Thursday, November 26, 2015



Thankful for the journey. Thankful for 5 senses. Thankful for a mind, body and soul to enjoy the beauty and pain of it all. Thankful for photos, letters, cards, shells, rocks, feathers, bones, flowers, beer coasters, tee shirts, hotel keys, songs, cameras and video to refresh it all in color and black and white.

Thankful that the further back I go in the reflections of life, the more I can honestly see the good and the bad of my life's choices. This is not bad, it's what makes me what I am today. Beautifully flawed in Gods eyes.

Sorting the good and the bad is necessary. Evading this process robs you of the joy of your story, the fullness of your journey. Embrace it all and use it for fertilizer.
For those who were taught and re-teach that life is full of purity and happy happy Joy Joy.... if you're living right?
You do the world and your friends and mostly your children a dis-service.

Disney had it wrong. Life is not Cinderella and Bambi.
That leads to early divorce, radical greenpeace, a lot more therapy and a misunderstanding of God.

You know I'm guessing, if we were good enough, God would still be walking in the midst of each of us in the Garden every morning. Not gonna happen....

Yet, through redemption of His Son and His Holy Spirits presence, there are those mornings and moments where God seems to be truly in the midst of us. Sublime and inexpressible as mortals.

And yet there are the times when our mortality makes us feel as far from Gods grace as the east is from the west, as heaven is from hell. Different for every person on every level, but still the same feelings. And in that I'll never stop believing that If our souls remain open, Gods love convicts, forgives and calls us back like any good father while the enemy of our souls, condems, shames and tells us to quit and end it all. (Which do you choose this day is our choice every day).

So today, we reflect on all the thanksgivings we've shared with family over the years. Those present, those newly gone that still leave their scent in the air, those remembered only from photos. The family foods, and drinks and games and traditions. Five senses on steroids.

Here in America where I live, as bad as it can seem at times, we live in amazing prosperity way beyond our means. For how many remember a thanksgiving where we didn't have real cranberry sauce or the wi/fi or cable went out... Yea, some people actually think these things. Kardashians come to mind :)
We don't want to focus on this but we know that most the world lives in squalor and fear and disease.
Now this doesn't mean they are in misery in their souls, it only means they have not lived in 200 years of an evolving democracy where freedom reigns and we continue to define liberty and justice for all where prosperity has thrived under these imperfect declarations.

Again today I pray with thanksgiving, God bless this America. For all her sins and poor choices, she is "like us", mortal and flawed but beautiful and created with supernatural words.

(the flag that flew over Ft Sumter the day the Civil War started)

Oh , we are flawed. no doubt. Our failure to have not seen the sin of slavery throughout the Old World, and to have allowed it here using our Bible as part justification, will never have been acceptable. God forgive us. Our treatment of our native peoples in conquering this land to make it America were terrible God forgive us.

Yet where would this America be if Brittan or France or Spain or .... had taken this land called America. What would have happened to our native populations and tragic slave populations and immigrants. under their conquering swords or anyone elses from the east?

I today am thankful for America. For like the church, she is flawed and mortal but strong and beautiful. Diverse yet divisive, love and giving while killing and hiding. We must accept the bad with the good and want to be better.
It's a journey, a story worth remembering, cherishing and fighting for.

I am thankful for every mothers sacrifice of a son or daughter to keep this America free. Their tears have washed away more sins than all the protests in the streets could ever imagine. I'm thankful for every person who puts their life in harms way to protect the innocent each day. I'm Honestly sad and angered for every person who living in freedom chooses to divide by race, creed or color, to subjugate, indoctrinate, intolerant, degredate and emancipate all that Freedom stands for and was founded on that was good.
This includes the selfrighteousness of my own heart at times.

And as believers, as most claim to be, we trust that God Almighty will make good from bad. (we see it in all our history if we want to look at it honestly).
For only He can do that. And we are reminded as a nation that we should never grow weary in doing good. Good like valuing our Wombs and our Waters, our Land and our Language, our Borders and our Brotherhood, our Faiths and our Fears as filtered through what would Jesus do.. And in that we will fail. Miserably and that's part of the journey and I'm sorry and forgive us our sin is as important as the gold medal, superbowl ring and Cup. As a people and a nation good, will bear good fruit as is always has. For our generosity around the world goes unchallenged. And one day we may find that the generosity we've freely given (not the governments money but the peoples private generosity) will the clarions call to the rest of the world some day. Some day when our nation is truly in peril and those who've been saved over the generations will respond in kind.

