Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wallowa Lake kokanee

March on Wallowa Lake. Tire chains were needed on the boat ramp the day before.

Wallowa Lake was breaking records last year like a disgruntled employee at a music store. For a while, Bob Both held the record with his kokanee weighing 8.85 pounds. Then some 9.6-pounder got reeled up from the depths and currently holds the title.

This is Bob Both of Lostine. Kokanee whisperer.

That 9.6 pound fish enjoyed some fame, but now has fallen on hard times and currently works as a celebrity greeter next to the seafood buffet at a casino in Vegas.

The fish pictured below was lucked into by me after I talked Bob into showing me the secrets of kokanee jigging. He did that thing where he's like, 'Well, if I tell you I'll have to kill you,' and I was like, 'Ha ha, OK...' but then he really did give me a savage beating after telling me the secrets of catching kokanne -- I mean, really gave me a thorough working over with a tire iron, kicking me in the ribs and ran over me with his boat trailer a few times but joke's on you, Bob, I survived.

And then we went out fishing and I caught this fish pictured below. The fish enjoyed eating some corn kernels on the barbs of a jig down about 90 feet, then I enjoyed eating the fish with some garlic salt, pepper, fresh lemon, basil and garlic.

A 20-incher. Or, like, a thousand centimeters. Sounds better in metric.

Ice floe we parked next to. Tip: wear longjohns.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Photoshopped evidence of deer swimming a river

I hauled a nice family from Los Angeles down the Grande Ronde River and as we passed a small island, I pointed out a deer standing in the willows, looking out at us.

'It hasn't been thirty minutes since you get out right now.'

'How'd that deer get out there,' the dad asked me.

I waited a little and looked to his young kids in case they wanted to take this one. They didn't volunteer, so I ventured, 'Well, I'm guessing she swam.'

'Impossible. Deer can't swim,' he informed me. 'Their paws are much too small.'

'Hoofs,' his wife corrected him. Not hooves, but hoofs.

'Right, hoofs,' said the dad.

'OK,' I said.

'So how'd it get out there?'

I was all out of theories after the swimming one. But that's before I knew it was impossible for deer to swim with their little tiny hoofs. So I decided she was born there on that tiny island, about thirty feet across a shallow channel from the rest of the world. This seemed to satisfy him. And me. I felt much better.

Then I came across this photographic image recently of what appears to be two deer exiting the same river after I watched them swim it...and I can't explain it. Just can't explain. I'm shaken.

Mark Trail, you got some explaining to do.

Scooby Dooby News

One of the smartest people I know is Claire. She’s three years old. Take it easy, other people I know, I’m not saying you lack smarts. Claire just has the advantage right now of fresh eyes. Sadly, I’m sure the world will tell her ‘just because’ and ‘that’s the way it is’ enough times that she’ll catch up with the rest of us on buying what’s put before us. But for now her critical thinking skills are uncluttered and she cuts right through the nonsense.

Her latest victory is rejecting clunky attempts to sway her belief system with a childish premise propped up by dubious and contrived circumstantial evidence. She was shown the recent hidden camera footage of NPR executives talking to fake bad guys and failed to see the outrage. OK, no, it was actually reruns of Scooby Doo cartoons. But there are similarities.

Here’s the transcript of Claire’s investigation into popular belief and why society is willing to suspend skepticism when told there is a monster on the loose:

Claire: “Mom, did you know that the monsters in Scooby Doo are just people in costumes?"

Her mom: "Well, they’re pretend monsters so you don't have to be scared about real monsters."

Claire: "So why do people think they’re monsters if they’re always just people in costumes?"

Her mom: "Good point, Claire."

I laughed when my sister told me about Claire rejecting Scooby Doo. I was proud of my three-year-old niece for seeing through the fakery and cooked-up intrigue to find the whole thing silly, even though it was designed specifically to draw her in. Then I felt like an idiot, because I remember being entertained by Scooby Doo. I got off the phone and went back to reading important news from around the world. People saying other people were doing bad things. Those people saying the other people were really the bad ones. Still more people trying to decide who was doing what – and it all started to look a lot like tired episodes of Scooby Doo.

Thankfully Claire’s schedule is pretty open right now, so I can run things by her before forming my own opinions. I don’t know what I’m going to do when she starts kindergarten. I try to call right after nap time when she’s rested to ask about things like collective bargaining, foreign intervention to remove dictators from power and things like that.

I made a handy reference guide to convert complicated matters into Scooby Doo terms. Oil, lucrative contracts and basically anything financial are Scooby snacks. Contested areas or a theater of operation become the haunted mansion. Occasionally Claire will shift her analysis away from the Scooby Doo model and tackle the problem by using a Blue’s Clues approach – so I’ve had to become familiar with another fact-finding cartoon dog to understand her findings.

So far Claire has the jump on political pundits by arriving at the logical conclusion at least two days before adults sift the details of a breaking news story and unmask the monster, which usually turns out to just be a person. I didn’t even finish explaining the NPR hidden camera controversy before she interrupted and said, “Uncle Jon, this is silly.”

The news was just coming over the wires that an NPR executive was resigning amid the fallout of this cartoon episode so I told Claire I had to get off the phone and make a call to NPR headquarters before it was too late to stop this nonsense.

But it was too late. And following the news just isn’t the same anymore. I tried to sit down and absorb the latest scandal today without reaching out and pulling off the cheap mask…and I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for that meddling kid. Thanks a lot, Claire. You ruined the news for me. Can I come over and watch Blues Clues instead?

(Wallowa County Chieftain column for March 24, 2011...though in keeping with the Scooby Doo theme, I changed the ending. Claire's mom Jessica pointed out that 'those darn kids' kind of has to be included when there's any mention of Scoob, and she's right.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

You should have seen the septic tank

A broken toilet seat. Not a burned-out lightbulb. Not a leaky faucet. The seat on the toilet in my house broke.

