Monday, February 27, 2017

The Wildernizer

At left, public domain image of a turkey as hosted on wikicommons. Thanks Dimus. Nice snap.

It's Monday morning and Lou the foxhound and I are on our own this week. The smell of sausage in the pan fills the air and if I wasn't wandering into the office here in a bit I'd start the woodstove.

The Wildernizer.

I woke up this morning with the sound of spring turkey in my ears and the usual Kate Bush playing on the alarm. Weird dreams. I blame John Gierach.

I thought things had gotten a little soft around here last night as I climbed into bed. 

I was reading a camp cooking article from John Geirach in an issue of Fly Rod & Reel magazine: "Camp Food" (Spring, 2013) which had done a good job of capturing the observational humor of a fly fisherman and his vittles. The recipes which followed were about as urban-ified as to be in pure discord with John's preceding yarn but then, editors.

Gierach mentions a buddy in his article who cooks eggs sunny-side up in a fashion where the tops are raw and greasy and the bottoms so over-cooked as to require a knife to eat them.  With this image in my head, I turned to an adventure yarn and submarines under the polar ice caps reading too long for good measure because tomorrow was in fact Monday and I looked to end the weekend all too well rested unless something changed.

I awoke to the concept of the Wildernizer.

There's too much civilization wandering around this place. Lou and I cooked eggs and sausage on the all-electric range making coffee in a GSI Outdoors brand french press coffee-maker (the Keurig needs de-scaled and I won't do that until the night before Beargirl is due home .... just like laundry).

The Wildernizer is an environmental control app. iPhone certainly. Probably Andriod.

To make coffee in the morning, it requires one to at least light a match. Probably three. The NEST people are in cahoots so your electrical grid access is appropriately filtered for a taste of the wilderness experience.

No sulfur odor, no power to the range. Simple engineering. We've had smoke detectors since '80. Let's put 'em to use for something besides scaring the dog when the battery gets low and they start the occasional blatting business.

Instead of Holst or Vivaldi on the alarm, you get turkey gobbles, chirps, and an occasional sound of wingbeats from a big tom leaving the roost.

Snooze mode, you say? 

Truck door slams at the next campsite over as the virtual  fly fishing buddies leave early to catch the dawn midge hatch. Second snooze and you're rewarded with the Chevy Suburban from '76 that never quite catches on the first start. Big V-8's are like that; but, you'll have forgotten what with your second Prius and all.

The slider lets you adjust the "level" of wilderness in the experience. 

Push it a little to the right and the morning is enhanced by the smell of spring skunk having gone off a couple hundred yards away around 4 AM. Push it a little more to the right and the kitchen trash is knocked over and spread around --- just a bit -- from the virtual raccoon assistant [ probably an upcharge in-app purchase].

There's the "extended" mode which awakens you at 2 AM with the sound of snuffles outside the tent. Not perhaps "snuffles" but more like "SNUFFLES" of a large quadruped. Deer? Elk ? Bear? Newfoundland? [ Apologies to Patrick McManus. Your story stuck with me from the summer of '79 when I read it on an August night hot enough to sweat bacon still in the crisper drawer. ]

Push the slider all the way over and the virtualization of augmented reality kicks-in. That's no longer Cheeto -- your wife's cat -- trying to steal most of the bed all night long but a squirrel with a bad attitude you discover in a caffeine-deprived fog of half-dawn.

Yes, the app moderates the display illumination to ensure your experience is complete stumbling in the twilight of false dawn looking for your camp shoes you were sure you placed in the vestibule of the tent. Where could those have gone? Raccoon, again (definitely in-app purchase).

I haven't figured out quite how to make everything damp with the heavy dew of early spring. Maybe I should just go with frost. Those NEST folks come from the HVAC control world, after all.

Oh, yea. There's a market here. 

Look for it soon in the App Store. It's sure to get by the "approved" app-store filter of those turtle-neck wearing millennials at the Apple spaceship. Well, ...

Perhaps if I get the folks at REI to advertise inside the app it'll be more appealing to the gatekeepers of culture. Pop-up kayak ads? Hmmm. Sounds about annoying enough.

It's been a long winter already and I need to get into the field. So do you.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Vernon County Wisconsin Driftless

At left, an image of a fairly standard hiking compass and topo map courtesy Quique251 as hosted on wikicommons. Thanks Quique251.