Yes, I believe in this kind of justice. This kind of Love.

So today, 8 lanes of traffic filled with SUV's heading to meet family today to celebrate and be thankful for the gift of America and what she has allowed us.

We remember today that those gifts were purchased with the blood of men yearning to be free. To risk and lose their lives on horses and wagons across a dangerous landscape against all odds. To risk it all over and over for a chance at a new way, a new life of capitalist and religious freedom from all the countries and governments our peoples came from. And even those brought by force here, they now have ancestors and generations of prosperity and the ability to succeed in ways their ancestors could never had dreamed. EVER.

I'm thankful today that some of our sons and daughters see nobility and are still willing to fight to keep America safe, and our right to bear arms and have religious freedoms and safe borders, and protecting the innocent. All the while to many of our sons and daughters take and take, and scream for better rights and more assistance and more respect and more equality because they feel entitled. For what I'm not sure.

Yet I'm thankful for it all. The bad helps me want to be better. The hate I see makes me want to love more. The oppression make me want to support freedom. The homeless make me want to hug my family and say deeper prayers of Thanksgiving today.

For yesterday i sat at a stoplight and a homeless woman in the cold was asking for help. I had no cash. Wait, I had a dollar I had won in a game months back in the corner of my wallet. Oh, Craig, don't give a dollar it's insulting to her my pride said. This was a long line of cars and a very long light, and no one was giving to her. So i rolled down my window and stuck my little dollar out as she took it and said Happy Thanksgiving, God bless you.. I rolled up my window only to look backward as 7 cars in a row began rolling down their window as the woman began running and getting money from the cars behind me.

That's the America I love. We only need inspiration, a breeze, a slight push to do good. May it ever so be that, God bless America the land that I love. Stand beside her and guide her....

Most blessed Thanksgiving thoughts to my friends around this little blue marble in whatever part of the journey you find yourself in today be thankful. You can only be what you think. Think on these things.. whatever is good....

It's Morning In America  not the end of the world as we know it.

Monday, August 3, 2015

"Thankful" : my daily reality check..

This morning again I was reminded again of how much we have to be thankful for, and in that "what" we have to be thankful for.  My friends know that this scene above from the end of Saving Private Ryan is what I expect when I die. First time I saw it, I burst out sobbing. It triggered something to deep for words. It put to view exactly what my soul imagines the moment I face Christ.  Now mind you, I understand as much as i can that He whom I will face already paid the price and I can not be foolish enough to think it's about what I did. And yes I understand that He already knows everything I've done. Every good, bad, selfless and selfish choice. I have 40 years of the "Word" planted in my heart and mind.  Yet in all that I still desire to please my Father by what others say, not tooting my own horn to Him. To look at him and say to those most precious in my life behind me " tell Him I was a good man, that I did my best".  

I'm not sure that the writers of Private Ryan wanted you to see "faith" in his life, in that script, but I would submit that if you are a person of faith, you will never fully understand the significance of your journey until you arrive. We truly do see dimly now.  

I received an email this morning with a story about the "train" of life. It reminded me of a sermon series a few years ago about the train of faith. I love those analogies because on a train you truly feel time passing by. Unlike cars or planes, there is something about looking out the window of a train and seeing the near field rush past with the sounds of metal and steel and track and car fighting each other while the distant field is moving slowly and silent. I always get that "I'll never get this moment again" feeling on a train and yes, that is the truth, yet.... 

 Time is the great revealer.  

As we age we naturally begin to see a glimpse of what God has already known from the beginning about each of our lives.  We begin to dot the dots over time that we could not even see in life's most crazy moments, and in that, we do gain long term wisdom in knowing that truly God does work all things together for good for those who are  called according to His purpose.    Our greatest gains can turn into our greatest weaknesses and/or, we can find it was never about us in the "winning" it was about meeting, knowing or inspiring someone else.  Someone maybe generations later...  What if our lives have a purpose we can not even grasp in our time.  What if love really is/was the answer that Jesus was trying to die for?

Our triumphs feed our self destructive egos when we take the credit for our victories,  and our failures fuel either humility or self destructive behavior. I think we all live in between those markers and just plain try to do the best with what we were dealt.  We become parents and feel like a failure most the time and then when our kids are grown, we realize for the most part we just plain did the best with what we were given.

