Friday, August 31, 2012

Good times indeed

Fishing is an education.  Like those of you who fish didn't already know this an need *me* to point out the obvious. Well, sometimes I just can't help myself.  Those lessons usually make themselves perfectly obvious, and being a relatively simple man, I just spit it as it enters me ole noggin.

"Ah...a little giardia never killed anyone..."   -MS
To that end, I had a rare opportunity last week to fish with someone who taught me more than he will ever know.  It was my honor to play "guide" for a day with a very experienced writer and fly fisherman. Thanks for fishing with me Mike!  (That would be the one and only Mike Sepelak of Mike's Gone Fishing...Again fame..)

Perhaps I should back up a bit here...  My experience fly fishing, fly tying and now writing this page is entirely self taught.  I'm not bragging at all. I am simply telling it like it is.  I took on these hobbies, and in a stubbornness that I seem to have a natural gift for, suffered through a LOT of failures to learn what ever it is that I now know.  The ugly truth is, I am still self taught, and have had few opportunities to fish with people I believe are "good" fishermen.  Because of my relative inexperience and lack of any really good mentors; I am still suffering through a lot of unknowns.  I suppose we all are, but it sure seems like I am slow to pick up the things that everyone else seems to already understand as fact, or accepted method (at least according to the majority of blogs and magazines).

So when an invitation to go fishing with a guy whom I have been reading for a while and have learned to respect, popped up in my inbox, I jumped at it.  Maybe "lunged" would be a better adjective?  Whatever...  I was stoked.

But not unlike that rod repair that I stumbled though recently for a friend, it didn't take long to figure out that I may have (again) bitten off more than I could chew.  I am a mediocre fisherman and writer at best. I try hard, but I still have a lot to learn.  It could be said, with some philosophic undertones, that I don't know a hell of a lot more than I do know.  At least I realize it.  Right?  Sure, except that I find myself in these odd positions to try and show someone around a good fishing area, and moreover: they are relying on me to provide enough local and fishing knowledge to have them enjoy the outing.  To make things worse, he had fished with Len Harris the day before.  I doubt that Len knows who I am, but everyone who fishes the driftless knows who HE is.  Len catches big fish.  Often.

No pressure.

So when I took Mike to my favorite stream, I wondered what he would think?  I know why I like it, but would he like it for the same reasons?  Would he be disappointed in the stream?  Would he go home and wonder why the hell he followed me into the middle of nowhere to fish THIS stream?  Would he think I am an asshole in real life?  Would I be able to translate my poorly self educated fishing style into a worthwhile trip for him?  So many questions, so few ways to answer them...

I often joke that I have 3 talents in life.  (1) I have a good sense of direction.  Got it from my dad, and use it often.  (2) When I set my mind to something, there isn't much that can keep me from achieving my goal.  (this occasionally translates into stubborn adherence to pursuit of goals--sometimes at costs that are beyond the end result) and (3) I have an absolute natural ability to piss people off.  It's a gift, what can I say?

I'd like to add one more talent to my repertoire:  (4) A unique ability to get myself into situations that are above my ability. Especially when it comes to fishing.

So when we finally made it to the DNR parking area, and Mike asked "What should I use? A 3, 4, or 5 weight rod?", and "What size tippet?". and "What fly should we fish with"...I think I peed myself a little.  Can't be sure though because I was sweating like a hog.  (It was 90 degrees and I was nervous...cut me some slack).

Is he hunting, or fishing?  Yes, he is.
I fumbled my way through the answers.  I only have 2 rods to choose from and it was a touch windy...so I bluffed.  With absolute conviction in my voice, I said go with nothing less than a 5wt (I didn't mention that I only had two rods, and one was a 5wt).  Tippet?  More conviction in my voice: Oh...yeah...5x (nevermind that it is all I have...) And flies?  Well...its late August and I am partial to topwater fishing, so I suggest a hopper.  (At that moment...I thanked god in heaven above that a grasshopper flew between us just as I spoke...)

