Monthly Archives: October 2014

The One Day Fishin’ Expedition

Note – I wrote this 8 years ago for my father… thought maybe to submit  it to a fishing magazine… but  it was lost… luckily Dad printed and saved a hard copy. 

Yesterday went fishin’ with Dad… a lifelong  fishing enthusiast/fanatic… building his own fly fishing poles and  tying every one of his own flies. He taught me how to fish when I was a mere 3 years old and to tie flies at 6. A few years ago Dad presented me with a box of flies tagged with dates, that I had tied at 4 – 6 years old. Even with that beginning, I  wish I could say I shared his dedication to fishing.

At 50 something, I am not even remotely a dedicated fisherman… picking up a fishing pole once or maybe twice a year to spend time with my Dad. I would not know the difference between a “rapalla”, “spoon” or “red devil”… that they are all fishing lures is all I can say. I know the difference between a “dry” and a “wet” fly but, other than that I would not know how to even begin to guess what kind of, color of, or size of lure or fly to tie on my line. I count on Dad for that important information.. that is until the time comes for me to change, mostly because I have “lost” the fly or lure due to a mishap like… well, read on…

When I need another fly, I rely on my time tested (but not too successful) method of looking in the box of flies and asking, “If I were a fish today what would look yummy?” It never ceases to make me chuckle … but also seldom results in the catching of a fish. Nope, fishing for me is a way to spend time with the man who did so much (and still does) for me… doing the thing he loves best. As for me I can take or leave the sport … which may explain my very low “catch rate”. I often quip to Dad and anyone else who will listen… that MY definition of a successful day fishing is one in which the fish leave me alone. I am sure I stole that line from someone…

DADFISHIN

So, the One Day Fishing Expedition story begins… 8 am and we are on the road… of course the requisite sandwiches, snacks and day ending beers are packed in the cooler. We head to the Sweetwater River, although from my parents’ house it is a fifteen minute drive to the Popo Agie River and a 30 – 40 minute drive to Louis Lake in the mountains … from either place we could jump out of the truck and in 5 minutes “drop “ a line and start fishin’… NOPE! … in my family the “DAD (and all my uncles) Way” is to have a few “SECRET” fishing spots that only privileged friends and relatives are taken to. It is to one of these spots we go today… as he and I do every year when I visit. We drive 40 miles over South Pass and then 15-20 miles on an ever-worsening dirt road to a dead end on the banks of the Sweetwater River arriving an hour and a half after our departure from home.  We don our fishing gear… hats, waders vests, creels, etc. set up our poles and then set out hiking yet another 1/2 hour up to the “secret” spot.

Finally Dad says, “You start here, I ‘m goin’ up stream a bit”… and off he plods another few hundred meters. The plan is: we will fish our way back to the truck.

As soon as Dad is out of sight I am transformed into the little kid who wants only to “catch the big one” and garner my father’s approval…but I expect that as usual I will have no better luck at this spot any more than all the other “SECRET” spots visited over the years… which means my luck is usually “NO LUCK”… translated that means that the “strike” ( where a fish tries to bite the fly) is rare and me actually hooking , fighting and landing the fish is akin to winning the lottery.

So it is with surprise that after the third or fourth cast I watch a fish dart out from under the bank and “strike” my fly… so unprepared for that rare event I react too slowly and the fish returns to his repose under the bank (after figuring out that what he was biting was not healthy for him). He learned quicker than I, and would not rise to my  repeated offers of the same fly… and so it went from there…

For the next hour and a half I spent 2/3’s of my time engaged in my “favorite” fishing activity… disentangling my line and fly from various trees, bushes, underwater snags and rocks that have been unfortunate enough to be near me and my casts. Usually I lose 2 or 3 of dad’s flies every time we fish… and I end up feeling like I did as a kid… hopeless, helpless and raging with embarrassment. No wonder dad ties flies all winter long… building up stock for me to lose. I vow “TODAY I may not catch a fish BUT, I will NOT lose a fly!” I carefully sort out the snags, wade the river back and forth to recover the fly, time and time again.

At least Dad is upstream far enough so as not to see my antics… UNTIL a particularly MEAN and NASTY willow bush grabs up my line. Dad comes around the river bend as I am peering to see where my fine monofilament line is going in the bush. From the other side of the river he yells, “HERE, USE THIS” and tosses something across to my side of the river. It is a gadget that he has made that attaches to the end of a fishing pole with a large triple hook attached to some heavy nylon string… it looks like a grappling hook… AHA! I put the device on the pole … grapple the  branch …use the nylon line to pull it down … untangle the fly line and fly. “NEAT device”… worked like a charm”, I yell. But, dad has moved downstream ahead of me. I admire his ingenuity… and suddenly realize that in all the (50 some) years I have gone fishing with Dad, he has always had the tool, device, gadget to get me out of trouble every time I got in… AND not one of those things looked new or unused. In a flash of insight I realize that Dad has had to contend with all the same situations too… ONLY after years and years of practice he avoids most of the embarrassing situations without a thought… Maybe there was hope for me yet.

