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.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

In My House There Are Many Mansions ?

Is there somewhere you'ld like to go?
 A secret place you've only dreamed of?
A bridge to happiness?

In places all over the world I've seen mansions, and been lucky enough to be in a few. Wood, Stone , Metals and designs of all sizes, I enjoy them all for different reasons and styles. Now in my youth i would vist a mansion somewhere and think "what must it be like to live in something like this?". I want one of these. As Dylan said "ooh times are a changin".

Well I woke up the other morning and once again i rolled over to see sweetgrass and mountains and a blue sky from my tent with the sound of a river right behind me.
I once again opened my bible to see where it landed. (Do we ever stop doing that) There in my morning chair outside my tent along the Madison River drinking french press my bible opened to Ps 84 i read from the (message).  What a beautiful home. 
  You kidding me God,  You mean right here? 
I keep reading, " I've always dreamed of a room in Your house where I could sing for joy"..
Ok, God you had me at house but "room"? 
Then the verse "In my house there are many mansions" hits me like a V8 moment.  Wow God, I never thought of places on earth as mansions and rooms within Your house. I always thought of those 10 to 30k sq ft palaces as mansions.
Game changer in my brain. 
Mansions.... ? Oh heck yea.  I'm living in one right now for a time that my father owns.  He told me to take care of it cause one day someone else and then someone else will have that same dirt to dwell in and on.  

Solomon said this over and over in Ecc., and Don Henley said if a few years ago in his own way "there are no luggage racks on the herse down the block".  

You  ever stare at an old clock and watch the seconds tick by on the minute hand and think "i'm never gonna get these seconds back"?  I have, and those moments along with my own personal medical journey  have made me desire the road less traveled the longer I live.  I used to think green people and hikers with a notepad and a water purifier were a bit left of center. Well the older I get the more I find I have in common with many of them regardless of how we see that big picture. In fact the older I get the more I have in common with most the folks run into.  

Is it possible that one of the bridges we cross one day in life says "once you cross this bridge, it's less about you from here on out, and more about others".  Mind you, you can kill yourself trying to please people to be who they want you to be for their own "self-esteem", but I'm not talking about that mountain of dysfunction. I'm more talking about viewing life and each day and it's events with others in mind not just self. Hmmm. Got a lot to learn here, but that's part of what draws me 1,000 miles out to this dirt,rock and water each year to ask God these questions and listen for answers.  
Just what do you see here in Montana along a stream in the middle of a forest? How does God talk to you through the wind and the colors of a rainbow...

Join this blog today and Stay tuned..

The Old Varney Bridge looking East over the Madison River.  (Ennis Montana)

Thankful for 2nd Chances.