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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bennett Spring (Trout Fishing in America)

Where would I even begin?

My bro took me fishing to Bennett Spring something like eight years ago, and every family gathering since, it seems, we say we ought to get back down there. We finally did, and with Dad along as well. They'd fished together some when my brother was in High School, back when I was in such utter rebellion against even having a father that I refused to participate in such activities. So this was my first fishing trip with Dad since he used to take us to the Douglas State Fishing Lake over thirty years ago.

We were going to camp, again, but the forecast was for near freezing lows, and Dad wimped out on even the idea and rented a cabin. I was going to do the camping thing, even brought an extension chord to run my CPAP in the tent, hoping to overwhelm the elements with plentiful inferior gear. I had a close shave with hypothermia on a camping trip a few years back, the only other time I've camped in late October, but I figured with three times the camping gear and without the major dose of whiskey I'd had back then, I'd be okay.

The big thing, though, was to go sight fishing for trout. I detest the casting and reeling and hoping sort of fishing. Especially on the shore of a lake. It's a circle of Hell, I'm pretty sure. But trout in a river is a whole different game. They're smart, for a start. They'll taste your fly and spit it out before you can say 'shit.' You have to watch them approach, and the split-second that fly enters the mouth, yank and set the hook.

It was closing weekend at Bennett (you can catch-and-release through the winter, but I'm a catch-and-eat sort of guy). The weather was gorgeous if cool. The days were perfect, temperatures in the low 60s with gentle breezes if any and lots of sun. The trees wearing their fall colors were basically worth the whole trip.

I wanted to get there and ready to fish at the opening whistle. It seems like last time, all the dumb and hungry fish were caught by the time we hit the water. I think I caught two or three on the last trip, but the limit is four a day and I wanted to hit the limit.

One thing and another, our efforts to get down early Friday evening resulted in our arriving at the cabin at 1:30am Saturday morning. We managed not to hit the deer (and other wildlife), who held a convention along the roadside all the way from Kansas City.

We got up at the 6:00am alarm we'd set, took too long bundling up, then with me buying a fishing rod and me and Bro renting waders, selecting flies and tying them on to our leaders and buying our licenses and tags and so on, we were in the parking lot of the store when the siren went off. I think, actually, I snapped the picture of my snarled up reel around the time the real fishing should have commenced.

We get over to the dam and are wrestling into waders and I notice a couple of people heading to their cars with stringers already loaded up with the whole day's catch.

And I go a little crazy in my head because how could we have failed to cover a quarter mile's distance from the bed to the water in ninety minutes???

A pleasant surprise, though. I used to really get grossed out cleaning a fish. Like having to struggle against my rising gorge. Finally, at 38, I can cut the gills and guts out of a trout and it doesn't bother me. Shocking, I know.

So all that day and evening, I'm adamant that we absolutely have to be there at the siren on Sunday. I was probably even obnoxious about it.

But we had fun fishing. Bro caught the limit eventually. We broke for lunch and claimed a camp site, but basically fished the whole day. Well, I fished the whole day. Bro went and got firewood, set up camp, etc., especially once he was at the limit. Dad caught one. I caught a couple in rapid succession around 10:00am. Tried various flies recommended by those more knowledgeable (which is to say, everyone).

I'd never been in waders before. Turns out, you can rent them for $9 a day, and while they don't keep you warm, they do keep you dry as you wade into the icy water. Gotta be careful, the bottom of a river is a slippery and uneven thing, but I managed to not fall over, flood my waders, ruin the camera I (foolishly) carried along, get hypothermia and generally ruin the weekend.

I tried, with this camera, to get a picture that shows you how many fish there are and how clearly you can see them, but the reflective nature of the surface thwarted me. The water is very clear, and when you're looking, you can kind of adjust your angle of view until you see through rather than seeing the reflection, but the camera seems to get the mirror every time. Here's one you can kind of see what I'm talking about in:

At the end of the day, we went into Lebanon for food and beer. We made a serious of mildly unfortunate decisions: against eating at Applebee's in favor of eating around the camp fire; against taking a pizza back because we'd have to wait on it to be made, in favor of a Wendy's that turned out to be swamped and badly managed, but we got back to the camp in time to have luke-warm fast food around a fire of incredibly sappy oak. washed down with a bit of Sierra Nevada Stout. Which is to say, it was fine that we had fast food that wasn't fast.

