Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rain Rain Go Away!!

Once again I sit here in a chilly house wishing the rain would stop. The entire month of October has been rain for three days, half a day of sun, rain for three more days. After a while this starts to get old. Normally this is a month we can tackle a few new projects and get all of our cleanup done before the winter sets in. I can usually work in a little fishing and bow hunting into the mix also. I have managed a few fishing trips, although water has been high and fishing tough, and have sat in a deer stand a grand total of one time. Yesterday turned out nice and I was able to get a few projects done such as cleaning out gutters, getting limbs of roofs, throwing away the ladder that broke in half while I was on it cleaning out gutters (yes it hurt, but luckily I was on my way down, only up on the third rung). I unfortunately haven't had a chance to clean out the chimney so I have yet to light a fire for fear of burning the house down. With only baseboard heaters in the house we rely heavily on wood heat to keep our heating bill from being outrageous. My elbow continues to bother me so I have tried to take it easy so it will heal. Hopefully I have enough wood stock piled to get us through until I can begin cutting some more. I have taught myself to fly fish left handed, but with chainsaw I think I will just wait to heal, or I may have to learn to fish no handed. We hope today and tomorrow's rain will not lead to a big flood but always must remember how big this river can get. The pictures posted are of the flood we had the spring before last (taken after the water had receeded several feet), one of the many hundred year floods that seem to happen every 5-10 years. I'm not as worried about global warming as global wetting, I guess climate change will effect the earth in many different ways at different times, at least no hurricanes this year!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Relaxation comes to those who farm and fish

As torrential rain loomed in the forecast yesterday, I felt an overwhelming need to try my luck before the river became unfishable. Unfortunately a number of events tried to prevent me from my relatively simple goal. First of all I had scheduled the demise of our beloved steer "Inky" for yesterday morning so these proceedings took a few hours out of my morning, and while providing a lovely meal of fresh liver and onions it cut in to my precious fishing time. An unseen consequence of Inky's butchering was the violent reaction Richard had to the loss of his pasture mate. At first Richard just bellowed and made pitiful sounds, a reaction to the smell of blood on the ground, or a sadness he felt to the loss of his friend, that's for you to judge. I really don't know, but what I do know is this perceived sadness soon changed to rage, and Richard decided he no longer wanted to be fenced in. After breaking free once, Amy and I were able to coax him back into his pasture where he remained for most of the afternoon. Fast forward to 1:00. With Amy getting ready to head to the chiropractor and the kids in school I slipped on my waders, tied on a hot flash and began walking down the hill to slippery riffle. As I approached the river with trout on my mind I heard Amy yelling from the deck to come back to the house. I quickly returned to the house slightly out of breath, and was informed that the school had called and Molly needed to be picked up as she was sick. With Amy headed to town I loaded a booster seat in the van (yes the same van that transports the drunks and fishermen to the river) and headed to Dora to pick up my sick kid. After picking Molly up I returned home eagerly awaiting the return of my beloved wife hoping she would be here in time for me to continue my fishy conquest. Fast forward to 4:30. Amy returned from town and graciously allowed me to suit up and head to the river for an hour or two of fishing. I stepped into the water eagerly casting to a riffle that I was sure would be teeming with hungry trout. After about 10 minutes of futile casting I was able to coax a tiny rainbow to bite my fly, and while this may seem insignificant I was thrilled as I have slowly been improving my left handed fly fishing technique and now am starting to catch fish. (The tennis elbow I am suffering from has not been improving much so I decided to start fly fishing left handed which is much like starting over. Amy and I fished on Wednesday from Patrick bridge to James and casting and catching quite a few browns improved my confidence in my off handed presentation.) I continued fishing for 10 or 15 minutes to no avail and decided to change to a smaller beadhead stonefly nymph that friend and local guide Kyle Kosovich had given me earlier in the week. Another 10 minutes passed when my line was suddenly shaken by what I perceived to be a better fish. My assumption was correct as he swiftly ran downstream upon feeling the hook pull in his mouth. This run was stopped in it's tracks as the fly line rudely wrapped around the reel handle and held fast. Fearing my line would snap I frantically worked to unwrap the line and allow my opponent a chance to run and wear himself down. I accomplished this task and was then faced with fighting a good fish offhanded, with my reel still set up for my normal left handed retrieve. Prior to catching this fish I had simply been stripping in the smaller fish as there is really no need to get them on the reel unless they are big enough to take some drag. This fish was big enough and I struggled mightily to get him on the reel where I felt confident I could then fight him. After getting him on the reel he continued to run downstream in a series of quick short bursts which I countered by flipping my fly rod over and reeling with my right hand. I soon realized I wasn't gaining any ground, discovering I was actually panning line out to him by reeling this way. I changed the direction of my reeling and brought him toward me ever so slowly. Throughout this process my unseen quarry continued making run after run forcing me to rethink my tactics. I flipped my rod back over and held pressure on the fish using my good arm, anytime he would let up I would quickly switch to my bad wing, bracing the rod with my elbow and quickly reeling in as much line as possible. Once he began resisting I would again switch back to my left arm to continue the fight. This circus went on for several minutes until this hard fighting rainbow finally began to give up. As I brought the fish to hand I was delighted to see one of the most colorful rainbows I have ever caught, and while not the biggest at around 17" it was one of the hardest fighting trout I have ever caught. After snapping a quick picture I began casting again and after a few minutes heard Richard bellowing and carrying on again. Hoping the wily bull had not flown the coop again my fears were realized when I heard Amy yelling my name at the top of her lungs. As I emerged from the river I was amused to see Amy on the mule chasing around our herd sire in hopes he would return to pasture. As she was doing this she informed me that there was someone here to talk to me, and to my chagrin it was a longbearded Ozarkian deer hunter looking for his deer stand that he believed I had stolen. I did in fact have this deer stand but it was given to me by my neighbor who had found it on his property. Needing another stand, I had promptly put this one up along a deer trail I felt looked promising. While this man was chasing me wondering about his stand, I was chasing Richard who by now was chasing the dogs who were also being chased by Amy, it looked like my fishing might be over. I sent this man to the neighbors house, as he still believed he had permission to hunt there, and I assured him when he returned I would take him to get his stand. While he was gone Amy and I attempted to coax Richard back into his pasture, which I doubt would have held this Edwin Moses of the bovine world anyway. Richard continued to get more upset, and this normally gentle Dexter bull quickly took on the persona of legendary bucking bull Red Rock. As we discussed our next course of action, ZZ Top in camo returned for his deer stand and confessed that while he was given permission to hunt the neighbors land years ago, he had not been back in contact and assumed this was a lifetime deal, which it was not. After delivering some firewood to some nice ladies in the riverhouse I took this man to get his stand and sent him on his merry way. As I headed back to deal with Red Rock I was stopped by fellow fly fisherman Steve Farr who generously handed me a much needed adult beverage. After consuming this tasty brown ale I concluded that Richard would probably be okay enjoying a night of freedom either staying close to the barn, or heading up to be near his ladies on top of the hill. This morning Amy found Richard up by the mailbox and was able to reunite him with his beloved herd of Dexter cows. I thought this time of year was supposed to be relaxing.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Amy's first hunt

