Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 - Big Year, but Epic Blog Fail

The year began with a bit of prophecy and a very cool event.  There was actually snow and cold in Denver when Mrs. Fading Angler and I hopped out to Colorado in early January.  Our anniversary falls within the first week of the year, and so did the Denver Flyfishing Show.  Howard Levett and I plotted to attend, and it would have been poor form to leave my lovely bride at home on our anniversary.  (At least I wasn't out at Boulder Beer with another woman on this particular anniversary, but that's a whole 'nother story...)  It turned out that Howard and Mrs. FA got along famously, and had something in common: deriving much pleasure from picking on yours truly.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Story Time

A long time ago, in a-

No, this isn't that kind of story.  Rather, I'm flattered that last month, the Parkinson's Foundation published something I wrote in their "My Parkinson's Story" feature.  I hope you don't mind me sharing.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Blog for Sale...

Editor's note: It appears my blog was hacked recently and the following barely-authorized content was uploaded and posted.  Take heed, kids!  This is what happens when you neglect your blog...
--The Fading Angler

No matter what you are thinking right now, you would be wrong.  Unless you guessed foreclosure, then you’d be right.  I was browsing the interwebs and found this blog; alone, abandoned and unloved.  So I’ve moved in, redecorated and made it livable again.  How do you like me so far?
But seriously, my buddy Chris (Remember Chris?) has been so busy with work and family and the holidays that I offered to jump in and give him a hand.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Up the Voltage

Last Thursday was the event I've been waiting for all summer.  In previous years, I would have reserved those words some something like a fishing trip to the Missouri River in Montana.  This time, it was my first follow-up appointment with the Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) team at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.  I quit taking my Parkinson's Disease medication about 12 hours before the appointment, which made for a terrible night's sleep.   Morning arrived, and I hobbled through the shower and got dressed, trying not to fall down and wake anyone up prematurely.

Check-in time for my appointment was 7:45 AM.  We arrived at the complex early so we could get a good parking spot and find breakfast in the "subway level," the sprawling complex of tunnels beneath the streets of Rochester, akin to the "Skyway" system of Minneapolis.  When it's winter in Minnesota, most folks would prefer not to walk outside.  The tunnels link several Mayo buildings, hotels, and other businesses.  They also happen to be home to plenty of food options, such as bagels, Cinnabon, and Caribou coffee.  Mmm, morning mocha....

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Mid-Summer Update

What does an artist do when his muse has wandered away?  Not that I consider myself much of an artist, mind you.  My writing is the equivalent of finger-painted sheets of butcher paper in the world of visual arts.  Mom, can I hang this on the fridge?  Speaking of hanging stuff on the fridge, Mrs. Fading Angler and I took a couple of courses together in college.  When she did much better than me on a particular exam in Engineering Physics II, the professor told her to take the graded exam home and hang it on the fridge.  She did.

So, let's do an update on my current medical condition.  The summary should sound familiar: I am SO ready for my first follow-up appointment at the Mayo clinic in two weeks.  I could whine about how I'm limping around and how my hands hurt like crazy when I'm trying to fall asleep at night, but it's better to focus on the fact that the Deep Brain Stimulation implant has removed the very worst of my Parkinson's symptoms: neck pain.  And I am very, very grateful for this, because it means I can work.  All the rest is just inconvenience.  No other surgical side-effects or problems.  I like being part of that statistical category.

Normally, I'd also have written more about fishing.  I've even had a few adventures to write about.  In early June I wandered up for an afternoon at Troutstock 2017 aka "EddieFest" just south of River Falls in Wisconsin.  I finally met the legendary dude called Trapper and even fished with him for a while.  I'm sure he was impressed by my expert technique at falling down in the creek.  Later that day, I got to meet Nick Brevitz and thank him for exchanging text messages.  And then there was this crazy guy called "Shebs."  Bottom line on that outing: it was a long drive 2 hours each way, all in one day) but very cool to meet a few folks.  A few weekends later, I wandered over to Trapper's home territory around Viroqua, WI.  He'd partied like a rock star the night before, but we eventual met up for a couple of Spotted Cows (New Glarus Brewing) at one of his usual haunts.  Nice trout territory.  "The heart of the Driftless..."

Speaking of rock stars, last week was a hoot!  Mrs. Fading Angler purchased a couple of tickets to Roger Waters (formerly of Pink Floyd) "Us + Them" tour for my birthday (or maybe it was Christmas...?)  We had dinner before the show downtown St. Paul at McGovern's pub and then enjoyed some classic Pink Floyd tunes.  Pretty good set list and great visual effects, which I expected after his revived concert version of "The Wall" back in 2010.  

The next day, I hopped a flight to St. Louis for another concert.  A friend's wife had bought him a pair of tickets for Guns n' Roses "Not in This Lifetime" tour, and she preferred that he find a friend to take to the show.  I can honestly say that for the first half hour, I was trying to decide if I was watching Axel Rose or Carrot Top.  No doubt that guitarist Slash held that show together.  The instrumental rendition of "Wish You Were Here" was amazing. But I can see why the Rams football team left town for L.A... The dome was old and tired, and they ran out of beer.

