Monday, October 24, 2011

Pheasant Asylum

Dear Ron,

Well, I had an interesting time up at nine pipes. Here's a shorter rendition of a longer story, if you're interested:

Not knowing the area (and only having a brief conversation with Neil before leaving) I scoured each of the State parcels adjacent to the Refuge. It was a while before the dogs caught some scent and a while longer before we actually saw (very skittish) birds. The dogs pointed what must have been a trail where two hens had just run - the boys readjusted a couple times, but the birds had run a long ways already and flushed a good 100 yards out in front of us (no kidding).

A touch later, a hen and cock bird flushed well out in front of us, too, but I kept an eye on the male and got the dogs back on his trail. As the dogs closed in he flushed again, this time a bit closer. I pulled up, hesitating slightly (oops) as he was pretty far away and the cross wind was blowing hard. I decided, pulled the trigger and saw him dip ever so slightly. I was pretty sure he was winged - the hunt was on... Long story short, we tracked that rooster for about an hour - well, we searched for a track - there seemed to be no scent to find. The only thing I could surmise was that he'd buried himself in a small patch of cattails and was hunkered down biding his time. That, or dead. The dogs and I waded in to see what we could see.

The 'tails were dry and loud and we made a racket as we crashed through. The dogs needed some encouragement to keep hunting through the tangle. Soon I realized neither dog was making any noise. Hm... I made my way to them and sure enough, they were both on point, noses almost touching. I started sifting through the cover to recover my first MT pheasant (or so I thought), but soon realized the bird had snuck out and I could see (barely through the cattails) that he was out onto dry ground and trying to fly, unsuccessfully. I shot again, but apparently all my pellets spent their energy mowing cattails instead of finding that bird... With that, the dogs went crashing out after the bird (Dad never misses...ha!). I got myself free of the cattails just in time to see this bird running, dogs in tow, directly for the National Wildlife Refuge border 50 yards away. Literally bee-lining for the damn signs. The dogs were losing ground, but still close enough to prevent a shot.

...And so, there I stood, watching in dismay as my "first MT pheasant" went running into the safety of the Game Bird Embassy, barbed wire guards closing the gate behind his tail feathers...

I went and bought a beer, chatted with the guy in Ronan Sporting and Western, and spent the rest of the afternoon knocking on ranchers' doors for permission. Not many folks were home - not sure if opening day of rifle season may have had something to do with that - but I saw some great country and have a strategy for finding some more ground and, god willing, birds.

Anyway, I hope you had more success with ducks than I on the ditch-chickens - and that you enjoy Hawaii! I wish it weren't so darn expensive or I'd be there presenting some work from my dissertation. As it were, that will have to wait for another venue this coming spring.

I'll keep pestering from time to time, but if you'd like to get out, just drop me an e-mail or give me a ring. My cell phone number is 814.574.6128.