The tent I was to camp in turned out to be missing poles. It's a hard tent to pitch in the best of circumstances, and I was so exhausted I bailed on freezing my ass off and slept another night in the cabin. My brother did tough it out up there, and to his credit hardly implied that I was in any way a pussy.

That alarm clock sure seemed early. There had been discussion of whether this was the weekend where we go to Standard Time, fall back an hour. Would have been nice if it were. We could have used the hour of sleep and we might have had less competition for fish at the opening siren if some of our fellows forgot and showed up an hour late.

Being there for the opening siren: if you fish Bennett Spring, this is absolutely not negotiable. For one, all the people waiting in silence, fly rods and ultralight spinners poised, waded out to their special spot, standing on the dam, below the bridge, everywhere, with the mist coming off the water, that was a scene.

For another, unless you're me, it's a great way to actually catch fish.

When the siren blew, I saw my brother cast. I cast my fly, one I'd been assured was great for early morning, a black and yellow marabou (a sort of feathery looking thing ).

The siren still wailing, I here splashing and look over to see my kid brother scooping his first fish. All right, I think. It really does pay to be here at the start, when the fish are hungry and the dumb ones haven't been caught.

And I cast and watched my lure, watched trout come up like they were going to hit and at the last minute turn, lightning fast, as if to say, 'Psych!'

By eight, his stringer had his four fish. That's a half hour, maybe a little less since I heard some fishermen griping that the siren had been seven minutes late.

I keep fishing, getting nothing going on at all. I was blacklisted by the trout as far as I could tell.

My Dad called to me a little while later, and when I asked him how it was going for him, he said, 'Made all the difference. I finally got my fourth. How are you doing?'

I had nothing. Nada. Empty stringer. Not even missing hits.

I tried fishing with my brother's rod and the fly he'd caught his on. I tried the lure my Dad had caught his last three on. See also the lure a fellow gave me off his hat. The spinner the bait shop guy had sold me, and I think one other.

I finally got a fish, around 10:00 on a puff-ball shaped fly that's supposed to look like trout eggs or something. I didn't think it looked like the trout eggs I scooped out of that fish when I cleaned it later, but if it fooled the trout, I'm down with that.

That same fly, I saw a big mother of a trout taste it twice. I was too slow to set the hook both times. This fish was maybe twice as thick as any of the others down there, a real keeper. But he didn't get that big by being dumb enough or slow enough for me to get him with the luck I was having today.

Dad and bro broke camp and checked us out of the room and all that while I struggled on until I got to needing to pee. By the time I cleaned my one fish, found the restrooms and wrestled out of my waders to relieve myself, I wasn't too keen to go back to fishing. I'd gotten to the point where the frustration was starting to overwhelm the fun, it was time to stop.

Still, it was good to get out there, get to spend the time with my brother and Dad, good to catch even the three I did. I'd been needing a change of pace something fierce, and this was made to order. I hope we can make it back before another seven or eight years.

I did forget to bring along my copy of that tome of hippie nonsense, Trout Fishing in America.

Chicken Alfredo Sorta Casserole

One medium onion, sauteed until translucent in a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil; add a tablespoon of minced garlic, two cups of chicken broth and simmer for an hour to reduce.

Add a can of Cream of Mushroom soup and a can of Creamy Alfredo Chicken soup, a can of chicken breast chunks, a half pound shredded cheddar and a half pound shredded mozarella, stirring to melt in the cheese.

While the stock is simmering, you boiled up a big bag of whole wheat egg noodles, these goes into the mix as well. So does a pound or so of frozen broccoli, defrosted and drained, and a pound of frozen spinach, also defrosted and drained.

Cram into a 3 quart casserole dish, make a note to yourself to find a bigger casserole dish or make smaller recipes, cover with chow mien noodles and bake at 400ºF for maybe forty minutes.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Okay, I'm not winning housekeeper of the year, but I've gotten a lot better in my divorced life. Much of my marriage could be summarized, 'No you clean it.' And 'Let's see how you like it if it doesn't get done.'

Childish sentiments on both sides, with results described variously as 'shameful,' 'disgusting,' and 'I'm going to throw up.'

Of course, I had affected a certain squalor in my bedroom as a teen. Newspapers, beer and soda cans, used condoms, these things tended to pile up. See also overflowing ashtrays filled with Players Navy Cut butts.

