The Season’s First Snow

Tennessee always previews the coming season.  Today we saw one of those preview days.  It’s cold with snow flurries and wind.  I love the season’s first snow.

I don’t love the  last snow, though.  By then I’m tired of snow, and I’m tired of winter.  Last years final snow came in late April.  I was real tired of cold and snow by then.  Spring could not come too soon.

Today, I’m not tired of winter.  I’m enjoying the snow.  It’s a great day in East Tennessee:

Snow on Trees by the River

I really bundled up for my walk.  I even wore gloves.  Still, the wind cut through me.  The temperatures hovered around 30 F, but with wind it feels like 22  F.

This picture showed snow on the ground, but it’s already mostly gone, even though snow is still falling:

Snow Trying to Stick

The snow started coming small and icy at about eight this morning.  it stung.    Around ten it turned big and wet, which it remains.  Big wet snow is just fun, unless you have to drive in it.

I enjoyed my walk this morning.  No cars came by.  The snow made everything quiet.  But, it got noisy when about 50 geese came by and settled in the water.  Those guys know how to break a silence.

I like this view looking north Joyce’s and my patio:

Disc Golf Goal and Neighbors’ Yards

I hope this means we’ll have some snow that sticks this winter.  We’ve seen plenty of cold the past two winters and some snow, but the snow never stuck around.

One of our neighbors told us that we can cross country ski on his land when the snow does come.  The kids will enjoy skiing.  They, Merri in particular, love getting out in the snow.  They will make a snowman too.

Jimi doesn’t enjoy the snow as much now that he helps shovel it.

Joyce and I enjoy getting out in the snow also, but we much prefer temperatures above twenty degrees.  Last winter we endured two weeks, not consecutive, of lows in the single digits.  Recovering Californians don’t like single digits.

You have to love good mornings like today’s.

Nice Finished Project #2

Here’s a picture of my most recent finished project:

Bobbin Holder and Thread Holder

You may wonder how I use these.  The upper one holds fly-tying tread, like this:

Thread on a Holder

That’s only a portion of my collection of thread, wire, floss, yarn, and stuff.  I’ve been tying flies for about 50 years.  My collection of tying materials includes lots of stuff I’ll never use again.

The piece with holes if for bobbins:


The bobbin holder above was just some holes drilled in a construction grade two-by-four.  It works fine, but it is a bit tacky.  People who tie lots of flys have lots of bobbins.  It makes things easier and quicker.

The dark thread holder is oak with a dark stain.  It was a big improvement over a two-by-four, but it’s no more functional.  I thought it was a bit dark, though.

The new pieces are oak.  I cut the dark stain in half with mineral spirits.  After 24 hours, I washed it with mineral spirits.  Another 24 hours, and I put a wax finish on it.

I mostly like the new look, but I think I’ll put some thin varnish on them next time before I stain.  That should even things out a bit.

Then again, I’m also thinking of using a completely different stain.

Homemade Bread Season

I make the homemade bread in our house, but only when the heater is already running.  No reason to cause the air conditioning to work anymore than we must.

My repertoire is small.  I make Irish Soda Bread, Irish Brown Soda Bread with Molasses, Banana Bread, and Irish Barm Brack.  The Irish bread recipes come from this book.

The Barm Brack is to die for.  It’s a hassle, though.  So I rarely make it outside of the Holiday Season.  That’s appropriate.  I understand that the Irish usually cook it around the holidays.

I’ll be making a loaf of Barm Brack for Thanksgiving.

Most often, though, I make a basic bread in a Dutch Oven like this one from yesterday:

Basic Bread

I use a modified whole-wheat recipe from Jim Lahey’s My Bread.  The first modification is I reduce the whole-wheat flour portion to 1/6th of total flour.

The important modification is how it cooks.  Lahey suggest about half an hour with the lid on the dutch oven followed by 15 minutes to half an hour of additional baking.

Everybody I know that has used his recipe has trouble with the crust.  I leave the lid on the entire bake time, 55 minutes with our current oven.  The crust is great.

The simplicity of Lahey’s breads is part of the beauty of them.  The one I cook uses only four ingredients:  flour, yeast, salt, and water.  No fancy appliances.  You can’t get much simpler than that and still have bread

I’ve made a few of his other breads.  Each has been great, but everyone loves this basic bread.  We keep going back to it.

I made the first loaf of the season the day before yesterday.  It’s been a long time since we’ve had homemade bread.  So, it went fast.  I made another one yesterday.  I’ll be making two boules for Thanksgiving.

Family is coming for Thanksgiving.  We’ll have a full house of kids and grand-kids.  We’re looking forward to it.

A Couple of Fish

It was cold and rainy with a bit of breeze when we arrived on the Watauga at noon yesterday.  We were surprised to see two guys from North Carolina leaving.  They had caught only a couple of fish.

Muddy Water

No problem.  I was looking forward to the fishing.  Stoney Creek was dumping in a lot of muddy water.  The river was high for the amount of water the TVA was releasing, and it was the color of creamed coffee.  Perfect for squirmy worms.

