Saturday, June 25, 2016

In amongst the weeds #phenology

Yesterday's trip to Fort Snelling State Park turned out to be really enjoyable and hopefully productive. The "green team" crew from Thompson Reuters was doing volunteer work at the park, picking up litter and pulling invasive weeds. Once the work was done, play came in the form of fly-casting instructions provided by members of Fly Fishing Women of Minnesota, Trout Unlimited, and DNR staff, using equipment provided by FFM and DNR. By the time the afternoon had worn down, fly rods were casting fly lines all over the grassy picnic area by the group shelter. Some fifteen or twenty of the Thompson Reuters team practiced basic or improved fly-casting skills.

common burdock
common burdock
Photo by J. Harrington

The shelter and picnic area where we gathered are surrounded by floodplain forest along the Minnesota River. The heavy ground cover includes some truly impressive examples of one "naturalized" invasive species, burdock, and another that I think is Canada thistle. Once again, I'm at a disadvantage because neither plant was in flower yet. Once again, my Better Half bailed me out. Did you know that burdock, but not thistle, is listed in Midwest Foraging as a source of nutritious greens and roots. That book also include a creative suggestion about developing partnerships among park managers, organic farmers and foragers as a management strategy for burdock control. That's the kind of thinking we need more of.

Canada thistle
Canada thistle
Photo by J. Harrington

On my way to the Fort Snelling State Park activities yesterday, I stopped by the Patagonia store in St. Paul to take a look at their Simple Fly Fishing book. I succumbed to the temptation to get a copy, plus some flies and a line and leader package for the Tenkara rod the Daughter Person and Son-In-Law gave me for Father's Day. I want to get a better understanding of how much Tenkara fishing differs from the "regular" fly-fishing I've been doing most of my adult life (if I can use the term adult loosely). The connecting knots suggested for Tankara line to rod and line to leader are quite different than I'm used to and I want to figure out if that's "just because" or if there's a functional reason. There is a good reason (easy disconnection) for the line to rod connecting knot, so I now have to violate most of what I've learned about tying knots and learn to perfect my slip knots. I'm still ahead of Billy Collins in fishing, if not poetry.

Fishing on the Susquehanna in July


By Billy Collins


I have never been fishing on the Susquehanna
or on any river for that matter
to be perfectly honest.

Not in July or any month
have I had the pleasure—if it is a pleasure—
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

I am more likely to be found
in a quiet room like this one—
a painting of a woman on the wall,

a bowl of tangerines on the table—
trying to manufacture the sensation
of fishing on the Susquehanna.

There is little doubt
that others have been fishing
on the Susquehanna,

rowing upstream in a wooden boat,
sliding the oars under the water
then raising them to drip in the light.

But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia

when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend

under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandanna

sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.

That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.

Then I blinked and moved on
to other American scenes
of haystacks, water whitening over rocks,

even one of a brown hare
who seemed so wired with alertness
I imagined him springing right out of the frame.


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