Thursday, December 31, 2009

Russian River Chronicles

Dec 14
Stopped in Sebastopol Art Center to see my piece. Stopped at Quick Silver Gallery to see a show. First day fishing the river. Mostly a study trip, located a few spots I would like to monitor. No fish. Passed new gallery in Sebastopol. Met owner.

Dec 21
Mouth closed at Jenner, scheduled to reopen the 23rd fish should be to Guernville by Christmas. Dropped off CD of my work to James Oliver.

Dec 26
Riffle at Monte Rio flooded. Mouth was opened and closed again within hours. Did not fish.

Dec 28
Checked out Healdsburg. Memorial Beach had about 10 fishermen. Saw salmon from RR bridge. Looked for property on Fitch Mtn. Fished around Dry Creek area. No Fish.

Dec 30th
I'm 60 - Yikes! Fished Monte Rio and up to Johnsons. Water clear, mouth open. No fish. Stopped at J.O. Gallery on the way home. Not open.

Pictures are upper, middle, lower river and "Mean Egg".

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Coos Bay Art Museum

I have a piece at a good show.
Current Exhibitions " On the Cutting Edge".
Check it out:


Monday, December 14, 2009

Nuala Creed

Dear Friends,

Here is a link to an article about my artwork:

The article is in this month's (December) issue of Ceramics Monthly.
Ceramics Monthly is a national art magazine. I am very pleased and
feel honored by the article.

Happy Holidays.

All the best.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Charis Weston dies

Post gratefully accepted from contributor Jackie Beckett :

charis weston died...nov 24, 2009 @ 95yoa...edward weston's second wife and muse
she lived with edward at wildcat hill in carmel, ca for 11 yrs & then divorced
like my relationship, i can relate to their spring-fall relationship...
for she was 19 he well into his 40's when they first met...
she trek'd with him on his guggenheim fellowship as his driver across america
of note, the first such award granted to a photographer
she was his principle muse in nude work
when will they make a full length movie edward weston ?
now cole and erica [house in volcano, hawai'i also] still walk this planet...this dynasty is near its end
the golden age of photography is gasping its last breath...listen to them says this old analog dinosaur
until again...jackie

“After eight months we are closer together than ever,” Edward Weston wrote in what he called his daybook in late 1934. “Perhaps C. will be remembered as the great love of my life. Already I have reached certain heights reached with no other love.”

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Foster's Tent part 2

" As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."
But on the other side it didn't say nothing,
That side was made for you and me."

The McCloud River has some of the best river fishing that is open to the public in the in the world. It is always beautiful but there are two times a year that draw special attention from fishermen. One is spring - that is generally any time after opening day in April and until early July. The other is the first two weeks in November - the last two weeks of the season.
Fall fishing is particularly interesting because it includes the presence of October Caddis and large spawning German Brown trout. Because of the trifecta of big bugs, big fish and the end of the season, groups of fishermen make yearly pilgramiges to the two public campgrounds below the the dam.
Typically, fishermen are a solitary lot but things are different this time of year. With these recurring visits by groups of divergent fishermen from parts of California, Oregon and beyond friendships and rituals have been established that are unique to the modern fishing culture. It has become a kind of "Burning Man" of fishing where interests and personalities meet, innovate and ultimately form culture.
The action occurs in the campgrounds of Ash Camp and Ah-Di-Nah. The weather is uncertain often raining, sometimes snowing, so the creation of a comfortable campsite is important to its social viability. To begin with a well managed campfire is of great importance. This means an abundance of fire wood must be brought in. Also, in the more established sites, the campfires and picnic benches are covered by a big external tents. The evolution of the"outer tent" is of particular interest to the urban anthropologist. It must be constructed to withstand the elements and high enough from the ground so that the smoke from the campfire can dissipate. The campsite must also be well positioned to attract and accept visitors from other sites. Because no two sites are the same the tents become a unique expression of its makers. But as with much human creation, the visible is secondary to the invisible and the "tent" becomes a Tent for the communion of personality, politics and spirit.
In my visits to the McCloud at this time of year I have visited Tents from Walnut Creek, L.A., Silicon Valley and the Northern Coast. Each Tent had elements common and unique. The most distinguishing characteristics to each Tent are what could be called the drug of choice. For example, when Chris and I visited the Walnut Creek Tent at Ash Camp there was great selection of micro-brew beer served. see : ("Adverse Fishing 3"). At other times, I have experienced the generosity of a Silicon Valley Tent where many fine wines were to be had. Of course the best weed was from the North Coast Tent. For a few seasons there was a Tent known as the "Gourmet Brothers". "The Gourmet Brother's" were a gay couple from L.A. who were famous for their satellite T.V and lavish feats including live lobster, caviar and champagne - all presented under the canopy of stars in the wilderness on the McCloud.
However, all is not distraction and merriment. There is serious exploration occurring within these groups. No Tent is complete without the presence of a fly tying area. Established and original fly patterns are developed and processed, and of course, fishing techniques and observations are shared at these tables.
"Foster's' Tent" has taken shape under the the persistent presence of David Foster. Dave's experience on the McCloud spans over thirty years and includes fishing the private waters in the Hearst Wyntoon properties and the Ballibokka Club. Dave's adventures include, as do all who visit the McCloud regularly, numerous encounters with bears and rattlesnakes, but, he is probably unique in having spent an entire night, in the river, with his foot trapped under a boulder.
Dave and lately Tom, set their Tent for both the opening and the closing of the season on the McCloud. In my last visit I saw the emergence of a new faces - young men sometimes fishing the McCloud for the first time. Some of them made there way over to Foster's Tent. It was great to see their fresh passion interact with the experience and wisdom of the regulars at Foster's Tent. Guys like Jim Moloney and Charley Ivor. Men up to the challenges of catch fishing in public water.
'Foster's Tent' is an expression of a culture has arisen over the fifty years since the installation of the dam at Lake McCloud, but the McCloud River is steeped in fishing lore and culture since the nineteenth century. There are ruins at Ah-Di-Nah that attest to white man's enduring interest in the McCloud as a river to fish. There also an abundance of Indian artifacts to be found that demonstrate the aboriginal inhabitants realized this river here was a special and unique fishing area.
This current culture of fishing with its long roots to the past and its vibrant future is now threaten by a group of well placed kayakers. These people, some of them in public offices, wish to manipulate the flows of the water into the river to accommodate their desire to kayak the river. They would like the flows to be increased during the warmer months of the year because, naturally, that is the comfortable time of year to kayak. Unfortunately for fishermen higher flows would be disastrous. The warmer months - April through November - are also the months the river is open for fishing. The higher flows would essentially limit fishing the to one side of the river by making it impossible to ford. It would also make the center of the river largely inaccessible and push all the anglers to one side. The well established riparian insect populations would also be severely threaten.
The pristine quality of the McCloud has survived numerous onslaughts over the years from logging companies and most recently from "Nestle's Food Company" The success of these battles were due largely to the combined voices of dedicated fishermen who are passionate about the river. To allow the kayaker's to turn the McCloud into a joy ride and ruin the its amazing fishing characteristics would be a crime.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

