Sunday, December 19, 2010
Rocky Gorge is a twin reservoir to Triadelphia where I went kayaking a month ago. Today I walked along its upper reaches in the Brown Bridge area, and there it seems less a lake and more of a lazy river which it essentially is because like Triadelphia it's created by dam which impounds the upper Patuxent River.
Since the surrounding land is owned by the WSSC, the water utility, it is free of development and its forests constitutes one of the nearest wild areas.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Twice in the past week on separate occasions my wife Pam and I got a glimpse of what was either a coyote or an unusually large fox. Foxes have been common around here, so we're used to seeing them. What I saw seemed bigger than the foxes we see, but I really didn't get a good enough look for a positive identification. Pam feels the same about what she saw.
A couple of years ago in the parkland across the street I got into a conversation with a woman who said she saw a coyote in the park. Based on other things said, she seemed to be fairly knowledgeable about the outdoors and the the critters that live there. The park is partly developed with ball fields and tennis courts but is also partly wild. Also, it adjoins another park which extends quite a ways along Paint Branch Creek and joins other parks cumulatively creating a wildlife highway through the suburbs.
There have been sightings of coyotes, I believe, in all Maryland counties, so it is more than possible I have them nearby. I'd like to know for sure. While I'm not much of a tracker, I've been studying up in hopes I can learn to differentiate among dog, coyote, and fox tracks. This snow might help but it's melting today. I think I'd better go out now and take a walk to look around.
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
The novel A River Runs Through It is a good example. It's one of my favorite books not just because of the fly fishing but because at its core it's about family and the pain of an older brother to a troubled sibling and the impotent feeling of being unable to help. I too have known that pain. Author Norman MacLean wrote, "... I knew there were others like me who had brothers they did not understand but wanted to help. We are probably those referred to as our brothers' keepers, possessed of one of the oldest and possibly one of the most futile and certainly one of the most haunting of instincts. It will not let us go." Reading those words gave me some comfort and understanding of one of the major events of my life- the early death of my younger brother Tom.
I enjoyed watching the movie made from A River Runs Through It when it first appeared nearly 20 years ago and watch it repeatedly when it shows up on TV, but a price I have paid is that the actors and scenes from the movie force their way into my thoughts when I try to recollect the pleasures of the original written words.
The subject of books and the power of movies came to mind because I recently read the sequel to Scott Turow's bestseller from 1987, Presumed Innocent. I found both novels entertaining but neither will be significant books in my life. When reading Innocent, the more recent, I came to the reintroduction of the character Sandy Stern from the first book, and my first reaction was, "How can this be? Sandy Stern died." Then I realized: No, the fictional Sandy Stern didn't die. The actor, Raul Julia who played the character in the movie based on the first book died.
Those powerful movie images can be overwhelming. They get into your soul. Maybe that's why the Amish don't like their pictures to be taken.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
The novel is named for a county in southside Virginia that is best known for closing its public schools from 1959 to 1964 in opposition to racial integration. Most of author Dennis McFarland’s book takes place in August, 1959 just prior to the public school closing and the establishment of a private school for the white students. Although the main characters are fictional, some of the minor characters were real and the place names, such as the town of Farmville, are also real.
The main character, Ben, is a 10 year old boy, and most of the action is told in the first person by him. At times, however, the point of view switches to Ben’s adult voice that fills in the history of what is transpiring round the boy and what is the outcome. The pace of the action is slow, very much in tune of the pace of a hot southern summer at that time.
The closing of the Prince Edward County schools was well covered in the news, and I was 12 at the time and remember it well. In addition, I have visited the county a few times, the first visit taking place in 1966 just two years after the schools reopened. I was there with a friend who had decided to follow his family tradition of attending Hampden Sidney College which is located in the county near where the main character’s family, the Romes, had their fictional farm. My second trip was during his freshman year when I drove down from Maryland for a party. During these trips I met a young couple who were known to my friend because the husband had been a friend of my friend’s older brother while they were students at Hampden Sidney. The young husband was a lawyer in Farmville and killed himself a few years later, I believe. It’s possible that he played a role in the legal matters surrounding the school closing, but I don’t know.
The novel’s main character’s family has little resemblance to the TV stereotype of the 1950’s such as Father Knows Best or on Ricky Nelson’s show. The Romes are chicken farmers, and the mother and father show little affection for each other or display any ability to communicate with their three children. The grandfather is a cruel self-centered man who lives in the big house nearby on the family property. Ben’s attachments are to his older brother and especially to his older sister and to his best friend, a black boy of Ben’s age whose family live as tenant farmers on the Rome family land.
