Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Week 16 Options-choice #2

A late night of diligent fly tying turned over into a notably early morning. We quickly ate some breakfast, which inevitably jumps my stomach into a state of frenzy, especially in the early morning, and we started the drive along the bumpy dirt road out of camp toward the stream, counting well over thirty rabbits along the way. The sun had warmed the air enough to dry the morning mist, and the seeds of thousands of dandelions were floating around on the breeze. My stomach finally began to settle once we pulled into town and neared the bridge. A good fishing stream will take my mind off almost anything, and I knew the stream was within casting distance. The bridge looked to be engulfed in countless thousands of dandelion seeds all blowing downstream with the breeze.

Crossing the bridge proved to be another awakening, of its own kind. These were no dandelion seeds; they were thousands of caddis flies all pouring off the water, being caught by the wind or floating downstream, riding on the current. Just upstream of the small bridge a sharp bank dropped into the water and the downstream side of a large boulder marked the beginning of a deep pocket for fish to hold in well out of the current and well out of sight. The morning fog had cleared out of my head, and my fish-vision was in high-gear. I knew at least one fish would be holding there but I couldn’t spot them unless they moved.

Even if they did move, the cast would have to come from downstream, and pass under the little bridge. The thick trees overhead and lining the streamside below would make the cast near to impossible. We talked it over while watching the caddis hatch for a few minutes, and after seeing other big fish rising up and down the stream, we decided to try our luck elsewhere.

Great fish were brought to hand throughout the day, and most fish took dry fly caddis imitations of various designs. Some of the successful patterns were spun during the previous night of stamina-testing fly tying, making the loss of sleep well worth it. And the discovery of unfamiliar pockets of water that produced some of the days best fishing kept our adrenaline pumping, and spirits high. The caddis hatch slowed throughout the day and the rising fish followed suit, but as caddis hatches tend to come and go, we were sticking around in anticipation of seeing another strong emergence.

That evening, a few hours before sundown, we were wading our way upstream with no particular place in mind when we came to a great stretch of water which is usually heavily fished on weekends and holidays, and with good reason. This stretch offers some of the best sight fishing on the entire stream, and watching the fish moving in the current, and then rising from the sandy bottom to take a dry fly can only be described as fabulous. We had stuck to our plan to fish this stream on a weekday, and the entire length of this smooth, flowing water was entirely vacant as a result.

One side of the stream dropped off a sheer bank of stone into about four feet of water. The other side was the class of water that surreal fly fishing dreams are made of; the kind that you consistently daydream about for weeks afterward. If you happen to have those you know what I mean.

A short section of boulder filled pocket water dropped into three or four feet of water, depending if the rains had come recently. Sunken logs that looked to be the length of telephone poles, and nearly as straight but bigger in circumference, flanked the central vein of current. The inner side of the logs marked the flat streambed of light colored sand that traversed the stream all the way to the sheer stone bank on the other side. And with the brightness of the sand as a backdrop, their distinct silver-gray figures came clear.

We moved slowly, as to not stand out amongst the lush green streamside vegetation. One of the larger boulders became our seat for a few minutes as we tied on new flies and watched them moving in and out of the current to grab passing insects. The caddis hatch had started again, and the fish responded with enthusiastic rises to grab the little bugs before they flew free of the water’s grip and disappeared into the small birch trees lining the stream. Our looping lines whisked through the air, passing back and forth over the sleek water, as the fish broke its polished appearance again and again.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Week 15: More Juxtaposition...deuce

The face of the water, in time, became a wonderful book - a book which told its mind to me without reserve, delivering its most cherished secrets as clearly as if it uttered them with a voice. And it was not a book to be read once and thrown aside, for it had a new story to tell every day.

The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope.

The reel sang its high, screeching obligato, on and on, and then this marvellous silver and rose beauty was breaching clear of the water once, twice, three times, and I could see the plastic of the spool showing through

Land a good trout or bass, hold it for a second on the wet skin of your hand, and you have, in one compact bundle, as beautiful and bewildering a combination of opposites as it's possible to imagine; strength and litheness, fragility and toughness, intelligence and obtuseness, fastidiousness and voraciousness, boldness and stealth

the fisherman fishes. It is at once an act of humility and a small rebellion. And it is something more. To him his fishing is an island of reality in a world of dreams and shadow

His love of streams, of fishing, seemed so complete and pure and mysterious. He knew something I didn't... I wanted to learn how to find fish, how to tell a good stream from a bad one, how not to frighten trout in the water, what fly to use. I wanted to experience that, too, to love something so utterly you assumed everyone else was as fascinated with it as you.

All of us search for that perfect trout stream. Those who find it treasure it the rest of their lives. Those who don't, keep on searching.

During my addled career as a trout fisherman I have gone on a lot of wild-goose chases, and I ruefully expect to go on a lot more before I hang up my waders

After all these years, I still feel like a boy when I'm on a stream

All good fishermen stay young until they die, for fishing is the only dream of youth that doth not grow stale with age.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Week 15: More Juxtaposition

To go fishing is the chance to wash one's soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of men - for all men are equal before fish.

For the supreme test of a fisherman is not how many fish he has caught, not even how he has caught them, but what he has caught when he has caught no fish.

Only an extraordinary person would purposely risk being outsmarted by a creature often less than twelve inches long, over and over again.

It has always been my private conviction that any man who pits his intelligence against a fish and loses has it coming.

There he stands, draped in more equipment than a telephone lineman, trying to outwit an organism with a brain no bigger than a breadcrumb, and getting licked in the process.

I look into... my fly box, and think about all the elements I should consider in choosing the perfect fly: water temperature, what stage of development the bugs are in, what the fish are eating right now. Then I remember what a guide told me: 'Ninety percent of what a trout eats is brown and fuzzy and about five-eighths of an inch long.

I've always been of two minds about fly-fishing. On the one hand, here's a guy standing in cold water up to his liver throwing the world's most expensive clothesline at trees. A full two-thirds of his time is spent untangling stuff, which he could be doing in the comfort of his own home with old shoelaces, if he wanted. The whole business costs like sin and requires heavier clothing. Furthermore, it's conducted in the middle of black fly season. Cast and swat. Cast and swat. fly-fishing may be a sport invented by insects with fly fishermen as bait. And what does the truly sophisticated dry-fly fisherman do when he finally bags a fish? He lets the fool thing go and eats baloney sandwiches instead. On the other hand, I wouldn't be completely happy doing any other kind of fishing.

I still don't know why I fish or why other men fish, except we like it and it makes us think and feel.

I think I fish, in part, because it's an anti-social, bohemian business that, when gone about properly, puts you forever outside the mainstream culture without actually landing you in an institution

The fisherman has a harmless, preoccupied look; he is a kind of vagrant, that nothing fears. He blends himself with the trees and the shadows. All his approaches are gentle and indirect. He times himself to the meandering, soliloquizing stream; he addresses himself to it as a lover to his mistress; he woos it and stays with it till he knows its hidden secrets. Where it deepens his purpose deepens; where it is shallow he is indifferent. He knows how to interpret its every glance and dimple; its beauty haunts him for days.

And finally, I fish not because I regard fishing as being terribly important, but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant, and not nearly so much fun.

Week 14. Prompts, theme, lecture all rolled into one untidy package.... deuce

Fishing journals are very personal items. I know, fishing journal? Well yes, especially as fly fishing is concerned. What you write in yours is your own business, and more often than not, it will begin as something fun in a disconnected, unconcerned sort of way. Eventually it will grow into something strongly connected to memories of sweaty, muddy hikes into beaver bogs, and frigid days of blowing rain. Fly fishing can be quite technical, and all those little nuts and bolts of detail start to add up in the end. The key to unlocking day after day of amazing fly fishing is contained in an obscure little book just bubbling over with minutiae like water temperatures, season, hatches, cloud cover or lack thereof, and the flies used to make the big boys roll up for a sip.

State biologists love journal keepers, especially those that volunteer their hard earned information into the hands of the state. Of course, they use the figures for data collecting purposes to aid their stocking efforts. But it doesn’t take much of a stretch to imagine that more than one highly confidential individual has access to these records, and just how often he/she decides to go a fish someone’s secret site. Naturally, the state hatcheries are only concerned with their cost to product survival ratio and have little to no interest in the details of hatches and water temperature. So to make them information a little more useful to them listing total numbers of fish, species, length, and weight is a helpful addition. But whatever you do, don’t add up the total number of fish caught at the end of the season. The number will inevitably seem too small, and if it doesn’t, well then you’ll just feel guilty for spending so much time fishing.

It’s remarkably easy to get off on poetic writings as well, especially on those sunny summer days that cause a certain sense of trance-like sleepiness. But blabbering on about the songbirds and butterflies becomes a huge distraction from the facts that make for good fishing records. I can testify from my own experience that more often than not the poetic attempts will later read like a tacky Hallmark card. Like I said, what you write in yours is your own business, but don’t forget it is a fishing journal.

A detailed journal mostly filled with information from one specific river can be absolutely dynamite, and in my opinion, should be kept secret until it is time to pass the book on to the next generation. Obviously in a perfect world it would be handed off to someone who actually cares how the fishing was long ago, but it seems more likely that the books often end up in the bottom of some old box packed away in the garage, forgotten for years, and then finally tossed in a landfill. I rarely go to garage sales, but when I do, this is an item I keep my eyes peel for; a conspicuous little booklet, often unmarked, and obviously well used, a gem, a treasure.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Week 14. Prompts, theme, lecture all rolled into one untidy package....

The main stream of current formed wide curling loops and wove its way through what looked like a never ending sea of cattails. Being a duck hunter as well, I knew it would be well worth returning here in another five months during the fall migration, but for now brook trout fishing was the main course.

