Thursday, April 28, 2016

Trout Trek Part V - The Undiscovered Canyon

April 17, 2016 -  Fishing Day 2

Sunday Adventure begins here
It was an act of negligence on my part to wait this long.  I should have taken notes at the end of the day, or early the next day.  Alas, many of the details of this day have faded.  Many key events are still vivid in my memory, but a good amount of the moment-by-moment images have been washed downstream.  I need to be quicker to record trip details, probably rely on technology a bit more.

I remember waking myself up early.  I had a mission before the day could begin:  get down to Headhunters Fly Shop and retrieve the Epic 686 unidirectional fiberglass rod that John Arnold had set  aside for me.  They opened at 7 and I was in the door at 7:12.  The rod was waiting and the staff helped me take care of the paperwork.  In hindsight, it was rude/unprofessional of me not to buy SOMETHING while I was in there.  I feel badly about that.  No, I feel stupid.  Apologies to John and Mark.

I was back at the lodge before Mrs. Fading Angler was out of bed.  Breakfast was excellent and served with Lindsay's usual flair and TLC.  As food settled, the tone got serious between Joe and his anxious clients, all two of us.  What ARE we going to do today?  The weather was expected to be nearly identical:  full sun, some breezes, slightly warmer.  We could run the same stretch from Craig to the Dearborn River ramp and expect about the same as yesterday.  I'd had my fun there, and was actually looking forward to something new and a little more challenging.  The decision was made to float the "lower canyon."  Joe said it would be a lot of trial an error, relearning how fish were feeding because of the flow, temperature, and weather changes.  There was hope for some rising fish in some of the shaded sections later on.  Finally, he was confident that we'd have a good time tucking into some deep eddies.  I was anxious to see some new water, as yet undiscovered by me.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Trout Trek Part IV - Trout Therapy for Parkinson's Disease?

Before I conclude the Trout Trek 2016 series with the chronicles of Day 2 on the river, I wanted to note an interesting effect that an afternoon of catching big trout had on my normal Parkinson’s Disease symptoms.  I made this same trip on the same weekend the prior year.  Then, it was obvious that Parkinson’s Disease (PD) had progressed enough over the winter season that my already marginal fly casting “skills” were, well, fading.  I am right-hand dominant, and PD randomly (?) selected my right side as my “Parkinson’s Side.”  This simply means that my symptoms started on the right side (a tiny thumb twitch) and are generally more prominent, intense, and conspicuous than on my left.  So, I set about learning to fly cast with my left hand, which I wrote about extensively (see here, here, and here.)

Notice the bent right wrist, a recent symptom of increased muscle
tightness, caused by Parkinson's Disease (click photos to enlarge)
It took six months of effort, nasty self-criticism, and training from patient fishing guides, but my ability to cast with my left arm now far exceeds anything I could ever have done with my right.  I will grudgingly thank PD for this.  It made these two days of fishing in Montana much more enjoyable.  I could reach spots from the back of the boat that were out of reach from the front last year, mend better, and feel good about fishing rather than getting frustrated.  But something even more satisfying happened toward the end of the first day’s float trip down the Missouri River in Montana.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Trout Trek Part III - Slowing It Down with Epic FastGlass®

Epic stuff.
Photo credit: Headhunters Fly Shop
It's no secret I've been thinking about slower-action rods for a while.  We've got a couple of Sage rods around here at the Angler residence, and most of it is fast-action stuff.  I like to tease Mrs. Fading Angler that her Sage ONE 590 feels like an ultra-light piece of rebar.  I started thinking about something more moderate after using a guide's TFO Lefty Kreh Finesse (quite a model name!) last summer.  One of the hallmarks of Parkinson's Disease is slower movement, so maybe a slower rod would be a better match for my casting style (or, more accurately, lack thereof).  Sage announced their new lineup late last summer, and I've had MOD-on-the-brain ever since.  I got a brief chance to cast a 5 weight Sage MOD at Headhunters Fly Shop in Craig, Montana before we pulled out of their campground last August.  It was the first rod that ever let me shoot a little line out at the end of a forward cast, which made me shiver.  So did the $850 retail price.  But maybe this idea had merit.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Trout Trek Part II - Slow Mo'-tion

