Sunday, December 29, 2019

nowhere to go

Yesterday's TV news was focused on the weather: winter storms racing across the country. Here in Minnesota they showed cars and buses sliding out of control on paved roads covered with glare ice. Over 300 crashes reported in less the five hours, and still counting. Kids were ice skating on the streets and sidewalks. State Patrol banned tow trucks from going out. Dangerous stuff.

Up here the storm didn't hit until late last night. It was just starting to snow when I hit the sack. This morning the storm continues. I've nowhere to go and I'm happy about that. Our electric power is still on, but the generator in the garage is gassed up just in case.

I was sitting in my front room chair trying to read but was constantly distracted by the blowing snow outside. The strong wind is swirling around, one minute from west, then from the east. It's nearly 30 degrees and there's an icy sleet mixed in. From my corner of the cozy front room I listened to the sleet peppering against the windows. Our Christmas tree is still lit and all is quiet but for the wind.

Sitting at this keyboard I can look over at my beckoning fly tying vise and will likely put it to use later. The coffee is delicious, I can smell bacon frying, and I'm happy knowing the cupboards are stocked. I can, and probably will, stay here for days and go outside only to move snow, hike on snowshoes and ski.

Some folks have to travel on days like this. I used to, but these days I'm grateful for the peaceful pleasure of easing back and watching it snow. Stay safe and Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

time for snowshoes

It seems like we were just wondering where the heck October went when we turned around to see November is gone, too. Deer season came with a little snow and we (Gabby and I, at least) were hopeful of getting into some of the local covers for grouse when deer season ended. More snow came, however, along with some rain that ended up putting an thin abrasive crust over 8 inches of snow and adding a layer of ice to our sidewalks here at home. Hard walking and harder on dog feet – I pretty much gave up on dog boots long ago – so we all but called it a season. I haven't yet put the shotgun away, but I have taken the extra hunting clothes and sleeping bag out of my truck.

Just after Thanksgiving came the storm that caused headaches across the country. It didn't bother us much though, a few hours moving snow and now it appears winter is here. Yesterday morning I woke to minus 10 degrees. I'm happy not to go anywhere, at least by automobile, though I went to town four days ago to get dog food and seed for the birds. Other than that my travel has been by foot, ski, and snowshoe.

One of the neat things about snow is all the life it reveals. Every morning we see new deer tracks crossing the yard and a short snowshoe hike out back shows where the weasel (now an ermine) has hunted for mice; a fox criss-crossed the meadow; a grouse marched behind the kennel; snowshoe hares and squirrels racing around; a couple of bucks rubs and deer beds.

Last spring I bought a pair of the new style metal framed snowshoes. The April crust of snow made woods travel easy, and on snowshoes you could explore almost anywhere on the basically flat smooth surface hardly leaving a track. Trouble came for me on the hills, however, as my good old wood and rawhide snowshoes could find no purchase on the harder layer of snow. Going uphill I could sometimes punch my toe into the snow to climb, but downhills felt like I had an out-of-control toboggan on each foot. The snow wouldn't hold my weight without snowshoes, but I didn't need the flotation of the near 5-foot long Alaskans.

After some research, I purchased a pair from a small local sports shop. I looked at cheaper models but the the ones I picked are made next door in Wisconsin by a company that employs folks living with some kind of disability. I like that.

My new shoes were just the ticket, light weight and shorter to maneuver through the woods, the crampons underneath bite the snow for great traction going up or down. They might be a little racy looking for my tastes, but at least if I'm looking for them they're easy to spot. I won't abandon my traditional snowshoes, not by a long shot, but when conditions are right I'll be wearing the new style. Another season is here. Enjoy!


Sunday, November 24, 2019

Where'd October go?

It's always a bonus for a grouse hunter when you find a new good looking cover to explore, and if it's close to home it's even better. This fall I'd taken to driving down to the gun club on Sunday afternoons mostly to sit around with the folks in the clubhouse and talk about hunting, guns, dogs, fishing and most anything else that anyone brought up. There's always plenty of coffee and some kind of baked goods to munch on. Some of the guys show up without their gun, just for the company of like-minded friends. There'll be a few lady shooters, too, and some non-shooting gals with their spouses that bring the best of the eats. Now and then the outdoor grill is fired up and you don't wanna' be late for that. Sometime during the afternoon you go out and see what you can do about breaking some clay pigeons.