The water temperatures had finally started to approach the magical 50 degree mark, and the apparition of black fly swarms mingled with the occasional mosquito was an indication that mayflies were soon to come, namely the Hendrickson hatch. The yearly emergence of Hendrickson mayflies usually triggers some amazingly heavy springtime feeding sessions from the local brook trout, and without question can offer some extremely addicting dry fly fishing.

The evening’s conditions would supply the perfect circumstances; little to no wind, warm afternoon temperatures, and small red mayflies could already be seen breaking free from the waters surface. The dimples from rising trout stretched on until the forest of cattails seemed to swallow them up, but around every corner were more.

With every stroke of the paddle the leading edge of the canoe cut further into the territory of the blue halo-speckled trout. The swampy stream bed was thickly lined with plant life, and provided a rich environment for the thousands of mayflies to grow and mature. The native brook trout who entered the flowage from the many tributary streams and brooks could now gorge themselves by ambushing the emerging mayflies every afternoon.

On occasion a rise from a large trout could be distinguished amongst the many others, but most of the trout were around ten inches; nothing to write home about, but wildly entertaining for any dry fly enthusiast. The fishing stretched on until darkness began to fall, and the coolness of night filled the marsh during the canoe ride back.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Week 13 Theme: Small to large, large to small

A statement of particular brilliance, and one often quoted by my grandfather, was written by none other than William Shakespeare during his work on Hamlet; “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Of course these words are applicable to anyone, not just ladies. People in general can often be caught in the act of riding on a specific statement so profusely, that any critical thinker will immediately begin to theorize of their possible guilt, seeking the true purpose of this brazen protest; A shameless bluff just begging to be called.

In lying with such wild abandon, we show our guilt, and though our insistent pleas fairly reek of foul play we continue to dig an ever-deepening hole, eventually appearing as though we are trying to convince ourselves more than others. And I wonder if my guilt also is made apparent through my lucid portrayal.

Fishermen are frequently classified as liars, and often fittingly so. Granted this doesn’t apply to all fishermen, but between the infinite number of fish tales, yearly busts made by game wardens due to fishermen being over their bag limit, or under the length limit, the label seems to hold at least a small extent of credibility. So as the saying goes; “if the shoe fits…”

The deceitful reputation has grown to be a monster, and as a fisherman myself, I have done everything I can, other than refraining from fishing all together, to escape this devious standing, but it appears inescapable. Rather than falling into a war of words and appearing to “protest too much”, I abstain from the discussion all together. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

This appears not to be a strategy employed by the general fishing population at large. Full-blown verbal and political wars have broken out amongst the various fishing factions strewn across America. Ice fishers, spin casters, bait slingers, and fly chuckers have all played their respective rolls in these wars. I can attest to the fact that fly fishermen have managed to dig themselves a particularly deep hole.

In an attempt to free ourselves from the proverbial yoke of being pigeonholed as lying, poaching fish slayers, we not only managed to protest too much, but we also pointed fingers in every other direction and placed the blame on everyone but ourselves, as to clear our good names. Naturally the remaining assemblage of fishing devotees rallied their forces, and gave us a brand new label: snobs.

Well, what can we really expect? When a small group of fishermen declare war with a much larger populous by declaring our sport to be ever so much more sophisticated, humane, fair, but not stopping there and going to the extent of proclaiming the practice of the sport as requiring a certain special skill and craft that only someone of exceptional patience, understanding, and virtuous brilliance can perform, we certainly should expect a new label.

Since then we have also managed to rise to the status of elitist, purist, stuck-up, high and mighty sticklers. And my favorite of all has actually become a commonly known abbreviation amongst the fishermen of Maine. PFA: Progressive Fisheries Activist. I have been called this myself once, and at the time I wasn’t sure if it was a compliment or not. I know now it isn’t meant as a compliment, but it still sounds like one if you ask me.

Week 12: taking risks--humor, exaggeration, juxtaposition

I had a feeling that it would be beyond first-class, insanely entertaining for all, and full of excitement and great dry fly action. My brother Josh, our best friend Ryan, and I had managed to hike two canoes down a steep rocky bank into a little hole in the river that we had only accessed by wading in the past. The deep pool was flanked on one side by a shallow, stone covered sandbar, which quickened the relatively slow current to a much swifter pace. The swift water still allowed for safe wading, but was only big enough to harbor one or two guys, a third was certainly the absolute limit. We caught many gorgeous salmon and trout while simply wading the bar, but we had spotted loads of others, and some considerably large fish slightly out of casting range gently sipping caddis from the surface in the slower, deeper current just upstream. For nearly two years we had looked at this daily occurring phenomenon, usually in the evening, and talked about bringing a canoe so we could hook into some of the hogs rising in the deep water. Today was the day.

Ryan left his canoe on the riverbank with plans to head back to camp for food, and a to catch a quick cat nap before the evening hatch of caddis began to pop off the water, then he would return to launch his boat. My brother and I decided to launch our canoe and fish a few hours before heading back to camp to meet friends for a rendezvous over some fine table fare. So we slid the canoe into the pool, and immediately began to paddle upstream toward the unreachable waters. It didn’t take us long to take notice of how easy it could be to get into serious trouble attempting to maneuver a boat in this current, especially alone. One of us manned the anchor rig and the other held the canoe steady in the current. Without someone to paddle against the current, the process of anchoring alone would quickly start to move the canoe downstream toward the white water below, and if the anchor didn’t hold, some very quick action would have to be taken. We eventually found some good water to anchor in, and caught a decent number of salmon, but none we could call especially large. Typical of any fishing session, time flew by, and we soon found ourselves rushing back to meet our friends at the campsite.

My father in Law had already unloaded the grill from the back of his Toyota pickup, and was preparing the first burgers and steaks with garlic salt and pepper. I was reaching a class of hunger that could only be described as desperate. I started to wander the site to greet everyone who had come and more importantly, scope out what food had been prepared. After an extended stretch of consumption I noticed Ryan was nowhere to be found, and I immediately became concerned that he may have gone to launch his canoe alone. It wasn’t long before my fears were relieved as he pulled into the camp, but he certainly had a story to tell.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, mostly because his opening statement left an infinite number of possibilities as wide open as his bulging eyes.

“You won’t believe what just happened to me," he said, followed by a lengthy pause, “I went down and jumped in my canoe just as the evening caddis hatch was pouring off the water. I paddled just upstream from where we left the canoes, and let down my anchor.”

“On the near side of the river?” I asked, with a hint of alarm.

“Yeah,” he answered, “I had to let out almost all of my anchor line, but my anchor grabbed right on, and everything was fine. So I got my rod out and started to make a few casts when I looked up at my anchor mount and noticed my anchor rope was hanging vertical with thirty feet of rope out, and I was drifting straight downstream.”

Images of Ryan looking like a drowned rat, and his expensive canoe sitting on the river bottom flashed through my brain. I knew Ryan’s tendency to unknowingly push the limits, especially when he was tremendously focused on catching the fish of a lifetime, which was nearly every time he fished.

“So I grabbed my anchor line and started hauling that anchor in as fast as I possibly could. My rear end hit the seat and my paddle hit the water hard. I started to paddle with every ounce of strength I had, but I couldn’t avoid the whitewater. I came just to the edge of the big swells, and made one last effort to get out before I flipped and went through the ringer. I spotted a rock on the near side that I might be able to crash into, and get out of the water. I wasn’t sure if I would wreck my canoe or not, but I took the chance. I paddled hard and smashed the nose of my boat off the rock, and it pushed my canoe toward the near shoreline side of the river. I really think I would have just drowned in the river, and if I flipped no one would have even known.”

The next day we waded the sandbar.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Week 11 Theme--when words mean something beyond themselves....

The road into the pond was riddled with huge rocks that had forced themselves through the surface gravel through many years of tension with heaving frost. In addition, the feckless fishermen of years past, unable to wait for a dry spell, had driven the road far too early in the spring mud-season, and consequently produced a road impassable to most non-military grade vehicles. We managed to weave around the boulders and dodge the majority of the bottomless ruts, but the road certainly left much to be desired. For any fisherman, these obstacles produced a definite discomfort, but the complications only affirmed the notion that this pond would be desolate of all human life, and I couldn’t help but picture the legions of roiling trout dimpling the water with infinite rises.

After what seemed like miles and miles of gut-busting terrain, we reached the pond, but not without stopping three or four times to tighten the ever loosening canoe down. And at each instance I would gladly volunteer to tighten the straps, taking my sweet time in hopes of easing the ‘fresh out of the washing machine’ feeling. The sensation would subside for a moment or two while I hauled on the canoe’s strapping, then I was back into the quaking mass of truck. Not anymore though, we had arrived.

The pond certainly was something, and must have been immaculate before the road was ever built. Apparently the untrustworthy road was unable to discern between those that would behave themselves and those that wouldn’t. And upon approaching the water and spotting deliberate rises on the pristine water, my fears were realized.

Understandably so, the woods were littered with canoes seemingly from every era stretching back to the days of the pyramids. Many decayed to the point of taking on an ill-defined lump of moss bulging from the forest floor. Perhaps an elderly gentleman had passed away without ever alerting his prodigy that he had left a canoe chained to a tree in the deep Maine woods. Perhaps he had left twenty of the stylish boats speckled around the state. Of course the stainless steel chain and lock were in far better shape than the boat, but their ability to deter was minuscule in comparison to the moss. I was tempted to give them a final parting push into the lake to be swallowed up in the rolling depths, but the earth had done the equivalent.

