Monday, October 31, 2011

On Ethics.

It was the last day I was in the high country this year, spent at a brook trout stream -- and that was a few weeks ago now. The wind was blowing hard and there was already a lacing of ice on the stream’s hem. I spent hours walking and casting into pools and runs that looked promising. And they were (or I should say, would have been). Trout were there, I could see them even without the polarized glasses I had forgotten back at the car. Not even a nibble though, and I couldn't make sense of it until I came to a large, deep pool, casting my fly at the head of it and stripped it in, creating a wake of avoidance.  A Female hovered her redd as males hovered behind her, soon aggressively moving beside…not taking the genealogical chance of waiting their turn. It was a microcosmic dramatic ballet going on in that pool, and my fly had disrupted it – like an audience member rushing the stage -- and I sat and watched for hours. I watched the ageless dance of hormones on the small creek’s bed. They all knew their place, their white-taped X marking their spot on the floor of their world, and they danced upon it until a partner came. I watched the creation of small breaths I would perhaps someday hold in my hand. I watched the dichotomous beauty of love-making with its power and submission, beauty and violence.

Fly fishing has a heritage of a fairly caught fish, and I want to be a bearer of this – even, if sometimes it is a burden and even, if it sometimes means long stretches of fishless days. I suppose my Midwestern Protestant upbringing understands and feels right at home with this, with the weight of expectation in action upon my shoulders -- that there are things you just don’t do, out of principle and also, tradition. Sometimes the answer, “it’s just not right,” needs no explanation.  

Fishing to a female on a redd, angering her to the extent that she eventually eats your fly just to get it out of her face, doesn’t fall into the category of fully fair – at least, that is, to me. John Gierach once wrote, “Casting to spawning trout is a little different than what most of us are used to. The idea isn’t to fool the fish into eating something that looks like food because he’s not too hungry at the moment. You’re trying to make him mad.” And even if the fish “eats” it of of anger, there is still a smell of un-fairness in the air. I see a difference between presenting a convincible midge pattern to a fish who then decides it’s food, and essentially force feeding through annoyance. The former, the trout has the decision to make; the latter, you leave the trout no other. 

When anything in life is forced, there inevitably comes a sense of guilt. Forcing love, forcing loyalty, forcing a fish to feed, any of these things takes away the free will of the individual and also, the satisfaction in knowing that it is true. As Ted Leeson writes, “I released the fish with no sense of achievement, but only the same mixture of shame and profound regret one sometimes feels after “winning” a protracted and particularly bitter domestic argument.” When you forcibly bend another’s will to yours-- be it of husband, wife, or trout – ruefulness comes shortly after. There is no achievement in wearing a spirit down. Absolutely none

This is one of those subjects that I’m learning fishermen (at least in the U.S.) just don’t talk about. (It’s much like – and also related to -- the pegged bead issue, which Jay Zimmerman philosophizes about much better than can I, in “Pegged Beads (And My Turmoil About Them)"). Perhaps this subject is left lay because people just don’t know it is an issue, don’t want to have to think about it because it might ruin their fun, don’t know what their stance is, or secretly they feel a little guilty. In any case, it’s hushed to bed, lulling the issue to rest with alluring songs of big fish. But here now, remember what the sirens' sweet song did to Odysseus. Beautiful women, and big fish -- are not always worth the catching.

I got started thinking about this issue when I read that a blogger friend from Scotland was rearranging his plans to go fishing for browns, and instead went fishing for grayling because he saw that the browns were starting to spawn. While at the same time, I was surrounded by hoards of fishermen planning trips towards them. While many European countries have spawning restrictions and laws, precious few American states have spawning date regulations.  Wherefore comes this schism in ethics? And since it is there, shouldn’t it be seriously thought about, debated, and considered? To date, I have only heard this whispered about. And yet I think that whenever there exists such a disagreement, one should seriously consider one's stance, making sure one is in rights according to one’s own conscience.  

