Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
Click on Mark Twain to jump to Troutbirders book review blog

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bluff Country

Although today is Easter Sunday, looking out the back window at the piles of snow just doesn’t make it seem right. There definitely won’t be any Easter Parades or Bonnets in the cold and dreary weather we’ve been having lately.  The wait for the ground to thaw out so we can begin repairs on the frozen septic tank line seems interminable. Mrs. T has been a trooper but navy showers, doing laundry in town, and dish water tossed off the deck have worn down both of our patience. 

On a more positive note, the kind words I received on my last post describing a hike along  a local trout stream made my day. Thank you all.  To go with the pictures being worth a thousand words theme, I’ll follow up with some fall photos along the same trout stream I previously described. That is the unglaciated portion of southeastern Minnesota, better known as  Bluff Country…..
Towering high above the troutstream where an innocent troutfisherman was minding his own business were the limestone bluffs. There several irrate geese, strangely nesting high above,  attepted to ambush the fisherman.
Fleeing downstream he came upon a beaver damn. The beaver didn't show themselves but the trout were sipping mayflies and he soon enticed a few into his creel. Mrs T. loves fresh caught trout on the grill.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Relax! There are no pictures today but not a thousand words either. 
About this time a year ago,  I rose early and wasted an hour looking for my point and shoot  camera. Finally, giving up, I headed off fly rod in hand for "The Arches." Let me describe - The Arches is an ancient steel truss bridge spanning an upper reach of the South Branch of the Root River. It's called the Arches because only to a fisherman and cows in the pasture below the bridge, does it become obvious that the structure is held up by limestone pillar spans in the manner that the ancient Roman engineers had perfected.

 It's a small valley stream here with pools and riffles perfectly inviting for trout and fishermen alike. Opposite the pasture, stand limestone bluffs reaching a hundred feet or more in height. The kind of view prevails here that Meriwether Lewis once described of the Upper Missouri as one of "perfect enchantment." Atop the bluff, stand huge white pines, obviously missed by the lumber barons of a hundred years ago, because of their awkward positioning. Red cedar and some yews find places to grow on the face of the cliff.
I headed downstream flicking my nymphs into the sparkling clear water. There is a rhythm to fly-fishing that sets time and larger issues aside. Still, the first outing of the year often takes time to capture that mood. Catching trees and bushes can do that. Not today though. Everything seemed perfect. Till coming around a bend I was beset by the angry honking of numerous nesting Canada geese. Probably a good thing I had decided to leave Baron, my GSD, behind. I might have had a riot on my hands!.

 The corker was when I looked up, hearing much hissing far above me. I couldn't believe what I saw. Two geese were staring down at me from a ledge near the top of the cliff. They had built a nest up there in swallow country. And then they jumped off the ledge and were swooping down in my direction. Is this how Londoners had felt under the German blitz in 1940? I quickly abandoned my strongpoint and headed down stream.
I looked for some morels but we needed rain and some warmer weather. The floods of the last few years had drastically changed the channel. Old favorite pools were gone now and new ones were created to be explored. I saw dozens of warblers but without binocs  I couldn't tell what kind.

 I hiked for a couple of hours, so glad that my knee replacement of several years ago, allowed me to do what I so much love doing. Still, I wasn't in my thirties anymore. In those days I hiked up and over mountains in Montana to reach those honey holes. Now, I was just glad to be out and about in one of the most beautiful places in our country. BTW I did manage to catch a few nice brown trout.... but that's not really the point is it?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Scenes From The Past

Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is." -- Sir Francis Bacon

Gourmet chef

Hardworking dog trainer

Empathetic photographer

Sunday, March 17, 2013


His name is Simba. Lord of Oak Hill Drive.  He rules his domain with cunning and a firm hand.  
Over Troutbirders protest, he had arrived sixteen years previously as a birthday gift from son to mother.  Troutbirder has come to see him as a "role model” for retirement. Simba follows the sun throughout the day, from room to room napping frequently. He always looks relaxed, never revealing that beneath that calm exterior lurks the heart of a tiger. A tiger ready to pounce upon his male rivals the second they lower their guard.

Baron, the sweet and innocent, and  yes naive GSD, is often the scapegoat for any trouble that ensues. As we all know though, life can be unfair.  Mrs. T. (a.k.a.) Queen Bee unjustifiably believes Lord Simba can do no wrong….
Is this kitty looking for trouble??? Well judge for yourself.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Chase

Writers block this morning  leaves me with the option of doing a reprise. Here's a post from my first year of blogging - 2007.  And my last year of upland bird hunting.....

It was late in the pheasant season. The corn and soybean fields were bare.
The pheasants were definitely gun-shy. Chessie (the Chesapeake Bay Retriever) and I were heading home. We were going up a long wash in the cornfield toward a distant wood. I already had one fat rooster and not expecting anything more. I wasn't paying much attention to Chess either. As she crested the hill I noticed that her nose was to the ground, and she was zigging and zagging. This told me she was on to something. I raced to catch up. Then I heard some mad barking. She didn't bark at pheasants. "Oh oh," I thought and hurried even faster. It had to be a skunk or some other kind of trouble. As I crested the top of the draw, it was trouble all right. The very worst kind for any dog in farm country.  Chessie  was streaking full tilt toward the woods after the biggest buck I had ever seen. 