April 16, 2016 - Fishing Day 1

The River giveth, and The River taketh away
(click photos to enlarge)
There was nothing hurried about this day, in sharp contrast to the same weekend one year prior.  My 2015 solo fishing trip to the Missouri River (aka 'The Might Mo' or just 'The Mo') felt frantic.  Even the fish were in a hurry.  Not so this trip.  It was kinda zen.  There was even a moment of perfection for me that I doubt will ever be matched.

If you read Part I then you know we arrived late on the 15th.  Before retiring, Mrs. Fading Angler negotiated a late start time, reasoning that the cold, snowy day and overnight freeze had pushed the fish into hibernation.  The truth is that she didn't want to sit in a drift boat in the cold.  And I cannot blame her at all.  We all laughed, retired, and slept late.  Breakfast was spot-on: thick, perfectly cooked french toast and fresh strawberries. I opted for the Montana huckleberry syrup.  (More about the Lodge and Lindsay's gourmet cooking in a future chapter.)   Then it was time for a plan.  If there's one thing I know in life, it's that Joe Bloomquist knows this river, and deserves the nickname "Mo' Joe."  He asked what section we wanted to fish, saying that everything from Holter Dam to the lower canyon had been fishing well earlier in the week.  I was feeling nostalgic and opted to float from Craig to the Dearborn Ramp (see map if interested.)  Joe agreed.  His plan: hit the hotspots and look for rising fish in between.  After the prior year's bug hatches, I was really looking forward to some spectacular dry fly opportunities.  Paraphrasing German military strategist Helmuth von Moltke: No plan survives contact with the enemy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Trout Trek Part I - The Corps of Rediscovery

Lewis and Clark lead the Corps of Discovery up the Missouri River in 1804.  In June, they found their way to The Great Falls of the Missouri, located in present day Montana, where they were forced into one of the most challenging tasks of their entire voyage: portaging (modern translation: DRAGGING) their equipment and supplies on an 18 mile land-trek around the various falls and rapids in this stretch of the River1.  Their efforts and success are well documented, though modern historians are still debating their exact methods of bypassing Holter Dam, further up river.  Clark's maps and Lewis' journals are remarkably short of details on that particular obstacle.

Today, nearly anyone can find their way to Great Falls, Montana, thanks almost entirely to the maps left behind by these hearty pioneers.  We can easily chart a course via land or river to arrive at this small city in northern Montana.  However, the feat appears to still be somewhat elusive for technology-dependent airlines.

The original marker left by Clark in 1804.
The Corps was also relieved to discover
the nearby state-maintained outhouses.2
In January of 2016, the Corps of Rediscovery was commissioned by executive order of Mrs. Fading Angler.  She has explored remote and primitive parts of the Bob Marshal Wilderness with local guides on elk hunts in years past. She successfully negotiated a treaty for safe passage and provisions in April from one of the guides.  The local guide could be found near a Montana encampment called "Craig," located upriver from Great Falls.  Again, the original Corps archives are sketchy on the details of how this place was given its name.  But at least one source claims that it was named after a bearded dude wearing a bandana and Maui Jim sunglasses, who sold Clark some trico and hopper patterns that were "guaranteed to slay, with a sweet drift on a 4 weight."2

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Delayed Gratification

We had a bit of an ordeal getting to Craig.  It's a tale of ups and downs, circles, accidents and equipment failures, snow & sun, fish tails, and interesting Parkinson's reactions.  It's time for bed here, but I'll offer a preview of what's to come next week...
The Fading Angler with guide Joe Bloomquist, showing off
one of MANY double-hookups on Saturday

Until then!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

T'was the Night Before...