Only, the fish wouldn’t eat a squirmy worm.  Worse, I was so convinced that squirmy worms were the hot ticket that it took me way too long to change flies.

Catching improved slightly when I did change flies, but I only caught two fish in the couple of hours we fished, each on the Blowtorch.

The Big Guy’s Home

One of those trout was the biggest brown trout of my life, at least 20 inches.  I know because the distance from my elbow to the tip of my middle finger is 19 inches.  When I measured, this guy was at least an inch over that.

I’ve caught six rainbows over 20 inches, five last year and one over ten years ago.  But I’ve never landed a really big brown.

A couple of years ago in almost as muddy water I thought I had a really big brown, but he turned out to be a huge carp.

I don’t have any pictures of this guy.  The fight was about 20 minutes, and he was worn out.  I didn’t want to do anything that would add to his stress.  He needed to get back to his home as soon as possible.

Mike saw the fish.  He can confirm it was big.

The fish fought hard.  I had 30 feet of leader on.  He took all of that and my fly line until where it changed color, probably another 30 feet.  I was lucky the current wasn’t too big where I was fishing.

A Well-Known Fishing Spot

My other fish?  I didn’t need a net for that little guy.

It’s a bit less satisfying that the big guy was a fluke.  Neither of Mike or I figured out the fishing.  I got lucky.

It was a great afternoon, though.  We need to get out in all conditions.  It’s just as important to have some days where you don’t figure things out.  Maybe those days are what keep us going out.

And, lucky as it may have been, I finally caught my big brown.

Strangely, I suppose, I don’t think I need to catch another trout that big, rainbow or brown.  Landing a 20-inch fish on my gear is tough on the fish, particularly in a big current. Landing a 16- to 18-inch trout is fast enough that I don’t worry about the fish, unless it’s a big current.

I hope to get a stronger rod for nymphing this winter, but I still don’t think I’ll be landing many real big fish.

I get my jollies by getting the trout to strike, figuring things out, placing the fly where it needs to be, and being in touch with the fly to sense the take.  These days, if a big fish gets into strong current, I break him off.  I’ve broken off three fish this year.  Who knows what size they were.  I might have landed them, but they weren’t going to survive the encounter.

Except for Moby Dick.  Moby lives in water that is almost lake-like when they aren’t generating.  He might be 30 inches, and he’s broken me off three times.  It’s getting personal.



A Tough Morning

It was a tough morning for sure, but it was a great morning.  The tailwaters were still high.  Mike, Bill S, and I headed to a new spot on one of our favorite mountain streams.  As usual, we fount a place to park, split up, and went looking for fish.  That turned out to be harder than we expected.

It didn’t look that bad when we parked.  There was a feeder creek:

The Feeder Creek

We could see the typical laurel, rhododendron, and rose patch between us and the creek, but it didn’t look all that bad.  In fact, looked like there was an easy way through:

Not an Easy Path to the Creek

When I got to the vegetation, there was no obvious way through.  We had split up, but each of us ran into the same problem.  There was a wall of stuff between us and the creek.  At one point, I wasn’t ten feet from the creek, and couldn’t figure out a way to get to it.

Each of us eventually reached water.  I climbed over and under stuff, and caught my rod a couple of times.  When I got to the water, it was high, clear but high.

High Water

The water may have been high, but it was fishy looking.  Lots of great holding water.

Lots of great holding water doesn’t necessarily mean lots of fish.  The fish were not in a cooperative mood.  Everybody caught fish, but we had to work for them.  Wading, never easy on this creek, was especially challenging, while getting out and going along the bank was out of the question.

Nobody caught enough fish to say they had a hot fly, but the fluorescent pink squirmy worm caught a few.  Given the trees, the creek bottom, and the difficulty in wading to retrieve flies stuck on the bottom or in trees, my lost-fly-to-fish ratio might have exceeded two.

I was getting a bit frustrated.

Then, I came to a log jam with lots of holding water, the best of which could hold the mother of all trout in this stream.  I resolved to carefully and patiently work up to the best water.

naturally, I promptly hung up on the log farthest from the bank, and lost everything past the tippet ring.  I re-rigged and kept working.  No fish.  Eventually, I was within range of the best water.

The currents were complicated, and the water was deep.  It took me a few casts top figure everything out.  I added weight and put put my flies right where they needed to be to get to the best drift.

I was rewarded with a hookup with a good fish.

It wasn’t The Big Fish, but it was a good fish for this creek.  And he promptly wrapped me around a log.  That’s the risk of fishing a log jam.  I knew it, and I had a plan.  The fish also had a plan.

This time, the fish won, and that’s good.  Fishing wouldn’t be very interesting if the fish never won.  And, he won big.  I lost everything from the tippet ring down again.

The water up ahead was really tough to wade, and strange as it sounds, the lost battle was a good way to wrap up the fishing.

I climbed the steep bank, grabbed my camera, and went looking for my friends.

Mike on the Creek

I found Mike and was a bit relieved to find that he too had found the fishing tough.  We didn’t find Bill S until we were back at the truck.  Like Mike and I, he’d  found the walking, wading, and fishing challenging.

We found a new place to eat lunch and headed home.  It was a very good morning.