Monday, September 30, 2013

The Photo Bin - September 2013

Some months the Photo Bin is easy.
Lots of odds-and-ends images to choose from.
Lots of things to share.

This month ain’t one of them.

This month you get one.
One that reflects precisely how I feel about the dearth.
Me, and Wilderness Dog Sammy.

Perhaps next month's selection will be better.
How can it not?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I Forget

I forget how pretty this stream is.

How climbing this stairway of rock and flow pushes everything else from my mind.

How plunge pool follows plunge pool follows plunge pool...

How wild and willing and feisty the fish.

How each tug on the line might be a brown, a rainbow,
Or one of the incredibly ornate brookies that inhabit this place.

I forget how peaceful and quiet it is here.

But what I don’t forget is how good it is to share such places with a friend
And how much that friend will be missed when he moves.

Safe travels, Ken.

And thanks for the stream.

Note: For a fascinating academic perspective on our sport and its classic literature, check out Ken's blog, The Literary Fly Fisher. Good stuff.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Under U.P. Skies

Deepest thanks to my buddy Jason for a couple of fine days on Michigan waters. We didn't scratch the surface of the incredible range of fishing opportunities that the state has to offer so, as Ah-nold once said, "Ah'll be bock."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Red Lights, Night Eyes, Four-AM Brews

The cramp hit about six in the morning, left hamstring seizing every time I bent my knee in the slightest, which was a real pisser as I’d only been in bed for a little more than an hour. Maybe that four-AM beer hadn’t been such a good idea after all.

As the leg began to loosen (or, it turned out, just teased me into thinking the agony was subsiding before cruelly cinching tight once again), I heard Jason in the other room, cursing softly as he tried to walk out a similar affliction. I regretted his pain, but deep down there simmered a guilty satisfaction that I wasn’t alone in my misery.

--- o ---

We squatted by the stream as the sun disappeared. Waiting. Waiting for nightfall. Waiting for the streamside shadows to lengthen and coalesce. Waiting for obscurity complete, when the big browns would slide out from under the deep cut banks, like trolls from a beneath a bridge, to begin their search for meat.

Nine-o’clock. My old eyes strained for details.

“It’s not dark enough yet,” said Jason.

--- o ---

As the sun turned its back and looked to the west, intent then on lighting the Orient and leaving us behind to founder in the dark, the Milky Way crept out, bolder each moment as its nemesis dropped from sight. While the cat’s away the mice will play, and it was on the mice that we counted.

With the arrival of starshine, an eerie netherworld unfolded, neither dark nor light. A monochromatic shadow box of blacks and grays. A rough fragment of grade school art, cut from ragged-edged drab construction paper and pasted in layers – stream, bank, tall weeds, tree line, horizon - with a dark, doleful palate, perhaps a red flag to the observant educator, but of cool cinereal comfort to the nocturnal predator; man and fish alike.

In time, we got started, pitching #2 rodents across the flowing slate ribbon to where we thought the far bank should be, threading backcasts through gaps in coal paper trees, as much by memory as by sight.

--- o ---

Jason said I’d hear the strike before I’d see it. The brain takes a moment to sort out the grays, but the ears don’t care how dark. I’d hear the splash as my skittering foam mouse swung across the surface of the unlit waters, then feel the weight. That lag would be just about right for setting the hook. I’d counted on that.

So when my drift was quietly interrupted in mid-strip, came tight in silence, I hesitated, puzzled. Then a subtle tug found its way up the line and I instinctively stripped, hard, in response. It stayed tight, but didn’t move, and I knew that I’d found that branch lying near the opposite bank; the one that I’d seen earlier in the brief reconnoitering sweep of my red-lensed headlamp.

“I’m snagged, “ I whisper-shouted, giving Jason the option of finishing the run before I spooked it completely. “I’m close,” he replied. “I’ll get it.” He slipped into the ink and waded towards the other side.

After a moment, I heard him chuckle. “It’s hung alright, but on a branch on the bottom. Something took you down. You’ve been mugged.”

“But I didn’t hear the take.”

“Yeah. Sometimes they’ll just sip it and it screws you up...”

“… but only the big ones do that.”

I suppose that was meant to make me feel better.

--- o ---

The ghosts approached. Wispy, ethereal illuminations bouncing quietly along the stream. Soft rustling in the deep weeds. Whispers - whether incorporeal voices or wind, unclear – drifted our way. On which side of the stream, also uncertain, as it, and the lights, wound serpentine through the overgrowth.


“Is that you Zach?” Jason queried in a low voice. We’d seen his FJ parked at the turnout.

“Yeah. Me and Trent. Had any luck?”

“We’ve moved a few fish. Mike got mugged by a good one.”

Thanks for reminding me.

For a while we held seance with the shades, invisible in the weeds and the darkness of the far bank, a mere thirty feet away. A minute, an hour, time didn’t matter even if we could get a fix on it. A wee-hour ouija with phantoms, shadows within shadows, with no visual context. Just voices, soft and quiet, muffled by murk, held to low tones out of respect for the night.