Happy hunting,


Friday, October 7, 2011

Tie, test - Streamers on the Clark Fork

Got a nice streamer idea from Benny and tied up a few variations yesterday morning. Had a talk to attend at 5:00, so I hit the river around 3:45 and fished for 45min. Despite the weight on the flies, the water was big and it took burying the rod on the stream bed in front of my feet to get them deep enough to induce strikes. Caught a couple, very big white fish - well I think they were white fish. The bodies looked like white fish, but instead of the "sucker" looking mouth, they both had a wide, almost catfish mouths. A quick search online didn't produce any revelations. Anyone have any ideas? Caught one on a quick change to BWOs, but the last streamer cast of the day produced this guy:
The talk was on masculinity and the three papers focused on the perversion of the reality of cowboys to fit a masculine myth, a review of a novel challenging the male-dominated, aggressive domination of the western environment, and a scathing critique of how county music videos and songs perpetuate sexism and ill-defined gender roles. I've been to my fair share of conference presentations, but I was struck by the format and the eloquence of the presentations. Granted, the papers were pre-written and read, often word for word, from the page. Despite the blatant disregard for all the public speaking rules, it worked very well - the mastery of the written word was impressive and inspiring. I was frustrated, however, with the implied conclusion that these myths have been conspiratorially and maliciously perpetuated by some "powers that be." I tend to think, rather, that these ideas are rooted in our identify and mythos as a people, as Americans, and, not unimportantly, in our biochemistry. It's been perverted and usurped at various times for a variety of malicious and greedy purposes, but our willingness, no, our eagerness to buy into these myths is not manufactured, it is based in tradition, history, identity, in our failings and in our dreams (honorable and otherwise). Beyond that, and in addition to being just plain fascinating, the talks got me thinking about my research: how has our culture's definitions of men, of domination over nature, of independence and ruggedness, of traditional masculine roles and a nostalgia, justified or not, for how it was long ago affected our natural resource policy. And more importantly, how does it inform the acceptance and effectiveness of new natural resource policies and extension efforts. Its a perspective that reminds me of my high school days, reading "Choice of Heros," and trying to understand who I was, how the world would view me, and if I really cared. Favorite line of the night came from Carl (don't know last name) from the Missoula Public Library - "The myth of the cowboy is alive and well. Anyone visiting the statehouse in Helena will witness an endless parade of cowboy drag. Feet squeezed into shiny, pointed boots and hats on heads of folks who couldn't herd anything, let alone cattle."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Urban trout

When I moved to Missoula in June, the Clark Fork (and most any other low lying depression) was full of chocolate milk. Frothy, fast, and inhospitable to most any aquatic creature, including me. I debated sneaking into the soft chocolate of lawns and parking lots a few times, but decided the marginal chance of good fishing wasn't worth the time away from work. So I hunkered. Every trip across a bridge inspired glances at seams and surveys of the scrambleability of banks. June passed. July passed. The water was still angry from the melting of record snowfall. Just my luck. Travel, work, travel, visitors. I got out. I had success. But the few hours I had were best spent, I thought, on the legendary blackfoot, the renowned rock creek, and the bitterroot. And these rivers are amazing. Very. And so August passed, too, without me fishing in town. The weather has changed from summer to fall. Yesterday the clouds rolled in, dark, and rain poured down in the morning. I'd decided the week before I was finally going to bite the bullet and fish in town and was just waiting for a day like this. Now, you see people fishing in town and they all look like asswipes. Indicators flying everywhere, never left alone long enough to even approach a reasonable drift. Flies in bushes. And never any bent rods. Guys at the flyshops speak disparagingly of "messing around in town." And so I'd avoided it, confident that if the fishing was worth it, more people would be there who knew what they were doing. But the weather was right and I'd stared at the river in town long enough.
I started under a bridge, walking by a recently abandoned motorcycle lying in the stream leaking god knows what. Second cast, fish. Hm. Ok. Not a lunker, but a solid little rainbow. Fought like hell. Looked beautiful. Maybe this will work?! I worked a seam upstream, produced a handful more little rainbows. A small hole in a side channel gave up a meatier specimen. I bombed up the bank and sped along the trail past mailboxes and sandbags and driveways. After a couple hundred yards of slack water, there was a hole that looked tasty and was, of course, occupied by some dude with a tacklebox and bobbers. Ha. He probably caught a shit ton! He wasn't very interested in talking, so I moved upstream further. Hopped some silt fence and scrambled down some rip rap. The bank, as it hit the water, got even steeper, it was about 6" deep a foot out and about 10' deep a foot and a half out. I thought this looked promising, but who knows right? I flopped and sank some flies. Nothing. I slowly worked my way along the tangled bank. Flop, sink, swing, nothin. I got myself fully tangled in some trees, almost swimming a couple times. Flop, sink, swing, BAM! Oh yeah, baby! Big flash from a pissed off fish. Reel whined. I contemplated trying to follow it downstream, but I was really fully tangled and couldn't move. Luckily the big guy gave up the fight after a while and the current allowed me to haul him back to my perch. Beautiful rainbow, thick, strong. Missed another one on the next cast - big flash. Damn... And then I proceeded to lose about 10 flies. Fuck my ass. Some in the stream, some in a tree, some, who the hell knows where they went... I literally stomped the ground and swore. Some douche decided that the 4 foot bank was a good place to walk his aggressive dogs. Ok, time to take a break. I seated my fly and walked upstream some more.
This is where I wanted to fish anyway. Everytime I ride my bike downtown I look at this part of the stream. Main channel running big on one side of the channel. The side channel dumped into the main through three consecutive runs. Lotta seams, lotta water, lotta places for fish. And I caught a pile. Nymphing was slow at first - caught a couple. Water was big on the inner seam of the first run so I switched to streamers. After only a couple casts I got hammered. Huge rainbow! Took me almost to my backing. People pointing from the bridge. HA! I was laughing out loud it was so fun. Damn thing fought like hell. And the current was on his side. But after a while I won, dragging that beast into the net. He was whooped. But I held him up to the people looking from the bridge. Nothing like a little exhibitionist fishing. The streamer produced only one other fish at that spot, but it didn't matter. The nymphs pulled a dozen more, and a pile of solid whitefish, too, to keep my interest peaked.
As dark approached I decided I wanted to hit one other very public spot so I hiked back to the car and drove upstream. I was the only person there for about 10 min. Had a huge fish on that popped off. It hit softly at the end of my swing and was probably only hooked by one scale. Saw him flash, held him through one run downstream, but lost him on a crazy barrel roll. Big fish. Oh well, back at it. Others showed up. Three guys upstream, two down stream, just as I'd tied on streamers to work the edge... I stuck with the streamers and worked slowly down as far as I could. Two cutts cooperated. One of the guys upstream stuck in behind me and fucking hammered a huge brown on a cream streamer. Damn. Nice fish. I pulled a few others out after swithing back to nymphs. At one point, I shit you not, I was focusing intently on my sighter and suddenly realized a goddamn syringe was floating next to my line. Well shit. If the fishing wasn't so good, I might have cared. I wonder what the dirty-needle durability of my G3s are? I ignored the urge to think about the source of this and what else was in the water, besides trout. The west mountain stone caught the biggest, a fiesty cutt hanging out in the cold water coming out of a trib. Dark was falling. I was content. And I figured Libby was about done with spin class. Just before dark I packed it in. What a great day! Its not the prettiest scenery and obvious influences of 100,000 people in the immediate watershed. But there was cold air, the clouds of October, and cooperative, big fish. I guess I've no excuse not to be fishing when I've only got an hour or so on my hands. Darn...

