fishing for words

(and tossing out random thoughts)

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can you say drought?

Photo: Yosemite Falls - dry by Graham JenkinIn a world where only extremes (and extremists) seem to make the news, the above photo is extremely frightening. California’s dry spring, preceded by a very low snowpack, have left Yosemite Falls high and dry. According to the Modesto Bee, drinking water is being packed into the Sunrise High Sierra Camp and showers — always a camping luxury — are being rationed in Tuolumne Meadows. However, as Yosemite falls is barely a whisper of itself, Bridalveil Falls showers the cliffs across the valley.

Photo by Graham Jenkin via Flickr.


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becoming part of (local) history

It was one of the easiest drives over the Carquinez Strait; this morning we were part of a 300-car “First Drive” motorcade on the new north-bound span of the Benicia-Martinez Bridge. Though the morning greeted us with gray overcast, but the sun was shining by the time we were waved by CHP and local police officers through the streets of Martinez, winding through the outskirts of town and past oil refiners. Vehicles ranging from CHP motorcycle escorts (as well as a two white CHP Camaros) to a few vintage cars — some with rumble seats — christened the new George Miller Jr. Bridge. (The late George Miller Jr. served in the California State Assembly from 1947 to 1948, and in the state Senate from 1949 to 1969). And we were part of it. Pretty cool. Something to tell the grandkids…

Pictures here: Benicia Bridge Photo Album
Read More: First cars drive over new Benicia Bridge
See More: New Benicia – Martinez Bridge Now Opened (

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the flying fish confession

This summer I was fishing Rock Creek, in California’s Eastern Sierra Nevada mountains.  I came to this place during five days of camping and fishing, intent upon bringing newfound fly fishing skills to bear upon its finned population.  Since those days I have been haunted by an undisclosed embarrassment.

Despite my trepidation of venturing into these waters without any certainty of christening my fly rod with its first trout, rather frequently and surprisingly I would hook a small wild brook trout.  I can’t help but think that some of these trout discussed before my arrival the idea of obliging this budding fly fisher by hooking themselves.  Some would just as frequently educate me on how fast a wily fish might escape a single barbless hook.  Perhaps these fish apparently weren’t in on the aforementioned discussion.

My strikes were incredibly varied.  Even a poor cast would draw a brookie into a mad rush under the water for my midge.  Another would suck my dry fly from the surface.  Yet another would timidly tap either fly without commitment.

A good many of these members of the species Salvelinus fontinalis charged upstream to investigate one or maybe both of my flies.  But they would stop short of striking.  Perhaps an equal number of brook trout would strike when I was not ready, or distracted, or lulled into the belief they had stopped biting.

Midway through my evening, while making a dry cast, simple laziness allowed my flies to briefly rest in the water’s surface tension.  In the blink of an eye I began a backcast.  As my line lifted from the water, I suddenly felt unusual tension in my pole and in a lazy arc a very small brook trout flew through the air.  I swear his eyes were wide as he splashed down a few feet behind me.  He disappeared in a swirl of irritation. 

I fished on, without drama, catching and releasing a dozen more brook trout.  I didn’t take a fish worth mentioning the rest of the day.

Rather than lament that I can’t brag about the size of my first trout on a fly, I’m content to chuckle — with some embarrassment — at my flying fish.

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gushings from my mind

[Please forgive another free flow of thought prompted by life events.]

The recent death of Benjamin Libet, a neurophysiologist whose pioneering studies of the human brain included an exploration of the nature of free will pushed my mind into overdrive with memories of the age-old debate that extends into academia, philosophy and ethics, theology, metaphysics, and psychology.

Some of Dr. Libet’s experiments involved using electrodes to measure the response times of the brain, and he found, in one case, that when a volunteer was instructed to move a finger, the brain unconsciously initiated the movement even before the volunteer was aware that the finger had begun moving. This might be construed as an indication that “free will” might not exist in humans. However, Dr. Libet’s experiments showed that if his subjects were told not to move a finger, or to stop moving it, the conscious mind will could maintain complete control. As he described it, the conscious mind “…could veto it and block performance of the act.”

The simple idea of retribution, in this world or an afterlife, belies the idea of predestination, or at least rigid predestination, and supports the concept of free will. The thought of retribution is deeply rooted in all religions of which I have knowledge and almost always coexists with teachings that God holds absolute rule over human will through His omnipotence and omniscience. This gives rise to the common idea that “We can’t know God’s plan.”

But why can’t we know God’s plan? Perhaps it is better to ask “How is it that we can’t comprehend an infinite being’s plan?”

In this world we live a linear life. We are born, we live, we die. Within the linearity of our understanding of the universe lies the root of our freedom. We are presented with conditions. Within those conditions exists choices. In free will we are left to make those choices, seemingly on our own. Each choice leads to and defines the conditions of the next.

Assume an omniscient being can know all at once. In such a condition, God would exist outside of time. The future and past alike are simple knowledge. Not memories or foreknowledge; they simply are.

Accepting the idea that God knows all invariably leads to questioning the need for God’s intercession or even the concept of grace (defined as a supernatural help of God for salutary acts). Why would intercession or grace be needed? I would suggest that with infinite knowledge comes the knowledge of what truly requires intercession, returning us to the idea that “We can’t know God’s plan.”

Maybe we humans are simply predestined to choose based on the conditions set upon us.