My mom was an only child of divorced parents. I'm sure she felt like a failure more than I'll ever know just because she had no experience at it with siblings or no dad to build her up.   I'm sure, had I said to my mother "I tell God every day mom that you're the best", it could have had a profound impact on her life through all my trials and hers but, I didn't know any better, wasn't taught to speak that way, or I was just to self absorbed to say it each day. How much could speaking words of love and affirmation affect those around us each day as balanced with our other verbal exercises? 

This photo in 1960 is the only remaining photo of me leaving Shriner's Hospital at 4 1/2 around Christmas after way to many nights, weeks, ....  alone in isolation beginning on Halloween 1960.
I am haunted some days by feelings of "alone", that surface from those months of 4 walls and only my voice.  And I wonder today if that is the reason I love to go to the Mountains alone and experience that same feeling with God for extended periods?  To face my inner fears for strength each year?  Do you do something like this in your life? Think about it. How do you face your fears and past wounds?
I do know that chapter in life has helped me for a lifetime to have a real honest opinion of all those in steel wheels and others with partial and full dis-abled abilities. 
I learned in a chair for 4 some years that for me - pity was an insult.  Hey, I'm dealing with it so let's just get on with LIFE and celebrate each as we can. 

Thankful for that time? Was it sweet or bitter?  I'd honestly say bitter-sweet, and that's ok.

Losing anything in life is painful. If you are not responsible there is pain.
If you are, there is pain and guilt. The amount of guilt is relative to your natural heart and what religion has imprinted to you.  The amount of pain is relative to each soul and I always feel for those who have the biggest hearts and who naturally just hurt the most.  Some of us can lose people in our lives and just wake up the next day and it appears to the world you're just moving on. Others are affected forever by each loss. Neither is wrong or better, just different.  I say, "make good memories" they are all you have when the chapters over. They can last a day or a lifetime depending on how you make them. Lord knows our bad memories follow us wherever we go and are equally difficult to get rid of so we know the powers at work in our beings for good and evil.

I'm just saying today for someone, sometime, (or no one at all and I'm just flatulating to my own ears), that your struggles may be your greatest moments, (and I hear the Laura Story song now playing in my ears "what if your....") not today and perhaps not even for you, but they may be to help someone not as strong or wise or loving as you deal with the incomprehensible's of their lives in the future. 

I'm reminded of Pauls instructions to stay in contact with your teachers and mentors and let them know what you are doing as a reward for what they sowed in your life. I believe this would include parents and friends or even strangers who you have been affected and inspired by.  

I'll start again this morning by beginning with Pauls prayer to the church at Phil.. in 1st chapt.

I thank God for you.. 

I hope that if I am in your life,  I have been able to make a difference, be a blessing more than a burden, light more than darkness, joy more than sadness and given love more than taken it from you.  If not, I hope I can change.

For in coming back from the mountains to the sadness of all that is political and social for personal gain today in all media, I am reminded again that all people really matter, all people are really the same with different imprints to make us hate and sin differently. 

I really believe that the God I love desires us to make His last will and testaments personal.
 Not a sermon for everyone elses benefit to puff up our own feelings of worth and righteousness.

So today and this week Lord help me apply Your Word to the changing of my life, that Jesus message of hope and redemption might actually be seen through something I do to another soul searching for the same things I am..  And if the meaning of our words are different and our paths seem strange, help me to leave the "answering of deep prayers and questions" to You.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Truth Is Relative In Montana

