Books, culture, fishing, and other games

June 30, 2004

The Fishing Report

Alarm beeps at 6am. I groan. Went to bed at 1am. (Blogging!) Darn, it's completely light outside too. I throw on shorts and khaki fishing shirt, slip on sandals, and am down knocking back an orange juice and sipping a coffee in mere minutes. Then it's out to the truck to drive to Mossy Creek again.

The guy at the fly shop said there was a Trico fall around eight. I haven't ever fished one and am looking forward to it. I am pulling into the parking area a little after 6:30. There's one other car. Turns out it's a dad and son pair, last fishing trip before college for the son. They drove up from Raleigh and are fishing a few streams in the area. They too were told there would be a Trico spinner fall.

I string up, tie on a searcher pattern, and walk down a bit from the bridge, the morning sun will be at my back. That's good for seeing into the water, but I'm going to have to watch my shadow. Right now it's long. The pattern is my own, a size 14 parachute with a white post. The color is brown to red-brown. It's a mayfly tie, sort of brown drake, but not meant to match anything exactly. They work pretty will on flat water because the body is... what do we call those things? Not quills. Feather segments torn off the quill and wrapped over thread making a nice ribbed body. I dub a fur thorax in a matching color. The tail is fibers from the same hackle as I use for the parachute. They are fragile floaters. Riffles tend to sink them unless they're dry and dabbed with a bit of silicone. Pretty durable though. I came up with them to deal with blue-winged olive hatches on the Chattahoochee. Those are mostly smaller ties, but I found they worked great as searchers when there was no hatch, so I tied some bigger ones for that. Trout eat them nicely. Chatahoochee holdovers don't fall got traditionally hackled flies very often.

I find a few scattered rises, mostly along the edge of the weed beds. Doesn't take me long to pick up a couple small browns. The current is braided, and the weed beds create eddies, getting a drift of more than a few feet is a challenge. I put down a few fish, but they come back after ten minutes or so. When a bit of untimely drag turns a fish off to the searcher, I switch to a #18 Adams parachute, or a #16 black ant. I take a couple more on those flies.

I see a bit more activity around 8am, even see some flashing wings in the air, but nothing that resembles a real spinner fall. The fish don't seem to think there's one either. They are coming up, but they don't seem fixated on anything in particular. They do seem to be refusing the searcher more often now though. A preference for smaller flies is becoming obvious.

I work back up towards the bridge. Just below the bridge there is a pod of brown, mostly small, working some hatch activity. I can't see a thing. I suspect it's midges, but can't get close to the water to try spotting them, nor can I see anything but random flies in the air. I do some hatchbusting, throwing my big searcher into the tail. At this point I have dad and son watching, and I remark that there's no way this is going to work, so, of course, a 10" brown promptly grabs the fly. After a few seconds of mad dashing, he performs a flawless long distance release.

My audience is impressed, but they would have been far more so if I'd kept my mouth shut, and encouraged the trout to let me release him, instead of the other way around. But humility is a virtue. I can always count on the trout to keep me humble.

We split up and I continue fishing up past the bridge. I release a few more small browns. A few more release themselves. I really don't mind if they do it. Saves time. I do like to at least get a good look at them so I can guess at the size and admire their color. If I get the leader to my rod tip, I'm content. They can go in peace.

I work up to a nice riffle, broken water, not too fast, a lot of football-sized boulders. I can smell fish over the faint perfume of cow patties. I flip my searcher up and let it drift down and get an immediate take. I get a couple follows, but no more takes. I try the Adams, get a splash. So I try the ant. Can't see the thing. I miss a couple takes. The ant just isn't where I think it is in the complicated currents.

I decide to rethink things. The trout do seem to like the ant. It's a one hook stream, so I can't drop the ant behind the searcher, which would be my first choice. I poke around and find a homemade yarn strike indicator and tie that 18" above my ant. First float the yarn stops. I miss. I take six more small browns in rapid succession before they all wise up.

It's about 10am now, and I can feel some heat on my exposed calves. I've been fishing in shorts and wading boots and the morning sun is pretty fierce. My lips feel a bit burn too. And I'm hungry. I decide to call it a morning and come back about 5pm, when the sun will be behind the trees on the western side and the shadows will cover the whole stream. The fish should feel a bit more comfortable and so should I.

I unstring, swap my boots for sandals, and drive back to the Sleep Inn. I'll nap, check email, then go hunt some fambaa and giant pekos in Star Wars Galaxies. And grab some lunch. Mex sounds good.

Posted by dan at 11:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Best Laid Plans...

I'd hoped to fish the Chattahoochee a little while in Atlanta, but apparently the rain I drove through had passed through Atlanta. The river was up and ugly. And then it rained more Saturday. And again Sunday just as I got to the river to check it. It usually takes a few days for the runoff to drain and the river to clear again, so I was looking at Wednesday. That wouldn't do. And the forecast was more rain.