I’ve done much reading and research to assure mine it is so, and in doing came across an older editorial by Karl Licis in the Denver Post. He writes specifically about the Dream Stream and the South Platte and I’d encourage you all to go read his well written piece, "Ethics: Don't Fish Spawning Areas." As Licis states, many of the areas fished hard during spawns still have a decent population (of browns, and the rainbows are stocked anyway), combating the belief that catching spawning fish hurts their numbers and success rate. However, I cannot help but think of the principle about stress on an organism – that, stress on a body disrupts its function, causing ruptures in mental ability, digestion, reproduction, etc. And who is to tell what their numbers would be like were they not stressed during their spawn.  

In fact, there are several scholarly articles relating to stress and its impact on spawning trout. One, in the in the journal Biology of Reproduction, “Stress Reduces the Quality of Gametes Produced by Rainbow Trout” (Campbell, Pottinger, and Sumpter), states that such stress “resulted in a significant delay in ovulation and reduced egg size in females, significantly lower sperm counts in males, and, perhaps most importantly, significantly lower survival rates for progeny from stressed fish compared to progeny from unstressed control fish.” Now, are trout stressed when under normal conditions they are caught? Of course they are, but when done carefully and correctly, no harm is done to them nor their eventual offspring. Catching large spawning females comes at cost to them, their offspring, and thus in the long run, yourself. Abstaining from fishing spawning areas for a period of time, may indeed make for healthier fisheries. 

All of this writing (and perhaps rambling) of mine is not to convince you, reader, of anything -- the area is grey, not gospel; but rather to urge you to, if not done so already, figure out exactly what the issue is, where your stance on it is, and even moreso, if it has legs strong enough with which to carry you.  And I will consider this well written if only we can all just step aside our programmed instant gratification selves even if but for a moment, to assess the reaches of our decisions, whatever they end up being.

So after much thinking, reading, and research, I sat on that high country stream bank a few weeks ago and I made my decision: I will not cast to spawning fish.

And then I went home, glad for once to have not brought a single fish to my hand.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

In the Impressionist Wing.

It's not often that I go down from my mountains -- down far enough to see the whole picture. I skirt the foothills just enough to go to work, but otherwise stay tucked into my canyon, or go further up...and further in. Each time I go down though, I notice I am fitting in less, and less.

I suppose it's very much akin to the mountain people of generations past -- the explorers, mountain men, trappers, miners...the ones who journeyed high to get what their natures couldn't get them below -- in that each time they returned to the cities, they found themselves farther and farther removed. I've seen this happening in me. Once you go, once you take that step, you can’t come back unchanged -- experiences are tattoos on the soul of which you can never truly be rid. I guess I'm carrying on the legacy. I’ve got the ink. It's not so much that it's noticeable on the outside, except for on the rainy-plains days when I drive down and out with feet of snow on the roof of my car and people in the city wonder, where the heck did she come from? Rather, it's inside. 

Altitude messes with your state of mind and with your blood. It marks you. A doctor recently asked me at what altitude I lived, because if I wasn’t living at over 7,000 ft., there would be something wrong. My red blood cell count was high for Denver, but to be expected in the mountains. There’s something extremely visceral about that – about being impacted by your environment to such an extent that doctors and their microscopes know exactly where you live, and can guess what kind of person you are, just from a drop of your blood. It makes me feel that I actually have the mountains in me. 

The lay of this land makes you feel removed, isolated, but yet very much protected -- like a womb. And like a child in a crib, my home gets as close to the canyon's sides as it can. To replicate the pressure, and remember the enveloping warmth. Sure, there are practical reasons why the canyon houses are built nestled up on the sides -- roads and floods, for example -- but the impractical is that she is nourishing and growing her own, attached to her insides, and I much prefer that reason.  

Yet still, I am removed. No TV. No phone. No expansive view, even. I cannot see the sun rise, nor set. But still I know it is there and that it does. My home beds on the canyon’s sides and the view out my windows is that, the side of a mountain. Oh yes, there are the canyon houses with grand views, but those are inhabited by people who only want to see and be seen, and who pay inordinate sums for heating and insurance. Some I suppose, would find my view suffocating, although I find it much more to my liking than breathing down my neighbors neck and having the sides of their house for my view. Plus then, I would need curtains...and I cannot live with curtains. So to some, this small, viewless home with little in the way of modern amenities may sound like a lovely vacation, but surely not for every day use -- dress-down clothes; yet this is my place, my dot on the map, the point to which I’m calibrated to go back to every night -- and like a homing pigeon, I do.