Today I sit outside  in Livingston MT having coffee at Gills with me beautiful wife. My last day in Montana this year and I'm missing it already.  On F.B. today I posted a few dialoges' I'd had with wonderful people I've been meeting who are much further from my definition of "Christianity" that ever before, yet I feel closer to them and wanting to dialogue with them about "life" than ever before.  The photo above is right next to me on the sidewalk. I entertained in this bar last year on a Monday and tonight there is a smoking guitar based band playing. Guessing by the four massive pedal board configurations on the stage I"m assuming they have their "cow" together.
Tonight Jane and I will dine on our last night at 2nd Street Bistro (I have a blog on this rest. here from last year.) Owner Brian and Tiff his Mgr. treated me to dinner last week and here's one of the courses below. Duck breast with a miriad of smoked peppers in a reduction and a great bottle of 2012 Bandol.  Tonight it will be Halibut I'm sure. :) Only my third meal in 30 days not cooked over a campfire.
Yesterday I took the afternoon to sort out my truck and put into storage in Ennis, all my gear for next year I don't need to take home. All my cooking gear, a bunch of fishing gear, my float boat, my big cook stove and propane and chairs, and on and on.  Well last night about dinner time, I wanted to cook pasta primivera and Filet Mignon's with blue cheese and cheese and crackers with Merlot.
Ooops.  No cooking stuff, no utinsils, no glasses, no plates or dishes. just my Jetboil, a gallon of water and a survival cook kit..  Laughing, I  grilled the steaks in my fish griller and used the inserts from a case of wine for plates and coffee cups for wine and bathroom paper towels for napkins.  Jane says, "this is all perfect and done perfectly.. " I used some cedar i cut in the forrest to smoke the steaks..
I don't usually post personal video but the other day we walked up a ridge and then through two ranch cow fences and down to this stream "cottonwood creek". We sat down on a rock and had a cup of french roast and i took this video of the creek. Sublime...  here's a pic of where the creek comes closer to meet the Ruby River on our walk.
When you fish rivers in Montana they have now changed the laws to favor fly fisher-- peoples.  You can enter a river at any bridge (if you can get down there) and walk in the river up or down and stay within 5ft of the high water mark on the river. This is legal and not even Ted Turner can stop you where I did fish on his waters for a few days this month... and will again.   Great farmers and ranchers do what this photo shows,  they build a wood step stool over their cow fences to get to the river, knowing you're gonna get there anyway, why make it even harder to cross. Like faith, we should build bridges not fences for people to enter and not chase them down if they don't cross the way we like it.. 
This is big game country and I love that the forrest service puts up these stands for fall and winter hunters to hang their big game away from the Grizzleys complete with phone numbers for processors in the areas..

Everywhere you will find thse plastic sheets screwed into trees in the outback camping areas to remind you to NOT leave any food out that's not hung up 10ft up and 4ft out from a tree or locked in a steel bear container.  I have walked through the brush day and during evenings to fishing spots with my bear spray in one hand and my .357 unlocked and at my ready as the second resort.  Moose are also a great danger here, and MT. lions are the biggest population in the areas on the south of the upper Ruby Valley in the Beaverhead forrest.
Ok, I came for the fly fishing and so I have to sneak some of that in here :) :).
 I had a stretch two week ago with a 26, and 28 and a 62 fish evening.
Now I had to hike one hour up or down the stream before I began fishing to get to the holes most will not hike to, but it's worth it for the output and exercise. Here's a nice Rainbow taking a Green Trude Streamer.

Here's a cutthroat on a quick release..
I honestly never thought about photos on these days I was so busy have the time of my life.

So, when I say that I had two 16inch rainbows jump out of the water at the same time and each take one of my two fly's, I'm not kidding. Once in a lifetime. The nymph snapped as one Rainbow turned right, but the other one I landed and measured while laughing out of control like the priest in Caddyshack except alone in the wilderness with no caddy to hear me.

Jane has been here a week now as we leave together and she has gotten water socks and water shoes and come with me to walk and cross the rivers with me for the last few days to experience what i do. She did not take a spill and never got in the way and took a few photos and videos and carried the creel for the fish we would eat for dinner each nite.. Yea honey..
So, for now,  signing off from Montana till we're back in MN in a few days. Ooops a MN plate just pulled in front of me and I had to ask the girl where she's from......   Fridley.. I show her my Fridley Drivers lic. and she just giggles. I give her a card and we will now meet again for more important discussions of life and Montana. :)

Peace, Love and Happiness from the land where Truth is Relative, a pistol on your side is cool and a razor is for tourists.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Hurry Up And Slow Down Now..

Where I come from, when you are in the middle of seemingly nowhere there is not a lot to stop for.
 I took the time this last week to stop my truck randomly and just use the Iphone to journal the week. On a dirt road south of Ruby Dam there were a few horses near the road just saying hello.  If you tip the  paint pony on it's head, the black marking looks like a seal or black lab laying down and turning its head. Driving along the Beaverhead River there was the Beaverhead rock. I took back roads and drove along it till it ended at private property on 4wh. roads. I stopped at a small irrigation dam/ditch 20ft wide and fished a pool under the little dam. Got 3 fish to rise and missed each one. These ditches, you would think, would not hold fish but trout have a way of making their way up rivers and streams and irrigation channels.. :)

 South of Alder MT on dirt roads there is a cut off seasonal dirt road "Sweetgrass" that runs 31 miles over to Dillon MT.  Unlike alot of dirt roads that cut through the mountains, this one stays down and cuts through private lands in the valley. It's a two hour drive to go that 31 miles on it but you definitely feel like you're in the old west on sagebrush and horse trails, and you see a few surprises on the way.  

