A Time for Political ads and Leaf Blowers

Over the past few of months I made the decision that, since I haven’t been fishing enough to warrant writing much on that topic, I would just remain silent. There’s something very soothing in silence. Besides, how much can be written about fishing that hasn’t already been written? Even my reports about the annual Firehole Rangers trips start sounding like cut-and-paste jobs after a while. But when a recent inquiry by a dedicated follower noted how quiet things had been lately, I decided to break my silence, to use this blog as a venue for publishing my thoughts on other matters as they strike me. It’s my blog, after all, so I can do what I damn well please. If you’re one of the 7 or 9 readers who continue to buy a ticket to the show, I imagine that—as I veer off the fly fishing topic—those numbers will dwindle to the point where nobody is reading the content other than myself and the unfortunate person who stumbles upon my blog while going down the rabbit hole of the internet. That said, the following entry is something that I feel compelled to write about. If you don’t like it, I’m sure there are still some fly fishing blogs that remain for your enjoyment. I wouldn’t know, however: once popular and plentiful, fly fishing blogs seem to be going the way of the Neanderthal. 

There is no arguing that Fall is a beautiful time of year.

There is no arguing that Fall is a beautiful time of year, even during an election year.

Many of you will probably probably disagree with what I am writing about today because that’s what it seems we Americans do more and more: we disagree with one another. If you’re not American, you probably disagree with what Americans are disagreeing about, and Americans take issue with that. And in this divisive time of rampant disagreement and intolerance of opposing views, there exists a no more heated topic of debate than politics.

And this is an election year.

But it’s also Fall, or Autumn, depending upon which term you elect to use in your vocabulary (neither is wrong, it’s just a matter of preference and should be respectfully honored). Being Autumn Fall the Leaf Season, as I sit here in my office—even with the window closed—I can hear the roar of a distant yard appliance. The sound of fallen foliage management is so loud that it nearly drowns out the the political ads spewing from the radio. Ah, yes, ’tis the season of the leaf blower.

Old school cool.

Raking leaves blows.

These raging 2 cycle, gas-powered machines are as divisive as any measure on the ballot. People either love them or hate them.

Those that don’t have a leaf blower detest them for either their noise or air pollution, undoubtedly both. These same folks also probably have yards the size of a postage stamp that can be managed with a rake. More likely, they hire a service to do their yard work (and these hired hands will, without a doubt, employ the use a leaf blower so there is some irony to be found here). On the other side of the fence are those that do have leaf blowers and value these tools for their efficient means of scattering large expanses of fallen leaves.

Well, that's cute.

Well, that’s cute.

There is very little middle ground to be occupied on the matter. Some people attempt to reach across the isle, if you will, to adopt a more neutral stance by purchasing cute, little handheld electric leaf blowers that are much quieter than their gas-powered brethren. The problem with these is that they are also a lot less manly effective. To get the deafening power required for tackling the big jobs, one needs a backpack style, gas-burning, smoke-puking 2-stroke engine that is capable of moving acres of wet leaves (and post-Halloween candy wrappers). It’s what the professionals use. It’s what I have.

I purchased my Stihl BR320 nearly 20 years ago (BTW, BR stands for BRAAAAP) and it’s a workhorse of a machine that would make Tim Allen proud. It has never required service—other than a new spark plug and air cleaner every few years—and it always starts on the 3rd pull. Always (knock on wood). Much like the politicians flooding the media with their pre-election messages, this thing is a serious blowhard; a serious tool that generates hurricane-force wind speeds.

Leafblower

Raking leaves really blows.

However, gas-powered leaf blownership is not altogether a cut-and-dried matter because, while I love mine, I loath it at the same time. It’s loud (I wear shooting ear muffs for protection) and it’s not without its share of emissions (it smokes visibly upon start up, after which the exhaust pollutants are not visible though they are still evident). As one who does, in fact, care about the environment, I’d be remiss if I said I didn’t feel a twinge of guilt when I fire up the old Stihl. Still, use it I do each Fall when the leaves, well, they fall. I also use a rake, but the blower does the heavy work.

