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Thursday, July 28, 2016

Good morning for smallmouth bass

Fished just over an hour and a half this morning in the Potomac at the Mouth of the Monocacy. In that time I hooked seven smallmouths and landed six as well as a couple of bream, all on a surface slider. Walked back upriver to the kayak where I had lunch and then paddled up to the next gravel bar. I tried a couple of casts but didn't catch anything there which was fine because I was more than satisfied with the action I had.

Day was in the upper 80's, very humid, mostly overcast, and still. Water levels were 1.4 at Point of Rocks and 2.9 at Little Falls.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Looking at the sky

"Watch the skies!" So warned the newsman at the end of the classic 1950's science fiction movie The Thing from Outer Space. If my pictures here  are any indication, I've been watching the sky a lot lately.  If so, it's a trait inherited from my mother who often called our attention to an interesting-looking sky.

Interesting or not, here's what the sky over the pond looked like yesterday evening:

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Living in the moment

A few years ago when I was riding with my friend Lou back from a fishing trip he mentioned that he was trying to live more in the moment. I had enough familiarity with the concept to answer only that it was sometimes difficult. For a number of years Lou has been a practicing Buddhist, and I know that living in the moment is something that religion stresses.

This subject is on my mind because lately I found myself dwelling too much on the future. The future isn't a cheerful subject for a man close to 70 years old because the little he has left is often unpleasant because of age-related physical problems or loneliness. Likewise, too much reflection on the past often leads to pointless regrets and Monday morning quarterbacking. Better to appreciate the surrounding world and people as time unfolds.

It's ironic that this problem should occur now because I've generally had a natural tendency to live in the moment. To me, living in the moment doesn't mean ignoring prudent planning, financial and otherwise. It means to appreciate the now rather than hopefully anticipating better times in the future or attempting to recapture some perceived golden past. I'm invariably in the moment while I'm fishing, and vocationally I was fortunate enough to find work sufficiently challenging to stay focused. My friend Bill once brought up a neighbor who for years when Bill called out a greeting would respond with how many days he had until retirement. Bill and I agreed on how pathetic a statement about that person's work life that was. Beyond the financial aspects, I never thought about retirement until I actually retired.

From her studies of Buddhism, Pam is going to look over her books to find readings that may help me. Like many situations, recognition of a problem is an important first step, and I already feel I'm getting better.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Another pleasant evening on the Chester River

As on the June trip, Stan, Jay, and I shoved off from Jay's dock on Kent Island at about 4 yesterday and stayed out until sunset, pictured below:


I seem to be taking a number of sunset pictures lately. Yesterday, I mostly had my hands too occupied with bating hooks and then soon removing white perch from the hooks in addition to smoking cigars, so I didn't get around to taking a picture until we were ready to head back.

 Great fun.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A lily which rarely blooms

I believe this was a Mother's Day lily which we put in the ground long ago. Since it's probably been a decade or more since it's bloomed, I nearly forgot its beauty. The blooms are probably a little past their peak, but I'm glad I got around to taking a picture.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Good hike but not so good fishing

Since I decided to skip my usual walk in the park to go fishing, I decided to combine fishing and hiking by driving to Pennyfield Lock on the Potomac and walking up the C & O Canal trail to Seneca Breaks rather than driving to Violets Lock which is right on the Breaks.

For a while on the walk up this morning, I thought this plan might not be a good one for a man approaching 70 on a day with a forecasted high of 96 degrees, but the length of the hike, about five miles round trip, turned out not to be excessive. The water looked good for smallmouth bass but produced only a couple of small bluegills in about an hour and a half of fishing. I cut it short because I didn't want to press my luck by going too far into the heat of the day. I stopped briefly a couple of times on the way back and took this picture at Mile 21 just below Seneca Breaks looking downriver:

 
Just as well I cut the trip short because a couple of heavy rains have come in soon after arriving home. Water levels are 1.54 at Point of Rocks and 3.1 at Little Falls.


