Thursday, September 11, 2014

Around the riverbend

The South Fork of the Flambeau River heaves steam
into the cool morning air as it cuts through the woods,
twisting and turning its way down to meet the north fork.

Time to switch lures

When I took up fishing again as an adult it took me awhile to re-learn the fisherman’s knot. I remembered to hold the end of the line between my forefinger and thumb and twist, and that the end of it went through the loop at the bottom, but feeding back through the second loop really challenged me. Add on top of that the extra performance required while sitting in a 12-foot Alumacraft on a winding river or windy lake, and you’ll have an idea why I was rather opposed to the notion of changing lures if the first one wasn’t catching anything.

I would cast and retrieve over and over, trying different speeds, different jerks and bobs with the rod, even row to a different location before I would take that lure off and put a new one on. Talk about being stubborn. I guess I figured I’d rather be actively searching out a bite than fumbling around with tackle. 'Time is limited,' I’d reason with myself.

Of course the tradeoff to this was setting me back two-fold. Not only was I not catching any fish because I refused to give another lure a chance, I was also not practicing the knot I really needed to learn if I wanted to be successful down the road.

Eventually I did of course suck it up and learn the knot. This increased my ability to adjust what I was fishing for and with what, and therefore made me a better fisherman. Of course when I say better, I mean average...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Challenge yourself

With or without ice

I have to admit, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has got me on the fence. When the philanthropic social media explosion rolled to the forefront of my newsfeed, all I thought was ‘Hey, this is annoying and it seems silly and pointless.’ I did not understand how dumping ice water over your head was going to help anyone. I mean, yeah, it’s sort of funny to see your friends get hosed with a blast of cold water, but outside pranks between pals, how did this become such a huge thing?

If you’re unfamiliar with it, let me fill you in. The basic concept is you take a video or photo of yourself dumping ice water on your head and post to social media. When you post, you’re supposed to challenge up to two friends to do the same. If they do not comply within 24 hours they’re asked to donate money to The ALS Association, which raises funds to combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Pretty simple right? Well, why not just donate money to the organization and skip the silly sideshow? I mean, the association accepts donations as little as $5, who could say no to that? In fact, some employers will even match a donation made by their employees…now that’s pretty cool...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Dangling feet

The listless habits of a stranger

There is a boy by the house that sits on a dock by the river. I see him sometimes on walks. He sits, often cross-legged, staring out across the lazy current, pondering, I suppose, some big questions.

Other times I have witnessed, he is laying face up upon the floating wooden planks. He appears at those times to be staring into the sky. I’ve observed he wears sunglasses in these instances.

Some days the sun is out, other days it’s cloudy and cool. He is not sunbathing, though, dressed casually in shorts and T-shirt. I cannot tell if he has ear buds plugged into an MP3 player or not, but I suspect this is commonly the case as I have noticed a toe tap or head bob on occasion.

I believe he is of college age, but I do not recognize him. I wonder if he is from out of town, only visiting for a while this summer. Perhaps that means he is away from his friends, and so he sits alone on a dock on the river...

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August birthdays

Happy birthday Jed and Mom

A pair of memories

August is something special to me. True, it’s unique for many reasons - fog over dew-covered grass in the morning, hot, punchy afternoon sun, and the sound of crickets on cool evenings - but there’s more to it than that.

In my family, August is the month we have two birthdays to celebrate: my mom’s on the seventh and my brother Jed’s on the 19th. That’s only 12 days apart…talk about a cake marathon.

This year my mom is a sprite 39 years of age (that’s what we’re still going with, right ma?). My brother Jed has reached the surprisingly (not) important age of 22. Only a few more years until your car insurance goes down, brother. That’s something to look forward too, right?

In the case of my mom, I have one particular birthday party memory that stands out. It was Flambeau Rama weekend some years ago and all of my friends and their friends and her friends were home. Everyone was always invited to stay at the house - whether that meant camping in the yard or on a couch - and get brunch the next morning.

