Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Windbound in 'Bamaland

     The frigid north is blowin' its way down here today at about thirty miles per hour.  Smells like the crispness of a Minnesota winter.  Back in my running days, on a day like they're havin' today up in the Gopher State I'd grow a white beard of frost on the yellow knit tube that covered my neck and jaw.  Frozen tears on my cheeks.  Ah, those were the good old days.
     Over the tens of thousand miles I covered none stand out as much as a fourteen miler at thirty-one below.  Bluebird sky, dead calm, snow squeakin' under Adidas.  Can't say I was cold at all.  I cut off to the west at Lake Calhoun in south Minneapolis to run the fairways of the Minnekahda Club.  Come Spring I'd have been quickly kicked out or maybe arrested.  But on that morning, with a foot of snow on the ground to trot through, I was as alone as I could be.  Hell, at that temperature I had the city to myself.
     Minnesotans flaunt their love of winter.  Of course that love has its limitations.  When the thermometer bottoms out or the wind chill hits minus sixty only the fools head out of the door.  I look at it this way, so long as I can look in the mirror and see a fool lookin' back at me I'm still alive and kickin'.  And havin' a fine time in my own quiet way.
     On the other hand, till the wind takes a rest, the long rod will have to sit in its corner and wait.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Duffers from the Past

     Watched a couple of videos last night.  Seeing Curt Gowdy and Lee Wulff fish the back waters of Labrador was a treat.  The film didn't miss a fishing moment.  Even showed them losing trout and having fishless retrieves.  Almost showed everything.
     Yet somehow the cameraman was always invisible.  That's one of the things that always gets me thinking.  There, down in the water, are the two heroes catchin' five pound brook trout like it was the most natural thing in the world.  They'd forged their way over sky, water and land to some wilderness that no one had seen in centuries.  Totally alone with nature.  Yet, somewhere, unseen, was someone shootin' the film.  And from all kinds of angles.  That person was there when the plane took off and again when it landed in the back of beyond.  How come they were never featured as the stars of the show?  Seems to me shootin' the film was the toughest job.
     On the upside Wulff flew his own float plane.  And hand-tied his own flies on the spot.  No vice, just hook, thread, feathers and hair with a drop of head cement.  I'd heard he could do that but had never seen it in action.  That was a treat.  When he was asked, Wulff simply said that where he came from there were no vices.  Had never even heard of them.  If you wanted to tie flies you used what you had.  Damn he made it look so easy.
     Also, watching Wulff and Gowdy throw out fly line was worth the price of admission.  Effortless pumping up of line speed to a layout of twenty or more yards.  Not even a grunt between 'em with the final heave.  Poetry.

Sunday, January 19, 2014


     The gulf coast of Alabama sure is a different world from the northwoods.  Not a hill for an hour's drive in any direction.  Here and there a cotton field and something called a satsuma.  There's pine trees most everywhere when you leave the beach area,  Loblolly, sand, and two types of southern yellow.  They call them long leaf and short leaf.  Why leaf is beyond my ken.  Those green things growing from the branches sure look like needles to me.  Could be they are leaves and us northerners have got it ass backwards.
     Then there's the live oaks.  Beautiful, spreading trees.  A mature oak covers the better part of an acre with branches so long and heavy they droop to the ground.  But the leaves sure ain't oak leaves as far as I can see.  Nothin' but little oval things.  Their acorns look like acorns, but the leaves?  And they don't shed in the Fall.  Or spring or anytime.  The live oak is an evergreen.  Yup, an evergreen.
     So you've got pine trees with leaves and an oak that's an evergreen.  Till they get that straightened out in a manner the good Lord of Lutherans intended, the South sure ain't gonna rise again.
     Where I fish is another anomaly.  Like I wrote yesterday there's herons, cormorants, gulls and ospreys for company.  Should I come down after dark there might even be a bobcat to pass the time with.  To my back is open land covered with brush, wild flowers and vines that look like creeping charlie on steroids.  All of that sparsely covers and protects a humpiness of bone white sand dunes.  Not fertile land at all.  That anything at all grows atop it is a mystery and a tribute to the tenacity of life.  Scrubby life for sure.  Given the frequency of hurricanes in this part of the world that's about all that can be expected.
     Above runs a huge sky.  Nothing much besides the high rises we're staying in for the winter to hide the blue.  Should bad weather come calling it can be seen from thirty miles away.  Seein' as how my walk to this little refuge is only minute away from cover, the only way I can get wet is if I choose to.  Not quite like canoe camping in northwest Manitoba but as close as I can come down here in the lap of civilization.
     Oh yeah, the anomaly part.  Though I stand and attempt to whip out line with the hope of catching yarn eatin' speckled sea trout, across the channel, as I've written before, stand dozens of million dollar plus houses.  All of 'em built on a big sand bar and waitin' for the next big blow.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Another Yarn

