The Mad Fishicist

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

My Photo
Location: Alaska, United States

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Covering Love

You're amazing.

I've watched you learn to crawl, stand, walk, dance, run, and jump. You had no idea that each would lead to the next.

I've watched you learn to talk. When you say, "Dankoo, Papa," my world becomes you.

I've watched you learn to sing. The words aren't important. What matters is the smile. And the volume.

I've watched you learn to love. Mama's the finest teacher there is. Keep watching her, and you'll never run out of kisses.

Now it's your turn to be amazed by someone else.

Your new baby brother or sister is coming sooner than you think. You'll have to show him or her how to crawl, stand, walk, dance, run, jump, talk, and sing.

And if you can teach the new baby how to love like Mama has taught you, you'll never run out of kisses.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Man Saves Own Life...Again

"Then he took up the oar with the knife lashed to it. He lifted it as lightly as he could because his hands rebelled at the pain. Then he opened and closed them on it lightly to loosen them. He closed them firmly so they would take the pain now and would not flinch and watched the sharks come. He could see their wide, flattened, shovel-pointed heads now and their white-tipped wide pectoral fins. They were hateful sharks, bad smelling, scavengers as well as killers, and when they were hungry they would bite at an oar or the rudder of a boat. It was these sharks that would cut the turtles' legs and flippers off when the turtles were asleep on the surface, and they would hit a man in the water, even if the man had no smell of fish blood nor of fish slime on him."
-Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Once when he was fishing for yellow fin tuna off the coast of Baja California, my grandfather's small skiff was capsized by a great white shark, and he floated in the water with a whole shiver of the precambrians for hours before finally getting his boat upright so he could row back to the safety of the harbor.

I think.

He faced death more times and in more ways than many people have faced life.

I think.

Anyway, the veracity of the story is not the point. What matters is that we believe it could have happened. I've only met one man who could have lived a life as close to the edge as he tells it. I think he's always known that his toughness was never in question.
The shark story is only one in Grandpa's canon of which he is the main character and hero. The stories have become part of my canon as well.

It probably didn't happen the way I remember he remembers it. It's probably not even close. But tell that to the preschooler who crawled into his grandfather's lap to hear a story after everyone else had gone to bed. Or the kid on a camping trip in the desert who was just learning that the wilderness was his world, too. Or the teenager watching his seventy-two-year-old grandfather split wood on a searing summer day (the man could swing an axe). Tell it to the young man listening to his uncles tell the same epics, if slightly different, with all the hyperbole and overstatement they inherited from their father.

Tell it to the young father practicing the stories because his daughter is just about the right age to start forming a canon of her own.

In other words, the story is true.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ask Me

by William Stafford

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

I pulled Sophia in her sled to the frozen Lowe River today. She kept asking about the "wawa." I told her it was under the snow. Then we both got in the sled and rode down the bank and across the river. Twice.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Fly Fisherman

We both use sharp hooks and feathers, but he catches far more fish far more beautifully than I could ever imagine.

No other angler takes his limit then rides a thermal column to the next river.

"But flies an eagle flight, bold and forth on,
Leaving no tract behind."
-William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens, Act I Scene I

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

On the Banks of a Yukon River

There on the banks of a Yukon river
I wondered if love and life
could be more perfect.

Now I know my love was
a child learning to walk;
a seed searching for stalk;
a bird lost from his flock;

and I wonder if life and love
could be more perfect.

Happy anniversary, my Belle Etoile.

Sunday, February 04, 2007


"I can bring you salmon out of the streams..."
-W.B. Yeats, The Blessed

Quiet, current-powered, and powerful, the fish wheel scoops salmon out of the river and lets them fall into a live well. All I have to do is net the fish and fletch them for the freezer. Not a beautiful method, but grandly effective: a guarantee of meat for the winter.

The only similarity between the fly rod and the fish wheel is need. My mind wouldn't survive winter without the one; my body without the other. Then there is each moment's reminder that I couldn't possibly deserve this fisherman's life.

Usually we fish for fishing, but sometimes we fish for a living. Either way, we have no choice.