So I hit the Kroger Monday at 11am to get my tags renewed and climbed back in the Explorer, my tackle already loaded, and headed back north to DC. I figured I was better off basing out of the apartment there than going straight to western Virginia. I was in by 10pm.

I needed to do some errands before fishing, but got those cleared away by 11am. I did a bit of online research, then I hit the local fly shop to scan the latest books on Virginia flyfishing and pick up a few flies in whatever pattern the local guys said were taking fish. Turned out to be beetles and ants, which makes sense since it's summer. Then I headed out I-66, stopping at a WalMart to pickup up my license and trout stamp, then on to Harrisonburg.

The word is the mountain streams are in drought conditions. The water levels are very low and the water is warm, as a result the brookies are stressed. So I decided to stick to the spring creeks in the area. Mossy Creek went on the list, but I decided to try to get onto a fee stretch or two of some of the others in the area. Unfortunately, all but Beaver Creek were booked up. I went ahead and booked Beaver for Thursday.

Then I scrambled over to Game and Fisheries in Verona before 5pm to pick up my permit for Mossy. I eyed the sun, decided it was still pretty high, and headed back up to Harrisonburg to check into the Sleep Inn. I still made it to Mossy Creek by 6pm.

The shade from the trees on the west side was well over the water, and a few small trout were rising as I strung up my rod. I tied on a beetle and walked down from the bridge a bit planning to fish back upstream and be near the car at dusk. The stream is exactly as I remember it: full of vegetation, pasture on the east side, tree border on the west. Most of the rises I saw were over under the trees, across a strong current, so drag was going to present some serious issues. And there there were the four-foot tall thistles and other hungry weeds, just waiting for a sloppy backcast. It's amazing how easy it is to drop my backcast low when I'm focusing on throwing slack upstream to let my beetle float somewhat naturally for a few feet.

Despite a few disagreements with the weeds, I managed to pick up three little browns on the way back to the bridge. At the bridge proper there was a whole little pod of small browns sipping something. There's a riffle just upstream of the bridge, then it flattens a bit, so it's the sort of spot for hatch activity, but I sure couldn't see what they were taking. I tried a #20 Adams, they would look it over and turn away. They did the same with the beetle. I'd tried an ant earlier with similar responses downstream, so I didn't try that again.

It was dim enough that I couldn't see my dark flies at all. The post on the Adams was still visible, barely, but there was no way I was going to be able to see well enough to thread another fly that small onto my tippet. As usual I forgot a small flashlight. My eyes just aren't up to the job without good light. I can tie an improved clinch by feel, but I can't thread a 7x tipper through a #20 eye that way.

So I stuck with the beetle and moved on, looking for opportunistic feeders.

Before I found any, I ran into a couple of local fisherman coming back downstream to the parking lot. We chatted for a while. A decent fish rose just up from us and I gave it a shot. It was at the base of a small riffle, ubder a big oak. I could just barely make the rollcast work, about 30 feet upstream, but didn't get him to take before a branch did. It was well wrapped too, so I ended up breaking off the fly.

That was it. We all walked back to the parking lot, chatting about other streams, then parted, wishing each other luck for tomorrow.

I should be sleeping. I plan to get up in time to try for the trico fall I hear may still be going. 6am is way too soon.

But I'll dream tonight, of finally making the 20-20 club. Best I've done is 18-18. Mossy Creek holds the fish, but will they be sipping tricos? I sure wouldn't bet on it, but I can dream.

And now I will.

Posted by dan at 01:24 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 26, 2004

A Paean to Atlanta

Aside from one traffic jam in Durham, it was open roads and rain the rest of the way. I pulled into my garage a few minutes after 1 am. My SWG love stayed up to be sure I got home, then she went to bed. I hit the same couple of blackout areas on the road as I did going up to DC in January, so they do appear to be real gaps in the Verizon system, not just maintenance issues. There's a pretty long stretch between Durham and Petersburg, a short one just south of Charlotte, and a tiny blip down in the valley at the South Carolina-Georgia border, right before crossing the Hartwell bridge from the SC side.

I got up late morning and went to find a place for my emmission inspection, and driving out (laptop on the passenger seat and running, of course) immediately felt this huge shift of comfort. Atlanta is SO green. Everything is lush and gorgeous. DC is nice. DC has trees too. But the difference remains stark. My backyard is overgrown with hostas and day lillies. (The lawn maintenance service guys locked themselves out of the backyard.) Birds are singing. (And crows cawing too.)

Then, the guys at the garage were all polite, no, nice. Again, I find people in DC nice on the whole, but Atlanta people are nicer. I got a belt and air filter replaced, the oil changed, and inspection passed. I was told I probably need brake maintence. And I was out of there in about an hour.

