Tuesday, April 25, 2017

One Down, Two to Go

You'll forgive me for again invoking "that damned movie" as it is sometimes called by a few.  Toward the end of the cinematic version of 'A River Runs Through It," Norman's younger brother Paul lands a fish after a very dramatic swim with his bamboo rod held high.  He is congratulated and complimented by his father.  In the afterglow of the moment, Paul says something along the lines of, "I just need three more years before I can think like a fish!"

The course of the movie branches away from the written story at this point.  I have no complaints about how the screenplay was written or directed, and it makes perfect sense that it took the course it did.  Yet something was missed at that fork, something that came from the rocks and echoes from the water.

A river, though, has so many things to say that it is hard to know what it says to each of us.  As we were packing our tackle and fish in the car, Paul repeated, "Just give me three more years."
Thirteen months ago, I concluded one of my essays with those words.  I hoped for just a few more years of fishing.  It seems like a reasonable request for someone with a progressive, degenerative neurological condition, right?  I adopted it as a slogan, and I'm clinging, refusing to let it go.  Not forever, but something more than tomorrow, next week, or next month would be nice.  Two more would be great.

I've been asked the questions more than a few times over the past week: Any second thoughts? Are you nervous?  And I've had to pause before answering, confused.  I feel like I should be nervous or feel some form of fear.  Not long ago, fear of this procedure filled a space inside me.  That space is now empty vacuum.   I've even searched for anxiety regarding those low probability, unspeakable outcomes.  If it's there, it's an elusive beast swimming invisibly through the shaded places.

The fly is cast and I'm content to watch it drift.

See you downriver.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

...like I need another hole in the head

By now, we’ve all learned that life brings us the terrible and the beautiful, often by the same whim.  Like most, I can speak with authority about beautiful things ended terribly, and terrible things that have bloomed into beauty I’d never imagined.  Better minds than mine have explored this dichotomy, so I’ll not embarrass myself trying.

Fate, God, the Universe, or insert-your-own-belief-system-label-here handed me a metaphorical coin about ten years ago.  At first, I could not decode the inscriptions.  A few years went by and I learned to read the writing: Congratulations, you’ve been selected to experience Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease.  Looking at my metaphorical coin, I could clearly see that one side depicted pain and tragedy.  The other side was still indistinct, but I could see gratitude around the edges. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Logo! Logo! Logo!

Ah, the logo:  a piece of representative art that uniquely identifies someone or something in a visual way.  All they great ones have one: Eddie Rivard, Hunter S. Thompson (well, he actually has a few), The Fiberglass Manifesto, even Windknots & Tangled lines.  And be be brutally honest, I've always felt a little inadequate without one.

Funny how an impending surgical procedure can motivate an otherwise unmotivated soul to start ticking boxes on the ol' To-Do list.  So, I finger-painted a couple of concept drawings on my iPad, then consulted a professional: Kirk Werner, aka The Unacommplished Angler, aka Master and Commander at Itchy Dog Productions.  Kirk may promote himself as a less-than-adequate fisherperson, but he's an accomplished digital artist.  Just take a peek at his portfolio of work.

He transformed my primitive rasterized concept into something that I'm proud to use to represent myself.  I could continue to rave about Kirk's work as an artist, author, and blogger, but I'll mostly refrain, other than to thank him for being hisself.  Otherwise, I'll have to go turn on "Beaches" and open a bottle of cheap bourbon.

Sticker and T-shirts will soon be in the works.  Stay tuned.  (Accepting suggestions for businesses that do quality work in these areas.)

And I'm sure I speak for many others when I say that we're looking forward to this year's adventures of the Firehole Rangers!

Hmmf.  I guess the blog needs a makeover now.  So much for shortening the To-Do list...

Monday, March 20, 2017

Gearing up at the Great Waters Expo

The Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo was held this weekend.  It's a regional fly fishing show that manages to bring in the folks from Far Bank (Sage, Rio, and Redington), Patagonia, Fishpond, as well as the local/regional fly shop and guide services.  Mrs. Fading Angler and I abandoned the surly teenagers (aka The Offspring®) and visited the show late Saturday morning.