The small quasi-boat landing was a paradigm of hope to all environmentalists and law-abiding citizens alike. Above the nearest overturned canoe, hanging from a cedar tree, was a dense ball of heavy monofilament, looking better designed for shark fishing than for foot long trout. The tag end of the fishing ‘rope’ had a bare hook and bronze spinner rig hanging in the breeze: a bold live bait rig. I would have thought nothing of it and quickly decontaminated the area, but I had a brief moment of reflection that this pond was regulated for artificial lures only. The smoking gun: just under the edge of the canoe were two empty plastic worm containers. I thought for a brief moment about calling in the FBI. After all, this was a crime scene.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Week 10: distancing and alienation

Avoiding the urge to jump at the first opportunity to hook up with a salmon, we weighed our options. If we cast toward the plunge pool, all the salmon holding in the split currents on the sides of the sandbar would get a good long look at our fly line as it drifted overhead, and if we did hook one, all the fish downstream would be witness to the struggle. On occasion I had gotten away with this in the past, but it certainly lacks in technique and tactfulness. Maybe it wouldn’t spook all of the salmon, but it would certainly spook some. We decided to work our way upstream; first working our flies to the fish furthest downstream in the channels to the side of the sandbar and eventually arriving upstream and presenting our flies to the fish in the plunge pool. It paid off big-time.

After fishing under a handsome blue sky, and casting to sporadically rising salmon since the early morning sunrise pierced the horizon and loosed it’s waves of warming light, my brother and I decided to try our luck on a familiar sandbar farther upstream. The sandbar sits in the heart of the river, and parts the main current around its two sides. The rising of the sandbar pushes the current against the bank on one side, and over the years the surge has began to undercut the bank and carve a channel deeper, but more narrow, in comparison to the channel on the opposite side. The other stream of flow holds a much more smooth stretch of water in comparison. It is fairly shallow, and only provides holding areas for fish at times of higher flow, which this coincidentally happened to be.

Being a flat and shallow section of water, it demands precision in order to tempt a fish into rising for a dry fly. The glassy surface of the water can expose the tiniest inaccuracy while presenting a dry fly, and the shallow water gives the fish an excellent vantage point from which to critique even the best tied flies. On a number of occasions I have seen fish slowly rise to a natural insect floating on the surface, give it a close look, and return to the stream bed in an act of utter refusal.

We waded out toward the sandbar, passing through the more shallow section of smooth water, and I noticed a salmon spook off, dropping downstream twenty or thirty feet in an attempt to avoid our advance. There were others, and after we passed through the water they would fill in the holding area where this one had left a vacancy. We walked onto the sandbar, which at this point was only slightly protruding above the surface of the water, and started to glance around the pool in hopes of spotting some nice fish feeding in the current.

There were fish moving all around the pool, and they were feeding. The longer I studied the pool, the more fish I spotted. Upstream from the sandbar, a deep plunge pool had been formed from year after year of spring melt-off gushing over the small water fall above. The water in the plunge pool either swept past the sandbar and continued downstream, or circled around on the far edge of the plunge pool, returning upstream temporarily only to be swept back downstream again. The fish were riding this circular current around three to four feet beneath the surface, rising occasionally to pick off an insect before it flew free from the pool.

Avoiding the urge to jump at the first opportunity to hook up with a salmon, we weighed our options, and decided to work our way upstream from the tail of the pool slightly below the sandbar. Our calculated approach proved invaluable over the next four hours of incredible encounters with strong and spirited salmon rising to take dry flies.

There were too many fish to catch them all. Somewhere, out in the middle of the deep plunge pool, was a congregate of salmon on a rotating schedule; in and out of the circulating current of the pool, and providing a seemingly endless supply of vivacious and willing participants. And from downstream, a unblemished school slowly fought through the current in the side channels to enter the large plunge pool. After working the entire area from the sandbar, and catching numerous healthy salmon, we settled on casting to the deeper of the twin channels to close out the evening.

The fish were holding steadily in the current, often swaying in the small pockets of slack water behind the larger rocks and dead wood lodged in the streambed. The sun had begun to reach the other horizon, and the light of the day was long past. By now we were locked in a game of tempting the most choosy salmon into rising to take a dry fly. My brother stood toward the stern of the sandbar casting to finicky salmon hugging the undercut bank, and I near the midpoint drifting flies under the overhanging brush. Given that we were in close proximity to each other, I suppose he felt little need to shout, and I, not sensing the zeal in his voice, felt little need to respond. “There is a nice one headed your way.” he said with little enthusiasm. I kept casting and working different fish, locked into some sort of hypnotized state of concentration, until I saw it. It swam up right in front of me, probably fifteen feet away. How it didn’t see me standing there, I’ll never know. I tossed my fly ten or twelve feet ahead of the big salmon on an intercept course that was intended to provoke a rise. It didn’t happen.

“Oh man, I blew it,” I thought to myself. I know how important that first presentation of a fly is, and to just cast and not think about what fly I was throwing, and how I was presenting it is a big mistake in my book. I had one more legitimate shot, and after than my odds of actually catching the fish went drastically downhill. The fish had seen my fly, and had a solid ten feet too look it over, and decide it was crap. I could not show the same fly again unless I wanted to send the fish away laughing. A time like this calls for a brief hiatus, for the fish’s sake, and for my own.

I pulled in my line and snipped the fly off the tippet. I made my new selection, a fly that had taken salmon over and over, I was hoping it would live up to it’s reputation. I tied the new fly on with deliberation, making sure the knot was tied right and was going to hold strong. While applying a bit of fly floatant I formulated a plan. The water was shallow and crystal clear, and the fish had more than enough time to realize my previous offer was bunk. I decided the next cast would be short, three feet ahead of the fish. I hoped cutting the distance would force a split second decision from the fish, and it would take. I worked just a few loops downstream of the fish so it wouldn’t see my fly line, passed a reach cast just ahead of the fish to eliminate any chance of drag before the fly passed over the fish’s nose, and let the fly gently drop to the water.

It was perfectly placed, three feet off the nose of the fish. It is amazing that in that short distance of three feet, several thoughts and contemplations rushed through my mind. The most memorable closely resembling “Crap or get off the pot pal,” quickly followed by a rapid fire series of, “take, take, take, take, take.” Whether I actually said these aloud I do not remember. I do remember watching my fly get within six inches of the fish before it moved in the slightest, but when it moved, it moved with extreme haste. My plan had worked. The fish had no time to observe, it had to react or pass up the chance at a meal. It left the streambed, broke the surface with it’s nose and pulled the fly under with the roof of it’s mouth, leaving an undulating circular rise form to ripple outward from where my fly once drifted.

Dry fly fishing, and especially sight fishing in clear water like this, can be inexplicably incredible. In fact, it gets the adrenaline coursing through my veins so forcefully that I find in remarkably easy to over react. So, when the fish pulled my fly from the surface, I didn’t make the mistake of hauling the fly out of its mouth before it had a chance to close it’s jaws around the hook. I waited. Only for a second, which at the time seemed like at least five seconds, but that was just the adrenaline having it’s effect on my sense of time. I raised my rod, the line went tight, and I had a solid connection. And the brute of a salmon took me for a ride like I would never forget.

In an attempt to limit the seemingly obvious deception at work at the business end of one’s fly rod, a fly fisherman will often use extremely light ‘tippet’ connected to the furthest end of their leader. It is simply a very thin extension of the leader, and helps to present that image of realism while keeping the connection to the fisherman as invisible as possible.. I wasn’t using especially light tippet, which can go as light as one pound test or even lighter. How anyone using that light of a tippet sets the hook without snapping their line, I will never know. I was using four pound test and I knew darn well that the salmon on the end of my line was around five pounds, and he had the current on his side.

He jumped clear from the water, but he couldn’t throw the fly. Using the current to his advantage, he turned and moved a short distance downstream right in front of my brother, and jumped again. This time nearly landing in my brother’s waders. The fish backed into a deep hole along the undercut bank, and hunkered down. I couldn’t put enough pressure on the line to draw him out of his hole without breaking him off, but I did my best, bringing the tippet to the brink of snapping.

Eventually the fish tired of my persistence, and made a run upstream into the plunge pool, again leaping from the water with intentions of shaking the fly. Now with the fish upstream, I had the current to my advantage, and as I kept steady pressure on the line, eventually, he began to tire and slowly drift with the current, back toward the sandbar. As he came near, I slipped my net under and lifted the mesh around him to secure my catch, and he barely fit.

We gawked at the sizable thug for a bit and my brother captured a few pictures with my digital camera before we sent the fish back into the plunge pool to recover from the drawn out bout. We couldn’t help but feel that we were absolutely spoiled by being able to fish on such a beautiful day, in a prolific stream, and with such success. The sun was setting, and we fished on with the burning crimson sky as our backdrop.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Week 9: Linked vignettes or literary pointillism.

We moved slowly, as to not stand out amongst the lush green streamside vegetation. One of the larger boulders became our seat for a few minutes as we tied on new flies and watched them moving in and out of the current to grab passing insects. The caddis hatch had started again, and the fish responded with enthusiastic rises to grab the little bugs before they flew free of the water’s grip and disappeared into the small birch trees lining the stream.

A short section of boulder filled pocket water dropped into three or four feet of water, depending if the rains had come recently. Sunken logs that looked to be the length of telephone poles, and nearly as straight but bigger in circumference, flanked the central vein of current. The inner side of the logs marked the flat streambed of light colored sand that crossed the stream all the way to the sheer bank on the other side. And with the brightness of the sand as a backdrop, their distinct silver-gray figures came clear.

That evening, a few hours before sundown, we were wading our way upstream with no particular place in mind when we came to a great stretch of water which is usually crowded by weekend warriors, but this was a weekday and was entirely vacant as a result. One side of the stream dropped off a sheer rock bank into about four feet of water. The other side was the class of water that surreal fly fishing dreams are made of; the kind that you constantly daydream about for weeks afterward. If you happen to have those you know what I mean.