With the flight of single grasshopper and a bit of bluff, I felt I had gained a little bit of "street cred".  Off to the stream.  I suggested we walk a bit downstream and work our way back to the trucks. We would start at a hole that I knew held at least one good sized fish.  Once there, I pointed out where the fish would be lying, and suggested Mike take a shot at him.  After some gentlemanly back and forth, he insisted that I go first.  I had the impression that he was waiting to get an idea of how to make this cast with all the high weeds, so I went.  I made 2 casts, and promptly missed a strike from the fish.  We both took a few more swipes at him then left this one alone, assuming that the fish had been spooked or was now too cranky to feed.

OK...whew!  At that point at least he knew there really ARE fish in this water...  I was also glad to get into the task of the day: fishing.  We fished together as much as possible, but the stream was small, and the weeds were high, with very little sign of any other fishermen having tromped through.  Guerrilla bushwhack fishing at its best.  I did my best to linger so that Mike would get the bigger holes and holding water first, but on a stream like that sometimes you find the stream by stepping in it before you see it, so I tried extra hard to make sure he had the fist shot a fishy water.

At one point, he set himself up on at the tail end of a large pool.  I could tell by his posture that he was on the hunt and had found some fish, so I hung back and watched.  The man was clearly on his game.  Low, stealthy and with buttery smooth casts...I was truly in awe.  He hooked one, then lost it just before bringing it to hand.  Sweet! He is into fish!  That is the only sure way I was going to figure out if he was enjoying himself or not...

Mr. Sepelak in his element
As he patiently waited for another opportunity, He looked over at me and half whispered, half shouted "OH MY GOD.  There must be 40 fish in this pool!".  I know, I whisper-shouted back.  And just like that, I knew that this was, at a minimum, not going to be the worst fishing he had ever done.

After a solid 3+ hours of fishing, we ended up back at our trucks, and drinking a well deserved beer.  As we broke our equipment down, my nerves had definitely subsided.  I was genuinely grateful to have made a new friend, and learned a lot just from watching him (though until now hadn't verbalized).  Those questions of insecurity had taken care of themselves.  And while the day could best be described as Epic Bushwhacking and occasionally catching trout, I think, no I HOPE that Mike enjoyed himself.

(The truth is, he is the consummate southern gentleman, so even if he hated it-he would lie to keep from hurting my feelings)

As we chatted, I was also relieved to learn that I am not the only one out there who gets frustrated with all of the folks who write about fishing, and every trip seems to be perfect.  They always catch fish, never get skunked, never seem to spend any time untying wind knots and seem to have only the best, most expensive gear...that was sent to them by the manufacturer to "test".

What I took out of fishing with Mike wasn't fully realized for a couple of days.  I eventually realized that in 3 hours of trout fishing and good conversation, I had quite successfully learned a quite a bit, unwound, unclenched my jaw and forgotten myself in midst of a great little stream, a cool fishing partner, and an experience that I truly enjoyed.

Thank you sir. Much appreciated.

Til later,

-M

Thursday, August 23, 2012

7SoCC

I'm not a big fan of meetings.  At all.  In fact, I happen to think that one of the only things that ever comes out of meetings is the need to have another meeting down the road.  It's a vicous cycle.

With that in mind, I wasn't terribly disappointed when my ability to travel to a meeting today dissolved for reasons beyond my control.  Instead, I was forced to phone in.  While the convenience of participating, but not really 'being there' was appreciated...I was none too pleased when the conference call went WAY longer than it should have.

I also learned that at a certain point, one's mind begins to wander off to the dark side.  It becomes crystal clear that there is a problem when you are asked "MacLoosh, what's your take on this?" and you almost fall out of your chair trying to take your phone off mute to answer.  Stunned and off guard, you muster your way through an answer that you hope doesn't give away the fact that you weren't paying 100% attention to the conversation.

Being on speakerphone for too long is clearly unhealthy.  There needs to be a standard put in place.