I had been two hours on the river and yet to lose a fly… even though a breeze was blowing (a breeze can feel like a gale when you are trying to cast a 1/4 oz fly on a hair thin monofilament line , 25 feet across a river) I seemed to be getting the fly to go where I wanted. I saw a likely looking hole near a semi submerged bush (a potential snag). “There must be a nice fish in that hole” I thought and decided to try and entice him out… the first cast hit the water perfectly upstream where I wanted and floated just in front of the snag and across the hole… WOW!… second cast and again the cast hit the water perfectly upstream and floated just in front of the snag and across the hole… DOUBLE WOW!… a third cast … the same. Maybe there wasn’t a fish in that hole … but one more cast … just to make sure. I was feeling smug.  As I wound up for the cast, dad rounded the corner … I let loose and ZAP… snagged! My face flushing with embarrassment, anger and frustration, I cussed as I waded the river once more. The fly was snagged under the bush so I delicately balanced and reached under, using the line to guide my hand to the fly… and the line broke. MY first fly of the day LOST! … SH…ugar! Thankfully Dad had, by then, moved on.

I sat down and used my time honored/not too successful fly selection method… “WHAT looks YUMMY?”… The new fly performed as usual as an hour passed without a nibble… I decided to select another tempting treat from the box of flies. Dad once again emerged from around the bend… so I asked what he would try… “This one”, he said and moved on.

30 minutes passed and having once again leap-frogged dad, I spied a snag and a hole right behind it… I could almost imagine a neon arrow point to the hole flashing “FISH…FISH…FISH” . I set up and casted between the snag and the hole… the fly landed perfectly, drifted to the hole … SURE ENOUGH.. a medium sized brown trout darted out and hit the fly… I jerked the pole to set the fly and the line flopped back to me… without the trout or the FLY!

DOUBLE SH…ugar!

The fish was still there … I  could see  him under the bank… I glanced around … dad was still up river… I quickly opened the fly box, selected the most “YUMMY” fly, quickly tied it on and got ready to cast, when dad poped around the corner, again.

“Any luck?” he asked. “We’ll see”, I replied. I cast in front of the hole… nothing …I cast again… nothing… Dad moved behind me … a third cast and the trout hit the fly…  BUT this time, I was ready… a flick of the wrist and the hook was set.

For the next few minutes the trout and I fought it out as dad watched… I slowly worked the fish to the bank, to my hand, unhooked and released the trout back to his lair. Dad had already caught more than enough fish for a nice dinner. No need to keep this fish.

Dad said, “Well done.” … I grinned and replied, “You know what I have just done don’t you?”

Dad looked puzzled and I added, “ I have just ruined my “successful” day fishing.” We both laughed…

The rest of the way back to the truck was devoid of any strikes or catches and soon we were sitting on the tailgate of the truck sipping beer, munching potato chips, eating our sandwiches and laughing about this day, other days and memories of past fishing trips.

As we departed  the river on our way home, I was feeling satisfied, contented…

As I said earlier… for me, fishing has never been about catching a fish … it is about the best catch of all … a day spent with my DAD.

Marskramerpad: Another Great Adventure

We arrived at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, only to discover our credit card was not a pin and chip card – they wouldn’t accept it – so no train tickets for us!!! Fortified with a Starbucks Americano, Michael immediately went to work trying to remedy the problem. ‘Capital One’ is a great credit card for travel but it didn’t always work in Holland – we wanted it for the trains.

Arrival at Schiphol

Our latest adventure began when Hilde, my friend and aunt in Holland, suggested we hike the Marskramerpad, a historical trail crossing E-W through the middle of Holland, from the German border, to the North Sea and right through Deventer, the town where she lives. Plans were made and the trip was on! Hilde met us at the train, brought us to her home, and wined & dined us in style. She made the best Moussaka I have ever tasted! We slept that first night in her bedroom loft, a charming little nest and the perfect antidote to jet-lag!

A little nest for us

Hilde made it so comfortable for us at her house and had so many tempting suggestions as to alternative activities that we almost didn’t go on our hike. The weather forecast was a bit dismal and we WERE jet-lagged, after all. But, a mixture of curiosity, stubbornness, and the determination to see if this was really something we would like to do long-term (as in the Compostella) gave us the needed push and off we set, into the wilds of Holland. Yes, there are wilds in Holland, believe it or not, and we got to see them!!