It was bird season, October, so I asked a few of the guys about some young aspen cutting just across the road from the club's entrance. It looked choice for woodcock to me. JW said he'd been in there a year or two before and found nothing but tough walking, though, he allowed, he didn't have a dog. The next week I brought Gabby along to hunt that cover before the club opened. In twenty minutes a limit of woodcock had fallen to my gun, and Gabs pointed several more before I could steer her back to the truck. A nice little honey hole. This across the road from where, once a week, a couple dozen wing-shooting enthusiasts gather. Not that I'd care to see that little cover shot out, but I sort of wondered why it hadn't been.

The gun club is 30 miles or so south of my home in a direction I seldom go except for the skeet shooting, but years ago I worked in a gravel pit operation near there and recalled exploring a narrow forest road that wound through the woods and connected two county gravel roads. I don't remember it being anything special then, but it seemed like a good idea to check it out again. Turns out we found a prime grouse covert.

Old logging roads are magnets for ATVs, though I was surprised at how little this trail into beautiful grouse cover was used – just enough traffic to knock the grass down but not enough to rut up the wet spots. Plus, there were no signs of birds being cleaned at the trailhead by thoughtless gunners leaving the remains scattered about, which I've seen too often. Gabby was spinning circles while I tried to calm her down to slip her bell collar on, and before I could get my gun out she'd darted into the cover and was on point fifty feet from the truck. A nice woodcock find that promised a good start. 

I've enjoyed many dogs over the years and I'm always impressed to see their enthusiasm and eagerness during the quest for game but, and perhaps it's age catching up with me, more than ever I appreciate the pure joy and delight a bird dog takes in it's mission. Sometimes I wonder if I hunt birds just to make a dog happy.

I like bird cover like this. Mostly flat on that soft autumn smelling soil under leaves we kick up. Absent are the ankle breaking rocky holes found in so many of the covers I hunt to the north. Other than the close growing aspen trunks the only real hazards are scattered rotting slash piles that are easily avoided. There's a sprinkling of birch and maple trees just 'cause they're pretty and a few runs of dark green balsam spread around to add some color and provide rainy day cover for the grouse. Leg grabbing hazel, dogwood, and buck brush add habitat. A focused gunner with a fast dog could cover most of this in an hour – as it was, Gabby and I took a little longer. A weekend morning later in October without a hint of any other hunters around. Perfect. We found a half dozen ruffs and 4 or 5 woodcock during that first visit. I didn't get shots at all of them but that's grouse hunting. You can bet this place is on my list!

There's that old saying, beware the man with only one gun. I'd probably be deadlier if I followed that advice and stuck to one gun, myself. I'm fortunate to have, in my opinion, two nice grouse guns. One is a 100-plus year old American made double gun. It came to me in a rare (for me) gun trade. I don't know it's history but somewhere along the lines I like to believe it was owned by a grouse hunter. It's tighter chokes were bored to throw the wider patterns we use in the grouse woods and I hope whoever used this gun before me was following a bird dog. When I carry it, it is indeed, my favorite.

I bought the other gun new, though that was quite a few years ago, now. A well known foreign made over/under with screw-in choke tubes. It's light and fast despite the 29 ½ inch barrels. I couldn't leave it alone so I stripped the finish and hand-rubbed many coats of oil into the stock and added a pad for length. When in my hands it is, of course, my favorite.

 Both guns shoot just slightly high of center like a bird gun should. If I handle them the way they should be handled there will be grouse on the grill. Ruffed grouse, bird dogs, and shotguns are why we wish October could last forever.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

can't catch 'em all.

It seemed like a good plan: Do a little work around the house, take the dog for a quick hunt, and then head for the river. You didn't actually get much done at home, but you flushed a couple of grouse with your dog and missed the one shot you took. It was a fine autumn morning at any rate, and before long you'd be standing in a river.

You hear the weather forecast on the truck radio talk about the approaching cold front with possible frost and notice the sky filling with clouds, but you're prepared with warm clothes and raingear. You get to the river several hours before dark and hike into a favorite spot. Steelhead and lake-run browns were said to be in the river and you decided to test out a new sinktip line swinging streamers. A couple years ago you'd landed a big brown trout in this very hole, swinging a streamer and hoped to duplicate that success. After working upstream to the tail of a big bend pool you give up on the streamer and toss a little prince nymph into the current. It was almost a surprise when the line goes tight but the rainbow on the other end is even more surprised. The fish takes off downstream going airborne with five big shaking leaps. Once in the net you wondered how that tiny little fly stuck in the trout's top lip could manage such a fish. And the fly falls right out before you could unhook it!