So, somewhere on the agenda, between the Roll call and Motion to Adjourn, I came up the Seven Stages of Conference Calls (7SoCC).  I'm quite sure that someone, somewhere has already written something like this, but this is original to me...so BACK OFF MAN...I'm in no mood for criticism.

Yep.  The meeting went right through lunch.  
Stage 1:  Enthusiasm.  That feeling of "sweet", lets get this going and rip through the agenda.  I'm all in. Lots to discuss, but if everyone stays on task--we can wrap this up in a decent amount of time and still get something accomplished today.

Stage 2: The Fade.  This starts to happen in earnest somewhere around the 1 hour mark.  You begin to think "holy mother of god...I'm going to need more coffee".  But neither caffeine nor sugar can buzz you up enough to keep from entering a downward spiral.

Stage 3:  Disbelief and disgust.  Are you 'effing kidding me?!  Did we REALLY just completely throw the agenda out the window and start down another rabbit hole?  How can this be happening?  Does EVERYONE have the attention span of a toddler?

Stage 4:  Depression.  Your office has shrunk to the size of a laundry basket, the air conditioner isn't blowing enough cold air, and you can't leave to go to the bathroom (for fear of being asked a question).  You begin to consider wetting yourself as an act of rebellion.

Stage 5: Hallucinatory fantasy/Delusions of grandeur.  You begin to imagine that the phone has become a portal to hell, the voices inside it are not talking about agenda items.  Rather, they are telling you that flying monkeys have invaded Tokyo and only you can save the city and its inhabitants with your bionic fly rod, and a fly called "bellybutton lint".  Of course, you wear a cape.  Don't be silly.

Stage 6:  Hopelessness.  There is nothing you can do.  You are helplessly stuck here forever. Someone will miss you after a couple of days, you hope.  When they finally find you, they have to  pry the phone handset from your cold, dead hands.  You begin thinking of ways to gouge your eyes out with Post-It notes and taking outdated cold medicine--just to see if it numbs the pain.

Stage 7: Unbridled joy.  Followed closely by a feeling of emptiness.  Did it really just end?  Just like that? Hell Yeah! Wait...you mean I can get some work done now?  but I feel so.....so......so.....lost.  I'm not really sure how to handle myself, and my leg muscles have atrophied so I'm not even sure I can make it to the bathroom.

And finally, while not an actual stage of the conference call, there will be some sort of recovery that needs to take place.  Mine will come in the form of a long awaited fishing outing with a new friend tomorrow  On my favorite brookie water.

This one was caught and released in 2011 at tomorrow's destination.  Hoping for a repeat.
Come hell or high water...I had better catch some fish, or shits bout' to get ugly.

Til later,

-M

Friday, August 17, 2012

Out of thin air (or "Pulling posts out of my ass")

Ah....yes.  Writer's block.

I've noticed a trend over the last (almost) year of writing this blog.  Work.  Work gets in the way of my creativity. Don't get me wrong, I like my job.  It just gets in the way of fishing and blogging, that's all.  And when things get a little more stressful than normal, my usual laminar flow of creativity gets just a touch turbulent.

Of course, there are those out there who revel in their retirement and rub our noses in it, which doesn't really help...("A day in the life" by Mikes Gone Fishing ) , but since there is a possible trip to the driftless in the works...I guess I can forgive Mike.  For now.

So what does one do to cure this kind of slump?  Well...start a stream of consciousness post like this one.  After a short time, you have either worked yourself into the mood to type.  Or not.

In tonight's scenario, a trip outside (mid post) to walk the dog led to the unmistakably brilliant idea of building a fire, letting the dog run the yard (off leash), making myself a little work space with lawn furniture, and of course, cracking a(nother) beer. All that's left is to settle in, enjoy the fire, and reap the benefits of that wireless network that took me sooo long to get right a couple of years ago.

Yeah buddy.  Now we're cooking with Crisco.