The characters and the action of Prince Edward seem very real to me. Some of the events are unpleasant and may be classified by literary types as Southern Gothic or in the Faulkner mode. I wasn’t able to find out much about the author, Dennis McFarland except that he was born in the Deep South and, based on when he graduated from college, he would appear to be a few years younger than me. That would make him close to the age of his main character in 1959, and since I tend to believe that authors put some of themselves into their characters the vivid descriptions of rural and small town southern life are as he would have seen them at the time. I think I felt a foreshadowing of a future in literature for Ben when he responds to an older woman showing him an Emily Dickinson poem, one my favorites.
I'm going to look around for more of McFarland's books.
Monday, December 6, 2010
Along with looking ahead to 2011, I look back at 2010 with satisfaction. This past season began as they often do with late winter/early spring trout fishing. With April came the shad run up into the rivers like the Potomac, and although I got out and caught a few I'll plan to do it more often this coming year. As the weather warmed in later spring, I began concentrating on largemouth bass and bluegill which is fine, but I really should have taken more trout trips then as well. Summer for me means smallmouth bass, and there was good fishing on favorite waters and new waters as well.
One difference this year over past was the number of trips I took with other people. Two of the best were in late summer and early autumn on the Chesapeake for striped bass, or rockfish as we Marylanders call them. Two of these Bay trips were with professional guides as was the fall catfish tournament. The season ended as it began in pursuit of freshwater trout. Over the winter I'll remember about this year both the good company as well as the good fish.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
It's an honest book, for one thing. Martin came from what is now called a dis-functional family with a cold and distant father, but there is no "poor, poor, pitiful me" in his writing. Martin believes the lack of paternal approval probably contributed to his drive to succeed in show business despite many unsuccessful early years.
He also doesn't bemoan the sacrifice of privacy that fame brings and quotes an observation that celebrities want fame when it's useful and don't when it's not. He feels he's reached a happy medium on this subject: "At first I was not famous enough, then I was too famous, now I am famous just right." He devotes more space to his early girl friends than his later relationships and marriages. As well as being basically a private person, he may legitimately feel the earlier romantic couplings are easier to understand and put in perspective.
His devotes attention to his first film, The Jerk, and says he immediately loved the social aspect of movie making in contrast to the lonely process of being a stand-up comedian. He praises the director, Carl Reiner, who he says taught him more about being a social person than any other person in his life. He doesn't say much about his subsequent movies. Personally, I like the earlier ones like Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid and Pennies from Heaven and L.A. Story but have found his more recent movies to be mediocre. I suspect he had a lot of creative input to the earlier ones but since then has been a hired actor. He also doesn't discuss his growing career as a writer except to note that it was his play Picasso at the Lapin Agile that finally won him praise from his father. I went back and reread the introduction, and he does make it clear that the book's focus is on his career as a comedian. That accounts for the omissions about his later life, I guess.
One reason I like memoirs is that they are generally written by someone who has achieved some success who looks back on his life and presents what he feels is significant. With Steve Martin's, it may be notable what he chooses to leave out. I have heard that performers should leave the audience wishing for more, and with his economy of words and understated style, Martin achieves this with his memoir, at least for me.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Ok so far, but then it gets surreal. Their house goes through a metamorphosis into a tent and the picket fence into a boardwalk leading to the woods. A campfire appears. The final shot is the same in all these commercials: The man and woman are outdoors in separate bathtubs.
I don't get it. Outdoor sex is great, but what's with the separate bathtubs? Yeah, the purpose of the product is to put lead in your pencil, but how does a house turning into a tent symbolize getting it on? And those outdoor bathtubs-who the hell sits in a tub outside?
Monday, November 22, 2010
So today I headed north on Route 97 across the main branch of the Patuxent up through Howard County and across the Patapsco into Carroll County. When I got to the stream crossing on Klee Mill Road I noticed a surprisingly large number of cars in the parking lot, but my only concern was that my special pool, which I've christened "old reliable", would be occupied by another fisherman. No problem. It's too long a walk for most, and I after the first hundred yards walking along the stream I didn't see anyone.
As I threaded the four weight line into the rod I noticed two important things. The first was an annoying number of bugs crawling up my body onto the back of my neck. The second was rising fish. The two thing together added up to good news: There was a hatch of little black stone flies.
I sometimes think that given how long I've been doing it I should be a better trout fisherman, but I have learned a few things over the years. I know how to recognize this hatch and how to catch fish during it, so I tied on the appropriate floating fly and started casting. The action wasn't frantic but it was steady and included a handsome brown trout about sixteen inches. If we have another bad winter that fish will stay in my memory and help me through it.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Since there probably won't be many more opportunities before winter settles in, I decided to spend this afternoon on this lake which is on the border between Montgomery and Howard counties in Maryland. Although the temperature was mild, about 60 degrees, it was very windy with gusts up to 30 mph. Since fly fishing from a kayak in that much wind is frustrating, I decided to leave the fishing tackle home.