I hollered as loud as I could to no avail. The racing pair tore into the woods.  Then the furious barking seemed to lesson. It didn't seem farther away. It was just a change in tone. Then there were sort of half whimpers. And out of the woods came my dog, with what was no doubt, a very ticked off deer right behind her.....both coming straight towards me.

"Well you see Mr. Game Warden, Sir. This huge deer, with gigantic antlers,  was coming full tilt right at me and was only ten yards away, Sir, I had to shoot it, as my poor helpless little puppy was trembling there defenseless at my feet."

Hmmm.... nobody is going to buy that story.

I fired in the air over Mr. Big Bucks head. He stopped dead, I think noticing me for the first time. He turned his head looking back to the woods, then back at Chess and me. Whereupon, he once again turned toward the woods and slowly walked away.

Well, I'm not a deer psychoanalyst, but I swear, he had to be thinking, “I guess I showed those guys." 

Sweet and lovable Chessie was a great all-around hunter and family dog.  Her forte was the water.  Ice, wind and cold never detered her from retrieving giant Canada geese......

Monday, March 11, 2013

Polar Bears

Arctic Circle (Oct. 2003) -- Three curious  Polar bears approach the starboard bow of the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Honolulu (SSN 718) while surfaced 280 miles from the North Pole. Sighted by a lookout from the bridge (sail) of the submarine, the bears investigated the boat for almost 2 hours before leaving. Commanded by Cmdr. Charles Harris, USS Honolulu while conducting otherwise classified operations in the Arctic, collected scientific data and water samples for U.S. and Canadian Universities as part of an agreement with the Arctic Submarine Laboratory (ASL) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Though the vast majority of glaciers at Glacier Nation Park are gone  and the sea ice in the Artic, essential to the polar bears survival is fast disappering, we can are be reassured that since Rush and his like minded deep thinkers at Fix News are sure global warming is a hoax.... all is well.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

The 21st Century

So Troutbirder has slowly been creeping into the 21st century.  He had already learned the minimal functions of the computer and the cell phone (but no more than minimal - except how to blog). He avoided all the latest pads, players and other techy things, though he was given an e reader for Christmas. Tweeting, twiting, facebooking and the like were not for him.  He had given ebay a try some years ago and thought it too complicated.  Finally,  a breakthrough occurred on Friday. Informed by Mrs. T that a thorough consolidating or eviction was necessary in the garage and shed he thought forlornly of a spring garage sale till someone our friends Stave and Jewell's son in law  (Chris) explained to him the concept of something called Craigs List.  He decided to give it a try……  
By Sunday he had sold an unused electric trolling motor and had several inquiries on a “Vintage” kerosene railroad lantern. Researching how old the lantern for sale actually was even allowed him to delve into the arcane subject of railroad history…J
The kerosene lantern was a portable, efficient light source, that could be easily seen.  Even after electric flashlights began showing up, some railroad workers still preferred the lantern because it lasted longer (i.e. no batteries), gave better light (i.e. the flashlight was too directional), and I've even read about where multiple lamps were used on cold nights to provide for some warmth.  At any rate, lanterns have enjoyed a long history with the railroad and today have become collector items for those fascinated with the railroad as a hobby.

Oh  and the spring garage sale is canceled and Mrs. T. even suggested I should put her “vintage” Zeiss Ikon  camera up for sale. I’m sure old camera collectors in the Rochester, Minnesota area will soon be bombarding me with emails about a deal!  Maybe I can handle the 21st century after all.

Friday, March 8, 2013


Traveling With the Troutbirders:

Some fond memories of a vacation trip to France a few years ago.  We were with our friends Steve and Jewel.   We had left the City Of Light heading north and east towards Normandy and the famous invasion beaches from WWII.  One of the many highlights on the way was a morning in Rouen, the capitol of Upper Normandy. I had been urged by Mrs. T’s cousin Joe to be sure and sample Normandy’s most famous adult beverage - Calvados. Sure enough, the tour program included a visit to a place where apples were converted into the famous beverage.
It was all very interesting but the highlight for me was (given my perverted sense of humor) the "tasting" that followed the tour. It seems the majority of the entourage had missed the part about Calvados being a rather strong apple brandy. Given the gasps and chokes that followed our group toast with the beverage, it seems the majority of people had expected to be imbibing a fruity apple cider!  Chug a lugging was not a good plan

The city of Rouen itself had a long and exciting history. Here the French kings had been crowned and Joan of Arc burned as a heretic by the English. Naturally, we visited the famous cathedral.
Standing in the square, looking back at the church, I recalled that the French impressionist, Claude Monet, had spent many hours here drawing it. His studies of light and shadow fueled much of his later work. As I photographed the church,  standing with a crowd in the square, I had my billfold pickpocketed. Fortunately, my passport and money were safely hanging  under my shirt in a little pouch attached to  a cord from around my neck.  The stolen item was an old billfold I was going to throw away but brought  along and put some Monopoly money in it instead. J
Steve, Jewel and Troutbirder in the town  square at Rouen where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Photographed  by Mrs. T.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Bald Eagles: Then and Now

A feeding immature Bald Eagle in Fillmore County, Minnesota by Mr Science from his and Bobbies blog "Nature Notes."

