Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Lure Building

     After Allan and my last trip to Manitoba I realized that after better than forty hours on the water we'd only used one type of lure, an in-line spinner. And of those a red and white blade was the most successful. We caught nothing but pike and walleyes but what the hell, that's all that swam in the water of Elbow Lake. So why not next time only pack a dozen red and whites each plus snap swivels and backup line? Sounds foolish to show up at the float plane with all our lures in a hip pocket but I sure do like the idea.
     So, yesterday I ordered enough parts to tie up and assemble thirty spinners between pike and musky sized. All will have red and white blades with trebles heavily dressed in red and white or yellow and white buck tail. That's it, keepin' it simple.

Monday, January 1, 2018

What's the Point?

     Call me an ebay, voyeur junkie. Can't help it, I just like to look. Mostly my personal porn consists of vintage fiberglass fly rods. Admittedly bamboo has more mystique to it but not for me. Besides the price for a decent rod being out of my league, I simply can't see myself in the solo canoe waving a fancy asian, grass stick back and forth. Don't know why but I just can't.
     Fiberglass however, would be in my price range if I had a price range. Also carries the weight of nostalgia since I grew up on glass, both spinning and fly rods. Its action tends to be slow and forgiving and Lord knows I need forgiveness. A couple of years back I broke down and bought a couple on ebay. Both were of quality though neither was off-the-wall exotic. And I do love things and people with an aura about them. So, over the years when I need a fix, I fire up ebay, scout what's available and occasionally find a rod that calls to me. Most are from the '50s and tend to look like they were rarely used. Untouched is neat but a little palm sweat on the cork has more appeal.
     A couple of years ago I wrote a coming-of-age novel. In it my fictitious Uncle Emil owns a single fly rod, a three piece, eight and a half foot Shakespeare. Not a great rod by any means but it fit the man. Wouldn't mind owning one myself. Don't need the sock nor the tube, just the rod.
     To name a few of the others, Conolon's Royal Javelin, Browning rods from the '60s and most any Phillipson. However, the Phillipsons tend to be pricy and those selling them know it.
     Last summer, while he and his family were vacationing on the north shore of Lake Superior, my son came on a couple of fiberglass fly rods at a consignment store. One was a South Bend of no interest, the other was a Johnson Profile 600 Phillipson in excellent shape. The Phillipson is for all practical purposes, as good a production fiberglass rod as has been made. Doesn't have the gold plating of the 800 but shares the same blank. The price was reasonable but since I had no use for another rod, particularly one I wasn't worthy of, our conversation went no further.
     Well, come Christmas, guess what I got? The rod needs a revarnish of the ferrule windings but that's about it. Still has part of the tag on the handle but the cork is slightly soiled. Yeah, it's a rod I would have lusted on line, said to myself, "That'd be a fine one to own," then passed on to other listings.
     So, now I own one of my icons. Hardly seems worth looking at ebay any more and truth is, I don't. Guess there's no point, eh?

Monday, December 25, 2017

FInally

     After seven years I'm finally throwing these entries together in essay form, doing a lot of editing and combining them in a book. Should you be interested in my Army days, they'll be available on Lulu.com as Draftee (A Buffoon in Vietnam) in about ten days, also amazon.com (etc) in near to two months.
     I have hopes to make it back to Canada and the BWCA next year, maybe even the cabin. Like I said, I have hopes. At age seventy-one time's running short.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Paddles

      Over the years I’ve owned a lot of them, both low and high quality. Of course, as is usual for me, price was always at the top of the list. The first paddles were bottom of the line and worth every penny. Still have them. One is tacked above the shed door as part of an ‘X’ pattern with a plastic, Mickey Mouse swing seat my three-year-old son used to call ‘Bommie’ centered above. Together the three have a look something like a skull and crossbones. That was the intention anyway.
     The remaining few hang in the shed with splitting glue joints, lending them a forlorn look. Though they were cheap, the splitting was my fault. Or at least it I think it was. The paddles were bought back in my ‘things last forever and I shouldn’t have to do squat to help them along’ days and weren’t given the maintenance they deserved. Even crap will last a long time if given a little TLC. But I hadn’t yet realized that. A brief ten minutes of light sanding and a coat of spar varnish at the end of the season was all they needed. After I came to realize things fall apart over time, the last cheapie, a beavertail, was given the attention it deserved and looks near new after better than two decades use.
     Allan and my trips to Manitoba called for new paddles, at least in my mind they did. As luck would have it, one of the businesses on my extended FedEx route made paddles and hockey sticks, quality ones. They also sold factory seconds. Yup, my kind of quality. There I bought a pair of bent shaft models. When he heard what I’d done, a co-worker told me you couldn’t j-stroke with a bent shaft. Not a problem for me. Hell, I couldn’t j-stoke with a straight one. Didn’t know it at the time but I needed the Internet to teach me an ages-old method. Seeing as how I’ve always done things ass-backwards that fit right into the pattern.
     Over the years I came to see those bent shaft paddles had other uses. When it came to repositioning while fishing a weed edge, ‘cause of their sort shafts, they’re sculling wonders. Grab one at the blade top, reverse the angle, brace your arm against the shaft and go to town. She’s painful in a constructive way. It’s an inch-along process but when you’re covering every foot of good water, that’s what you want.
     Somewhere along the line I got the idea to make my own paddle. A classic one from a single piece of ash. I recall reading that Sigurd Olson, the author and outdoorsman, carved his own from ash and even wrote an essay about it. As I recall, Olson wrote the slab of wood had to hewn from the heart of a lightning struck, swamp ash and whittled in the light of a full moon. Could be wrong about that but it sure sounds good. Regardless, Olson carved his from ash and so would I.
     As luck would have it, above in the garage rafters rested an ash plank. Fairly straight grained and dry as bone. Over a couple of weeks I sawed, planed, sanded and varnished. What I finally held in my hands mostly looked like a paddle and kind of felt like one also. But she was heavy like something Alley Oop would cold cock a mastodon with. Not good. These days it’s the third member of the shed’s skull and crossbones. Looks good up there.
     But I wasn’t done with thinking of another. The idea stuck with me through the years until spare time and quality glue finally became one. The next was also formed from spare ash. This time a pair of scrap boards were dismembered and reformed into a general shape with waterproof adhesive and clamps. Throw in some work with the band saw, hand plane and a sander or two and once again I formed a fine pile of shavings and wood dust, also a functional tool. Took it to the Boundary Waters where it worked like the real deal and tuckered me out some. Guess it was still on the heavy side.
     Long story continued, me and the paddle ghost became good friends. Got together a dozen or more times in the garage with varying kinds of wood. Came to learn at my workbench that walnut made an attractive and hard accent material. Its dust also darkened my snot more than I thought healthy. The walnut came to me from the international airport via a good friend who’d passed away a few years back. These days you’ll find it on several of my paddles tips and grips and a rock or two on border lakes. Believe that’s known in some circles as entropy.
     The newer paddles are lighter and for sure a lot prettier – For an amateur who’s stabbing his way through the dark. The last pair was formed from garage sale redwood. Don’t know how long the cabinet was sitting in their garage but it had a decades-long patina. Straight-grained, old growth wood that set me a-tingle. These days that kind of treasure can only be found in scrap heaps and antique stores. This year’s pair of tips came from hand-hewn birch from the cabin. Throw in a little scrap pine and aromatic cedar as accent, they’re pretty enough to hang on the wall and never touch a drop of water.
     Working the wood’s a love-hate job. When you’re working scrap wood with marginal tools, each step takes attention and care. Even then nothing comes out perfect. The loom, that’s the handle, is formed from three or more lengths. The blade from a dozen or more and the grip has another four pieces added. Lot of gluing and clamping. All told, the last pair is a slap-dash of twenty-one pieces.