It's time to head upstream for part two of the day's plan. A big wide spot in the river, they call it a lake, is rumored to hold large brown trout that feed at night and love big mouse patterns. You park the truck as close as you can and lift your canoe off. A rucksack is packed with PFD, canoe seat, net, and fly box. Two paddles are jammed into the bow and you pull your headlamp onto your hat before hoisting the works onto your shoulders. Then you reach for the rod tube leaning on the truck and set it up in the bow. The portage to the river is easy, thanks to the downhill trial and anticipation of over-sized trout.

You're on the water just before dark and pondering where those trout will be. No fish are rising but that could change any minute. Will they be in the weeds? Out in the channel? Or perhaps along the shoreline banks where you'd cast for bass on a different river. You tie on your deerhair mouse before it's too dark to see the tippet and start casting.

Maybe the fish are laying by those rocks. Nothing. Ease to the shoreline but be careful not to overshoot and hang your fly in the overhanging cedars and maples. The mouse lands with a light plop and you can see it riding high. Twitch it. Strip it. Darn, it grabbed some weeds.

It's full dark now. The only sound is the breeze and your sailing fly line. You turn on you light to change to a Morrish Mouse, one you tied for Alaskan rainbows, thinking a lower riding fly will help. Flip the light switch off and everything is black. Before your eyes can adjust, the canoe bumps a rock and your heart jumps. Alone in a canoe, it's pitch black and you can't see a thing. And there's no action from the fish. Trout season will close on this water in a couple of days and you'd like to end with a bang, but you're losing hope and without confidence you send your fly here and there and wonder what the heck is going on.

It's downright chilly by now. The breeze is bothersome, your back is sore, and there's a comfortable restaurant a few miles away. Paddling along the shoreline you flip the light on to find the landing and are startled by a lone angler standing in the water. Doing any good? Nope, you? Nope. Damn cold front.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Grouse Season.

It's Grouse Season. Gabby was spinning with excitement at the chance. The cover is still too thick with leaves to see much, but Autumn colors are popping and today was cool enough to enjoy the hike without the sweat dripping from my brow and down my back.

An English setter; a cheery dog bell; a comfortable old box-lock shotgun. During the next weeks it will only get better. Enjoy it!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The limit?

Most of the guys out at the skeet club know I'm a fly fisherman so when I show up I'm often asked “how's the fishing?” Sometimes I have something to say and sometimes not. There's one fellow out there named Red who is a fine outdoorsman and shows up with a collection of expensive Italian and Spanish side-by-side shotguns to shoot clay pigeons with. Fine bird guns for sure – some would call them fowling pieces – though the serious skeet shooters are more impressed with their florescent sighted, adjustable stocked over-unders and auto loaders. 

Red is also reputed to be intimately acquainted with every trout stream in the entire Arrowhead region. However, like so many folks around here, Red believes the primary purpose of angling is to secure a meal. Meat. Red is 70-some years old and in fine physical shape but told me he'd quit trout fishing back when the daily limit was lowered to five fish. Bringing home a measly five trout was hardly worth the effort.

Red knows I enjoy tying big bass bugs and streamers and will travel for hours to float rivers and cast for smallmouth bass – “Why? I wouldn't eat one!” They're fun to catch, Red, and we don't eat 'em, we release them, you know, catch and release. And good times with good friends. Red shakes his head. It's kinda' like skeet shooting, you'll shoot six boxes of shells out here today but take nothing home to eat. He just ignores me.

“How about trout?” Yeah, Red, I caught a couple little browns on a small streamer last week. “You'd do better with worms.” But that little fly stuck in the corner of their mouth makes it easy to release them.
Red walks away. You know, a ham sandwich tastes good, too. He's gone.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Brook Trout Morning

The owl I saw on the hike in seemed like a good omen, though I can't claim being clever enough to outsmart the few trout that were landed. Truth is I was just lucky. Again. The biggest accomplishment of the morning was just making it to the stream. After a fairly easy jaunt through the balsams and spruce I had to cross the old (mostly) dry beaver meadow through waist-deep swamp grasses hiding the many bone-breaking holes and tangles of sticks and logs of past beaver workings. Slow going for sure, but thankfully it was cool enough to wear a jacket and a welcome breeze helped ward off the mosquitoes.

