2011 July

THANKFULLY MY ALTER-EGO FISHES TOO

Posted by | On the water | 14 Comments
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I met Mike this past winter at a fly-tying event he organizes, called Guys, Flies & Pies. We discovered a mutual affinity for bass, and made loose plans for getting out when the weather warmed. Those loose plans finally took shape earlier this week as we headed to the West River with a pair of kayaks tied down and jutting, snaggletooth from the bed of my truck.

Now, it should be said that Mike is a very accomplished and avid fly fisherman. Bass, salmon, pike, browns, rainbows, steelies. Accomplished. But Mike had never fished out of a kayak. Hell, he’d never been in a kayak other than possibly testing entry and exit from the relative safety of his yard. And he’d made more than a few jokes in the days leading up to the trip and on the drive there about flipping, swimming, taking a dive and so on. So on this evening of planned bass-chasing, I hoped that we wouldn’t need to spend half of our daylight finding his balance and practicing paddling strokes, or worse, fishing him out of the drink.

Whatever. Mike got in, squared himself and his gear away and headed for open water like a champ. That was that.

We paddled about 150 yards up river before nosing the kayaks into the weed beds that occupy all but the 30 yard wide channel in the middle of the 80 yard wide river. Casting a big-ass popper out along the front edge of the weed bed, it didn’t take long before the surface exploded and I landed my first fat bass. The second, about three casts later, was an even better fish, but I had a hard time being excited. I needed Mike to get on the board.

#2

Then suddenly there was a good splash, a whoop and Mike was on the favorable end of a tight line. I took some video while he tangled with his first kayak bass. While I was checking the footage on my camera after he released the fish, he hooked up with number two. It was at that point, Mike decided to remind me of the score.

Nice. All even at two a piece now, he grinned.

I went from the hopeful, conciliatory home-water host to alpha-dog looking to mark his territory. Not quite Jekyll and Hyde, but my hyper fish-hard-or-die alter ego was reaching for the rod.

Before we were finally chased off the water by mosquitos, darkness and a big, angry beaver, I managed to catch the kicker-fish to break the tie. But to be completely honest, I’m still happier about Mike earning a couple more notches on his “accomplished” belt on my home water, and look forward to notching a few of my own on his.

Check out the video. Full-screen.

Music props to A Tribe Called Quest. 

WHEN THE RAIN FINALLY FELL

Posted by | Poetry | 8 Comments
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parched cordwood weeks stacked one on another brittle browning bare feet grass chickens in the garden in the rhubarb huffing and puffing scratching dirt up under wings gauzy backyard haze sitting feet up and dozing lawnmower in sweltering barn uselessness stove-top steps on pavement everything green beaten down leaning like an elbow on a dog-day buzz fencepost air but no air the lake a mirage kids in the pool like gators up to their eyes and noses humid humid heavy chest-sitting humid   then   dishwater clouds   then   pre-storm rainfall teaser the first summer sundress waking the universe reminding remembering thirst lust satisfaction   then   soaking full-on downspout gush streets a white field of splish splash and tire-hiss mist at long last slip slink of satin clinging like light like truth like breath heavier now heavier still it falls musty fresh and the first deep breath that’s closed my eyes in it seems forever closed my eyes but not the car windows

THERE’S ALWAYS TIME FOR ONE MORE

Posted by | Fatherhood and venison jerkey, On the water | 10 Comments
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The plan was to paddle our kayaks into the West River for bass. Jason and I made the same trip last year and have fished a handful of times in the past, including our practically-epic smelt trip. The last time Dave and I had fished together though, we were 10 or 12 years old. We had ridden our 10-speeds to Holiday Harbor and traipsed the muddy trail through some woods to fish for bass from a shale beach-point on the north end of Canandaigua Lake.

Dave and I were cousins by friendship. Our moms were simultaneously-pregnant kindred-spirits. Dave’s older brother Phil and I were actually the ones born in consecutive summer months, but we all grew up together. Some 26 years after our last time on the water, here we’re both married with kids and homes and jobs and other grown-up obligations, fishing the opposite end of the same lake from kayaks instead of shore, and still chasing the same quarry. It’s crazy how much life goes on in almost three decades, but how little things actually change.

By mid-summer this end of the lake is thick with lilly-pads and milfoil making it difficult to fish, even more so out of a kayak with a fly rod. This year however, a record rain-filled spring had awarded us with a couple extra feet of water which held the weeds to much smaller surface-clogging amounts.

Manageable weeds. Blue sky. Early-evening 70-degree temps. A few cold beers stashed behind the kayak seat for later. We shoved off to meet our piscine destiny.

Under the watchful eye of an American Bald Eagle, one of a few nesting pairs in the area, we paddled from the lake into the river–Jason and Dave with spinning rigs and me with my trusty 5 wt. It took us about half an hour to figure out what was getting the fish to look up. We traded bright top-water patterns for dark and the water instantly turned electric…well, for Dave and I anyhow. Every cast, every pop-strip and retrieve had the hair on the back of my neck standing like a jumpy kid watching the first Friday the 13th, waiting for Jason Voorhees to jump out of the water with a machete.

The Jason who was out with us, however, was a little slow out of the gate. So, he headed for another good-looking stretch of water back around a bend and promptly started sending texts with pictures of his catches.

“Should we head over that way?” Dave asked.
“Let’s get one more cast in here, they’re all over us.” I replied.

So Dave cast again and immediately hooked up. I elected to save my cast and get his battle on video. After a successful release and about a dozen more casts each, we paddled off to locate Jason.

Later, over a few dozen wings from Wally’s and the requisite beers to wash them down, Dave and I got talking about his dad, or Uncle Phil as I always knew him. He had passed away a bunch of years back now, and we reminisced about the funny stuff that stuck with us about him. I didn’t say it then, but I miss Uncle Phil. And I know his boys do too. Our laughs wound down to a short silence, then Dave said, “You know, one thing he always use to say is I‘ve always got time for one more.
“Always,” I said. “That’s how you got that last nice fish. One more cast.”
“Yea, that was a good call, bro.”

The bartender stopped in front of us, nodding at our chicken-wing-boneyard and empty beer mugs, “You want another one?”

Without missing a beat, Dave smiled, “Always got time for one more.”

Music credit: Etta Baker with Taj Mahal (Poem & Cripple Creek)