Day 1

Drop off at our starting point

Not only did Hilde pick us up at the train, she also purchased and translated the route directions for us from Dutch to English and brought us by car to what we thought was the starting point of the hike. Consulting our directions, maps, and the locals, we eventually found our way to the actual “path”.

We finally found the path

The first day turned out to be a beautiful sunny day. We found that our path took us along the top of a dike, past lush, GREEN fields, church steeples, and farms with horses, cows, and the fattest potbelly pigs I’ve ever seen!

Girl in the wind

On the dike was a statue of ‘A Girl in the Wind’. As we were admiring her, an old, typically dutch farmer carrying his grand-daughter on his shoulders stopped to say hello and chat. When he discovered our intended hiking route, he showed us on our map where to find the ‘best bakery’ in the region and insisted that we MUST go there.

A Bakery!

At that point in time, we weren’t hungry and we were just starting out but by the time we came across the bakery, we were ecstatic. We were dying for a coffee, hungry and, this being our first full day of walking, we found ourselves quite tired and needing a rest.

The ‘Pijnapel Restaurant’

Wine & beer after our first full day of walking

22 km later with sore feet and a big thirst, proud of our first day’s achievement, we arrived at ‘The Pijnapel Restaurant’ (pronounced pineapple – by the way, that’s the owner’s name … Mr. Pineapple!) where we hoped to stop for the day. It was still warm enough to sit outside and enjoy a beverage and a snack. The owner of the restaurant was delightful. Upon calling the local B&B to book us a room and finding it fully booked, he drove us to ‘The Loenermark Hotel’ in the next village,  where we spent our first night. We couldn’t believe our good fortune!!

Fully loaded

Day 2
I was still sleeping and wanting to sleep some more at 7 am when Mike woke me up with zippers zipping and clunks and thumps as he got his pack organized. No more sleep for me! I got up, showered and dressed and we went down for breakfast. It was a typical continental breakfast, spectacular, as only Holland can do. The waitress delivered it right to our table. We sat and enjoyed, then consulted our directions, trying to get ourselves oriented on the map and trying to figure out how to get back onto the Marzkramerpad. All of that delayed us so we didn’t get underway until 10 ish. We decided to make our way back to ‘the path’ by going to a town called ‘Beekbergen’. It was here that we spotted the first of these deer.

What kind of deer are these?

 

We never did find out the answer to this question but we saw these deer EVERYWHERE for the rest of the trip!

 

We set a much faster pace than the day before and held the pace longer. Over hill and dale we went, stopping to rest occasionally and to eat the rest of our food from the day before. Finally got to a town called ‘Hoenderloo’ just as it started to rain. There were campsites around but the hotel was closer and we were tired, having done 19 km. We called to reserve a room at the hotel, the ‘Buitenlust’, and there was a room for 65 euros including breakfast so we headed there, in the rain.

A truly lovely hotel!

When we got to the hotel, we found a really lovely spot. Immediately we hopped into the 2 man tub and washed ourselves and our clothes. There was a heated towel rack which dried our clothes more quickly. Then we headed down for dinner. Expensive but oh so good. Back in our room by 7. We again couldn’t keep our eyes open. Laid down to read and before long, were asleep. It was a noisy hotel so neither of us slept very well.

Day 3
Mike was up earlier than me again! Went down for breakfast – there was a delightful buffet – everything was fresh from the bread and pastries to the dutch ham, several choices of cheese, eggs, yogurt, fruit and juices. We made some sandwiches for ourselves from the breakfast buffet to eat later and were on our way by 930! It took us a while to find our way but eventually we got on track again.

and it hailed hailstones yes ... it rained

Early on our walk this day, the weather kept us guessing. Most of the time it was perfect … a combination of clouds, sun, & cool temperatures … just the way we like it. But on this particular day, we got it all …. rain … thunder … lightning … and hail. Thank heavens for Mike’s insistence on bringing rain gear. Here is what we looked like …. “the hunchback’ some other travelers named me …. but … I was dry and so was my pack!

close up
We did receive many gifts from Mother Nature though. First, a giant mushroom as broad across as Mike’s hand!

 

 

 

 

 

As we tramped through a meadow just after the rain, we came upon these massive spider webs that had been  transformed into ‘Christmas-Tree-like’ sparkling creations – nature’s best.

raindrops caught in a wb

When the sun came out again, the sunlight on the wet woods was spectacular! Steam rising from everything, including us – and did the sun ever feel good!

some sun

rolling in it

Even the dung beetles came out to roll their ….. !

Later in the day, we lost the trail again! Route – finding was the most difficult aspect of the trip. Not the distance, not the weather, not the lack of accommodation – merely finding your way from one marker to the other. Even though the way was relatively well-marked, staying on top of it was a challenge. But, we signed up for adventure and that’s what we got.

drying out after the rain finding the route

We were aiming for a town called Kootwijk. We did okay following the trail until we got to an open meadow where we missed a turn and ended up doing a much longer distance. Picture a bloodhound – casting about for scent – that was us casting about for clues as to which way to go! At one point, I lost the charge on my phone and we think it’s then that we missed a signpost because we were so busy getting my phone charging on the solar monkey charger.