Sunday, July 17, 2016

After a thunderstorm

It wasn't a violent one with downed trees and power outages, so I enjoyed being out on the porch drinking bourbon and listening to the rain falling on the roof. In the evening I walked over to the park and was greeted by a rainbow to the east:

 
Returning home, I took a picture of the sunset:
 
 


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Nice summer day

Breezy with low humidity. Temperatures will climb to the upper 80's, but walking this morning was very pleasant.


Monday, July 4, 2016

Three images

Last Wednesday and Thursday we toured four art museums in New York City with daughter Rebecca. Two paintings in particular, quite dissimilar, reminded me how different it can be to view originals as opposed to reproductions in books and on the internet.

The first is Picasso's very famous Les Demoiselles D'Avignon.
Although I've seen this work before, this time I really stared at it intensely and let it flow over me. Whether I focused on the women or the surroundings, I found it a very satisfying visual experience. Even if the painting had been a total abstraction without any recognizable content, I'd find the design and overall effect pleasing, and I think I could look at it everyday without tiring of it.
 
The second is a painting I hadn't seen or heard of before, Landscape with a Footbridge by Jacob van Ruisdael, a 17th century Dutch artist.
 
 
Apart from the scenery and the lighting, my attention went to the human figures in the lower center, not the humans and horse to the left. The two who would attract the attention of any outdoorsman are lost in the shadows and are barely visual on my computer monitor. One is on the riverbank fishing, and the other is carrying a gun and is clearly in a stalking posture as if intently in pursuit of game. The prey may be in the woods on the other side of the bridge or could be the ducks which appear only as dots under the bridge in this small reproduction. The fisherman has his head turned as if surprised by the presence of the hunter. Maybe he's afraid the commotion might spoil the fishing. It's another painting I'd not grow weary of.
 
The final image is a photo of son-in-law Sean, Rebecca, and Pam in Brooklyn along the East River with the Williamsburg Bridge in the background. It was taken before dinner, and I liked the early evening light.
 
 
 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A mess of fish...

Went fishing on the lower Chester River off the eastern side of Kent Island yesterday evening, and the fishing was great for white perch. Although we were generally using clams and blood worms, I caught a couple on artificial lures.

My friend Stan isn't a very experienced fisherman, but he's enthusiastic and, after a slow start, managed to catch a few.

 
I've gotten to know our captain Jay through Stan. He was happy to have company and certainly was successful in putting us on fish. He gave his wife credit for suggesting the spot which was in only four feet of water.
 
 
This was typical of the catch. We baited two hooks on our bottom rigs and caught many doubles. Jay suggested a slow retrieve after casting out, a suggestion I found surprising, but he was certainly right.
 
 
After about five hours on the water, it was time to call it quits, and we had a nice sunset to view back at the marina.
 
 
The total catch was about 3 dozen. Stan didn't want any, and Jay took only about a half dozen. I had a lot of fish to clean this morning.
 
 
 
 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Pam and her cousins

Last week we spent a couple of days at my sister-in-law's house in Gormania, West Virginia where we celebrated a mini family reunion. Pam's cousins came from California, Arkansas, and Virginia.

Ted is the oldest at about 80, but he looks to be still in great physical shape. Not nearly as serious as he appears in this photo, he kiddingly referred to himself as the patriarch.


Nick is Ted's brother and lives in Arkansas. We don't know what he did for a living there before retirement. Although he's very open and friendly, the subject of work has never come up when we're with him.


 
Sandy lives near her brother Ted in California. Like all the Winters women, she looks much younger than her years. She, Ted, and Nick lived in Gormania before moving to the West Coast when they were still children.
 

Finally, we come to Pam who looks much better in person than this picture.
 
 
Another cousin, Dan, who was present at the event is not pictured because he took the pictures.