(A quick word of advice to the show's organizers for next year:  I almost didn't get to pay and admission fee.  The parking situation was so frustrating that we just about gave up and went home.  Mrs. Fading Angler suggests you consider going back to the National Sports Center in Blaine or another facility with ample parking available in the immediate vacinity.)

Mrs. FA was looking for discounted fly tying supplies, and I wanted to visit four specific vendors.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Tie a Yellow Hackle 'Round the Old Hook Shank

I first tried a fly rod around 20 years ago.  At the same time, Mrs. Fading Angler thought that tying flies looked like it might be fun.  She's always been the crafty type, doing a lot of cross-stitch and sewing back then.  So, I got a cheap Cabela's fly rod combo, and she got a cheap Cabela's vice and toolkit.  One of our mutual undergraduate friends (also married), taught me some fishing techniques and taught her some basic tying skills.

Much of the next 20 years was, tragically, lacking in both casting and tying flies.  Mrs. FA recently signed herself up for a refresher class and invited me to join her.  Said class took place this past Tuesday night.  The focus was not on creating a specific pattern, but rather some basic skills: starting, wrapping, and simple finishing.  With no specific plan in mind, here's what I managed to produce.

Welcome to Minnesota. Skol, Vikings!

We have another class next week.  I'm looking forward to it!  I think this will be an excellent pursuit while passing non-fishing time on camping trips.  So now I want to solicit some input on equipment.  I'm developing some grand plans for a portable kit that I can haul out on a picnic table, perhaps like this, from Guys, Flies, and Pies:
Closed up
How cool is this? I've got some 75+ year old rough oak boards drying
out in my barn right now

But it all starts with a vise.  They range in price from $12 to over $500.  Confusing.  So I'll start with some basic questions:

  1. I find myself attracted to a vise with weighted base, rather than a c-clamp.  Seems like this would be quicker and easier to use across multiple locations and surfaces, and I don't anticipate having a dedicated "tying bench" or desk anytime soon.  Thoughts?
  2. What 5 tools does a beginner who wants to tie soft hackle flies absolutely need?
  3. Mrs. FA and I stumbled across HMH vices on the Internet (OF COURSE the make a pink-accented model to benefit Casting for Recovery...)  I'm infatuated by the Spartan model.  Please tell me it's pure insanity (and also entirely unnecessary) for a rookie to covet a $200 vice.  (And is it even a good one?)

Oooo... Shiny!

Friday, March 3, 2017

Operation "Deep Brain" is a "GO"

After a full year of prodding from neurologists, problems with meds, fear, loathing, research, hope, and 9 evaluation appointments, I have been offered the opportunity to have a Deep Brain Stimulation system implanted.  With the blessings of my parents, my children, and Mrs. Fading Angler, I have decided to accept the offer.  The image at the right should give you an idea of what's involved in the procedure, and perhaps why it took me so long to make up my mind.

The procedure is scheduled for late April at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  I am fortunate to live only about 3 hours away from Mayo, as they are rated by some as the best neurosurgery center in the nation.

Lots to do between now and then.  But first, I'm going to put my boots in some trout streams and annoy some trout this weekend.  Check Instagram for photos.  

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Mental Paradox = Insanity?

Imagine, if you will, world where a simple man wants little more than a chance to go chase and scare trout for a few hours. The winter and "life" has blocked him from his favorite hobby since November. Then a miracle occurs: family permission is given for him to take a weekend and go do that voodoo that he do (not so good.)

A dream come true.  Right?

Here I am, free to drive anywhere I want for the weekend, and I'm pretty much paralyzed. Anxiety. Do I just go back to one of the few places I already know? What if the streams are all murky from the recent snow and melt? Do I try something new in Minnesota? Should I finally get a Wisconsin license and try finding something around Viroqua and Westby? Should I even bother?