From there I went to check my mailbox at Pakmail. Okay, I know the guys there a bit. We've stood around just shooting the breeze. But the greeting was like to a long lost brother! Then I went to the Birds Unlimited next door to stock up to refill my feeders. I had two nice ladies both trying to take care of me. From there it was Kroger to see if I could renew my tags there, and do a bit of shopping for staples for the weekend. I asked the ladies at customer service and they said Monday at 11am the tag office is open there. Then I wandered around trying to decide what to buy, since I don't want to stock the fridge with stuff that will spoil. Inside two minutes I had two different smiling Kroger employees come over and ask if I needed any help. I told both, "probably, but nothing you can help with, I think," and got laughs and "well, just let us know," and they left me alone to ponder the choices. Then, after I grabbed a case of Diet Coke, a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc (not French!), and a frozen dinner, I got in a shortish line behind a couple of shopping carts (no express lanes were open) and one of the customer service ladies came over and told me she'd check me out.

I know, I know, I'm going on and on. It did! I'd decided on a sub for lunch, so I popped into Subway a few shops down from Kroger. I figured there might be a line since it was lunchtime, so I took in Carnage and Culture, Victor Davis Hanson's latest. The young guy who took my order immediately asked about it and whether I was a historian. I told him I was an English major who reads a lot of history, because history is context for literature. The guy working next to him stopped, looked up at me and grinned and said "you English majors are my arch enemies." He was a philosophy major. So we ended up chatting a while about the evils of trying to become a professor. Luckily, there was no line behind me.

Okay, maybe it's me. Maybe I'm so happy to be in Altanta that I'm exuding some sort of a subliminal glow that is drawing the attention of nice people, that is somehow requiring that they offer help or strike up conversations, but I don't think so. I'm a curmudgeon. I doubt I was smiling, though I probably wasn't frowning. I need a haircut. I shaved sloppily with an old razor. I was wearing cargo shorts (navy) and a battered old denim longsleeved shirt, and sandals. Okay, maybe that makes me more accessible, but even that seems unlikely. I am prone to wrinkled khakis and denim shirts, with sandals or casual shoes, and a good haircut is something I have about one month of the year. I don't see any significant difference today.

Nah, it's just Atlanta. Best darned city in this country, which also happens to be the best darned country in the world. Makes me wish the yard crew were here today so I could go out and welcome them to America and to Atlanta. I know they're Latinos. The super switches to Spanish on the phone while asking how they're supposed to get into the back yard. I'd offer them all a drink: Diet Coke, Diet Coke, or Diet Coke. Oh yeah, there's water too.

God, bless America! And if you have time, God, bless Atlanta a little extra too. This city has more than it's share of righteous people.

Now how do I get a consulting gig here that pays as well as what I'm making in DC... I want to come home!

Posted by dan at 02:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 25, 2004

On the road again...

12:40pm - DC map in my right hand, steering wheel in my left, I wind out of the underground garage and make my first wrong turn. In the five months I've been in DC I've driven very little, and I just don't know the Interstates. My guess as to the easiest access to I-95 southbound was wrong.

1:00pm - Finally I'm on I-495 heading south towards I-95. Even though it's very early still, traffic is congested, alternating stop and go with short bursts at 30mph.

1:10pm - Made it to I-95. From here it should be clear sailing down I-95 to I-85, which will take me to Atlanta. But traffic is still heavy. I'm listening to talk radio, though I know I'll lose the signal soon. Then I'll have to go FM. I hope I can at least get NPR for most of the drive.

I notice the car ahead has Pennsylvania plates, and inscribed on the bottom is "www.state.pa.us" where most states still have a county sticker. I guess we really are getting wired. I'm scratching notes on a notepad that I'll transcribe later, but my Dell is plugged into the AC adapter that runs to the cigarette lighter socket. The mouse is optical, so I can run it on my armrest, but I've found it's best to put a pad there and run it on the pad. If I could mount the notebook up on a pedestal beside the wheel, I could type one-handed. Hmm...

There's a semi ahead from "ME Trucking" that has a rather puzzling note painted on the back. It says, "If Jesus is God and you are his brother in Christ, what does that make you?" The construction is a bit odd. The Bible says we're "sons of God," no "bothers of Christ." We are "brothers in Christ" with other Christians. And Jesus is Christ. And, yes, along with being God, Jesus is Son of God, so that would make us brothers of Jesus, in that sense... but what's the point here? That we're all God? I don't think so... Strange take on Christian theology. Seems to me this is theology lite, someone who didn't pay enough attention in Sunday School is trying to be cute. I'm probably a tough audience for this sort of cute. Maybe the average reader is amused. Hope not.

