Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Rowing Against the Current

I'm truly thankful for those of you who stop by from time to time, perhaps hoping to catch something new on the blog.  The catching has been slow lately, and this is disappointing to both of us.  I've been hesitant to explain for a couple of reasons.  First, rule #1: This is a No Whining Zone.  I started writing as a positive outlet during my progression, and I'm gonna keep it that way.  Second... well, there's no other way to say this: stigma.  Once you're painted with a certain stereotypical brush, it's hard to escape the label.

Suffice it to say that I'd love to complete the capstone of the "Opportunity Knocks Twice" series I started earlier in the year.  And I'm making adjustments to build the motivation to get it done.  Yet motivation and desire are far from equivalent.  Research tells us that Parkinson's Disease is a result of dopamine-producing neurons shutting down.  It turns out that dopamine is a fairly important chemical for more than just muscle control.  When those levels drop, quite a few things become more difficult.

When I started writing here in early 2014, I was on my way back from the worst episode that Parkinson's has thrown at me thus far.  It was a physical and mental low.  Poor sleep, dysfunctional memory, and lots of physical pain.  It took a few months of intense work, but I climbed out.  Things aren't as challenging as that episode, but I have work to do.  And I'm doing it.  I hope you'll stick around until I'm back on track and give you something again that might be worth reading.

Maybe I just need to fishing.  I hear trout may be an indirect source of dopamine...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Everything I Need to Know in Life, I Learned from 'The Princess Bride'

Sorry, folks.  Nothing about angling or degenerative diseases in this weeks contribution to universal Entropy®.  Instead, something a little lighter that's been on my To-Do list for a while.

Everything I Need to Know in Life, I Learned from 'The Princess Bride'

  • Most things can be made better if you just skip to the end
  • "As you wish" means, "I love you."
  • "As you wish" also means, "I will be captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts and most likely killed in the morning."
  • Never get into a land war in Asia. It's a classic blunder.
  • A chocolate coating helps things go down easier
  • If you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything
  • Help people feel they are doing well
  • Never ride horseback alone
  • You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles
  • People in masks cannot be trusted
  • Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line
  • There's not a lot of money in revenge
  • It's good to have a friend on the Brute Squad
  • Get used to disappointment
  • Have fun storming the castle
  • You'll stay alive longer if you always think everything could be a trap
  • If all of your professional obstacles were inconceivable, perhaps you'd best consider a career change, no matter how prestigious the line of work
  • Mostly dead is slightly alive
  • Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
  • When there's too much to explain, sum up.
  • Keep a thorough list of your assets handy
  • Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.
  • When the job goes wrong, go back to the beginning
  • If you buy a miracle pill, for Pete's sake, wait the entire 15 minutes for full potency
  • There's a shortage of perfect breasts in this world

Friday, October 9, 2015

Trip Report: Piney Creek


Saturday, September 19.  This was a challenging day of fishing.  Since I’ve already pontificated extensively on how Parkinson’s Disease, inflicted insight, and a little humility shaped this day of fishing, those aspects will be omitted.  This one’s about the fishing.  Also, this was Day 2 of the trip.  I've written elsewhere about Day 1.

Hay meadow adjacent to Piney Creek

But First, A Little Philosophy…

If you don’t care to read about or ponder the moral or ethical aspects of stream access, feel free to skip ahead to the next section.  Where I grew up in Wyoming, land ownership and access are sacred to most (except for oil, gas, and minerals companies.)  You just don’t walk onto someone else’s land, period.   There is no stream or river access without landowner permission.  If a waterway is big enough to float, the spirit of the law goes something like this:  The State owns the water, but the land on both sides and under the waterway are private property.  Ergo: you can float on the water because it is public property, but you cannot anchor, and you cannot wade without permission, perhaps unless your name is Thomas or Jesus.  Sorry, John, you may be the favorite among the “fishers of men,” but you’ll have to stay in the boat unless you want a citation from the Sheriff.  So I grew up fishing public waters.

When I moved to Montana in 1998, I discovered something both wonderful and disturbing:  Montana’s Stream Access Law.  From the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website:

“Under the Montana Stream Access Law, the public may use rivers and streams for recreational purposes up to the ordinary high-water mark.”

