For some reason, recalling how to tie a nail knot came back to me as routine this morning. I had thought for sure tying the fly line to the nylon would have taken numerous attempts. It had been a long time. My oldest son Todd last night had cast himself into a significant tangle, including casting a knot in the fly line itself. He was casting an elk hair caddis with a bead head peacock dropper. Most of my strikes had come on the dropper, using the caddis as the strike indicator. After a few attempts at untangling his situation, bobbing around in the canoe at dusk while simultaneously watching fish rise all around, I decided it would be a chore for the next day. I carry an old small metal piece of broken off tubing in the vest for such occasions, a remanent somehow surviving over the years in a Glad Bag, having been given to me in the early nineties by Doug, formerly of Rock Creek Mercantile. He was a good salesman, once talking me into an introductory St. Croix for my wife Molly’s birthday. Turned out to have been a good purchase, as we enjoyed quite a few days fly fishing together. The kids have now taken over the rod. For some reason, it seems to always be the wife’s equipment. I recall well taking my mother’s golf clubs when I was old enough to whack around the ball. She had dropped golf. If I could only get my wife to fly fish again.
It was the Fourth of July, my grandfather’s birthday. Other than my grandmother Edith, I never knew my grandparents. Both grandfathers were named Garland. Not too common. Edith was an amazing gardner, having a large vegetable garden on a tract of land separate from her home in Dunbar, West Virginia. I recall fondly going out to the garden and seeing all of the cabbage, corn, tomatoes, peppers, cukes, kale and countless other produce. Dad took her pickling cukes and applied them to his special pickle brine. Fond memories there as well, changing the scalding brine over the large pickling vats. His recipe, written on old legal paper, still exists. We had the good fortune to have been given the key this Forth to our friend’s place at Georgetown Lake, east of Missoula. This has been the case each summer over the last few years and has sometimes been the case during the winter as well when the kids were doing alpine races at nearby Discovery. Great family memories canoeing, fly fishing, hiking Storm Pass, skiing and generally relaxing. I guess I’ve raced in a few mountain bike cross country races at Discovery as well, basing out of the lake house.
Casting a fly line rigged with two flies into the wind is always interesting, especially while in a canoe with a labrador between two casters. She behaves quite well, and is not generally the one to get hooked. During one day out solo with the dog, I kept to the area near an old boathouse, where things have been productive over the years. Brown, rustic wood with a few windows residing along a southwest cove, it appears to be an older structure that someone pulled off of the lake and put up on large cinder blocks. During the day the Damsel flies are buzzing around and trout seem to rise to the small blue fly. I’ve not had much success fishing with Damsel flies. I suppose that is because I’ve not given it much attention, sticking to what has worked. This has been mainly an attractor pattern such as a stimulator or the caddis mentioned earlier, with a prince nymph or peacock fly of some sort dangling below. Last night I could not land a fish. The trout in this lake are large, constantly breaking off or getting loose burying themselves in the weeds along the bottom. Today, things went better in the landing department. The rainbows caught were respectable. I watched an Osprey fly over, circle and then pounce into the water nearby, catching a fish which it proceeded to carry almost directly back over the bow of the canoe. I had left the camera card at the house in the computer. Photos during this sojourn have been with the phone. This has worked pretty well, but that moment would most likely have been a true Kodak moment. So, it stays in my memory and “that ain’t so bad.”
Wen, our adopted lab, is usually not allowed to “retrieve” the trout. Certainly in the canoe this is the case. This is also often the case on the rivers, when matters are catch and release. A loon resurfaced near the starboard side this evening and she got pretty excited, causing things for all of us to wobble a bit. One of the trout after being boated managed to find its way into her mouth. She decided at that point it was her fish. I decided to go with it since I was going to kill the fish anyway. What a vice she had, though. I tried to cut off her oxygen by pinching her nose and still she would not let the fish go. I thought about some of the retriever training works I have and the different methods to fixing a dog’s “hard mouth” issues. Wen fortunately is not as tough on the birds, but this fish was her fish.
I managed to make it out a few other times photographing the wildlife. Various duck species, loons, yellow headed blackbirds and even two coyote pups playing quietly along the bank. It’s pretty typical at Georgetown to see wildlife, especially on an early morning float. I’ve photographed moose in the area as well. I managed to get in some cycling riding from Georgetown to the top of Skalkaho Pass. Skalkaho is an amazing area and the ride over along the West Fork of Rock was quite scenic. I took some photos with the phone on top of the pass of the distant Bitterroot Mountains and the Beargrass.
During the weekend I wrapped up Eels by James Prosek. For some reason I had been putting off reading this one, thinking I’d probably like it. Is that normal? I suppose most folks probably do the opposite. Prosek tells the story of the eel quite well, covering its unique characteristics. To do so, the writer takes the reader on a journey covering New England, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Pohnpei and other areas, uncovering the mystery of the fish and the cultures that surround its mystery. The exact breeding area in the Sargasso Sea has yet to have been determined, though scientists, particularly from Japan, are spending quite a bit to do so. Eels breed in the ocean and migrate from the rivers, opposite of andromous fish which migrate up freshwater streams to breed. Prosek stories are humorous, uncovering some true characters. One of whom is Ray, whose weir along the Delaware rakes in the eels shortly prior to Katrina’s arrival. Nature is amazing. The Eel’s knew the storm was coming, an innate sense. Ray’s story, following the publishing of the work, also made an article in the Times. An ancient craft, building weirs.
I bought along Swordfish by Rich Ellis to read as well. My grandfather and father’s favorite fish to eat. Like the Eel and Blue Finn, the Swordfish has been taking it pretty hard due to commercial fishing. Long-lining and drift nets. Ellis covers extensively all aspects of the swordfish, from documented attacks on submersibles to its being fished for in the past by being harpooned from the extended bow of a boat. Swordfish are not schooling fish, and it is rare to see more than one at a time. Before longlines, fishermen would hunt them at the surface, sending a lookout up the mast to scan the waters for the telltale fins breaking the surface. Ellis writes. The largest recorded swordfish was recorded off the coast of Chile, 1,182 pounds in 1935. A nobel fish, the swordfish. I feel guilty eating swordfish, but occasionally still do.