Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Monday, November 25, 2013

Halloween Memories

Our home on Oak Hill was the first to be built there in 1959.  We bought it as our first home in 1970.  By that time there were about 6 houses  along the new circle drive. Within several decades another 25 woodlots were sold and new home s were built. Each morning as our two sons climbed on the school bus it was about half filled with other kids. The neighborhood slowly changed as kids grew up and moved on with their lives. 
It's 1974 and our four year old eldest son Ted is ready for his first Halloween outing....

 We built a new home, selling our old house, dividing our three acres and moving next door into the woods.  Lots of empty nesters here in the neighborhood now. This year for Halloween we had only one trick or treater.  It was James Bond…. I mean William. He’s growing up on a nearby farm.   How fast times change.            


Friday, November 22, 2013

Trout Fishing

I am occasionally asked how I got started tying trout flies. When I first came to teach in the only county in The Land of 10,000 Lakes without a lake, I wasn’t ready to give up fishing. Going after stream trout was the only solution. I did, however, have a bamboo fly rod, which I inherited from my father. I had previously used it strictly for bass and pan fishing. The lure of choice on those northern lily-pad lakes was the little cork poppers with the wiggly rubber legs.

I quickly set off to teach myself how to become a trout-fisherman. It didn’t take long to learn that I would need some real trout flies. I bought a nice selection at the local Kmart. They were gorgeous. Bright reds, yellows and greens and even purples, mixed delicately with shiny silver tinsels and golds. How could any self-respecting fish turn down such an offering? Although I rarely caught my limit of ten, I usually managed to catch a least a couple.

It might take all day but my young bride was so proud of my ability to bring home a couple for the frying pan. This, of course, was in the days before "catch and release" became the proper approach to preserve the species.

It was a beautiful June morning, when about noon, I had decided to give it up. The fishing had been especially tough that morning and I had only one ten inch brown to show for my efforts. As I came around the bend I saw another fisherman landing a very nice trout which he quickly released. He saw me approach and waved.

"Nice brown," I ventured.

"Ephermellia," was the reply.

"Say what?"

"You know. Nymphs. They’ve been hot all morning," he explained as I approached.

"How you doing?" he added.

"Well,  I lost a couple and caught a brown, but it’s been tough going."

"Whatcha been using?" he queried.

I showed him my fly box.

"Those sure are purty. Got em at Kmart didn’t you?

"I sure did. How’d you know?

"I work there. Actually, I’m the manager. I have to admit though those flies are more intended to catch fisherman than trout."

And with that he showed me several boxes of the most drab and ugly collection of brown and/or gray flies you could imagine.

"I caught maybe 50 to 75 this morning on these. Turned them all loose though. It’s just for fun. You’ll have to learn how to tie your own." He then gave me about a dozen of his sure fire flies and sent me on my way.

I later bought a "How To," book and a fly tying kit. I still shop occasionally at my long gone mentors’ store, fondly remembering his lesson. As in life, perhaps,  the most gaudy isn’t always the best.

On the Lamar River, Yellowstone National Park, 1979. And a cutthroat trout.

Yes, I had a lot to learn judging by those hip waders a volunteer fireman gave me. The rocks in the western streams were covered with algae which made them as slippery as greased bowling balls.  Eventually,  I even learned about proper chest waders with felt on the bottoms of the boots for better traction.  Today, with achy knees and less balance that I should have, I don’t fly fish as much as I used to, still the memories are all  strong as ever from those glorious days of yore…..:)

Saturday, November 16, 2013


"It's Not Just Another Meat Museum" the big billboard on I-90 going into Austin, Minnesota and Hormel's Spam Museum surely isn't.  All this turned out to be true as Gramma
T and son Tony took the kids to the iconic little canned meat mecca. Take a look.....
Yes indeed.  The letter that eldest grandson is standing in front of, from Supreme Commander and future President Dwight David Eisenhower, suggests that feeding the Allied troops with Spam played a major role in defeating the Nazis in World War II. Oh and Grandpa Troutbirder likes it too.....;)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Devils Lake

Sometimes people do strange things like climb the world’s tallest most dangerous mountains because they’re there. Well,  we recently, with our friends John and Joann, took the overnight Amtrak from Winona, Minnesota to Devils Lake, North Dakota because it’s there and we could. 