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grand-Jatte, by Georges Seurat.  
My existence emanates from this dot, rooting me to the earth so I don’t fly or float away on life. That dot is sometimes overwhelming in its nearness. John Gierach wrote that these everyday things are just fields of “distinct dots up close.” Like pointillism -- sometimes, you have to step away to see the picture, to get the meaning of it all.

And so last week, I found myself driving I-225 south, looking west, seeing the mountains as a range  – stepping back across the art museum room, letting my eyes adjust. I used to see them every day like this. But now as part of them, I lose sight -- those closest to us elude us, Maclean once wrote. I live with and in them, and yet the entirety of their being escapes me, daily. 

Coherent, and even beautiful scenes from a distance, are often chaos up close. They've been organized, by someone, but yet often it seems as if they've been done so purposely to confuse -- or maybe, to force us to step back, think, and re-evaluate what the heck we're doing and what exactly is going on. It makes me think about all the 14,000 ft. peaks I've climbed, with all their false summits. Walking up the mountain's side, you can't see its top...and then, when you think you do, you reach it and also reach the stomach-sinking realization that it is false. The mountain is toying with you, pilgrim, playing with your mind -- but all the while it's leading you on. You can't turn back now, because there is something, waiting, still ahead -- and even if it is only another false summit, still, it is part of the picture.....you just can't see it yet. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What You Don't Plan For, Won't Happen.

"It's 20 degrees" Larry said, sipping milked-coffee as he looked at the truck's electronic temperature reading. A statement of craziness, right there. 20 degrees, and going fishing. Sure thing. We were each bundled, yet also admitted to not wearing long-john’s. Perhaps this is a fisherman’s forced harbinger for a warm day. What you don’t plan for, won’t happen, right? Or something like that. Or, something completely to the opposite.

I came to find myself sitting in a large white truck –reminiscent of Iowa days -- driving south through Trumbull on a Monday morning, upon a fishing invitation from Larry Snyder, of Fly Fishing Crazy. Now, fishing invitations are sort of like paddle-balls -- most times, the ball doesn’t get very far. Work, geography, time -- Life, just gets in the way, and instead of living it, often times if feels as if it is living you, using you, just because it needs another tap on the board. But Larry is a prompt sort of fellow who has learned that if you don’t do something today, you might not get a tomorrow (or else, he is a horrible paddle-ball player, always breaking the string) --he had emailed me a smattering of dates within days – and we both made life get out of the way, if for only about 10 hours.

Thanks Larry, for a thoroughly enjoyable day!
The day did warm-up, unlike those in mid-January when the high is at 6 a.m. and falls from there, and before 10:00 we were heading back to the truck to take off fleece jackets, and stocking hats, and fingerless rag-wool gloves before heading back to the lakes to continue telling stories while casting to Donaldson Steelhead who jumped in the air like dolphins off the coast. But then came late-afternoon winds moving in a front for the next day’s storm – readying, like unpacking the flannel sheets.  

So, we called it. Moved out of preparation’s way. And returning to the truck to pack down, we both noticed how differently our rods were rigged -- yet throughout the day, both of us were catching fish. Larry opened his fly box to put away his Thingamajig and Buckskin Nymph, and I opened mine, catching a ferruled leech and soft-hackle spider as I nipped them off and they fell. “It’s really all in how much confidence you have in your fly,” Larry said.

Right? Right.

You know how it goes -- you have your fly, your go-to, the one you feel most comfortable with and know always catches you fish -- and then someone asks “what’re they bitin’ on?” You tell them, and show them the fly, and they pick one out of their box (or something nearing close-to) to give it a go. But perhaps when they try it, the fish aren’t biting. The fly gets blamed. Logically then, they switch back to their fly, about which someone in the near future will them ask about. And the same thing will happen again, in reverse. We all have our fly -- the one we’ve designed, or like to tie, or caught our first fish on; and so, as Ted Leeson wrote, these flies are fished better and more often, increasing our confidence in them, “and so on in the thoroughly ordinary type of cycle where causes and effects slip in and out of one another.” What makes the fly work? The design, or the amount of faith with which it’s cast out.