T'was the night before Friday, tomorrow's the day
the Good Wife and I will be flying away.
A trip to Montana! A drive down to Craig!
I wanna go fishing, Please Don't Make Me BEG!*

Our waders are folded, boots ready to stow.
The Sage rods encased and they're ready to go.
The excitement is building, I wanna leave town!
I've been dreaming of something in rainbow or brown...

It's that time of the year when the flying things hatch
and we try to toss patterns that look like they match.
Last year's hatches were epic, I caught fishes galore!
Please let me leave now, I can't wait anymore! 

Sixteen hours from now, I'll be on a jet.
Twenty four after that, my boots ought to be wet.
Two days drifting and wading, the time will go fast.
Hey, hold on a minute, please?  Just ONE MORE cast!

* Note that when recited with the correct Minnesotan accent, the word "beg" does indeed rhyme with "Craig." Mostly.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Don’t let it get you down

It's a genuine pleasure to offer some words and perspective from a new friend.  Howard and I struck up a conversation after he recently visited here and left a few comments.  He was kind enough to accept my invitation to write a guest entry for The Fading Angler blog.  I've only known him a short while, but I can't say enough good things about him.  Here's what he had to say when I asked him what he'd post around here..
Howard is a big supporter of Project Healing Waters
I’m of the mindset that attitude is everything. If you are a sour person because you’ve got a disability and can’t do the things you used to do or want to do, remember this. I don’t know one person who woke up one morning and said, “I think I’ll be disabled today.”
Look at it this way; life is tough.  By the time most people get to those “golden years” they’ve usually got a bushel basket of ills, aches, pains and disabilities. They’ve learned to soldier on if they’re smart. It makes growing old, a bit easier on the soul.
My buddy Chris here at Fading Angler has made the most of his time here on earth. He loves to fly fish because it soothes his soul. So he does what he loves to help him get down that road with the cards he’s been dealt.
I’ve lost a lot of my hearing.  It’s really annoying and maddening when I have to keep saying huh? Not to mention the people who get annoyed with me because they have to repeat what they said, sometimes more than twice.  I’ve had quintuple bypass surgery and it’s knocked the hell out of me. At the time of my life when I should be enjoying my free time fly fishing, many days I can barely get out of bed.  But I do because it’s my nature and I love fly fishing. It soothes my soul.
On any given day, my wife is the only person who knows how I’m feeling.  I’m pretty good at hiding it. It’s my weird sense of humor and personality that get me through day after day. And after all, if I don’t know how your life is going, why would I want to pile my problems on top of yours.  And remember, there is no such thing as everybody turns into a grumpy old man or woman.  If you are grumpy when you’re young, you’re going to be grumpy.  If you’re a happy go lucky type that doesn’t let the world hold you down…you’ll be a happy go lucky old person.  Keep smiling…enjoy life.

Howard Levett, is a fly fisherman from Colorado. He writes the blog and in his real life works at the Center for People with Disabilities ( as a disability advisor.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Just Bleeping Do It, Part I - PT, Execise, and PD

Dear Mr. Angler,

I'm writing today to remind you (me) of some stuff you (we) already know.  WELL.  Two-and-a-half years ago, you were struggling.  But you were losing.  You were looking for help and just kept slipping.  You couldn't sleep without meds (and some of those meds were pretty bad!)  Panic attacks started.  A few months later, you couldn't work a full day or remember the names of your meds.  Parkinson's Disease was winning.  Finally, your wife and neurologist recognized the crisis.  You needed lidocaine injections, pain meds, and muscle relaxers. And you knew those could only help temporarily.

Three things brought you back from that hole.  Let's talk about two of them now, because the muscles and memory are drifting back into pain and fog.  Physical therapy and exercise WORKED.  Yes, it took more than three months of work.  Yes, you were doing your PT exercises 2 to 3 hours a day, EVERY DAY.  Yes, you laughed in your head when the doc prescribed physical therapy, so full of skepticism.  But you were desperate, willing to try anything.

Don't go back there, not even for a short visit.  You know better, so don't be an idiot.  Throttle up the engines and pull up.  Now.  Just do 20 minutes in the morning and 20 minutes in the evening. You know where you're headed if you don't.  Be mindful and not mindless.  If you really want three more years of fishing, prove you want it and invest in yourself. 