'Foster's Tent ' part one: Fishing I5

I left for Oregon Tuesday and made it to 'Valley of the Rogue State Park' that night. It was raining and dark when I arrived. Tired, bleary eyed, I found a campsite one hundred yards from the piece of river I planned to fish the following morning.
Fishing sites along Highways is not to encounter wilderness in its pristine form. Often the sound of the rush of traffic is equal to the rush of the river and it is as common to snag a stray shopping cart as to hook a wild fish. But, these are the times we live in and I consider it a kind of reality check to fish 'trampled' waters.
After a good night's sleep I had no luck at this I5 hole. I did find a good cup of coffee in the town of Rogue River and this I sipped with warm satisfaction on my way through Merlin to 'Carpenter's Island'. There after fording chest high cold water I got to the island that cuts the Rogue almost in half. After a few hours of flogging the water, I found my way to success.
It happened as I was negotiating my way around a bush that was hanging out into the river. I was holding my rod away from the tree and grabbing a branch for balance as I manoeuvred my way about it. Having not reeled in my gear, the line floated freely, the fly anonymously downstream when like the flash of the paparazzi camera my fly was recognized in its aquatic milieu. The loosely held rod popped out of my hand; pulled away by an adoring fan. Watching my rod swim rapidly down stream, I realized I must act. I dove into the frigid river head first in time to catch the butt of the rod. Pulling myself and the rod up out of the water I felt the big fish tugging. As cold water moved inside my waders from my upper body, to my yet warm crotch, to my extremities I struggled to gain control of the fish. Just about as the water reached my feet the fish got off. Alas, though soaked and cold, I now knew how to fish. Comfort - a small price to pay for knowledge.
Armed with with the knowledge of what the fish were biting and how they like it served, I retreated to the my van for fresh clothes and a trip to Merlin. It wasn't long before I was back on the river (this time at 'Ennis Riffle') with dry clothes, a full belly and renewed confidence. What I had found was working was, one, a hanging fly after a long swing and, two, a brown 'Woolly Bugger'- a perfect combination for a spey rod.
I fished 'Ennis' the rest of the day and caught the fish shown in the picture, camped there that night and refished, with success, 'Carpenter's Island the next morning. I then started to make my way back south to my ultimate destination of the McCloud to meet up with Tom, Dave and Chris at Foster's Tent at Ah-Di-Nah to close the season.
On the way back south, again on I5, I passed over the Upper Klamath river. Remembering what the venerable Dunsmuir angler, Joe Kimsey, had said about fishing the upper river at that time of year, I pulled off at the rest area and drove up the dirt road that follows the river. There, the river is banked on one side by I5 and the other by soggy pasture land. When Joe first fished it, I5 did not exist. Instead, Route 99 wound its way around rugged rock outcroppings and the creosote bush of this high desert plateau and the kinetic energy of the river surpassed by that of the road. No more, now I5 is a main artery of commerce between the Pacific Coast states. Twenty-four/seven, in the once isolated valley where the Klamath River is bridged, the human presence at rest at the the rest stop and in motion on the hyway, is equal to that of a small town. Some day when humanity has lost its grip on this planet, the river's sound in the riffles and rocks will again be heard, but now it is the rush of big rigs, the percussive thumping of tractor trailer air brakes and the whoosh of cars that dominate. Nevertheless, the river flows here pretty much as it has for a millennium and beneath the waters, where the fish are, it is quiet.
After a few tries at different spots I find a likely looking length of river where the rocks bend the flow to make probable holding areas for migrating fish. Since my spey rod was still rigged up from the Rogue and, I know no better, I employ the same trick here on the Klamath as worked on the Rogue. Sure enough after a few tries the fly is stopped and I have a fish on. This one gives me quite a fight and when I finally land it I see it is larger than the Rogue fish and from the unclipped dorsal fin I know it is wild. My fly is hooked deeply and with a sinking heart I see some blood pumping though its gills. I clip my fly and while holding the fish in the current I don't see more blood. Feeling sad and victorious I watch it swim away and allow myself a little hope for its survival.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Quick Trip

