2015 books

I didn’t read nearly as many books in 2015 as I set out to, but I did read some good ones.  Here’s a list of some of the books I read last year.

Got any good book recommendations for me?

By my Nature by Bob Hatfield
I really enjoyed reading this.  Written by one of my mother’s brothers, this is a book of essays on his life in the Pacific rain forest of Oregon.  From hunting bear, elk and mule deer to fishing for bass, catfish or river run steelhead, my Uncle Bob did his entire family a great service of recording these adventures.  Lessons of character and love of the land and of others are heartwarmingly told.

The River of Doubt by Candace Millard
Teddy Rosevelt’s South American expedition after a failed third attempt at a White House run almost killed him.  In fact, he almost took his own life.  This is a very good book.  Highly recommended.

To the Last Man by Zane Grey
My first western rag to read.  Way more kissing and way less gunfighting than I expected.

Fly Fishing Through The Mid Life Crisis by Lowell Raines
The author’s frequently espoused liberal beliefs would have been tolerable if he wasn’t so dog gone annoying about them.  I kept waiting for this one to get good, but all I came away with were a few glimpses of some nice times on a river.

Another Lousy Day in Paradise by John Gierach
I really enjoy fly fishing essays.  Mr. Gierach writes in a easy, familiar way.  If you have fly fished much at all you find yourself relating to the stories he tells.  Rather than envying him for his fishing expeditions, I find myself simply planning my own.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville
I finally got around to reading this classic.  I blogged about this one a few months ago here.  One of my favorite sentences in the entire volume, “Reality outran apprehension; Captain Ahab stood upon his quarterdeck.”  What a great introduction of the monomaniacal captain of the Pequod.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
This one surprised me a little.  It still deals with race relations and bigotry, and it doesn’t answer all the questions it raises, which is just fine.

Father Water, Mother Woods by Gary Paulsen
I saw this title and at first glance it sounded pretty new age.  Being the child of a very dysfunctional home, Mr. Paulson found refuge hunting and fishing in the northern woods and rivers around his home.  Touching essays of childhood, adventure, and growing up.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
This was one of my favorites last year.  It’s the story of the 1936 Olympic rowing team from the University of Washington.  It’s an inspirational story of determination, courage, and strength.  Great read – Highly Recommended!

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
This is the story of the tragedy of the whaling ship Essex, which was attacked and sunk by a huge Sperm Whale.  It’s the true story that inspired much of Moby Dick.  There is also a wealth of information about the whaling industry in the 19th century, and of Nantucket Island.

The Revenant by Michael Punke
This is a work of historical fiction.  Hugh Glass, a trapper with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company is mauled by a bear.  Making matters worse, he is abandoned by his tropp, robbed of his rifle and knife and left to die.  He recovers and is bent on revenge.  The book goes into great detail (although somewhat conjured) of Mr. Glass’ recovery and survival in the winter mountains.  I was somewhat disappointed with the end of the book.  In fact, it didn’t seem to end; rather, it just stopped.

Side note – I was very disappointed with the movie, which didn’t really follow the book at all, nor did it develop the characters very well.  So, you had to have read the book to make sense of the characters, but then the movie takes an extreme departure from the very book you have depended on for character development.  Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance was excellent, though.

What to Do When You Win The Powerball

Yesterday I went to the Dallas Safari Club show in Dallas, TX.  All I can say is they could have renamed it, “Things to do if you win at Powerball”.  Walking around, looking at firearms that cost as much as a house can tend to have a perspective-shifting effect on you.  After holding a $120,000 Beretta SO10 28 gauge O/U, or an $85,000 bolt-action .577 double-gun, you start thinking that “Maybe I really could afford a $4,000 shotgun”.

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My birthday is two weeks away.  Here’s a Beretta SO10 28 gauge O/U for $120,000.  Just sayin’

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An Abercombie and Fitch Rifle

Or, how about a three shotgun set of 28 gauge doubles for $176,000?  Sounds expensive, right?  But then you start thinking, “That’s only $58,800 per gun.”

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Not bad when you consider they’re only $58,800 each.

There were plenty of offerings from Westley Richards for around $95,000.  If all of these are beneath your discriminating taste, how about a Holland & Holland Double rifle for $233,000?

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Or, a house.

Of course it was fun to see the rifle previously owned by Ernest Hemingway, a Westley Richards .577 droplock double rifle.  All kidding aside, the art and craftsmanship of these firearms is truly inspiring.  Over 600 man hours goes into the hand crafting of a Westley Richards double rifle.  Click here for some examples of great craftsmanship and beauty.

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Ernest Hemingway’s Rifle

If not a glimpse into how the other 1/2 live, maybe a glimpse into the other .00001%.

Happy New Year

I spent the morning away from home on this first day of 2016.  In the company of family in beautiful East Texas, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to ring in the new year.  Arriving back home mid-afternoon afforded me an opportunity to get a little fishing in.  A day that started with a blustery, frigid morning ended with a calm evening with a rich sky.  The kind of sky you get in Winter with the sun at it’s low angle.

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An olive wooly bugger, which has been my go-to fly, produced nothing.  So after varying a few different retrieves, I switched to a fly that is nudging out the bugger for first consideration in my fly box.  The Cypret Minnow combined with the cold water of the farm pond quickly introduced me to a couple of White Crappie.

IMG_0423As I was fishing, a man walked up and introduced himself, then told me I could just call him Sarge.  No kidding.  Sarge.  We talked about fishing, what the new year might see, country life, about his career as a Green Beret, and he asked me about the Marine Corps decal on the back window of my truck, “My Son is a Marine”.