--- o ---

Around two came the moon, bright as day after the cold light of stars. Sight reconstituted, in a holistic sense, but details remained obscure and the trip back downstream was no easier for it. Even with our headlamps set bright, deep weeds hid beaver holes, tiny rutted tributaries, and fallen limbs. False steps plunged two feet and you listened, as you fell, for the snap of tibia or femur. I wondered if Jason would be able to carry me out if I broke.

Then, I wondered if I could carry him.

--- o ---

Trips back always seem shorter than the outbounds, especially when you’ve fished it hard, yet the hourglass flowed just a grain at a time as we stumbled towards the turnout. The knowledge that sunrise would arrive shortly lent a lost-in-time quality to the trek, while the pre-dawn darkness and headlamp's tight focus made the remaining haul bearable, showing us only the next step rather than the entirety of the final climb. A blessing of ignorance.

We arrived at the car, and the cooler, as the earlybirds were just waking for another workday. Soaked to the skin, legs beyond weary, ready for a shower and bed, though we'd have to pull the blinds tight by the time we got back to Jason’s place to hold in the darkness.

And while we’d pay for it later, the four-AM Oberon tasted mighty darn good.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Photo Bin - August 2013

Allow me, if you will, to interrupt my summer-ending swing through the northern heartland so that I might sneak in an August photo bin. Got to keep the string alive, if you know what I mean.

It's been a tough summer on the garden. Our meteorologicals simply haven't been playing according to Hoyle. Even the sunflowers, hardy as they are, didn't measure up. Our nine-foot best was easily outclassed in the neighborhood sunflower contest by an entry twice its height (though Kitty apologized to everyone as her winner was actually a volunteer at the edge of the woods). Luckily, the tiger swallowtails didn't begrudge us our diminutive stalks and were around in great numbers; the only bumper crop of the year.

And as scrawny as the garden was, the deer still coveted it. Good fences make good neighbors so they had to be content mowing my grass for me. What little we have...

Change of subject. I am not a big fan of the selfie. They seem a bit vain, but perhaps that's just me. So it's odd that I turned the camera around for this shot and odder still that it amuses me. And I'm not exactly sure why I like it. Maybe it's the goofy grin. Maybe the floppy hat. Maybe that it's in my happy place on home waters. But mostly, I suspect, it's because of the tilted horizon which I know will make my buddy Chris crazy.

Yeah. That's it.

And speaking of happy places, we found one on Bald Head Island last month. A few days on the beach with the usual suspects was just what the doctor ordered. Here's Sam holding down the fort while the rest walked the beach. Good man, that Sam.

And watching the "stuff" is hard work so he retired back to the house for a little reading, a leisurley nap, and an escape from the evening's noseeums, snugly ensconced in his hammock.

Of course, we had some rain. What stay at the beach would be complete without it? And honestly, there's not much better than sitting on the porch watching it fall. A total and guilt-free capitulation to doing absolutely nothing.

As if I needed an excuse.

Well, thanks for your indulgence and your patience. Time to get back across the Mackinaw and return to the adventure.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fight Club

Those that fish it call it Fight Club and, like the movie, it has rules.

1st Rule: You do not talk about Fight Club
2nd Rule: You DO NOT talk about Fight Club

So I'm checking the fine print regarding pictures.

But I'm definitely adhering to...

8th rule: If this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight fish.

Big thanks to Jason for the invitation. I can't say any more so don't even ask. You understand. I'm probably on thin ice as it is. Check for more from my good buddy at Fontinalis Rising.

More on my
[state not to be mentioned here] visit soon.

And, in a bizarre coincidence, today on Gink and Gasoline... Shit. I am The Borg too.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Haunted By Waters

Flying down the gauntlets of corn
Subie fire through Indiana heat
Sketch monsters lie in wait in the weeds
But we race on, haunted by waters

Dead smells waft from upstream haunts
Stories of cadavers found
Not so sure that we wish to know
But we wade on, haunted by waters

Mormon kings that pushed their luck
Burnt-tailed snakes, ash, then alive
Two-o’clock traffic in one light towns
Oddities, all, but we’re haunted by waters

Chartreuse craft, smallies tough as nails
Unzipped through pitbull fight and Hoosier spunk
Goddam a barbless hook
Disappointed, but still haunted by waters

A perfect day on heartland flow
Summer’s end in the best of company
And the Heart’s ink says it all

I am haunted by waters

Deep appreciation to my buddy Dave for taking a day to show me his Indiana home waters. Do yourself a favor and check out the hugely entertaining photography, music, flies, and general alt joie de vivre at his blog, Pile Cast.

And a nod, of course, to Norman Maclean's
A River Runs Through It for the title and thread that pulls this all together, neatly tattooed, in case you didn't notice, on Dave's left bicep.