So, in spirit, if you can legally access part of a waterway, you can wade it, float it, and anchor in it for its entire length.  Very cool for anglers.  Not so cool for folks whose private property is now not-so-private.  While living in Montana, I enjoyed the former and pretty much ignored the latter.  But let it be said that I believe those who fail to treat other people’s land with the utmost respect, even though they have legal access rights, should face painful consequences.  “May he catch three doses of clap.”  They ruin it for the rest of us.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Trip Report: It Wasn't That Cold Outside

As usual, I didn't respond well to the alarm on Saturday morning.  Ambition was still fast asleep at 5 AM, and didn't stir until 6 AM.  I puttered about the RV gathering my angling things, piling them near the door.  After brewing a tumbler of coffee for the road, I dumped my gear from the RV and hit the road at 7:20 AM.  Arrival at Trout Run Creek was sharply at 8 AM, a full hour behind schedule.  Looks like some of the 13 Habits of Unaccomplished Anglers are shining through.

Outside temperature when I limped into the kitchen area was 31 F.  Add a little sunshine at Trout Run Creek: 37 F.  I pulled on waders and a tech vest over my long sleeve PFG (gasp!) shirt, and decided that was sufficient in the absence of wind.  I never felt chilly the rest of the morning.

I've only fished Trout Run once before, and that was with the assistance of a guide. I had a basic prospecting strategy, hoping for some kind of hatch to develop.  No hatch.  The strategy was mildly successful.  I missed several solid strikes while fishing wet flies under an indicator, but had no takers under caddis, blue wing olive, or stimulator dry flies.  So, for me, the secret to feeling really good about fishing is simple: low expectations.  Missed strikes are still strikes, meaning that I had offered something attractive to the fish.  If I'd had more time, I have little doubt things would have improved.

I "caught" one fish, but it didn't count.  The little nine-inch brown trout fought hard.  In fact, I thought it was a much bigger fish from the feel of things, something in the 12"-14" range.  As I pulled it in, it appeared that I had foul-hooked the fish just behind the dorsal fin.  Fish in hand, I grabbed my hemostat to carefully pull the hook out of its meaty little back, but found the hook had not even punctured the skin.  The hook had looped over the line, and I'd managed to lasso the fish when I "set the hook."  Feels too much like dumb luck.  Noon arrived and I high-tailed it back to my family.  Beer, brats, and s'mores around the campfire concluded the day.

This was a bittersweet trip.  I got some angling time with some mild success, but it was also the final camping weekend for the year.  I'm hopeful that I still have more angling time before New Year's Eve, but not confident.  So, I have a feeling I'll write something soon, in a reflective perspective on my adventures and accomplishments for 2015.  But it's not over yet.  And I have a writer's To-Do list:
  • Finish part 2 of my trip report for the mid-September 2014 trip to Montana and Wyoming. (DONE!)
  • Conclude the "Opportunity Knocks Twice" series. 
  • Sage 5-Weight Rod "Shootout" - My family now owns 4 different Sage 5-weight rods (plus a second Sage Grace for my daughter and my wife.)  I've yet to take the time to try them all side by side.  When I do, I hope somebody finds some use in it.  If not, that's okay.  It's something I need to do anyway.

Friday, October 2, 2015

It's Gonna Be Cold

I had hoped to be spending this weekend watching a Pink Floyd cover band, Wish We Were Floyd, just outside Denver.  Alas, twas not to be.  Instead, I'm staged for a morning of small water fishing in southeastern Minnesota.  We parked the fifth-wheel RV just after sunset, started a fire, and finally retreated into the heated space when the outside temp hit 42 degrees.  Fortunately, the propane tanks are fully charged.

The plan is to get up at 5 AM, leave the RV at 6 AM, and be on Trout Run Creek from 7 AM until Noon.  Forecast says it's likely to be under 40 degrees F for most of the morning.  If I can handle a morning of wind, rain, and snow on the Missouri River in April, this is a cake walk, right?  There were a couple of large caddis fluttering around the RV this evening.  Very dark specimens.

Tonight was officially "Eclectic Beer Night."  Coors, New Belgium 1554, and now finishing a Summit Oktoberfest. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Trip Report: Casting Lessons on the Big Horn River

I spent my junior high and high school years less than three hours from Fort Smith, Montana, yet never fished the Big Horn River.  Heck, I’d never fished the Tongue River up on top of the northern end of the Big Horn Mountains until a few summers ago.  Since then, I’ve felt drawn back to the lands of my youth to explore some of these waters, now that I chase trout instead of girls.

A playground for chasing trout.  Trout won't kick your shins.

I contacted Gary Thompson at the Fly Shop of the Big Horns in Sheridan, WY.  He put me in touch with Rock Creek Anglers for their professional guide services.  After discussing my goals for the trip, Gary’s suggestion was to spend my Friday on a float trip down the Big Horn River from Fort Smith.  With any luck, there’d be a decent trico hatch and plenty of opportunities for tossing dry flies.  His suggestion for Saturday was to wade Piney Creek downstream of Lake DeSmet between Sheridan and Buffalo in Wyoming.  This would be “private water,” since it’s located on private property.  Unlike Montana, Wyoming does not have stream access laws that allow angler access to moving water on private property without landowner permission.