Well, one particular year mom decided since Rama fell only a few days before her birthday, and so many people she loved were already gathered at one place, that it was a perfect time to celebrate...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Fog on the meadow

Being part of the change

As the sun rises through the fog and mist
I get caught up thinking about a lot of things.
For some reason, this time of year always catches me looking backwards. I think it has a lot to do with all the change in sunlight and weather - which mostly translates to less and cooler - but I can't be certain. I try not to let that be a sad thing, but sometimes it has that feeling.

Sometimes I catch myself staring at the fog in a certain grassy meadow during the early morning sunlight as though I know what's about to happen. It makes me think of how short summer is in the north and sometimes I wonder where it went.

Did I take full advantage of the warm weather? Did I get outside in the sunlight enough times or could I have been out there more? How long do I have before the lake and river are too cold to swim in?

I ask myself these questions as though some year I'll have an answer for them. Perhaps if I keep staring at the fog in the meadow something will come out of it.

The thing is, year after year, my conclusion is usually the same. See the truth is summer is not quite over yet. It's changing, sure, but there's a buffer zone now until full fledge autumn sets in, so we've got (hopefully) a few more chances to enjoy the blessed strength of the sun.

That's me looking forward, not backward. The sun will come out tomorrow, you can bet your bottom dollar on it.

Thursday, July 31, 2014


Fishing and writing practically go hand in hand.

Learning to freely blend the two

I hear a lot of people talk about a work-life balance as though the two are separate entities on opposite ends of a teeter totter. Books, blogs, and employee manuals have written recipes for “workers” to follow should they seek to achieve the correct balance. In fact some people have made entire careers considering almost nothing other than how others should compartmentalize their lives.

Of course, there are different approaches and focuses. Forbes guest writer Ron Ashkenas writes about work-life integration in his book "Simply Effective: How to Cut Through Complexity in Your Organization and Get Things Done." In the book he makes observations on how businesses can become more efficient by allowing for more flexibility in employee schedules. Or one of my favorites, Chris Guillebeau, NYT bestselling author of "The $100 Startup” and a series called “Unconventional Guides," which focus on a holistic change in thinking in regards to status-quo roadblocks in how work and life interact.

All of those are good resources, but most of that thinking can be summed up by a John F. Kennedy quote that says “The best road to progress is freedom’s road.”

Now you know I am no expert in these matters, just a man with enough opinion to share it in hopes someone has something to say about it. This topic being one that is often at the forefront of my consciousness, I thought perhaps here I would share my story as it has so far unraveled...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Traditions of July

Ready, set, lake!

Newman Lake water levels are higher than they have been
in years. That means less beach but more swimming
space at the lake of my childhood.

Our humid summer days have finally rolled onto the land. Many of us have been out looking for them. Whispers of a summer version of the polar vortex were beginning to sound all too familiar only a week ago, but early this week all those rumors were put to rest.

I recall the heat of July when I was a child; those days of sudden, sweltering sun. The air would turn into a heavy quilt, pressing up against you in an invisible yet bracing fashion like you’d been made frail from the winter and needed safe keeping. Shirts would come off, shorts put on, and a day at the beach was often the best cure for beating the heat.

My family would go to Newman Lake on those sort of days. Mom would pack a cooler with water bottles, fruit, and cold salads. My sister or I would be charged with getting the beach towels from the linen closet, and one or both of my younger brothers would tear recklessly around the house, scarcely clothed, screaming “swimming! swimming!” or something to that effect. They never wore many clothes when we were little.

We would all pile into the car after it was loaded with the cooler and a pile of towels. Some of us smelling strongly of sun block, others of bug spray, and others just smelling. Adorned in faded yet somehow colorful swimwear, it was always a rush to get the car on the highway so we could have some air moving in the vehicle.

Windows down, arms flailing in the wind, great big smiles - that’s how I remember summer...