Monday, May 28, 2007


"We think of them with lasting gratitude; we miss them with lasting love; and we pray for them. And we trust in the words of the Almighty God, which are inscribed in the chapel nearby: 'I give unto them eternal life, that they shall never perish.' God bless."
George W. Bush, speaking on Memorial Day 2002
from the Normandy American Cemetary

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More Smallmouth Therapy

Heading to Florida tomorrow to take care of some business, and evidently I was in need of some river therapy today as my wife ordered me to go fishing. Being the obedient type, I went. I thought these pictures were kind of cool. The water wasn't quite clear enough for good underwater shots, but I took advantage of the waterproof camera to try and get an interesting point of view.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Project Healing Waters 1st Annual 2-Fly!

Project Healing Waters helps wounded members of our armed forces rehabilitate their bodies and minds by teaching and participating in fly fishing and fly tying. The PHW first annual 2-Fly tournament and fundraiser was held yesterday at the beautiful Rose River Farm in Syria, Virginia. The weather was perfect and we had a great turnout. So many volunteer man-hours go into putting something like this together you could never calculate it! But the day was a huge success. Here are a few photos from the day... (above is all the wounded warriors who participated in yesterday's event.)

Flyfishin' Picks Preakness, Toots Horn

This might just look like a piece of paper with a bunch of marks on it. But what it really is, is a Good Day. Friday night before Preakness I printed this out, along with the past performances of all the horses running at Pimlico Saturday, and I made my picks. There were no odds listed, so I didn't know if I was picking favorites or longshots. My handicapping capability is sketchy at best, but I like to try it anyway.

So the red numbers on the side are my pics, small numbers next to the larger red numbers are my second choice for some of the races. Circled numbers are horses that won, horizontal lines lost and X's were scratched and didn't run. So take out the two scratches and I picked 7 of 11 winners on the day. If you're not familar with horse racing, I am on solid ground stating that is Not Bad.

The 12th race, the Preakness, was awesome. I liked Curlin (see my last post!) with a Curlin/Street Sense exacta. Winning early in the day allowed me to bet that race pretty heavily (for me). The stretch run at Pimlico is so long, it provides an incredible amount of excitement when two horses are battling it out. When Curlin and Street Sense passed us, maybe thirty yards left till the finish, I knew I had the exacta but really wanted that Curlin win bet. I was sure I had it and screamed till I lost my voice. The replay, though, was much closer than I expected! But in a very short time they put the 4 horse on top of the 8, and combined for my best Preakness day ever. Some more pictures...

Curlin's jockey Robby Albarado celebrates a hard fought victory...

Curlin and grooms after the race...

Infield mayhem...

You've said it all...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Triple Crown This Year?

I was impressed with Street Sense in the Derby, and he'll certainly see some of my money tomorrow. But I think early Derby favorite but then quickly forgotten Curlin (pictured above) might win tomorrow's Preakness. (Keep in mind, my Derby pick finished 8th.)

I've been attending the Preakness for something like sixteen years. It's one of my favorite days of the year. I always look forward to seeing some of the same people in our section year after year. We have great seats, but always take a tour of the madness that is Pimlico's infield. Don't worry, I will bring my camera!

Good luck, Street Sense and Curlin! I'll take that exacta either way, but I always root for a shot at the Triple Crown!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Holy Crap.

I was behind a stunningly beautiful car today. I didn't recognize the logo, so I got up next to it, close enough to see 'DB9' on the back, and a luxurious leather and amazing wood interior getting ruined by cigar smoke from the midlife crisis havin' driver. I looked it up when I got back to a computer and it's made by Aston Martin. The price tag is about what you'd expect by looking at the car: Out of range. You can get one for about $170,000.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

This Counts as Church

Today was the kind of Sunday I needed very badly. A beautiful day, spent with a friend, surrounded by nature. The fishing was not stellar, but the therapeutic value of the day can not be underestimated. I needed to stand in cool water and warm sun, and feel the tug of life at the end of the line. This, without question, counts as church for me.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Mother's Day Tribute

My Mother passed away last night, suddenly, though she had multiple health problems. Last year for Mother's Day I wrote this for her, and it pleased me greatly to see that she had it framed and hanging in her bedroom. This year the gift becomes a tribute. Odd place for it, maybe, but this journal is about who I am, and I am that person because of my Mom.

I recently held a hummingbird in my hand. He had accidentally flown into a window and fallen, unconscious, on the ground in front of a busy doorway. He looked like nothing, upside down, his white belly close to the color of the concrete beneath. But something made me look closer, and when I picked him up he moved a bit.

I moved him away from the human traffic, and sat on a nearby bench. Alive. Stunned, but with no visible injuries. His eyes opened, and I gave him the opportunity to fly from my open hand. He politely declined, and with an invisible gesture asked for a little more time to gather his wits. I assured him – by holding my hands in a way that he was protected and secure, but could leave if he chose to – that this was now the most important thing in my day, and if he needed all day he could have it.

So we sat there. Him clearing cobwebs and me just thinking, how lucky for me to have the opportunity to hold a hummingbird in my hands. How lucky for this bird that I came along.

My thoughts drifted back many, many years. Back to the house I grew up in, back to an injured bird in the gutter in front of that house, and back to my Mother. A shoebox, some paper towels, a lamp. It was exciting, I thought, to have part of the outside world sitting here in a box on the dining room table. I asked her how long before the bird would be better. She was a nurse, after all, clearly she knew how to fix a bird.

I wanted to name it.

When she told me that she wasn’t confident the bird would get better (it wouldn’t), I remember instantly distancing myself from the bird emotionally. I felt like I had dodged a bullet narrowly by being moments away from deciding on a name.

