Thursday, April 23, 2015

Attitude Adjustment

     When I first tied my own buck tails they were pretty ragged.  They worked fine, just didn't please the eye.  A craftsman would have taken time, figured out what wasn't working, and in short order, been tying some truly pretty dressed treble hooks.  Also been smooth as silk on the inside while doing so.  Not me.  Not only weren't the hooks elegant, I was uneasy while doing the work.  But they saved four bucks each and when my son and I were going through better than forty of them on each of our extended Manitoba trips, that added up.  So I kept plugging away.
     Don't know when things began to turn around, maybe when I got used to being retired.  Been five and a half years since I walked out that door for the last time   However, getting used to the idea of not working for a living took awhile.  Call it three years.  Every so often I still have to remind myself there's no good reason to get up early in the morning unless I actually want to.  The meaning of time has changed.  My days are numbered but not my hours.  More often than not I'm finding the time to do things right and am more relaxed while doing so.  And the buck tails are getting better.  Some are almost good.  Doesn't mean they'll catch fish but might cause an occasional smallmouth bass to turn and say, "My oh my, isn't that in-line spinner a sight to behold and enjoy."  At least that's what I'll tell myself after being skunked again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Emily II

     Woke up this morning dreaming about Groucho Marx.  Before that it was squirrels.  I've long thought dreams provide balance and guidance; but Groucho and rodents?  There's a problem there.  Either with me or the Great Beyond.  I'm leaning towards the Great Beyond.
     Laid there musing about Emily Dickinson for a few minutes.  Next thing I knew Mr. Miagi from "The Karate Kid" wandered in to give the poet advice, "Wax on, wax off."  Showed her the proper motions.  Anyhow, they struck up a relationship and now live on a fly-in lake in Alaska running a trapline in the winter and placer mining gold with a D-9 Cat in the summer.  Emily no longer waxes poetic about mosquitoes.  Finds animals are both to be admired and eaten.  Thinks her buddy Thoreau is a lazy no-goodnik who didn't have enough gumption to finish hoeing his bean field.
     Doesn't have much to do with wilderness canoe fishing, does it?  Neither does cleaning the cabin or moving leaves off the cleared half acre surrounding the cabin.  Then again, both do.  A clean, well maintained cabin adds pleasure to the experience of the woods.  Cleared land keeps the bugs down and the ticks off.  And looks so civilized having a clear patch among the trees and brush.  From the road passers-by see woods with a pair of red roofs peeking through.  Should they wander a hundred feet up the drive, a little Eden opens up.  Even has snakes, but no apple trees.  Had God left out that tree back in Eden, we'd still be living in the Middle East.  Good thing the tree was there, eh?
     Short story shorter, I didn't do anything remotely wilderness-y over the three days.  Did read a lot; Willa Cather and "Writing Blue Highways" by William Least Heat-Moon.  Cather's one heckuva story teller from the first half of last century.  Should you have read "Blue Highways" and enjoyed it, Least Heat-Moon's remembrance of the work and pain going into getting it in print is worth the time.
     Would have written a lot more this time but am stuck in the dark ages of pen and paper. I find scratching out the words uncomfortably slow.  And illegible.  Out of practice.  Can't say that's a good or bad thing.  I'm still trying to figure out how to write and am running out of time and brain.  Also a matter of correcting mistakes.  I make a lot of them.  So much easier cleaning things up electronically.
     At the moment I'm waiting on two things to write about and hoping for an unseen third.  There's a Boundary Waters trip in early June and me and Uncle Emil has a lot left to talk about when I get back from Vietnam.  The unseen third way's always been there.  Always will be.  And always comes as a surprise that I'd missed something so obvious.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Emily Dickinson, Automobile Detailer

