Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Photo Bin - November 2012

I've gotten away, recently, from what I had envisioned my photo bins to be - a handful of images that find their way out of the camera during the month that have no particular post or story to associate with, but that somehow whisper "share me." They need not be technically strong (and given my photography skills, they usually aren't) but they do provide a little glimpse into what's going on around my world. Random remembrances, if you will.

So this month I get back to that concept with a half-dozen shots, starting with the colorful autumn image above from a day on the Elk River. Scenes like this are why I love fishing small trout streams in the fall. I've missed more than one gentle take while gazing at the breathtaking surroundings.

I've recently discussed my love of obscure images. It's true that many are intentional efforts to capture something unique, but quite often they begin as happy accidents - shots taken with incorrect settings or inadvertent trips of the shutter. The image above is the latter. I like the circular motion of this Smith River scene, light and leaves and water in a twirl, and it brings to mind that slow motion moment when the footing goes south and a thorough dunking is eminent.

All too familiar with that one.

Not much explanation needed here. It's the grandson's first sparkler experience and he's not looking quite sure about these things. But, as it should be with little boys (and, by extension, their grandpas as well), it doesn't take long before...

... the sparks fly.

Sometimes, though, a quiet play in the sand is just fine.

Finally, a nod to my favorite fishing buddy, though I have to admit he's a fair-weather angler. On the dark, cloudy days he fails to show and leaves me on my own. The wuss.

But I like having him around because he never outfishes me, he doesn't talk a blue streak, and he shrugs off my regular misteps. He'll occasionally spook a fish, but that's more my fault than his. He stays close but we've never crossed lines. He understands me.

Few do.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fishin' Light

I regularly see guys on the trout stream who look like they’re moving in, who appear to have been tossed out of the house for going fishing one time too many, kicked to the curb with their worldly belongings, luggage and all, and they've toted everything to the water.

Backpacks that could attack Everest. Chest packs they can barely reach around, much less fish around. Fanny packs that would take a whole lot more fanny than mine to keep suspended. I shake my head.

But then, I’m a minimalist. I travel light, think light, fish light. I want less to carry, less to lose, less to hang fly line on. I don’t need four boxes with every trout pattern in six sizes and three colors. I don’t want five kinds of indicators, a ten-tall tippet stack, or gadgets and widgets and zingers out the whazoo. All that stuff just confuses me. Not that it takes too much to confuse me, mind you.

I just try to keep it stupid simple. I have enough complexity in my life without dragging it out to the stream with me. I fish because it gives me uncomplicated, quality time, so I do it with uncomplicated, quality stuff.

I load up my SmithFly 2X pouch with a 4x6 C&F box of flies, 5X and 6X tippet, a few spare leaders, some Gink and some Frog Fanny, a bit of wool, and a little shot. Maybe a Clif bar or two. Hang the hemos and the nippers and I’m good to go.

Fishin' light, unencumbered, leaving the luggage at home...

...and trying not to go fishing one time too many.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Price

Folks fish for lots of reasons. For escape. For sustenance. For sport. For companionship. For communion. We fished because the transition from 65 to 55 on NC421, approaching Boone from the east, is easily missed and enthusiastically enforced.

Troy had a ticket to fix.

My phone rang on Friday. “Hi. Whatcha doin’?” When Troy calls and asks this question, I generally skip the formalities and jump right to “Where, when, and what weight rod?

Watauga County. Monday. Chase some small stream trout. But we have to make a stop.” And the sad story from his last fishing trip west tumbled out. So, since he had to go pay the radar-wielding piper anyway, why not make something good come of it? Sandwich the unpleasantness between a morning on the Elk and an afternoon on the Watauga. Ease the pain.

Now, I make it a habit of avoiding courthouses (and we’ll just leave it at that for the time being) but I figured a close encounter with the seat of authority was a fair price to pay for a day on trout water.

I’m in…” I responded, as I usually do.

… but, while you pay the fine, I’m stayin’ in the truck.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Out of Focus

All Hallows' Eve on the Bridge

If you’ve been hanging around here for a while, you have come to realize that I have a penchant for obscure, out-of-focus images. They fascinate me.

Now, it could very well be that it’s a self-delusion mechanism, a way to rationalize the fact that I suck as a photographer, a way to excuse my shaky work, but I find a certain dreamy reality-warp in handheld shots taken in impossibly dim conditions. In their soft indistinction, they come closer to my perception of the shadowy scenes in front of my lens than any crystal-clear photo could ever hope to.

Moonrise Downriver

So these three shots are exactly how I remember this past Halloween on the old Bynum Bridge; an eight-hundred-foot, county bridge spanning my home Haw River, built in 1922 and closed to vehicular traffic since the turn of the century, replaced by the big, sterile four-lane 15-501 just a quarter-mile upstream. Each All Hallows' Eve, the Bynum span, now just a footpath, is decorated, end-to-end, along both railings, with jack-o-lanterns carved by the residents of the county; carvings of all kinds, created with every level of skill, and depicting an amazing variety of expression and perspective. Hundreds of orange globes enjoyed by hordes of folks, many in ghoulish garb, strolling the dark remote bridge, cooing over the creepy creations, and breathing deeply the aroma of lit candles, roasting pumpkin flesh, and rich river mist.

Upstream to the New Highway Bridge

It's a time and a place delightfully out of focus. And here, my friends, are the images to prove it.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Dry/Dropper Double

A brace of browns on a single cast.
The dry/dropper double.
More fish in one drift than this river has been known to surrender in an entire day.
At least to me.

Orange-bodied Madam X attractor on top.
Bead-head pheasant tail on bottom.
Both, apparently, looked good enough to eat.

Negotiating two trout at a time is “interesting”
and the first few moments, when you don’t know exactly what you’re dealing with,
downright weird.

Glad that one didn’t zig when the other zagged.
I’m not sure that the 6X between them
(or, more to the point, my scrungy knots)
could have taken it.

Not particularly big guys,
but do a ten-incher and an eight-incher, taken together, equal an eighteen?

Let’s pretend that they do.

Friday, November 2, 2012


You can have your blazing reds
Your canary yellows
Your tangerine oranges

Keep your hillsides of gaudy riot
Those brilliant shows of doomed defiance to the coming chill

Give me autumn's subtle shades
Its lingering green nod to summer past
Laced with mottled acquiescence to dreary days ahead

Give me peaceful transition
Substance, not flash
With just a hint of color
To keep it fun

That's all I need of Fall
And, in truth, of 'most everything else