I found a peaceful cove where I could eat lunch out of the wind and take some pictures.
The reservoir was created in 1943 by the construction of Brighton Dam on the Patuxent River. There had been a village of Triadelphia, Maryland which went back to the early 1800's. The town was abandoned following a flood in 1889, and the remaining buildings lie beneath the waters of the lake. Flooding towns commonly occurs when a reservoir is made, and the movie Deliverance contains actual scenes of this process and incorporates it into the plot.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
Big win for the football team yesterday at Virginia which makes them 7-3 with two left. Will be there for the season's final game against NC State.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
My handyman, Richard, installed the 4 x 4 posts, and I ordered the two inch diameter eight foot bamboo poles and the lashing cord from an internet retailer in Pennsylvania. Then it was just a matter of cutting some of the poles for the vertical pieces and lashing everything together.
The project spread over a couple of weeks because I underestimated the amount of cord and had to place additional orders. I learned rope lashing and knots from the Boy Scouts 50 years ago but never before used those skills on such a large project. There will be some final touches, but it's mostly done.
Another Fall picture taken about a week ago.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Sort of a mock competition among a group that met on an internet fishing board and formed our own board where we chat daily. We don't talk that much about fishing but it's still the common denominator, and yesterday was the fourth time this season that I've fished with various members of the group.
There were about a dozen of us on four boats that went out into the Potomac just a few miles below Washington, DC, and the prize went to the person who caught the largest catfish, a species I normally do not fish for.
The picture above shows Capt Mike and Charlie landing one of the catfish while I look on. In the background, Tip from his boat checks out his competition.
Later we ate and drank at in the parking lot of Fort Washington Marina.
A memorable day ended with a beautiful sunset. Thanks to Fritz Riedel for use of his pictures.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
During a lull in combat in the Viet Nam jungle, a white Marine officer and an African/American subordinate attempt to have a frank discussion of race. The black Marine asks if anyone who has not been there in the bush fighting this war can really understand what it's like, and the officer admits that he doesn't think so. Well, there's no way you can ever understand what it's like to be black in America either, the subordinate says to the white officer.
I was never in the armed services much less in action during the Viet Nam War, so there's no way I can really understand what it was like. Reading this novel, however, is about as close as I could come to having a real sense of that experience. Whether at war or peace, humans act the way humans act, and the author Karl Marlantes' scenes ring true. Men act with love and hate, with wisdom and stupidity, and with courage and dishonor. Organizations are organizations, and decisions are based on perceptions at the top whether those perceptions are valid or not. But when decisions are wrong in the corporate world money is lost whereas when decisions are wrong in war lives are lost.
After I finished this 600 page book, I went aback and reread parts, the first time I've done that in years. I did so less so to replay the action but to zero in on various characters which Marlantes vividly creates in all their complexity and to decide with which of them I most identify. It many ways it was a black Marine from the rural Deep South. He was deep smart rather than fast smart, as another character described him, and fast smart was better in their situation. I sometimes have thought that I might not have done well in that war because I too see myself as deep rather than fast smart. Religion was important to the black Marine even though he struggled with his Christianity in the face of the suffering he saw and felt.
The Marines ponder the nature of good and evil, the arbitrariness of life and death while they also hunger for women who are, of course, totally absent. Some of these men die as virgins without ever having experienced the sexual love of a woman. And yes, some scenes are gory and unpleasant, but to me getting through them was worthwhile.
The author was a Marine combat veteran of the Viet Nam war who was highly decorated for valor. This is the only book he has written and he spent 30 years writing it. I'm glad he did.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
With one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea,
Circled by the circus sands,
With all memory and fate,
Driven deep beneath the waves,
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me,
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to...
Obviously, I've been listening to Bob Dylan. Mr. Zimmerman and Townes Van Zandt provided the soundtrack to my fishing today up to Nolands Ferry for what might be my last upper Potomac trip this year. Weather was beautiful but the catching only fair.
Water level 1.31 at Point of Rocks
And 2.97 at Little Falls.
Friday, October 8, 2010
I had planned on spending a pleasant autumn afternoon catching bluegills and hoping for a bass or two with my five weight fly rod. Had about a dozen gills by mid afternoon before I realized the river had already received its fall trout stocking. I moved downstream and replaced my B & B with a crystal bugger which I knew to be effective on recently stocked rainbows. I caught the two trout within 20 minutes.