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spilling my thoughts on parenting

parent (pâr’ənt): 1. n. In the words of journalist Suzanne Gordon, “the identity that can never be shed.”

parenting (pâr’ən-tĭng): 1. n. The act of guiding a growing human being through a succession of increasingly complicated issues for at least 18 years.

requirements of parenting (not in any particular order):

  • Resolve
  • Flexibility
  • Fortitude (Of mind, soul and body.)
  • Patience
  • Wisdom (Often beyond your years.)
  • Sacrifice
  • Bravery
  • Love
  • Humor (Hopefully in abundance.)

beyond shelter, nourishment and education
Hindsight being 20/20, I would say good parenting requires much more than teaching the basic requirements. Sure, the basic expectations start with learning to “go potty” and to cloth and feed one’s self. Hopefully this learning progresses to reading, writing, and independent thinking. Later, the lessons of the world might wander into the picture, including respecting others, nurturing relationships, and dealing with and overcoming hostility, disappointment, anger and sadness. All this time we have to understand that during this learning a child may be bruised — physically, mentally and emotionally — along the way. All we can do is tend to those injuries as best we can.

During this process the rewards for a parent are sometimes a series of extraordinary challenges: worrying about a child’s safety and well-being; balancing our own frustration and sometimes anger with a child’s often erratic needs; supporting and giving despite no “please” or “thank you.” Then, after all this, we must let go.

letting go
We can’t let go. I’ve decided that it is simply impossible. The parent-child relationship will always exist. However, we can shift the responsibility for an adult child’s life from ourselves to them. The adult child may or may not accept this transference. If they don’t, we are left to acknowledge that the acceptance of this responsibility may sit in limbo for days, weeks, months, years or the rest of an adult child’s life. This requires the learning of a new skill: resisting the temptation to reclaim the responsibility for an adult child’s life.

And so, with an adult child, I see it coming full circle. Once again, we may be asked to tend to some bruising along the way. But the hope is that the subtle difference, as in all adult-to-adult relationships, will be in the asking.

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another boy and his (first) car

This weekend I drove my son Sean some 200 miles to find this first car, which ended up being less than 15 miles away from home. But in the end he kept a streak of Honda ownership alive with a 1994 Honda Civic LX sedan.  (That should make his maternal grandfather proud!)

Hondas in general and Civic specifically attract a rather fanatical community ranging from teenage kids bent on building upon their dreams of being the next big tuner/racer/drifter to the more practical citizen simply looking for a reliable commuter car. I think we got lucky with this one, swooping in before any other buyer showed up with cash in hand. Particularly considering that this 13-year-old Civic has amazingly low 97,000-some miles on it. Even more amazing is that it was purchased in Chicago and driven here (California).
This little car is a far cry from my first car — a 1971 VW Beetle. I hope that Sean will offer thanks every time he cranks up the air conditioning or sets the cruise control. Of course, car ownership has thrust him into another aspect of adulthood…with the pride comes a price: new tires, new timing belt and water pump (a must on any small car) and dealing with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Sean’s 1994 Civic LX

I’m hoping this car turns out to be a good find. We only happened upon it after a long-delayed e-mail response to an ad; and then only because we still had yet to drive through the city in which it was located. You can see the picture that was in the ad to the right. Stay tuned, however, I might post some more once Sean washes and waxes it, assuming he’ll stop driving it long enough for a picture.

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i’m someone now

My PassportI’m someone now, darn it, and I can leave the county. Better yet, I can come back.

Got my passport this week with the requisite identification numbers and the RFID and the photo that makes me look like a thug. Took a few days before I was flashing it around the house like police offier’s badge. Can’t knock the feds too much…it took less time to get here than I was told to expect and my name was spelled correctly. 

Now, time for some passport humor:

     An elderly gentleman of 83 arrived in Paris by plane. At the French customs desk, the man took a few minutes to locate his passport in his carry-on bag.
     “You have been to France before, monsieur?” the customs officer asked sarcastically.
     The elderly gentleman admitted he had been to France previously.
     “Then you should know enough to have your passport ready.”
     The American said, “The last time I was here, I didn’t have to show it.”
     “Impossible. Americans always have to show passports on arrival in France !”
     The American senior gave the Frenchman a long, hard look.
     Then he quietly explained “Well, when I came ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day in June of 1944 to help liberate this country, I was a little busy. Besides, I couldn’t FIND any Frenchmen to show it to.”

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pH and trout

Eagle Lake TroutHigh pH and trout don’t mix. Learned via Sep Hendrickson’s California Sportmen radio show (via podcast) that the California DFG has instituted a “voluntary catch and keep” recommendation for Eagle Lake trout. The combination of hot weather and low-water conditions has elevated the pH of Eagle Lake, which is commonly in the 8.4 to 9 range, to more than 9.2. This flies in the face of the catch and release practice encouraged in many fisheries but has a basis in science.

Eagle Lake, near Susanville, Calif., is a natural lake reliant on snow melt from Lassen Nation Park’s Thousand Lakes area as well as springs. When the lake falls below 5,106 feet in elevation, thanks to our limited water supply this year, the pH rises with the water temperature. While Eagle Lake trout can live —— through stressed — in a pH of up to 9.8, above a pH of 9.2 it becomes a caustic solution can erode the mucous membranes covering the gills of the trout. Normally, this isn’t a problem. However, after a fight, gills in an eroded condition cannot transpire the gases and oxygen a trout requires to survive after a build up of lactic acid in its muscles. Without healthy mucous membranes, the capillaries in the gills can burst at an unseen microscopic level, virtually guaranteeing that a played out fish will die within 48 hours.