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.

Howard, Mrs. FA, and I wandered the Flyfishing show for many hours.  As seen in a recent post, Howard managed to trap John Gierach and forced him to have a photo take with the lovely couple.  And by "lovely couple" I mean Mr. and Mrs. Fading Angler.  (Editor's note: I felt the need to clarify because recently Howard asked when I'm bringing his girlfriend back to visit.  Cheeky.)  The show is exactly what a mildly obsessive angler needs to shake off the shack nasties, cabin fever, or whatever you want to call that cold weather affliction that inspired Jimmy Buffet to shoot six holes in his freezer.  Wrapping up the day, we were joined by Howard's wife Pam.  All I can say is this:  the guy married up!
No, that's John Gierach, not Howard.
Busy floor of the Flyfishing Show in Denver

We wrapped up the two-night trip with an unexpected treat: Mrs. FA took me back to the New Belgium brewery in Fort Collins for a couple of glasses of freshly tapped Fat Tire Amber Ale.  (Sorry gents, she's taken!)  Funny thing though... I never wrote about the trip on the blog.  Hmm.

As 2016 came to an end, my good friend Parkinson's Disease was insisting on spending more and more time in my life, mostly in a negative way.  Things had decayed to the point where I felt completely comfortable asking to pre-board whenever I was flying.  Between the limping and slow walk, I would otherwise slow down the boarding process all by myself.  In December 2016, I started evaluations with the University of Minnesota's neurology department to see if they'd consider me a candidate for Deep Brain Stimulation surgery.  After a couple of weeks of scans and appointments, they declined, saying that my symptoms weren't "severe enough yet."  I privately and impolitely disagreed, then sought a second opinion from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.  Somehow, my hometown neurologist got me an appointment in a couple of weeks when it can take the better part of a year to get a DBS evaluation.  By Valentine's Day, I had my answer from the Mayo Clinic: YES.

The procedure was scheduled for the end of April.  I made sure to go scare some trout get out fishing one more time before I let them drill into my skull and push little wires into my brain.  Mrs. FA and I finally took a basic fly tying class and had a blast! I also did some writing, feeling like the Grim Reaper was just over my left shoulder.  And to ensure that I had a "legacy" in case all did not go well, I commissioned a bold logo from Kirk Werner aka The Unaccomplished Angler aka Itchy Dog Productions.

Alas, I survived the surgery by providing a feeble comedy show for everyone on the Operating Room.  (If you force me to be awake during neurosurgery, I am DARN WELL going to find a way to have at least a little fun!)  I even have a couple of cool pix from my gory days...

After a few weeks of recovery, we pulled the Mobile Hotel® out of storage and parked in next to a trout stream in southeastern Minnesota for the entire summer.  I had changed, and so had the creek.  So I wandered a bit.  In June, I made my way to a gathering of like-minded individuals, at least in the pursuit of trout.  I spent a few hours at Troutstock (a.k.a. EddieFest) in western Wisconsin.  I finally met Nick, a great guy (very tall) who'd dropped me some hints from time to time.  Met Shebs, too.  And I got to fish with the legendary Trapper for a few hours.  Hoping to do that again, maybe on some of his home waters.  Funny thing, Eddie was conspicuously absent...

A springtime Driftless trown trout
Thus went the summer and fall: healing, frustration, success, and struggle.  But I never forgot, even when my cast was at it's worst, that I was very, very fortunate to still be walking the woods & meadows, frightening innocent trout casting a fly upon the waters.  But I felt no desire to write.  A blog without an author is a sad thing, and there was much sadness here.  Kinda like a motorcycle sitting in the garage or driftboat on the trailer.  I wish I could explain what and why, but many hours of introspection have yielded as much as some of my afternoons on the creek: an empty creel.  I've often felt that writing here was more a form of therapy than anything else.  Or an exercise in narcissism.  Those seem sad, too.

The pinnacle of sadness came in early October.  I made it out to Colorado to do a little fishing with Howard.  We even managed to coordinate this trip with The River Damsel!  I was the third wheel because Howard and RD had another friend, Stephanie from the Antlers and Gills blog.  Things loosened up quickly  & Stephanie got us into some fish across the street from her house.  Literally.  New friends and fish were pure joy, and the next day with Howard on Clear Creek was as memorable a day as I've ever had.  Still, the drive and desire to write about that trip never came.  Emily, Howard, and Stephanie deserved better.

Along with fishing, horses have returned to the forefront of our lives.  My 14 year old daughter has been bitten by the bug, and I think it got Mrs. FA and myself again.  In preparation for family trail rides next summer, we brought a new new horse into our family.  Sadly, she was not with us very long.  Bella was a gorgeous Standardbred mare, retired from track racing.  We promised her previous owner that we'd take good care of her.  But things happen in life, especially with horses.  Horse owners fear the word "colic" for good reason.  I still think of her every morning when I look out at our little herd.  All of the vets involved in trying to save Bella said we did everything we could, but it sure doesn't feel like it was enough.

Bella and our other new family member, Honey the miniature horse

Surely I managed to write about my first real saltwater fishing trip with Mrs. FA, right?

Nope!  Not a word was seen here, though I managed to post photos on Instagram and Facebook.

Enough!  I was on Facebook this morning, commenting on how 10 F feel much more comfortable after feeding the horses at -20 F.  Our new friend and Florida Keys fishing guide, Ben Trainer, responded with a photo of his dogs lounging with the back door open and his outside thermometer reading 79 F.  Another friend posted some pix of recently tied nymphs and a resulting large rainbow trout.  Motivation came back, and here I am at the keyboard, trying to wrap up 2017 in the manner it started.  Plus, Mr. and Mrs. Fading Angler are headed back out to Colorado for the Flyfishing Show again next weekend.

Hey, looks like I found my mojo, right here where I left it!

See you in 2018...  Florida Keys, Yellowstone, Colorado... Trapfest? Maybe the Green River in SW Wyoming?  Steelhead?  Some east slope cutthroats on the Tongue River in Big Horn Mountains?


  1. Chris, I doubt you will forget this year. An epic on on all ends I believe. :)

    1. No, I doubt I'll forget it either. I saw your 2017 memories. How awesome to fish with your daughter!

  2. See you on the Green...I will have a laptop in the car and you can write all about your fish! =)

    1. Sounds like plan! I won't need the laptop in the car though...

  3. Wait...what? I'm just happy that my little bitty buddy made it through what surely would have been an ongoing nightmare for me. We'll have to try it again next year.

    1. Starting with the Denver Flyfishing show? Sounds good. If we have to get you into a drift boat for some fishing, that's what we'll do!

  4. Nice write up Chris. Looking forward to fishing with you in 2018!