There was no discernible hatch on the water, nothing to indicate a pattern to try, but I knew I'd start with a dry fly. A long time ago an old time brook trout specialist told me to add a little red to my trout flies, and so the Dark River was created. It's really nothing special but a pretty generic mayfly imitation with a bit of red floss added as a tail. It could be a purist's disdain, but it's caught many local brookies as well as browns and rainbows in Minnesota's driftless area. But it wasn't working this day.

I had seen a few grasshoppers on the way in, so a white post parachute hopper was given a chance. These little brookies are not tentative fish. They don't rise from the depths to look over a fly and, if satisfied, sip it in. No, these brave and unsophisticated fish rocket up from the bottom of the pool and hit with abandon if they like what's offered.

The hopper worked, with a blurry photo for proof, but let's see what else will, too. A western style #14 elk-hair caddis was next and brought a strong strike on the second cast! Another pretty brookie in the net. A couple more on the surface before the high sun had me sweating and I realized several hours had gone by. Several fine hours.

Friday, July 26, 2019

... take the pace.

Sitting in a canoe in the dark can raise that eerie kind of excitement that sends a shiver down your spine, especially when you're looking back over your shoulder and your partner gives the boat a little rock making his cast. Muscles tighten on instinct before the brain says relax, man, relax. Black water melts into the wooded shoreline and finally into a sky where only a few stars peek between the clouds. Twenty minutes earlier, when the sky was dark gray and you could still distinguish the shoreline from the river, the whippoorwills started calling and the big hex mayflies began appearing. And the trout started rising! I couldn't think of a better place to be. The trout we caught weren't the out-sized browns we'd hoped for – the kind you see photos of other night-time anglers posing in the flash of a camera – but being on that still water in the midst of fish gulping noisily all around is something to be part of. Night fishing is not something I'll do a lot of, but it's something I'll do again.

Part of last winter was spent experimenting with different materials for my bass poppers. I enjoyed carving some from wood; cedar and willow that I picked from the woods around my house. I've had some luck with them as well as the bigger Gurgler style foam poppers I tied, but day in and day out the deerhair poppers and divers have been the way to go. It could be a matter of faith, I suppose – after the task of spinning, stacking, and trimming it's easy to hold a newly tied popper up and say, “this will get 'em!”

There've been the chances to soak some of those poppers too, and some fine fish have been landed by companions and myself. The last drift boat trip on a beautful river proved one of my oldest, faded, and beat up deer patterns to be the hot fly. Enough so that I tied a new one of the same color and trim job the next day.

I can't go fishing all the time, but hanging around home can be pretty entertaining, too. A number of deer with fawns prance through the yard almost daily and the summer songbirds are fun to see and hear. We were visited by an Indigo Bunting and Mourning Dove at our feeder, rare sights for these parts. Several species of ducks have dropped into the pond and although black bears are not uncommon they usually wait until dark before showing up, but not always.

There's a little trout stream north of here that's not all that easy to get to, but catching a few brookies on a Dark River dry fly makes it worth the effort. Summer is short so I hope you get the chance to soak some flies for yourself. Like an old friend often says, “It's a good life if you can take the pace.”

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Fishing the X-Gurgler

Thanks to the availability of the Internet's public forum I suppose there is someone writing something about everything you could imagine, but I mostly limit myself to the outdoorsy stuff, you know, hunting and fishing and such. One of the blogs I like to keep up with is Ralph's Fly Box. Now I don't know Ralph personally, but it's plain he is a fly fisherman and he ties some nice looking flies that look attractive to me and he posts the recipes and how-to videos. Of course if we all tied just one example of every fly available over the Net we'd fill more boxes than we'd have room for, so we gotta' pick and choose. I tie many poppers but Ralph's X-Gurgler is a little different and seemed like something I should try so I tied up a few and spent a couple of hours on a couple of little lakes with a light rod and canoe.

Here in the northland it's still early season and the water is cold, so I had no high expectations but fishing is better than not fishing and I hoped the bluegills would be hitting on top. As usual, I was alone on the lake except for the nesting loon I came upon. 

The noise a 'gill makes when it takes a surface fly is like no other and those little fish fight like the dickens, especially when they're the good sized bluegills the gurgler was attracting. I'm a pretty big guy with big hands – my buddies say I make a good fish look small when I hold it, so a bluegill that fills my palm is a good one!

