The Mad Fishicist

A fly rodding, sheep stalking, moose calling, guitar trying, bird watching, fly tying, Katie loving stay-at-home-dad.

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Location: Alaska, United States

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Argumentum decoris (why I am not an atheist #3)

I am surrounded by beauty.

Friday, May 26, 2006

In Memoriam, JGK

"I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
-Philippians 1:19-21

Thank you for our time with John. Thank you for the way he made Katie laugh and how he made Sophia feel at ease. Make us mindful of his salvation that others will follow on the path to righteousness. In his passing, may Christ be exalted. Keep us until we see our uncle, brother, and friend again.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

This Incredible Fish

"A steelhead always knows where he is going, but a man seldom does."
-Steve Raymond, The Year of the Trout

This buck steelhead was hatched somewhere very near where this picture was taken. For three years he stayed here, avoiding hungry trout, dolly varden, kingfishers, mergansers, floods, and freeze-ups. Sometime during his third summer, he made his way out of the safety of his little pool toward the ocean. He passed through white water, log jams, and spawning salmon all the way to the big water where the danger was escalating. Now he had to learn how to dodge gulls, puffins, salmon, sharks, whales, porpoises, gill nets, cormorants, cod, industrial sludge, and everything else bigger than he. Somewhere along his journey, he tangled with either a shark or a net. The scars on his side and belly are proof of that. For two years, he grew more and more powerful until he was strong and big enough to start the dangerous part of his life. Steel-backed and chrome-sided, he found his way back through the gill nets and purse seines to the mouth of the Situk River after thousands of fish miles through the Gulf of Alaska and beyond. On a certain day in late April, the incoming tide washed him into fresh water for the first time since he was four inches long. His body stopped needing food. He fought white water and log jams for miles, stopping only to rest during the brightest part of the day in slow, deep drifts. This is where he started seeing hooks. They swung in and out of his reach as he contemplated each and every one. The closer he came to his natal drift, the more his body began to change. His teeth grew sharper. His sides and his cheeks turned red. His back turned green. His spots became darker and more defined. His beak hooked. The red on his body incited riots among the bucks. They tore into each other with life or death violence. The hens waited patiently for for the males to finish their contests. When he overcame his rival, he settled with a hen and rubbed her sides with his powerful tail until she began to deposit the first of her thousands of eggs. Then Scott drifted a red leech pattern with a colorful yarn egg and this steelhead had finally had enough. He darted forward and smashed Scott's fly and the dance began. Out of the water three, four, five times, this steelhead had been through too much to give up now. He shook and pulled and ran and ran until his energy waned and he slowly made his way to hand. Gently, Scott lifted him out of the water. I took this picture. We looked at him for a few short seconds, and released him back to his hen--she wouldn't allow another mate to take his place.

By now, he has fertilized her eggs and he is completely spent. If he can make it back downstream, past the spring brown bears and the log jams, he will reenter the Gulf of Alaska to find food. He will become chrome-bright and grow strong for his next trip up the Situk.

He'll never bite at another hook again.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Stolen Child

Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water-rats;
There we've hid our faery vats
Full of berries
And the reddest stolen cherries.

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim grey sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances,
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.

Come away, O human child!
To the waters of the wild
With a faery hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he's going,
The solemn-eyed:
He'll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal-chest.

For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery hand in hand,
From a world more full of weeping than he can understand.

-William Butler Yeats

Fairies, trout, and a tragic refrain. Watch the world weep as the child falls into the fairies' trap. It's the classic Irish welcome and warning: things may look better somewhere else, but there's a price you may not understand until you've paid it.

Someday I'll read this to Sophia at bed time. I can see her growing wings as she drifts to sleep among the waters and the wild.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Steel Dreams

"Nothing in steelheading is always."
-Bob Arnold, Steelhead and the Floating Line

It's been more than a week, and I can't get these incredible animals out of my mind. I wake at night to false strikes and rolling fish. In a dream, I fought one for thirty minutes before I figured out it was a very large goldfish.

But there is more to steelhead than fishing.

Sometime during our first day out there was a short hail shower. The stones splashed into the Situk like tiny exploding diamonds. I reeled in, stepped back, and watched. A small hail pile formed in a fold on my rain jacket. A very large steelhead broke the surface on the opposite bank. Upstream and down, there were no other fishermen. Even the birds had stopped their singing to watch and listen. As with other hailstorms, the sun was still shining at an angle on my back, and the explosions grew brighter and more intense. It became impossible to separate the river sounds from the hail sounds. Then rain. Then sun. Then I casted again to a much more colorful and explosive gem.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Still Amazed

"The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
None so devotional as that of 'Mother'..."
-Edgar Allan Poe, To My Mother

You are a mother
whose mother arms
stretch wider than you'll ever see.
You are a mother twice:
once for our baby
and once for me.

Thank you, Angel.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

His Mother

"Even He that died for us upon the cross, in the last hour, in the unutterable agony of death, was mindful of His mother, as if to teach us that this holy love should be our last worldly thought - the last point of earth from which the soul should take its flight for heaven."
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, His Mother

How can I make you proud?
You made me this way, be proud of yourself.

How can I honor you?
Your sacrifices lift you up farther than I can reach.

How do I repay the life you've given me?
It's already more than I could ever want.

How will you know it was worth it, in the end?
See it in Sophia--your love's legacy, my mother's touch.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Friday's Poem with commentary

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any--lifted from the no
of all nothing--human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
-ee cummings
(Since auntiebeck asked)
EE Cummings was one of the most widely read American poets of the first half of the 20th Century. I don't understand much about modern criticism, but I can tell that Cummings' place in the master's pantheon is secure. Modernists worked hard to destroy their readers' concept of a good poem, apparently because they didn't want to look like copycats (modernism way oversimplified). So for Cummings, the way a poem looked on the page or how it sounded when read aloud was as important as the themes within. Better yet, if a poem was impossible to read aloud, Cummings published it. Consider:
Not Shakespeare, but included in just about every English language poetry anthology in the last fifty years. In normal order, it reads: l (a leaf falls) oneliness. The concept of loneliness is pictured as a leaf falling. He wasn't the first to use the metaphor, but he was the first to arrange it on the page as lightly and as quickly as the leaf really falls. Cummings loved the shift button for the punctuation, but he almost categorically ignored it for capitalization. His themes run the range from the sacred to the profane and from political missives to nursery rhymes.
I found this poem just after my senior year in high school. I memorized it. For a while, I repeated it every morning before I got out of bed. I'm not sure what was so inspiring for me then, but I think now I identify most with the lines "how could...any... human merely being doubt unimaginable You?" The implication is that we can see God by just being. That an unimaginable thing becomes obvious the moment we stop trying to imagine it. To me it says, "Be grateful for life. Experience each day. Look and listen." These are the days God reveals himself to us--the days I keep trying to describe in this journal. Someday I'll get there.

Monday, May 08, 2006

O. mykiss irideus psychosis

After a week of chasing these strong, smart, aggressive, big, beautiful fish, I only want more.

It rained until the river flooded and became unfishable, and I still fished. Steelhead are a fever. I was infected the moment this fish smacked my fly. Each strike was heart stopping; each lost fish was heart breaking. But missed chances are chances, and I allowed myself to freeze and face dangerous waters for more chances. Every fish brought to hand was hard fought and harder won.

I wouldn't say I'm addicted, but I am.