I hastily packed my gear Thursday afternoon following a full day of work.  Actually, the word I should be using instead of “hastily” is “recklessly.”  You’ll understand shortly.  My wife shuttled me the 90 minutes (each way) to the MSP airport.  I soon settled in for a pre-flight double bourbon and relaxed for the trip into Billings, Montana.  I arrived 17 seconds too late to grab a steak at the restaurant I targeted near my Billings hotel.  The young lady literally locked the door in my face as I reached for the handle.  Montana hospitality ain’t what it used to be…

I spent a free night at a budget hotel near I-90, courtesy of some hotel points I’d earned in my travels for work.  After a 5 hour nap, I started tossing the day’s gear from the hardsided suitcase into a duffel bag.  Boots, dry bag, buff, folded waders in a stuff sack…  wait.  What the %@# was that?  When I tossed the waders across the bed, something lavender-colored fell out of the stuff sack.  Hmm.  That looks like the pair of my daughter’s socks that my wife borrowed when she tried on and purchased her waders.  (Insert long, painful pause here.)

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooooooooooooo…………  !

Friday, September 25, 2015

Opportunity Knocks Twice, Part III-and-a-Half: Pride and Parkinson's

I’ve never been proud of my fly angling skills.  In fact, I’ve always been rather embarrassed when someone who knows how to work a fly rod is forced to endure the unholy sight of my efforts to cast a flyline.  I dread having an expert see me laughingly “cast” a fly rod.  In a quantum nightmare, The Little Voices in my head start shouting all of the possible criticisms that might be going through said expert’s mind:  “This guy’s hopeless.”  “He’s actually caught fish?”  “That’s the worst use I’ve ever seen for a fly rod.”  “Reverend Maclean is rolling in his grave.”  “He’d be better off taking up knitting.”  And while I profess not to be “proud,” it’s pure pride that makes me want to hide my deficiencies.

So, let’s do a little non-mathematical calculating:
  1. Parkinson’s Disease: progressive, degenerative neurological condition that (among MANY other things) affects muscular control.  This is making me stiff & shaky, affecting my balance, and making it increasingly difficult to cast a flyline with my right hand
  2. I refuse to give up fly angling yet.  It’s part of my identity and good for me in many ways
  3. I’m embarrassed to have other people watch me cast a fly rod
  4. If my skills don’t improve at least as fast as my ability decays, I might not be fishing much longer.

Solution: Pride must be abandoned.  And not just for fishing.

I took a quick trip last weekend to the border regions of Montana and Wyoming near Sheridan, WY and Fort Smith, MT.  I had a singleminded goal for the trip:  improve my fly angling skills.  My highest priority was to improve my lefthanded casting abilities.  Next was paying attention to the details of two waters I’d never fished before:  the Big Horn River north of Fort Smith, and Piney Creek south of Sheridan.  I got connected with Clark Smyth of Rock Creek Anglers to float a few miles of the Big Horn River in his Adipose drift boat (technically, a skiff…)  When I first talked to Clark, I let him know that I have PD and that I’ve just switched over to casting with my left arm.  I described my “abilities” and told him my goal for the trip.  “I’m here to help,” is what he said, and he repeated it several times during the trip. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Better to Burn Out Than Fade Away?

After a weekend of fishing in southern Montana and northern Wyoming, I visited 2 of my brothers this morning...

Both were enthusiastic anglers, who moved on to other waters before their 33rd birthdays.  I chatted with them, asked favors, and made promises I intend to keep.

I noticed that someone left  Jeff a couple of birthday presents: a shot of Crown Royal and a smoke.  I had a double Crown in his honor tonight... only because I don't smoke.

See you down river, boys.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Fly Angler: Headhunter or Head Case?

First Thing first: Definitions, for the reader without a background in flyfishing slang.  "Head Hunting" refers loosely to the practice of pursuing fish that are poking their heads out of the water in the act of eating something floating on the surface.  In the context of fishing, it has nothing to do with attempting to separate the brainless head of another human being who lacks the courtesy to avoid the water you've been fishing for nearly an hour as they shirtlessly float through in their rental raft with a Coors Light in each hand.  (I nearly mentioned something about these rafts being slightly less unwelcome when one or more passengers are bikini-clad, but that's not always true and might be offensive to some, so I avoided mentioning it.)  Or the other angler who's positive that the only fish in the river are in your immediate proximity.  There's a special DSM-V classification for these poor souls: accute rectocranial impaction.

