Friday, January 13, 2017

What do you expect, it's January.

When it's 35 below zero like this morning I don't feel in any hurry to get outside. I might have even stayed in bed for awhile but Gabby torpedoes herself onto my bed well before dawn and after a short wresting match it's time to get up. I was glad I took the time last night to make a few moonlit trips to the woodshed and filled the basement wood rack. The woodstove is working hard this morn to warm the house and after it gets light I'll hike out to the loft and feed the pigeons.

When I think back to the days spent wearing almost everything I owned and fighting frozen diesel engines – cracking ice cold injectors and watching freezing fuel drip from frozen fingers, shivering behind weedburners aimed at oil pans and engine blocks, laying under equipment in the snow wondering why the hell we're doing what we're doing and when and if finally getting the damn thing started then working to get the hydraulics thawed, or perch numb feet in heavy boots on a ladder on a frozen river, underside a bridge welding a broken beam diaphragm through a fogged up lens – yeah, I'm happy those days are behind me.

So I swung out of bed this morning and took a look out the window to see the dark form of a deer against the snow in the yard. It was a young deer, a frequent visitor, under the front bird feeder snuffling through the spilled seed on the ground. I would have liked to leave our early morning visitor undisturbed, but Gabby was awake and ready at the door. I turned on a light in the living room so the deer could have some warning (the feeder is only 10 or 12 feet from the front room window) and leave before being chased off by a barking young setter. Jack woke up from his dog bed and joined us at the door and both dogs were soon out in the dark. The deer had ducked off into the woods and the setters were none the wiser.

Routines – we all have them, and as much as we'd like to believe we are still the spontaneously fueled fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants ready to drop it like a hot potato and take off at a moments notice, we really aren't. I mean, we have dogs to care for, right? So coffee was set to brew before the setters came in for their breakfast biscuit and with the dogs at my feet I sat at our big maple table for some reading before the sun came up.

Deep winter – the days are getting longer but it's hard to notice. The sun doesn't creep up over the trees until nearly eight a.m. If the days warm up a bit it brings snow and we've had plenty since December for snowshoeing and skiing. When it stops snowing it gets cold, real cold. Or maybe it quits snowing because it gets cold, it makes little difference to me. These are the days to watch the grosbeaks, chickadees, and redpolls at the feeder. Last week a flock of pine warblers stopped for the day. I wasn't sure what they were and couldn't find them in my chair-side bird book, but after some further investigation identity was verified and it turns out they shouldn't be here at all. Maybe not, but Mother Nature has a mind of her own. Almost every day at mid-morning, a few more deer show up at the bird feeder to find more spilled seed. They're heavy coated now with frost around their eyes and nose. They may raid the garden all summer, but I still enjoy seeing them.

These are the days when I get in front of my tying vise and try to come up with something new. Of late I've been mixing spun deerhair and foam for some less than hoped for results. I should be tying some proven patterns for spring steelhead and trout and I suppose that will come soon, as soon as I realizing I'm wasting time and materials on something that someone else would have already invented if it was any good.

So I mess with my reels, too. And maybe the gun. Not much, you know, just a drop of oil here and there and a swipe with a cloth. I'm sometimes surprised how I can hold a reel in my hand and before I know it a half hour has passed recalling a certain fish or trip from last summer. Perhaps one day I'll wile away some winter time in warmer climes casting flies from the deck of a flats boat or something similar, but for now it's cozy by the stove.


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