Or is it, in the end, just one of those things in that ordinary cycle, slipping in and out of understanding and place.   

Friday, October 21, 2011

Behind Closed Doors: or, A One-Fish Supper for Two.

I knew it would come – someday -- I would see with my own eyes what I knew was going on behind closed doors, when I wasn't around. I suppose it must be what parents feel like when their teenagers begin to date -- to "see" people. I didn't date in high school -- thus, didn't cause my parents this grief. Yet I can imagine it's still there when the child is in her twenties and has a house of her own.

Since June, I've lived in a small space adjoining blissful ignorance – although it’s really neither of the two because I've never been that blissful a person, and I know full well what’s happening – but still I've stuck my head in the sand, admiring the shiny grains and granules, and pretending not to feel the heat on my back.

The door has been opened up a crack, a time or two -- I’ve seen other men there next to her. She makes them work hard….for nothing. But she likes me…she has from the first. I took hours with her -- learning her depths and shallows, where she habitates her secrets, what she’ll tell, and what she won’t. I know her. When she forgets, she even tells me some secrets twice. I don’t correct her though. I guard them. I keep her trust.

And so it goes that during my last visit to her, I saw what I didn’t want to – what I didn’t want to admit was happening. One of her secrets, told. One of her stories, ended.

Yes, all this waxing over a little trout pond. I know. But it’s a little trout pond I love -- all full of browns. She’s never easy, and while I’ve seen some others try – with large lures and 5 gallon orange Home Depot buckets – I’ve never seen one succeed. That is, until now.

Here I should state that I’m not against the killing and eating of fish -- I do it myself from time to time, but bucketfuls of browns from a small pond wafts a nauseous reek. I knew it was happening….it had to be. But I didn't want to see it.

That afternoon I stood, admiring the autumn day and how the wind had died down and how I could see the browns circle and take my size 24 dry fly, two men came walking up behind me. I had seen them coming – their olive drab external frame Jansport packs had spinning rods and shot-guns strapped to the sides. Instinctively, I didn’t like them but for the sole reason they were breaking my silence.

Animals are the greatest judges of a person’s character. I don’t write that as my thoughts on the matter. I write that as the truth. And as the men got closer, Banjo started to growl. He has never growled at anyone before like this, and so my hackles rose with his.

“Hey lady….that dog safe?”

“Well….yeah…usually.”

I mumbled, somewhat taken aback by Banjo’s behavior, and preoccupied by trying to manage a strike at my dry.

I missed.

Then the wind started blowing again.

The men rigged and plopped – both bodies and bobbers – while I kept catching, and releasing. One of the men took off with his shotgun, and one stayed put…"to catch supper,” or so he was instructed to do. After some time, I heard a yell and a splash and saw his pole bend. I stared at him from across the pond – like a car accident, or fire, or other scene of misery...I couldn’t look away. I could see the lure in the brown’s mouth from across the way, probably 1/3 the size of it, and it was a decent sized fish. He dug out some pliers and removed the lure. I waited. I watched. He watched me back. Then he bent down, and gently released the trout back into the water.

I breathed again.

But minutes later, his buddy came back. “Catch anything?”

“Only one….but it was too small to keep.”

Sure. I smiled. Too small -- or, my stare was as convicting as a Baptist grandmother’s -- and I do have experience with those.

Another hour passed, and then it happened again. Same man, different trout, smaller than the first.

“Kill it!” the man’s friend yelled, still shouldering the shot gun.

The man paused and looked at me; then, turned his back.

Soon after that I left, not wanting to see another. I couldn’t plug my ears and sing row-row-row-your boat anymore, ignoring the soft sounds coming from the other room. I’d seen with my own eyes. And I walked the dirt path home quietly -- somberly -- knowing in detail what goes on behind closed doors…..wishing I didn’t.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The High Lake Larry.

Hook: Skalka Scud/Czech Nymph #14.
Thread: Blue 6/0 UNI-thread.
                  Brown 6/0 UNI-thread.

Wire: UTC Ultra Wire, two strands, 
             one gun metal blue and one silver.
Dubbing: Poul Jorgensen, SLF, electric blue.
Hackle: Brahma hen saddle hackle, brown.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Northern Pike & Saving Grace.

