Friday, September 28, 2012

ManCamp Part 2

Did I wait long enough to REALLY keep your interest?  Sorry about that-wasn't supposed to be quite so long.

It occurred to me that not everyone knows what "ManCamp" is. Here is a brief history:  A few years ago, my son and I set off on a camping trip with "no girls allowed".  Just him and I alone for a weekend to do the dangerous things that men do.  We started off with one nighters at a campground that was within 5 miles of our home.  May as well have been a million miles away, and we decided that it needed to be an annual tradition.  Thus, ManCamp was born.

Baring a one year hiatus (2011 was cancelled for disciplinary reasons-sometimes as a dad you have to hit where it hurts to teach the right lesson-mission accomplished and clearly 2012 was back on) ManCamp has gotten progressively longer and further away from home.  So this year's destination was the heart of the driftless area near Wildcat Mountain State Park, a neat little resort/campground/former bible camp called Rustic Ridge Resort.

Worth the drive.  Trust me.
It is no small coincidence that we both like to fish, and the Wisconsin Inland Trout Season is a week from being over...and we were camped in the driftless.  But the truth is, we were so busy that I only wet a line for maybe a half hour after a hike.  I know, it is sacrilegious.  But despite the lack of time on the water, in the heart of some of the best trout fishing on earth, I don't really feel bad for not fishing much.

The time of year, and cold/rainy start to the weekend must have kept people away, because aside from one other campsite, the campground was empty.  Good thing too, since there was a shoe burning ceremony and other dangerous things to be done.  It was probably best that the place was nearly vacant.   Had there been people around...we might have accidentally shot one of them or their camper with our slingshots.  (Which would have caused bad karma...and we would have had to find another offering to the gods).  We shot rocks all over the place, and at every tree, pole, picnic table and empty fire pit we could find.  Then we shot some more.  There were only 2 rules: (1) Never shoot towards people, buildings, campers or cars. (2) If you kill something with your slingshot, you have to eat it.  A rule that most certainly saved a few crows and squirrels lives.

He's not left handed...he just shoots that way  
In a way only camping can provide, we both calmed down over the course of the weekend.  Work and the business of life have worn me extra thin lately.  And starting fourth grade has taken a lot out of my dear boy, coupled with a recent brush with the rigors of being friends with different girls who were at odds with each other has also had his nerves frayed.  To be clear, he is adamant that they are NOT girlfriends.  Just girls who also happen to be friends. In any case, a weekend away was definitely needed, and we agreed that a couple more days would have even been really good.

Wise he is.  At the ripe old age of 9, I think he understands the need to find a quiet corner of the world every once in a while to help you find your center.  When possible, and hopefully without detection, I also hope he came off with a couple of lessons learned about how to spend time in the great out doors.  I believe on top of that list is to NEVER skimp on your sleeping bag.  Good sleeping bags may have saved our hides since the thermometer dipped below 30 degrees both nights.  (As stated on Monday morning before school: "Geez dad.  I was warmer sleeping in the sleeping bag than I was last night") Another rule is extra socks.  A warm (dry) pair of socks can be a lifesaver.  Strange how warming your feet up can change your whole outlook

Beyond the unsaid rules, the weekend was awesome.  I feel lucky to have had the time in the camper before winter.  Lucky to have had this time with my boy.  And I believe that it can be summed up in photos better than I can ever tell a story.  Enjoy.

The boyz
When I dream of places to fish, they look like this
I was tempted to steal this sign (but didn't)
The view from the fire pit
Yes.  The dog gets his own chair.

Can't get this in summer...
There is just something about tying flies at a camp site.  
Next year, I think my daughter will be old enough to begin a tradition like this.  I am not sure it will take the same form as "ManCamp" has, but whatever form it takes...will be equally as meaningful to me.

Til later,


Sunday, September 23, 2012

ManCamp Part I (The trailer)

"ManCamp" 2012 is officially in the books.

There will certainly be more to come on this....but for now, due to being flat ass exhausted, I am going to rely on a single image from the weekend to (hopefully) pique your interest.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fishing lore

We pull into the lot at the same time.  In a friendly way, we comment about both of us having the same good idea at the same time.  We share pleasantries. We talk about the stream, and some of our experiences on it.  We lie to each other about the size of fish that we have seen (and caught) on this stretch of water.  We wish each other well, and we stalk off to our chosen places on the stream, respectable but not absurd distances from each other.

As we fish, we occasionally steal glances in the direction of each other.  It's meadow fishing at its finest.  As I cast, I occasionally wonder if he is catching anything?  What fly he is using?  I assume he is doing the same.  Despite the mild curiosity, we fish on; unaffected by one another.

