our creek, there is no better time to fish than what remains of the day
after the sun has set and the direct light is lost, when birds of prey
lose the luminosity of their height advantage. Caddis pop like popcorn
on the surface and small mayflies float mote-like in the air."
If you take
nature as a teacher
she will teach you exactly the lesson you have already decided to learn.
was bitter cold, with a delicate rime of ice in the shallow margins of
the lake and plenty of frost in the sedges along the river as a rigged
my tackle. The river currents flowed smooth and silent, undisturbed by
the bulges of rising fish. I could still see my breath, unless I was
standing in the sun, and was too impatient to wait for the hatch of
fly. I slipped into the water and started to fish blind, placing a big
Carmichal variant in parallel lines of drift...."
nymphs of Stenacron
interpunctatum heterotarsale will average 11 to 13 millimeters in
length, excluding the length of their three tails. Their background
color is deep oliveaceous brown. Thr frontal margin of the head is
steeped in such hues, with a pair of large cream spots ahead of each
antennal root, and a small axial medallion of whit and the anterior
midpoint. Pale trapezoidal areas are found at the extrolateral margins
of the compound eyes. Tny pepperings of cream are found along their
intralateral margins and at the cervical cornice.."
"It is now ps
"Not only does
us remember that spring is coming, it also gives us a reason for
that it not progress any faster. Once we have awakened to it, we long
dwell in this protracted in-between. This time for standing in the
sticky sugarhouse, witnessing the alchemy of air and water into gold."
final week of a late sugaring
season, when musical excitement fills the nights and there is still
sap to boil down, is thus referred to, in a phrase at once celebratory
and elegaic, as "the frog run." That phrase captures for me the
urgency of the peepers' moment -- and the human moment, too. It
the fact that we must soon relinquish this harvest we have only
learned to claim. Focusing all the more intensely on the process as it
nears its end, we remember the softening snow that signaled its onset
anticipate the cleanup and battening down of the sugarhouse for another
Ahab's whale is
nor is it strictly discovered, but is found, by him, which suggests
it has an existence separate from his but also that it depends for its
coherence on something extra he supplies, some conception of his own,
makes sense of things.
in the arid west because the economies that exploit it cannot abide a
rate of use. By combusting nonrenewable coal and nonrenewable oil and
natural gas, they have managed to lift nonrenewable water at incredible
rates. By using water with abandon they can compete with more humid
where it is basically a free good. This extractive process... is the
behind the expression "conquest of nature"...
Once I put a
from the creek in the pond. A bass gave chase immediately. The poor
minnow launched itself completely out of the weater in trying to
and when it came back down, the bass was there to swallow it. So far I
have not seen a snapping turtle in the pond but am sure some will come
when the proper food supply occurs. Snapper meat is a great delicacy.
don't cross the
sky every day. Great, journal-worthy events seemed hard to come by at
So I was forced to look hard and close and long at everyday things to
those pages. And you know what? The closer I looked, the more
entries I found. Take Carolina Wrens! As documented in the pages of my
journal, they sing every month of the year. Take Carolina Wren nests.
you know that the birds use paper and snake skins and string and
in the construction?. a birder may overlook these things, but not a
watcher and certainly not a bird watcher who keeps a journal -- the
important book I own."Earl's Journal"
of Consciousness: Hip-Deep
Dispatches from the River of Life
by Jeff Hull.
208 pp. The Lyons Press, 2007.
In this collection of 16 essays, former
guide Jeff Hull writes about fishing, both literally and as a metaphor
for life. Does he fish for material to write about, or does he write to
support his fishing? The two are inextricably intertwined like a badly
Hull baits his prose with apt descriptions of
angler's temper: "The trout flicks away at the last second,
swirls beneath the fly, still looking up, its flanks lucid flashes of
light in the spring water. 'Take it!' I hear in my head. 'Take it, take
it, take it!'"
The hooks, though, are in the places Hull goes casting (Belize,
Patagonia, Montana, Tuamotus, Kansas) and they work their way into the
soft palate of the soul when he reveals barbs of racism and recalls his
brother's slow death and his own suicidal depression.