Horses are one of Jane and I's fav. animals. Like boats, I love them but not enough to own one at this point in life. If you have one, I'd love to ride in or on it but otherwise I'll just take photos and marvel. 
Along these roads and at anytime around any corner you can run into someones cattle. They roam free on lands owned or managed by large associations and you do not want to be driving 50mph, come over a rise and owe a farmer for a cow and a fast end to a good trip. 25 to 30mph is about max.

At the top of the rise before dropping in to Dillion you come upon a large salt mine with those massive Cats and machines out of movies.

 If you didn't take this road you would never imagine this could be going on a few miles up a mountain.

Dillon MT is the home of the Patagonia Outlet store.  Yes you have to hunt for your sizes but holy cow it's like 50% off and another 40% on holidays:) When a rain jacket is 550. in the catalog and you can  get it for under 200. It's like your birthday.  Dillion is also a central point to float fish the Beaverhead River for big trout.  It's where last year I broke an oar on the first 1/4mile of a float and survived the day. 

In reality the fun of stalking a trout on a river you don't know and guessing on all the things it takes to land a trout is like playing keno..   I love catching native cutthroat trout but since they are forbidden from being eaten here in MT, I love me some rainbows and will eat a few every day I can in a pan or a camp fire.   For fish weapons, I've spent 30 years with Sage Graphite rods. Fast and smooth they are and great long throw rods at 9ft long.  Above you see a Sweetgrass 7ft 9" bamboo Pent rod and a Ross Evo. copper reel with a nice dinner rainbow from the Ruby River sitting in a handmade wolfriver fish net made by a couple in Wisconsin.  The colors of a rainbow vary from fish to fish and season to season but the taste remains the same :)

 In the south Ruby Valley this rainbow above was on one of Ted Turners regions. Had to climb down a bridge and get in the water to legally fish it and it was 95 degrees with no clouds so the fish were holding deep and you could see all those Turners monsters. I couldn't get one large one to rise all day for nothing. Just a few rainbows to catch and release there. 
Off of the Ruby River; deep in Mt. Lion and bear country, my partner Bruce and I would drive a mile to this ridge line overlooking everything to cook trout dinners and enjoy the sunsets. 

Thanking my friend Anthony for selling me his Rugar .357 and hiking holster, i feel much safer now carrying more than just my pepperspray while in these areas. 
Last week between 8 and 9:30pm I landed 13 fish. 10 Cutthroat 2 Brookies and here right before sunset with my headlight on my head to make it home, one nice rainbow for breakfast. I'm amazed how light it stays out in the evenings there in the summer.
At the end of the day, it must end like this. A billion stars, a fire with cedar, a beverage, a gar, a blanket, pepperspray with a pistol and a good evening prayer till morning.

Next week, Friends Along the Montana rivers..

Till then, dream big, live large and
Slow Down Now will ya!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Filling The Cup

There are times when more than anything you need to fill your cup.
I'm sitting today in Bozeman at Nova Cafe (my fav. breakfast place out here) after my first week in the mountains. There sits a couple next to me with a pregnant mom and a 6yr old ADD boy and her husband. Not more than 5 seconds in one hour did he not talk and ask questions and rule the table.  The dad wanting a break :) left to go to the bathroom and of course was followed by his son :) :)  i looked at the mom and said "never a break". She sighed and said next month I'm leaving for a few weeks along. My first time alone in 6 years. Pregnant yes, but alone.
I applauded her and reminded her not to feel guilty. 

Filling the cup means little to some people. They can just function at a high level without it. As a creative, I have to fill it up and then spill it out and start over again.
  In a way, walking a round of golf does that on a weekly level and hanging with friends on a lake or athletic club will do that but, actual time away from your world where you have to talk to yourself, where you are alone, where you get to ask God alot of questions and there is no one else to talk to but Him and yourself is BIG.  No Internet, phone service, cable news, papers or pundits.  These things are what i use all to often to fill my cup. Well, that cup empties every 24hrs looking for a new fill of the same.
This last week I hear there was some scotus ruling. This is why I vote when it's time to, and try to remember to pray for those elected, and try to remember that whomever is elected potus gets to change that scotus and that's a big dillieo as we're continuing to find out. 