My Mother, of course, saw instantly what I was doing and we had what stands now as my Earliest Remembered Meaningful Conversation. She asked, as a nurse, what would happen if she stopped caring about patients who were not getting better? Patients who were going to die? They needed her more than ever during those times.

I was young, I don’t recall how young. And I don’t recall the words she used to express and make me understand compassion. And Lord only knows how she made it be a part of me. But that’s how it is with these things. You can’t identify how it is that your Mother makes you who you are, exactly. But you know that she did.

And now so many years later, on Mother’s Day, I think about how at many other moments in my life my Mother taught me. Showed me. Shaped me. Held me, protected me, and gave me room to fly away. And I hope she knows that I noticed. That I remember. That the only thing I really forget is to thank her, and for that I am sorry.

With a big smile and a full heart, I watched my hummingbird finally gather himself, walk with his little feet to the edge of my palm, and fly away.

I am my Mother’s son. For that I’m glad and for that I’m proud. Happy Mother’s Day.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Driftwood Sculpture

England's Heather Jansch Makes amazing horse (and other) sculptures out of driftwood. I get, as everyone gets, a ton of crap forwarded to me via email, but these really caught my eye. Beautiful. Visit this web site and see many more great sculptures.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

100th Post

Hey I just noticed that last entry was my 100th post! Thanks to everyone who has ever stopped by here, even if you were one of the hundreds of people who arrived as a result of a google image search for "Christina Ricci Panties."

Sunday, May 06, 2007

First Smallies of the Year!

Today was going to be the day I took my brand new Sage Z-Axis -- and some new techniques -- to the river to try for the first smallmouth of the season. But I woke up with a touch of that flu I always get the day after enjoying a wedding reception. The combination of that and the fact that it was really, really windy, almost caused me to bag it. But early afternoon rolled around and I just had to try this rod out, wind or not.

In addition to the new rod, which is much heavier than the 5 weight I've been fishing for smallies with (the Z-axis is a 7 weight), I am also trying a series of poly leaders I got from Cabelas. Seven different sink rates, they are five feet long and then the last 12 or 18 inches is just regular leader. In the interest in trying to preserve that leader end as long as possible, I decided to use a small barrel swivel at the end, then I tied about 18" of 3X tippet to the fly end.

The best way to test this new setup, I thought, was to fish where I am most familiar and comfortable. This meant the Shenandoah River near Harpers Ferry, WV. The WV fishing license, without a trout stamp, for a non-resident was $49! But I fish there a lot, so you gotta do what you gotta do. I parked, geared up, walked out to my first of several favorite spots, and waded out a ways.

I put on a white and red streamer my buddy Matt recently gave me, took some line out, and made a down and across cast into a seam that had produced fish for me before. I let the streamer swing at the end of its reach, began stripping it in and BAM! I caught the first smallmouth of the year on the very first cast with my new smallmouth weapon!! He wasn't that big, and the glare was in the camera so I couldn't see the display. Bottom line: I didn't get a good picture. But at that moment, that Sage rod caught a fish every single time it had been cast into water.

As you might have guessed, things cooled off a bit after that start. But I worked my way downstream to my other go-to spots, each of them giving me at least one fish. I got down to the downstream end of my tour, just short of where the Shenandoah dumps into the Potomac, an area with much deeper pools than the rest of the stretch I was fishing. I decided to try a leader that sank a little faster, so I made the switch, put the same fly back on made one cast and WHAM! Really nice fish took off running with that streamer, and made several acrobatic displays in the air before he was ready to come in. I didn't get a picture of him either, but he was really nice and meaty. He slipped away while I was fumbling with the camera.

Already I considered the day a huge success, but it kept getting better. Every hole I went to produced a fish, but none produced more than two. Finally got some photos, too. I changed flies many times but every one of the 7 or 8 fish I got today took this same streamer. I will be stocking up on those!

All in all, a really enjoyable afternoon. The rod worked great in the wind. I was worried that the 7 weight wouldn't be as much fun as the 5 with a fish on, but this 9'6" rod is quite sensitive, and these larger smallmouth were a LOT of fun with this rod. And the quality of fish that I caught today was remarkable. I don't catch huge 20" smallmouth like I've seen pictures of, fish like the one at the top of this post are as big as I've ever caught, and I caught three that size today. I am hopeful and optimistic this is going to be an exciting smallmouth season!

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Does that count?

Okay, I missed another Derby pick. But my wife, as she has done several times before, picked -- and bet -- Street Sense to win. My horse, Any Given Saturday, came in eighth. Oh well. I loved how excited the jockey for Street Sense was, and that horse came from nineteenth to first. Impressive.

Can't win 'em all.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Flyfishin' Derby Pick!

Well I never get this right. But this year my Kentucky Derby pick is Any Given Saturday. Trained by Todd Pletcher, this horse has the blood of some of my favorite race horses of all time running through his veins: A.P. Indy, Spectacular Bid, Seattle Slew.

I could be wrong, like I said, I usually am when it comes to big races. But it's a thrill when you get it right, and if you see Any Given Saturday wearing roses this Saturday, you might find some new fly fishing product reviews on my blog next week!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Z-Axis Arrives!

My Sage Z-Axis arrived today and it is beautiful. 9'6" 4-piece 7-weight. It's a perfect match with my Orvis Battenkill Large Arbor IV (a discontinued size that was always too small for my 8-weight) loaded with Rio Grand fly line. A little time in the wind in the back yard when I got home gave me reason to be optimistic that it won't take me long at all to get used to this fast action rod.

I hope to get it wet this Sunday. I can't believe I haven't been smallmouth fishing yet this season! But now that I have this new toy, I will not be able to resist. Rain or shine, I will be taking this work of art on the river this weekend.