Friday, June 3, 2016

This year's geese families


Three or four litters (if that's the correct term) this year, and two of them are pictured above. In the foreground is a family of five goslings with the two adult parents. The far background shows two adults with one gosling which is much smaller than any of the other ones born this year. It's the size the others were weeks ago, so I assume it was hatched later.

The reason why I say three or four litters is because of the uncertainty I have about the last group which was nearby today although I didn't photograph them. I've noticed that the families often tend to stay in the same area, sort of a mutual watch and protect thing. The un-pictured group consists of ten goslings which seem to be invariably accompanied by three adults. My theory is that this large group is really two separate litters of five each, and one of the parents died. The remaining parent joined with another family of five goslings to form this group.

Canada Geese parents stay with their offspring until their flight wings develop enabling them to fly, I believe. They can apparently swim immediately after hatching, but flying requires more physical development. As the goslings grow their color changes from light tan to the familiar black and white of the adults. Most of these birds are well on their way to becoming full adults.

All of these, by the way, are observations I've made and interpretations which may not be correct since I haven't check them with bird guides.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

This year's wildflower meadow in the park

I'll probably take more pictures of this meadow as the season passes:

Our front door

Pam is responsible for most of what I think is a very pleasant entrance into the house.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day

It’s Memorial Day in America
Everybody’s on the road
Let’s remember our fallen heroes
Y’all be sure and drive slow...


-James McMurtry

Like many Americans, I suspect, I don't often think about what this holiday celebrates, but today I've tried to correct this.

The Viet Nam War was my generation's war, and the combat deaths of those I knew personally came from that conflict. Two of them, Otis Keys and James Jones, were high school classmates who I remember more from times after we graduated. Otis worked with me in a brickyard the summer following graduation, and I remember him as a quiet guy, medium tall and muscular. He was on the school football team, I believe. Most of my memories of James were from my first year at the University of Maryland. He was one of the guys who gathered in the lobby of the one of the buildings where between classes we drank coffee and smoked cigarettes. Habits changed, so I didn't realize he had either dropped or flunked out of college until I ran into another of that group who told me a semester or two later that James had been killed in Viet Nam. He too was quiet but always seemed to have a friendly smile.

There may have been more from my high school who died there who I don't recall. Despite the toll of that war, there were so many of us male baby boomers that the war had less of a personal effect on the rest of us than you would think. There are some that I knew who served in the armed services during those years but didn't see combat. Some served in the Navy while others were in the Army but spent their time in Germany where we still had a major military presence. Still others were in Viet Nam but in a support capacity; one was a jet engine mechanic, and another ran the projector for the movies that were provided to entertain the troops. The projectionist enjoyed his role so much he signed up for another tour of duty. The only time he was in any danger, he once told me, was when he had arranged to show the Beatles film, Yellow Submarine. He heavily promoted the showing with posters throughout the base the week before, but unfortunately he found out at the last minute the movie hadn't been shipped in. When he made the announcement to the troops who had crowded into his theater well prepped with drugs, they rioted and he was lucky not to have been hurt.

Two others I knew were technically not combat deaths but died later as a consequence of serving in the infantry. Being exposed to agent orange resulted in their deaths years later of cancer. Larry Seeley, a tall, blond guy who wore glasses and who I had known since junior high, was one, and John Bernard whose children went to school with ours was another. I'm thinking of Larry and John today as well. Then there were those who survived combat but came back different men than the boys they were before. Not all the wounds of war were physical, and these guys lived with emotional scars and sometimes chemical dependencies. I'm also thinking of them.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Nats versus Cardinals

Went last night with Bill and Gus. Nats won 2-1, and in the last inning I decided to get a picture when Nats' closer came on. That's Werth from behind who earlier in the game made a great catch in front of us.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Not a fishing story

A week ago on the fishing trip there was plenty of time for stories since the fishing was so slow. One of the best ones came up when Truman, the disabled guy who I wrote about, asked the charter captain how was it that he always seemed to know where he was on that big body of water. Capt. Billy pointed out the instruments on board which assisted in helping him determine his position and observed that there were a number of visual landmarks as well, especially for someone like him who had been guiding on the Chesapeake Bay for over 20 years. He went on to say that his ability was restricted to on the water and that on land he was quite capable of getting lost. He then told the following story.

