Thursday, October 20, 2016

Sketching Life

Sketching Life

An artist I spoke with at a fly fishing show once told me, that a sketch holds more character because it is never an exact representation of the scene it represents. It’s a little bit of the artist, and a little bit of imperfection, pulled together to give one person's impression of the scene intended. At first glance, for some it will look like perfection, and for another the flaws will jump out at them. Sometimes it just works. Either through pure talent, or the ability of the artist to pull one's attention from the flaws by drawing a viewer's attention to the part that represents the best. And other times a work of astonishing ability falls flat.

Enter life. Life is never quite perfect. And it’s levels of happiness and beauty, accompanied by sadness and loss are a mountain in themselves. Yet , so much of those levels are determined by our perception. Life is a sketch in itself. The most inspiring people in my life have been those who were able to stand streamside and notice the beauty of a great blue heron despite the illness brought on by chemotherapy, revel in the beauty off a spawning brown despite near crippling arthritis or appreciate the favorite joys felt by a lost loved one beyond dwelling on the personal pain of loss. Those who have the uncanny ability and strength to see the beauty despite the imperfections. Life is a living fresco upon the ceilings of our mind, and a huge palate is spread out before us. The lines and colors you choose to grow that fresco defines the beauty, or lack of, in which you experience along the way.

Choose well.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Whims of Autumn

The Whims of Autumn

(An Excerpt from my book, "The Telling of Waters")

 Happy Birthday Dad

                 Wading out to where the water pressure found my hip, I stopped with rod held under my arm and surveyed the pool. I was in no hurry on this autumn morning, having lost the feeling to my fingertips in the chore of rigging due to the frosted air. A few moments to regain my fingers would be time well spent for sure. As I had begun to wade into the pool I disrupted the lives of a flight of Blue-winged teal, which now chortled quietly in the eddy formed on the far side of the pool along the high bank. While not content to remain along the tree roots in which they had been hiding amongst, they were never-the-less comfortable enough with my presence to not take full flight. Instead, they chose to paddle in the slack water, holding to their small flight while observing the waterborne intruder that I was. Six in all, they were beautiful birds, and the chortling they made were a welcome sound to my ears as it was not unlike the babbling of a streams flow over small rocks. Hopefully they would accompany me for the duration of my stay.
                Off to my right and in the small field across the way came the baying of a beagle. Though they were well over 100 yards away I could still see clearly the hunters walking either side of a small hedgerow in the fresh-cut corn field. A father and a son, with the father controlling the dog as the son paced him on the far side of the hedgerow. I could vaguely make out the form of the side-by-side held over the fathers shoulder with his right hand, as his left hand worked as if conducting a symphony among his two players, the dog and the boy. After watching the show for a few minutes I turned back to the stream and the task at hand. Stripping line off the reel for a cast I noticed how my fingers had warmed almost back to normal, and the cork in my right hand had a comfortable warmth about it that was hard to explain.  On the 3rd false cast, the teal had about used up their patience with me and took to flight using the tail-out of the pool as their runway. They headed downstream in their initial run, then banked hard coming around at near head level as they shot upstream like a jet pilot conducting a fly-by. The whistling of their wings bounced through the air long after they were out of sight as I stood still to see just how long I could still pick it up.
The pool was not a large one, nor too deep really. It was only about 60ft in length, with a rock outcropping at the midway point off the far bank. That was my target on this fall morning. The rocks formed a slight peninsula of sorts, and in turn created a fairly deep slot about 15ft long which always held fish late in the year. My indicator rig landed just off of that point where intended and my eyes followed it down stream, watching for the slightest of twitches or any hesitation.  Not discouraged with a lack of fish on my first cast the rig was back upstream with a quick roll-cast in short order. It looked to be a repeat performance when the indicator made a slight hesitation upstream and I set the hook. A hefty fish bowed my rod as I lifted the tip high and played it against itself in the current. Slowly it came to the net, flashing its red-orange band of fall colors to the surface light as it stubbornly fought on. But as luck would have it on this fine morning the antagonist was the victor, and soon enough I was admiring a beautiful 16” rainbow as it slipped silently back into the stream.
Rinsing my hands quickly in the stream, the sound of a small gauge shotgun broke the morning’s silence followed by a hearty laugh and the father congratulating the boy. I looked back out across the field to witness them both standing side by side holding up a cottontail as if it were a trophy stag as that little beagle danced around both of their legs, tail straight up and going back-and-forth. I smiled as I watched on; caught up in conflicting emotions as on one hand I was admiring something I could reflect on as a young boy as well, yet somehow feeling on the other hand like I was intruding on a very special moment for the 3 participants. The man turned the boy around and placed the rabbit in the back of his vest, then held his hand on the boys shoulder for a few moments before continuing on their hunt.
Remembering back, there were so many fall mornings such as this that I too wore the shoes of that young boy, though they are long past now.  Yet even though time separates me from the memories, it is often the sound of a shotgun, the singing of a reel, or just the odd image of a brightly colored autumn leaf floating by on the current that places me right back at the start. The place where I can hear 2 car doors close at the parking area instead of just mine, his voice still carries in the morning air congratulating me as I hook up on a fish and his hand is once again felt on my shoulder as we admire game taken in the field together.  I see him both with his light blue fishing cap standing in hip boots, and with his side-by-side slung back over his shoulder watching on. At times I wonder at whether or not it’s because he was born on October 10th, or whether it’s because of all the things we shared between us during this time of year? Either way it matters not really, but the memories are always the strongest when carried on the whims of autumn.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tying the Satsop Stone

