driving with the windows down

our winter started back in october, back in nebraska and it seemed to follow us as we headed east across the country. the otherwise mild winter here turned cold and the snow began to fall as soon as the last box was pulled from the moving truck. winter seemed to have barbs and wouldn't shake free. it can make you forget what shorts feel like, or flip-flops or driving with your windows down.

on these early spring mornings the birds are up before the sun, sending their chorus echoing through the halls of another temporary home. the cool nights provide a cool room and we lay awake, warm under cheap covers, silently listening to the songs of horny robins busy weaving nests from lawn scraps and road side garbage.

eventually there are bugs. bugs caked on my windshield and bumper and out-of-state license plate. bugs in the air and bugs on the water. so many people sick with cabin fever, eager for vitamin D, appear from everywhere. you can end up feeling bitter and and looking at a fellow angler as the enemy. like winter, the crowds will eventually pass.

so i make the effort not to care. i'll skip ahead to another pool and give you a wide berth. i like walking in the woods. if that doesn't work i'll find my car and look for another spot. i'll put my windows down and roll slowly, grateful for another winter on the books and the warm breeze on my face.

legs

in case you didn't know, sharptails are absolutely covered in stonefly legs.

chapters

just like chapters in a book there is no set length to the chapters of life. some are long and some are short. you turn a page and things end or things continue. i have some regrets about decisions i've made in the last couple of years but once you start down a path... what's the point in looking back? face forward, progress. i read somewhere that you are only old when your regrets replace your dreams. coming out on the other side of those decisions, i have a few more grey hairs in my beard but i'm far from giving up.

in the early fall it seemed like our future might be in a beautiful valley west of the rockies but with the turn of a page it looked like it was across the country, closer to our roots as individuals and as a family.

what followed were weeks of packing tape and cardboard and the cleansing that comes with throwing out all of the shit you collect unnecessarily. we stuffed our life into a an overpriced van, i shut off the water, lowered the heat and waved goodbye to the anchor of a house that is still standing tall in the high plains.

east. i drove a bloated Uhaul into the sunrise, following the pull of our origins.

the new view

the new view

it feels like home here. all of it. the sun, the snow, the hills. i can literally feel the pulse of these streams in my bones. call bullshit if you want, but it won't make it any less real. i drive along a spring creek each morning, flowing east without a hint of ice on it's edge. it's bordered by decaying snow and single digits temperatures, yet it pushes on indifferent to the logic of it's surroundings. sleek brown trout feed in it's flows and just the thought of them is enough to fuel another day.

my dog and i crammed in as much hunting as we could before we left. i will miss those birds. our last few hours spent in a nebraska field offered us two sharptails. natives to the region, just as it should be. out here i'm paying the bills by working at a place dedicated to these dogs and these birds and these bonds that we form.

people say grouse numbers are down, that we are at a low point in the cycle, but the other night i had to swerve to avoid hitting one on my drive home. then i remembered i don't listen to what other people say about these things. i find out on my own, as we all should. writing the chapters of our own stories.

wild

we spread out, maybe 40 yards apart most of the time. two dogs for four of us. the birds did everything wild birds do. they ran, held tight, and flushed well out of range. i was fortunate and there was still ground to cover when my vest was heavy with my limit. i walked along with my gun over my shoulder and my tired dog working for those with shells still in their chambers. 

back inside we warmed ourselves with elk chili and porter and talked about the next time we'd take a walk together.


another pupa

my quest for the perfect pupa continues. a couple of weeks back i was fishing the frying pan and picking up a fish here and there during a BWO hatch. a few bigger fish would randomly and violently bust the surface clearly not eating the duns. there were some random caddis skittering around so i dropped a pupa off the bend of my little parachute and immediately caught my biggest fish that day. a thick, beautifully colored brown. this is the bug he ate. lots of features from other patterns but simple enough and ties well into smaller sizes. roll over the images for steps.

TMC  206 BL sz 16-22 + brown or black bead + flashabou + flex floss + pseudo hackle + dun CDC + soft hackle (pheasant, grouse, partridge) + ice dub

in between

in between all of the airports and covering over 10,000 miles in two months, i watched the snow slowly creep down the mountains in a perfect white gradient. i imagine the reverse happens in the spring.

i fished at every chance and caught the tail end of the fall BWO action and the beginning of those wonderful streamer days. alone almost all of the time my mind would wander and wonder and contemplate the ridiculous amounts of money that flow up and down this valley. bloated billionaires pushing out millionaires has made it unfriendly to the poorly funded.

when the opportunity came i hightailed it back through the passes and to the plains to be with my people and spend the mornings with my dog and a shotgun.

the bird populations are high, which has people talking and that has resulted in high hunter populations. there is less public walk-in then ever and all of us without private land privilege are jockeying for position. every morning while my defroster defrosts, I try to plot where i'll find the most birds and the least amount of hunters. i'm right less than half the time. it can be frustrating. but weeks around all that wealth and privilege has given me a humbling dose of reality and perspective. black coffee, beer in a can, a morning in an open field with my dog, moving water with healthy fish or a simple dinner with my family. i'm completely unsure of how this chapter will play out, but in some ways things have never been clearer.

brine

the birds started dropping into the decoys in the dark. a brief whistle and i could almost see the white ribbons of the wake they'd leave behind as they landed with a hiss.

impossible to know what kind of ducks they the are so i went back to killing dozens of mosquitoes at a time. ankle deep in a muddy slough and these bugs rivaled the worst i've known.

beside me a friend was frantically digging in his bag by the light of his headlamp, our desperation increasing each second with the idea that the bug spray was left behind. when he finds it, i close my eyes and whisper a silent thank you to whomever is listening.

with doves and now early teal, the hunting season is upon us. i shoot only females ducks, not intentionally but by chance. the gadwalls mixed in have me spooked. i choose not to shoot most of the time but come home with a meal and a respect for these drab, incredible fliers.

i brined all of the meat for 2 days. cleaning up my plate i decide i'll use less salt next time around.

i tied a few soft hackles with their delicate breast feathers. i've been binge tying every night. we are moving our basecamp once again and this time we'll be surrounded by trout and the beautiful places that come with them. i'm grateful for our time in the high plains and all that it's taught me about life, wild birds and the places we choose to live.

flux

it's been too long. there is too much to summarize. far too much to condense.

nights along river banks. no darkness, no wi-fi, no boss. in thier place only fish and blueberries.

my mind is pumped full of wild caught omega-3's and it's filtering out all the wind and dust from the last two years. some people need more moving water, fish, mountains, opportunity.

life is for living. nothing worth doing is ever easy. on and on. it can be hard to realize that you are growing up at the same time as your kids. i only hope we are giving them the chances they deserve. the late summer wind is blowing and once again it is carrying the possibility of change.