The best thing about this trip was the camping. Full moon few fish.

1. First camped in the 'Seven Rivers' parking lot. The people I saw on my way to the rest room didn't look like the picture. A big No-No in casinos is eye contact.

2. On the banks of the Umpqua

3. Chris with fish @ 'Jacks'on the Rogue

4. Art show on the sidewalk around the Arcata Plaza. Best coffee at 'Jitters'

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Adverse 3

The third event involved the McCloud and the Upper Sacramento rivers. I met Chris the first week of November to fish the October Caddis hatch and close the season on the McCloud. I had fished the Feather on the way up and had caught an kept a nice hatchery Central Valley steelhead. My intention was to cook it for diner the the first night of our stay at Ash Camp. We had the site that is situated overlooking Hawkins Creek. The fire pit is at the edge of a cliff that stands eight to ten feet above the creek.
When we returned from fishing it was completely dark. While preparing the fire to cook the steelhead and placing a support rock in the pit, I stepped around the back and stepped into thin air. One foot was left on the top of the cliff as my other sought the bank. Something had to give; it was my groin. Luckily, I didn't hit my head or I probably won't be writing this essay. I still had waders and boots on and was protected from the bruises and cuts that usually accompany such a fall, but the following day I knew I was in bad shape.
The McCloud is a rugged wade. To fish it well you need to be somewhat of a gymnast to climb/crawl over and around the man size, car size and even bigger boulders. With my groin pulled, my stride was reduced to 10" and even that was painful. The thought of quitting or remaining in camp was not an option. Crestfallen about my condition, I resolved to make the best of a bad situation. After all, the country was beautiful, the leaves were turning in the the crisp autumn air and I had the companionship of my nephew. With aspirin and ibuprofen I could manage to 'baby step'around. Hoping optimistically, I might catch something from the at the edge of the path I followed Chris out of camp on the the Pacific Crest Trail and crossed the foot bridge over the McCloud.
All day I stumbled and crawled my way along the river bank. Every step was a painful challenge and my difficulties were compounded by a lite rain that made the rocks, mud and leaves more slippery. Though I had adjusted my expectations downward I had not expected to be so thoroughly skunked. My disappointment and self loathing were made more acute in relation to Chris's bountiful successes. For once the end of a fishing day came as a relief.
Back in camp, I stretched out on my bunk. The thought of not moving for twelve hours brought a sense of intoxicating relief. In my reverie, I was contemplating the closed loop of pleasure and pain as taught in Hatha Yoga when my rest was cut short by the appearance of a shinny new Mercedes van pulling into the site above. I peered out the window a saw the entire inhabitants of the campground were gathered around it. Pulling myself out I waddled up and was offered a beer. Whether it was a Summer Fest, October Fest, Dark Stout, I.P.A. or some more exotic brew is a blur. I do know by the end of the night we had accommodated the owners of E.J Phair Micro-brewery in Walnut Creek and taste tested all their fine brews multiple times. We aided them in their search for good tasting beer and in the process I found some temporary relief from the pain in my groin.
Strangely, the medicinal effects of fermented hops did nothing to improve my fishing and by noon the next day I was relieved to leave. It had been frustrating to be so close to the best trout fishing in the world and not fully participate. The trip had not been a complete wash. I had caught that steelhead on the way up, Chris had done well and the beer truck guys were fun. The problem had been getting around that very rough country with out the full use of my legs.
Driving down I5 from Mt. Shasta south I was still wanting some sort of fishing success. The Sacramento River glittered in the canyon below. It was late afternoon - fisherman's 'Happy Hour'. When I saw a good exit (Conant), I took it.
The Upper Sacramento, The Pitt and the McCloud are like three sisters. They share similar features. But, if you were to line them up for a family photo or if you were at a party with them, all eyes would fall on the McCloud. She exudes beauty and purity. The McCloud is, after all, one of the few rivers the area that did not suffer the corrosive effects of gold. Likewise much of it is still in private hands and is managed very carefully. Fishing either the Pitt or the Upper Sac is usually a second choice for me.
Though the wading conditions in the upper reaches of the Upper Sacramento River are much like the McCloud; the nature of the river changes south of Dunsmuir. It levels out and the banks are more apt to be lined with smaller boulders or even gravel. For me, in my challenged condition, this meant easier wading.
I started at the lower end of the beat at Conant and worked my way up. The lack of obstacles allowed me to maintain a rhythm of casting and wading - something I had not been able to do on the McCloud. Remembering that dark nymphs were productive on this river, I cinched on a black bead headed stonefly nymph. I began to catch small fish right away. By the time I was at the top of the second riffle they were getting bigger.
There, a pool is split by a giant boulder and the two legs of the divided current had pushed gravel into a wadeable bar in the center of the pool. Both sides are more than five feet deep - deep enough to hold fish. Buoyed by the river water I had little weight on my legs. I was catching fish and feeling no pain. Continuing to work my fly further in the slot my indicator paused. The fish I had on this time was big - really big. Slowly at first and then with more vigor he dashed about the pool - my line zipped through the water surface following the fish. Unable to shake my hook or break the line, eventually, decisively it turned to go downstream.
Light simple tackle and small barbless hooks make landing a big fish on a fly rod is a battle of wits and instinct. No two fish are alike. Some hooked some fish remain calm and deliberative, while others expend much energy in panicky runs and leaps, but when a big fish turns downstream, it as if the referee just called:
"Advantage Fish".
The added weight of the water pressure caused by the fish being downstream and the fact I had to follow made for a dynamic battle. The "following" part was particularly difficult. The slippery rocks underfoot threaten to trip me up at every instant. The fish went through two long riffles which was the equivalent of a football field of slippery rocks for me. Luckily, it held up few times en route and gave me a chance to catch up. Finally I could coax it to shore and release it. It was easily bigger than the Feather River steelhead I had brought to the McCloud; that was 19". It was definitely the largest fish I had ever caught on the Sacramento. In a flash, all the pain endured for the past few days became worthwhile.
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few."* There is 'beginner's luck' in fishing, likewise to the experienced, resistance and challenge are often signs of proximity to good fortune and insight. If you sprain your ankle, brake your rod or loose your car keys in the river; there's a good chance the best fish you ever caught is, just dying to meet you.

* Susuki Roshi

About the pictures sent by friend Beckett:

more on thomson...if interested
as i remain uncertain as to whether or not you like thomson's paintings
but i trek forward with the interesting yet unsolved story of his demise
Thomson disappeared during a [[canoe]]ing trip on [[Canoe Lake (Nipissing District, Ontario)|Canoe Lake]] in [[Algonquin Park]] on July 8, 1917 and his body was discovered in the lake eight days later. The official cause of death was accidental [[drowning]], but there are still questions about how he actually died. It was reported that there was fishing line wrapped around his leg seventeen times and he had a head injury (which may have been post mortem).{{Fact|date=May 2008}} It has also been speculated that he was murdered by a [[German-American]] neighbour, Martin Blecher, Jr., or that he fell on a fire grate during a drunken brawl with J. Shannon Fraser, owner of Canoe Lake's Mowat Lodge, over an old loan to Fraser for the purchase of canoes. Thomson allegedly needed the money for a new suit to marry Winnifred Trainor, whose parents had a cottage at [[Canoe Lake]]. Rumours circulated following his drowning that she was pregnant with Thomson's child. Winnifred Trainor made a trip to Philadelphia with her mother the following winter and returned around Easter. She never spoke about her relationship with Thomson. A nephew, Terrance Trainor McCormick, an upper New York resident who inherited her estate, which included at least 13 small Thomson paintings and letters, said the letters confirm their engagement. McCormick has refused to produce the letters for scholarly investigation. Others believe that Thomson, who produced at least 63 landscape paintings that last spring, many of which he gave away or discarded, suffered severe depression and drowned himself. He was buried at Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park on July 17, 1917, without family members having seen the body. Under the direction of his older brother, George Thomson, the body was exhumed two days later and re-interred in the family plot beside the Leith [[Presbyterian Church]] on July 21. None of these theories are conclusive, and the wide range of speculation serves mostly to perpetuate Thomson's romantic legend.Town and Silcox, page 208.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Adverse 2, continue

I stumbled eagerly over the slick bowling ball sized boulders to where Jack had been standing.
"Cast straight out to that bush and let your fly swing into the deeper water" he called out over the sound of the river.
"Right, OK. " I yelled back, then looked at the opposite. bank - It was full of bushes.
"The green one ", Jack clarified.
The green one ? Big help. They're all green. I kept casting then moved closer to where I had seen Jack standing. Casting to some slack water on the far side I could see a teeny splash where my fly landed in the smooth water. Immediately, I mended the line, moments later the faster water of the riffle pulled my line even with my fly and the whole rig drifted in a straight line into the head of the pool. The fly was, maybe, six inches below the surface when suddenly it went taunt. I pulled up, it stayed fixed and my rod double over then jerked over further. Fish on! Wow.
" You got 'em! ", Jack called. I moved downstream to land my fish in the calmer water of the pool. As Bill moved into place and began casting, I saw the bush on the bank and sure enough, it was GREEN!
Within a few casts Bill had a fish on. Success. Instantly all was forgiven; hard was easy, black was white. What followed was somewhat unique in fishing practices. The three of us shared the "Spot" in a kind of cooperative dance. We took turns wading in, casting out ten or twenty times, maybe catching a fish and then moving off. In between turns we would exchange stories at the bench. At this time, it became evident that Jack was here on his own and that he had hiked in. Not wanting to repeat the gruesome journey we had made on our way in; I asked him how he had gotten here. In answer he pointed to another bush and said,
"There's a trail that goes straight up to the road".
I went to look. Near where we had crawled in, was a small cave-like opening and a well worn trail led up the bank. Satisfied we had a graceful exit, I returned to the bench where Jack was explaining to Bill the dynamics of this particular fishing hole. He was telling Bill why he had faith in this spot like no other. His message was paradoxical and compelling.
"You see", he said, drawing a broad arc with his hand as he pointed to the sky down river, "By noon the sun has cleared those trees and all the fish that are moving up shelter in the pool. Then, by one o'clock, there's a good bunch of 'em in there, and, with the sun on their backs, they've got nothing to do but bite."
Now, the sun had dipped below the trees on the far side of the bank, their shadows were stretching across the pool. As if to add weight to his theory, Jack was packing to leave.
After all we had been through, we weren't about to quit. We watched as Jack ambled across the gravel bar and disappear into brush. He had given us the keys and left. Ash darkened sky quickly made afternoon evening. The smoke filled atmosphere was tense. We alternately fished and watched as the proximity of the fire made the animals of the forest act unusually bold. Despite what Jack had said there were still plenty of fish to be caught. Again, standing in contrast to our environment, we recreated playfully while all creation was ablaze. A deer bounded into the river and swam across just above us. Later, a bear slid down the bank and waded clumsily in water on the far side. Then,a snake curled black and white, black and white amongst the grey stones of the beach. There it was; Apocalypse Now, End of Days. Tall trees stood bravely and creatures were set in motion by an impending inferno. With the disaster of the great Biscuit Fire so close at hand, the whole scene was made, at once, magic and real by the sense of fragility and doom.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fishing in Reverse

There are second chances in life and fishing trips
This trip started when I left Petaluma 3 p.m. June 23rd. First stop would be 'The Washout' in Chico where it was reported some Shad were holding. I arrived at 7p.m. usually Shad Happy Hour. I fished until dark with out a bump. As I was leaving on River Road I passed a bunch of cars parked at a spot just up river. Where there are cars there are fishermen and fish. I had missed 'the spot' by about 300 yds.
Next stop, Sims campground on the Upper Sacramento. I arrived at about midnight and went to sleep planning to fish the morning hatch. The morning came and went but the hatch did not materialize.
I had two days before my rendezvous with Bill and Chris on the Deschutes. Ash Camp on the McCloud seemed the most logical next stop. But before leaving the area, with the aim of finding out why I had been skunked, I stopped at the Ted Fay Fly Shop . Steve informed me the river was fishing well; late afternoons and evenings. Dollar short day late.
I arrived at Ash Camp at about noon. A French film crew was making a documentary about the Nestle Company's plans to bottle the water from the area. Apparently, the French feel the same way about Nestle as many of us feel about Chevron. By 3p.m. I was ready to fish the McCloud.
I choose the second exit from camp on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I arrived at 'Dead Guy's' hole by about 4 p.m. Right away I saw a big Golden Stone flutter past and noticed some fish rising against the rock wall on the river's opposite side.
For the next five hours I fished my way up river to the first trail. I had great success on drys. When I left the water it was late. A new moon was but a mere sliver and the forest exceedingly dark. The trail to PCT is not well defined. At numerous points I believed I was lost. I imagined myself building a lean-to, Survivor Man style, and waiting out the night. Ignoring panicky thoughts and following my intuition I picked my way through the trees and I found my way to the PCT. The campground was empty save one tent near Hawkins Creek. I was thankful to have the remote human company after a lonely hike back.
In the morning I met my neighbor (Troy). He was hiking the Pacific Crest Trail to Ashland. He told me of some interesting bear encounters he had. Also, that the French camera woman's purse and passport had been stolen while she was in camp the previous day - Sac Le Bleu !! sounds like an inside job to me. By evening I had reached La Pine campground just south of Bend. It was too late to fish the Fall River but the hot shower in camp felt good.
The following morning in Bend as I was visiting my show of artwork, checking my email and enjoying a triple latte at the Wall St. Starbucks Chris called. He was on his way from Eugene. That afternoon we met Bill on the Lower Deschutes at Beavertail.
We may have had the best camping spot on the Lower Deschutes but good fishing required a long hike or more driving. We did find good spots and caught a variety of fish. We all caught 'Redsides', the resident trout, I caught a Half Pounder and Chris and Bill hooked big steelhead.
During a side trip, I encountered a testament to man's ability to alter the environment in positive ways. Along the Route 97 there is a dead juniper tree. Passing travelers have thrown shoes and sneakers tried together by their laces on the branches. Move over Green Peace.
On my way back I stopped at Conant on the Upper Sac. This time it was evening and indeed there was fine hatch of PEDs so the fishing was good. The next day I had some business in Chico to attend and then managed to get on the Lower Sac by 3p.m. Of course I fished the area where I had seen all the cars parked on the way up and Fish On! End of story.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


I had some paintings accepted in a show hosted at the George Segal Gallery at Montclair State University in New Jersey. It had been many years since I had been back to the place I was born. It was where I had spent the first eighteen years of my life and in a way I still consider Home. Thinking that this might be my last chance to connect with any remnants of my past life, I decided to go to the show.
My trip started at 4 a.m. when I began make my way to the local airport shuttle service. The jet had a GPS system integrated on entertainment monitors on the seat before every passenger. As the plane approaches the destination airport you can zoom in on the part of the earth you are flying over. Your experience of the world becomes enlarged as it is technologically compressed on screen before you. As the plane made its 6+ hr. flight from PDT to EDT, the monitor's tiny plane icon blinked, first over a digital representation of Nevada, then Utah, Colorado , Kansas and so on. As we approached Newark, our destination, the image zoomed in so that individual cities and local topography could be discerned. The jet flew over the Morristown/Mendham area. The GPS picked up the wave-like hills the glaciers had carved out 18,000 years ago and over which I had ridden my bike 50 years ago. The geographic landscape of my childhood was digitally depicted before me and this seemed to suit the underlining purpose our my journey well.
According to Tibetan theology there is a period of time in the bardo, after you die, that you can visit any place you can imagine. During this time you are not confined to laws of Time and Space. When you go to visit your childhood home or, anywhere else, it will be as it was when you lived it. If you linger, you are what is know as a "Hungry Ghost". The doctrine speaks to our tendencies to clinging attachment and the teaching is to keep moving and live your life to its fullest now.
I landed in Newark at about 4:30pm EST rented a car a began to negotiate my way to Essex Fells where I stayed with Ted and Martha Nevins. Ted was my dad's best and oldest friend. They first met in grade school. They went to Princeton together flew planes during WW2 together and Ted was still around when Dad died. For me, Ted showed me my father was a "regular guy". When Ted was around, the veneer of "Father" was peeled away from my Dad and I caught glimpses of a man with strengths and weaknesses. Above all, I saw a man who had a sense of humor. Ted's enduring presence also taught me the value of persistence in relationship - a lesson I continue to take to heart. Ted and Martha generously took me in, out and to the show. Ted made sure I got up in the morning in time to catch my flight and called me at the airport to make sure I had made it. It was a the very best way to visit the place I am from. A place where my roots are but echoes in the memory of Earth, where I am, now, mostly a stranger.
The opening for the show was was Saturday afternoon. As I entered the gallery. I was pleased to see my relatively heavy paintings had arrived safely and were displayed well. I had sent out postcards to people I knew were still in the area but had no idea who, if anybody, would show up. After the awards were announced ( I didn't win ) I took a walk around the campus. Upon reentering the gallery I heard my childhood name called. Karen is my cousin and I had not seen her for more than twenty-five years. I was a very young man when she acted as a surrogate big sister to me. Since I had no real older sister she acted as one to me when she graciously conferred the status as a "punk" little brother on me. When visiting her in Manhattan, Sausalito or San Francisco she demonstrated the excitement glamour of young adult life. At the same time managed to show a patient appreciation of my stabs at manhood - something of huge value for a young man seeking to understand the the mysteries of relations with the opposite sex.
The second phase of my trip consisted of a visit to my mother and my sister in Florida. The occasion was loosely for my mother's 88th birthday. There, in the presence of these two women I find another Home. There is something about "unconditional love" that turns me into a baby. Though I plan to act in a mature manner, I end up taking more than I give and my departure is probably felt as a relief. I was not an easy child for my mother, though I do think she took and still takes some pride in my existence. As a child, much of our time together was spent running to some Emergency Room. We visited the E.R. in every vacation spot from Bermuda to Canada and that was just the physical traumas. I also had my psychological ailments that needed attention as well. My presence in my sister's life likewise would not be considered comforting. Poor Liese endured the crueler aspects of my personality. When we were kids, at the dining room table, after teasing her to the point of tears, I would feel a sense of predatory accomplishment. And yet, though the years my sister and I remain very close and I have a regular need to talk with her.