The Satsop Stone

The Upper East Fork of the Satsop River. 

                The Satsop Stone as included in my book "Tomorrow's Fish", was originally tied to match the Golden Stone hatch on the Satsop River in the early 90's. It has since has proven itself coast-to-coast wherever Golden Stones or October Caddis hatches are found. The pattern always lands on its feet, fishes well as an attractor and is an excellent surface fly with a dropper. 
(This is the original version)

Satsop Stone Recipe
Hook:  #8 2XL Dry Fly
Thread: Rusty Brown 6/0 Uni-thread
Tail:  Natural elk hair
Abdomen: Cinnamon Hareline dubbing
Rib:  Greenwell / Furnace Saddle hackle (clipped to black center)
Wing:  Natural elk hair
Thorax:  Cinnamon Hareline dubbing
Hackle:  Greenwell / Furnace (1x Larger)
Antennae:  Greenwell / Furnace hackle quills

Monday, October 3, 2016

Homestead Creek

Homestead Creek

 A true story in the tradition of October & "All Hallows Eve"

        The stream is one that I had paralleled along the highway for years while travelling between my home and the place in which I was raised. Each time I look at it and think, “There has got to be trout in there”. But up until now, I’ve left it as just that, a curious thought brought on by a passing glance. This summer however, my curiosity got the best of me. So, I was at the computer looking at maps and trying to figure out the name of the stream. Locating it on the map was easy. But finding the name or any information for that matter was a far different story. The one thing I did notice right off was that the Fish and Game commission did not stock it. That in itself may have ruled it out for most folks, but I was actually hoping for brook trout, so maybe this would still pan out well. All the maps placed most of its length in state game lands as well, so what more could I ask for? A stream of about 2 miles long, that forked about 1/3rd down its length, and seemed to empty out into a marshy section of meadow. I was all over this one.
      So off I went. Armed with a small box of wet flies and a 3wt rod, I was in search of those little jewels we call Brookies. I’m partial to a handful of wet flies when I’m chasing small streams, and that was all I had brought with me for this trip. The assortment included, Cow Dungs, Black Gnats, Hare’s Ears, and Briar Creeks. All tied in #14 except for the Gnats which were in #16. They are probably not the be-all or end-all of a brook trout box, but they are all like comfort food for me. I have confidence in them. I know one of them will catch fish, and it takes the tough decisions out of the equation for me. Maybe it’s a carryover from the days of my youth, when Royal Coachmen wets and Parmachene Belles were the soup-de-jour for a youngster with nothing but few dollars’ worth of baling money in his pocket, and only one small tackle shop to buy from? But nevertheless, over the years I’ve come to know that as long as I do my part, these patterns will produce fish.
      Arriving at the interstate location where I always notice the creek following the road, I pulled off and parked as far into the grass as I could. There was no gravel area or signs of previous use to be seen, which either meant I was wasting my time, or had just found the best kept secret of the area. I was going to be wet wading, and my rod was already uncased with a fly on the tippet, leaving little to delay me hitting the water. So in short order I was over the small wire fence and into the woods. Instantly the cars whizzing by seemed to fade. Looking up and down the little portion of stream, I could already see small pockets of holding water that seemed like logical targets to begin with. I moved up to just below the first little plunge pool and fed out some line. Then with a small roll cast I dropped the #14 Cow Dung pattern and followed my line lifting the tip high in order to keep a somewhat tight line to my drift. I was pleasantly surprised by a Tap-Tap, tap, tap as a fish pretty much hooked itself. I stayed crouched down and played it for all it was worth. The fish obviously felt it was much larger than it was. But then again, it could very well have been the largest fish in the pool, so in
its own mind it was correct in its belief. Soon enough I was palming a 6” bejeweled Brookie. At that point for me, regardless of what else happened, this day was perfect!
      I was able to fish my way upstream as the water left the highway sounds and soon I found my way about 300yds into my adventure. That’s when I encountered the old and faded “Posted” signs. It bummed me out slightly I must admit, as I stood there looking back and trying to envision the water that had flowed downstream from my start-point? Wondering just how far I would be able to fish in the other direction, I was startled by the voice of an elderly gentleman. I jumped, turning quickly as he caught my face and chuckled a bit at my expense. There he stood, in bib-overalls a scant 20feet behind me! How had I not seen or heard him?