     Last fall at the State Fair I asked a craftsman how many hours in each of his paddles. He thought a moment and said, “Maybe two?” Good thing I’m not trying to make a living as a paddle man.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Mantel

     A few years back my daughter and son-in-law bought a new house. In the basement they installed a gas fireplace. Not as charming as a wood burner but a whole lot cleaner and much easier to supply with fuel. If you've read any of my old entries you know how much I enjoy making needless work for myself. And believe me, gathering your own firewood is a time-consuming and sometimes painful joy.
     Anyhow, even though their fireplace is a modern, hi-tech pleasure, they wanted a rustic touch, a hand-hewn, log-style mantle. Sounded good and would give me reason to tromp the woods, chainsaw in hand. That our local, cabin beavers had widow-maker hung an aspen was icing on the cake. Not fifty yards from the cabin door there was a mantel-to-be entwined in a trio of red oak trees. Yeah, even beavers screw up now and then just like fear-crazed grouses occasionally bounce off tree branches. I can vouch for both. Grew up thinking those kind of things never happened, that Mother Nature and all her creations were perfect. I was wrong.
     Though I've gathered something close to a hundred cords of firewood over the years, I'm nowhere near to being a woodsman. When a tree drops where I've intended there's more than skill involved. That's why several tons of mature aspen pitched at thirty degrees shy of vertical got me thinking of escape routes and the location of the nearest clinic. Had there been no need for a mantel the tree could've leaned there forever as far as I was concerned. But there was a need and I'd dropped widow-makers before, so what the hell, why not? At least I was smart enough to do it when I had company; call it 'share the blame.'
     Since it was to be Ryan's mantel, he was the perfect, poor fool to join in the fun. As it turned out all went well, though there's no way I could have moved the beast of a saw log without his help. Even then it was all we could do to flip-flop it to a spot where I could rip out the oversized plank. Long story short, I'm sitting in their basement a few years later and looking at the mantel as I write. She's developed a twist but not so much as to cause a problem. The blackened, worm-crawled log edge is a thing of beauty, as is the little stretch of chainsaw chatter. Call them natural charm, you may not but I sure do.
   

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Draftee (A Buffoon in Vietnam)

     Pulled the trigger this morning on my second book, this one based off my Vietnam blog. Now it's in my son's court to add the cover he designed. The story's not bad but will pale compared to the cover. Couldn't make up my mind as to what kind of tale it was till I went and got honest with myself. Not an easy thing to do. Right off the bat Archie, the narrator, says what follows is as close to the truth as he can make it though he had to change all the names so as not to get his ass in a legal bind, so I guess it's a memoir. Anyhow, it's not as good a tale as the first book, a novel, but'll turn few stomaches. That's more or less what I was hoping for from the get-go back in '84 when the idea first passed through my thoughts.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Brain Death

     Haven't written for a few weeks. Those things happen in life when other stuff comes to the fore. Haven't been anywhere to wet a line 'cause my spare time's been in hiding. My wife had a full knee replacement and has been sidelined for a while. I've been busy burning food and ruining clothes in the laundry. Yup, incompetence is what love's all about.
     Also been putting the wraps on a second novel, called Draftee. It's not so much a novel as she's autobiography with the names changed. You might say I've been working on it in spurts for around six years. Like the first book, Draftee's written for my grandchildren, though my language leans a little more on the red side of civility. Hell, a man can't write about Army life and a tour in Vietnam as a grunt without dropping a little color on his words.
     Anyhow, I felt I should put a few words on the page and these are the best I could come up with.