When Capt. Billy was a young man an uncle offered use of a cabin in the West Virginia mountains when he wanted to get away for a romantic weekend with his girl friend. Capt. Billy eagerly accepted and soon drove up with the young lady. Shortly after arriving at the cabin, the two decided to go for a walk in the woods. As they were leaving, he noticed a cat hanging around the cabin. Although the cat looked distressingly skinny, Capt. Billy wasn't too bothered because he never cared for cats.

Enjoying the scenery of the mountains, they walked for a number of hours, and at some point Capt. Billy realized that he had lost his orientation and wasn't sure of the way back. With the pride that young men often have, he didn't mention that he was lost to the girl and hoped that he would see something that would give him a clue of where he was. Finally, the young lady mentioned that they had been gone a while and that since it soon would be be dark, they should probably return to the cabin. Just before Capt. Billy started to admit to their predicament, he noticed the same cat that he had seen earlier at the cabin.

Yes, that cat led them through the woods, up and down hills, and back to the cabin. At the cabin, his girl friend was probably puzzled that Capt. Billy, who she knew disliked cats, was feeding this guide-cat anything it wanted. He had such gratitude to the cat for bringing them back that he would've given that cat anything and continued fussing over the cat for the reminder of the weekend. When it was time to leave for home, Capt. Billy decided the cat was going with them. That cat remained a valued pet for years.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Eastern Shore storm

Driving back from spending the night at Margaret and George's home in South Bethany, we encountered a thunderstorm on Saturday afternoon. The flat terrain of the Eastern Shore farm lands made it easy to see in the distance as it got nearer.

Since I was behind the wheel, Pam took the pictures. Here, we were entering the storm area near Denton, Maryland:


Since our car and the storm were heading in opposite directions, we were only in the hard rain and winds for about an hour. As we continued east, we started seeing clear skies as the Bay Bridge comes into view:

Monday, May 16, 2016

Truman's Big Fish

For trophy rockfish (striped bass) season in the Chesapeake, my friend in Virginia's Northern Neck, Capt. Dave, organized a trip out of Ingram Bay for eight fishermen last Wednesday, May 11. Shortly after arriving at Capt. Dave's the evening before the fishing trip, I met Truman, one of the few I hadn't fished with previously, and based on his appearance I might have thought he was in a biker gang. However, I learned a long time ago that the old saying of not judging a book by the cover was true and, besides, Matt had brought him. I had fished a number of times with Capt. Dave's fishing buddy Matt and knew him to be about as solid a guy as I've ever known. Anyone who was ok with Matt was ok with me.

I soon learned that four years before Truman had a bad fall off a roof which caused a severe head injury which affected his memory and made necessary an internal shocking device to prevent seizures. What he could do physically and mentally was always a challenge for him since. After I heard the story of his accident and what he'd been up against since then, I couldn't help but pull for the guy. He had no self-pity and an innocence about him. The morning of the fishing trip, he and I walked together to the marina and he spoke of his excitement of this new experience of fishing salt water. He lived in Western Kentucky, and I don't think he had ever been on water as big as the Chesapeake Bay.

On the boat when we drew cards, Truman got an ace that give him the first shot when a fish hit. I wasn't optimistic about my chances because from my card I was to be last in the rotation, but I was feeling good about Truman's luck. During the hours before the cry of "fish on" went out, I strolled about the boat chatting with everyone as it was becoming increasingly likely to it shaping up as a slow day for trolling. Many of the other guys expressed the same thought that had gone through my mind- that it would be nice if Truman, at least, caught a fish.



