The school bus comes every weekday morning at twelve after eight. It stops out front of the house, pausing traffic in both directions for about sixty seconds before roaring off with the kids and their perpetual bed-head.
Between this daily morning routine, our debilitating spring weather and the fact that I’ve actually had work on my desk since I changed my professional status to “Freelance Writer,” all the time I anticipated being able to enjoy in the woods or on the water has been held to short Saturday/Sunday strikes. While these outings are still better than a sharp stick in the eye, when school lets out this June, the kid’s excitement about summer vacation will pale in comparison to my Alice Cooper-driven cries of seasonal freedom and warm-weather anarchy.
In the mean-time, taking advantage of what time I’m offered, I managed two sorties this past weekend–fishing for browns Saturday afternoon and hunting turkey Sunday morning.
In the process of developing a member-getting and involvement-motivating campaign for a local chapter of Trout Unlimited, Grant, Dean and I were on a mission to fish dries for native browns in a permission only stretch on the Oatka so Grant could get some more quality images. We had been out a few weeks earlier on a different stretch for the same purpose in significantly colder weather, but with far better water levels. On this particular afternoon however, the river wasn’t blown out, but the chocolate milk running high between the banks had the fish waiting for a far more favorable stream report. We should be so smart.
In the end, the sun did come out just long enough for Grant to get some solid shots of Dean and I doing our damnedest to rouse browns from their cover. I did get a second chance to give flight to my new Flytooth Razorstrike fly line*, which lit out over the water like silk-slick poetry, turning over a weighted #6 olive-and-black wooly bugger, and a couple split-shot to boot, as if it had only a #16 Hendrickson in tow. And we did get to sit on the bank awhile without a single obligation weighing on our time, except the welcome invitation to a tuna-noodle casserole dinner from Dean’s wife.
By four fifty-five the next morning I was set up in a Primos Predator pop-up blind with two turkey decoys in the field out front, a Thermos full of coffee, a couple breakfast bars and a pheasant squawking to three other roosters from the dark about 40 yards away. A steady, light rain took up with the northwest wind around 6 and I sat, dry and smoking my pipe, while the strutting-tom decoy waggled and turned slowly on its stake.
By 7 I managed to get a few gobbles from adjacent fields in response to my calls, but their commitments stayed distant. Over the next hour the pheasant, a rooster and hen pair, picked their way across the field, continuing their call/response with the other three pairs; a drake and mallard cut across the front of the blind on a silent, hard-line approach to light on the dead-still pond behind me; a pair of geese honked their way from the sky to touch-down in the next field out from mine; and a pretty doe appeared from the thick brush and browsed her way to within 30 yards of the blind. She spotted the decoys, stomped and flagged a few times, took a couple casual bounds and wandered off.
As I made my way back to the truck in the rain with my backpack, decoy bag, shotgun and the bag-packed pop-up blind, I could feel the last two days in my back and shoulders–and I was thankful for it.
* I’ll be writing a more extensive review of the Razorstrike fly line once I get to actually tie into some fish. Any fish.
By quarter-to-six the decoys looked perfect in the field out front of the blind, a coyote had drifted across the field like a sneaky shadow, and the cadence from the inmates at Willard was on the breeze. From 7 miles away its population of convicted drug-addicts were out for their red jumpsuit left-right-left rain or shine morning constitutional.
We called to tight-beaked turkeys in the woods.
The eerie echo of felons in cyclone fence was the only response.
Right set-up. Wrong birds.