I'm working on the accessible water guide to Vernon County and its chalkstreams. I'm about to go blind with visual overload.

Now, I'm only including details of water where the Wisconsin DNR has stated it has evidence of natural reproduction and therefore wild fish. Amazing.

I'm fifty streams into the write-up and have another fifteen to twenty to wrap-up. It's an embarrassing richness of water holding trout.

I've been tying fat little partridge and yellow soft-hackles using Pearsall's silk and hoping they'll pass nicely for cress bugs. A touch of herl on the head makes them look tasty to me. Hopefully this does the trick.

I'm quite excited to wrap up this project here in the next several weeks and turn to other non-fiction. I'll clean-up the draft, do the typesetting and layout, and see how the project looks. I think it will work for the excursion crew making the trip this spring.

I hate to go somewhere new when I don't know the country and the waters. I passed on a trip last spring for the reason that I didn't believe I could do any good at all given my skill level and the public knowledge of local waters and conditions. There was too much uncertainty for me to believe my fishing efforts would be anything like catching efforts.

I'm not good as a "grip it and rip it" style of travel companion. Wandering Savannah for a day in August looking for "this bar" just about did it for me some years ago.

It's false spring here. I'm anxious to camp. I've a new trout car in the country on its way to Michigan for delivery. That'll make the camping and fishing access much easier in the early spring.

There are fish to catch. There's scotch whiskey to drink. There's winter deadfall to burn.

 I can almost hear the sausage cooking in the pan.

Have you aired out the tent and sleeping bag yet? Not too early to get ready.


Monday, February 13, 2017

The Secret Origins of Fly Fishing

At left, a lovely poster used for advertising and featuring beer. Public domain image hosted on wikicommons.

Even the French can figure it out.

From my part of the world, there is a well known quote taken from the diary of a monk in a local abbey. The phrase is now the advertising slogan of the Free State Brewing Co. [ And their products are outstanding. John Brown Ale is a favorite of mine.]

Because without beer, things do not seem to go as well.

Hey. I'm a brown ale amd E.S.B. sort of fellow. the IPA represents the garbage we send to the troops overseas. While I've seen the elephant, I don't fancy that over-hopped IPA as much as I do a fine nut-brown ale.

I also own a scythe I use regularly during the summer. Did I mention that? Probably has something to do with large pitchers of brown ale on late spring evenings. [ Possum Trot - also a fine brown ale ].

Monday nights at my local Beer Grotto sees a bunch of otherwise bear-like creatures gathering in hibernation season to tie flies, occasionally grunt in approval of the effort, quaff fine Michigan brews (over 50 on tap), and discuss the state of the trout. The topic of politics remains banned (local, state, and national).

Most of the discussion is about trout, trips for trout, encounters with trout, anticipating encounters with trout, tying materials, and my known obsession with soft hackle flies in 16, 18, and 20. (Yes, one can tie 20's just fine and they will hook and hold trout though I am not in the 20" on a #20 club, yet).

Tonight, after a dozen Partridge and Yellow in 16 and 18, I stopped and tied some of Steve Bird's Woodcutters in #8 and #4.  Surprisingly rewarding ties after fumbling with those little ones for a while in the dingy interior of the bar (I do not travel with a light, yet).

Tying small flies and tying small flies onto tippet is markedly the same game after dusk. Very little difference: it is all by feel.

Anyway, beers, big flies, and trout dreams. All and all not a bad way to spend a Monday night.

I'm fairly certain our entire pursuit originated around a keg of beer on Monday night. Some feathers. Some horsehair. A beer too many. A Scottish dare. Fly fishing.

Prove me wrong.

Anyway, how'd you spend your night?

I'm not going to change the world on Monday nights. I am however going to change a trout's world.

Decent work if you can get it.

Prost. ( ein prosit, ein prosit ... ).

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Shaping Up

At left, Bone Valley Trail in the Great Smokey Mountains as photographed by  Brian Stansberry and hosted on wikicommons.

Thanks, Brian. Great snap.

Brain has the key here. Soon season will be upon us with the tales of guide-boat traffic jams on the Madison and accessible spots filled with anglers.

The trick is to be able to cover the ground others will not cover in order to fish water they'll never see.

Your own two legs are the best tools for it.

Are you fit for the day hike?