Out here, there is no voting, the largest mammal wins. Or, as we've learned, the smartest mortal with bear spray, a large caliber peacekeeper and enough smarts to never cook food in the camp where your sleeping.
  I must admit now that as I've spent more time in Grizzly country where there are Danger Bear Paw signs everywhere, I don't even go to the bathroom without spray and won't walk a stream, fish or be in my camp without a sidearm and spray anymore.

  My fishing partner BK told me about a place called cottonwood creek a few years ago. Been wanting to go there since. Well we hit it last weekend and had it to ourselves along with the plethora of bears and Mt. lions.  I'm having to admit at this point that my love of the upper east side of Yellowstone Park in the Slough Creek climb and meadows was my fav. place out here. Well, after Cottonwood and the upper Ruby Valley, I've been converted. The most remarkably beautiful stretches of wade able fish filled river I've ever seen. I caught more fish in 2 hrs on a Sunday than in many entire trips out here. The waters are pristine until you reach ranch lands and feeder streams that suddenly have all the rocks turning moss green from cattle or buffalo i'm guessing.

But here, at Cottonwood the creek looks drinkable, the banks are walkable, the stream cross able without a staff or wading shoes.. Here's one rainbow of many that landed in my cast iron dinner plate or metal fish basket for cooking on the coals of a hot fire when not in bear country streams.  The fish bellies were full of typical stick looking caddis cases with a bright yellow nymph in it if you squeezed what looks just like a  one inch twig.
The landscape down there is, well, if i ever dreamed of a piece of land where Massive Elk, Bear and Mt. Lions would be hunted by horseback, this would be it. It honestly "it is". There are timber horse tie ups everywhere for those hunting in the fall on horseback. 

 This fence here with an opening for hunters was next to our camp and there was a horse tie up for camping just beyond this photo. Ironically I found a 3" strip of elk carcass near my fire ring and of course saved it to tie some new Elk Hair Caddis flies for myself next week wherever I camp. 

Fish were hitting on Royal Coachmans drys in #14's and R.C. streamers. I couldn't understand why until I found a one inch black bug with a red ring around it's neck and a complete red belly the color of royal coachman "red" thread... Well there ya go. And the bigger fish? over 16", they would pass on the coachman and hit the  bead head #18 copper body green midge, crystalflash cased emerger pattern, (I had only one of, and still have it after a dzn fish as beat up as it is).
   Stopping to take pictures becomes the last thing on your mind when you hit epic fishing. That little midge got picked up in a 4Ft deep run by the largest Rainbow I've ever had on. Using a 12ft leader on my 7ft9 bamboo Sweetgrass rod left me in a pickle. how you say? if you hand tie a leader and tippet sections to make them stronger and they are longer than your rod, you can't take them onto your rod with a larger fish because at any time when fighting them close they can take off and run and "Snap" they will break your line trying to go by your rod guides.
 So I play this fish for at least 5 min. trying to figure out how I'm gonna land him on 5x and this #1`8 midge. with arm fully extended behind me and my net in my right hand I pray the fish will back into my net as I'm in the middle of the stream. Just as his tail is coming to my net where I can sweep him in... , like Adrian Peterson, he turns on dime and swirls around my net and Zooom down the river he rips pulling my line as I'm saying my proverbial "are you kidding me" along with some salty language at the top of my lungs that ended with, I only wanted to hold you and take your picture you #@$%$#@%.
Yup, I start running down the stream trying to keep up with him and he then moves over to the shallow rocks and starts slashing on the rock in 6inch water with nose down trying to rip the nymph out of it's mouth or break the line.. Yup, in five seconds of me running the stream and reeling as fast as possible he "ping" got it out and was gone.. gone.. gone... back, to that hole after i left.. :) Oh I'll be back there this next week and see if my friend will come out again. Well in the 20+inch range he was.  

