Monday, April 29, 2013

Baja Rooster

It wasn't easy, but our expedition to the Mexican Baja's Sea of Cortez coastline in search of roosters was finally rewarded. On a dusty back street above Los Barriles we spied it. A fine specimen. Quickly tying on a corn nacho fly and improvising a live well from a convenient oil drum, we stalked...

What's that? Roosterfish? Rooster. Fish. Are you fucking kidding me?!

Well. Ummm. Yeah. Right. I knew that. Ha ha. Never mind. Back to my notes. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 22, 2013

La Comunidad de Pescadores

I clear customs with a minimum of fuss, though, por supuesto, of course, I’m “randomly selected” for a more thorough checkout. But the inspección de a mano of my camera gear and big rolling duffle is quick, efficient, and performed with good humor; more than I can say for the preceding thirty-six hours of air travel hell. What’s an extra five minutes when you’re already a day late?

Ultimately deemed harmless enough to be allowed to enter the country, I pass through the cool blue departure lounge, undecided as to whether the pervasive low rumble is my duffle’s resonation on the smooth tile floor or the internal reverberation of accumulated stress brought on by the litany of bad timing, disruptive weather, and missed flights. Reaching no definitive conclusion, I exit the chamber via the huge, sea-green-tinted glass doors, stepping into the brilliant Baja afternoon…

…and into the melee.

The party has started for my fellow travelers. Most are on their way south, to Cabo San Lucas, and the makeshift welcome bar that is set up immediately outside of the airport exit is doing a brisk and noisy business. My brief customs delay has given my compadres a head start on the festivities. Viva las vacaciones!

But my focus is beyond the bar, though the temptation to linger is overwhelming. I am heading the other direction, north, an hour or so, towards Los Barriles, and I’m uncertain as to how I’m going to get there. I skip the cerveza, for the moment, and look ahead, towards the road, into an even more chaotic scene.

Beyond the party I enter a gauntlet of energetic Hispanic gentlemen, most in their thirties and forties, all waving, all smiling, all holding aloft placards of a dizzying array. Taxi services. Hotel shuttles. Other indecipherable options. And interspersed among them are signs with surnames; some beautifully lettered on whiteboard, most hastily scribbled on rough notepaper. Robinson. Meyer. The Dortmund Wedding.

None say Sepelak.

Someone’s dropped la pelota.

To be fair, I was supposed to be here yesterday and the digital connection to my ultimate destination is problematic in the best of times, let alone while grabbing iPhone-sized snippets of bandwidth between hastily rearranged flight plans. Forget voice connections. It’s increasingly clear that I’m on my own from this point forward. At least I'm in the right country.

I look to the crowd of gentlemen and they sense my desperation.

Amigo! You need a ride? Come with me. Vamos. I take you!

I have no doubt the last to be true.

Not yet willing to surrender myself to the horde, I step back into the lounge to gather my wits. A final attempt to contact my hosts ends predictably, without connection, and the irony of being able to call home, two-thousand miles away, yet unable to reach a mere ninety clicks up the coastline is not lost on me. As my frustration begins to give way to despair, I spy a lifeline; a spark of travel magic. There, three rows from the door, poking above the crowd of seated, napping, texting, multi-cultured passengers is a welcome signpost.

Twenty feet away, pointed towards the ceiling, is a well-traveled, well-worn, green Sage rod case.

As I approach, the man sitting next to the case, clad in quick-dry Columbia and camel-hued Keens, looks up, meets my gaze, and smiles, perhaps noticing my dusty rod tube as well. Greg, he says. Greg, from Eugene, Oregon, and extends his hand. He, too, is headed north and has a van and driver outside, awaiting the imminent arrival of his fishing partner. Would I like to share the ride?

Sí. Eres muy amable.

Dennis arrives and we depart.

Driving north we don’t talk politics or religion or finances. Instead we speak of home waters, favored brews, and the incredible women who love us enough to tolerate our far-flung obsession. But most of all, we talk fishing. From the great Northwest to the Bahamian flats to the tip of South America, we talk fishing. Where we’ve been and what we’ve seen. We laugh like old friends who’ve shared these experiences and, in many ways, we are. We are fishermen and fly fishermen to boot. Pescadores de la Mosca.

The trip passes quickly. The driver drops Greg and Dennis at the hacienda of a friend, overlooking the Sea of Cortez, and then carries me another fifteen minutes across the dusty terrain to Buenavista. The ride is pleasant and I arrive in considerably better spirits than when I had departed. A brief stop at the Mini Super Chayito for a cold Pacifico certainly helped, but, in the end, I have survived to fish another day, saved by my brothers of the water.

Sustained, once again, by La Comunidad de Pescadores.

Now, here's where this wonderful community can assist once again. You see, I lost Greg's business card during the week. One too many Pacifico, I suppose. Please help me pass my heartfelt thanks along to my bretheren, from North Carolina to Oregon.

Gracias, mi amigos! Mayo nuestros caminos se cruza otra vez. Pronto.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Baja Blasted

Home. Finally. Fried. No. Refried.

LAX-to-RDU redeye roasted. Beached triggerfish toasted. Baked as deep and dry as the parched arroyos that criss-cross beneath Mexico Highway 1, running down the rugged, scoliotic spine of the Baja Peninsula.

Slow-cooked, forsooked, over-booked, totally fooked, tired. Y tengo un dolor de cabeza.

Home with an odd number of socks, funny lookin' money, and a notebook full of scribbles that are oddly familiar but utterly illegible. That's okay. I never worry much about the details. It's easier that way.

So get ready. There's tequila-tainted tales to tell.

But, I'm afraid that they'll have to wait for a good night's sleep, or two, and for me to clear the big red oak that fell across the driveway in my absence.