Add  a picture from your little creative heaven and "Wala!" you have worked yourself into a completely pointless blog post.  It's too late to turn back now, I'm invested.  The problem is this, after a good solid description of how hard I worked to get comfortable...then what?

What about those recent fishing outings that I haven't mentioned yet?  Well, let's see...there is that recent outing with my boy who, once again, out fished me.  (a subject that is getting less and less humorous to me).

To him, the story never gets old and size clearly matters.

"Walk softly, but carry a big bobber"  or something like that...
Take kid fishing.  Kid catches bigger fish than you.  Kid gloats.  *Fun*
I didn't get skunked...but....the browns I caught were all smaller than "G's".  And, as he very astutely pointed out: two of my trout "might" have equaled HIS one trout.

Kids.  I swear.  Sometimes I'd trade him for a case of beer and a good sandwich.

So to shake the ego blistering delivered by Mr. Big Trout...I went off on my own the next night.  On the same creek.  Call it an act of redemption if you need to, but for me it was necessary.

I certainly didn't set any size records, but I did catch fish.  Enough to be satisfied that I DO still know how its done.  But, I also managed to (inadvertently) work myself into some ugly dreams later in the night.  First, a photo of my prize:


Sure, he was small, and the #16 Elk Hair Caddis barely fit in his mouth, but he was all heart!  With big acrobatic leaps this little trout was pound for pound (OK...ounce for ounce...) the most fun fish I have caught in a while. I'm convinced he was part tarpon.  I have also been led to believe that when a stream carries all sizes of fish, that it is relatively healthy.  This is encouraging to me as the stream I was on frequently offers me concern that it just isn't ever going to get any better.

Yeah, about those dreams I mentioned.  Well, loyal reader, if you know me at all, then you also know that I am not a big fan of spiders.  As discussed before ( S.P,I.D.E.R.S ) - I don't like them.  Period.  I am still fascinated by them, so I am inclined to photograph them when something catches my eye.

...just start counting the creepy little bastards then try to sleep soundly....
The problem with bringing home a photo like this, is that for those of us who don't really like spiders, it is fodder for an overtired mind to twist and contort into funky dreams.  The kind of dreams that are worth mentioning, but not worth typing about in detail about because they weren't very fun.

And finally....

Just because I think it is morally wrong to end a blog post talking about nightmares...I have to share at least ONE recent picture if Manny.  He had surgery earlier this week.  He is doing fine, but seems to weigh less with out that big sack of....sack.   We still call him Manny.  Just not "Manly".

(insert maniacal laughter here)

The dreaded "Cone of Shame" (This is NOT a portrait of a happy dog)
And there it is folks: In the spirit of The Seinfeld Show, I have successfully pulled off a post about nothing in particular. Thanks for reading along.

Til later,

-M

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Zingaro Life, here we come


"One day I devised me a plan, that should be the envy of most any man..."  -Johnny Cash

Every once in a while, life throws such a hardball at you, that you are forced to think differently.  Like "completely out of the box" differently. So, in true MacLoosh fashion, I have hatched a plan.

Lately those hardball's have been coming fast and frequent.  My usual good sense of humor is wearing thin and I am closer to breaking than usual.  Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures (or something like that) so after a day of ruminating on this...here is the best I have come up with:

We are going to become gypsies.

Oh, hardy har har...laugh it up.  Snicker if you must, but at least hear me out.


We already own a camper.  We have enough fishing, camping and gear to get a good start.  Our minivan, while currently in need of a several repairs, is paid off.  POS as it might be...we own the damn thing.

The way I see this, is we pull our kids from school.  Sell the house, TV, fish tank, and most of the other "extras". Then, we hit the open road.  Gypsy style.  We will have crap in plastic tubs, tied to the top of our 1985 pop up camper with twine, and every spare inch of the interior of our van will be crammed with the remnants of our lives in suburbia.

We will effectively go off the grid.  Forever.  We'll be real,live, vagabonds.