Devils Lake is a town in northeastern North Dakota and it has a lake of the same name. It’s the second largest lake in the State behind the giant reservoir Sakakawea.  It’s special because like the energizer bunny it just keep on going and growing.  It’s growing as in it was  forty thousand square acres a decade ago and now over it's 240,000 acres and in the process of drowning out hundreds of farms, roads, and even towns.   The lake, now having almost reached the maximum overflow height of its closed basin, threatens serious flooding downstream in Minnesota and Manitoba, Canada. There are were and remain big legal controversies.  We checked it all out.
Another big attraction in the Devil Lake area we visited was Sullys Hill, a National Game Preserve.  Established originally in 1904 by President Theodore Roosevelt as a National Park, it was designated by Congress in 1914 as a big game preserve to conserve two of North America's most majestic species: American bison and elk.  The bison was almost extirpated  from its original millions and the elk range drastically reduced and entirely so from North Dakota. 
John, Joanne and Barb take a break on the steep climb to the top of Sully's Hill for a grand view of the surrounding countryside. 
And as the sun set a monster bull elk stepped out onto the road ride in front of us.  Wow!!!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Craigs List

It was time to downsize, I thought.  Simplify really.  At a certain stage of life those thoughts cross ones mind.  Mrs. T wasn’t sold on the idea but with a garage and shed full of unused stuff, my time, at least had come. She suggested a “guys” garage sale. I wasn’t convinced there’d be a lot of interest plus I never went to garage sales myself. I already had too much junk…..

It was then that a friend suggested I try something called “craigslist.”  I didn't know Craig but the fact that it was free easily swung me over.  Now several months  and some six hundred dollars later,  in pure profit,  I’m minus  among other things, two electric trolling motors, a balky chain saw, a wall safe, a kerosene lantern, a hundred canning jars,  a Zeiss Ikon 35mm camera, a giant Christmas cactus, a set of golf clubs, Mr. Coffee Espresso etc….  And one item withdrawn from the market at the express wish of my son.  Therein lies the tale.

It was Christmas Eve 1949. My cousin Prudy and I stood proudly in front of the Christmas tree, in my grandma’s house in St. Paul, holding up our presents for all to see. Mine was a 027 gauge Lionel electric train. It doesn’t get any better than that. Thus began a lifelong interest in trains.  
When my sons were young I built a fancy layout on an old ping pong table with switches, train stations, a mountain and tunnel made out of Styrofoam, in other words it had everything. Neither son seemed  to impressed. They were too busy with the outdoor life and school activities.  I played with it myself except when a friend, the high school physics teacher, brought out his American Flyer 07 train.  More recently I mentioned my new found success and interest in Craigs List.  “You can’t sell that train Dad. It’s a family heirloom. I love playing with it….”   This all came as news to me. Needless to say the train and all the trimmings is on it's way by mail to Arizona.  Well maybe the grandchildren  will play with it....:)

Thursday, November 7, 2013


It was some 18 years ago now the phone range with a fateful call from my son in Fargo, North Dakota.
Tony:  Hey Dad! How ya doing?
Troutbirder: Hi Tony!  We're doing good. What's up?
Tony:  Well..... I forgot Mom's birthday call and present. 
Troutbirder:  Ah. No big deal I'll put her on the phone and you can talk to her. Send the present later.
Tony: Ok. But....
Troutbirder:  But what?  ( Long Pause) 
Tony:  A kitten!
Troutbirder:  "NO!  No way. I forbid it."  With Muffy  my oddly named Chesapeake Bay Retriever on hand and the fact that I didn't particularly care for cats,  this was a non starter.
Tony:  Let me talk to Mom.......

And so now 18 years later Simba, ruler of his Oak Hill domain, has gone to his Final Reward.  He was friendly and curious, calm yet brave, keeping several large dogs (Muffy and Baron) in their proper place.  Much beloved by Barb and Ray and now sadly  missed. 

Tony and Baron
Simba and two friends

Sunday, November 3, 2013

North Dakota Potatoes

We, with our friends John and Joanne, took an overnight train trip (on Amtrak) to Devils Lake North Dakota.  Mainly to take a look at the amazing expansion of that lake in the last decade. More on that in a later post. Northeastern North Dakota has long been famous for sugar beets and potatoes. It so happens Johns cousin is a former manager of a potato "house" (storage facility).  Just in time for the harvest we were invited to take a look.  To my astonishment, I as even allowed to climb aboard a giant machine where big trucks were unloading the harvest.....
French fries anyone?