When finally a fish hit, Truman struggled to reel it in, but he was able to land it. The rockfish was a big one, 47 1/2 inches. Everyone on the boat was grinning, and Truman was smiling and at the same time looked shocked. I don't think I remember any trip being so satisfying even though the fishing was poor.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saturday, April 23, 2016

April Ritual

Just as the cycle of the natural world bring the anadromous fish from the salt water up into the freshwater rivers to spawn, it brings me out to fish for one species, the shad. For this, I seem to have settled on Fletcher's Boat House on the Potomac in recent years.

Wednesday morning, the man at the counter looked vaguely familiar to me and I guess I to him because he didn't ask for a driver's license when I rented a row boat. He was unusually pessimistic about the fishing and suggested I try upriver where there was more current. The river levels are lower than usual at this time of year because of the lack of recent rain.

Always like the look of the Virginia shore from the river at Fletcher's Cove:


As usual, many boats are visible at any moment, so you have a sense of how well other anglers are doing and no one seemed to be catching much. I have to admit some smug satisfaction about my success which was slow but steady. In the end I got about a half dozen shad, all hickories, mostly on the spinning rod but a couple on the fly rod, in about three hours of fishing.

Came home and fished at the pond where I caught my first bluegills of the year. They were good size and I should have kept a few.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Plastic water bottles

I hate them. I hate them. I hate them.


I'm not talking about the re-useable ones. My hate is directed at the one-time use bottles which apparently require the user to discard wherever he or she happens to be at the time without taking the time to look for a trash container. Wherever I go outdoors these are the overwhelming main source of litter. I heard that San Francisco has banned them, and good for those citizens if that report is correct. I hope everywhere else bans them too.

Strolling thru Adams-Morgan yesterday

After brunch with Rebecca, Sean, and Sean's parents yesterday, we meandered through this DC neighborhood on our way back to the car. Although many of the small front yards were attractively landscaped, this one stood out for novelty:


Maybe we should consider an elephant decoration for our yard?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Jim Harrison 1937-2016


The dead are not meant to go,
but to trail off so that one can
see them on a distant hillock,
across the river, in dreams
from which one awakens nearly healed:
don't worry, it's fine to be dead,
they say, we were a little early
but we could not help ourselves.
Everyone dies as the children they were...
 
Since his death at the end of March, I've been thinking about Harrison and have realized that I've read more words written by him than any other person. Those words were in essays, memoirs, novels, novellas, but it's been towards his poetry that I've turned, possibly because he thought of himself primarily as a poet. Poets like writing about death, so I had no trouble finding passages. The words here are from a poem in the collection The Theory and Practice of Rivers which was dedicated to his niece after her death while still a teenager.
Harrison was fond of many things in life: eating, drinking, religious writings, women's bottoms, fishing, bird hunting, music. These often are mentioned in his writings so that those of us who didn't know him personally knew him through his words and will miss him.
 
 
It is that, but far more:
as if we take a voyage out of life
as surely we took a voyage in,
almost as frightened children
in a cellar's cold grey air;
or before memory- they put me on a boat
on this river, then I was lifted off;
in our hearts, as it is always just after
dawn, and each bird's song is the first,
and that ever so slight breeze that touches
the tops of trees and ripples the lake
moves through our bodies as if we were gods.

 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Early April walks in the park

First in the afternoon:
Then the evening:

 
 
 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

First fishing of the year

Although "opening day, for trout fishing was Saturday, I didn't get out because I wasn't feeling well. I was feeling better on Sunday, and caught a trout and a largemouth bass in about an hour of fishing. I used a spinning rod and a Mepps in-line spinner. I got another trout the next day, so we had enough for a fish dinner that night.

Then yesterday we had one of the few days lately of light wind, and I took advantage of it to try the fly rod. Using a marabou bead-head, I caught a really pretty good-sized crappie which I probably should have kept or at least photographed. I then caught another trout which I did photograph. It's indicative of the other two I've caught so far.