Great fish were brought to hand throughout the day, and most fish took dry fly caddis imitations of various designs. Some of the successful patterns were spun during the previous night of stamina-testing fly tying, making the loss of sleep well worth it. And the discovery of unfamiliar pockets of water that produced some of the days best fishing kept our adrenaline pumping, and spirits high. The caddis hatch slowed throughout the day, and the rising fish followed suit. But as caddis hatches tend to come and go, we were sticking around to is if we would see the former.

Even if he did move, the cast would have to come from downstream, and pass under the little bridge. The thick trees overhead and lining the streamside below would make the cast near to impossible. We talked it over while watching the caddis hatch for a few minutes, and after seeing other big fish rising up and down the stream, we decided to try our luck elsewhere.

Crossing the bridge was an awakening of its own kind. These were no dandelion seeds, they were thousands of caddis flies all pouring off the water, being caught by the wind or floating downstream, riding on the current. Just upstream of the small bridge a sharp bank dropped into the water and a decent size boulder formed a nice deep pocket for a fish to hold in well out of the current and well out of sight. The morning fog had cleared out of my head, and my fish-vision was in high-gear. I knew the fish was there but I couldn’t spot him unless he moved.

A late night of diligent fly tying turned over into a very early morning. We quickly ate some breakfast and started the drive out of camp toward the stream, counting well over thirty rabbits along the way. The sun had warmed the air enough to dry the morning mist, and the seeds of thousands of dandelions were floating around on the breeze. I felt as though I finally awoke once we pulled into town and neared the bridge. Maybe my adrenaline finally kicked in once I knew the stream was within casting distance. The bridge looked to be engulfed in countless thousands of dandelion seeds all blowing downstream with the breeze.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Week 8 Theme: Vignette

Evening, and the high-rise warming sun of the day falls low on the hedges of the sky. The occasional breeze that brought the pond to a light chop during the afternoon hours, and obscured the tell-tale rings of feeding trout on the rise for their daily sustainance, had been finally silenced, muzzled for another night of stillness. The pond lost it's ripple, and grew still, permeating stillness, until the surface appeared as a sheet of glass dimly lit by the moon at one end and the scarlet shades of sunset at the other. A number of glistening trout had broken the surface chasing either flies or bait fish during the day, but with the pond in an absolute motionless hush, even the tiniest insect reveals itself with the slightest touch on the water's surface, and is consequently gobbled up becoming the focus of the valley; the equivocal sun of it's own solar system, a supernova of its own class, forever caught in the ring of the rise.

I lightly pressed the paddle into the water, and slowly drifted across ring after ring, appearing, spreading and intersecting with the others. I stood in the center of the red canoe, surrounded by dimples, trapped amongst a trout feeding frenzy of sorts. I watched them rolling, and boldly feeding, riding on the surface with little fear of predators in the dusky light. I wondered if the fly rod in my hand was a necessity or if I could just bend down along the canoe side and pick them up with my bare hand, and as I looked a them it made me think of Thoreau. "While yet alive, before their tints had faded, they glistened like the fairest flowers, the product of primitive rivers; and he could hardly trust his senses, as he stood over them, that these jewels should have swam away in that aboljacknagesic water for so long, so many dark ages; these bright fluviatile flowers, seen of Indians only, made beautiful, the Lord only knows why, to swim there; I could understand better for this, the truth of mythology, the fables of Proteus, and all those beautiful sea monsters, how all history, indeed, put to a terrestrial use, is mere history; but put to a celestial, is mythology always."

With little need to chase the trout, I paddled about in no hurry to go anywhere in particular, casting flies into the rings and catching trout with nearly every cast. And with Thoreau in mind, I released all the jewels to glow like fair flowers in their deep places. This was an evening of precision, a faultless combination of elements indicative of utter harmony.

I circled the far shore of the pond, gleaning the last twinklings of evening light and then finally taking my seat in the stern of the boat, I paddled back across the pond. As anything of perfection does, it all ended too quickly. An experience like this raises the bar and sets a new high point, a new standard of what is a 'great' time. It is hard to avoid the temptation of trying to top the pinnacle and reach a new apex, a new high. If I had a failed attempt, well, I could try again the next day, and the next, and the next. I could quite possibly ruin my life.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Week 7 Theme: Character

Whether certain preferences, habits, and characteristics are passed on through genetics or through some sort of learned behavior doesn’t matter too much. They are passed on. I have had strange habits and compulsions my entire life and I had no interest in bothering to identify their origin until I was in my later twenties. Some of them are still unknown, but a great many I can blame on ‘Bumpa’. Bumpa was my mother’s dad, and my grandfather. He was an odd fellow. One of God’s own prototypes never meant for mass production.

Most kids name their grandparents with cutesy mispronunciations of grandpa or grandma, but Bumpa was a family name that came from having arthritic fingers and the symptomatic ‘bumpy’ knuckles that followed. The name had been passed from generation to generation, old man to old man, just like the arthritis. There is a sick sense of humor that is also passed along from his side of the family and I think it is primarily rooted in making fun of yourself and your own weaknesses. Rarely would he laugh at others unless they were laughing at themselves, and the only time he would ever point out another’s weakness was during a serious conversation, in which he had a special talent for deep thinking, and provoking self-analysis.

Bumpa was a stubborn old navy man, and he passed his stubbornness on as well. My brother and I often have conversations with our Mom that end with her saying, “Oh my goodness, you sound just like my father.” He was a man of precise words, and said exactly what he meant. On one occasion, we were driving to Florida from New Jersey, and he pointed out one of the finer details of conversation that can still raise my hackles to this day. “Think about this:” he said. “If I said ‘Hey Joel, pass me the potatoes.’ wouldn’t that be vastly different from saying ‘Hey Joel, could you pass me the potatoes?” I knew exactly what he was pointing out, and it wasn’t the obvious difference between a statement and a question. He was pointing out the possibility of a courteous interaction, and how it was lost in the demand rather than simply asking. While we were in the midst of this conversation on conversation, we were passing through a drive-through. And just to be sure that I wasn't taking his banter too seriously: as the drive-in lady handed him his change, she said, “Thanks and have a nice day.”

He replied, “Don’t tell me what to do."

I nearly wet my pants laughing. He certainly had a way with people.

He hated being told what to do, rather than being politely presented with a question. But this was a picture perfect way for him to make fun of his own disposition, and point out that it doesn’t always apply correctly. Of course the drive through girl didn’t get the joke, and I felt bad for her, but if she had only known the precision with which he had just so soundly crushed his own position on conversation, I bet she would have been in hysterics as well. I couldn’t help but see the total absurdity of the situation.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Week 6 theme: place, setting

Free-time, as it was defined in my young days of middle school, was the seemingly miniscule amount of time between 2:10 in the afternoon and not much beyond nightfall. The coming of the month of June, and the days of summer vacation filled me filled with a craving for liberation from school and being locked indoors all day. Being an outdoor enthusiast, and an impulsive fishing buff even at that age, the setting of the searing sun represented nothing more that a precursor to the ending of another good day of fishing on the lake. The sun, which is frequently admired for its stunning beauty as it curls around the edges of the earth and casts its downy luster onto the water, had become something I looked on with a sincere sense of dread. Still, those few hours of fading evening light just before sunset were full of surprises and years of enjoyment yet to be revealed to me.

My father owned an old house near the southern end of a large lake. “The cove”, as we called it, was a shallow area directly behind the house, which provided some of the best fishing in the entire lake. The tapering, shallow end of the cove was riddled with a veritable forest of cattails: habitat that provides nourishment and safety for a number of great blue herons, the local flock of ducks, and when the stars fill the sky, what can sound like peeping frogs numbering in the millions. A stream that contributes chilly water from a nearby pond parted the jungle of cattails in the middle, and cooled the far end of the cove. When we were sick of catching heaps of bass and pickerel, we would fish the stream in hopes of catching a brook trout, which was rare for this lake. Our best chance came when we walked the frigid knee-deep stream with our legs slowly going numb, and worked our way upstream to the pond: that was where the big trout would hide early in the summer.

One item, which was arguably of equal importance as the location of dad’s house, was dad’s canoe. During the hot summer days my brother and I would spend countless hours swimming from the bright red fifteen-foot canoe. Our adventurous childish natures lead us into a game in which one of us would stand on the peaked stern and the other on the pointy bow. Our objective was to outlast the other in an endurance test of skill and balance. We found this simplified version to be far to easy, so we would usually start pumping our legs to begin a rocking motion through the canoe, hopefully sending the other straight away into the water. More often that not this game would degenerate into total capsizing of the boat, followed by a picturesque scene of two sun-burned boys swimming the inundated canoe to shore, barely able to swim between bouts of laughing fits.

On clear nights, when the blazing stars were set at contrast with the dark endless sky, we would often find ourselves lying on our backs in the grass, hands folded behind our heads, just wondering at creation and the immensity of it all. On the lake during the day, we were giants of our own domain, conquerors. But staring straight into the giant shadowy shroud enveloping the known universe, we were submissive and docile: talking softly, imaginative, inspired. This was a setting for deeper conversation. I regularly chuckle remembering an assortment of themes we lightly touched on: God, life, time, how many peeping frogs were in the cattails, and the speed of light. I’m sure we sounded like a pair of stoned high school seniors, but being ten and twelve years old, I can’t help but think that maybe we were ahead of the curve.