The seasons, and temporary work will guide our travels, but there are enough touristy places where we can find summer work in the great north woods to keep us going until the weather forces us south.  Once we have ventured south (or southwest) we can head for the winter tourist destinations.  Maybe I can be the guy who chops up the chum for SeaWorld?  Or perhaps I could sweep up the mess from the spring break crowd in South Padre?  Maybe my wife can find temporary work as a bartender at the local dine and dash truckstop.  We will work hard at whatever job we have at the time, and save for a new camper.  Ideally I'd like an Airstream but we would settle for something that was less-tent like  than our pop-up, has hard walls and maybe even indoor pluming.

Ya gotta dream man...ya gotta dream.
The kids will be home-schooled.  Taught by the very best teacher in the world...experience.  Life is hard and we won't want to allow them to get too disillusioned with this comfy suburban life, so I think a good year or so sitting on the steps of the local touristy shopping district with an open guitar case, and singing or dancing for tips should harden them up nicely.

When they aren't doing that, there will be several other chores to be done as we will live off the land as much as possible.  It will probably take my son a while to REALLY get good at skinning racoons...but after a while, I think he could be the best pelt skinner this side of the Ticonderoga.  My daughter...well...of the two...she is the most likely to kill an animal without naming it first, so we will work on her marksmanship with my old Winchester .22.  As she gets older, we'll work her into con games and pool sharking.

The way I see this, we could bounce from place to place, see the country and learn the different cultures, mooch off of friends and relatives when possible, and generally live free and clear of the world around us.  It would be relatively stress free (as compared to our current conundrum...)

We would genuinely be able to thumb our nose at the corporate elites and politicians whose failed policies have forced us to take cuts in wages that were already paltry.  When things start to get sticky at our workplace, or we've worn our welcome out...we simply pack up, and move on.

Free will in it's most pure form.

Methinks that every great plan has to be sold correctly to the stakeholders...and getting Mrs. MacLoosh to bite on this one might be tough.  BUT!  I will contend in argument that a better plan has yet to be put forth...  So until one makes itself evident...this will be our tack.

Now excuse me.  I need to go get a gold tooth, a red scarf, and a couple of earings if I am going to do this Gypsy thing right...

See you on the open road my friends.  If I don't see you, I'll send postcards from the edge.

(By the way, Plan B is a remote cabin built with hand cut logs in the mountains of a national forest-without permission. Of course.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Outtakes

Gotta give props to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  They have put together an AMAZINIG set of state parks.  That said, Yellowstone State Park was the camping destination of choice last week, and although Yellowstone is decidedly not my favorite state park, it is still a damn nice place.

Possibly best of all, is thanks to the bat colonies that have been carefully developed over the years, I came home with exactly ZERO mosquito bites.  Gotta love that...

I even got in some time fishing new "trout" water.  (More on that later...)

So in the same fashion as has been my style lately...enjoy the photos.

Umm....Wow.

Possibly the only way to improve on a sunset picture....ad one beautiful little angler
R & R is the name of the game
R & R is the name of the game (Even Woody and Buzz think this is pathetic...)
Anaphylaxis Junction
2.5 hours of fishing a trout stream and THIS is what I caught.
Can you say slump??? Grrr......

The kids did find an abandoned play ground on a trail, and decided that they thought it was haunted.  I am not sure I disagree with them.

All it was missing was a "Chucky" doll sitting on the merry-go-round saying 'spin me......'

The sounds of squeaking swings and screaming children can be heard when the wind blows.

Zen Master G with one of many fine fish to hand
(Note the slight look of "Hey dad: why are you taking pictures and not holding your OWN fish??" that he has on his face)
And last but not least, here is part of a batch of hoppers that I am working up for a new friend who has graciously accepted an invitation for a friendly fly swap.  Ready soon Tim!

By the way, the giant "Progressive" clip?
Yeah...got that the truckers jamboree.  I know you are jealous. 
Til later,

-M