Please tell me this sounds crazy.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Gearing up

There are probably exceptions out there, but it seems to me that pretty much every fly angler on the planet is a "gear head."  Do you know anyone who's been fishing with a fly rod for more than a year and owns only one fly rod?  We have innumerable fly boxes, clamps, sling packs, waist packs, rod racks, tying vices, reels, and assorted gadgets.  And there's always something new and shiny out there.

Photo from tackyflyfishing.com
One of my favorite acquisitions from last year is a couple of Tacky fly boxes.  My wife bought one in 2015.  When I sat down one evening last year to put some new flies into it for her, I fell in love with the magnetic closure and the size.  I now try to limit myself to carrying two of these at a time for any given wading session, rather than the rag-tag collection of water-tight latching boxes that were taking up too much space in my sling pack.

2016 was also the year of the wading staff for me.  Parkinson's Disease can make you stiff and slow.  If you can't move as fast as you used to, it's harder to keep your balance, even on normal flat surfaces.  I don't dare set foot into a stream without my staff on my belt.  And I've found that it doesn't cause any inconvenience at all!  It's tethered to my belt, so I can wade into position and just drop it at my side to start casting.  And I've found it essential for stepping down into or climbing out of the water.  Even if I'm wet wading, I buckle my Wingo belt (American made!) around my waist with the staff in its holster.  When I get to the water, it's deployed in 10 seconds.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

A Lot of Bull

Another flashback to the awesome year that was 2016...

Click to Enlarge
Photo Credit: Jeff Rivard

When I met up with Eddie Rivard and clan (father and brother) to fish a beautiful morning on the Tongue River in Wyoming's Big Horn Mountains, we encountered this big boy just before the turn-off to our fishing spot.

It's very common to see moose here.  Five years ago, I stumbled across a juvenile moose in a small clearing amongst the willows you see in the background.  "Hi there, nice moose.  Where's Mama?  I'm backing away slowly..."

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Video: Rise of the Pink Tornado

I've been holding on to some decent video footage of my daughter reeling in a good size raindbow trout on the Missouri River.  It suffered from annoying-to-terrible wind noise. So, this morning while I was waiting around in an airport lounge, I taught myself some new skills.  I cleaned up the audio and enhanced the overall experience just a bit.

It's not gonna win any awards, but I'll give it a "Not too shabby for my first effort" rating.

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Cliffs of Insanity!

Otherwise known as "cabin fever."  It can drive a man to do strange and terrible things...

Even worse, it not just the Little Voices® talking to me these days.  Now I can hear my fly rods whispering to me from across the room as I fall asleep at night!

PS - Thanks for the shirt, Howard!

Monday, January 2, 2017

2017: Uncharted

I'm standing on a narrow bridge, looking down at the South Fork of the Flathead River in western Montana.  Fifty or a hundred feet below me, the small river funnels to a gushing choke point and rushes into the dark shade of a narrow gorge.  The August sun flashes an occasional rainbow in the spray below, and I look out over the river tumbling at me from the south.  The bridge is here for backpackers and pack trains moving into and out of the true wilderness.  The trail disappears over a hill to the southeast, but I'm not interested in the trail.  A minor feeling of vertigo makes me clench the grip of my flyrod even tighter as I gaze down at a swirling pool that I'm absolutely sure holds a few native westslope cutthroat trout.

How am I gonna get down there?

Normally, I have some difficulty motivating myself to explore new angling water.  I know why I came here, to a place I've never seen.  I wanted solitude and a chance to catch native cutthroats in unspoiled waters.  With no idea of what awaited me, I drove three hours on some of the most intimidating dirt roads I've ever seen.  I parked the truck, geared up, and started hiking.  What had I gotten myself into?  The only other part of the plan was for Mrs. Fading Angler to call the sheriff's office if I wasn't back by midnight.  Everything else was that delusional force that drives anglers of all types: hope.