Water level 1.52 at Hollofield.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Picture by Pam.
Monday, October 4, 2010
Put on waders and went in to get trash out of the pond last Thursday and must have pulled out 30 or 40 tennis balls. It was slow going to wade through the vegetation. Went back on Saturday wearing shorts rather than waders and with a fly rod. Caught a bluegill early and then concentrated on picking out more trash.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Yesterday I fished the Bay again with Major Ski but this time with his father, pictured here and Lou, the Mad Russian as well. Ski's father is my age and clearly enjoys fishing but is not as fanatical about it as the other four men who were on guide Capt. Pete Dahlberg's boat.
On this trip as well as the Chesapeake outing with Capt. Brady earlier this month, much of the time was spent on the opposite side of the Bay from our launch at Solomons Island. Brady Bounds displayed a huge amount of knowledge of the physical and social history of the islands along the Eastern Shore which are shrinking and disappearing into the Bay as water levels rise. Unlike Brady, Capt. Pete did not grow up in Bay Country but in Upstate New York near where I was born. Nevertheless, in learning to fish and guide in the Chesapeake he has learned a lot and took us to one of the most interesting areas, Holland Island. Author Tom Horton has written of stopping to play with island children when he was ten and on a fishing trip with his father:
Now only a lone, long abandoned house sits as evidence that this was once a thriving community with its own baseball team. Odd to be fishing in waters where the ruins of old roads and buildings lie beneath the surface, but the catching was good and we all went home with rockfish and speckled trout to eat. Temperatures were in the high 60's and it rained from the late morning to our return to Solomons in mid-afternoon. Thanks to Lou Sagatov for the picture.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Ski is a US Army Major and Brady Bounds is a Chesapeake Bay Captain and Guide out of Solomons Island, Maryland. Ski will be going on his second tour in Afghanistan in a few weeks, and our country is fortunate to be served by such an intelligent and good person.
It was beautiful out on the water but windy. We motored over to the Eastern Shore, and Ski caught the first fish, a small striped bass. I think he caught a couple more before I landed a small bluefish using a fly rod. I hooked and lost a couple and then didn't catch anything while Ski and Capt. Brady regularly brought fish into the boat, some of the fish pretty good size. Brady pointed out that with the fish holding on the bottom the fly rod wasn't an effective tool. In addition, I wanted to learn to jig, so I switched to a spinning rod. While learning the basics of light tackle jigging over the next couple of hours, I was the only one not catching.
After refueling in mid afternoon, we ran back to the Western Shore where Brady once again put us on fish. There I got a couple of blues before coming in.
Had a good time and learned a few things.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Saturday, September 11, 2010
"It ain't something you control.
A Stratocaster heart and high watt soul,
It's live and die rock and roll."
Those words are from the Ray Wylie Hubbard album Snake Farm which I listened to on the way to the Upper Potomac yesterday. This is one of those songs with a rhythm so driving and a hook so catchy, you've got to move when listening. Other lyrics from the album give us some insight into his theology:
"Well, I never thought to ask him, but the thought seemed mighty slim
If he ever much believed in God, or God believed in him."
And on sexual situations:
"She comes to bed in a negligee just to discuss cinema verite."
This picture of him is not mine, by the way.
Excellent day catching smallmouth bass and big bluegills mostly on Lefty's Red and White Streamer, but the fish were so aggressive many other flies probably would have worked as well. The tip broke off my 7 weight fly rod, but it didn't interfere with casting much. I'll speak to the folks at Temple Forks Rods about their lifetime warranty. All the fish were caught at the point behind Noland's Island.
Weather was beautiful. Temps in the 70's, and the water level was .73 at Point of Rocks.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Home improvement people were keeping me home, but they all left at once so I managed to salvage the day by fishing water down from the Old Frederick Road bridge, a stretch of the river that I hadn't gotten around to. In a barely a couple of hours, I caught a few bluegills and a bass, mostly on a bullet head deer hair surface fly. A few years ago, I tied up a number of them when I was enamored, for some reason, by bullet head deer hair flies.
Getting back to snakes, we haven't seen any in the yard lately. Pam's deer fence caught a couple a year or so ago, and maybe they were the breeding pair. Good riddance.
I'm planning to fish that part of the Patapsco again soon, snakes or no snakes. Water level was 1.21 at Hollofield.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
To me, Neil Young's lyrics are like Bob Dylan's. Sometimes they miss and sound silly, but when they're on target, and more often both are, they get under my skin in a way I find hard to express. At those times, their words haunt me.