I can't say I've ever had faster action and I lost track of just how many I caught. A cast over any log or brush pile, a twitch or two, and fish on! I tied that fly in a couple of colors but the original black and grizzle hackle was the ticket, though a brown foam/brown hackle did OK, too. The lake I was on holds some pretty good bass, but they just weren't home that day.

The next day on a different lake that same gurgler found the bass. I've never landed a real big fish from that lake, but steady action keeps things fun and interesting.

So Ralph, your X-Gurgler works here up north, too. Thanks for the fun!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

first things first

The cure for Spring fever comes hard when we get a snow shower every week. Last night we got a couple inches. Sixty miles south the poor folks received nearly a foot, and here it is over a week into May.

While some folks are complaining and claiming disappointment, depression, and all sorts of ill will about the weather, no one seems in a hurry to leave despite the threats of doing so. I recently read a posting on social media from a fellow who stated, with arrogant authority, that anyone who retired and lived anywhere but Florida should have their heads examined. Well, I hope that dude enjoys his year-round shuffleboard and bingo, but I like it here and I believe I'll stay.

Though it hasn't been exactly “April showers bring May flowers” weather, Spring has arrived. Our pond is over it's banks and creeping into the yard from snow-melt. It's been visited by colorful mallards, and blue-wing and green-wing teal looking for a nest sight. Grouse are drumming daily and snipe are whooping it up overhead. Birds are singing, woodcock are peenting, and geese are honking. The ice is off the lakes and streams are flowing deep. There are herds of deer in the hayfields munching on new tender shoots poking up.

I've tied up some new flies (perhaps better described as “creations”) for the upcoming bass and muskie season and a few small panfish offerings I wanted to try on a near-by lake. So I pulled my canoe out of the shed and went to strap in down on my truck when I noticed the hull was cracked in several places. I got hold of a buddy who's a factory rep for the canoe builder and got some answers as to why it cracked and how to repair it. Of course the sight of my broken canoe was disappointing, and though I suppose I could have ordered the special epoxy from Amazon, there's a marine supply in Duluth that handles it and a trip to Duluth could provide a reason to drive up the shore to check out the steelhead rivers. The canoe needs fixing, sure, but first things first. Yesterday I left the store with my glue and pointed my truck for the North Shore.

It was cloudy, lightly raining, and 46 degrees. I went to a favorite river and was surprised to see only a couple of cars parked at the access. After donning waders and gear I hiked the half-mile into the river and was even happier to see no one around. I descended the steep and slippery hill down to the water partway in an exciting slide on my backside and was happy for no witnesses. I don't think it was all that graceful.

I spotted two steelhead immediately in a shallow run and followed them up to deeper water. For an hour I worked the water up and down, holes and runs, with yarn egg patterns to no avail. Most of the steelhead I've taken have been on nymphs – I sometimes wonder why I ever try eggs. It wasn't long after I knotted on a #14 Prince that I was into a fish. A good battle in a good pool, I suddenly wouldn't have minded someone watching. I snapped a quick photo before slipping it back to the river. It wasn't the biggest fish I've seen, but it's the first of the year and a good one to start with.

I fished awhile longer without action and more anglers started showing up. If I left then I could make it home for supper, and I still had to get up that darn hill.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Finally, no coat.

A few weeks ago I cut down a birch tree and split up the best of it to add to next winter's firewood. Since then it's snowed a couple of times, and it's rained a bit. A few freeze/thaws had the tangled tops of that tree buried and frozen to the ground. Things are warming up now and the snow is disappearing so yesterday I pulled those tops from the ground and bunched them up to burn later. This morning I walked out there and flushed two grouse that were nipping on the easy to reach birch catkins.

I always enjoy seeing grouse and am very happy to have them living near. They haven't starting drumming yet – the drumming logs deeper in the woods are still snow covered, but any day now...

Signs of spring are apparent. A few days ago the temp was barely above freezing – today it hit 60. I ate lunch in the sun. There was a robin in our yard. I saw a butterfly flitting about. Water is running down the driveway. It's easy to track mud into the house. I found two deer ticks on my dog. In town folks are happy and smiling even when dodging the pot holes in the street. Young guys are driving around in jacked-up trucks with the windows down and the heater and CD player running wide open. My friends are sending pics of boats and newly tied flies, eager for the fishing. I'm excited about the wooden bass poppers I made this winter and can't wait to try them. Some steelhead are being caught down near Lake Superior.

