Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Making the Best of a Hare’s Mask

Processed olive hare's mask dubbing.
   I used to waste a lot of hare’s heads. The masks, natural or dyed, feature a lot of shades & textures. I’d use up the reddish poll on a natural mask, pull some lug from the ears for the spiky guard hairs, clip the easy-dubbing cream from the cheeks, & the rest would pretty much go to waste. There was no uniformity of coloration in the flies tied from them, as it’s nearly impossible to get the same blend of furs twice when you’re picking it from a mask. And no two natural masks are exactly the same. But then I learned a simple process that allows maximum use of the mask, creating a perfect mix of uniformly colored spiky dubbing. Here’s how:

Materials you’ll need: a hare’s mask; a quart jar (canning jar is perfect) with cap; a kitchen strainer; a paper coffee filter.

Using your spare fly tying scissors, clip the whiskers from the hare’s mask & save them for mayfly tails.

Clip the hair from the entire mask – bend the ears & train the short hairs away with the side of the scissors while trimming down the ears. Some shave the ears with a single edge razor blade, but I scraped into the hide too much while attempting it. The scissors will get it close enough to the skin with negligible waste. Once as much fur as possible is removed from the mask, worked into a pile on the table, mix all the fur together until fairly blended.

Fill the mason jar about 2/3 of the way full with warm water; mix in a few drops of hair conditioner; add dubbing; screw the lid on; shake for about 5 minutes.


 Over the sink, pour the contents of the jar into a screened strainer & rinse with warm water. Press the mixture in the strainer to remove excess water, then place into a paper coffee filter & place somewhere to dry. As the mixture dries, break it up from time to time. When fully dry it may appear clumpy, but the puffs of dubbing are easily broken.

This process results in a surprising quantity of perfect, spiky dubbing, of uniform color blend, the guard hairs evenly distributed throughout. 

No two natural hare’s masks are alike. A few masks in natural colors will yield several shades that can be blended with others at the vise to achieve desired colors. I also buy masks in the available dyed colors & process them thus.  

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Temptation of Lilith

A lot of us are having a hard winter this year & would like to be over it. We’ll get there. Trying to hold back from pushing time. But thinking a spring story might serve as a mid-winter spring break, of sorts. A short detour to Dreamtown while the roads clear.  


The Temptation of Lilith

I suppose you could say the kid’s fishing pole is a bad idea. A Snoopy pole – picture of Charlie Brown and Snoopy on the package, fishing. I don’t know. It might not be that great of an idea for a gift. Even if there is a kid, it would only be three years old and no three year old can operate a Snoopy pole, not without help anyway. But there’s really nothing I can provide, realistically, so I guess the gift is just my way of being a dad, if by chance I am a dad, and a way to show my appreciation on the anniversary of our meeting.  

I didn’t get her name. Not sure she had a name, she never spoke.  Not in the way most of us speak. Yet no denying she was a master of body language able to get her point across. I call her Lilith. 

                                                           *    
                                                         
Winter had recently gone from the low country along the river; the newly exposed mast beneath the pines still snow-damp. The spate hadn’t begun, the major portion of snow still holding on the high country, so the river was low and in good shape to fish. It’d been warm the past few days, triggering a hatch of grannom sedges; and it seemed like the whole world was hopping to a swinging rhythm. It was palpable along the river where the critters make the first big showing at getting down to the procreation business. Sedges flying around hooked together. Love was in the air alright. Such a sweet day I couldn’t quit hiking and ended up four or five miles upstream of the trailhead before starting to fish. Wild, lonesome, it felt good to be in the back country.

I sing when I feel good and don’t think there’s anyone around to hear, and I sang out loud: “Do not for-sake meee O0o0ooh my daarrrlin…. Oh don’t e-verrr let me gO000o …”  Hey. Nobody around to be offended. Right?

The fishing was good, but, weird, after awhile I started to get the feeling I was being watched. I chalked it up to the energetic nature of the day working senses that’d been shut in the cabin most of a long winter and now a bit overwhelmed by Mother Nature’s unfolding charms. I concentrated on casting the wee soft-hackle and minding the drift.

Like I said, the fishing was good. Leaning over the water releasing a nice cutthroat, I caught a flash of movement in the brush.

I stood still, scanning the woods.

There – a patch of auburn showing through a break of scrub cedars. Fur. A big animal, I was sure. Then, higher, another patch of fur showing through the greenery. It jiggled.