After some very pleasant conversation Sarge walked away, and it was just me, a fly rod, and a family of coyotes in the woods behind me, ringing the new year in their own way.

Shadows

I know today is a better reading day than fishing day without even looking outside. Sitting in the man cave, drinking coffee and taking in some Thomas McGaune, I am mildly distracted by the vertical shadows falling across the pages of the volume in my hands. These shadows are from the East-facing window, and are broken at regular intervals by the blinds covering the panes. They  alternate between strong and defined and soft and barely perceptible. The speed of this transformation of shadow tells me the flags at the ranch entrance are completely unfurled, fueled by the same wind that is pushing the clouds overhead and providing an intermittent soft diffusion.  This wind doesn’t bode well for a morning on the pond with the four weight I like to use.

Besides, today is New Year’s Eve, and I always like to fish on New Year’s Day. What if I don’t get to fish two days in a row? Better not push my luck. Yes, tomorrow should be better.

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My resolve to fish this morning mimics the light and dark lines intersecting my book; strong, then nothing at all. And since I’m already sitting with coffee and book in hand, reading wins out. Then brakes on my son’s car and a little drive with my wife to see our daughter.

I may fish tomorrow.

Thoughts on Moby Dick

I recently finished reading Moby Dick. There were several passages I had to re-read to fully comprehend. Mr. Melville could write some LONG sentences. Here are some of my favorite passages from the beginning, middle and end of the story:

First, after our narrator sets the stage with much mystery and looming fear of the Captain, Ahab finally enters the story in this simple but very powerful sentence: “Reality outran apprehension; Captain Ahab stood upon his quarterdeck”. This is the best intro of a character into a story EVER.
Later in the tale Ishmael gives a little insight into the madness of Ahab after Ahab’s initial battle with The White Whale (where he lost his leg): “Ahab and anguish lay stretched together in one hammock, rounding in mid winter that dreadful, howling Patagonian Cape; then it was, that his torn body and gashed soul bled into one another; and so infusing, made him mad”.
And of course the last sentence of the epilogue: “It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan”. Mr. Melville did not choose to refer to poor Ishmael as “victim” or “survivor, but rather, “orphan- again, a simple word with so much weight.
I’m very glad I read this one.

The Last Chase

The Last Chase

Counting Fish

Mapping it Out

Mapping it Out

On a recent trip to the Uncompahgre wilderness for Brooktrout, I decided not to count the fish I would catch on Big Blue Creek.  After all, why do the numbers really matter?  Isn’t counting fish a child’s game anyway? But, moments after picking my way down the side of a mountain and slipping into the cold waters of Big Blue something happened that changed my mind. What changed it was not a philosophical debate on whether numbers matter, or answering questions like “What do I have to prove to anyone, anyway”?  No, it was simpler than that.  What changed my mind was this; I caught a trout.

Trailhead

Trailhead

This was not my first trout, but I caught it so quickly after entering the creek, I just knew it was on.  It was on like Donke . . . Well, it was just on.  It wasn’t exactly on the first cast, but it was in the first hole I fished.  Actually, it was the hole I splashed into the tail of.  My first cast or two were thrown away to the mechanics of stripping out line and limbering up.  You should remember that. “Limbering up”.  It comes in handy when you’re fishing with someone else.  Kind of like a get out of jail free card for a couple of poor casts.  “Yeah, I’m not limbered up yet”  No real fly caster will buy it, but it sure beats admitting that you have no idea of what you’re doing.  

Brookie

Brookie

A Royal Wulff, gently landing next to the slack side of a felled tree was promptly regarded as a late breakfast by the first of many brook trout. It was brought to hand early enough that I knew I’d be into some fish that day. Years of not catching a lot of fish kind of has a way of mellowing you on counting fish.  Sort of like money, I guess.  I don’t sit around counting my money, but if I had millions I just might.  So yes, I counted fish.

Hiking to Big Blue Creek

Hiking to Big Blue Creek

Another reason for counting fish while wet wading Big Blue is that I was fishing alone.  My preference for fishing is to usually fish with a friend.  You know, someone to make memories with.  Maybe a little good natured competition.  Kind of like I tell my oldest son from time to time, “It’s not a competition, Zac . . . but I won”.  If nothing else, counting fish (which I counted out loud) gave me someone to talk to.  


Before leaving for Big Blue, I made my usual stop at Dan’s Fly Shop (Lake City, Colorado).  After talking with Dan, I stocked my fly box with plenty of Royal Humpys, Royal Wulffs, some sparkly Caddis imitations, and also a few Parachute Adams.  The advice given me was to drive past the campground where most people fish, park at the forest service trailhead and hike another mile upstream.  The other piece of advice was concerning fly patterns. I was encouraged to fish medium to large flies (size 12 and 14) and the pattern wouldn’t really matter much.  What mattered was getting the fly to where the fish were, and with a natural presentation.  

Skinny Water on Big Blue

Skinny Water on Big Blue

This was without a doubt one of the best days of trout fishing I have ever experienced.  By that, I mean I have never before brought so many trout to hand in a single day.  And, I was able to read the water and predict with some accuracy where the fish would be.  A friend on the water would have been welcomed, but lacking a fishing partner, it was still a good day and I even embraced the solitude.

Early Evening on Big Blue Creek

Early Evening on Big Blue Creek

Breathtaking vistas, easy water, beautiful brookies.  I wish I could tell you “You know, it must have been a couple of dozen fish that day, I don’t really keep track of that stuff”.

It was thirty one.