I've always said home is my favorite place to be and it would be sad if it were otherwise. But I have some other favorites for when the time is right and I'm looking forward to seeing them.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

20 March

He strutted up from the alder bottom and respectfully skirted the gravesite of a fine bird dog, though the grouse couldn't know that for the small marker is still buried beneath a thick blanket of snow. Nor could he find his drumming log at the east end of the little meadow under that same layer of snow. It's the first day of spring, after all, and he's eager to get things rolling.

So the grouse wandered around awhile, picking at a bud here and there weaving in and out of the balsams and buck brush and crisscrossing the meadow several times. The sun felt good and was warm in the open and starting to melt the snow, but freezing nights had put a crust on the top layer and the grouse could no longer burrow in for insulation. He spent much of his time hidden under low balsam branches and had survived the worst of winter but dared to expose himself on a lovely sunny morning with the urge to let the world know, or a least a potential mate, that he was on his territory and ready for spring.
But his drumming would have to wait, for no self-respecting cock grouse is about to display his fanned tail and beat his wings from a snow drift.

I found his track on my morning stroll across the meadow, Gabby, running on top of the snow and eager to be hunting, found and pointed him perched on a branch poking out of the snow near his buried drumming log. I left the packed trail and post-holed through crusted knee-deep snow to see him sail off back into the thick bottomland, but he will return soon.

A neat sight and no better promise of Spring.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Spring is on the way. Right?

It was a tent camp about 30 miles north, trying to get a couple of setters ready for the spring field trials. A tent pitched, dogs staked out, stone fire ring and lantern hanging from a cut pole tripod. That's what the old photo shows. It was the same time of year as it is now. We'd work native ruffed grouse and woodcock during the day and in the evening I'd sip whiskey with the dogs for company and listen to howling wolves. There was no snow.

Today when I stepped off the packed trail I sank almost to my crotch.

I like winter in it's time and I have the equipment and gear to enjoy it. I like big, juicy cheeseburgers too, but that doesn't mean I want to eat them everyday for six months. It's still winter here but the days are getting longer and I'm thinking about fishing like I do every year about now.

A month ago a whittled willow bass popper was interesting to make. Then a dry cedar branch was found and now there are a few wooden poppers ready to knot onto a leader when the time comes. On those evenings when I get to wondering where most of my life went when I wasn't looking, I can close my eyes and picture the wake of a big fish behind one of these poppers and be excited for what's ahead.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

whittling winter

It's so cold now the Postal Service has canceled mail delivery for today. I haven't heard of that happening before, but considering what most of the mail consists of I often wish I'd never get any. Still though, USPS does a good job at bargain rates. I can tell you, if you hired me to take an envelope across the country it would cost you a heck of a lot more than a stamp!

The last few days we've awoken to temps ranging around 35 below zero, give or take 5 degrees. Daytime highs reaching 10 below, but with the biting wind dramatic weathermen are warning us all to take shelter. Schools, of course, have been closed for a couple of days and some businesses in town have shut the doors, also. But it's been fine for splitting wood with my 8-pound splitting maul – those frozen blocks of wood pop open easily when I hit them. It's said firewood warms you twice, once when you make it and again when you burn it and working out in the sunny, frigid mornings is a pleasing way to start the day – maybe the best way to avoid cabin fever is not let it take hold in the first place. When your cheeks start burning and your fingers are too numb in mittens to hold the maul it's time to go indoors and you won't need a TV weatherman to tell you so.

Up here we get plenty of sub-zero winter days and it's a given that indoor projects like fly-tying keeps us in the right frame of mind thinking about tomorrows to come. I cut a branch from a dying willow a while back just for days like this. With knifes, files, and sandpaper I'm shaping a couple of wooden poppers. Just to do something different I sawed a disc from the front of one and hollowed it out with drill and dremel before gluing the disc back on. I can't say if that will accomplish anything but it was interesting to do. After I glue the hook into the groove filed into the bottom I suppose I'll paint some kind of frog pattern on it. The other I think I'll leave natural and finish with the same spar varnish I use on my snowshoes – but I'll have to wait for warm weather for that 'cause that varnish stinks to high heaven and not fit to open in any building inhabited by humans or critters.

Fun stuff on cold days and I'll finish with some feathers and flash and believe I'll catch some fish with these. Come to think of it, I know where there's a cedar tree I could snip a branch from...