Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Photo Bin - November 2013

This year's autumn colors flew by like a leaf on a rolling trout run, paused only briefly as it spun on the seam between summer heat and winter chill, eddied seductively for the blink of an eye, the rasp of a sharp, crisp breath, the click of a shutter, then tumbled away downstream.

I almost missed it.

I awoke one morning and the colors appeared, peeking through my bedroom window and in-between my quilt-covered toes.

But before I could gather my wits well enough to capture the grandeur it was gone. Caught the southbound and moved on. I could run these rails and try to keep pace with the extravagance as it moves through the South - freeze time with hot pursuit, ride that temporal contradiction to burn in Fall's flameout for weeks - but, instead, I think I'll wait. It'll be back next year

And with a little luck I'll still be here to greet it as it peeks in-between my toes once gain.

What is a Photo Bin?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

First Light

The plan was to pack up the gear and have the truck ready to roll the evening before, allowing me to stumble from bed and into the driver’s seat with a minimum of fuss and delay. But our neighbors from the lower ridge dropped by and a pleasant afternoon visit turned into an impromptu dinner, which then morphed into a late night shooting-the-breeze and solving-the-world’s-problems session out on the screened porch. Fine friends, good food, and regular refills tend to precipitate such things around here.

So, instead of an early departure, I awoke the next morning, fuzzy-headed, unprepared, and went about gathering the waders, rods, and piles of paraphernalia that follow me to trout waters. The task, and the fuzz, put me on the road an hour later than I had hoped.

Okay. Maybe closer to two.

On those days that I head west, into the Appalachians, I normally get away before the sun makes an appearance. Day trips that require a three or four hour drive, each way, demand a wee-hour start so the crossing of the bridge downstream of the house is typically done in darkness. It turns out, that’s been a blessing.

For what I saw this particular morning as the sun rose out of my truck bed made me question why I was leaving. I won’t try to describe it. I don’t have the skills.

Let's simply say that the old axiom “Don’t leave fish to find fish” seemed to apply to streams as well and I considered turning around, putting the pickup back in the driveway, and strolling down to wade my home waters. And while there’s no trout there, I felt certain I could coax a sluggish largemouth from the cool Piedmont flow. To be sure, I’d find no prettier surroundings to the west.

But I was already on the road and the trout stuff was packed. It seemed foolish, at that point, to return. In truth, it might have been foolish to have packed it in the first place. I spent the day wondering.

Wondering, and vowing that, next time, I'd be sure to be long gone before first light.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Direction Is Everything

Eight to twelve knots.

Not a particularly harsh wind, here on the Crystal Coast, except when coming dead straight from the west, giving it thirty uninterrupted miles to plow deep furrows in the emerald seas along these south-facing barrier islands, Onslow Bay to the Lookout Bight.

Direction is everything.

So we idled in the inlet channel, protected, a bit, from the churn by the distant confederate brick, stone, and barrier sands of Fort Macon, and we waited. Waited for the breeze to shift, if even a few degrees. Waited for the tide to change in hopes that it might smooth the ceaseless six-foot ditches dug into the brine and let us go chase some albies. Waited as boats full of anxious fishermen with similar motives motored out the buoy chain, then shortly motored back; captains grim-faced, sports thoroughly shaken.

Waited as the radio crackled a constant refrain; heavy seas and no fish to be found.

We waited because we saw no need in going out to get beaten up until there was a hint of something worth getting beaten up over. It never came. No albies for us, this fine Sunday. No albies for anyone.

But there are worse starts to a day than idling these sweet southern waters and watching the sun rise. Worse places to be skunked than outside the lazy docks and quaint streets of Beaufort. Worse ways to misplace a bright fall weekend, the coming and the going for a paltry couple of hours bobbing like corks.

And as an early return is always appreciated, by both the wanderer and she who keeps the home fires burning, I packed it in and headed back before noon. Back towards my safe harbor. Back towards my shield from the winds. Back towards where my real happiness waits. Dead straight to the west.

Direction is everything.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Cold Nights To Come

It came downstream quietly
Slipped in unnoticed from the north
Veiled in cool, gentle rain
Obscured in blankets of mist
Cloaked in the white noise of rolling waters, rustling winds, and distant rumbles

As I fished, it took me by surprise

In truth, it was not unexpected
But its arrival was stunning just the same
On muted owl’s wings, in silent descent
Claimed its prey
The scrap of summer that lingered too long

The transition occurred between casts

It painted the river with a deep golden stain
Saturated and heavy in dew and dim light
Dampened slick rocks to obsidian black
Against which mats of maple, hickory and sourwood coalesced
Fluid colors on liquid surface
A vivid mosaic floor of leafy tile, substantial only to the eye
That rippled hypnotically as I waded near

While the banks softly burst into flame

Tonight the stove holds its first blaze of the season
Row covers will drape o’r the garden’s remains
And mothballs and cedar will tickle our noses
As we burrow down deep under long-stored patch quilts
To dream about cold nights to come

For, today, Fall quietly arrived on the Haw