Well, here's one of his little cousins perfect eating size.:) Just a reminder here on blogspot that if you click any photo, it will  open in full size. Just sayin..  Now the first day in Cottonwood I'm sitting at the camp with my partner and crash.. there is a large tree felled nearby across the stream that is a very sharp climb straight up the forest. That had us picking up pepper spray and strapping on firearms even in camp.  Considering there were no other people in the area, we were a bit more skiddish than normal. After a few days you begin to relax, but always wear a bell on your hat to make noise and be ready when "anywhere".  So, my breakfast is done here at Nova and I'm headed to REI for supplies and then to the co-op for some portabella mushrooms to cook my tenderloins with somewhere tonight. I spent last night with a rod builder from Sweegrass Rods in Twin Bridges. They were repairing an old bamboo rod since last year I had received as a gift from my old friend Chuck Laubeshimer that needed new ferrules and guides and seat. Well, Luca was in the shop but owner Glen Brackett was stranded with a broken car near Idaho and only he knew where the rod was stored so I'll for sure be back there a few times this month. Photo of Glen and I in last years MT blog. Well last night I stayed at Luca's place. Wow a real bed.. and stove.
Luca wants me to hike up to an epic Mountain lake out of Sheriden this week before the 4th. Well with 3 new arteries in place, i'm game for sure and worst case is my legs get weary and my pack heavier than I'd like..  

So stay blessed my friends I'm headin out to the mountains again tonight with rods and Iphone5 camera and my cooking gear to fill my soul cup with more memories and stories for the down times..
ps. I love rainbows at sunset over the orchestral sounds of cattle, birds, storms and rivers.

Friday, June 26, 2015

It's the journey.. no matter what the destination.

Last night with nary a cloud in the sky for the first time, the sun was still setting on the horizon at 10:30. Behind me and over the willows that blow and carry the hundreds of insects along the Madison to the trout, the Waxing moon was at half, lighting the Madison Valley range towards Big Sky and making me wish it was a new moon tonight so the stars could get all the glory.

So there I sat, full from grilling  and smoking a nice 16” Brown in the willow, alder and drift wood of the fire pit. A glass of Merlot in my left hand and a Robusto in my right,  The smoke and aroma  of it all were an offering of worship for a beautiful day into the night.

In the night sky the stars seemed to double every half hour as the temps dropped much colder than expected. With no blanket of clouds to keep the heat in I should have known better and put on the thermal layers while it still was a bit warm.

With bear spray on the side of my chair next to a Rugar .357  I grabbed a horse blanket out of my tent that one of my brothers used to use for his Shepherds to sleep on years ago and I pulled it up over me and stared at Ursa Major and a million other starts and began to think of the day and fall asleep when my eyes could not look at stars any longer.

I lay there thinking of and thanking Drew the college age son of a coffee shop owner in Ennis who told me  in the morning where to walk along the Madison to a new hole today where he’s fished many times.  He was right. 

There was a dangerous climb over barbed wire and down the side of this bridge to get to the familiar narrow paths along the rivers the fly fishermen travel by.  These paths go along the banks of all trout rivers where you can stop and sight trout or enter or exit.  They will often take long treks away from the river.  A thankful reminder that the river is not walkable until you come back around somewhere down the path.  And then there will be those 90 degree turns every so often to let you know where others have gone and safely entered the rivers until the path returns to the edge. 

And it’s funny how you walk much faster on your way to fish, then on the way back. Yet you walk and remind yourself to slow down and observe what’s around.  In the trees, air, on the bushes and under rocks. They reveal the clues as to what to tie on your fly rod that might trick the trout today.. They are amazingly smart about what’s cooking in the river for food. 

Whoa, It’s midnight, I’m staring here at  the stars and two satellites cross paths going in opposite directions  right at  the tail of the big dipper.  I’ve never seen that before. Tonight i count many, but three is the most at any one time, and the moon is a bit bright to see more than a few shooting stars. I pull our my iPhone Star Map and realize it’s all a blur without my glasses locked back in the truck. Ok, crap, back to thinking about fishing. Squirrel :)

Now Drew had said he pulls streamers through the deeper holes so I wasn’t to concerned about the hatches going on since I was gonna throw a big #8 hares ear tinsel rapped nymph with a trailing smaller #14 bead head prince nymph through those deeper holes. 

I hike a mile or so. Much of is along an old barbed wire cattle fence lined with trees and a narrow path where through the grass you can not see the ground so you walk slow, carry your rod straight in from to you like a saber so it doesn’t get caught in the trees and so if you trip you can fall away from the fence and drop the rod without going to the hospital for stitches.  in the heat  near 90 today I’m sweating good. Heart rates up to 122 and I’m thankful for the full liter of water hidden in the hydro in my pack behind me.