No. It wasn’t an elk. An elk would make a mad dash out of there with a nose full of human at this range, I reasoned. A bear. Had to be a bear. Okay no big deal, outfitting, I encounter them all the time. Not grizzlies. Black bears. Unlike grizzly bears, black bears are fairly shy and will avoid you if you respect their space, usually. The jiggling color patch was a concern. I estimated it to be about seven feet above the ground, which meant the critter it belonged to was taller than any standing black bear. I figured: yup, shit, a grizzly, and a big one, stalking me, standing over there behind that bush inhaling my scent and licking its teeth.

“HEY YAH YEEAH!” I made a two step false charge toward it waving the flyrod over my head.

I held my breath. Thought I saw it move a bit but my yelling and stomping hadn’t come close to producing the affect I wanted, which was to get it to flush and run. At this point the smart thing to do would’ve been to ease back out of there, but I’d already thrown down a territorial challenge, so I figured the stalking bear might interpret my retreat as a sign of weakness, inspiring it to more aggressive stalking. While I swirled in the conundrum, the cedars quivered and out into full view stepped Lilith.

She was fully eight feet tall, and not thirty feet away, looking at me.

My mind couldn’t allow it. No. This was a thing that did not fit my reality frame. I turned my head and looked toward the stream, considered making another cast and just carrying on with the fishing, then looked back to see her still standing by the cedars.

Obviously female. She stood straight, not bent forward like an ape. Other than being eight feet tall and entirely covered with red fur except for her pink face, she looked human. Well, closely related to human. A ‘kissing cousin’, forgive the pun. The gold, almond shaped eyes possessed a considered intelligence and, something else I couldn’t immediately read. The mouth was straight and broad, showing just a hint of lips spread across the slight protrusion of a muzzle – not much of a muzzle – but a muzzle, no getting around it and… not altogether unattractive. Her breasts weren’t the shoe-sole breasts of an ape, but round, glorious basketballs capped with distended pomegranates. Her head was crowned with a maelstrom of red hair, a shade redder than the auburn tone of her fur, matted to dreadlocks, looping to below her waist. She was striking. Magnificent, really.                      

I was in shock and off guard when she rushed me – 

Stupidly, I tried to fend her off with the antique Granger, and even though the old rod was imbued with the mojo of a hundred rivers and easily worth a thousand dollars, it proved useless, a limp reed disintegrating to splinters against Lilith’s swift charge. She snatched me up, tucked me under her arm like a football and ran upstream covering impossible lengths of ground in a stride. I kicked and flailed like a crazy man – which served to bring rib-breaking pressure from the giant arm, forcing me to stop. Caught, crushed, terrorized, I flopped and dangled like a half-dead carp fated for the canning jar. Hooking up a spur canyon she proceeded uphill never breaking stride.

This was a bad dream and I couldn’t wake up. I pissed my waders.

Lilith stopped at a rock overhang near the top of the ridge.  A bower of cedar branches arranged like a large nest had been laid on a level spot beneath the overhang. She dropped me into the center of the nest then scrambled back to study me, the prize. 
    
I didn’t move.

She squatted there for a long time, watching me.

I observed her while carefully avoiding direct eye contact. Something in her attitude convinced me that she didn’t plan to kill me. If that’d been her intent she could have easily done it by the creek. Still…

Then, slow, deliberate, never taking her eyes off me, she rose to full height, stretched her arms to the sky and put her palms together. She smiled. I think. I interpreted the expression to be a smile. Then she swept her arms out to the sides, each hand assuming a strange, delicate mudra, and she began to dance, graceful as any hula girl, her hands like bird wings opening and closing, shifting through a series of mysterious poses. Something about her… she was entrancing, magnetic. I couldn’t look away. She was seducing me. I’m not completely thick, I know when I’m being seduced. The notion was terrifying, yet, the urge to jump up and run was dissolving, somehow.   

Then a thought struck me and I tensed, imagining a ten foot tall jealous buck sasquatch busting from the bushes in full-cry fury, grabbing me between his thumb and forefinger and pulling off my arms and legs and all the other grippable appendages, easy as plucking petals from a daisy – he loves me… he loves me not… then pinching my head off.  Any sparking aspiration to romance I might have been entertaining, maybe somewhere in some secret backroom of my mind, was iced.

Lilith began to sing as she danced, a song without words, melodic inhalations and exhalations of breath and rhythmic sighs punctuated with low whistles: “Hih hih hih sweeeeeee,”  – all the while her eyes pinning me.

I tend to reason in phases. First, the reactive, presumptuous monkey-mind phase: I was past that one. I figured she wasn’t going to kill me, at least not right away.

Then the pragmatic phase: I reasoned that the beguiling Lilith was under the influence of her biological clock, ‘in season’, if you will, and there was no male sasquatch available in the territory, so I was to be That Guy.

That, leading to some considerations regarding taxonomic boundaries, transitioning me to the meeting house filled with severe Puritan ancestors who stood me on the precarious fulcrum between a sense of Darwinian duty, rooted in the pragmatic phase, and a moral dilemma, which always precedes the final phase: In which I transcend reason and surrender to The Flow.

Lilith ceased her song, stopped dancing and stood giving me the soulful eye.  Then she stepped to the bower demure as a maiden, turned her back to me and sank to her knees on the cedar bed, her twin haystack bottom looming inches from my face. She smelled like a honey-glazed baked ham. The pink yin-yang between her legs blossomed to a chaotic rose before my eyes. This girl was good to go no doubt about it.

My call. I possessed the key to my own salvation. My only hope was to place it into the slot and do my level best. And I did need to get out of those wet waders…    

                                                         *
                                                           
There’s no good reason to relate the intimate details. I’ve probably divulged too much already. For those dying of curiosity, I offer that it is an actual fact, the higher primates really do practice every type of pleasuring enjoyed by folks. We shared the granola bars from my fishing vest. I was secretly proud when the energetic Lilith, at the end of my second day of captivity, succumbed to sleep. That’s when I made the getaway.             

I hike in every year on the anniversary. This year I’m bringing the Snoopy pole and the usual bags of frozen berries and granola bars. I know she likes granola bars. I’ll leave the stuff at the old bower under the ledge. Never seen any sign of her since that time.

Love?  Well. You feel something.   


~Steven Bird


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Fight For Public Lands

   The photo on the left is the American Reach segment of the Columbia River, in NE Washington. You, along with your fellow citizens, own it. The fishing is good, & you can fish it where you please. You also own most of the land you see in the picture. It's good land, supporting a lot of wildlife. The hunting is good, & you may hunt it where you please. It is a source of real wealth. People come to enjoy it, hire local guides & spend money at local businesses. You can't see them in the photo, but there are several mines (yes, you can stake a claim) there, & these provide raw materials & jobs. Sometimes portions of it need to be logged, so the timber is put up for bid, & anybody can bid on it, & that provides jobs too. Also, a lot of the people who live in the area burn wood to keep their homes warm in the winter, & if you need some wood, for a couple bucks you can get a permit & a map showing you where to cut it. As the extractive interests operating there are under the purview of law regarding safe practices, they are kept in balance (ideally) with the rest of the picture. You can see by the photo that this land is very well taken care of, & its maintenance also provides a lot of local jobs. We take care of it & it takes care of us. That's how commonwealth works.

Now, suppose Congress was to sell everything in this picture to Exxon or Saudi Arabia? Just to name a couple interests who would like to purchase it (& no, you won't see any of the money from the sale). Well, that is the reality confronting us right now. With all the other crap going down, the mainstream media is giving this far too little attention. Thankfully an astute Montana hunter, Randy Newberg, has been working hard to bring this dissembling movement to light. And thanks to Orvis for taking up this fight, in my opinion the most important fight of our lifetimes. Here is an in-depth account of what is going down. I hope everybody will read this & react:
 http://www.orvis.com/news/fly-fishing/fight-keep-public-lands-public-5-questions-randy-newberg/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+OrvisFlyFishingBlog+%28Orvis.com%2FNews+Fly+Fishing+Blog%29

      

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Congressional Land Grab Still Underway

    We had a small victory & dancing, but the fight to save the Public Trust aint over yet. Far from it. And this, I think, serves to illustrate the false construct of an actual Left/Right divide, as hunters & anglers of all parties are coming together to protest Congress's "disposal" of public lands. We must quit drinking that divisive kool-aid right now lest those serving lesser gods rob us while we are busy poking each other’s belly buttons. Wake up ladies & gentlemen. Like it or not, The Time has arrived that we must define what America is going to be. 

And my hat is off to the many outdoor writers who have put aside things they’d much rather be writing about & instead using their platforms to activate anglers, hunters & all who live & enjoy the outdoor life. John Tobin, one of the good guys, sent me this from outdoor writer Casey Schreiber, from Modernhiker.com.

What you can do: Take a few minutes to pen a message letting them know that they must not sell away our public lands, & CC it to your congressmen & senators & everybody else you can think of. That is how we stopped HR 621. They can only accomplish their agenda in the dark, & under the light of citizen scrutiny they will fail.  

But another threat to public lands remains

Utah’s Representative Jason Chaffetz officially withdrew his bill HR 621, also known as the Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act of 2017.
The bill, which you can read in its entirety, directed the Secretary of the Interior to “sell certain Federal lands in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming, previously identified as suitable for disposal, and for other purposes.”
Conservatives and Sagebrush Rebel types have been pushing for federal land sales in the West for decades, and now that the political setup is overwhelmingly favorable to such actions, many in the outdoor community and beyond were extremely concerned about how this would affect our ability to enjoy our public lands as many of us have been doing for generations. Thankfully, public pressure and outreach from those groups got to Chaffetz’s office, and the Congressman announced on social media that he was withdrawing his own bill late on Wednesday, February 1st.
While the outdoor community is right to celebrate this victory, the Congressman introduced another bill this session that seems crafted to appeal directly to the same groups that would cheer the sale of federal public land to private interests. HR 622, the Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act, aims “To terminate the law enforcement functions of the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management and to provide block grants to States for the enforcement of Federal law on Federal land under the jurisdiction of these agencies, and for other purposes.”
In some parts of the West – including most of Chaffetz’s district in Utah – a movement of “Constitutional Sheriffs” has risen since the mid-1990s. Without solid legal or legislative backing, this group of law enforcement officials believes themselves to be constitutionally empowered as the highest law in the land, above both state and federal officials.
In the past, these sheriffs have refused to enforce federal and state environmental and preservationist laws they did not personally like or agree with, and removing the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management’s ability to enforce their own rules, laws, and policies and potentially leaving them at the mercy of enforcement agencies that don’t want to enforce specific laws is, perhaps, just as great a threat – if not a greater one – to our public lands.
Other bills that currently threaten public lands include:
    S 33 and S 132, which hobble the Antiquities Act (used by Presidents to establish National Monuments)
    S 22 and HR 243, which prohibit the Antiquities Act from being used in the state of Nevada
    HR 232, which transfers National Forests to states for logging.



Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Minor Victory in the Fight for Public Lands

Maypole Dancers ~ G. Bisley 1610
HR 621, a bill introduced by Clive Bundy dominionist, Jason Cheffetz (R Utah), calling for the sale of 3.5 million acres of public lands was a done deal in Congress. But, confronted with a groundswell of citizen writers & demonstrators, both Democrat & Republican, congressional Republicans announced today they are dropping the bill.

This is a great day for participatory democracy. If you are one who wrote or demonstrated, pat yourself on the back, your voice contributed to send a powerful message to those who would diminish our true wealth & greatness.

Thank you.

No leader will make us great. Only “we the people” have the ability to confer greatness. And we must remain ever vigilant.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Sad Day For American Angling

     Believe me I’d much rather be writing about fly fishing. Yet in light of continuing events, frankly, I’m distracted to the point that writing about our game seems trite.

Perceiving evidence that it was coming, several months back I wrote & posted to SHJ, Dominionism Rising, a piece about the Republican plan to auction off the Public Trust and privatize our public lands & waterways. Well, it happened. In a move during the first session of the new Congress, the vote split down Party lines, Republicans voted to put the Public Trust up for auction. The first batch of public land going on the block will be 3.5 million acres over  ten states, an area about the size of Connecticut -- & the sale will include three national monuments. 

Though unconfirmed, multiple sources indicate the Saudis will be stepping up to bid on a good chunk of it. During the process, Republicans rescinded a law requiring that public lands be sold at a profit, if they are sold at all (I'd imagine based on current real estate values in the respective areas). So it looks like the Saudis or whoever else can afford it is going to get a discount bargain on what used to belong to the American people. 

Starting to sound like fake news? I wish it was.    

Ryan Zinke (R Montana), Trump's appointee to head the Department of the Interior, only three weeks ago vowed to preserve the "sanctity" of the Public Trust, yet is now heartily endorsing the "disposal" of the federal lands. 

I have to admit, brilliant timing, the public absorbed & distracted with a news cycle loaded with so much else this is barely getting mention.     

Values we hold dear are being trampled by a consortium of powerful men. I know for a fact that many of you, in addition to many other concerned citizens, wrote your congressmen on behalf of retaining our commonwealth, however, they did not listen. Why? I’ve talked to a lot of folks about this issue, including Republican friends, & have not met a single soul in favor of selling off the public lands. So why did the majority of Republican members of Congress, who’s job is to represent the will of their constituents, sign off on this radical turn?

Well, follow the money trail & it will lead you to the truth. This crap has been cooking on a back burner for a long time, waiting for a Republican majority to get it done. Here’s a 2015 piece from the Seattle Times outlining the trajectory.      