3:25pm - Made it to Richmond. I'm passing the exit I took a few times a year ago when I consulted at the Fed for a week. Bam, instant traffic jam. Stop and go. Oh, I see, black SUV broadsided by a tanker in the center lane on the bridge. That semi must not have been going too fast relative to the SUV. The side is smushed, but looks like the driver should have gotten out fine. Must have just happened, but don't see anyone inside. No time to rubberneck. Slowing traffic more might mean more accidents. Moving nicely once past the accident.

Crossing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge now. The skyways here spiral around more than the ones at Spaghetti Junction in Atlanta do. I think I might be able to actually set my cruise control soon.

3:55pm - Petersburg. Not paying enough attention, I miss the I-85 split. There's an immediate exit, though, and taking that and going around let's me get over to I-85 with only a half mile or so of detour. Moving along pretty well now, though I expect Durham will be congested. I'll hit that around 6pm or so. Bad time.

4:20pm - Passing the Warfield exit off I-85 I see my connection drop. It's been solid the whole way from DC. I lost the signal in this same area coming north, I think at the NC border, so I'm oing to be blacked out for a while, I suspect. I guess there really is a gap in Verizon coverage here.

4:40pm - I hit a rest stop to drain some Diet Coke, stretch, and type this into notepad, since I can't post it at the moment. Still no connection. Oops, I'm wrong, I do have my connection back. Posting this, then on the road again.

Posted by dan at 05:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Da Plan

The subtitle of this blog mentions fishing, doesn't it? But I haven't mentioned fishing in ages. Yeah, okay, I haven't mentioned anything in a few weeks either, so that's probably more the problem than forgetting fishing.

Well, in a couple of hours I head out for a week's vacation. I'll catch the Metro back to the apartment "after lunch," toss my bag into the Explorer, and drive out southbound. The first goal is to make the long haul back to Atlanta to check the house, get the truck inspected, amd then get my tags renewed. I am hoping to have that all completed by Tuesday at the absolute latest. Then I load my fishing tackle, still sitting in the garage there, into the truck and start the drive back north.

This leg won't be crunch driving though. I plan to come back via the Blue Ridge. That drive is not one made for speed. I'm hoping to plink a few wild brookies along the way, up there in the headwaters. Then once I get into Virginia again, I'll take it a bit more slowly. I have fished a couple of streams in Virginia, one in the National Forest (have to look at a map to remember where), and a spring creek in the Charlottesville area. The first was much like fishing the Georgia mountains, except the stream was a bit more open than most there. The second was very different. I need to find that creek again.

I'm going to work my wireless again. It will be interesting to see how connected I can stay up in the Blue Ridge. I am also going to try to blog a fishing log, for the heck of it. I've got assorted notebooks crammed in boxes in the house with a few logs of fishing, but I've never been very regular. They are useful, and interesting to scan back over, but those tend to be very listlike. This time I'll try to aim for something more toward Geirach than lists.

That's the plan. Plans do have a way of changing when they meet the road, or the trout, but I will struggle to keep to it. If nothign else it will give a vacation some structure. This is a good thing. My vacations are usually nebulous days of unspecific activities that quickly fade in memory as little unique marks their passage. I don't want it to be work. I just want it to work.

Posted by dan at 09:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 11, 2004

One for the Gipper

I gave up and left the office just after noon. All the government employees were off, and there wasn't much for the contractors to do, so... I headed out.

And I stalled on the ground floor in front of the TV set to MSNBC. The Battle Hymn of the Republic, especially sung by that caliber of choir, has that effect. It's very hard to just walk on by, especially when my throat swells up and nearly overbalances me.

So I leaned against a handy wall, I needed the support, and watched a while. The two homilies I heard were excellent. Amazing Grace was both. I stood on through The Lord's Prayer, watching other passersby returning from lunch pause and watch a bit too. There were the unreformed Philistines, oblivious to the event, but they were matched by the more thoughtful and us, the reformed.

I left during the second prayer, before the real eulogies began. My knee was getting sore, and somehow a half hour had slipped away.

It's a gray damp day here in Arlington, but coming out of the Metro all I could do was look up at the sky. Behind that gray overcast there shines a sun.

Let there be light.

Let freedom ring.

Let us live to make men free.

Then I came home and read the comments on the Little Green Footballs thread and felt a bit less sentimental and... alone.

Yeah, it's tempting to say "We shall not see his kind again." But I don't believe that, not really.

We wouldn't recognise his kind in advance. They are unassuming and modest. They don't push themselves forward. They take responsibility when they see it's the right thing to do and those around them ask. It's after the fact that we finally know them. And thank God that we had that honor.

Thank you, Lord, for giving us Ronald Wilson Reagan. We reluctantly give him back. Enjoy his gentle jokes. Set him up with a great horse. And install in his pocket a bottomless jar of Jelly Bellies to hand out whenever he feels inspired.

(I posted this in the LGF thread first, then asked myself what I was doing... and brought it over here too. My bloggers instincts are terribly underdeveloped, still.)

Posted by dan at 02:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack