Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Don’t Take Fishing Personally

Some days they wait in line to get caught

Fishing was not on the agenda this week. I had a full plate of other tasks. Susan is off having some quality time with her mom and I had … Well, I had (have) a lot to do. Then Tom called Sunday night and said he thought we needed some time on the stream—how about Tuesday. The heat had tapered off, the fish were probably active again, the stars were aligned, etc.
For almost 10 seconds I was tempted to say no. Then I rethought my position. I do have two fishing trips planned for August and another in September. It had been a couple months since the rods were out of the cabinet, however. Maybe I did need some practice. Hey, fishing is serious business. There are thousands of mistakes to be made on the human’s part while the fish has only to make one. Fish definitely have the upper fin in this game.
Loaded with enough tackle to open a small fly shop, Tom and I, along with new-found-friend Greg, headed off to one of our favorite streams. While distracted by birds and going through the ritual of stringing up the rods, that other ritual, choosing a fly pattern, surfaced. For me, I said, it’s easy. I’m just going to pick up where I left off the last time we were here. My theory was that the fish did not get any smarter during the intervening couple of months, and, hopefully, I did not get any dumber. Tom, brow furrowed, was changing and stretching leaders, looking at some if his beautifully tied flies, and deep into making the right choice. Greg, the only one of this trio with a job, was grinning. He was just happy not to be in the office or his car heading for a meeting on this morning when the sky seemed an unnatural shade of blue.
One of those great mysteries of fly fishing, and probably why we keep coming back, is how two fishers can be virtually side by side, using the same pattern, one catching fish and the other not.
And so it was to be. On this day I was the lucky one. Tom, who has out-fished me numerous times, could only become more flustered each time he watched me dance a rainbow or brookie around the pool. When I’d complain about a fly I had tied coming apart from all the abuse by the fish, he'd mutter something like, “Just keep it up, Bubb. It’s a long walk home.” I tried not to laugh. Honest, I did. And when he did get a fish into the net, he’d lecture it, suggesting that it was about time, etc.
Some days you’re the fisher. Some days you’re the bait.

Pretty, but too small.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Peace at the Watering Hole

Coyote photographed earlier this year in Rocky Mountain National Park.

It’s easy enough to make a case for climate change in northeast Ohio this summer. We’re going through one of our longer periods of extended hot weather. Anything above 90 degrees is a big deal around here. We’ve had a month of it. Television stations, nightly, cover the subject of summer heat in the city as if it didn’t just happen yesterday.
Even with last night’s rain the thermometer was bumping against 80 degrees at 7 a.m. this morning. I opted to get my bike ride out of the way early to beat the heat. Little did I realize, the heat had already won the competition before I even had my shoes on.
The bike trail was relatively cool, at least in the shady spots. Rain puddles dotted the asphalt in the shady spots as well, adding a bit of challenge—unless you’re an eight-year-old kid who goes looking for puddles to ride through. As I neared my turnaround point, I noticed a large, dark shape in the shadows at the middle of the trail. I slowed a bit when I realized I was looking at two coyotes, drinking from a puddle. When I was about 50 feet away, the one on the left looked up at me, took another drink, then both bolted into the nearby woods.
I was at the spot where they had been in a matter of seconds, yet I could not see them in the woods. Great stealth and camouflage, I thought.
I continued to my turn-around point about 100 yards further up the trail. I made a quick turn, pumped by this close encounter of the furred kind—the reason many of us head into the wilderness. Okay, a bike trail in semi-suburbia is not exactly the wilderness. Fortunately, some of the wilderness is coming to us these days.
I immediately focused on the spot where the coyotes had been. I saw a small shape now huddled over the same puddle. It was an opossum. It could not have been three minutes between the two sightings. And while coyotes tend to prey on smaller rodents, I suspect that opossum is sometimes on the menu.
The opossum did not play possum. No panic on its part. I slowed nearly to a stop as I drifted by, giving it plenty of space on the six-foot-wide path. It watched me glide by, maybe unsure of what this colorful creature was. Its attitude was the same as we might assume when viewing an alien from outer space. Out of morbid curiosity I looked around for the coyotes. I wondered if I’d witness what I was sure would be the opossum’s last drink of water.
Nothing happened. Unlike human coming’s and going’s, when nothing happens in the animal world, it’s news.

Friday, July 09, 2010

What’s Old is New Again

A silly way to manage stress

About a quarter century ago, I was attending a thoroughly boring business trade show when a conference-session sign caught my eye. The topic, “Managing Stress,” had nothing to do with why I was on this assignment. Sitting in just seemed like a good idea. In retrospect, I’m unsure if that session was part of the convention I was attending, or one of the other business meetings going on in the mega-plex hotel.
The room was full of people who needed to manage their stresses. I was, in part, captivated by the title of the session: Who would want to manage stress? I wanted to know how to get rid of it.
Here’s where I save you the $200 some 75 people in the room had parted with to hear this guru of stress management cast his pearls of wisdom. I’ll reduce the one hour of hocus pocus to a sentence or two. You manage stress, first, by putting a rubber band on your wrist. When you feel stress coming on, snap the rubber band and it “shocks” the stress out of you. Or, it snaps you back to reality, which is somehow not as stressful.
This memory came back to me earlier this week when Susan returned home with a bag full of distractions and rewards to use on our grandchildren who were coming for a week’s stay. In the bag were what looked like colorful rubber bands.
“What’re these for,” I asked.
“They’re silly bands.”
“Hmmmm. So, whatda they do?”
“Do? They really don’t do anything. Kids wear them and trade them. It’s a fad. It’s a fun thing.”
Okay, I’m all for fun. These silly bands come in a plethora of shapes, sizes, colors and themes, I learned from my grandson. Some glitter, others glow in the dark. Some are mundane while others are highly sought after. He then pulled out a shopping bag and revealed some of his collection of silly bands he had brought with him. He assured me he had plenty more at home. Apparently, the trading of these things has gotten so hot and distracting in schools, they’ve been banned in many places. Zero tolerance for rubber bands.
Throughout the week, as we’ve visited various museums, swimming pools and public events, I’ve paid some attention to what young kids had on their arms—other than tattoos, I mean. Sure enough. From a single silly band to dozens, kids of all ages were decorated in these colorful rings of plastic. Only they’re not rings. They’re shapes of everything from numbers, to buildings, to animals to foodstuff. There seems to be no end to the variety of silly bands a kid can find and wear.
I noticed that when they are on the wearer’s arm, they all look alike. I mentioned that to my grandson and got the full eye-roll that said volumes about the generation gap of 60 years we share.
After several hours at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History today, he asked if he could put his silly bands—stretching from his wrists to his elbows—into one of my pockets until we got home. I agreed, then asked why. He said they were getting too tight and causing him stress. I told him to snap out of it.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Beating the Heat

Northern Watersnake

Susan and I were wondering if there would be enough juice in the thermometer this morning. We’re having a heat wave here. The red stuff (What do they use in this modern-day world since mercury is probably banned?) was at the 80-degree mark and it was only 8 a.m. With two grandkids here for a visit, we knew the solution to keeping cool on a day like this: creek walk!

After loading a lot of stuff we wouldn’t need into a backpack, and forgetting things we would need, plus a light lunch, four of us headed for Chippewa Creek in the Brecksville section of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Forgetting the binoculars definitely added to the challenge.

Although water level was down, the stream was pleasantly cool. There seemed to be more fish in the stream than I can remember. I took that to be a healthy sign. About five minutes into the hike, we encountered a first for us on this small creek, a northern water snake. It was the first of two we’d see by day’s end.

To the credit of the grandkids, neither got all scared and screamy. In fact, they were curious about the snake and all the other creatures we encountered on our five-hour cooling off hike. Hiking in a creek not only cools the body, it awakens an interest in nature for kids like nothing else can—except maybe a bird walk. Fish, however, seem to tolerate the incessant chatter and rock tossing of an eight year old and a 3.5 year old more than birds.

Some words strike fear into one's heart, such as, "Hey Papa! Is this your other camera?"