I’ve come around and back now to a place on the river down stream (you always want to fish up stream behind the swimming trout so they can’t see you…).  I see ti now. There is the hole I want to fish today. I have a month to fish, so today all I want is my dinner but I have to cross the river now in a shallow place so I can get into casting position for this run. Ok, for those who’ve never been here, the Madison River is known for the slickest rocks to fall on. You just have no Idea how slippery until you walk out there in felt soles and land on your back. (Been there). Well  I’m in my first season with Patagonia boots lined with 4 solid soft aluminum bars for cutting the slime and holding fast to the rocks as you try to walk and fish that river. Amazing they are. I’m so thankful, I never even pulled out my wading staff to cross today. 
 I sit now on an island covered in willow and lined with tall grass. I sit down on the edge,  putting on a fly and waiting for the fish to relax after hearing me cross river.  Suddenly I see fly line and another fisherman walking 50 yards downstream from behind the island and  he’s making his way to throw into this hole Ive walked a mile and got into position to fish.  Crap, I say to myself, he doesn’t see me. Well  maybe I’ll learn something, He might show me a different seam in the water and angle of attack from above the hole. Hey the waters free and you don’t get reservations here so I tell myself to relax.
I’ll wait my chance and look to the skies. Hmmmm, no clouds.  
Cloud cover is good for fishing. So is a little breeze to hide your shadow from the fish. So on Sunny days without wind, it’s longer leaders and smaller flies unless it a rippled pool. 

So clouds? That reminds me, you must have good rain jacket in your pack because rain in the mountains can come in one minute. Out of no where in the 70 to 100 degree heat you will feel a cold gust of wind and friend that is God whispering “get your rain jacket on in the river right now”. You only have to get soaked and cold and scared once like that to learn to listen better to God’s natural voice.  You forget with mountains around  that you can’t see whats just over the hill a minute away.   And now there is the voice of the guy fishing my hole. 

He’s seen me and stopped fishing and made his way by me with a few words of advice on other holes and riffs up ahead as a peace offering.

3pm and I finally begin throwing line. My only desire today was to catch one nice fish big enough to feed my partner and I tonight for our first Montana Trout dinner.
In the old days, I would only have a week to come to Montana and for all those years it was, off the plane get the SUV and race to the river to set up camp, sleep and fish sunrise to sunset for 3 days then pack up and head back. How beautiful to make the time in places you love to stay long enough to slow down and relax. 

So I’m laying down here under the stars about to fade off, and I remember the first rainbow I caught in that pool today. It came off my hook as I bend down to net him. On many of my flies, I take a hemostat  and bend down the barbs on the hooks to save on the jaws of catch and release fish like “Cutthroat”. In fact it’s mandatory on many rivers here. But me,  when i’m catching to eat, I don’t bend them down unless they already are.  Well that fly was barbless and away went that nice 14” rainbow.   I tie on a different trailer fly and 30 min. later I land a nice 16” brown with spring colors. Not to fat but plenty of fight in the current.
I lift up my rod tip to set the hook and my oldest Able #1 reel falls off my rod and into the river with fish running. I’m laughing and my family knows what I was saying at the moment. “Are you kidding me!”. I reach into the river and pull up the reel and put it in my pocket as I’m fighting the fish with my right and my finger on the line held to the rod fly fishing style. Getting him to the bank and netting him I realize I have no creel.. What “are you kidding me?” I have no plastic bag or nylon for a stringer, “Really, are you kidding me?
So there on my back pack is a pouch for a water bottle or a rod tube holder. It has an upper latch clip as well to hold a rod tube tight to the pack. 

Well that’s it. Only fished an hour, walked and hour. Put that fish head down into the water bottle holder and clipped the tail in tight to the backpack for the hike back to the truck. 
I’m smiling as nod off to sleep now in a chair outside covered in a horse blanket with thermals on and a stocking cap from last winter and a good jacket.  It’s now two AM.

Wait, there is thrashing behind the willows in the river. I grab my bear spray in one hand and my .357 in the other. Turn on my head lamp and point it through the opening in the trees that leads 60ft to the river. More thrashing.  I’m a bit un-nerved now. It’s either a 30” brown trying to get a mouse at the shore or a bear or a moose. Either way there is no sense in walking that path to the river to invite trouble. If they come down my path to the camp I’ll spray first and only use a gun if i run out of spray they keep advancing.  I’ve rehearsed this 1,000 times in my sleep  and that’s exactly what I did. One sip of Knob Creek from my vest pack and i climbed into my tent bag and said my Montana prayer. Lord, protect me. But if a bear comes while I’m sleeping, please make it be one swipe of the hand not a slow 5 course meal - Amen.
Till next time I come to town for ice and espresso...   
Do what you love, love what you do -
It's priceless.