The fishing is good, but not great.  The fish are not coming easily, and it has taken too long to figure out what the bite is.  In two hours of fishing, I didn't see a single rise.  Of those caught, the trout are starting to don their fall plumage.  The colors are starting to pop on their tails and fins.  A deep crimson red.  The kind of red that stops you dead in your tracks.  Gorgeous.  Each fish is carefully unhooked, and examined before it is released.  Gotta savor colors like that; the season is winding down.  Fast.

It gets too dark to fish, so I head back towards the lot; content with the night's effort.  On the way back, we meet up again.  Unintentional on my part, and I am pretty sure it was accidental on his too.  The rest of the walk back is filled with resumed pleasantries.  We both agreed that the fish were hard to find.  There just wasn't an obvious hatch, the usual BWOs had stayed home tonight.  Neither of us caught them all, but both of us were happy with what we did catch.  And neither of us lie about the size of our fish.

As we walk, the talk turns to which  fly was working.  I had luck on a CDC Caddis pattern that a friend made (Thanks Tim!) Fist I fished it dry, then downstream and wet.  The latter was productive.  My acquaintance had done something similar.

As it sometimes will, the conversation turned to tying flies.

The fisherman and I discussed our knowledge of the stream and the small bugs it produces.  I showed him the patterns I usually use, and he showed me the patterns he usually ties and fishes.

Standing at the back of his van, as he examines one of my smallest flies I've ever tied he matter of factually said "this works? I like it, but it is kind of bushy for this stream".  He wasn't being rude, he was being honest and I took it as such.  It was when he showed me the flies he usually ties fishes that it hit me.

I've HEARD of this guy.

His style of fishing tiny flies has been the stuff that other fishermen on the stream have whispered of.  I've heard it many times: "There is a guy who fishes here regularly that uses these microscopic flies and catches fish like a maniac".  Others have mentioned him with the same reverence as Sasquatch: "He stalks the stream, slips into the water like a heron and picks fish out of places the rest of us overlook".  Others have just said it outright--they think he is a legend.

I play it cool.  I don't want to embarrass him and tell him I've heard of him. He gives the impression of a guy who quietly goes about his way, bamboo in hand, and fishes like a fiend.  Not unfriendly, but solitary.  I feel like I have just met a celebrity, but I don't even know his name.  Never came up in the conversation.

We wish each other well, and go our separate ways.

As I drive home, I am obsessed about other legends that I have heard but never confirmed.  But in my obsession, I am also a bit relieved.  This guy lived up to his reputation.  The fisherman was every bit of what I had imagined him to be.

Legends sure are fun.

Til later,


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Happy Birthday My love!

"A diplomat is a man who always remembers a woman's birthday, but never remembers her age"  -Robert Frost

Smart fella, that Bob Frost.  With those kinds of insights, it's no wonder the old boy managed to take the correct fork in the road.

To that end, this post is dedicated to the incomparable Mrs. MacLoosh.  Today is her birthday-but it doesn't matter which is just her birthday.  If you see her, please wish her a happy birthday.  

I could literally go on and on about how wonderful Mrs. MacLoosh is, but in an effort to not embarrass her, let me just say this: 

In the picture below, she is with our daughter.  I find myself in awe of the beauty these two possess, but more than that: My daughter is damn lucky to have such an amazing mentor to teach her how to become a strong, intelligent, and confident woman.

Cheers to you Mrs. MacLoosh!  Happy Birthday, I love you!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Six Spotted WHAT?!

By now, loyal reader, you should know how much spiders wig me out.  Right?  And, by now y'all should also realize how much they fascinate me.

Well, while fishing the Fox River on Saturday with my favorite fishing partner, he pointed out a spider on the edge of the water.  He noticed it while he was releasing a fun little sunfish that I had just caught.

The rules are as follows: G catches fish, G releases fish.  Dad catches fish, G releases fish.
I kind of ignored it because I had just found a sweet spot on the river and was itchy to get my popper back in the water.  Ignored it until he said "DAD! Look at this spider! It's HUGE".

There are few things that can break me off a pod of rising fish...but my boy clearly knows the passwords.

So as I walked over and he pointed to it, I might have said something to the effect of "Holy mother of god..."

Click here for more info
It certainly wasn't the biggest spider I have ever seen, but the truth is: if this thing were in my house, I'd probably have to replace the surface it had touched because of the burn marks left by the blow torch that I used to fry the son-of-a-bitch.

But since this one was outside, and a LONG way from my home, I controlled myself, took a couple of pictures to share with all and called it good.   The fascinated part of me, came home and began researching.  Turns out this is a Six Spotted Fishing Spider.

A spider that fishes. Cool. In an uncomfortable sort of way.

I've had one other run in recently with the insect world that is of note.  A big ass walking stick was caught and captured by some friends who were waiting for my family to arrive at their cabin for some R & R.  (The sign of a good set of friends is sometimes whether or not they will catch and save bugs for you...)

Not much to say about it, other than these guys are cool too!

Til later,