     I keep reading I should be hooking myself in the ear when practicing different fly casting methods.  Throw in the ever present wind down here and it's a certainty.  Of course I pooh-poohed that notion for the first three times out with the rod.  Then I recalled the first day and hooking myself in the lower back a couple of times.  That's why I've now got a chunk of green yarn on the end of my line.  Not 'cause I've taken up knitting.
     Of course there's much to be said for knitting.  Seems Madame DeFarge(?) spent her days in the French Revolution (Dickens) knitting head bags alongside the guillotine.  Actually I don't know if they were actually head bags but that makes more sense than afghans or garish mittens.  Don't know what the dead would do with them.
     Again the casting went mostly well.  But mostly well is something I can't sit back and enjoy.  Inevitably I keep trying to work out more line.  If I can do twenty yards, why not twenty-five?  Actually there is a reason to not do twenty-five and it has to do with the inevitable resulting clump of line at my feet or the yarn wrapped around a chunk of brush to my rear.  Kinda like turnin' over rocks in the desert 'til something under one bites me.
     Being outside, down the narrow beach is always a chance to see neat stuff.  There's a lot of herons to spook, cormorants, a jelly fish or two and the paw prints of a big cat that likes to wander the sand at night.  Apologizing to the great blue herons for disturbing their nap does no good.  They always give me that 'why don't you go the hell away' look then, flap off with a "crawk, crawk, crawk!"  Ain't they sweet?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

So What Else is New?

     Out whippin' the rod again today.  Didn't spend a lot of time but threw out a few dozen casts.  Each day it gets better and the line lays down just like it should once in a while.  The idea today was to relax, shorten the stroke and get some whip in the line.
     Last night a half hour video on U-Tube told me exactly how to cast.  Simple as pie.  Following that a couple of shorts by Lefty Kreh said to do it differently than the first guy.  Today I watched the queen of the long rod, Joan Wulff, who showed me a different method.  And each one of 'em said they were right.  Had to be 'cause they were all flingin' a whole lot of line with hardly any effort at all.
     One thing they all said was to keep it simple, don't bend your wrist and get a feel for the timing.  And, oh yeah, practice (plus maybe buy their video).