These are unexpected depths and rougher waters
one usually finds in fishing literature, but there lies the promise of
the biggest fish. As a doctor at the Menninger psychiatric hospital in
Kansas told Hull while he was a patient there, "by needing to see
things a certain way to survive, we deny other things."
Volume I: The Mayflies, by Ernest G. Schwiebert . 672 pp. The Lyons
Volume II: Stoneflies, Caddisflies, and Other Important Insects:
Including the Lesser Mayflies. 800 pp. The Lyons Press,
published in 1973, Nymphs is a classic reference on the entomology
specific to fly fishing for trout. The first edition has recently been
revised and significantly broadened in a new two-volume set of nearly
1,500 pages filled with taxonomic details pertaining to nymphs and
instructions for making fly patterns that imitate them.
Encyclopedic entries for nymphs ranging from
Green Drake Nymph, the Little Morning Claret, the Leadwing Coachman,
the Light Yellow Cahill and a host of other mayflies, caddisflies,
stoneflies, dragonflies, damselflies and other insects consumed by
trout are preceeded by articles on the history, theories and modern-day
applications of "nymph fishing." Extensive chapter notes and the
author's illustrations (reproduced on color plates) substantiate the
years of painstaking research that went into this angler's reference.
For the author,
Ernest Schweibert, the new edition is the culmination of a life's work
that began with a discussion among colleagues at the "21" Club in New
York City in 1965. As he recalls in the introduction to his book,
Schweibert was asked what kind of book was needed by truly dedicated
trout anglers. "We need a comprehensive book on nymphs," he replied.
"Most stuff on the subject is focused on techniques and tactics, and
not on imitations of specific species." That discussion led to a
40-year project that concluded with completion of the final drafts
shortly before his death in 2005.
storyteller as well as an architect, urban planner, artist and
sportsman, Schwiebert loaded his text with stories and commentaries,
asides and anecdotes, that make these volumes a delightful read as well
as a helpful resource.
the Wrack Line: On Tidal Shifts and What Remains, by
Barbara Hurd. 117 pp. University of Georgia Press, 2008.
Mud: On Swamps, Bogs, and Human Imagination, by Barbara
Hurd. 143 pp. University of Georgia Press, 2008.
Stone: On Caves and Feeling through the Dark, by Barbara
Hurd. 170 pp. University of Georgia Press, 2008.
The final volume of a trilogy that began with "Stirring the Mud" and
"Entering the Stone," "Walking the Wrack Line" examines mysterious and
overlooked bits of nature that have washed ashore on far-flung beaches,
from Cape Cod to Alaska.
Each essay in this book begins with close attention to some flotsam
— a shell fragment, driftwood, a snail, a broken oar, a
jellyfish — that inspires meditations on the wrack and ruin
of the human condition: aging, transformation, habits, desires, and
"Foaming and inching its lunar way up the beach, the sea polishes small
stones, sloshes into and out of the tiny whorled and bivalved shells
somersaulting in the undercurl of its waves," naturalist Barbara Hurd
writes. "I take it as a given we can’t escape the way the
world grinds the living into debris. But before it does,
there’s a chance for the lucky encounter with someone or
something—a painting or poem, a place—that can
beckon to what lies broken and hungry inside us all. I believe
it’s what most of us long for."
"Stirring the Mud," the first in the series, Hurd searches for
metaphorical meanings in muddy places like bogs, swamps, and wetlands.
"Entering the Stone" goes underground seeking deep insights from caves
and other subterranean environments. All three volumes of the trilogy
are being published simultanously in paperback by University of Georgia
Colorado: Over 180 Premier Birding Sites at 93 Locations,
by Hugh Kingery. 336 pp. Falcon, 2007.
Early on any given spring morning somewhere between the Dakotas and the
eastern flanks of the Cascades or the Sierras, where the sagebrush
grows high and thick far from highways and houses and oil wells, there
will be a clearing where a group of large chicken-like birds with long
pointed tails and feathered legs will start to sing and dance.
Their music, made with air sacs in their puffed up chests, sounds
something like the hollow sound made when you purse your mouth and slap
your cheeks or the noise made by a loudly burbling water cooler.