Next Thing: Declarations.  I go through phases of obsessive and compulsive fascination with flyfishing, especially fly rods and fly lines.  Currently, I'm stuck in the gravitational vortex of a black hole with "moderate action" rods at its heart.  This trajectory was triggered by two things that recently coincided:

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Opportunity Knocks Twice, Part III: I Am Not Lefthanded

Can you teach an old river new tricks?

Flathead River downstream of Columbia Falls, Montana

“Water follows the path of least resistance.”  If humans are mostly water, we should not be shocked to discover that our nature reflects our composition.  Our lives tend to run a fairly static course.  The course of each life’s riverbed wanders as we gush with early life, then settles into gorges, canyons, valleys, and channels that rarely deviate.  Only dramatic events tend to alter the flow. 

A 7.6 magnitude earthquake outside Yellowstone National Park dramatically changed part of the Madison River in 1959.  A landslide dam completely blocked the flow for a time.  Humans were left with a choice: leave the river, in the form a newborn lake, to it’s own devices or intervene.  Leaving nature to determine the future could have resulted in more drama downstream if the young dam breached and released a flood into the Madison River valley.  A spillway was built to allow the river to adapt to the new conditions, with less drama.

Something started tossing rocks into the waters of my life a few years ago.  Then boulders.  A thumb twitch was the first pebble that made noticeable riples in an otherwise calm stretch.  I’ll spare you the tedium of naming each rock in the pile of debris that’s harshed my mellow groove.  Suffice it to say that something dramatic continues to alter the course of my river.  One of the rocks is messing with my right side.  The Principle of Least Resistance dictates that I drift with it until it merges into something else.  I’ve stayed this course, and now I choose to dig a side channel instead.

The Largest Lawn Trout I Have Ever Seen

I recently discovered another kindred spirit in the blogosphere:

While skimming some of his writing, I saw several mentions of lawn trout.  I said to myself, "Lawn trout?  Inconceivable.  I don't believe they exist."

And then I remembered that I've seen them hunting in a pod, near the carousel in Missoula, Montana.  I managed to snap a quick photo of one before I bravely ran away...

I think I'll have to try my luck with some lawn casting this evening.  I'll have to let the cats out, too

Thursday, August 27, 2015

More Than Words

Sending out thanks to:
The rest of this story can be told with photos.  Mostly.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Pretty Sure I Was Dreaming

Sunrise on the Missouri River

Craig, Montana.  7 AM.

20 inch rainbow trout hooked and landed right here.  Look Ma, no net!

Happiness achieved.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Opportunity Knocks Twice, Part II: It's Knot a Problem

You know that scene at the very end of “A River Runs Through It,” where the actor portraying the elder Norman Maclean is tying a fly onto his tippet?  He looks thoughtfully into the distance, then the scene switches to a tight shot of his slow and shaky hands.  Being unable to tie knots on the river means an end to independent fishing, so a solution is needed.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Opportunity Knocks Twice: Prologue

Nobody likes a whiner, so the saying goes.  Thus, society tells us to make lemonade from our misfortunes and toast our own successes.  Very well.  I'll take a nice helping of Bacardi Limon in mine, please...

Anyway, I'm trying to find an artful way of telling you, Dearest Reader, I have no intention of whining about the condition that's invaded parts of my brain nor the symptoms.  So, let's start with a review of the facts:

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Blog at the End of the Universe

In many ways, this writing project is about restoring or finding hope.  I won't deny that I'm hopeful that somehow the universe will guide a few lost souls here and that a few of those will actually take some time out of their lives to do a bit of reading.  This is hope in its purest, mythical form.  Perhaps even delusion.  Not only that, I find myself crossing a line: I'm planning to offer advice.  As if The InterCloud isn't already awash in beneficial information about fly fishing, I'm hoping to contribute something of value.  When I analyze the idea of offering advice, a few things cross my mind.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Chasing the Sun

A first-class view from five miles high

Without exaggeration, I’ve spent thousands of hours on commercial aircraft in the past 18 years.  When I know I’ll be flying at dawn or dusk, I make every effort to select a window seat.  Seeing the entire visible spectrum flow from horizon to zenith as the sun warms the east is an emotional wellspring.  The view from 30,000 feet is one of deep indigo, neon pink, and soothing orange.  I’ve always considered it a privilege to have this eastern spectacle unfold on an AM southbound flight segment.

This previous Thursday, I went west.  I found the evening sun suspended many degrees above the horizon as we gradually pushed above the cloud layer, with the eye-catching yellows and oranges fighting for their ephemeral moment.  I connected my phone to the plane’s WiFi network and sent my status into the Twittersphere:

    Currently chasing the sun…