We have, in particular, 3 large maple trees in our front yard that yield an inordinately vast supply of foliage. These trees drop their collective loads over the span of a month, beginning innocently enough in mid October, gaining speed and intensity before finally ending sometime around the second or third week in November. A good wind storm, or lack thereof, can either shorten or extend Leaf Season by as much as a week. During the height of the madness, suffice it to say it’s an every-three-days endeavor to attempt (in vain) to stay ahead of the amassing spent vegetation. It should be noted that these leaves are nearly always wet from rain, thus requiring a bit of extra effort to remove them. Even with the right tools it’s a time-consuming and unsavory task, unless you’re like this guy:

Leaf blowing, made fun.

Leaf blowing, made fun.

Truth be told, the leaf blower is something I’m glad I have, but wish I never had to use. I don’t enjoy managing fallen leaves, but shy of cutting down the offending trees the leaves are just something I have to live with. Fortunately Leaf Season, as well as the election and the accompanying political ads, will be over with soon (though not soon enough). Then we can all get back to enjoying the peace and quiet, and arguing about politics for another two years.

Meanwhile, you enjoy this video. I know I did.

 

 

 

 

 

Status Update

It has come to my attention recently that I haven’t posted in a while, so I just wanted to confirm that.

A lack of motivation to write, coupled with a lack of fishing to write about, has simply added up to me being a worthless turd of a blogger.

Maybe I’ll remedy that sooner than later.

Meanwhile here’s a photo of a nice Idaho cutthroat from last July.

Idaho trout.

Idaho trout.

 

Summer’s here: Time for some buffalo wool socks?

 

Fishing amongst giants

A man amongst giants

It’s that time of year again, when the annual pilgrimage of the Firehole Rangers looms large like a bull bison standing over a fallen touron. Fishing opens inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, and for me it is the gateway trip to summer trout fishing, my favorite fishing season of the year. I like to be warm when I’m fishing, and summer offers that.

Late May/early June in Yellowstone is the time of year when, despite the occasional late Spring snow storm, the weather is often quite enjoyable. The herds of cow bison with their calves meander without a care in the world, grazing on new sprouts of tender green grass. The bison seem rather content, as well they should be, for it is a good time of year to be alive.

A good time of year in Yellowstone.

A good time of year in Yellowstone.

But it wasn’t all that many weeks ago that winter still had its grip on the Yellowstone area, and winter is a serious matter here: long, and very, very cold. As I’ve stood along the banks of the Firehole River in the past, I’ve tried to imagine this place during the dead of winter.

Spring in Yellowstone.

Spring in Yellowstone.

Even during a Spring snowstorm I can’t quite wrap my head around the severity of winter here. It boggles my mind to think that critters like bison can survive many months of brutal cold, where daytime temps range from zero to 20F and sub-zero  temperatures are common, especially at night. And what of the snowfall, that can average 150 inches per year (more in higher elevations)? Withstanding the cold is one thing, finding enough food to keep them energized enough to survive is another. Bison are amazing animals. Their wool has incredible insulating qualities. It has to be in order for them to survive Yellowstone’s harsh winters.

Fishing a woolly bugger next to woolly beasts

Fishing a woolly bugger next to woolly beasts

According to The Buffalo Wool Company, bison wool is “Soft enough to wrap a baby in, tough enough to keep a mountain man warm in a blizzard.”