Rarely can I sit in a canoe and elude recollections of tender memories regarding my brother and our younger days. Our childish escapades were the beginning of a life-long appreciation and sense of magnetic attraction to the outdoors. I often enjoy fishing and casting today while standing in the middle of my canoe, and recognize that my balance and sense of footing was learned through summer days of tossing one another into the drink again and again. My sense for where fish hide, and what habitat will hold specific species of fish: also learned with my brother alongside through years of discovery as well as trial and error. My hunt for brook trout in the small pond was my first taste at a ‘secret’ fishing hole, and my brother was my only confidante. As he did then, he still does to this day by keeping various fishing spots under his hat. And much like those times years ago, I find the definitive factor in a great day out fishing is always that my brother is by my side; casting to the same fish, wetting our lines in the same water: like children again.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Week 5 Theme; stories aka narrative

It was a soggy morning in late July. There had been sporadic showers throughout the night, and the appearance of the sun on the horizon had caused a speedy mass-evaporation of all the puddles and pools of water that had settled on the highway. I held my hand out of the truck window and was thrilled to find the temperature had yet to rise to an uncomfortable level, which was always a distinct possibility in July. My wife, who was not so thrilled, was asleep in the passenger seat. She loves the outdoors almost as much as I do, but the early morning adventures are far from what she would describe as appealing. So, during the down time of a long ride, she decided to catch some Z’s.
The weather report from the night before had indicated a typical summer’s day forecast: temperatures in the lower seventies, mostly sunny skies, followed up with the usual disclaimer of a possible thunderstorm toward the evening. That usual disclaimer had become a mute point in my ears, as it was repeated almost every morning during the entire month of July, but to my wife it was a point of panic and grave concern. On occasion, I have been brainless enough to stand in a pool of water waving a nine-foot graphite fly rod toward the sky during a lightening storm. Of course, my wife was not with me at the time. So, I presented a flawless and watertight case that would prove: lightening storm or not, we were well within reason to hit the water for the day. At least it sounded brilliant to me at the time, but in reality probably something like, “Besides, if a storm started to roll in we could just jump in the truck.” Not the best proposal, but it worked.
My loving and beautiful wife and I had packed the truck ready for a day of hiking, picnicking, and of course, fly fishing for native Maine brook trout. By the time we pulled into the picnic area adjacent to one of my favorite trout streams, she was wide awake, with her fears of lightening relieved by the sight of emerald grasses surrounding a pair of picnic tables, and a gorgeous view of rolling hills fittingly set amongst a sunny blue bird sky. I was excited as well, not so much with the stunning scenery. I had noticed a trout rising in the ripples of sparkling stream water just down the bank from the picnic tables. Our brunch was sure to be equally as exciting, due primarily to my wife deciding on our meal. Being an opportunistic male, I often go for the simplest food that will offer the most immediate results, which rarely lends itself to a good meal.
The rising trout nagged at me all through our brunch, and soon after ‘we’ decided to string up our rods and start walking the banks of the stream to find some trout eager to take dry flies. In an effort to keep my wife interested in fishing I walked her down the bank and right to the area where I had seen the trout rising earlier. Since I had fished this stream before I already had identified what flies the trout would take, and my wife had the secret weapon tied to the end of her line. As I began to mosey up stream a bit, I heard my wife yell through the thin stretch of brush between us, “Ohh…I just had a bite.” Within just a few casts she had hooked the pretty little trout, which displayed the characteristic blue speckled halos of a native Maine brook trout. “Come and take the hook out, I don’t like to.” I didn’t mind removing the hook, but I would have to walk back downstream and this was counterproductive to my plans to cover some ground.
“Nice fish, “ I said, “lets release this guy and start working our way upstream to where some bigger trout are hiding.”
She was excited and easily persuaded to continue catching trout while venturing further and further from the truck. After fishing our way a few miles upstream we came to a brilliant deep pool that I had never seen before. At the head of the pool’s left side the stream had deposited a sand bar over the years and along the right side had carved a channel where the majority of the stream’s water raced around the bend and poured out into a deep pool lined with beaver sticks, boulders and a small log jam on the far bank: perfect trout habitat.
I found an ideal boulder to cast from while standing near the tail of the pool, and my wife found a perfectly flat boulder to lie down on and work on her tan. I guess the walk had tired her out, but the pristine pool in front of my eyes had quickened me and I was ready to fish for hours and hours.
Hours and hours later, I noticed some clouds in the distance off to our west, but they looked to be headed due north: no need for alarm. I turned to see if my wife was still enjoying her perch on the bank, and she was upright and looking directly at these same clouds. “They’re headed north,” I said, “not in this direction.” I had hoped this would provoke a reaction of ease, and remove the look of unmistakable concern that was evident on her face, but she just continued to stare, and I decided to continue to fish. She would see that the clouds were headed north soon enough.
After what seemed like only a few more minutes of fishing, which was probably closer to a half an hour, I looked up to see dark gray clouds rolling unexpectedly close, and rapidly moving toward us. Just then I saw a flash in the distance, and the vivid acknowledgment that I was incorrect struck me hard and fast. I’d be dead wrong if I didn’t get out of the water fast and begin the long walk back to the truck. The clapping rumble that followed the flash I had just seen seconds earlier caused my wife to jump up, and when she saw me wading toward the shore she threw her things together. My wife looked at me and said, “Umm, honey…we’d better go fast.”
“I know.” I said, trying not to be too short.
“How far are we from the truck?” she asked.
In a pathetic attempt not to cause panic I replied, “I don’t know exactly,” but I knew.
By the time we climbed the steep bank along the side of the pool the sky had opened up. The rain slapping the surface of our skin didn’t feel at all like individual drops. The downpour came so fast and so strong that, if I had been blind folded, I would have sworn it was someone dumping great buckets of water from the treetops. Our walk quickly transformed into a jog, and as the lightening descended on us like a roaring torrent, an all-out sprint through the woods. My wife’s choice of footwear earlier in the day would prove to be a hindrance presently, as her flip-flops were constantly slipping off while the hillsides lining the stream were bombarded with lightening strikes again and again. As we ran through the woods, over and over I heard her scream my name, telling me to stop as she struggled to get her sandal back on, and when she did we would continue our tear through the brush. Our clothes clung to our skin, soaked, and though we were breathing rapidly due to our mad dash for the truck, not one breath would pass without a lightening bolt simultaneously slapping the trees surrounding us.
I assumed that my wife was much more worried than I was, but that is not to say I wasn’t worried. Truthfully, I began to wonder when it would happen, when one of us would get struck by something so powerful that we would be blown out of this existence forever. I tried to contain my emotions and keep cool to prevent my wife from going into total hysterics. She was well beyond wasting her time and concentration by being angry with me; she had gone into a mode of pure survival. If we both made it back to the truck alive, she would just be thankful we were still drawing breath.
Finally we broke through the thick brush onto a clear trail that deer and other animals had formed from traveling the waters edge year after year. The trail passed through a rocky area that I thought looked familiar, over a small hill, and on the other side of the hill was the truck. Finally, a safe haven, and us, a true picture of desperation. We dove into the front seat, and looked at each other, gasping to catch our breath as the rainwater ran down our faces and dripped from our chins.
We cranked the heat up and changed out of our sopping wet clothes. It didn’t take more than a minute for us to feel overjoyed, to finally be safe, and during the ride home we started to laugh at our previously dire situation: the sheer panic that had stricken us during the storm, my wife loosing her shoe, our rapid change from a walk, to a jog, to a sprint. As is always true about our past, there wasn’t much we could do to change it. We tried to express some sort of amusement, and confess that being caught in the storm had shown us our evident state of desperation and true weakness. It was something we weren’t soon to forget. In a brilliant way, the storm had shown us something wonderfully powerful, beyond our control, and often essentially forgotten all together. It had shown us the joy of receiving those things truly hoped for.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Week 4 Theme. Truth...or Consequences

Just the facts:
It was a bluebird day outside, and Ty and Ryan had asked me if I would be interested in making a trip to one of our favorite fishing holes in the afternoon. Of course I said I would, after all, I am a fly fishing addict. We quickly packed our gear and hit the road. We almost stopped along the way for a coffee, but we all wanted to get there as soon as possible.
About an hour and a half later we were scrambling to get into our waders and get our fly rods strung-up. Once I had my entire repertoire of gear ready to go, I tied on a fly of my own recent design to test out for a few casts. It wasn’t too long before I found out that it worked pretty well. Ryan and Ty were also catching some decent fish. The day was just looking better and better by the second.
I tossed my newly designed fly into a promising looking area, and as I briefly watched it ride the current suddenly the nose of a fish broke the surface and pulled my fly under. I set the hook and the fish only slightly broke the water’s surface. But I could tell he was very large. I turned to Ryan and tried to express my anxiety that the fish might be too big to land. “This is a really nice one.” It was no wonder he didn’t clearly understand what I really meant.
“Nice.” He said, flashing me a grin. I decided to give it a second try.
“I mean… this is one of those fish you hear stories about, that never gets landed.” I thought that description might do the trick, but he got the point soon after when the fish cleared the water for everyone to see. The look on Ryan’s face was priceless.
“That fish is on the end of your line right now?” he said.
I really couldn’t think straight at that point so all I could must up was, “Yep.”
While Ryan optimistically pulled out his net and got ready to net the fish, Ty pulled out his nice digital camera and started to take a few pictures of the ensuing battle. Comments were exchanged between Ryan and Ty concerning the small size of the net Ryan intended to use. In the end it was decided it would have to work, as it was the biggest net we had.
Over the next few minutes I had to work pretty hard to get the fish near Ryan, and Ryan had to work hard to net the fish, almost falling in a few times. To our amazement, the fish barely fit in the net and we had landed a monster. Quick measurements and photos were taken, but we kept it brief, as the fish was tired enough without being taken out of the water repeatedly.
I held the big hook jawed male in the current for a bit so he could get his strength back, and it wasn’t long before he was wiggling in my hands and getting ready to swim off on his own. I released him into the current and he quickly made his way to the deep water.