Bienvenido a casa, amigo. Welcome home.

Refried. I'm tellin' ya.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Baja Bedside

Help find the appropriate sunburn solution.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pray for Poor Fishing

We're headed for the Baja, baby.
You've been warned.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Photo Bin - March 2013

Spring's just now beginning to get a toehold here so March wasn't very pretty. But where the flora fell short, the fauna made up for in spades. This month's bin is a handful of images of some of the critters that have wandered by over the past couple of weeks. It's not necessarily great photography, but it's life as we know it here; unexpected wildlife visits and hasty attempts to photograph them with whatever gear is within reach.

One of the best parts of March is that the bluebirds begin to nest. We have five bluebird houses around the place and I took my first walkabout of the year to check for activity in the various boxes. Not wanting a face full of sharp beaks and claws from startled moms, I make a lot of noise when approaching and then tap the sides of the houses before peeking inside. When thumping the box furthest from the house, deepest into the hardwoods, a momma did indeed flee, but not what I was expecting.

My knee-jerk response was "bat," but as the creature sailed to the base of the nearest tree I saw that it was a flying squirrel; the first I've seen in these woods. Having only my cell phone, I snapped the picture to the left from a distance, so apologize for the poor quality. I raced to the house and grabbed some better glass but when I got back the glider had returned to the box. Not wanting to disturb her again, I snapped the picture above as she kept a wary eye on me.

Sometimes, though, the wildlife is not quite so wary, though often direct contact with our newly cleaned windows has a bit to do with it. This chickadee took a while to rearrange his marbles, but was happy to be carried around for fifteen minutes or so while doing it. Mary took this shot of the bird and me contemplating one another; probably each trying to decide who had the bigger beak.

And speaking of birds and glass, I had to laugh when I saw this imprint on our bathroom window, invisible until I began to steam things up with a shower. Based on its size, it appears a mourning dove did a full-body beak plant. All I could think of was Wile E. Coyote and the cliff face.

To finish the bird theme, I offer the above. I was excited about this shot, thinking I had captured the image of a common redpoll perched on the garden fence; excited because redpolls aren't all that common in this part of the country. I shot a note off to my naturalist and photographer buddy Mike (who's starting a pretty cool blog of his own at the Road's End Naturalist) to report the sighting and he burst my bubble, suggesting that what I had actually captured was a... well, see if you can figure that out.

And no, it's not the model for the Angry Birds video game.

Our neighbors are not all cute little feathered friends. When moving some terra cotta pots around, I found this pair of garter snakes curled together under one of the larger ones. Startling, of course, but very, very cool.

And finally, a poor shot of a regular around here. I often see this brilliant yearling hanging around the lower ridge where our gravel road forks from the main paved artery through the "neighborhood", but I never seem to have a camera with me. I got lucky the other day, though the deer was at a distance and the lighting was extreme. Each year seems to bring a new albino or piebald fawn into the area. I don't know if there's a strong genetic predisposition in the local population, but, for whatever reason, there's always a ghost or two wandering these woods. Just one more of the many charms of living here in southern Heaven.

And one of the many reasons to always keep a camera close at hand.

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Cure

Two days of Sudafed didn’t cure my vertigo.

My regular doctor had no opening for me this morning and I hate emergency rooms so I agreed to go to Mary’s doctor, who (how can I say this nicely?) I consider a bit of a flake. You know. “Holistic medicine.” At Duke University, no less. But I had to stop the world from wobbling and if it took crystals and magnets to get it done, so be it. I'd try anything.

I can hear the medical insurance claims processor laughing now.

The examination started out normally enough (as long as you discount the spinning of the room) with the asking of a few questions regarding the dizzying symptoms, the taking of blood pressures, and the shining of little lights into my nose, mouth, and ears. But as she pulled the otoscope from my right ear canal, she began to poke and pull on the lobe and outer ear.

“How’d you get that?” she asked, referring to the fresh puncture wound on the upper part of my ear.

-- o --

I guess I need to break away from the story, here, to make an embarrassing confession. With an upcoming fishing trip to Mexico, a friend suggested it would be a good idea to get some practice casting with big wind. We’ll be fishing the east coast of the Baja peninsula, into Bay of California surf, and when the fishing is good the wind comes out of the south/southeast, pushing a right-hander’s cast into his body. I needed to be ready for that.

So, last week, on a cool, blustery day, I carried the 9wt, an intermediate sink line, and a big chartreuse and pink clouser down to the pond, put my right shoulder into the wind, and practiced. I threw for about fifteen minutes before a perfectly timed gust imploded a lengthy backcast and stuck the heavy tuti-fruti streamer squarely into my right ear.

Thank God for barbless.

Stop laughing.

-- o --

“Interesting,” said the doctor, who then turned and pulled from a drawer a small case that, when opened, revealed a set of varying sized needles; wire thin to the size of a fat toothpick.

“How big was the hook?” she asked.

“Ummm… A 1/0, so, pretty big,” I responded uncertainly.

She nodded and pulled from the case the biggest, nastiest looking needle. She examined it closely. “About this diameter?”

“I guess so.”

She looked at me earnestly. “You see, the ears are chi crossroads and are the polar focal points on one of the body's prime energy meridians. They’re a pivotal tipping place and I believe that when you stuck that fly in your ear you blocked and interrupted the even flow of chi across that meridian, which, of course, includes your inner ear and brain. What you did with that errant fly was to apply some inadvertent acupuncture. To fix things we simply need to restore balance.”

And before I could fully grasp what that meant she grabbed my head and jammed that big honkin’ needle into my left ear at the same precise point at which the fly had skewered my right.

“What the HELL!” I screamed...

...and the room stopped spinning.