“Don’t forget your headlamp!”

“Dog got it.” Jay said as he entered the living room, holding up the mauled device.

We looked at Banjo. He opened one eye. What?

Arriving at the pike lake later than we wanted, but earlier than I expected, we still beat the sun there and walked to the east side of the lake in darkness. Come to think of it, I never did turn on my headlamp. Through cattails, we ended up waist-deep in water that reminded me of an onyx headstone -- rough on the sides, but with a glossy finish. The wind grained light through the stone lake, and its surface looked substantive enough to stand upon. But it wasn’t. I was still standing in water, my waders were leaking, and I was cold. It all looked beautiful though, so I didn’t mind.

Then the sun rose with the kind of light that warms inside but does nothing to warm your skin. It’s beginning winter light. And after coloring the sky rogue -- like a little girl putting on her mother’s make-up, who soon realizes she looks ridiculous and that her mother is calling her -- she wipes it all off after only minutes. Today wasn’t a day for being pretty.

“If we’re going to catch anything, it’s going to be in the next 20 minutes.” Jay said, breaking me out of my thoughts with a wild look in his eye as a splash and torpedo sent wakes out from the reeds. “We jumped a pike.” Just like that. It sounded awfully back-alley to me.

And so we kept on casting -- for the next 20 minutes. And then 50. And then soon enough hundreds of minutes that turned into hours. We’d slunk down the best stretch of habitat and hadn’t caught anything except my one baby-bass. The day’s light was making our prospects dim.

“I need food,” Jay assessed. “Want to head back to the truck for snacks?”
 
“Sure.”

Because even when you’re not hungry, food has a marvelous way of making you feel like things will get better. It’s some inherency from our forbears, I’m sure. That at the very least, if you have food, you can go on living – and that, holds the possibility of things getting better. Then again, it also holds the possibility that they won’t. Granola and bananas made pike seem pretty possible though and I was optimistic about the outlook. I said so as I threw away my banana peel and walked back to the truck.

Jay looked at me tiredly, his Nittany lion stocking hat sat saltily askew, resting on top of his ears. He had predicted we were going to have to work for these fish today. Jinxed us, maybe.“Well I'm no optimist, but I'm going to go out there and fish as hard as I can.”

And I thought, as we waded back through the cattails and into the lake, that it's like the idea of being saved by grace. You don't have to work for it, and so you expect that it'll cover you...no matter what you do. But what happens if in fact, it doesn't. You question. And so you live every day, working -- and casting -- hard. Optimism and positive thoughts won’t get you fish, anymore than the feathered wings you made when you were eight-years-old got you flight. And while grace is hard to figure out – impossible, maybe – I still believe it’s there, although it doesn’t come easy, and I’m left with knotted shoulder muscles and leaky waders all the same.

Yet I’m also left with the option to fish and live as hard as I possibly can – wearing myself down and out in the process. And sometimes, that's what it's all about in the end, being worn down to a place where you appreciate the little things.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Altitude Sickness.

I used to get sick in the mountains when I was a kid. There are horribly embarrassing fainting episodes at the Trail Ridge Road Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park and at the top of Pikes Peak, and another involving spewing car-tripping snacks all over a gas station floor near Vail. Never made it to that bathroom. Really, it's surprising my parents took me along on any vacations at all.

But now, I start to feel sick when I'm down in the flat lands. I love my thin air, and early season snows, and special "high altitude" directions on recipes...even though I never follow them. I feel as I imagine fish do, out of water, when I’m below 7,000 ft.

The backcountry season is soon to close, and I feel its pressure as I try to squeeze a few more trips through the door.  This winter, I’ll forget exactly what it feels like to walk through an alpine meadow of wildflowers, to stand at 11,000 ft. and cast out into a glacial fed lake, to hear thunder echo through a cirque, and to be reminded that nature really doesn't care if she kills me or not -- and somehow I find that reminder necessary to living. So come late June, I’ll head back up. To be reminded. To go on living.

