Preceding the release of "Pulp Fly: Volume Three" coming soon in early December, the Powers That Be masterminded to produce audio of my contribution to the forthcoming collection. Now freely available for download on the Pulp Fly website. Hope you all enjoy! And many thanks to Michael Gracie and Bruce Smithhammerfor their organization, patient editing, and detailed work.
Runoff is in full swing here on Colorado’s Front Range. Like
an old woman, the mountains slowly lose their white until only wisps are left
straggling down. Winter’s tendrils grasping in cirques and north faces long
Sometimes…they never leave.
Snowpack now makes small streams whitewater roar and
reservoirs slowly fill back up again, after last year’s dismal low. The
pounding snows of May came through at the end, like any good play in a game -- winter’s
trump upon trump. Complete with cheering on my part. And any angler who did
not, should have their license revoked, that’s what I say.
The benefit of being a multi-species angler is evident at
this time of year: I can still find good
fishing. Water levels on the mudflats are higher and murkier than they have
been -- and the buoy line on the best of the beaches has been placed, holding
through the summer season to protect shoreline bird breeding habitat. But there
are carp – and white bass, crappie, and smallmouth bass – cruising and willing
(with enough convincing -- like fathers and borrowing the car when you're 16), to take a fly.
While tailwater anglers must deal with
each other and city-pond-fishers the homeless…reservoir carpers combat
pelicans, bloated prairie dogs, and protective large-homed old women yelling
out their windows should you get too close.
We waded far and deep, Jay, Ivan and I -- long rounds that
would leave us all dehydrated and seeing phantoms – like walking through woods
as night falls, with an active imagination. You
can see almost anything. But that comes with the territory, I guess: moving
water and blinding sun. Focusing on a single point while the world moves around
you, keeps you steady. That’s why driving if you get carsick works.
So now, you just have to focus on the task at hand – that large shadow
swiftly moving away – and catch up.
After an early spring morning (in both month and hour) of pike fishing with Ivan Orsic, Sean Hudson, Jay Zimmerman, and Russell Schnitzer, I was very pleased to be
able work on an essay/photo collaboration with Russ. You can find the piece, “Among the Dinosaurs,”
published in the "Waterlines" department in the current issue (July/August 2013) of AmericanAngler.
Living in two worlds makes you anxious, like multiple
personalities will put you on meds (or wine, I suppose, lots of wine).And when the daffodils have started blooming
in the plains off the Front Range, there is still a thick covering of snow in
my canyon, just below 8,000 ft. I see them as I walk to work through Boulder’s
University Hill, peeps of yellow and small purple crocus, bulbs of memory, year
The trout fishing I love won’t open for a few months yet, I
don’t go to tailwaters or large rivers that keep moving through the year, with
unrelenting currents of people and bugs. No, my trout are small. And still under
snow; just like the cabin. So come spring, I start itching for warmwater – for
carp and bass and the odd crappie or two.
On a day when Jay and I both had nasty headcolds but the sun
was shining and snow was melting in clods off the roof, puddling loudly in the
stainless steel dog food dish out the back door, we couldn’t stay in. Call it
cabin fever or shack nasties, or poor judgment from sinus pressure.
We head to lower ground. To spring, and warm(er) temps.
And halfway down the canyon the speech begins, like clockwork – the alarm set only on fishing
days -- when we cross under the railroad bridge and there is still snow. Jay
pounds the steering wheel, “We’re jumping the gun a bit….what the hell was I
thinking?” he chides. We’re going to have
to work hard for these fish. That’s always in The Speech somewhere, working hard – and that the conditions won’t be optimal. They never are. Like
they never are for hanging out a load to dry in the mountains. It always rains. I’ve come to expect it.
And I know it’s never easy, it can’t be, but I wonder if we
don’t like making it more so --- like young women and boyfriends….they like the drama. And just like
fishermen, they hash and re-hash it – waffle maker for Valentines Day 1998, or
the Blue Winged Olives on the Arkansas, Mothers Day, 2004. They boil down to
the same thing at a simmer.
I smile at the familiarity of it all, looking out my window
at the elk, muzzling away snow from the new green shoots of fieldgrass, leaving
the flats pocked like the moon.The Speech
means the season has started, and it’s been a long winter. Not in measurable
snow so much as measurable time, and words piled up like cordwood: reversal of
the decreasing pile out by the shed, with files and folders growing and being
named. Mine, with increasingly incoherent silliness. Imagine the delusions of
nearing the end of a long race.
It has been a long winter in a chore done. And chores feel
especially satisfying when you’ve had to get a little dirty in the process.
“The water’ll be cold,” Jay breaks in, predicting, “but
we’ll have a decent chance for crappie and yellow perch….they’re active early.”
The warnings continue down highway 93 -- the game plan – for
you see, we’re always on a mission. And there are always old army hand signals
involved, too. I’m getting better at understanding them – and if not what they
mean, then what I should do as a result.
“There might be some bass in close, too…they move in before
staging to spawn.”
I nod. Prepared.
Perhaps I should be taking notes.
A calm surface often belies interior movement – but just
like a human, it’s findable when you know where to look, when you know the
ticks and troughs. That’s one of the addictions to stillwater, you just never know; and that’s the fly
fisher’s eternal cry, isn’t it, one last
cast, because you have to see how it all turns out – a hard thing, usually,
to know the last page without The Brothers Grimm’s convenient The Ends. We depend upon stories, long after they don’t get read to us
at bedtime anymore.
But that’s why we keep going. To get to the page where it’s
She looks much the same after seven months, the gestation of
a black bear. Although it feels like I’m visiting a sick friend, and am unsure
whether she’ll remember me or not. Whether she’ll babble on about Phillip (who
I apparently know) or peas in tea. Or how cilantro tastes like soap and that
there’s an alien in the knotty pine.
Jay sticks a fist in the water as soon as we reach the bank,
cool, but not too cold. Code for possibilities. And so we split up,
scouting the perimeter, making long casts out deep with heavy flies. Banjo runs
back and forth between us, like a calf released from Malachi’s proverbial
stall. Pure joy.
And sometimes, even when conditions aren’t optimal: even
when you’ve jumped the gun a bit, or even when the wind is hauling ass like it’s
nine and a t-ball coach is yelling “hustle,” (and you do, because you want to
round the bases to get to that generic-Coke filled cooler). Things still work
out okay. Better than, really, because you weren’t expecting it.
Just as I wasn’t expecting the largemouths that latched on
and fought hard, even still pale from lack of sun. Just like me. But that will
change; I’ll redden and peel and they’ll darken and stripe.
And so it turns out, the pond, she’s very healthy indeed. Sane
-- and remembers us well.
On the walk out, a lone meadowlark sits on a barbed wire
fence; separated from its flock of winter, calling for the season to begin.