      “Sorry” he offered, “Didn’t mean to startle you.” He said holding his hand up. “How was the fishing?” he asked, before I could even respond.
      “Howdy” I replied with a smirk. “You scared the crap out of me.” I said and returned the chuckle. “The fishing has been pretty good. I caught a 1/2 dozen Brookies, and that’s what I was after. So I can’t complain one bit.”
      “I saw your car parked down by the highway. I own the property upstream and my house is just off to the left, he said pointing. I was shocked to see anybody fishing. I can’t remember the last time I saw anybody in here.” Then he added, “What’s even in here? You said Brookies?”
      “Yes ‘sir.” I responded. “Brook trout. Nothing real big, but in water this size it’s what one would expect to find. All about 5-7 inches long, but pretty fish.”
      “Huh? Imagine that!” he exclaimed. “I don’t fish myself. Just never found the time or the inclination for it.” Then he cocked his head in a questioning way and offered, “I have some larger pools where the creek wraps around my house. You’re welcome to fish them, if you don’t mind me watching?”
      I Smiled in acceptance and nodded to him. “That would be perfectly fine with me, and I thank you for the offer.”
      “C’mon then” he said as he turned. “The pools are right past the posters.”
      I followed behind as he led me upstream, past his posters and up to a nice little pool with an 8’ to 10’ tail-out. And on the 2nd cast hooked and landed a fat little 7” Brookie. He was amazed at the colors on the fish, and I could tell that he truly appreciated it. He asked if he could release it. I told him sure, and had him wet his hands, then handed him the fish as he put it back in the water. The fish paused for a short second, and then with 2 quick kicks was off and somewhere on the bottom of the pool. “THAT, was pretty amazing!” he declared standing and wiping his hands on the front of his jeans.
      I smiled and nodded, “Yes it is.”
      He shook my hand and thanked me for catching the fish for him, and then granted me permission to fish through his property. “It ain’t much further up, but it does give you the larger holes on the stream. My property goes to the road, where the creek bends and crosses under it.” He offered. “You’re more than welcome to fish it, as long as you stay near the stream. I don’t want the dogs going nuts, because that will just scare my wife if I’m not around.”
      “Understood,” I said in agreement. “Thank you very much. I’m glad you enjoyed the fish.”
      “Well, I don’t fish myself. But now I can certainly see why you would choose to do so. Amazing! What a beautiful fish!” And with that, he said his goodbyes and walked off in the direction of his house.
      I finished up the day right there, and cataloged the spot away as good for another trip very soon. Getting back to my truck, I was quick to stow everything, and wanted to jump off the next exit that was about 2 miles down the highway, and swing through to see just where the gentleman lived and get a better lay-of-the-land. However, driving around I was unable to find a house. I found where the creek crossed the road, which was 400-500 yards from where we would have been….but no house. There was an old lane about 100yds back down the road, that didn’t really show any signs of use. But with no other options, I decided to drive back in a bit. I had gone a short distance when I pulled up to an overgrown clearing and an old farmhouse with a wrap-around porch. The roof portion over most of the porch had fallen from its supports and hung sagging under its own weight. In the yard sat 2 shingled dog coops, both with rusted chains attached. Across the yard stood a corn crib and a partially collapsed barn well beyond repair. Walking up on the porch, I looked inside. The place was long ago left empty. The only signs of previous inhabitance being the old faded Gingham curtains left hanging in the kitchen windows. The place hadn’t been lived in for at least a generation.
      I still fish that little section, and never once have I seen another person on the water. And when I get to the old posters I stay tight to the creek, taking care not to get the dogs barking.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Windknots Day

A Proud Member!

When it rains....time to warm up the vise. And break out the Pro Staff attire.

Thanks again Howard!