A handful of wool

A handful of bison

That may be true, but I am neither baby nor mountain man. Just an unaccomplished angler. I do, however, appreciate warm feet during the winter season, and as I’ve gotten older and more “wambly” (according to my buddy Large Albacore), I’ve struggled to find socks that keep my toes warm when standing knee deep in a steelhead river in Fall and late winter. Or how about a trout stream in February, when cabin fever drives an angler to such desperate measures as high stick nymphing for catatonic trout in the dead of winter? Enter the Advantage Trekker Bison/Merino Boot Socks by The Buffalo Wool Company. These babies are like buffalo blankets for the feet, and everything the proprietors say is true:

“Not to toot our own horns, but these are probably the most effective use of bison fiber. The ultra soft, very crimpy bison fiber creates warmth, is extremely moisture wicking, and keeps feet comfortable and dry. Bison offers superior breathability, temperature regulation and natural odor resistance. These socks have a stay-in-place fit, flex zones for added mobility, targeted heavy cushioning, and long-wear durability, making them an ideal addition to any outdoor lover’s wardrobe.”

The Buffalo Wool Company

The Buffalo Wool Company

These socks are super warm for outdoor winter pursuits, but they’re also comfortable to wear sitting around the house during the cold months (the very reasonable cost of the socks—$38.00—sure beats the cost of paying to run the furnace all winter long).  And because they are a generous boot length sock, they also look great with sandals.

Birks and bison

Bison and Birks

When The Buffalo Wool Company contacted me to see if they could send me a pair of their socks in exchange for mention of their product on my blog, I harkened immediately back to a scene from Dances With Wolves:

These tatanka wool socks are sweet. Good trade, indeed.

My fishing buddies are like John Gierach, sort of.

Ironically, as I was sitting down to scribe this Drivel® I happened upon a Facebook (boo, hiss–nobody likes you any more,  Zuckerberg) post by my virtual social media buddy Mike Sepelak of Mike’s Gone Fishin’…Again fame and fortune. His commentary I found ironic and timely:

“I’ve always had the uncanny ability to show up for the worst week of fishing anyone has seen in five years. Like most savants with an instinctive skill, I have no idea how I do this; it just comes naturally.” – John Gierach, “Pyramid Lake”, TROUT Magazine (Spring 2018 edition)

Good Lord, can I relate. As usual, John articulates what I can only feel.

Far be it for me to put the Brothers Albacore in the same category as the esteemed Misters Gierach or Sepelak, but they (the Bros) do have a knack for bad timing when it comes to weather, rivers and fishing. Large and Junior Albacore (AKA Sunny Jim and Victor) really do have an uncanny propensity for bringing out the worst in the conditions when we go fishing, and unfortunately they often drag me along down with them. Lest one should think me exaggeratory for the purposes of sensationalist journalism, allow me to enter into evidence our last four outings.

A beautiful day to get skunked on the Yakima.

A dark cloud hangs over a beautiful day on the Yakima with the Albacore Bros..

Yakima River, WA  Spring 2016. I remember the day vividly, a day we had selected weeks in advance. Things looked good right up until a day or so before we were to go fishing, when a ton of rain fell. While the weather cleared up, when we got to the put-in the river graphs were going straight up. I recall that the water was off color, turbid and filled with debris, as one would expect following the deluge of rain. I remember that we didn’t touch a fish all day long. What I don’t remember is why I didn’t scribe an entry, because it was a noteworthy skunking.

Not such a beaufiful day to get skunked on the Clearwater.

Not such a beautiful day to get skunked on the Clearwater with the Albacore Bros.

Clearwater River, Idaho, October 2016. This is a fairly dry part of the country, where seldom does it rain incessantly. However, it did just that for nearly 4 days straight. So much so that there were no campfires at night, and Gore Tex garments were put to the test. The river wasn’t blown out, but the rain definitely put a damper on things, including the fishing. One fish was landed between 4 of us. It was on my rod, but I was not the angler. Neither was either of the Brothers Albacore. If you care to read about that debacle, be my guest: Weather or not to go steelhead fishing.

Sunny Jim Albacore, the great angling optimist.

Large “Sunny Jim” Albacore, the great angling optimist.