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sulphur parting

Lyme had me down hard. Tried to go fishing once and ended up curled up in a ball in the front of Ben's truck sleeping. Sleeping hard. Fever. So it was that this year's spring fishing almost matched the turkey hunting. Not quite, but damn, between the blown out rivers every other day (or everyday on Penn's), getting sick, packing, and moving, there weren't much of it. Not enough anyway.

Ben left the Monday before I was to move - I respect his ability to know what he wants to deal with, what he doesn't, and to do something about it - so Paul and I headed to the little J on Tuesday evening. It was a scorcher with temps in the mid-90s so we figured the hatch wouldn't happen until o'dark thirty. Turns out it didn't really happen at all. I did catch about 7 or 8 though, on a smattering of flies. First on H&C, then swinging some sulphur emergers through the back of an under-bridge run, then on rusty spinners as dark fell. Foggy night at times, glasses clouding up, sweat beading and running. Odd to look around trying to absorb surroundings in the memory banks. The thickness of the leavs, the smell of the water, the feel of the humidity, the tug of hungry browns with sulphur pierced lips. I'm terrible at remembering those things. I think we cooked some steaks, potato skins, and asparagus at home, late, after the drive back up from Spruce Creek. Not an epic end to 8 years in PA, but appropriately subtle and relaxed.

Cosmic Lockdown

The only picture I have is of Ben and Paul in their skivvies on the camp porch looking over a map. It ain't pretty nor good for anyone so, you're welcome.