A little fancy:
The sky above gave the impression that it could be a magical afternoon on the water. There was an occasional light drizzle falling, almost a mist, and I could imagine it coating me in a whitish nebulous glow while I cast dry flies over a pool covered in dimples from rising salmon. My obsession for a few good hours of fishing had gotten the best of me. A few phone calls assist in making arrangements to plot an evening run for the river around two o’clock in the afternoon. My good friends, Ryan and Ty were both more than willing to suffer through another afternoon of captivating fly casting, and with all probability, looking much like we did many years ago on a Christmas morning, we all hurried to get our gear together and hit the road for the fabled fishing hole.
It took us a little over an hour before we were wading in the cool water and stringing up our fly rods. The rips of whitewater broke below us, and filled the air with a dull wash similar to waves braking on the ocean shore. My fingers were shaking, as they tend to do when I get excited about something, and the coffee I drank along the way certainly wasn’t helping. Even with my innately shaky hands, somehow I still manage to tie ninety-nine percent of my own flies, and I figured I would try one of my own designs for a while. To my surprise and delight, it proved to be very effective. Ryan and Ty were having success as well, hooking some very acrobatic salmon of fourteen to eighteen inches to my right and left. For a trio of fly fishermen, things rarely seem to get better than this.
The afternoon light was fading, but on occasion the sun would peek through the thin cloud cover, and the light rain-filled sky would glow with a blonde haze. I took my eyes off the vanilla sky for a few moments, just long enough to see the nose of a fish break the surface of the water and pull my fly under. I raised my rod to set the hook, and as many salmon do, the fish broke the water’s surface, but only enough to get a quick look at him. To this day, I wish I had a picture of the look on my face. I immediately turned to Ryan and said, “This is a really nice one.” I couldn’t seem to articulate anything more detailed than that at the time.
“Oh yeah? Great.” He said, flashing me his classic smile and nod.
I realized that I had not gotten my point across; so I gathered my thoughts for a few seconds before giving it a second try.
“I mean… this is one of those fish you hear stories about, that never gets landed. I don’t know if I can keep this fish out of the whitewater down there.”
My failed attempts to describe the brute on the other end of my line became entirely irrelevant, as I watched my line rapidly ascend toward the surface and the fish left the water flipping end-to-end three feet above the water’s surface. The entire tone of the conversation changed quickly. Ryan turned to me with bulging eyes, and it became blatantly obvious that he was desperately trying to control the volume of his voice.
“That fish is on the end of your line right now?” he said, in a sort of half quivering, half yelling tone of voice, but he already knew the answer. “We can land this fish. Just keep steady pressure on him and don’t let him run too far downstream. We can land him.”
I finally knew he had realized the magnitude of the situation, and like a knight preparing for battle; Ryan drew his net and prepared to do his duty.
Ty had remained remarkably quiet during this escapade, and once my mind had a moment to become aware of the world around me again, I turned to see him fervently capturing pictures with his digital camera. Even if we lost the fish at least it would be documented somewhere other than our minds. A fish story is rarely trusted unless hard evidence is presented.
Over the next five minutes the fish made a few runs near the whitewater and I had to work hard to get him back without breaking my line. He leapt into the air, and tail-walked across the water a number of times in a display of strength and pure potency. Ryan and I desperately tried to get the fish into the undersized net three or four times. To my astonishment, we finally landed the fish. Quick measurements were taken, and a fantastic photo session followed soon after, but we kept it brief, as the fish was tired enough without being taken out of the water repeatedly.
I held the fish in behind a rippling rock for a while, so the water would have a high oxygen content and the big hook-jawed male might be able to get his strength back quickly. It wasn’t long before I could feel his muscles flexing and he started to give me signs that he could swim off on his own. I released him in about four feet of water in hopes that he might stick around for a bit, but his figure quickly faded out of sight into the deeper water. I can only assume that must be where the girls hang out.

Pure fiction:
The sky above gave the impression that it could be a dangerous afternoon on the water. There were especially dark thunderclouds rolling through the sky and lightening could occasionally be heard in the distance. Two of my close comrades and I had formulated a plan the night before to make an afternoon trip to one of our favorite fishing spots. Our obsession for a few good hours of fishing had gotten the best of us, and we decided to make the trip regardless of weather conditions. Looking a lot like the Three Stooges Ryan, Ty and I all crammed our gear into the car and began the drive through the powerful storm.
A couple hours later we were donning our rain gear and waders, and wading into the alarmingly bitter waters. The foaming whitewater of the rapids below us clapped with a low roar. There was a chill in the air, and my shivering hands made stringing up a fly rod incredibly difficult, but at least the rain had stopped for a while. I tied a big bushy fly onto the end of my line. I had caught thousands of salmon with this fly pattern before, and today was sure to be no exception. Ryan and Ty were having moderate success in comparison to the dozens of healthy salmon that I had brought to hand. There is nothing quite like having outrageous success when others look on and attempt to figure out your secret.
The little light that was breaking through the clouds was quickly fading in the afternoon twilight. As I was looking at the ever-blackening cloud cover I felt a light tug on the end of my line. As I instinctively raised my rod to set the hook my line became tight, and an enormous salmon cleared the water directly in front of me. I quickly turned to see if Ryan or Ty had seen the fish, but they were not looking. I yelled to Ryan, “I’ve got a huge fish here.” Maybe he could tell by the gigantic bend in my fly rod, which looked like it was about to burst into splinters, or maybe it was the crazed look on my face, either way he rushed over and optimistically pulled out his feeble, undersized net and made himself ready to help me land the fish. He was soon to see the leviathan that had eaten my fly with his own eyes. The fish leapt into the air again, aggressively shaking its head from side to side in an attempt to shake the fly loose, and clearing the water by at least four feet.
“Wholly smokes!” shouted Ryan, “That fish is on the end of your line right now? That thing looks about as long as a yard stick!”
“I really doubt that I can land this fish.” I said, thinking it was better to not get my hopes up. “It could peel every inch of line off my reel if it wants to, and if it gets into the whitewater downstream there will be no turning it around.”
“We can land this fish,” said Ryan, with a convincing confidence. “Just keep steady pressure on him and don’t let him make really long runs.”
Ty had not made a peep, and I started to wonder if he had fallen in and floated downstream somewhere. I turned back to see where he was, and found him snapping photos with his camera like we were in the midst of a red carpet photo shoot. At least if we lost the fish we would have proof that it wasn’t just another fish story. I’ve found that most fish stories are rarely trusted unless hard evidence is presented.
Over the next ten minutes the fish made a number of blistering runs for the whitewater and I had to push my equipment to its limit to get him back without breaking my line. He leapt into the air, and tail-walked across the water a number of times in a display of strength and pure potency. Ryan and I stumbled around trying to get stable footing on the rocky river bottom and desperately tried to get the fish into the puny net three or four times. To my astonishment, the fish finally slipped into the net, but as it brutally thrashed around the small net gave way, and the large fish fell to the water again. With cat-like reflexes I reached down and wrapped my fingers around the wrist of the fish’s tail and held on tight. It felt like I had just wrapped my hand around a grown man’s calf. The fish thrashed again, shaking my entire arm. Finally the fish tired and to my amazement, we had legitimately landed the fish.
Measurements were taken, and a number of fantastic photos were captured, but we kept it brief, as the fish was tired enough without being held out of the water. Ryan had been very close when he said the fish looked to be as long as a yard stick. The fish measured Thirty-five inches in length, and had the typical hooked jaw of a dominant male. This fish was the grand-titan of all the salmon in this stretch of the river, and I could barely believe I was holding him in my hands.
I held the fish in the oxygen rich rushing water for a few minutes. It wasn’t long before I could feel his muscles flexing under his skin, and he started to give me signs that he could swim off on his own. I released him in about four feet of water in hopes that he might stick around for a while. He thrashed the water white with a flick of his tail, and his figure quickly faded out of sight into the deeper water. I can only assume that he must have been anxious to get back to where the girls hang out.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Week 3 Theme: scene-setting and dialogue

By early July, I make what can seem like daily visits to one of my favorite fishing holes up north. It’s on the upstream side of a logging bridge that passes over a great salmon river. On the downstream side of the bridge, the river flows into what looks like the most terrible stretch of whitewater your mind can imagine. Billowing white rushes of water pound over boulders the size of an average home, and slam back down into plunge pools that could devour a school bus. Some times I pause and admire this ragged, un-fishable stretch of water. Its effect approaches what I might label as therapy of some sort. I can appreciate it in a bigger way, without the usual greed and calculation that comes from trying to catch the finicky fish that frequent these waters on a fly rod. It usually doesn’t take me too long to head upstream.
The trails above this bridge have become some of my regular walking routes. They all originate from the thick roadside brush and quickly fade into open mountain hemlocks and tall groves of rock maple and white birch. Spotting deer and moose along the two-mile hike is a familiar theme, especially in the twilight hours of the early morning. Once you get beyond that time of day other fishermen, who often lodge at the nearby campground just a few miles downstream of the bridge, have spooked off any wildlife that might have been lingering around the trailside. On occasion I’ll run into another fisherman hiking the trail and often times I know them on a first name basis. There are a good half-dozen regular attending addicts that spend inordinate hours of time fishing this stretch of river year after year. But that doesn’t rule out the chance of running into a fisherman who doesn’t share our enthusiasm for fishing here.
One day, in late July last year, a panting black Labrador retriever greeted me on the trail, and it occurred to me that an unknown black lab gives a better greeting than almost anyone I know. How many people do you know that would run up to you wiggling all over and looking as if they were just about ready to burst with excitement? Well, I’ve often heard that a pet will reflect the attitude of its owner--- but as words began to leave my mouth I looked at the man’s face, and immediately knew he was an unhappy character.
“Hello there, how are the fish biting?”
He was mumbling something about his “damn dog” under his breath, but apparently found enough kindness in his heart to break from the murmuring momentarily.
He said, “There isn’t a single place to cast on this whole damn river where you won’t catch a tree on your backcast.”
That was the ‘out of stater’ way of saying he wasn’t having any luck.
“Well, there are a few nice spots up a head that I could show you---”
“No” he interrupted, “I have to pinch a loaf bad, and the only thing around here that’s harder to find than a spot to cast…is a toilet. I’m headed out.”
While his continued complaining and my attention faded in unison, I noticed that the little lab loved to have the back of his neck scratched, so I asked the pup, “Well how is your day going?” It may not be entirely healthy, but most days I’m happiest talking to something that won’t talk back.