Forks, WA, March 2017.  While the wounds were still fresh from the Clearwater trip mentioned afore, we headed out to the wettest location in the lower 48. It’s always a dicey weather proposition fishing the coastal rivers of the Olympic Penninsula, as we departed home we knowingly drive head-on into massive storm. I guess we thought it might not be as bad as the forecast called for. We were wrong. If you’re interested in reading about that shit show, have at it: Hopelessly watching basketball instead of steelhead fishing.

Yakima River, March 2018. The most recent excursion involving the Brothers Albacore took place just last weekend. We had planned the day weeks in advance. The river had been holding consistently at typically low springtime levels. Fishing wasn’t red hot (it never is on the Yakima) but fish were being caught, and a few were taking skwala dries (if you believe guide reports). A week in advance of our scheduled trip, the weather looked to be pretty favorable. And then it rained all day two days before. The river spiked 1000 CFS and leveled off. It may have begun a very, very gradual drop, but it was so slight that it did nothing to improve the conditions of the river. I also learned after the fact that there was a controlled release of water from reservoirs to help flush juvenile salmon downstream. Impeccable timing all around.

Large Abacore (left), UA (center), Junior Albacore (center)

Large Abacore (left), Innocent Bystander (center), Junior Albacore (right) on the day of another Yakima skunking.

Clearly, the common denominator is obvious: The Albacore Bros. are a dark cloud of angling despair, and by virtue of association I am very often an innocent victim of their poor timing and luck. But there’s more to fishing than just catching fish, and it’s always great just to get out.

We make sure that we remind ourselves of that repeatedly.

Will the real Bob White please stand up!

We all strive for success in various ways. For writers, the ultimate feather in the cap is being published in a well-respected magazine or newspaper, or perhaps authoring one’s own book(s). John Gierach, for example, has attained that level of success many times over, and for good reason: he writes real good. In addition to his many books, for many years Gierach wrote a column for Fly Rod & Reel magazine. Artists and illustrators often follow a similar path in pursuit of success, and one notable artist in the world of fly fishing and outdoor sports is Bob White, whose work accompanied Gierach’s words for many years in Fly Rod & Reel. John and Bob were quite a team until Fly Rod & Reel went the way of the dinosaurs in early 2017. Former FR&R editor Greg Thomas wrote of the end in this blog article, Fly Rod & Reel: End of a Magazine Era. 

But despite the end of one era, all is not lost for fans of Gierach and White, whose collaboration continues with Trout Unlimited’s TROUT magazine. In July 2017 it was announced that the dynamic duo would continue their joint efforts to provide insight and entertainment for readers of the fly fishing persuasion. I, for one, was rather pleased to learn of this, but when the Fall 2017 issue of TROUT arrived in the mail, I knew something was amiss before I’d seen the magazine. I was out of town when it arrived, but I received a text message from my good buddy Derek Young, the famous fish painter. Derek wrote, “Is Bob White your new pen name?”  Accompanying that mysterious inquiry was the following photo from page 10:

TROUTmagazine

What the—?

Those of astute observationary ways may note that it appears to be a somewhat outdated photo of Gierach—rarely seen without his iconic hat—but what’s particularly interesting troubling is the photo of Bob White. Now, I’ve never met Bob in person, but we are friends on Facebook, and we’ve shared many a one-on-one correspondence. I know from photos that Bob is a much more ruggedly handsome individual than the photo above suggests. The photo below reveals the Bob White whose work we’ve all come to enjoy over the years.

The reel Bob White and John Gierach (photo by Mike Dvorak)

The reel Bob White (L) and John Gierach (photo by Mike Dvorak)

 

So, what gives?  If this were an April 1st edition of the magazine, I’d understand. But here we are, 6 months away from April Fool’s Day.

I suppose the editor-in-chief of TROUT, Kirk Werner Deeter, will have some future explanation. Quite possibly a retraction statement will be published in the Spring issue. In the meantime, condolences to Bob White: I wouldn’t wish this particular case of mistaken identity on anyone 😉

As Bob’s team of attorneys and public relations experts work feverishly to clean up this mess, please take time to visit his website and check out his work: The Classic Sporting Art of Bob White