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Beach

     Had some time, the sun was out, the wind down, time to drag out Darrell's old Daiwa and do my best to return with both ears intact.
     Last time was out on the dock and I was confused.  Not all that unusual these days.  This time I strolled a quarter mile down to a little stretch of white quartz sand beach.  I'm told the quartz washed down from the Appalachians eons ago.  Don't know if that's true but I don't care so long as it squeaks when I walk on it.  And it does.
     The beach sits alongside a channel narrow enough to make it feel more like the intimacy of the ponds I'm drawn to.  Gotta say it beat the pants off of standing on a dock.  Maybe it's the feel of actual planet under my feet or getting my toes wet that made the difference.  Probably neither.  How about, the outdoors feels more outdoorsy when I've got brush at my back, water on my feet and million dollar houses on the island to my front over yonder?
     Today I took a little more time with the rod.  It was a gift and deserves as much.  Even paid attention now and then.  Tied on a red and white popper with black spots and sparklies on the tail.  A popper?  What the hell does this guy think he's fishing for?  There ain't no bass out there boy.  Might not have been anything else either.  But that's not the reason I was doin' what I was doin'.
     Line goes out.  Line's stripped in.  Goes out again, this time a little farther.  And a little farther.  Holy moly, I was into the running line.  Rod, line and leader laid out straight, something over twenty yards out.  Any more and the six foot, brown brush to my rear grabbed my homemade popper.  Seems the longer the line I'm working the more my faults stand out.  Doesn't matter, there's hope.
     No wind knots, no impalements, it was a good day.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Dock of the Bay

     The rod sits where I left it yesterday after rinsing it with fresh water.  Strong winds came down from Minnesota last night and brought us wind chills in the teens.  Not cold by Minnesota standards but enough to send us off to Bamahenge instead.  Yup, there is a Bamahenge.
     Tomorrow is more of the same.  Not in my game plan for sure.  But Wednesday a little sand beach on the bay down from our building beckons.  Who knows what salt water beasties might lie there with a taste for steel, hair and feathers?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Zen and the Art of Self-Impalement

     Call me loopster.  Today I traveled down to the docks with long rod in hand.  Not to catch fish, simply to throw some line with the hope of improvement.  Can't say I improved.  Can't say I didn't.  What I can say is that I was thankfully alone.
     Last night I reread the opening chapter of Lefty Kreh's guide to longer casts.  Some sections I read twice in the hope of forming a clear picture in my head of what to do.  My only fear after the reading was that my Albright knot might be too weak and I'd lose my saltwater line should it separate from the backing while I was gracefully moving thirty or forty yards through the air.  I feared needlessly.
     Don't know what it is but I'm always tense when I practice casting.  Fearful that something might go wrong.  Hell, when learning something, mistakes are part of the game.  Nothing to worry about.  It just happens.  Life goes on and over time, things get better.
     As it turned out, my casting wasn't all that bad but I really hadn't envisioned the scene accurately.  Didn't take into consideration that the water out from our dock moves as the tide comes in or goes out.  Didn't consider the wind that's always there.  Didn't grasp the effect of standing three feet above the water.
     On a lake you cast a fly out and retrieve it on the same line.  Not so on an ocean bay.  The cast goes out, the line and fly drift rapidly to the right (or left) and the next cast starts out more or less sidearm.  And a couple of times the combination of wind, side arm motion and inexperienced caster, loops the fly into the rear of one's jacket at about belt level.  Never done that before.  And am happy I wasn't topless.
     On the upside I only had one wind knot.  Actually it was more of a hangman's noose.  And easily untied.  Seems to me Lefty said something about tailing loops.  Can't recall what that was but I figure whatever the mistake was, I did it in spades one time.  Maybe I'll go take a look at that chapter again.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Have Fly Rod, Will Wait

     Spent a few minutes this afternoon prepping my salt water gear.  New backing and line on the old  reel.  Not as easy as it sounds for a man who's knot challenged.  Thank God for the ease of the internet.  A three minute video refreshed my non-existant memory of how to tie an Albright knot.  A few minutes of fumbling and strangely enough what I tied looked a lot like what was in the video.
     The only thing missing now is a fishing license.  The fine for disturbing the fish with out a legal permit down here in Alabama is a pistol whipping, rib busting and thirty days in jail with Bubba for a roomie.  Though I've never been pistol whipped, it ain't on my bucket list so I'll wait till tomorrow and get legal.
     Down by the docks we saw a porpoise porping by.  Lois saw the majesty of it.  I saw a sea mammal looking for food.  Must be fish out there and those damned porpoises better leave them alone till I get my share.