Sunday, March 20, 2016

Vernal Pools

The latest issue of Virginia Wildlife magazine contains an article about vernal pools. Although I hadn't heard that poetic name before, I knew exactly what they were because I often encounter vernal pools while walking in the forest to a trout stream in the late winter or early spring.

Vernal pools are temporary bodies of still water and begin forming after trees lose their leaves in the fall and their need for water diminishes. The additional water in the surrounding soil fills natural depressions on the land creating a vernal pool. The pools continue to collect water during the winter and spring but generally dry out and disappear in summer. Vernal pools may vary in size from a few square feet to multiple acres. Their ecological function is much like wetlands because that's what they are. Like other wetlands, vernal pools serve as birthing areas for animals but, because of the pools' temporary nature, the animals are generally limited to fast-maturing amphibians such as salamanders and wood frogs.

On my walk today, I went down into the Paint Branch stream valley to photograph a small vernal pool there:
 
 
I know some larger ones less than an hour away, and maybe I'll get around to photographing them sometime this spring.
 
On the walk home, I stopped back to check on the ring-necked ducks that have been there since last month. Originally there were four plus a redhead duck who hung around with them. Now the other males have moved on probably because, as Pam puts it, the lady duck has made her selection.
 
 
 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Looking at Birds

Pam and I are not birders although, like most people who enjoy the outdoors, we look at birds and try to identify and understand what we're looking at. My friend Larry Fox who died last year was the only real birder I knew, but I never really questioned him about his past-time although we sometimes went out into the wild together, he with binoculars and me with a fishing rod.

I have the impression that the term "birding" gained favor over "bird-watching" because some people didn't like the image of the old term which seemed to be presented in movies and TV as a predominantly feminine hobby that was often the subject for ridicule. Maybe when more men got interested in the activity, they decided they wanted to be identified with a new term that would be viewed as active rather than passive. Larry was a thoughtful person and would have had something to say about this, so I'm sorry I never got around to asking.

On a walk in the park recently, Pam and I encountered a woman who was obviously an enthusiastic birder. She told us about an on-line site where a person could instantly file a report about the species observed and the time and place. She said that an observation made from indoors, such as looking out from your house at a bird feeder in your yard, had to be so indicated, and she implied that such reports were somehow viewed as lesser than reports made from a person outdoors. At home we visited the site (ebird), but we didn't note such distinctions which may only be apparent when you actually complete the on-line form to submit a report. However, we did find the report the woman submitted that day, and she noted 18 species in an hour of viewing in the park.

The birder also mentioned that "our" park had been designated as a "hot spot" for seeing birds. That's nice to hear, and it's also nice that we now have an internet site to visit occasionally to see what the experts have seen there which we may have missed.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Hint of green in the woods

Some leafing out is starting along Paint Branch.


Not much green here, but I like the scene:

Monday, February 29, 2016

Consolidated list of diving duck visits to the pond

The normal waterfowl at the pond are the Canada Geese, who are there almost all the time, and Mallards who visit often. Those we tend to take for granted while unusual visitors are noteworthy, and we tend to haphazardly record the sightings. The haphazard recordings are either on this blog or on scrap pieces of paper placed in one of the bird books we used to verify the species, and are usually diving ducks.

March 3, 2007: Ring-necked ducks

February 17, 2008 to April 26, 2008: Ring-necked ducks

December 26, 2011(and three weeks prior): We believed the single duck was a Lesser Scaup

January, 2012: Ring-necked duck

November 24, 2014 (and 3-4 weeks later): Hooded Merganser

February 29, 2016: Five ducks total, one with a bronze head which appeared to be a Redhead duck. Three of the others appeared to be male Ring-necked ducks, and the fifth was a dull brown color. It was almost certainly a female, but it could have been either a Redhead or a Ring-neck.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Annual Crocus Pictures

Yes, I can't help myself from taking what are probably near identical photos every year, but they are such beautiful flowers and bring promise of warmer weather.





Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Foggy days

They present a different feel to familiar scenes...

Like the pond from the west side:



And from the east end looking west: