Saturday, June 25, 2016

Gunning for Trout

    Grouse season is months away. The new pup’s attention span is measured in minutes that can be counted one’s fingers, so training seasons take up little time. Heavy foliage takes much of the fun out of scouting for new grouse cover. What to do?
    The stream calls as it winds through the valley below Camp Grouse. Sometimes it’s a whisper, others it’s a roar, but most often the sound is a constant chortle that never ends. Alders line much of its banks, in other places tall softwoods blot out the sky. Where it winds through old pastures there are glimpses of farm country turning back to forest. Yes, it is grouse country.
    The water tugs at ankles protected by Lacrosse boots. Pesky deerflies dart in around the edges of a tired hat. Mosquitoes whine while downstream a kingfisher rattles a raspy tune. The stream sings softly as it riffles to the west.
    A trout dimples the surface for a third time.
    Dobson flies bounce across the surface. A large stonefly struggles to break free of the water’s grasp, finally swimming amazingly well to the bank where it climbs a blade of grass to freedom. Pale green caddis struggle to stay aloft then kiss the water to lay their eggs.
    The trout makes a splash.
    He is inches ahead of a washed in log whose stubbed branches provide shelter. Alders lean low directly over it from the left bank. Closer, head-high alders reach of from the right. The bony stream bottom is impossible to walk quietly on, so waiting and plotting are in order.
    The kingfisher flies downstream, protesting all the way.
    A cast cocked to the right weaves between the reaching branches, straightens out, and gently sets the caddis imitation three feet upstream from the log. It drifts back atop the inky current.
    The surface dimples and reflexes snap the rod aft. The trout dives free of the hook. It’s same rush as walking in on a pointing dog when wary old grouse flushes wild. Usually that is no fault of the dog or the gunner, but this might have been a slow set. But it’s just nice to know the quarry was there.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Tween Seasons

    The snow went, but never quite all the way. On the north sides of the hills and hidden in the shadows of the softwood stands it lingered for what seemed like eternity. Bare fields waited for the robins and on walks in the woods the dogs searched for woodcock. Early in the mornings and late in the day grouse drummed in the woods above the house.
     In a drainage ditch next to a logging road, which leads into an enormous wilderness valley, a woodcock fluttered up in front of the pup’s nose. It was the first of the year and the first of the young dog’s life!
    Spring would come after all. On the way home a hundred robins rested in a pasture that hadn’t yet greened. For the next couple weeks the girls would hunt hard.
    One day a sudden snow blanketed the garden, then left as fast as it came. Down by the brook, in the murky shade of spruce and firs, frozen puddles refused to leave and refrigerated air. Across the stream a grouse drummed a challenge to the one on the hill. The water was cold and high and trout fishing would wait. At night the coyotes howled.
    On a sunny afternoon walk, well up on a hill in a deserted field, a stand of maples no bigger than my wrist beckoned. Coaxing the dogs over, the seven year old wirehair locked up on point where the grass met the young trees. Rushing ahead with her camera, my daughter hoped to spot the woodcock in front of the dog, but the bird spiraled up from beneath her feet, leaving its nest behind. Three eggs waited for her return. The dogs would spend less time in the woods for the next few months.
    Now it’s early May. The grouse still drum. Streams are still too cold and a quarter of the way through the month snow mixes with a cold downpour. It’s time to train the pup and get the garden ready for warmer days.
   And wait.

More on Canine Health…

    The controversial subject of spaying/neutering and the harmful side effects has been more in the news lately. Here’s another good read.