     Grouse (grouses, grice ?) always do it to me.  One moment on Sunday I was strolling along a backroad, the glassed out, east bay of Lake Hattie to my left, the road virtually early-spring abandoned, the next moment an explosion of blurred feathers launched past my face and up the wooded hillside to my right.  Good thing my liquids and solids were under control.  No sooner did the bird disappear in the branches than it turned into a honking pair of swans winging in the opposite direction.  I suspect the three were separate birds but am not sure.  Seems to me when a person's alone, I mean really alone, no one for better than a mile,  mother nature takes advantage, screws with the fool just for fun.  Why not?  Had I the power change face, I'd do it in a heartbeat.  Don't know about you but I'm thinking coatimundi.  Not exactly sure what they are, could be a cross between an outer garment and a day of the week.  Should you happen to pass a coatimundi biking along the paths of South Minneapolis, that's me.
     Beyond that, two trucks passed in the hour and a half.  Both raised the requisite index finger off the steering wheel.  All was right with the world.
     As you can see, life at the cabin tends to lack excitement.  It'd take an Emily Dickinson to wax poetic about my three days.  Truth is I'd rather have her wax my car.  Another highlight was looking up from my book to watch a phoebe fluff and preen (originally wrote 'prune'. Couldn't think of the right word. Have to admit prune is funnier) its feathers.  Had Ms. Dickinson been with me, and been done with the car, I'd have asked her to write me a poem.  Maybe something about life, death and continuance?
     Went back and read a few of her poems.  Bless her heart for keeping them short and upbeat.  And if you paid attention, they even rhymed.  Seemed to me she had a thing about birds and bees though Ms. Dickinson didn't poesy anything about sex, at least anything really steamy that I could find.  She'd have really liked the idea that the phoebe outside the sliding door may have been the great-great grandchild of the pair who first glued a nest to the side of the cabin.  Then would have let me know I would inevitably die, maybe in a week or two, possibly between the headlights of one of the trucks I'd passed on the road, and the phoebe wouldn't give a rat's ass one way or the other so long as the cabin remained standing.  Could be that's what she meant by continuance.  Life goes on even if you don't.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thoughts on Heading North

     It's that time of year.  Head north to the cabin, strip down, slather myself in doe scent, spread eagle on the ground, and do my annual deer tick survey.  The little buggers should be out and about by now.  Haven't had lyme disease for two years and kind of miss my time on the couch sleeping away the day.  And the intense headache, can't forget that.
     Lois saw a picture of what a cluster of tick eggs looks like so I'm prepared to visit me some havoc on the little suckers before they ever see the light of day.  Yeah baby, I'm on a crusade.  Search 'em out and burn 'em down.
     I'm almost, but not quite, tempted to bring a rod and check out one of the local trout lakes.  Can't remember, is it 'hope springs eternal' or is it 'April is the cruelest month of all'?  Conflict among the semi-literate.
     Called in the State to decide the trout issue.  They said I should fish for trout and bring my best rod and reel.  Added I should buy a two grand, classic, six-split bamboo pole.  Even gave me a lake and the cell number of the game warden who'd confiscate my gear should I try fishing out of season.  That was sure nice of them.
     The drive usually goes well till I'm about five miles away.  That's when the thought of a possible winter break-in takes hold.  Not much of value to steal up there so long as the thieves don't find my two Itchy and Scratchy t-shirts.
     This year I'll go alone.  The first few days are all about cleanup.  Dead flies and the occasional bat.  Don't mind the work.  It's a chance to visit with old board and nail friends from the '80s.  Lot of personal history up there.  It's one of my happy places.  Home water and woods.
     Write again when I get back.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What's Going On?

     Been writing for about thirty years.  The early years were manual, pen and pencil.  Not much of it was worth holding onto.  But those words helped me through some tough times when I began to come to grips with what's called these days post traumatic stress.  Didn't know I had till last fall at the State Fair.  By then it was over.  Seems like I've spent my life one step behind.
     Anyhow, didn't begin to find my writing voice till I ran into my Uncle Emil on the Fourth of July in Pequot Lakes a while back.  Whispered me a tale while I ate a smoked turkey leg and got me first prize in a liars contest.  He's my muse and a darned good friend.  Been around since I was a kid and was always there to lend a guiding hand.  He always knew the right thing to do even when it sure as heck looked like the wrong thing.  There's a lesson there if you care to think about it.  Should you figure out what that lesson is, let me know, 'cause I'm mostly clueless.
     Now, Emil's only there in spirit.  Never been alive that I know of.  But he's there, only you can't see him.  I can't either as he's always behind my left shoulder no matter which way I turn.
     So, when I took up writing, I tried my best to write as Emil wanted me to.  Should you read any of my four hundred entries, you'll easily see which ones Emil had his hand in.  A fair number are just words on a page.  Some are pretty good.  And there's a nine word passage, I forget exactly where, that's pure poetry.
     If you read any of my entries and don't find it interesting, move on.  Should you find one you like, let me know.  Find one you don't, keep it to yourself as I have a very delicate ego.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ice Out