No, seriously. Are you fit for the day hike with everything you need -- plus contingencies -- on your back?

It's called a gym. There's one within fifteen minutes of you right now. Go there. Sweat.

There is a chance you won't need the stamina. A chance.

Amber liquid guys deal in sure things. Make sure you are in shape for the season. No one wants to pack your lard-ass out to the road when you have a coronary incident.

Yes, I mean you. Your cholesterol practically makes you a solid.

Do some road work. It matters.


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Drunken Chimpanzees and Trout

Public domain image at left from the New York Zoological Society, 1906 as hosted on wikicommons.

How spoiled are we? I send into the ether a request for a public domain image of a monkey at a typewriter and I am overwhelmed in replies. Truly, I lead a charmed life in this age.  I can buy a bag of turnips with only walkaround money any time I want.

We're at the river's edge today. 

We're suited up and we've exchanged the usual bullshit parking-lot conversation with our fishing buddies. Nobody tries to solve the world's problems when we're anticipating trout.

Then comes the question: "What are you gonna use?"

A few days ago I wrote of my limited flybox this year. I'm a presentationist.

Your buddies however are not. They need that thing that's hard to acquire with just three flies in a wallet: confidence.

I'm convinced that confidence by an angler is a directly related to the skills mastery they'll demonstrate and thus proportional to the trout they'll hook. Anglers -- infrequent and occasional anglers alike -- need confidence.

There's a fly shop out there trying to help: Red's.

Let me just back-up a half step here. There are three stages to any angling we pursue:

  • At the stream;
  • On the water;
  • The period before-and-after the stream.
At the stream we are observing. We're looking for clues like Columbo on a Sunday night.

On the water we're practicing our avocation and demonstrating our competencies to the trout all the while updating our mental model of the conditions influencing our catching.

Before-and-after the stream is where we improve our skills, knowledge, and transition the "can almost do it consistently" to a core competency in our arsenal. It's also where we earn confidence.

Now, we're back at the water's edge and the question arises. 

It's rarely all that direct. It's usually more like "Whatcha think?" or the famous indirect approach: "Hmmm, Humpies?"

Whatever the consensus might be, it sends us digging into our box. 

"Damn, I don't have any Lemon Gimlets with marachino."

Confidence ebbs. You were late to the water or hurried there directly from the other world without a chance to stop at The Local and find that special cocktail the trout desire this week. The bar business is fickle like that.

Here's the deal. It isn't as much the fly as it is you. How can you know you're all lined up with the regional favorites for an outing? 

Use your "before and after the stream" time and ask the folks at Red's.  (Fly order: deadly dozen ).

They've made it idiot-simple and we can all use that help!

Red's will assemble a twelve-count fly selection for your region and your season all from a web page.

Yes, I trust these guys to know there's a chance the Au Sable has a Hex on a June evening or that brookies on the North Branch are stupid for scarlet wet flies.

Now, the local shop is where you ought to go: your local shop. They sell gear but they're in the service and advice business. If you want the best price on gear, you'll be an idiot and go to ebay. If you want to be a better angler, you'll have a relationship with the local shop proprietors and give them your business. Award business based on service and support: not price.

If not your local, then use the river's local shop.

Service varies, however. A crowded shop can be a hard place to get help on Saturday morning and angling time is precious. Maybe -- like me -- you just don't like to talk to strangers especially to ask a question (it's a bear thing).

Red's has on-line ( here  ) a selector to build a fly collection for you and your water and your outing. 

You won't feel like you don't have a clue standing on the stream's edge when a Sidecar is the fly of the day for your buddies. You'll know that Borcher's Special from Red's will do the job.

You'll also be making use of that all-important before-and-after the stream time to make yourself better. This is how it works: do something to help your catching BEFORE and AFTER you are on the outing. I know. It is exactly what its label says. Surprise!

You'll fish with confidence and the trout will know the difference.

Give it a try. It helps.

Red's (whole shop here).

I'm at the keyboard today typing like the chimp of our picture.

I'm working on finishing a survey of the Driftless of Vernon County for my local anglers and on finishing a solid annotated outline of another non-fiction work. It's a big weekend for pounding keys and scotch.

Lou and I are on our own but for the two local does standing outside my library window. They look in wondering if I'm as beguiling as I seem.

I'm not; but, there is work to do. Have at the hostas, ladies.

Type, monkey. Type.