Although, that’s eight months gestation yet -- the exact same as a moose’s…and no, I’m not sure how that relates other than being interesting – and I’m sitting here tonight depressed -- altitude is my high...the only one I get. I’m thinking about the alpine lakes and streams I visited. Noting which ones I want to check back on next year, and jotting new names down. Closest thing to an address book I’ve ever had.

Snow has already flown. The door is shut -- past curfew, but there's always the slim chance that the-parents-that-be might have forgotten to lock the door.  So I'll give it a tug anyhow...just in case I can, after all, get in.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Miss Sue Says.

aspen peekaboo
like toddlers at storytime
tuesday morning
glimpsing faces and yellow
laughing spaces between
chubby fingers
thinning leaves
falling
too quickly
to catch

Monday, October 10, 2011

What I Want to Be.

A fisherman. Not a fisherwoman. Not a fisherperson. Perhaps I'm just not PC-enough (which is most likely the case).

I realize that many women will loathe me writing this. Many women backed the suffrage movement until they realized what it meant. Until they realized that it meant they would be treated as equals. That they would have to work out of the home. Have to think about careers. They might have to be single their entire life and have to earn a living for themselves. They would have to pull out their own chair at dinner and would have to open the door themselves. Yet, they could also vote and decide and drink and smoke and wear pants. And, they could think for themselves. Thank God, we could finally think for ourselves.....out loud.

I know full well what this belief of mine means, and what writing this means. It means that as a woman in a male-dominated world I have to be as good as, no --- better than --- most of the men. That is, if I want to be taken seriously. And I do. And I will be. I'm not just a pair of breasts in waders. I'm no trophy, nor are my fish.

I've been here before, in the minority. I've been the only girl in the show ring holding up a 1,600 lbs. steer's head. They didn't make women-specific cattle for me. And I had to train my steers better as a result. Less muscle = more finesse. I've been the only woman in an entire conservatory classical guitar department. The only woman on stage, and they didn't play any slower for me. I had to keep up. And I did. During the first week at the conservatory a classmate said, after hearing me play, "well, you're good for a girl." I cringed. I refused to be good for a girl. By the end of the year I was better than him. And I refused to be "good" because I wore short skirts and low cut tops. I wasn't going to sell out my sex. I won cattle shows and I was a damn fine guitarist. I was good. And not just for a girl. Did I have to prove myself though? Of course.

And now in yet another male dominated world -- fly fishing -- with which I've fallen in love, I know I need to do the same. Segregating the sexes is not any way to make the field more diverse. The Bitch Creeks and Page 6 Chicks do nothing to make women become interested in or feel more comfortable fitting into this sport.

By placement, it's shown who the real fishermen are. And it's been fitting, for the most part. Women have written woman to woman, not flyfisher to flyfisher. My sex still needs to prove itself. Women have done it to themselves. We've haven't risen to the standard of fishermen. We’ve risen to the standard of fisherwomen. And while I know it isn’t PC to say, it’s different than that of being a fisherman. The standard is lower whether people will admit it or not, and even if the title persists, the expectation needs to change.

My kind of feminism isn't sexualized. I'm a woman and I think that's fairly obvious. I don't need to have a pink rod or waders that hug my hips. And I don't need to be overly tough and bitchy to make my point. My kind of feminism, my way of being a woman, means that I will cast and tie and fish as well as men. Not out of spite, or to impress, but out of respect. For you -- and, for myself. I want to fish with you – not against or behind.

I will be the first to admit that there are some very big physical differences between men and women. Some very big strength differences. We aren't the same and I am not one of those women who think that we are. However, not being the same doesn't mean we can't do the same things; only, in different ways.

My fishing partner, a man, told me the other day that I’m a good fisherman. I don’t feel good yet, but I hope to be. Someday. A good fisherman. That, is what I want to be. And that, is what women need to be.

So there. I said it. Out loud.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Parachute Adams and Boulders; or, How We Found Our Bliss.

It's early morning -- that pitch black kind of early. Later, my sister Erica will ask me what the heck I was doing, being up at that hour on a weekend -- texting her at that hour on a weekend. Are you crazy? Funny thing is though, while my body despises early rises on workdays, on days off there's a different connotation to those words -- early rises -- and that, gets me out of bed.