Further upstream from where I had the uplifting conversation with the ill-tempered gentleman, the trail gradually leaves the groves of hardwoods and passes into a dense brush filled area surrounding an undersized pond. Each spring, after the extra snow runoff is gone and the river calms down a bit, I will sometimes wonder if the trail won’t be completely overgrown around the pond when I make my first hike in for the year.
There is a steep bank on the far side of the pond that is covered in sun-bleached driftwood and gnarled snags that I can only assume pile up during the high water of the spring runoff. This step bank marks the first in a series of small hills that hold groups of towering spruce trees. These hills provide exceptional cover for grouse and snowshoe hares that will often spook just as I crest one of the hilltops, and they can finally see me coming.
As I pass thorough the spruce stand I’ll often find myself cracking a good sweat and talking myself into continuing on.
“You know, this is a very healthy exercise session,” I’ll say.
My inner fisherman automatically responds, “Suck it up and sweat pansy. Do you know what we are missing out on the water? Lets get a move on already!”
After I get in the water and make a few casts the fisherman in me will finally shut up and enjoy the scenery. Near the two-mile mark, and off the southern border of the trail, sheer cliffs fall vertically to the water’s surface, but a thin trail runs down a steep bank to the water just to the left of the cliffs. This is the only way to access this spot. I have a theory that there are only a few select years that any one person could effectively fish this hole. The older men wouldn’t dare climb down the bank, unless they have no fear of hip replacement surgery, and the younger folks haven’t really figured out the finer details and timing of the pool yet. I have yet to have thirty years under my belt, but I like to think I have a distinct advantage due to the excessive amounts of time spent fishing the pool. I think that last part is more to convince myself than anyone else.

One of the many odd quirks I have found pertaining fly fishing is that it appears to be an exceptionally calm, relaxing activity on the outside. If you could see the emotional turmoil festering just under the surface, however, your opinion would quickly change. It can be an incredibly anxious experience, especially if a dry fly is at work on the water’s surface. The level of uncertainty can make you sick.
“Should I twitch the fly, cast the fly a little further out, maybe change the fly, there goes a fly smaller than mine, maybe I’ll tie on a smaller fly, or maybe just twitch it a little first, oh man, a fish just ate that smaller fly, I need to change my fly quick.”
Fantastic hours of conversation will spring up amongst fly fishermen about these very topics. All it takes is one guy returning to camp with an obvious look of frustration smeared across his face, which is me on occasion.
“There were fish rising all around me. I tried every fly in my box and not a single fish would take,” I said.
Because true fly fishing addicts equate fly fishing to solving a mystery, they quickly offer their two cents, nearly positive that if they were there the story would have been different.
“Did you try ‘the usual’?” Says Tim, scratching his red scruffy beard. “In that stretch of water you need something that sits a little low in the water, just under the surface, but not quite sinking.”
“No. I didn’t try it,” I said, “and that fly rarely works for me anyways. Besides, I could see them taking flies right off the surface, not under it.”
“Did you try the ‘J-factor’?” asks Ryan, another fellow addict that fishes this stretch around fifty days every summer.
“Yeah, I tried it. I think it was too big compared to the naturals the fish were eating though,” I said.
“I’m telling you, ‘the usual’ would have tricked them,” comments Tim as he pats his belly and grins.
“Maybe. Give it a try then.” I said, trying to hold my tongue.
What I wanted to say was, “Tim, you probably fish this river one, maybe two days a year. What do you know?”
He probably went down there and caught a bunch of nice salmon soon after. Thank goodness he didn’t tell me about it. It’s been said that to get to a place where it is no longer about how many fish you catch, you first have to pass through the place where that’s exactly what it is about. It appears to be a long journey.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Week 2 Theme--you don't have to be old to do this!

When I was a small child I traveled to a distant land. Truthfully my first memories of life are from that place, my first time eating cantaloupe, seeing my first cockroach, and learning how to swim in the local pool. In all truthfulness, I was just trying to keep from drowning. I picked up a thick Texan accent and a fair amount of Spanish as well. I was two years old and had no idea where I was or what I was doing there.

Soon after, I was back home in Maine moving into a new house, and making good use of my Texan accent to persistently ask my grandmother when I was going to be four years old, which I thought was a truly important landmark in life for some reason. I didn’t have much else to do at the time, so I learned to tie my shoes, play baseball, and went fishing with my grandfather and his dog, Shauna, who I considered a valued friend of mine even at that young age.

School started and I learned too much too fast. I found numbers to be very obtuse, nearly painful to think about. They grated on me, like trying to brush your teeth with high grit sandpaper. I understood what a war was when I learned that my country was in something everyone called ‘desert storm’. I watched missiles exploding over a city in the desert on the TV. The first president Bush was always talking with people and answering lots of questions about dead soldiers, but I didn’t really understand death and how it affected me, yet. I learned how much death hurts when my best friend died that year in a gun accident. I saw my father cry for the first time when he told me my friend was dead. It was a pretty rough year on me, and I was affected by his death in various ways for years.

Before I knew it I was in sixth grade. While everyone else was falling in love with fluorescent colored clothes, I was falling in love with something new to me: art class. All the things I called mine could be drawn in a light that almost could show life through my eyes in some ways. There were landscapes, portraits of wildlife, dogs, fish, insects, cottages, fishermen in boats, and odd pieces of tackle, a leather creel hung from a branch. I started to understand that there were different ways to say things without any words at all. In the long run, I suppose I decided words were still more efficient and decided to keep using them after all.

Over the next year I started to experiment with lots of activities that were more subtle and underground in comparison to the humdrum school sports everyone seemed to worship. I started to play music, learned how to play drums on the school drum set, and my dad showed me a little guitar from time to time. In my free time I could usually be found around my neighborhood trying to learn tricks on my skateboard. Fishing was also a full-time addiction at this point, and after my dad bought a house on a lake I spent excessive amounts of time in a canoe paddling around the lake, searching.

By the time I hit eighth grade I had formed a band with a few friends that were into the same non-conformist type of attitude that I enjoyed portraying, and lasted throughout the remainder of my high school years. As the saying goes, we were ‘different’, like everyone else. Sadly, this attitude lasted a very long time. We started to organize small concerts locally around the area from Houlton to Bangor, and ended up putting together very large festivals by the time we were juniors and seniors.

After my birthday in April of 1999, as Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic was invading Kosovo, I decided to moved to Rhode Island. A few months before graduation the band and I had snooped around online and found a house for rent. We strategically decided on Rhode Island because of its housing cost and close proximity to all of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. We moved south in October of 99, and started playing music mostly around Rhode Island and Massachusetts. By the following summer we were packing houses. Sometimes the pay was great and other times it sucked, but we didn’t mind working jobs to keep things going.

After Al Gore invented the internet, and George Bush #2 beat him out in the infamous vote-recount of 2000, the band recorded some of our songs at a top-quality recording studio in New York. Record labels caught on, publishing companies caught on and we had contracts starting to be tossed at us here and there. None were very impressive, but one contract from a publishing company did help us out quite a bit. They were going to help fund some touring and recording for a few years, so you better believe that we jumped all over that deal, like a hobo on a hot dog.

One morning, our tour manager woke me up out of a dead sleep, and told me to go look at the TV. So I did, without a clue as to what I was going to see. Huge plumes of billowing gray smoke were rolling across the screen, and I immediately recognized the twin towers and a massive hole blasted into the side of one of them. Another plane struck the second tower, and they both fell to the ground soon after. I’m sure I had plenty of words to say about who should pay dearly for the events that were unfolding before my eyes, but I am pretty dumbfounded when it comes to putting my feelings into words about it today.

Years passed, its hard to remember what happened, but we kept touring: east coast to west and back on two separate occasions. The man hunt for Bin Laden continued, a big conspiracy theory about the moon landing being fake was released, and the partying followed us wherever we went, but really started to be of little fun. In fact, drugs started to be used more for daily function rather than occasional fun. I guess self-medication would be a good term to describe it: not good in layman’s terms.

I still had the impression that my fellow musicians were in for the long haul, but I was fading fast. Little did I know others in the group were on the proverbial ropes as well. The year before my very best friend, and drummer of the group, had suffered a serious car crash and nearly died. He had recovered for eight months, but his body never quite moved as efficiently behind a drum set after that. He was tired of the scene surrounding the band as well, but he was not yet at the extreme point of aggravation, depression, and general exasperation that I was. I decided to break the news to the group that I was getting done, and that I would be moving back to Rhode Island to live with a good friend of mine. They all took it remarkably well, all except for our singer. He pitched the typical attitude you would expect from a lead singer, but it made no difference to me. I was out.

My new life in Rhode Island appeared promising, but quickly went down hill. My friend that I had moved in with happened to have fairly ‘well-to-do’ parents that owned a liquor store, and a pool-tile business in Pawtucket. I started working for them and lived in the city of Providence about ten minutes away, things seemed great. I had a nice home and lots of great stuff to keep me entertained.

I became quite the poker player and found some underground ‘speakeasy’ type poker games that were regularly organized throughout the city. I thought the American way of getting rich, having women drooling over you, owning loads of toys and being a well-known, popular guy had to be the most fulfilling perfect way to live life, and I was miserable.

At the end of the year 2005, as Saddam Hussein was standing trial, I decided to go back to where I always was the most comfortable: Maine. In early February of 2006, just after Bin Laden released his well known video offering a ’truce’, I packed all my belongings and moved back home. I found that I still enjoyed all the outdoor activities I had not done in years: snowboarding, fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, it all came back to me remarkably quickly.

During the summer of 2006, I heard over the truck radio while camping in the deep woods of Maine that North Korea conducted missile testing on the 4th of July. That same year, and with little surprise, Steve Erwin, ‘The Crocodile Hunter’, was killed, but not by a crocodile: of all things a stingray. 2006 also was the beginning of my college career. I had every intention of doing my best to get into the highly coveted Medical Radiography program, but I had to start with liberal studies to make a good impression before I applied.

2007 proved to be mostly a good year. I say mostly because I pulled off a 4.0 GPA for my first year, I was accepted into the radiography program, I started dating the woman who is now my wife, the Iranian nuclear standoff began, and a 350 pound tiger escaped from a California zoo and attacked three people: mostly.

Ever since then I have been working my butt off to get through was has proven to be an extremely challenging program in college. I mean, I knew it was going to be hard, but I didn’t think I was going to be dreaming about it at night. It can get extremely overwhelming, and like the little boy back in Texas I still often think I might just be trying to keep from drowning.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Week 1, Part 1 What's the story?

The stories he could tell might make a great book someday, and an even better movie. He doubts some of them would be classified as non-fiction by others, but he knows better. He likes to think that the tales surrounding his life come to his aide while he writes, but maybe he simply has a better case of selective memory than a golden pen. In either case the majority of his writerly memories can be accredited to assigned work rather than voluntary omissions. This is not because he despises writing, but because he has a few outdoor addictions that seem to absorb inordinate amounts of free time.

Perhaps the apex of his writing victories, the very first time he actually tried to compose a decent piece of work, was his junior year in high school. He had barfed out countless book reports, which were primarily derived from movie plots rather than reading. The assignments for commentary on short stories, poetry and other boring literary works seemed to be like the sand on the shore in number. And then came another assignment that made him wish he had poisoned himself the previous night, The Scarlet Letter. He was to read the entire book, produce a thesis, and a paper proving the thesis with a minimum of six pages. Funny how he always remembered the minimum, but seeing as the teacher had handed out the same assignment year after year it certainly was consistent with what he had seen modeled as an example of laziness.

You were convinced it was a simple exercise in torture. As far as you knew the book was so tedious to read that no Hollywood production company would ever base a movie picture on it's contents unless they were trying to go bankrupt in a hurry. Regardless, you were threatened with the very real prospect of failure, so you began reading and reading until you finished the entire book. You remembered feeling that it really wasn't as bad as you had assumed it would be. In fact, the book had piqued your curiosity. You knew the story and the characters well, and had some theories rolling around in your mind. When the due date fell for your thesis statement, you had a few weeks worth of ideas to put onto paper. You wrote and rewrote your thesis, every version shorter and more focused. When you handed in your thesis you were not convinced it was 'good' or 'bad'. You only knew this: you had put a lot of thought into it. Like you said, the book had piqued your curiosity. As it turns out your curiosity paid off. Your teacher informed you that your thesis had some great points to elaborate on, and you should start writingyour paper. So, you did.

you started pooling together quotes from the book that supported your ideas. You were like a detective trying to pile up evidence in order to prove your case, and it seemed there were insurmountable piles of evidence to gather. After only a brief explanation to accompany each quote you were looking at eight pages of writing. The due date was still off by two or three weeks, so you would think a bit more and your curiosity would build. You would use spare time in the evenings to write a bit more as ideas came to you, and the next thing you knew you had eighteen pages. You prettied everything up and put together a nice looking package to present your teacher with, but you really thought that you might be penalized for writing too much.

A few weeks passed. You started to get that Christmas-like feeling of suspense and anxious expectation. With your last name being toward the alphabetical end of the grade book, your paper was taking longer to grade than you had hoped. Finally the day came that you had so patiently waited for, and it was worth it. On the back cover of the paper your teacher added an entire hand written page complementing your effort. Within the hand written page, your teacher had referred to a student of years past who you knew had taken college level courses while still attending middle school, and passed the SAT's with a perfect score. And then came the A-bomb. Your paper was the best paper your teacher had ever read. She was shocked with your work. Coming from a former college professor, this really meant a lot to you. You had never allowed your curiosity to dictate your writing before this point. You realized the importance of truly understanding what your writing was all about; what your point was: To let curiosity help you to see your subject from all angles. Years later you found another great quote to cite that epitomized your position on writing: "I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious."--Albert Einstein

With little to no experience in theme writing, I was about to be thrown in to something I had never experienced before: Speech Class. As far as I knew it was another one of those college course requirements that have no relation to the major, and I didn’t like the idea. I was doing what so many refer to as, “jumping through the hoop.” Like almost everyone I know that has jumped that hoop, I was nervous at some level. I did a bit of public speaking in high school, which helped to take some of the edge off, but nothing this extensive.
Now, I’m not going to lie and tell you that I loved to give speeches, because I certainly did not. For each one of our speeches we were given a list, so we knew in what order we would be presenting our material. Most of our speech assignments placed me toward the back of the list. I had plenty of time to see my fellow classmates tire the class out with material that could put a chipmunk high on caffeine into a coma. Consequently, I would think myself into stupidity trying to come up with theme material that wouldn’t bore the class.
More often than not, I could look through my file cabinet and find some past writing that I have saved throughout the years to get some inspiration. Old papers were sometimes tough to rework, but most of the time I could come up with some sort of a theme that held some life and comedic value. Topics concerning odd items and funny situations were key to keeping the class entertained.
One of our assignments was to talk about an item that everyone uses on a daily basis. I thought about some old topics I had covered, and for some reason talking about the many types of underwear popped into my brain. It was surely an original idea, but to add some spice and comedy to the topic I decided to talk about who wears the underwear as well. That idea brought a flood of great imagery to mind: Plumbers crack>do they even wear underwear? Speedos along the French Canadian beachfront>those are underwear right?
It was an interesting exercise, and I still think that I learned a lot in a few different ways. From the speechwriter’s end of things, I had found a certain niche for comedic topics that didn’t require a lot of serious in depth though. From the speaker’s perspective, I tried to be entertaining by often making fun of myself, and amusing by not laying anything heavy on the class. After all, the Greek roots for the word ‘amuse’ really mean without thought.

Theme Week 1: Know thyself. Know thyself?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Today was another day in the operating rooms of Eastern Maine Medical Center. I can say that I usually enjoy the work, there are simply things that I enjoy much more. It can be pretty gruesome witnessing a surgery involving the removal of the upper half of someone's thigh bone, but quite amazing that a procedure such as this is the norm within the hospital walls. I see patients come and go every day that are very nervous about their surgery/procedure. At the risk of making the hospital sound like an assembly line, I offer reassurance by saying that their doctor does the same procedure they are having done about a dozen times every day. They are professionals at what they do, but often the concern is not that the doctor doesn't know what they are doing. I find the patients are more or less scared of recovery from something that will land them in a hospital bed for near to a month. And I can relate to that. I am trapped in the hospital for thirty hours every week, forty during the summer, and that is plenty. Sleeping, eating, and bathing in the hospital would be awful to put it plainly. I know people say, "Always choose a job you will love". Well, should I love it like I love a cheeseburger, or like I love my wife? I once had a cruel addiction to money, and I can understand how we as people have an uncanny ability to convince ourselves to not mind living at our work.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Theme Week 1: Know thyself. Know thyself?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Okay, back to Mr. Stevens. Now, at the risk of throwing my own shoulder out of joint patting myself on the back, I am a pretty decent hunter. I mean I can shoot well and I am certainly fast if nothing else. I thought that I would be a natural at this duck hunting game that Mr. Stevens had tempted me with. I figured if I could shoot a partridge out of the air then I should be dropping ducks like no body’s business. Well, I should have done my research. The ducks that we all feed down by the lake shore or near the beach are not the type of ducks you end up hunting in the wilderness of Maine. This was not going to be as easy as throwing some bread crumbs out on the water and knocking them down when they paddled right up to us.
Mr. Stevens tried to warn me, I just didn’t listen to most of it. He told me about the decoy ducks that most species of duck would want to land next to on the water in hopes of forming a flock before migrating south for the winter. He mentioned a duck call, that when used correctly could be just like speaking fluent duck, and could draw in ducks by the dozen. Vitally important was full body camouflage, so the ducks would get close enough to get a clean, and humane shot to prevent suffering of any sort. He told me lots of other tricks of the trade as well, but some of them slipped through the gray mater without a trace. He did mention one tip that really stuck. I stuck like a sharp dart. He recommended using a twelve gauge for duck hunting…a twelve gauge.
Being rather set in my ways, and occasionally overly confident, I figured I could get away with my trust twenty gauge, and I had a great plan. I would just use my hunting ingenuity to get the ducks really close. Then the smaller round coming from a twenty gauge barrel would be of little difference to a twelve gauge in comparison. I was certain it would work, but it didn’t.