Friday, February 5, 2016

Flies, flowers, fishing, funology!

We're nearing the end of the first week of February. A time to watch for hoar frost's stark beauty. In waters that aren't frozen, according to one chart of fly hatches I have, midges (Chironomus) are all that would be hatching, although another chart adds medium evening sedges (Dolophilodes distinctus) as a possibility. Minnesota Wildflowers lists April as the first month to look for wildflowers blooming in Minnesota. If I manage, each week for the balance of the Winter, to get one fly rod, reel and line cleaned and ready to go, most of my gear should be in reasonable shape by the time flowers start blooming. There's an old saying that "third time's a charm" and this is the third year I've tried to get organized before the season actually starts. As of this writing, I'm halfway through cleaning the first fly line and reel. That's more progress than I've accomplished the past two years. Maybe I'll even learn how to identify more than a handful of flies this year. We humans seem to live in hope of better days and better lives. Clearly that's what I keep trying for, but I'm pretty sure there's a need to change my old definition of "better." It can't continue to be measured in quantity, although that's an easier metric. Maybe measuring quality in life follows a progression of metrics like that attributed to those of us who fish.

hoar frost covered landscape
hoar frost covered landscape
Photo by J. Harrington

There's supposed to be a progression  anglers go through, starting with wanting to catch a fish, any fish, then wanting to catch the most, then to the biggest, and finally to the most challenging. Although I don't play golf myself (I'm less dangerous with a shotgun than a golf club), I've heard there's a golfer's mantra of not so much playing against the course or an opponent, but against yourself. I think there's a similar point reached when we want to feel in sync with the land and the stream and their inhabitants; where we believe we have some understanding of the rhythms of the seasons and we're as much participants as observers. When we know where we are and what's going on better with each trip or walk we take. Maybe it's our way of recapturing some of the feelings we remember from younger days, days of exploring pond and stream bank, sometimes catching turtles or garter snakes and then forgetting to warn our poor beleaguered mothers we'd left them in a pocket. She'd find them as she went through those pockets while hanging up or washing our clothes after we'd gone to bed for the night, bringing new depth to "catch and release."

I recall, years later, similar anticipation and excitement each Spring, when my interest had turned to striped bass, and I learned that stripers could be expected to arrive along the southern coast of Massachusetts about the time that lilacs started to bloom, or was it leaf out with leaves the size of a mouse's ear? Anyhow, that's when I learned to notice lilac bushes that had been there all along and watched them intently come mid-April to mid-May. If you miss feeling in tune with the seasons and their changes, realize that it's fairly easy to fix such a deficit. Personally, I'm starting this week in the house with gear cleaning. Next week, blizzards permitting, I'll be outside looking for local snirt along local county road ditches. What about you?

Earth's Answer

By William Blake
Earth rais'd up her head, 
From the darkness dread & drear.
Her light fled: 
Stony dread!
And her locks cover'd with grey despair.

Prison'd on watry shore 
Starry Jealousy does keep my den 
Cold and hoar 
Weeping o'er 
I hear the Father of the ancient men 

Selfish father of men 
Cruel, jealous, selfish fear 
Can delight 
Chain'd in night 
The virgins of youth and morning bear. 

Does spring hide its joy
When buds and blossoms grow?
Does the sower? 
Sow by night? 
Or the plowman in darkness plow?

Break this heavy chain, 
That does freeze my bones around 
Selfish! vain!
Eternal bane!
That free Love with bondage bound. 

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Please be kind to each other while you can.