A few days before the close of teal season Amy and I left the kids with my beloved mother-in-law Valerie and packed up the Subaru with guns, ammo, and two smelly Boykin Spaniels. My father-in-law Danny has a nice farm with a 20 acre pond that sees some duck activity from time to time. I had taken Eli here to fish two weeks prior, and we saw about 2 dozen blue wing teal in their normal feeding area. We arrived at the pond about 5 that evening with a few decoys and several fishing poles. We fished our way down to the end where the teal usually congregate, and after catching a mess of fish for dinner we threw out a few mallard hen decoys and headed back to the cabin. That evening we enjoyed a healthy dinner of fried largemouth bass from the pond, fried coral mushrooms from the woods, fried zucchini from the garden, and cold beer from the Busch family mixed with a little bloody mary mix to class things up. The next morning we awoke just before dawn, enjoyed a cup of coffee, and proceeded to our spread. We tucked into some small trees along the edge of the pond with dogs at our side and watched dawn break over the glassy water. No ducks seemed to be flying that morning but we enjoyed watching a pie-billed grebe swim amongst the decoys, and did see two wood ducks fly in at the opposite end of the pond. Scratching the idea of shooting any teal that morning, we proceeded to shift tactics and try to shoot a few doves that we had seen feeding in a newly planted wheat field. As we approached the field about 15 doves took flight and landed in the tree line bordering the field. We snuck in and took position in some brush about 20 yards from where we had seen them take flight. After 10 minutes or so a pair came flying by, and I dropped one with my first shot, while leaving the second one unscathed. Finn the wonder dog did not see the bird drop so I took him over to the field and sent him in the direction of where the bird had fallen. After a little searching he soon found the dove and happily brought it back to me. Amy and I decided our set up was not a good one, so we crossed the field and hunkered down in the treeline on the opposite side of the field. After a few minutes I spotted a dove in the distance and told Amy that one was coming, and as I was telling her it was a little out of range I was rudely interrupted by a loud BANG echoing from her 20 gauge. This dove was not impressed and continued on his merry way. Not long after another dove came in flying directly toward us, fearing it might land on Amy and peck her eyes out I quickly jumped up, dropping the unsuspecting flyer with my first shot. The momentum of this swift flying acrobat took it across a hogwire fence blocking the path of retrieval for both the wonderdog and myself. With Finn only weighing 40 pounds or so, I decided to pick him up and put him on the other side of the fence and then try to direct him to where the dove had fallen. I spent countless hours with Finn as a pup teaching him to retrieve with hand signals and he has learned that when I point my arm one way or the other that is where he is supposed to go. This works well, but a spaniel does not "line" as well as a Labrador, as they seem to think they know where to look better than you do. By directing a dog over and over again to their reward, they eventually decide to trust you over their instinct and will improve on their lining skills. Unfortunately Finn still thinks he knows best, and while he will follow the signals for a distance as soon as he picks up another scent he quickly turns, and starts to hunt himself. I forgot my whistle that day, so after stopping and sending him with voice commands for what felt like forever, I finally got it through his little pea brain where the bird was and he picked it up and returned with it like he had done a splendid job. I wouldn't have one any retriever titles with that performance, but I ultimately got the bird back to me without having to climb the fence. By this time it was starting to get late, and our stomachs were starting to growl so I decided to go get the mule and bring it back to get Amy. I hadn't walked 15 yards when I heard several shots followed by a string of words that would make a sailor blush. Amy is acting like a seasoned dove hunter already!