Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Monday, September 28, 2020

Trout Fishing Newbie

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, September 26, 2020

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....:) Some years later know from the original post and with Mrs. T gone to her final reward, I continue with the downsizing project. At the rate its going another 50 years or so the job should be complete!

Sunday, September 20, 2020


In 1960 as I graduated from high school in St. Paul  the first trees were identified with the Dutch elm disease. The  trees over arched most of the city streets& sheltered all.  Ten years later Minneapolis  and St. Paul lost virtually all of their street trees. Crews had removed tens of thousands of diseased elms to slow the spread . All to no avail .Eventually elms throughout the state were under attack & only a scattered few in the woods here and there survived.  I live on Oak Hill Drive in SpringValley, Minnesota and a large tree died in our woods this summer, so without looking close I assumed that it was an oak tree. Wrong. It was an ELM. Age &comon sense mean I don' cut down huge trees any more . A local tree service did the job that elm tree must've been around the hundred feet tall. Take a look.

The last of the iconic Giant elms fell in my woods
and on the same day another giant fell. Supreme court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her landmark decisions opened up a new world of   opportunity for those previously excluded. 

Towards a more perfect union with equal justice for all. My son & family

Saturday, September 12, 2020

River Boat Captain

Fifty Five and Alive teaches one should be at least one car length behind the car in front of you for each ten miles per hour your going.   This is safety planning ahead for an unexpected stops or evasive maneuvers.  It’s the same way on the Mississippi when your piloting one of those long river barges.  Or as I explained to granddaughter Miss. Tensae  who was operating a giant screen simulator at the River Museum in Dubuque, Iowa, “it takes a mile to stop this puppy so you need to plan ahead.  Let’s not hit any bridges.”
She was a natural,  with her Dad and older brother watching in the pilot house, we breezed all the way downriver to St. Louis quite safely.....

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Passions and poetry

Passion and poetry

the passions of our life can come at most any stage. My first as doubtless is true for most boys was my mom. I’ve often been struck in reading war novels upon recognizing their impending death the young warriors most often cry out for their mothers. I was always a mama’s boy till the day she died. She was a saint and my role model for values and behavior. I didn’t always live up to her standards in many areas but I knew she would be disappointed when I had done wrong. She brought me to the St. Paul library when I was three years of age. There in the children’s room began my lifelong love of books which continues to this day as a great passion. Reading a lot I believe made a writer out of me and a storyteller as well. Those abilities were rewarded in high school by all my English teachers with praise and recognition. I live for that praise today through the venue of my blogs and book reviews. Since I do that for free it obviously is a passion that rewards itself. Hobbies can also develop into  passions and the following poem by author Robert Trevor is an example from my own life. I'm going trout fishing in the woods today. Would you like to come along?

These small valley's are carved by spring fed streams. Limestone bluff on one side, hardwood forest on the other. Feel how cold the water is. The trout thrive here.

Insect hatches often come off the riffles. Trout feed on them. But not today. I'll fish the quiet pools and deep edges along the banks. It so quiet here in the woods. I rarely see anyone else. Let's sit on the bank and listen. Sometimes a doe and a fawn can be seen coming down for a drink.  In the spring there are warblers everywhere. Well, the fish weren't biting today. Still, I don't think our time was wasted. Do you?

I must add that I loved my teaching career best but fly fishing was my favorite outlet. People would occasionally as me what the attraction was and I had a hard time putting it into words.  Famous Michigan Judge and fifties novelist Robert Traver (Anatomy of a Murder) said it best.....

I fish because I love to. Because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly. Because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape. Because in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing what they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion. Because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed, or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility, and endless patience. Because I suspect that men are going this way for the last time and I for one don't want to waste the trip. Because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters. Because in the woods I can find solitude without loneliness. ... And finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important, but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant and not nearly so much fun.”


Friday, September 4, 2020


Okay , I will confess that my use of  my next favorite poem Shelley’s OZYMANDIAS in the wisdom of hindsight may be a bit over-the-top. In the wake of George Bush II the seconds ill advised and ineptly run assault on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in search of weapons of destruction that did not exist, well the facts were wrong and the advice was worse. I thought at the time he would go down in history as one of our worst presidents by far. Needless to say given what we have in the White House at the present makes Bush look a whole lot better. And added to that when he left the office he refused in good conscience to turn around and say one single word against Obama who followed him. I would say on that alone he was and is an honorable former president

You have a bad toothache and its a few days before you can see the dentist. It hurts and you find your tongue unconsciously reaching for the spot and it hurts even more. Mrs. T dropped me off at the barbershop in Rochester and after finishing my business and still awaiting her return,  I headed around the corner for something to do.  Thus,  I found myself in the Goodwill store  picking up a few books at a super bargain price.  There was the classic The Call of the Wild by Jack London read long ago as a teenager. Then I found The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Having recently read her new novel Flight Behavior I wanted more.  The State of Denial by Bob Woodward was next to be dropped in the basket.  Yes it was the later that caused the pain. I knew it would be painful to read yet  I still took it home.  After reading the book I decided that  it was Woodward  who was in a State Of Denial about his two earlier sycophantic books about the Bush II administration. He appeared to be trying to make up for previous blunders.  It was  sort of a  novelistic, gossipy, fly on the wall type of documentary reporting.  The book also  contained a lot of trivia (did we really need to know Bush and Cheney liked to trade fart jokes at important meetings) , yet it also brought forth  an  overpowering indictment of the arrogance and incompetence of Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney,What a tragic farce it all was…..

The book was published praised and condemned in 2006. I had already intuited much of what was going on and being covered up in Iraq before this book came out.  In one of the few “political” posts I ever put on Troutbirder I came up with the following post.  Rather than discuss this poorly written book and its ultimate truths about the Iraq war, I’ll simply repeat what I wrote then…….

It is said that the great English poet Shelley was
visiting the British Museum in London when he

and his wife Mary (the author of Frankenstein)
came upon a relic of Ramses II. Stolen from

Egypt it remains in the museum today. This allegedly
inspired him to write Ozymandis. One of my
all-time favorite poems:

"I met a traveller from an antique land

Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in the desert. Near them,

on the sand,Half sunk,

a shattered visage lies,

whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer

of cold command.

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,Which yet survive,

stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them,

and the heart that fed,

And on the pedestal these words appear:

"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:

Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"

Nothing beside remains.Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck,

boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.

I think this spare poem will stand well in the future quite well for our autocrat loving and cowardly president who will reside alone in the trash can of failed  American presidents