Their dance isn't much more than a brief strut: a couple quick-steps,
wings raised and lowered, tail feathers displayed like a
peacock's. Each dance lasts but a few seconds, but the audience of
female sage grouse watch with rapt attention, judging each performer
with an inscrutable ranking system that produces a single winner -- an
American Idol, if you will.
The champion (the "master cock") will mate with most of the judges. The
runners-up will watch and wait for another year.
People are not invited to these competitions, but with some planning
and a little luck it is possible to spy on the dancing sage grouse from
a distance at a few well-known "leks" across the country. Leks are the
ballroom floor for the sage grouse dances. They are usually open areas
adjacent to stands of tall and dense sagebrush. The best known leks
have been used by grouse for decades; others may only last a year or
two. In any given year at any lek, the grouse may or may not show up.
To catch a performance, you must arrive well before dawn and wait,
keeping very quiet, for several hours. Viewing locations have been
established in a few remote locations, like the Gunnison Sage-Grouse
Lek in southwestern Colorado.
"Bring a scope to accommodate your distance from the birds," advises
Hugh Kingery in "Birding Colorado," where directions to the Gunnison
site are published. "We also recommend that you skip morning coffee
because of the strict stay-in-your-car or stay-in-the-blind rules. "
Sage grouse are extremely shy about their mating ritual. Any
disturbance -- barking dogs, slamming doors, cries of children -- may
cause them to abandon a lek altogether and even give up on breeding for
a season. For a species with limited habitat and declining populations,
this is a serious matter.
Hens usually stay at leks for two to three days for mating, then they
seek out a dense patch of sage, thick and tall enough to protect the
nest and the eggs from predators like eagles, hawks, coyotes, foxes,
badgers and raccoons. The eggs usually hatch about 37 days
after being laid.
In those eggs, and the ritual dancing that engenders them, lies the
promise of another generation of one of the West's oldest inhabitants.
They herald the arrival of spring on the western plains, as they have
for thousands of years.
Details on the seasonal distributions of 481 other bird species
— where they occur, their abundances, and the best times to
see them -- are included in Kingery's essential Colorado birding guide.
The reference covers the entire state and lists summer and winter birds
by location (in the Poudre River Corridor watch for Eastern
Screech-Owl, Egrets, White-faced Ibis and perhaps a Barrow's Goldeneye).
The state of Colorado boasts a bird list of some 482 species, ranking
it in the top 10 U.S. states for birding. The guide includes
checklists, a listing of species by habtat, and some natural history on
the state's varied landscapes along with detailed descriptions of 93
locations and 180 birding sites.
Twice: A Boatman's Journey Home, by Michael D. Burke. 184
pp. University of Arizona Press, 2006. .
This river-running memoir introduces readers to rough, austere, and
unfamiliar rivers in the northern wilderness of British Columbia. The
author, a former river guide, chronicles his three-week journey down a
series of remote rivers as he comes to terms with changes in his life.
His descriptions of river travel are swift and moving:
"Only as a memory was I consious of this: the lift and drop of the raft
in the waves; the splashes off the tubes; the morning sun flashing on
the waves; the roar of water amplified by the wall -- we descended on
the wall, drawn toward it as if pulled by a string. Down and up,
twisting side to side, building -- more waves, more light, more sound,
until it is an explosion of sound a sight, too much to separate.
of the Pacific Northwest, by William Neill. 312 pp.
Mountain Press, 2007.
William Neill, an Oregon cardiologist who leads butterfly trips for the
Audubon Society of Portland, composed this field guide that explains
where and when to observe butterflies in the Pacific Northwest.
Covering 118 of the most common butterflies in Oregon and Washington
and contiguous parts of other states, the book serves as an
identification guide with a quick summary of facts and abundant color
photographs of both male and female adults as well as caterpillars,
pupae, and eggs.
Neill also authored "The Guide to Butterflies of Oregon and Washington"
(Westcliffe Publishers, 2001) and "Butterflies Afield in the Pacific
Northwest" (Pacific Search Press, 1976). Douglas Hepburn is the
photographer for all three publications.