Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bass Spawn Sneaks Up on Me

I'm only occasionally sneaking out to fish this spring...soon to be summer...because...well, because.  My travels put me at one of my favorite places to fish, although it's one of the toughest places to catch bass.  Even though the lake is posted catch and release, significant issues exist with poaching.  A few years ago I had a really disappointing trip here when I saw that groups of men had been seine netting bass off their nests.  No evidence of it this time, thank goodness.   In addition to poaching, the lake has extremely heavy cover and experiences a lot of fishing pressure by pretty talented anglers.

I gave it a go, and was a bit disappointed to see big bass sitting on nests in about four feet of water.  I sight casted to them, but they were totally uninterested in the wide variety of lures I sank down past their faces.  A few chases but no bites.   Sunfish were also spawning, and I caught a single bluegill.  As it always seems to be at this lake, the sunfish chase lures but never really inhale a hook.

Next time? Who knows!  For now, I'm in a waiting pattern until the bass spawn ends.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Blue Ridge Beaver Pond Wakeup

As we prepped for another 500 mile trip to North Carolina, my wife offered a carrot, "I booked us a campsite in Virginia; it has fishing."  That's all I needed to hear.

Spring-fed creeks (though shallow) and a big beaver pond awaited.  I took Hank down to scope it out in the evening and saw fish feeding on the surface.  Good deal.

Got up the next morning before dawn and it was....26 degrees.  What?

The pond was frozen.  Everything was frozen.  I had a long sleeve shirt and a fleece vest...and jeans.  Seriously. So I went back to sleep.  Woke up with the sun around 6:50 and sucked it up...out into the woods.  There was ice around the pond edge but I thought I might be able to pick up a few hungry fish that hadn't filled themselves the evening before.   Several big bluegills responded.  After I caught the first one right at dawn, the battery in both my camera and my cell phone died.

By necessity then, I began lighting up the fish as I followed the sun's path across the pond.  90 minutes of fishing ended with 12 bluegills and 10 largemouth.  No giant fish, in fact none over about 13 inches.  But what a great morning.  I was going to push my luck (hungry wife and son possibly waking up in the cabin), but I tripped on a stump left by a beaver and ripped both knees out of my jeans and of course then fell on my face into some Chinese multiflora rose.  Fishing trip done!

It was awesome to get out, and I can't wait to return...in warmer weather.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Hitting the Reset Button or "Just One Fish"

I got to go down to the fishing hole.  First time this year I've been back.  "Why" is a harder question.

I have been disconnected lately, tasked to solve problems and forge progress.  The costs have been high and have come in 60 and 80 hour weeks for several months.  Another bad idea, to stop and fish - there's no time.

I fished for an hour.  One big bass threw a hook after going aerial.  I got a single crappie in hand, and then the lure used to catch it was lost to a sunken log.   No fish rising.  A few quick silver flashes - spawning crappie.  I hooked my lure to an eyelet on the rod and decided to take a walk.  I smelled the earth, warming on the first truly hot day of the year.  I watched spaghnum slowly trying to overtake soil and rock.  I listened to the water running.

None of these things should be surprising because I spend my days working on habitat restoration sites.  I'm surrounded by the smells and sights of plants, soil, and water.  But I realize that I don't see those things when I work.  I smell diesel and I hear the chatter of the foreman, ordering more material.  I hear equipment operators arguing over whether today's work was built too high, or yesterday's work was built too low.  I smell fresh leaf compost, generated not in a forest but in an industrial processing yard.

I took a deep breath and looked at the sky, a slight summer breeze blowing.  High pressure.  The smell of native ground hit me again.  I felt content, a feeling I've been missing in a year of performance, of commitment, of doing more without asking for or receiving any recognition.   I need contentment.  On my way back to the truck, winding my path slowly through the swamp, I saw the first bass of the day had risen between two logs.   I cast a Joe's Flies Brown Woolly Bugger right between the logs, but behind him.  In a half second he was hooked.  Thirty seconds later, he was released.  I felt a shift in how I was thinking, how I was feeling.  Hope it lasts.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

What Do I Tell My Son About War?

I grew up at the end of a long driveway on a rural road surrounded by ditches designed to drain a Virginia swamp.

But really, I grew up in a swamp that separated a Confederate naval defensive group on the lower Chesapeake Bay from General McLellan's Union Army supply road (now US 17, then Yorktown Road).   Just offshore, we'd boat to Plum Tree National Wildlife Refuge, formerly known as Plum Tree Naval Bombing Range.  

My dad, a US Army engineer, used to take us walking at Newport News City Park, on the tract formerly known as Site of Peninsula Battle of Dam #1 (1862), and one of my favorite places to take family visitors was the Moore House, where Cornwallis' British Army signed papers of surrender to the American rebels in 1781.   Hidden in the trees was much more - Nike missile bases, a CIA training facility, and the Navy's underground bunker and next door deep harbor for loading small nuclear payloads onto warships and submarines before they quietly slipped out of the Chesapeake Bay and into the Atlantic.  I grew up around war in the 1980s. War was what we learned about - our grandfathers' struggles in World War II, and our fathers' struggles in Vietnam and the Cold War.  I don't run from it.  I believe that some armed conflicts are necessary.  Some horrible weapons are necessary.   I'm proud to be an American gun owner, to top it off.

Now I have my own son, and I'm unsure of what to tell him about war.  He loves superheros and Star Wars. He loves the Lone Ranger too.   He thinks about a lot of heavy stuff, and he's asked a lot of questions about dying and "being dead."   As we travel the east coast, our destinations are dotted with history - largely, the history of warfare and of enormous human sacrifice in the name of ideas that were very important.  He has seen a soldier's headstone in a historic cemetery and he asked, "Was it a good soldier or a bad soldier who got buried here?"

Now, please understand, I've never had a psychology class or a childhood development class.  I've become a pretty good student of people, though, and maybe that's enough to get us through this.  Here's what I'm going with:

1.  Sometimes the rules are important enough to fight over

2.  Sometimes bad people won't stop, no matter what.

3.  Some things are so important that soldiers will go somewhere dangerous to make things better for everyone who can't fight.

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