     
In an interview a reporter reminded Donald Trump that he had formerly (before the election) promised to preserve the Public Trust regarding public lands, then asked why he (Trump) & congressional Republicans were going ahead with dismantling it, ignoring a preponderance of input from the public, Trump let this slip: “The parks belong to me now.”

So I guess that means they no longer belong to you & me. 

Making America great again.

Monday, January 23, 2017

SHJ Reel Review ~ The Red Truck Diesel Fly Reel

Red Truck Diesel Reel
     Still working on Chapter 2 of The Art of Tying & Fishing Soft-Hackle Flies, to be posted sometime this coming month. Letting it cool for edits. But the writing mode creates momentum, & the weather is too shitty to work outside or fish, so I’m on a writing binge, & thought it might be good to fill in the long pause with a look at some gear I’m excited about.   

Been awhile since we reviewed any reels on SHJ. Way back there was the piece about the Pflueger Medalist. The one from my high school days. Then there was the write-up on the old Ocean City Wanita reels I scored at a garage sale. I don’t relish critiquing, so only review stuff I like. And I like gear that exhibits both workhorse functionality & timeless style. 

Function is first priority but, that covered, I admit an aversion to gear that makes me look like a spaceman (or stock car racer). We all have our quirks.  But you live with the gear you buy. You have to look at it while you’re using it. Aesthetics are important. So, not being a spaceman, I’m usually no consumer of fly reels that look like futuristic space gear. And, as makers compete for the ambiguous grail of lightness, some newer reel designs are so radically machined-out & spindly if you drop them once they are toast. So much for the future. You can only remove so much aluminum.

So maybe it’s time to have a look at a worthwhile contemporary reel.

Perhaps some of you have been considering a Hardy Marquis to match up with a fine bamboo or glass rod, or to add some class to a new graphite rod. Now, suppose it was possible to find a nearly identical reel of equal or better quality, same style available in five sizes, at a little more than half the price?

A neoclassicist’s dream? 

I like the zen simplicity, reliability & longevity of a click-pawl reel with a palm-able rim. I prefer click-pawl reels for all freshwater fishing, including steelhead & salmon. There is no drag system as sophisticated & intelligent, as capable of nuance, as the human hand, fingers or palm, set against a reel rim. A profoundly simple braking system, involving a challenging & satisfying skill set. And I admit the mechanical scraw of the clicker does add an element of excitement. In Scotland, on the River Spey, & on the trout streams, you see a lot of old click-pawl reels in use, many imbued with nearly 100 years of mojo, the original finishes nearly gone, worn to a proud patina.
True simplicity. Showing the Diesel's adjustable click-pawl
drag & bulletproof, precision, hardened & ground center pin. 

Like the Scots, I want a reel that will never go out of style & last 100 years while I happily wear the plating off of it.

I’ve always thought the Hardy Marquis to be “dead center”. The perfect blend of function & style. On a visit to Jack & Jen Mitchell’s Black Bear Lodge fish camp on the upper Columbia last summer, I was checking out the outfits lining the rod racks when a reel mounted to one of Jack’s Spey rods caught my eye. It looked just like an old Hardy Marquis, yet sized as a Spey reel. I picked the outfit out of the rack to check the reel out. Not a Hardy. The maker’s inscription on the reel’s smooth, gunmetal gray backside read: Red Truck Diesel. A brand I hadn’t heard of. The reel was beautifully made. Growing up machining in my dad’s tool & die shop I acquired a good eye for metalwork. No doubt, this was a quality reel. And yup, the winding knob was right, ample & well-shaped, not the too-small afterthought that ruins, imo, some otherwise good reels, including the Marquis.

 I asked Jack about the Red Truck reel, & he said he loved it.

We took it fishing, & it did behave like a thoroughbred, precision-smooth, no discernible spool run-out, no rattle or slop whatsoever. Even the pitch of the adjustable click-pawl drag was quality, well-tuned & pleasant, not raspy like some. And elegant. I couldn’t quit looking at it.  

The 100 year reel.        

A fairly new tackle company based in the San Francisco Bay area, Red Truck Fly Fishing Co. is owned and operated by savvy angler/designers committed to offering a quality line of elegantly designed gear that functions as good as it looks. I was stoked to learn that Red Truck offers the Diesel reel in five sizes, matched to appropriate line weights: 0/2; 3/4; 5/6; 7/8; & Spey.

Visiting their site, I learned Red Truck also builds a line of fine rods. In my next post we’ll take a look at the Red Truck 5110-4, 11’, 5wt (140-280grains), 4-piece, ‘Trout’ switch rod that matches the Diesel 7/8 reel featured in the photos. And you can check out the complete Red Truck line here: http://redtruckflyfishing.com/