And now back to fishing... (This blog post is brought to you by Ritalin and Straterra, treatment for ADHD.  Do not take them if you are allergic to them.  Possible side effects include addiction, acting out Bevis and Butthead cartoon scenes, temporary blindness, and yeast infection.  I just made that up, so don't quote me.)

I've been a bit down on myself in the angling department lately.  The last couple of weekends of fishing at the Mobile Hotel® have been discouraging.  I'd done tremendously early in the season, pulling fish out of spots in the campground where I'd never caught them before, even walking away from a few places where it was "just too easy".  Then nothing.  Is it my technique?  Am I not using the right flies?  Are they just seeing too many people to be willing to feed here?  The one bright spot was an afternoon at a familiar hole.  Just as I was about to give up, a couple of fish started feeding on the surface.  I tossed a caddis fly at them a couple of times.  No takers.  A different caddis fly wasn't any more tempting.  They continued to feed while I tried fly after fly after fly.  Finally, I was down to a size 20 (tiny!) Griffth's Gnat.  Just a small puff of black that I had no hope of seeing 25' away where the fish were.  I made my first cast.  A fish swirled.  BAM!  Very rewarding.

I really hope the fish down there start feeding on terrestrials (imitations of grasshopper, beetles, and other crawling bugs) soon.  Every post I see from Headhunters or the Missouri River Lodge about the dry fly fishing on the Mo' is driving me slightly mad with envy.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hello, Square One

It's been 6 weeks since the last pieces of my Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) system were implanted, and a day less than that since it was activated.  Results were initially very encouraging: for most of the next week, my usually rigid right side was much more normal!  The "old man shuffle" caused by an uncooperative right leg was nowhere to be seen when I got up in the morning.  My right arm would swing when I walked.  Tremors were nowhere to be seen.  Best of all, the debilitating, painful dystonia in my neck was gone.

Top View

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Parkinson's and Angling Updates

It's a great feeling to know that there are people out there who are looking for an update on my health and progress.  So, an update is obviously in order, now that I've had the neurostimulator running for three weeks.  I'm very happy to report that my incisions from the first procedure are almost fully healed.  I still get mild headaches later in the afternoon, which I assume are related to rebuilding bone in my skull.  Nothing the occasional Tylenol can't handle.

I'm also very happy to report that there are no signs of infection anywhere.  The neurostimulator was implanted just south of the left collarbone, and it's deep, unlike my brother's pacemaker.  Yet I have full range of motion and only mild irritation from the incision site.  Speaking of irritation, I don't think anyone will be surprised to read that my scalp itches constantly, with some areas that are still partially numb.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Not the Same

Anyone who chases fish is bound to encounter a certain quote on the Internet, sooner or later.  The original source is reported to be the Greek philosopher Heraclitus.  Being something of an introvert, it appears that he didn't go to great lengths to publish or popularize his thoughts.  Others, such as Plato and Plutarch quoted, or perhaps paraphrased his thoughts. Time and translation have taken these thoughts and put them through a game of "Telephone."  You whisper "The cheese is old and moldy" into your neighbor's ear and then it proceeds down the line until "Purple Monkey Dishwasher" emerges from the lips of the 20th person.  Keeping that in mind, here's the modern version:
No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Performance Testing and Tuning for the Human Brain

The neurostimulator (aka implanted pulse generator)
and lead extensions were implanted and
connected last week to the leads previously
implanted two weeks ago.
One of my occupational passions for the past 20 years has been to improve the performance of large computer systems using data-driven scientific methods.   "Scientific" means measuring stuff.  It always pains me to quote "Mythbusters" but in this case they have a point: "Remember kids, the only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down."  Whether you're testing the stability of a system, how fast it can complete an individual task, or how many tasks it can process in an hour, you have to be able to describe how the system behaves before AND after you make a change. You need DATA.  "Otherwise," said one of my mentors, "we might as well just go play football."  Indeed.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Play-by-Play Replay of Awake Neurosurgery

When we last left our "hero," he was facing a full morning of surgery to have a pair of wire leads implanted, one in each hemisphere of the brain.  Later, these wires will be connected to a pulse generator device to induce "Deep Brain Stimulation therapy" for Parkinson's Disease.  Our story resumes Tuesday evening before surgery.

Before going any further, I have to insert a disclaimer.  I usually try to add some craftsmanship to my writing.  Unfortunately, being a recovering perfectionist, I don't think I'll ever get this one "good enough" by my standards.  So, in the interest of getting it done and out, I'm going to settle for whatever gets written.  There won't be any "slow hand" artistry today.  "Just the facts, ma'am."  Rough Draft.  Bring your red pen and draw on the screen.

And a warning: I'm brutally candid.  It's medical stuff and I'm not shy or reserved.  You get the truth, as much of it as I can remember.  Also see the "unapologetically verbose" advisory at the right.

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 yearswould 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 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
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.

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.