In retrospect, I can't imagine how I ever got a girlfriend with a room like that. Or kept one after trying to put my moves on her in that groty lair.

Fast forward to today and Em wants to have her friends over to play. Not with her room like this. I tell her this, and she says it's too much to do. So I say do it in phases. Start with getting all the laundry off her floor, which she does at the expense of being able to actually walk in or out of her room.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Halloween is pretty much my favorite holiday. When I was going through mediation for custody of my kiddos, one of those steps in a divorce that don't make the novels and movies because it's not exciting like adultery and domestic violence, the artist formerly known as Frau Lobster ceded this holiday to me.

Most holidays, we rotate. Every other Thanksgiving, Christmas, Christmas Eve, etc. It all gets spelled out down to the hour, and everything is done to make it as fair as possible.

My ex really has about as much use for Halloween as Scrooge had for Christmas. I delight in it so, and it's a holiday she just kind of goes through the motions of (as I do with Easter). She's not really a Halloween Scrooge, she's got the kiddos costumes lined up and she gives out candy and all that, don't get the wrong idea.

Anyway, I suddenly realized that while I have a few miles of Christmas lights I hang for that holiday, I do a pitiful job of decorating my house for the holiday that counts. And my ex even had a decoration on her door, so imagine my shame, being out-Halloweened by an ex who would put this on the top of her list of holidays to vote off the island.

To remedy this deplorable situation, I bought a spider. I went a bit crazy last Christmas with buying lights, but that was back when I was basking in the 'busy season' overtime paychecks at TradeNet. The good old days, before I found out how pitifully superficial Tom Mertz's integrity is.

I also grabbed some votives to light up the pumpkins from the carving party.

I have half a mind to buy a few more pumpkins to carve next week, to roast the seeds. I don't have the kids next weekend, but I do have them Halloween night, so maybe carving and roasting can be part of it along with the trick or treating and all that.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


So we went to a pumpkin carving party, hosted by a volunteer at Mo's Sunday-school type thing.

Pumpkin carving plus decorating Halloween cookies and cup cakes. Which is to say painting some frosting on the cup cakes and then licking it off. Or that's how Mo decorated hers.

We'd left the Nelson premature and had some time to kill in the neighborhood, and it's one I'd like to move to.

I'd have to have a lot of fixes done to the house I'm in to sell it with any hope of coming out ahead, and I can't really afford the neighborhood in question at the moment anyway, but you can dream, right?

The houses are older, but cute as a button. Since I hate yard work, small yards are no liability. And these would be close to work. We stopped in at an open house, and it was a joint that would totally work for me if I was to experience some sort of six figure windfall to use as a down payment.

Em has already staked out what room would be hers despite my telling her repeatedly that this was only to get an idea of what cost what. You pay a lot for curb appeal in this neighborhood and the house we looked at was drenched in curb appeal.

So by the time we actually got to the party, Em has decided we're practically neighbors.

This is why I never tell her about the rare occasions I go on dates. When I'm at the point of thinking, 'This is someone I'd like to know better, maybe I can get a phone number and last name,' she's thinking, 'This is my new Step-Mom.'

Anyway, we cut up pumpkins. Mo had fun gutting hers, and after she'd drawn the face on it, I gave her a bit of hand-over-hand assistance to cut out the shapes she'd drawn.

When we were done, we took the Sleepy Hollow shot and there was a game of Mafia. Except by then Mo was tired and cranky, so we made an early exit.

I'd show you our jack-o-lanterns lit, but I left the tea lights at our hostess's house and I turn out to be out of such things.

Still, carving them was so much fun I might go get more pumpkins for us to carve on Halloween like we did last year. Roast the seeds, too.

Nelson (Briefly)

Between church and the pumpkin carving party, we hit the Nelson. It was a short trip, about half of the old building before Mo started asking to 'Go to car.' She seemed tired and out of sorts, but I guess getting up at 3:45 will do that to you.

Em was worried she'd seize, but lots of times (like today) she gets up in the night and doesn't have a seizure. I tried to explain to her that seizures aren't that predictable, and that we can't live in fear of them. I mean, yeah, if Mo had seized I'd say I could have seen it coming, but she didn't. And I did have the Atavan and cell phone if she had, so it's not like we'd have been safer not doing things.