Historically, eagles did not nest in my home county of Fillmore, Minnesota, which is about sixty miles west from the Upper Mississippi River Valley. Something strange and wonderful has been happening in our county in recent decades regarding the American Bald Eagle.  Since their great recovery after their “almost” extinction from DDT, fifty years ago, the eagles have increasingly been making a home here in Fillmore County.
Everyone knows that Eagles love fish. Lake and river habitats are especially attractive to them. So why should they be moving into the only county in The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes that does not have a single lake in it? The reasons are surely not clear. Population growth and expansion is obviously related. But these magnificent birds are clearly adapting their eating habits as well.  Road kill is very popular with them and they are often seen feeding on deer carcasses or following manure spreaders in the winter. Many deer are shot but not found by hunters in the fall deer hunting season.  My friend, Mr. Science (Gary) speculates that the eagles are replacing the turkey vultures as winter scavengers. The vultures migrate south in the winter.
It’s been, perhaps, thirty some years since I saw my first eagle nest here.  Now our county has dozens of nests scattered throughout. They are found especially in the northern and eastern portions.  In recent weeks the nests have been refurbished and now many of them have eggs and sitting birds. How exciting….

It was a sight it was a sight I had waited years to see....a mature Bald Eagle in the field adjacent to my back yard. The eagle was sitting next to a puddle of water less than 100 yards from my door. Further investigation showed that the melting snow had revealed a deer carcass. Voila! Chow time for our national symbol. 

A short personal history of the fall and return of the Bald Eagle:

Late 1950's - I bought my first canoe for fishing trips down the beautiful St Croix River and into the BWCA. When the eagles disappeared from the St. Croix Valley, it happened in such a way we didn't really notice it at first. There were still a few eagles in the BWCA and the Superior National Forest. Then I read Silent Spring.... and noticed.

The Clean Air and Water Act, the EPA, the banning of DDT and an Endangered Species list followed and began to turn the tide. Finally then we gradually saw them return to the St Croix. Increasing numbers were wintering in the Mississippi River Valley. And then they began to appear here in Fillmore County, about sixty miles from the Big River. I began to see more and more on my trout fishing  days along the streams of Bluff County. Then maybe 20 years ago the first nesting was spotted here on a canoe trip down Bear Creek with Mr. Science. Now birds are overwintering here as well. Wonderful!


Friday, March 1, 2013

How To Get A New Flyrod!

Step 1 Convince you spouse that a 10 day flyfishing trip to southwestern Montana is a really great idea. This requires special negotiating skills as she doesn't fish and cares even less for mountain roads.

Step 2 Drive 950 miles west on I-90 with the popup camper to Big Timber, Montana. Drive an additional 50 miles south, on a rutted gravel road, into the Beartooth-Absaroka Range, on Mt. 298.

The Boulder River is one of Montana's best blue-ribbon trout streams. It can be tough wading (lot of boulders!) but the rainbows, cutthroats, browns and brookies, in a beautiful stream and valley, make it all worth while.

Step 3 Make sure spouse is looking the other way when you pass the big red & yellow THIS IS GRIZZLY COUNTRY SIGN along the road.

Step 4 Set up your camper at Hicks Park, the last campground on the dead end highway.

Step 5 Fix supper. Take a walk to the Road Closed sign. It's a wilderness designation closed  road south to Cook City. Daring locals still make the illegal trip with 4 wheels, winches and chain saws. I'll stick with fishing.

Step 6 Go to bed. Get up early. Dream of the giant brown & rainbow trout in the Boulder River.  Sleep well. Dress quietly so as not to disturb Mrs. T. Ultralite waders, felt bottomed wading boots, flyvest, sunglasses etc. All set except for one thing.

Step 7 Unlock the topper on pickup for your flyrod. OMG! Where is it???? Panic!!!
Step 8 Return to camper......

Mrs. T:  "What's the matter dear? I thought you were going fishing.

Troutbirder: "Well I was but I can't find err. well maybe I ah.... see the flyrod... um

Mrs. T:  "You didn't? You did. One thousand miles to the middle of nowhere and you forgot to bring your  fishing pole."

Troutbirder:  " I wanna go home..."
Mrs. T "No way. Well go back to town and get you another one."
Later:  Fifty miles back down the rutted road and then a left to Livingston Montana. It's the former residence of famous Troutfisherman Ernest Hemmingway and Dan Bailey's troutshop. It was a tough job picking a new
flyrod out from a fabulous collection but I managed to do it.
Moral of the Story: I married an angel.