Another place I feel home is near some of my favorite rivers. Of course this usually includes the act of fishing. Fishing is the format of the dialog I have with nature. When walking beside a river, I often think, why has it been so long since I have been here? Its like saying to a friend, "Why has it been so long since we talked?" I feel an intimate sense of being apart of something grander and more beautiful when I am fishing. It is much like being in love. The world seems to shrink into very simple elements. The sound of moving water, the myriad of color and texture brought about by reflection and transparency fills my senses. Of course at other times, like love, it can be a very lonely place. Like love, this has to do with expectations. Now, that I am an nearly an old man, I am more willing to see the value of failure. In Love and Fishing it is failure that reminds you of life's true objective.
My dear sister knows how I feel about water and fishing and arranged with her significant other (Randy) to take me out on an exploration of Fakahatchee River ( the indigenous people had a way with words ) in the Ten Thousand Island area of Florida's West Coast. Randy expertly navigated our way through the mangrove islands over sand bars and under low hanging branches. We maneuvered our way up to what is considered the Big Lake, 8 miles from the marina. Then we worked our way back, checking the the Fish Finder for deep holes and fish. The Red Mangrove Snappers were mostly bait thieves but fun when you could hook them. When we hooked one catfish, we hooked fifteen. Eventually we realized we were in a "bad neighborhood" and that wherever one slimy, spiky, belching catfish was, no other more desirable fish would reside. At the mouth of a narrow mangrove channel the Fish Finder depicted a deep hole with lots of dark spots suspended above the the bottom. First we caught a few small Snook then Randy hooked and landed a nice Black Drum. He was holding it, considering dinner, when we both hooked two bigger fish. Mine was a Lady Fish and Randy had another Snook. During the excitement, somehow the Black Drum found its way back into the water. The channel was about fifteen feet wide and we were drifting down it when we heard a large splash around the bend. It sounded like someone had dropped anchor but there weren't any other boats around. "Tarpon!" we both said in unison. We were still getting numerous bites so we continued to fish where we were. When I lost a lure to a big Snook I tied on a silver Wabbler and cast down in the direction we were drifting. The Tarpon hit my lure with a huge jolt and rushed back around the bend. Near the bank in a bramble of mangrove branches we saw it jump shining very silvery, about three feet long, and then it was off. The entire day we had only seen one other human; someone who look as part of the environment is the mangroves. Randy said he was a Crabber.
The meaning and importance of Home is most clearly understood when we feel its absence. When young I suffered what is now called "Separation Anxiety". At the time, when asked, "How do you feel ?" I would reply, "Homesick". The first severe episode was in the third grade. I became so emotionally fragile that I could not attend school. Every school day was pure Hell. I was old enough to know that I was expected to be able to attend school like my peers. The emptiness I felt was as tangible as a lead weight. Though I was physically healthy, emotionally, I had not the strength to live. Anyone who has felt this way understands. This is not an ailment you can see, like a broken leg, but is just as debilitating. It is of interest to me now, as I reflect on the meaning of Home, that my third grade mind ( my 'Beginner's Mind' ) identified the source of my ailment as having something to do with Home. My young mind, when searching for the source of my ailment, found something was missing. What was it that was missing? What is it, as adults, that we are expected to provide for ourselves and our children but often are unable? What is it that we call Home?
Last night I was offered an insight. We watched a movie about an Indian woman in London and her desire to return home after 20 years. The movie's lush images of a tropical Indian village of the woman's past contrasted with the cold gritty streets of her present life in London. There was longing depicted in her eyes as she relived her past life. She understood the home she had known was no more yet, she could not let go of her desire to return. Her attachment memories of the past made her a 'Hungry Ghost' in life. When, unexpectedly, the unattainable became attainable (returning home) the illusory Home lost its grip and she realized Home was within her grasp. Later, Laurie and I reflected on the movie we had seen. We talked about what Home was to us, our sons, the house, our dog, deferred maintenance, mortgage, neighbors, garden .... Then after a brief silence she said, "Home is not a place you can go. It is something you keep inside." The only thing I might add is: Home is something you take with you everywhere you go - even to those places you once called Home.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Here are some responses from my letter to the editor,

