Sunday, July 31, 2016

As Seen Thru a Bug-Splattered Windshield

The Mobile Hotel®, prepped for departure
Crossing northern Montana on U.S. highway 2 reminds me of the lands of my early youth in central Wyoming: long stretches of parched, short-grass prairies dotted with sage brush and barbed wired fences; cottonwood and Russian olive trees huddled densely along areas where their roots can extract moisture from this semi-arid desert: small rivers and often dry creek beds.  A cumulonimbus thunderhead to the north is potentially proving some moisture to our neighbors to the north, but the clouds foretell no such relief here.  Mountains are growing on the western horizon, just like where I lived in little Riverton, Wyoming.  The two-lane roads are straight for long stretches.  Curves are sparse, as are signs of civilization beyond the roadside fences and power lines sharing the right-of-way.

After the town of Havre, the mountains fade to the south, the plains become flatter and very slow rolling.  Dry grass and sage brush give way to golden grain fields measured not in hundreds but thousands of acres.  Pods of grain combines work in staggered twos and threes to harvest the crop, followed closely by a small fleet of semi trucks.  The trucks often run parallel to each combine so the combines can offload into the trailers as they roll along, continuing to harvest uninterrupted but for fuel stops.  The highway parallels the former lines of the Great Northern railway, now operated by BNSF.  At each railside grain elevator, queued truck drivers wait impatiently to offload, keenly aware that time is money.

The golden grain fields extend to earth's edge.  There's no trace of the inevitable wall of mountains that surely must be looming just over the western horizon, alongside the cartographers' dragons.  Not until we descend a hill into Cut Bank, Montana do mountains reveal themselves, and they rise quickly as we head southwest toward an obvious gap, a gateway.  The gateway provides the path for U.S. 2 to skirt and then slightly cut the southern boundary of Glacier National Park.

The west side of Glacier National Park

You'll have to wait for a future day for photos of the magic waters of the Flathead River forks and flows inside Glacier.  The local runoff waters are tinged with minerals that turn deep pockets a shade of turquoise blue.  I'll set Mrs. FA and her DSLR to the task.  For now, just try to imagine overlooking a clear freestone river with blue inset gems where the water runs deep.

Up toward the Continental Divide

We made it all 1200+ miles to Columbia Falls.  And I even managed to wet a line tonight, though it was too bloody dark to see where the flies were landing.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

North Dakota in the Rear View Mirror

The first six hundred miles are behind us.  We got on Interstate 94 in Saint Cloud, Minnesota and drove straight across North Dakota to Glendive, Montana.  I wish I had more to say about North Dakota than I enjoy seeing the change in terrain when you cross the Missouri River at Bismarck.  It goes from flat, glacial stripped plains to hills, buttes, and badlands.

At this point, we're halfway to our extended stop: Columbia Falls, Montana, just outside Glacier National Park.  The Flathead River flows through town.  With any luck, I might wet a line before nightfall on Day 2.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

T'was the Night Before... (Remix)

T'was the night before Friday, tomorrow's the day
The Mobile Hotel® will be driving away.
18 days on vacation, to National Parks!
Yellowstone and Glacier (and other landmarks.)

I've been dreaming of cutthroats, both west slope and east
and maybe a bull trout (NO, you can't catch that beast!)
First we must drive on a long two-day trek
More than twelve-hundred miles, what a pain in the neck.

All will be worth it once fly lines are wet.
Soon both wife and kids will have fish in the net.
We'll hike and we'll tour, there's no time to snooze!
Let's rescue a bison, make national news!

To Flathead, the Blackfoot, and Rock Creek we go.
Some time on the Madison?  How could I say no?
No doubt the wife thinks I'm out of my mind.
Hey, babe. I'm sorry.  It's how I unwind.

Finally we camp as a family reunion,
a great way to bring a long trip to conclusion.
Three days we spend camping with my Ma and Pa,
my brother, his kids and my sister-in-law.

Some nieces and cousins, imagine the noise..
I'll just sneak away and go fish with the Boys.
The cascasding voices of water and stone,
my brothers passed on whisper,  "You're not alone."