The Fading Angler

Fortunately, I've recently started exercising and stretching regularly again.  April is Parkinson's Awareness Month, and I've recently been reminded that I still have Parkinson's Disease.  Lame attempts at humor aside, I sent the following on Twitter a few days back:
Parkinson's Disease took me down hard two years ago, both physically and mentally. PT and exercise brought me back. Now go fishing!
I was shocked at the number of retweets, and that there were some strong I-told-you-so's about physical therapy.  Then I remembered that I was skeptical and dismissive of PT when it was suggested to me.

I don't like being preachy, but physical therapy worked for me.  It was slow, but it worked.  If you or someone you know with PD has dismissed physical therapy as a treatment, let me add my voice: I've been there.  Keep your skepticism, but try PT before you reach the point of desperation, and give it time.  My muscles didn't really respond for about 4 weeks, and I kept getting better for 9 or 10 more.

And I'll add my voice to the exercise recommendation.  I get lazy and start sliding back.  So I'm telling myself, "Just Bleeping Do It." 

Please come back and visit again later for Part 2.  It's about sleep.  I was even more skeptical about THAT treatment...

Friday, April 8, 2016

He's in... And he's out!

For anyone wondering, my son's procedure at the hospital went exactly as planned.  In and out of the O.R. In record time, for us.  We'll be on our way home shortly.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

And Now We Pause for These Messages

First, I'm pleased to announce that Tax Restrictions have been lifted and I am free to fish!

Second, I've visited two neurologists in the past couple of weeks because things are changing.  I'll write more about this when I've found the right perspective and words to use.

Third, since I don't really have anything of my own to offer this week, I have a couple of items I'd encourage you to read while my gears are grinding:

  • Notes from Base Bozeman 4 April: Equilibrium - The folks at run a timely, diverse, and well-written blog.  Hightlight from this post: "Sometimes the river just fixes things."  I'm ready for some fixing. Which way to the river?
  • A bit of help for Harper -  The crew at Headhunters Fly Shop in Craig, MT manage to post something just about every day on their blog.  This one went deep for me.  A Missouri River guide had his tiny baby daughter life-flighted far away from him.  When I saw the hospital photos on the GoFundMe page, it was like someone had sent me back in time 15 years.  My son was born with heart problems (among many other issues), and spent plenty of time as an infant on a respirator, with an IV in his head, and an NG tube running up his nose.  And he has another small procedure happening this Friday, which fortunately has nothing to do with his heart.  We should be out by the end of the day.  
Hug your kids and/or grandkids today.  Life is fragile.

"Take me to the river, put me in the water..."

Friday, April 1, 2016

1040 Ways to Procrastinate Your Tax Returns

Nobody knows...

Yep, I'm rattling my little tin cup along the bars of my cell.  I'm officially in lockdown.  The sheriff (aka the CFO, domestic Goddess, The Boss, my wife) has decreed "No Fishing Until All the Taxes are Filed." 

(editorial note: actually, I created the 'lockdown' idea to attempt to motivate myself this year.  It hasn't worked, but the authorities decided to enforce it as law anyway.)

So here I am in my cell.  It's like a prison.  A horrible place, painted all green on the inside.  But instead of using a hacksaw blade to escape, my implements consist of receipts, spreadsheets, and laptop.  Being a small business owner and employer, the paperwork is at least triple what it was before I allegedly became my own boss.

The only way out of this dank, depressed funk is tedious work, probably about 12 more hours of it after the 4 I did today.  THEN...  well, then I can dust off a couple of rods, wait for the wind to calm a bit, then see if any lawn trout have migrated back north yet.  Just to get back into the swing of things before I hit the water out west in a couple of weeks.

If you do the things you have to do when you have to do them, then someday you can do the things you want to do when you want to do them.
Psuedo-encouraging words I once read somewhere
I must escape and find that stash of 5-weights.  Soon.