Marzkramerpad route marker

We walked and walked and walked without seeing any signs until we finally met a man doing some work on the path. He told us where we were and that’s how  we discovered we’d gone way too far in one direction. The whole time we were walking though, we’d heard a loud-speaker with a booming voice but couldn’t decipher any words.

a horse show

As it turned out, it was a horse show and we stumbled right into the middle of it. Lo and behold, we were suddenly in horse country with magnificent horse farms, paddocks, barns. horse trailers ….               Finally, we arrived in Kootwijk, exhausted after 20 km or thereabouts of walking, to find that the hotel we had planned to stay at had shut down (no wonder they didn’t answer the phone when we tried to call and make reservations). However, there was a splendid pub/restaurant right beside it that was open so in we went for beer, wine, meatballs and fries.

No hotel this night!

The morning after.

Our waitress was nothing but helpful. She called around and found us a “natural” campsite a kilometer away. She gave us the directions and off we went once more. Michael innocently asked, “Aren’t you happy that I brought the tent?”. So now, we can truly say that we experienced every eventuality and every type of weather too.

We finished our dinner and headed off to find our campsite. No problem and best of all, free to us trekkers because our lovely American credit card (chipless & pinless) was not accepted and it was the only way to pay. We set up our tent in record time and, with nothing else to do and feeling energetic still, we set off to find the Marzkramerpad start for the next day.

Really … a wild rooster crossing.

wild rooster crossing That took all of five minutes. Not only did we find our starting point, we also encountered what we call a ‘cattle-guard’ , called a ‘wild rooster’ by the dutch. By then it was about 8pm and we settled in for the night. It was the night we agreed on a divorce. Not between each other but between us and tenting. Our sleeping bags weren’t warm enough … thank god for the space blanket! Not only that but I think we were directly under the flight path of Schiphol airport so if it wasn’t trains zooming by, it was airplanes droning. I slept very little. It was truly an excruciating night. Sore hips, cold, noise, Mike contentedly snoring …. we were also close to the bathrooms with doors slamming &…. well, you get the picture. It rained on and off all night.
Day 4
Finally, I was comfortable and warm but it was time to get up – the story of my life! We packed and were on the way by 830 but we had no food, no coffee, so back we tracked to the restaurant of the previous day. They were closed – no food for us. We had no choice but to continue on to the next town, Stroe. Once again, we got hopelessly lost. Once again, the locals saved our skins. Once again, they pointed out the route we needed to follow.

a very sly fox merchant against fox

On this part of the trip, we had an encounter with a very sly little fox. A roadside vendor had been selling ice cream but the rain forced him to close up. As he was putting things away, we spied this fox dashing back and forth between the vendor’s wares and a small bush where he would madly dig a hole, drop in his stolen treasure, and return for more. We were quite entertained but not so the vendor. He went chasing after it with his plastic chair. It ended up drawing quite a crowd. The poor guy should have set up his stand again – he had a captive audience!

from paved roads

Along the way we met some other people who told us that that since Stroe is in Holland’s ‘Bible Belt’, nothing would be open, it being a Sunday. By then it was noon and we had walked for miles with nothing to eat – our spirits fell. Then it started to pour rain and waiting under an overpass, we met some cyclists who told us that the restaurant was nearby, that it would open at noon, and that it was called ‘the Rotterdammer’. When the rain let up a little, we left the relative dryness of our overpass to find it and find it we did. There we had breakfast, FINALLY. Mike had Uitsmijters and I had an omelette and we each had 2 coffees. We met another couple and from all of the information they gave us, we decided it was the perfect place to end our walking adventure and hop on a bus to a small town called Garderer and a hotel called Overbosch. We found it no problem and by 3 we had showered and snoozed and were off to investigate the neighborhood.

Unique sightings!

First though, I had to doctor the only injury of the trip … the small toe on the left – it had a blister right at the end of it. I used the technique learned from a fellow walker whom we met on the mud bay walk in White Rock, BC. I sterilized a needle, put a thread through and punctured the blister with it and left the thread hanging out. Worked perfectly and no longer hurt.

This day, the last day of our walk, was a really difficult day with nothing to eat and no coffee until after 12 noon but with our batteries charged both physically and electronically, we were once again in heaven with a great dinner …. pork satay shared …. a bottle of wine and a cheese plate for desert, pictures downloaded and plans for sharing our adventure.

Next adventure? Off to Amsterdam and the Mercure Hotel and Mike’s 60th birthday!!!