Haunted by waters, but will a fish rise?
Of course, it was huge.  I'd tell no trout lies!
It's time for the s'mores and strong bourbon whiskey
With no chance at all that the wife will get frisky.

I'm dreaming my life away, get back to work!
But soon you'll be done, I think with a smirk.
Quiet down, Little Voices®, there's no time to borrow.
We're headed on out for vacation tomorrow!

--The Fading Angler

Sunday, July 24, 2016

You Know You're Doing It Right...

2:30 AM Eastern Time, Sunday July 18th... Yes, it's early, but I got about 8 hours of sleep.  I wandered into my hotel room in Syracuse, NY at about 6 PM the evening before, told my family good night, and was asleep when my head hit the pillow.

Saturday started at 4:00 AM in a hotel room in Utica, NY.  Shower, shave, pack, and into the car.  First stop: Dunkin Donuts aka "Double D."  I am a sucker for a couple of chocolate frosted donuts and a warm cup of joe with cream and sugar.  With carbs at the ready, I proceeded to the rendezvous point.  I would be meeting Bill at 6 AM.

No sooner did the donuts disappear than my benefactor arrived.  Bill Hickey is the mind and hands behind W. Jude Custom Fly Rod Company.  His name and web site were brought to my attention when I decided that I wanted an Epic 686 fly rod.  Bill built my custom "So Blue" Epic 686 rod and got it to me faster than expected.  I can say without reservation that I am completely satisfied with his work and would gladly go back to him when I want my next custom fly rod.  I'm still planning a more in-depth write up before the summer's over.

Click to enlarge - Bill's work is flawless.

Due to some family scheduling at home, I found myself with an opportunity to go fishing in Upstate New York, where I've been working on occasion for the past two years.  Lucky for me, Bill's shop isn't too far from where I've been working.  I reached out to him and he was able to meet for some Saturday morning fishing.  Also fortunate, he doesn't mind an early start.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Time to Meet Your Maker...

Fear not, this is not a tale of death or existentialism.  My new Epic 686 rod will briefly return to the hands that crafted it this Saturday. Bill Hickey, proprietor of W. Jude Fly Rod Co., and I will be meeting up for a morning of fishing this weekend in central New York state.

New water, new friends, new things to learn.  All I have to do is make it through one more day at the office...  It's been warm here in CNY. I believe wet wading will be in order..

See you soon, Bill.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Simple Supper from a Simple Man

How a Fading Angler and computer nerd cooks supper:

Obtain wild sockeye salmon filets from Costco
Crack a beer
Beg Mrs. FA to slice filets into manageable chunks
Season with kosher salt, lemon pepper, and a little dill
Light grill
Place fish on grill-safe cooking sheet

Set iPhone timer for 10 minutes

Check for "doneness" when iPhone beeps

Serve.  White rice is a simple, tasty companion.
Enjoy compliments

Nicely cooked (but slightly bland) wild salmon.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Gift Trout

I'm not lost for words very often.  And since I'm struggling here, I'll use as few as are necessary.

I believe it is necessary to recognize that Ralph, aka author R.E. Long and curator of Ralph's Fly Box, is a man blessed with enormous ability and talent, plus the motivation to use it.  Just look what arrived in the mail for me recently.
Taking its place among the classics, at least in my heart.
Click to enlarge.

He said he was inspired by my profile photo on Blogspot/Google+.  I caught this baby on first trip to the Missouri River in Montana in 2011.  It was also my first ever trip in a drift boat.

I am not capable of producing such art, nor can I adequately express my gratitude.  Instead, let me offer with sincerity some words I recently quoted on another blog with sarcasm:

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world.
--Shakespeare, from Hamlet
 Thank you, Ralph.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Reaching for Perfection

Just a short video nugget today, from Mark Raisler and John Arnold at Headhunters Fly Shop in good ol' Craig, MT.

I can't get enough of watching artist Mark Raisler cast a fly rod.  Yeah, that probably sounds weird, but I accepted long ago that I'm somewhat deviant.  My favorite line from him in the video:

 Just make sure that first cast is perfect, and you get fish like that.
Sure, Mark... As soon as I get back from Olympus and Asgaard, I'll remember to always make that first cast perfect.  It's so simple...

Just remember what St. Norman said: does not come easy.