Sunday, November 27, 2011

Seeking inspiration


One of my good buddies sent me an e-mail the other day. His succinct message simply read, “The soul of your blog has turned to ash.” It made me feel bad, but it was true. It’s been too long since I’ve expressed myself via social media.

Maybe I just needed some inspiration. Creatively, one of my primary muses is fishing … and lately, in the times in which I did manage to get out on the water, the fish and/or the weather were far from cooperative. An example: several weeks ago, I joined my fishing buddies for a long-anticipated follow-up to our spring two-boat float. Billed the Great Fall Two-Boat Float (GFTBF, acronymically speaking), we did all the same things we did in March ... except catch fish. The Elk River was murky, sullen and unwilling to give up many trout, in deliberate spite of our huge efforts to make it perform otherwise. Doing our very best to ignore our crappy creel count, we had fun and finished the day in a collective exhaustive stupor (CES), gazing zombielike at several TVs screens running college football games and occasionally poking around out the fried food the restaurant provided us. Good times. But, due to the poor fishing, these were not inspiring times.

Anthony, Mark of Plateau Drifters, Barry. At least Barry hadn't given up yet.

Gary and David Perry of Southeastern Fly, looking for fish on the Elk River.

I’ve also been very busy as of late. I’ve also been traveling quite a bit … including extended stints in Las Vegas and Jacksonville. The Vegas gig was both rewarding and exhausting, but I did manage to escape The Strip to hop down to the Bass Pro Shops in Silverton. Yeah, the din of slot machines was just down the hallway and the incessant, pervasive, nicotine/air-freshener casino aroma crept into the atmosphere of the store. But despite these distractions, I was able to lose myself in BPS’ ocean of fishing stuff and for an hour or two, find normalcy among the hustle and bustle of Vegas’ gamblers, packs of drunken bachelor-and-bachelorette parties and Cirque-esque freaks. I spent $40 on fly-fishing leaders and tippet I probably didn’t need. But, it was awesome. But, far from inspiring.

My parents and Bumper the Wonder Dog (BWD) came to visit us about a month ago, providing Betsy and me with the fun challenge of entertaining our first guests in our home. We were very proud to showcase the new house, despite the fact that so much of the yard and interior d├ęcor are works-in-progress. BWD loved the open space around the house, and the cockleburs and stick-tights from our untamed field certainly loved him too. Mom and Betsy did some shopping for the house (Betsy finally found a really cool, creative solution to hang as a vanity mirror in our half-bath ............ I can’t believe I just typed that sentence), while Dad and I took off for a few hours to fish the Stones River. We caught a lot of fish, but all of them were fairly small, but when you fish with your Dad, none of that matters. It’s just good to be out sharing the experience with him. As the day began to fade and as Dad’s recent back surgery began to send him warning signs that he may need to consider resting for a bit, we ran into a bunch of feeding fish which cooperated quite nicely with a variety of techniques. It made us feel like we were great anglers, which Dad may actually be. It was fun stuff, and while we didn’t come home with a camera loaded with trophy shots, we did have a few more memories to stuff in the bag. Those memories will most likely inspire a painting or two. I bet.

Mom, Dad, Wonder Dog.

BWD.

A couple of weeks ago, I sat with friends at the end of a long pier in a quiet harbor, enjoying a post-business-meeting beer and watching the sun fade into the western side of St. Augustine. Squadrons of ibis and egret flew over us towards their evening roosting spots while an osprey cruised just feet over our heads. On the edge of the nearby reeds, a blue heron systematically picked off stragglers of a huge school of bull minnows. The black-and-white-striped lighthouse peeked over the horizon, while the old fort hid behind the trees. As night crept closer, a waitress lit a series of citronella torches planted strategically around the weatherworn gazebo where we sat. In the breeze, the flames struggled and leaned hard-right, but it reminded all of us that the mosquitoes wouldn’t be bothering us tonight. While I wished I had my fly rod or at least a spinning rod and a bucket of shrimp, I was pretty damn happy be alive. And, nearly inspired.

For Thanksgiving, Betsy and I traveled west to Arkansas to see my parents, my brother Tim, my Uncle Art … and, of course, BWD. It was an absolute smorgasbord of things to be thankful for, as we enjoyed the fantastic company of my family, the unconditional love from BWD and the incredible amount of really good food. Of course, I also spent several hours in the Little Red River, trying my best to squeeze out a couple of days of decent fishing. The rainbow trout were very cooperative, and I even managed to hook and land two-or-three nice pre-spawn browns.

Turkey.

A turkey.

Tim releases a solid fish.

The Family Sharley sits 'round the fire.

Late Friday afternoon. Other anglers had called it a day, leaving the river to Tim and me. The sun had pretty much given up too, casting a final pale glow over nearby Sugarloaf Mountain. A flock of geese flew overhead, calling our attention to a few stars escaping the cover of the scattered clouds. On the bluff above, Mom, Dad and Betsy gathered around a fire pit, exchanging stories of the day, while BWD dozed on Mom’s lap. A few trout rose to the usual early-evening midge hatch, while Tim dissected the deep pool in front of us with a spin-casted roostertail. I double-hauled a black streamer, trying to cover as much water as possible with long casts and short-stripped retrieves. The darkness slowly surrounded us. We agreed; a few more casts, then we’d head up to join the rest of the family. I flung my fly cross-current and began dancing the marabou streamer back to me when my line abruptly tightened. After a quick strip-set to my right, I felt a heavy fish roll and then shake its head. As the black water erupted on the other end of my fly-line … I suddenly found inspiration.

A nice one.

A twenty-one.

Inspiration.