It’s pretty basic. A lid and a ring on a hinge. Been contemplating the universe from that seat for, oh, I’d say about five years. Nice looking wooden model for that rustic experience while moving things from one place to another.

I didn’t figure on ever replacing that toilet seat. I really thought that was one item you would install and be done with it.

But craftsmanship isn’t what it used to be and the copper tube this seat used for a pin on which the seat would pivot was made from ultra-thin metal. A big copper straw, really. I’m surprised it withstood that many visits, once I saw what we were dealing with.

So I bought a new one that will probably fall apart five years from now and confronted the dilemma of what you do with a broken used toilet seat. It’s a little bit gross, even to be throwing in the trash. So another solution occurred to me. And it gave me the closure I was looking for.

This is what chorizo will do to you.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Aluminum marks the spot

Chieftain column, March 9 2011

I don’t just pinch pennies. I squeeze those things until Lincoln complains of migraines. People have tried calling me cheap, but I don’t pay attention. I never pay if it can be avoided.

So there are times when I wonder about my attraction to fly fishing. Plopping fake insects in the water can get expensive. I’ve seen fishermen on the river with enough fancy gear to equal my entire earnings for the year. And they see a guy in duct-taped waders with a garage sale flyrod equal in value to the change under their sofa cushions.

So I don’t enjoy losing flies when I’m fishing. That’s two bucks you just left on the river bottom. Lost one the other day. Hooked a steelhead, he came up shaking his head and, snap, broke my leader. Despair.

Fishing guide Tom Farnam told me to stop sobbing. I recovered and hooked a steelhead again twenty minutes later. When this one surfaced, Tom said he believed this was the same fish. Got this one to the bank and removed my fly. Then I got back my other fly that had broken off and was still hooked in his mouth. Tom was right. Same fish. So that’s one way to economize when fly fishing.

The steelhead train from Minam Motel to Rondowa along the Wallowa River isn’t running this year. When I rode the steelhead train last year it had a bunch of happy fishers on it, staying at local hotels and motels and discussing dining options at the LT, TG, Lear’s, Mutiny, Friends, et cetera. I heard plans to bring families back in the summer. I heard the sound of economic stimulus actually working through a unique interaction with Wallowa County just like the train people said it would. Then I heard they stopped running it. Okey-dokey. At least it’s a pretty shade of yellow on those parked rail cars we’re storing. Yep. Sure are pretty.

The good news for steelheaders is that some outdoorsmen have devised a way to make it easier for out-of-county fishermen to find the good fishing spots along the Wallowa River that you can access next to the highway. Most popular fishing spots have been clearly marked. Just look for the cluster of Keystone Light beer cans. Sometimes Coors. Or Bud Light. Mostly Keystone though. This marking system cuts down on the time you might waste scouting for good fishing holes. Also look for remains of warming fires, sometimes with charred Gatorade bottles or half-burned Styrofoam bait containers. It really spiffs up the outdoors. Looks great.

Coors Light used to flow from that culvert before the recession.

Instead of the Adopt-A-Highway system, where volunteers pick up other people’s mess, how about we lift fingerprints off the Keystone Light cans, then call the mother of whoever left the garbage and tell them to get their kid back out there to clean up their mess.

This is like a high school senior portrait, where 18 year-olds
lean on a branch, looking like they're trapped in shrubber

I’m not usually concerned with things being spic and span. The floorboards of my truck look like an archaeological dig and it’s time to wash dishes at my house when you can’t balance one more dirty cup on the teetering pile in the sink. But I don’t leave old receipts and junk mail in other people’s rigs and at least offer to do the dishes when I’m at someone else’s house for dinner. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m guessing the same folks leaving garbage on the riverbank wouldn’t be OK with me tossing my trash in their yard. Anglers would start showing up at their house, thinking it must be a good fishing hole.

If these beer cans were made in a pleasing shade of yellow I might not mind so much.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Same fish twice

True story: broke my line when a steelhead shook its head at me. Lost the fish. Then caught the same fish again twenty minutes later.

This here is the fish.

And this here is the fly he ate the first time.

Full report over at the Gearboat Chronicles site.

Persistence. Let this be a lesson to all of us. And also, let the broken leader also be a lesson about making sure your leader hasn't been banged up on the rocks so bad that it will break if you get a steelhead on. That's also not such a bad lesson.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Possibly the worst way ever to leave this mortal coil

Aaaaand I'm back.

Hoo. The updates got away from me there for the past . . . what, since August of oh-ten. I believe the idea is to put something on here more frequently than every 8 months.

I was on a black ops mission. Real hush-hush. Didn't have a secure line to update the site and couldn't compromise the mission. But I've managed to elude the border guards in a certain unstable country and smuggle my way out in a container full of toaster ovens. So democracy is safe once again and I can resume the important work of posting here items of great relevance.

So. Where was I. Oh yes. I went back in the photo annals to pick up where I left off and found this dispatch torn from a newspaper that I got from the recycling center as fire-starter for my wood powered hot tub.

Thank the stars this story caught my eye, otherwise you and I would both have missed the -- no. I can't make sport of this. It's tragic. More than that. Horrible. The stuff of nightmares. Except nobody would think up such a thing.

He did not go doing what he loved.

A guy isn't seen for a while. Reported missing. Digging activity in backyard. Man located inside septic tank. Cause of death: accidental drowning.

I mean . . .

"No evidence of foul play," could have taken the day off in this case.

How deep is that septic tank?

That's all I got. I could dwell on this, but would rather not.

Good day.