Unlike Brunswick, a few miles up the Potomac, and Point of Rocks, a few miles downriver, only fishermen mention Lander, Maryland which is little more than a few houses and a railroad crossing near the river. Lander is also the site of a C & O canal lock, number 29.
It was a beautiful day with blue skies, the temperature in the 80's, the humidity low, and, most importantly, the smallmouth bass and bluegills co-operative. Most fish were caught on a surface slider, but the best bass came on a B & B. All the bass were caught above the first ledge.
Water level .79 at Point of Rocks and 2.37 at Little Falls.
Friday, September 3, 2010
Walking around this famous DC neighborhood today brought back many memories. I remember my hippie girlfriend bringing me here to get sandals in the 60's. In the 70's I remember seeing many musical acts at the Cellar Door at 34th and M streets. In the 90's I remember showing my son the joys of browsing in record stores that were still numerous in the area. They were generally selling CD's by then, but I'll always think of them as record stores.
Since the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal runs parallel and nearby sections of the Potomac River that I fish, I thought it appropriate to take a picture of where the canal officially begins. A white monument noting the beginning of the canal appears on the left side of the above picture. There once was a fly fishing shop near here, and some avid flyfishers fished for carp in the canal. Maybe some still do.
Having lived here all my life, I have associations of personal events, big and small, often when I visit areas around DC. Few hold as many past images in my mind as does Georgetown.
Monday, August 30, 2010
For almost all of my work years, I was a manager and an important function of managing is the supervision of other employees. During my last five years, I had the fortunate privilege of "managing" two of the finest employees I knew in those forty years. I put the word "managing" in quotes because these two are largely self managing, and my function was primarily overall guidance and setting goals and priorities. Randy and Mike are currently working on the largest facility relocation in Raytheon's history. That Fortune 500 company is in good hands because these two could move mountains.
I am proud of my association with Randy Taylor and Mike Calhoun and am happy that our friendship has continued after my retirement. I had a good time today, guys.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
This morning I caught bluegills big enough to put a good bend in the seven weight fly rod I was using. Most of them came on a Madam X pattern. The fish torn up the fly, so I tried a few others without success until I switched to a B & B and changed locations from the Maryland side of Nolands Island to the Virginia side. There after lunch I had a hot run of smallmouth action for about half an hour.
Most of the grasses were below the surface. Air temperatures about 90 by the afternoon, and water level 1.00 at Point of Rocks and 2.65 at Little Falls.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
We think this is the first time we've seen an egret at our pond. It's a great or common egret. I saw some white wading birds yesterday along the Potomac, but I didn't observe them closely because my mind was on fishing.
Lots of butterflies around too.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Today I waded along the breaks and caught many small bluegill on a six weight fly rod. Air temps in the 70's and water level .97 at Point of Rocks.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
While it's elevation of 1,282 feet is hardly oxygen depriving, it does provide some relief from the summer heat. I hadn't driven up it for a few years, and the urge for this visit came on suddenly. Often when I'm fishing the nearby Potomac River, I look up and see it, or it suddenly comes into view while driving. When I was still working, I've seen it from the higher floors of Northern Virginia office buildings. I guess Sugarloaf Mountain has seemed to overlook much of my life's activity, so I thought it was time to reacquaint myself with it.
Sugarloaf is a monadnock, a residual of an eroded surrounding landscape. A short distance to the west, the Catoctin Mountains are a conventional part of the Appalachian chain, but a monadnock like Sugarloaf stands alone which creates a dramatic presence despite its modest height.
Typically hazy summer day, so the pictures are hardly spectacular. Above is the view to the east to a still rural part of Montgomery County.
Here to the right is a view to the south and west showing the stacks of the Dickerson Power Plant on the Potomac.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Saturday, August 14, 2010
The river hadn't cleared from recent rains, but although it was quite fishable I didn't catch anything for the hour or two I tried, wading upstream from where I parked. Rather than try downstream I chose to drive to a section downriver below the dam that had been designated a trout stream a few years ago. Last winter I briefly fished part of this stretch but had been unsuccessful and now wanted to explore another part.
When I arrived I liked the look of the water downstream from the bridge crossing and decided to fish it. I looked through my fly box and selected a small black and olive woolly bugger that looked like I had tied it sometime during the first Clinton administration. I wasn't optimistic about my chances since mid day in August is not a promising time for trout around here, and I had no idea what other fish may be present.
Surprise, surprise. I hooked something good on my first cast which turned out to be a fat 15" smallmouth bass. In the 30 minutes I was there I caught a smaller bass and two foot long fallfish.
Glad I decided to fish rather than just explore. Air temperatures in the upper 70's and water level 2.14 at Unity.