moves I’d almost forgotten.

But after a few hours the wind dropped and the guilt moved in. This dalliance with the old girlfriend seemed cheap and tawdry. I’d taken easy comfort with another when the times got tough. I’d backslid.

I was ashamed.

So I put down the short whip and tenderly pulled from the gunnels my sweetness, my steadfast 6wt, strung and ready to go. Long elegance and light as an angel's kiss. I stripped a little line, gave it a quick roll, and sent the deer hair flying…

…twenty feet.

It felt like shit.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Too Early

Alarm's set 3:45 ugly.

Eyes open at 2:28. Happens on fishing days.
Try to close them. Just another hour.
Barred owl screams. Dog barks.
Not to be.

Slip quietly from bed. Feel through the house. Bathroom. Dress.
Granola bar. Liquid breakfast.
Packet-plus-milk. Not the hair of the barking dog.
But it’s tempting.

Kill time. Reread yesterday’s mail. Browse the fishin’ web.
Look for watch.
Try to wake up. Try to guess what's forgotten.
Try not to trip over the dog.
Just try.

Mount up. 4:15.
Next hour’s a blur.
Tunnel of light.
Highway hypnosis.

Exit 202. Oxford. Wal-Mart parking lot. 5:25.
Five minutes to spare.

Outparcel Bojangles.
Chicken biscuit quiets the still noisy stomach.
Should've given it the hair.
That would teach it.

Bill arrives. 5:45.
Ken right behind.
Bo’s for them too.
Convoy the final few miles.

Self-pay at launch gate.
Numbered envelope. Tear-off rearview mirror tag. Slip cash into the box.
$4 fee. Have only a ten spot. Ken has two fives.
Borrow one. Both overpay.

Bill stuffs his envelope.
Quarters, dimes, nickels.
Predictable results.

Skiff skips into a rising sun.
Bill navigates.
Ken nods. Dreams of landlocked stripers.

Perhaps they’re back.

Full moon.
Cool weather.
Falling barometer.
Storm front arriving tonight.

Perhaps they’re back.

Here to find out.
Look for the birds. Search the coves. Fish the bridge.
8wt. 350 grain. 15lb floro.
Big-ass clousers.

Roll. Haul. Shoot.
Let it drop. Count to ten. Next time fifteen.
Get it down. Snap-strip it home. Pray for the bump.

Perhaps they’re back.

But no. They're not. Not yet.
It's too early.

Home by noon for a proper nap.