From Chris Vogel,
i know bit about ladders on small rivers/streams...the early designs were intended to get adults up stream. But now NOAA fisheries requires ladders designed for juvenile passage (something to the tune of a 9" jump requirement). There is a lot of research that supports to need for juveniles to migrate upstream (or down) to seek better habitat.

The cases i have seen where fish ladders were an option but lost was due to $, they cost a ton of money to construct on already constructed dams. And in most cases the mitigation requirements for the loss of fish habitat has already been achieved by trap/haul methods and other mitigation projects.

From Tom Lane

Hey Jim,
The guy that responded to your editorial by saying that man is an endangered species is an idiot. Obviously he hasn't driven down 101 through Santa Rosa at rush hour in the last decade. Had he done so , he might have noticed a nasty little case of over population that probably wouldn't be a good idea to perpetuate. But his mind is so small it has trouble digesting these realities which may be contributing to the tiredness that he seems to be experiencing. I think he should consult his physician as soon as possible.
Any how, Charlie was sorely tempted to commit crimes against this fish but I stopped him. We all remember what happened last time he got a hold of a big fish. ----Tom

From Lawson Evans
Responding to Wes Starratt’s rebuttal to Jim Vogel's Jan. 24 article "Fixing man-made damage" concerning Nicassio Dam.

I applaud and support Jim Vogel’s efforts at restoring Marin’s native fish population. It is my understanding that the water from Nicasio Reservoir has only been used once in the public water system in the fifty years since Nicasio Creek was dammed. So Wes Starratt’s argument that this dam makes it possible for us to live here in California has almost no validity. Personally, I think a natural creek is far more beautiful than the Nicasio Dam and man is not an endangered species.

Let’s open our minds to either removing the dam or putting in a fish ladder to re-establish the natural fish population.

Let’s set a good example in our own backyard.

Lawson Evans DDS

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Editorial Marin IJ

My editorial concerning Nicasio Creek appeared in the Marin County Independent Journal January 24th. It read :

Just last month many of our areas newspapers ran articles bemoaning the immanent loss of many species of fresh water fish in California. In particular the declining numbers of trout and salmon were mentioned. As a person who loves to fish this information is particularly alarming to me. In response to this "wake up" call I look for possible causes and remedies to this bleak scenario in my immediate vicinity..

The practice of dam removal is a relatively new concept in mankind's response to his environment. It is indicative in a big shift in values.

Consider the commitment of time and resources that go into the construction of a dam; it takes an equally monumental reversal of energies to remove a dam. All decisions, especially ones as concrete as a dam, gain the powers inherent in inertia as time goes on. Like cultural customs so easily seen as destructive by those outside the realm of those societies practicing those customs, it is difficult for us to see our own self-destructive tendencies in spite of the overwhelming evidence. Many of these dams were built with a "conquer the wilderness " mind-set that is no longer relevant or desirable. The full consequences of the construction of these dams was not predictable, and their effectiveness (or lack thereof) not foreseen.

From what I have read in the historical reports, in the late nineteen fifties the town of Nicasio was far from united in the their desire for the construction of the Seeger Dam. The purposes of the dam were vague and speculative and the effectiveness unknown-and yet it was pushed through! Now, as we see the once plentiful population of steel head and salmon cascade toward extinction, we can see the true cost of our practice of damming rivers and creeks (see Wikipedia: 'Nicasio Reservoir' ). Though it would be preferable from to standpoint of restoring the andromonous fish population to West Marin, perhaps the removal of the Seeger Dam is too great a step. There are other effective alternatives. Fish ladders do work. If Casa Grande High School can find the funding to build a state of the art fish hatchery on Adobe Creek perhaps the people of Marin can find a way to stop wasting the resourceful potential of Nicasio Creek.

At this point 50 years later, we can clearly calculate for good or ill, the true effects of the Seeger Dam. We need to ask whether we can continue to afford to waste our natural resources.

Should we not consider taking steps that would restore the salmon and steel head habitat that was destroyed with the construction on the Seeger Dam?
James Vogel, Petaluma

Up to now the editorial has received ONE comment. It read :

Tam's dams are needed

Responding to Jim Vogel's Jan. 24 letter in Saturday's Soapbox, "Fixing man-made damage," I am getting pretty tired of those people out there who complain about the very dams that make it possible for us to live in California.

Without those beautifully engineered dams on the north slopes of Mount Tamalpais, for example, we would not have sufficient water to live in Marin County period.

And without those beautifully engineered dams throughout the West, we could not live in a region with five months of rain and seven months without rain. We would not have the water to drink nor the water to raise our crops, which feed much of the country.

Let's also consider "man" an endangered species and realize how vital dams are for our very survival.

Sure, let's do what we can for the survival of the fish, but with a growing population in California, we are going to need more, not fewer, dams, which also provide one of our most reliable sources of nonpolluting "green power."

Wes Starratt, SAN RAFAEL

Well, I could use some help. Its easy. Reference my editorial (date, name etc.) & send your comments to: