Friday, October 6, 2017

pummeling rain

We started out by doing some work at Ken's farm on the eastern plains of WY. On the neighbor field, three guys stood around a tractor, one opening the toolbox that took up most of the back of his pickup, another with his cap off scratching his head, neither a good sign. The pinto beans could not be harvested since the moist clay soil was clogging the harvester feeders, with more rain coming in the evening. Such is a farmer's life. Grandfather was sad and sorry when he lost his farm in the Great Depression though I suspect the family was secretly pleased. He found a salaried job with the bakery in town, where life was a little less hard scrabble and a little further from starvation.

Still life with 3 apples on a hail-damaged hood, against a field of alfalfa.

The apples are from a 100-year old (estimated) tree growing atop a nearby hill. The original homestead is long gone but the tree soldiers on, producing a decent crop of pie apples every fall for the neighbours. No-one knows what varietal it is but some samples are going in for DNA analysis this year. The apples were tart and crisp with a mild flavor, purely delicious. I think of the homesteader who planted it - a young couple, or a hopeful young man, in the good wet years of the early 1900s.

This is the old tree, with a small sickly companion out of sight behind it. The companion is its pollination partner without which fruiting cannot happen. Ken's off to poison some weeds around the companion.

Here are the flies I went fishing with. The backstory is that one of my imaginary internet friends on the fiberglassflyrodders forum, offered to send out some flies to us all, the payment being a fishing report.

First fishing stop at the pond. I can't find this pond on a map, probably a good thing since Ken is a veteran and could hunt us all down if I spilt any beans about locations. It's a strange spot since it has a thriving and varied set of bugs, scuds, damsels, etcetera, but the best fly is always a #18 or #16 Adams.

I started with a little green softhackle (not pictured) from the selection, which got one 9" and a series of bumps. Switching to one of the red softhackles produced an immediate gratification who took the fly as it sank.

I am usually a primitive savage when out fishing, counting the fish as, 1,2,3,4,many. We got to 'many' quickly this day, and even to 'enough'. 'Enough' is oddly harder to get to when not killing fish, as a pile of dead fish does rather dim the catching fever: but the thrill of the new hit persists through many fish. It's like drug addictions, the next hit is the only one that matters.

The weather moved in and it grew dim. The 70F at the farm 4299ft was only a warm remembrance in the rain of 38F at 6600ft. We declared it cold enough to head for a hotel, funky, cheap and clean in Medicine Bow, site of the first Western novel.

 Medicine Bow always cues up the Waterboys song for me,
"There's a black wind blowing
A typhoon on the rise
Pummelin' rain
Murderous skies!"
We had all that and more on the drive over, including a narrow miss of a black cow and calf in the black night on the muddy road, fishtailing between them by the grace of ABS, Ken's decades of WY backroad driving experience, and perhaps God.

This song evoked the American West and its bitter high prairie winters for me as a young man in Africa. It turns out Mike Scott didn't know the town existed when he wrote the song.
"I invented the place name "Medicine Bow", and discovered several years later that a real Medicine Bow exists in Wyoming, USA."
It surely was not an invention but a recollection of a memory forgotten.

There were some old books in my room, one of them "Step Right Up !" by Dan Mannix. That's a name I hadn't thought of in forty years. He was a freelancer of no fixed profession with independent means, wrote inter alia articles for Life and National Geographic about training and collecting animals for zoos. My brother and I were both going to be wildlife biologists when we grew up and read everything we could find by him, though Gerald Durrell was our real hero. Even as boys we could tell that the floating world of Mr Mannix required inherited wealth or some similar good fortune that we did not expect.

Next morning cold on the lake we prepared to try a canoe trip.

Tied on the big gaudy streamer, a Spruce fly with added bling, at a hazard. I decided this was as close as you could get to fishing a Mepps spinner on a fly rod. That worked, fishing it over the big black holes between weed reaching up to the surface.

The wind rose and drove us off the water. Fish rising between us and the shore were also a strong persuasion. I hooked a good rainbow on the Mepps fly but an unseen windknot terminated our connection. The closest thing left in my box was a Platte River Special, though my tie looks nothing like the fly in that link which is closer to the Mepps fly. Lashed that on and walked up the shore a bit, made a cast on a whim and found a teeming horde of 12-13" brookies, presumably attempting to spawn in the shallows.

The green life of the lake persists, in fish and weed, though the sedge is withered from the lake and no birds sing.

Further up the shore Ken caught 16-17" rainbows steadily, as I caught everything steadily except the larger rainbows. It seems the Wyoming Game & Fish threw everything from the kitchen sink in here, rainbows, brookies, Colorado R cutts, and even a fine-spotted Snake R cutt. No pictures of these as my fingers were too cold to operate the camera. The coots are always a good sign for me, if there are coots feeding then I'll hie over there to fish. 

The clouds lifted briefly to show us the early snows over the wind farm.

More weather, we had reached 'enough' and packed out just ahead of a blast of sideways rain.

We kept a couple of fish each, the first time in years that I've knowingly killed a trout. Sauteed with a lemon butter sauvignon blanc sauce, they passed muster and the family ate them right up.