Last spring in PA before moving to Missoula; time to book some days in the turkey woods. Got Paul to take 2 days off from work and a couple more from the family to join Ben and I in the Quehanna to chase birds. The birds were supposed to be thick, the weather perfect, and the pressure light. Long story short, we didn't hear a goddamn gobble - not one - for three full days. Denny's camp was awesome, the food superb, the booze plentiful and we even managed to get up super super early to bomb deep into the woods, well off the roads. The ground was tore up, the sign thick, the other hunters almost non-existent. Not one gobble. Not a distance one, not a early-morning tree gobble followed by silence; just the silence. Made you think there weren't any birds there, but we know better. There are a TON of birds there. Is was just on cosmic lockdown. Super going away present from PA. Oh, and to top if off, Ben and I got lyme disease from two never-seen ticks. 6 days of 102 fever followed by 8 more of exhaustion, then a bullseye rash met with steroids and 4 weeks of doxycycline. Fun. Fuckers. We did get into some trout on Kettle (picky, feisty stockies) and Medix (beautiful little brookies). But WTF. Cosmic Lockdown. Sonovabitch.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Old me

Cleaning out my office in preparation for the move West. Reading over old papers and tests and stupid things I should have thrown out years ago. I'm struck by the thought that the old me has been lost. I remember a philosophical, curious, eager person prepared to take on the world if need be. I am not that young man anymore. It sounds melodramatic, but the world beats you down. I now find myself concentrating on the here and now - trying to enjoy moments - rather than on where I'm headed. The world is too unpredictable, too cruel, and too slow-moving to pay much heed to the dreams and whims of poor boys from Vermont. Especially if you believe that. Focusing on the moments is good - and I need to be better about remembering (documenting?) - but accomplishing something of meaning is gaining importance in my life again. I think my education has simultaneously served to heighten my understanding of how the world works and fog my view of how it can get any better. I need to clear the fog.

PS102 - Exam #1

"Locke thought that most people, in anarchy, would live according to the golden rule -- and they would do so out of fear of revenge. Hobbes said we are all naturally greedy, jealous, and mistrustful. In a state of anarchy, we might all want to follow the golden rule, but we will cheat - mostly out of the fear that our neighbor will cheat first."

"If I have lots of property and get you to believe that a set of laws is good because it will protect your life, your freedom, and your property, I have gotten you to subscribe to a belief that you can never take my property or interfere with my pursuit of more. Since I have more property than you to begin with, I can use this new set of laws to oppress you and remain more powerful."

"The liberal agenda is to limit government spending on welfare (social) programs, limit government intervention in the market, and reduce taxes in a country. Liberals want other countries to stop wasting money on people who can't help themselves, collect those monies owed to them, and let the invisible hand guide the market. The people of "X" might oppose this because they do not believe the "universal" values that liberalism is based on. Perhaps they believe all people, in order to be happy, must have food, water, and shelter and that it is a government's responsibility to provide these goods, no matter the cost."

"Those in charge of social engineering in USSR thought they knew what a perfect society was. To them, this notion justified any means by which to reach this end. This is not based on the idea that each man may have a different idea of happiness, but rather on the the modern thought that if you sit and think and write long enough, you will understand certain "truths" in life - and that these truths are the same for all mankind. After seeing what atrocities could arise from such assumptions, this rationale (although still accepted by many) has been rejected by most in the educated and political world."

"Market World - is based on individual greed, creativity and productivity. It is based on the belief that the market will provide for all and allow for social reforms. It is based on a belief that the market, not the government, will protect all people and things needing protection. For this reason, Market World has no trade barriers, no government imposed environmental regulations, and no social welfare programs. It is a world where success trickles down and becomes success for the poor.

Fortress World - is based on the idea that market world will fail. It is based on the belief that the rich get rich on the backs of the poor and of the environment. All success in fortress world is concentrated in small islands surrounded by oceans of poverty; oceans filled with hostile poor, eager to undermine the success that mocks them.

Transformed World - is based on an evolution of values: instead of valuing profit, people will be more important. Employment before profit. Fairness will be more important than success. In this World, market pressures shift from greed to more humanitarian desires. In an attempt to avoid Fortress World, people in Transformed World make inclusion of all in the success of society a top priority"