Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fervens, caliente, chaud

I was born and raised in Memphis. The southern riverside town is famous for a lot of things, but until you’ve spent a summer there, you truly haven’t experienced the Bluff City. Old Man River is the primary contributor to the humidity, but the mid-south is not exactly the High Sierras, so the flat basin just north of the Mississippi Delta is one of the hottest places in the US during the late summer. The air has a discernible thickness to it then, making it feel like you’re walking through a hot bowl of soup. In a city known for preferring dry-rubs, everyone sure is wet during July and August.

Thistles. Oblivious to the drought and heat.

Middle Tennessee, while blessed with its share of major rivers and lakes, does not present the same humid conditions as my childhood home. Instead of sandy soil and lowland cotton fields, we’re enveloped by rolling hills and quirkily-named mounds such “Tiger Hill” and “Short Mountain.” It’s just a quick drive to the Cumberland Plateau, which is well known for its cooler temps, tumbling waterfalls and gorgeous scenery.

But, it was 102 degrees on the Plateau yesterday. Here in Murfreesboro, my cell phone broadcasted 113 degrees at 4 p.m. Nashville set their all-time heat record. Today, the weather channel girl is gleefully predicting it will only be 107.

Froggy in the shade. 

Look, I know we’re far from the only place being pummeled by this heat wave and corresponding drought. But, it still sucks. My little bluegill pond, which is finally getting into balance thanks to the recent introduction of a few bass, is well off its banks and in danger of drying up completely. It has become a muddy haven for legions of bullfrogs. A month and a half ago, Betsy and I finally had landscaping installed at our new house. Perfect timing. We’re considering second and third jobs to help pay our water bill.

On the fishing front, it seem kind of cruel to make a fish fight in this kind of weather. Just before the “dome of hot hair” set up camp over the middle part of the US, I did a little trout fishing on the Caney Fork River (slow, but full of brookies right now) and the Stones River (slow at first, but then rather impressive for its aggressive bluegill and catfish). As of today, both of those fisheries are struggling with the heat, just like all of us. The Stones is as low as I’ve ever seen it at this time of year, and the Caney is warming up way too fast, signaling a really difficult year for the coldwater species.

Blue cat on the fly.

The Caney is also beset by leagues of kayakers and canoeists on weekends – and even some weekdays – robbing it of the tranquility it used to provide. Some of the riffles and pools we used to consistently pull trout from are now unfishable (except for the extremely patient and understanding of anglers) due to the traffic on the river. Most fishermen long for the cooler temperatures of fall and peaceful afternoons on our favorite middle Tennessee tailwater.

Things could be much worse, I know. It will rain again (hopefully soon), and the heat wave will end by mid-week. Our little garden is actually enjoying the desert heat (and our faithful watering), and we’re routinely dining on zucchini, squash and cucumbers. The tomatoes are ripening, although I’m worried the battalion of squirrels that patrol our oak trees are waiting for the fruit to turn red before leaving my bird feeders alone and turning their attention to fresh Roma’s. Tree rats.

Thanks to the high temps, I’m spending the weekend inside, trying to finish a painting I’ve been working on for several months. It’s a large one, for me – almost four-feet wide – and quite intense in terms of detail and color. As soon as its done, I’ll post it here and on my website.

While we’re on the artistic front, an interview with me was recently featured in the online fly-fishing magazine, Fly Life. I was certainly honored by the opportunity and hope you enjoy the read. While you’re there, check out all the other good things Skip Clement and his writers offer. 

Stay cool everybody.