     Spring's coming early this year.  The word down in Alabama over the winter sounded like the northland was under an ice assault straight from the gates of hell.  Guess I write that up to (oops had to run over and keep one grandson from bloodying the other) - seven hours later and I have no clue where I was going with that sentence.  Maybe that ice out is running a week or more earlier than normal.  Should put the smallmouth off the beds and then some.  That's good.  Should there be a quality black fly hatch, it'll most likely be on the wane.  That's also good.  Beyond that, it's a crap shoot.
     Checked the DNR's ice out map this morning.  Yup, seems things are running about ten or twelve days ahead of normal.  Don't know what that means for the Arrowhead region as their winter seemed a little more severe.  As for me, I'm heading into the yard to clean up the mess.  The joys of home ownership are never ending.
     In year's past mid-April would find me counting days, reading all I could find on the mating habits of fish (spring fishing is all about sex), and trying to nail down exactly how the fishing would go.  Did no good but did pass the time.  Guess, like the weather, there's too many variables as to when the bite'll be on.  Us German/Swede hybrids don't fancy variables.  If the world ran just like we wanted there'd be no point doing anything 'cause we'd have already done the math and would know what tomorrow would bring.  Ain't easy accepting the unknown inevitable.

Friday, April 10, 2015


     Think I have enough stuff at the moment to build about eighty spinners of various sizes.  That should last me till the second, or maybe the third, coming.  Guess I'm gonna have to figure out how to survive those comings.  Once everyone is gone the fishing should get a whole lot better.  Wouldn't want to miss out on that.
     At the moment I'm sitting in the family room with a pair of grandsons watching one of the Alvin and the Chipmunk movies.  Didn't care for their songs when I was a kid or any of their cartoons in the following years.  Ah well, if I had a nickel for every time I read something like that in Lee Wulff's essays….
     Looking forward to tying the #8 treble hooks.  No doubt I'll grumble my way through them but'll figure it out eventually.  Now that I'm home there's new color combinations to choose from.  Grabbed the basics for Alabama and threw them together willie-nillie.  Ask any bass or walleye fishermen of note and they'll tell you that color's a big deal to fish.  No doubt in my mind they're right,.  Yet, outside of a change of blade color, I've paid color no heed.  I like bright.  I like natural.  Look in the box and tie on what feels right at the moment.  Eenie, meenie, mynie, squirrel tail.  Or maybe yellow and white.  Ooh, flashabou.
     Then there's choice of tackle box.  Think I have an old over and under out in the garage.  It worked in the past as a Boundary Waters box.  When we started doing the long trips into Canada it was left behind to gather dust.  Two week trips called for big food packs and tackle bags.  Lotsa lures and gear. But a five day-er calls for paring down.  As does my aging back and muscles.
     Then there's rods.  The two buck, sixty year old, thrift shop, fiberglass Shakespeare's going along.  Blast from the past and still a fine rod.  Also learned recently its sliding reel mount can do double duty as a fly reel mount.  Don't think that was the idea behind its design but what the heck.  The temptation of several rods wants to draw me into filling three rod tubes but no, two is the limit.  Two rods, three reels (if I bring a fly reel) and some backup line.
     More later.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Future

     Three grandsons and a granddaughter, each with a future I'd like to see.  Also wouldn't mind spending some time on the water with them.  Already done that with Jakob but not in a canoe.  And, to me, a canoe's the way to go.  Takes longer to get where you want to go but only if where you want to go is a ways away.  In most of the lakes we fish, where we want to go is a right and a half dozen canoe lengths away so distance is rarely a problem.  And when it's a challenge, like a thirty mile paddle with five portages, the destination usually tastes that much sweeter.
     At the moment two of the grandsons, ages two and four, are doing artwork in the kitchen with their grandmother.  Part of their collages involves fish, funny looking fish with oversized eyes and eye lashes.  We're watching them for a few days while mom and dad are taking a break.  Till the boys are gone there'll be no lure making and not much writing.  I'll take that exchange any day.  Well, most any day.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Back in the Northland

     Been tying buck tails for fifteen years.  Still haven't got it right but I'm getting better.  The last couple down in Alabama were pretty close to perfect, whatever that might be.  Don't know if they'll catch fish but they'll sure look pretty in a tackle box.  Almost a shame to use them and mess 'em up.  Two types of feathers, three colors of bucktail, some flashabou, all mixed together in a variety of combinations.  No two the same.  Sure not like a Mepps production line popping out matching colors and balanced lures.
     Sixty-five days till the Boundary Waters.  Figured I'd be long passed my counting down days by this time in life.  The thrill is gone but I'm still counting.  Guess I'm just a counting kind of guy.  Good thing I've got something to count.  And look forward to.