Thursday, June 22, 2017

What a Fly Pole Is Good For

I tie up a couple of quick and dirty deer hair poppers for a trip to Yellowwood. Maybe I'm feeling guilty about the rubber worms.


There's a family fishing across from the boat ramp. The grandpa sees the float tube and tells his grandsons to "hey, look at that!" He tells me he remembers when they were "just inner tubes with a belt." He admires my modern version, and explains to the kids how it works.

Then he tells them to look at my "fly pole." "Do you know what a fly pole is really good for?" he asks me. "Frogs!" I say I've gigged frogs before but never used my fly rod. "Nah!" he answers. "You get more tin cans than frogs by gigging. The light on a tin can looks just like a frogs eyes. Nah, just reach out that fly pole with a little bit of yarn on the end and they'll hit it with those long tongues every time."

I kick out wondering if there's any yarn at home that I can tuck in my vest. I haven't had frog legs in a long time, but when I did, fresh caught and twitching in the pan until fried to a turn, they were delicious.


I have those deer hair poppers, but a plastic worm is still on my line, so I succumb to temptation once again. And once again, crime pays.


I kick across and find some bass on the west side, too.


Dark comes too soon. I decide to stop off at the spillway on the kick back to the ramp. Now I tie on one of those deer hair poppers. The fish like it. I get lots of hits by bluegill, and one manages to fit it in his mouth.


Then a bass whacks it. And balance is restored in the fly fishing universe.


I pack up and begin the drive out and see that the moon has come up.


Once again she is my beautiful companion all the way home.


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

"Ode to the Joyful Ones" by Thomas Lux

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"The Dance" Henri Matisse, 1910


Shield your joyful ones.
—from an Anglican prayer

That they walk, even stumble, among us is reason
to praise them, or protect them—even the sound
of a lead slug dropped on a lead plate, even that, for them,
is music. Because they bring laughter’s
brief amnesia. Because they stand,
talking, taking pleasure in others,
with their hands on the shoulders of strangers
and the shoulders of each other.
Because you don’t have to tell them to walk toward the light.
Because if there are two pork chops
they will serve you the better one.
Because they will give you the crutch off their backs.
Because when there are two of them together
their shining fills the room.
Because you don’t have to tell them to walk toward the light.


"Ode to the Joyful Ones" by Thomas Lux from To the Left of Time.
© Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Leveled Up

Sebastian is gone for a few weeks visiting his Dad and extended family in Washington. Before he left we took one more fishing trip to Griffey. This time we rented a canoe.


Once we were under the bridge and over on the shady side he quickly picked up a bluegill.


Then he got distracted. He tried to catch water bugs, and spied bluegill finning by just under the surface. He grabbed handfuls of weeds to see what was inside them. He tried to catch damselflies out of the air.

While he was playing in the lake I baited up and cast out for him. I called him whenever the bobber went down and he took over the rod. We missed a couple of fish doing that. Then I made a cast and the bobber plunged as soon as it hit the water, so I set the hook. I saw a flash of silver and knew we had something special. I handed the rod to Sebastian and he started to crank. His eyes lit up when he felt the heft on the end of the line.


He shlepped the fish into the canoe.


His very first bass! Nice job, Sebastian! I'd say you just leveled up.


I paddled on down the shoreline. A breeze sprang up and it was hard to fish and keep the canoe where I wanted it to be. So Sebastian got distracted again. He began to practice pinching off pieces of nightcrawler. He was good at it. I always had a nice section ready when I wanted it.


Then we saw a fat water snake and chased it in the canoe. Sebastian grabbed some worm pieces and threw them in the water for the snake. I thought I saw a big turtle head poking out of the water, but when I paddled nearer it turned out to be a stick. Sebastian threw in some more worms for the real turtles, wherever they might be.

When he started throwing them in for the fish I figured we were going to run out of worms pretty quick. It was about time to head in, so I asked him if he wanted to fish a little longer or call it a day. He was ready to head for home. We decided to give all the worms to the fish, and dumped them in the lake in one grand gesture.


As I paddled in, Sebastian got distracted again, gazing into the wonderful, mysterious depths of that other world beneath the surface.


Hurry home, Sebastian. We'll go back and explore that world some more.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Secret Weapon

I kick out and swing over to the spillway and the short stretch of shoreline next to it. This is a section that is at the end of my customary loop at Yellowwood, so I'm usually fishing this in the dark. There are fish in here then, but today, in broad daylight, I only manage a small bluegill.


I go back and start my loop. I play with that popper on down the shoreline with no results. But I enjoy the many tiger swallowtails attracted by the blooms on the water plants. 


I get to that stretch that has been full of suspicious splashes. Today I have a plan and a secret weapon. Success.


OK, a big purple worm may not be typically found on the end of a fly line. It may even seem to bend the rules regarding what is and is not fly fishing. But don't worry, these are Orvis worms.


No they aren't. They're Berkley worms. My son, who used these in Washington, has been telling me I should be fishing them. So I finally took him up on it and co-opted his supply.


I cross over and leave the worm on.


I find a couple of bass on this side, too. And I'm pretty sure some of those big bluegill over here are also giving that worm a pull.


At whip-poor-will time, I begin the kick in. It has been a productive afternoon on the water. The bass were on the small side, but they all knew how bass should act.


It makes me wonder again whether there are any bass in here of really good size. But I'm sure not ready to stop looking.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

"Learning to Swim" by Elizabeth Bradfield

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Now forty-five, having outlasted some of
myself, I must reflect: what if I hadn’t been held
by my mom in the YWCA basement
pool, her white hands slick under

my almost-toddler armpits, her thumbs
and fingers firm around my ribs (which
is to say lungs), held gently as a liverwurst
sandwich and pulled, kindly, under?

What if I hadn’t been taught to trust
water might safely erase me those years
I longed to erase or at least abandon care of
my disoriented, disdained body? I might have

drowned instead of just ebbed, never slid
from given embankments into this other
course. 
             Drift and abundance in what
she offered. The wider, indifferent ocean
of trade and dark passage not yet

mine to reckon. And so now, sharp tang
of other waters known, I am afloat, skin-
chilled, core-warm, aware of what lurks
and grateful to trust and delight
in our improbable buoyancy.

Smorgasbord

A smorgasbord of flies yields a smorgasbord of fish.