Coffee spills on my open map, making fingerling trails on my keyboard while I look at a photo glowing internet blue on Mountain Project. That's it -- the offshoot climber path which will find me Erica in the boulders, like a needle in a haystack.

Banjo loads himself into the car. He's getting impatient now. I grab my coffee. And we go...to find Erica.

But first, to find trout. High up. Step after step feels good -- I need to walk and talk to myself. There's an eerie lack of other people on the trail, and I'm more than fine with this. I take more steps. Alpine sage roasts in the sun, and many aspen leaves have already fallen, filling my nostrils with fermentation that's almost off-putting, but not quite. The smell of death without the sting.

Finally I've gone high enough, and find the high lake waiting -- just for me -- there's not another soul in sight. Nestled down in a bowl of willows, nature has built her the opposite of a moat -- surely, in protection of something. Indeed, anything surrounded in such a way must have something worth the getting.  So I start down from the trail, soon over my head in the willows. Banjo let's me go first, pretending to be a gentleman, and follows close at my heels...on them sometimes.

After navigating the moat and finally reaching the bank, I discover the somethings -- trout, cutthroats, cruising along the bank -- like small-town highschoolers on Main St. after school. Both usually eating -- Parachute Adams or Big Macs -- this, of course, is entirely species dependent.


The 10% chance of afternoon thunderstorms comes early, on the dot at noon, and in hail form to boot. So I start heading down to find that internet-blue-glowing trail in person, and the needle in the haystack, my sister. I'm excited, and Banjo is too. It's as if he senses Erica will give him cheese puffs or something.

Although she's younger by 3 years, I look up to her -- both literally and figuratively. She may not know it, but I've learned a lot from her in the past few years; mainly, that I can't live my life for anyone else, and I shouldn't even try. She lives with a delightful abandon, and has found her bliss. Bouldering. And just like her horsemanship, musicianship, and understanding of physics and retina-frying lasers, she's good at her bliss. Really good. 

I find her chalky handed, and watch her strategize the route and prepare-- brushing, chalking, and ticking. It strikes me as so very similar to my fly fishing, her bouldering -- it isn't just climbing up a rock, just as fly fishing isn't just casting out a bobber from a lawn chair -- and there's a mind game to both.

Now she's ready...and now she climbs...


But soon the hail and rain start again, and we sit in a cave waiting it out, talking and snacking and sharing said snacks with Banjo. When it’s time to start hiking out, I walk away smiling. Happy. Happy because I love my sister, and because I know that we’ve both found our bliss and that we’re living it – with delightful abandon. And I smile in thanks, knowing that I can always find her somewhere, here amongst the boulders.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Goodbyes.





















The family drives a day, arriving in time
for supper around the old butcher’s table with a view
of fallings, failings, and other things that bind
generations together; tendons of tradition,
sometimes strained, or pulled and sore;
but after stretching, they’re stronger for this
new growth in autumn, over dead leaves
on Sunday afternoon goodbyes; it’s tradition,
they always wave at the end of the driveway,
and then the bend in the road’s herding lines,
like a sheepdog’s stare, separating the flock into lives
standing still, and lives driving to pastures, greener
pastures, all the way home and back again.  

Monday, October 3, 2011

Rocky Mountain Fishing Frenzy.


Kyle Perkins (Compleat Thought), Moi, Andy Suttoff (AJSutts Blog), Sean Sanders (Up The Poudre), Gary Thompson (Silk Lines & Paper Hulls), Jen Kugler (Fly Fishilicious), David Goodrich (Back Country Fish Nerd), Larry Snyder (Fly Fish Crazy), and Emily Blankenship (The River Damsel)  

I have an experiential belief that people, animals, and even things, live up to their names -- except streams, it seems...fishermen like to keep these things secret, and purposely name them to keep them so (Dry or Bitch Creek, anyone?). A horse named Stormy, a bull named Satan, a cat named Scratch, or a girl named Jezebel. Christening is a serious business. And The Frenzy lived up to its name. So many bodies of water with so little time gets one to feeling -- well...frenzied. In a good way. 

Saturday morning I got to fish Boulder Creek with Emily, The River Damsel. There is a story here, but it is hers to tell...

My story? It's simple. This was good. This was fun. I hope there will be another one.