Monthly Archives: August 2007

“…am I in Wonderland?”

Today’s paper has a charming story  about social encounters in our lovely town, as reported by Isabella Monnier Leland. Ms. Leland is an intern for the Post & Courier, and, apparently, a native of France. Is her appearance in the pages of our a paper a coincidence of supernatural proportions, or is this the continuation of a tradition?

Let me explain. My seventh grade teacher was Isabella Leland. As well, she was my Sunday School teacher for at least several years. Her children were classmates and friends of my brothers and me. Most importantly, her husband was Jack Leland, a long time reporter for the (then) News and Courier, historian, author, and, lastly, a great character. Is the tradition continuing, albeit with a french accent?

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The One That Did Not Get Away – A True Fish Tale

One of the highlights each year of the annual pilgrimage to Montana is the opportunity to fish some of the finest spring creeks in the world, courtesy of my father-in-law (John). My very first trout-fishing experience was at Milesnicks, regarded by many of the cognoscenti as the uber-spring creek. To say that I was in over my head would  be neither an exaggeration nor a pun. It was a wasted rod-fee, but I was, and forever will be, hooked on fly-fishing for trout.

Now, after seven years, I appreciate the generosity of John and the experience that fishing a spring creek offers to the disciples of this great sport. This year, I had a chance to fish Nelson’s for the second time.

Here is a picture of the spring creek…..the haze that slightly obscures the mountains is from the Mill Creek Fire currently burning in the Mill Creek area of Paradise Valley.

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Earlier this week, we met our guide and proceeded to Nelson’s. Without going into a lot of arcane detail that would likely bore our reader(s), let me just say that these fish are SPOOKY and have rejected the presentation of flies from the best fishermen in the world. To have a fish even look at my fly would have been the highlight of the week. But twice that day I caught fish…two very nice rainbows, about 18 inches each. Both fought valiantly, but were brought to the net and carefully revived before being released to frustrate another fisherman another day.

The day, and the experience, would have been complete with just that, but something else occurred that is almost unbelievable.

My father-in-law, a veteran of the "trout-vs-Man" conflict, hooked, after a long morning of frustration, a very nice, very large brown trout, a species known and appreciated for their cunning and determination in evading the net. After a lengthy fight, at least five jumps and several runs, the fish, apparently exhausted (nearly as much as the angler), was inexorably drawn to the awaiting grasp of our guide. Just out of reach, the fish summoned its last reserves and took off for the far bank. The struggle was too much for the leader and tippet of John’s gear, and the fish managed to break off. A typical ending to an all too familiar story.

Gear reset, we resumed fishing, or should I say we resumed waving our rods while standing in a stream, scaring fish and wearing ourselves out. After 45 minutes, our guide mercifully suggested a break for lunch, a motion agreed to by acclamation. Lunch meant a 10 minute walk to the truck, parked beside a small shed provided by the owners to give weary anglers some relief from the brutal Sun and the chance to sit down. Leaving our small island in the middle of the creek, we moved slowly through the crystalline water, careful not to disturb the creek-bed. As we approached mid-stream, the guide suddenly halted; a step behind him, I noticed that his attention was focused in the water and I, too, immediately stopped, motioning John to do the same.

There, not 36 inches from the outstretched foot of our guide, sat, unmoving, a very large trout. Partially hidden by the grasses of the creek-bed, it seemed asleep, not at all aware of our immediate presence; this was an unnatural act on the part of a very natural member of the water kingdom! Ever so slowly, the guide maneuvered his net closer to the fish, and with a swift motion snared the unsuspecting fish in the fine mesh. Brought to the surface, we examined the fish. There, hanging from his mouth, was a very fine tippet, attached to which was the very small fly from John’s collection. The trout, apparently exhausted from his epic struggle, had found a quiet, safe piece of water and was recovering his strength. Gently removing the hook from his jaw, our guide revived the trout, who slipped from his grasp and moved away into deeper water.

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The guide says that he has never heard of this happening before, but claims that he remembered where the fish had broken off and intentionally walked toward the spot to "see if he could see anything". I think the story is unbelievable without that last bit, but will leave the final determination to you, gentle reader. John, who has fished these waters for nearly 20 years, notes that he has never heard of this happening before. I am just glad to have been around for this wonderful fish tale.

Here’s John, contemplating the miraculous…..

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Self Censoring

I’ve been out of the loop for a while, with the demands of school and a long scheduled vacation with the in-laws. Posting and reading have, consequently, been sporadic and uneven. While "off the grid", two local bloggers demanded and received their excision from The Lowcountry BlogRoll so lovingly nurtured by Dan, Janet, Heather, and charleston.net. Although the reasons for their removal are different, both reflect a perspective that I find slightly troubling. (As a note, I and they have, occasionally, crossed swords from across the philosophical divide; I do not doubt their sincerity, passion, and commitment to their ideals).

In once case, the blogger apparently objected to the way that the local blogroll framed their post. In another, the blogger did not approve of the comment policy of charleston.net wherein an unmoderated comment that used offensive language was permitted.

One says that she will not allow her site to be affiliated with an entity that allows the use of offensive words. Should her site be banned if a moderator disagrees with the use of offensive language by the poster or a commenter? Should access to the blogosphere be restricted for users of a compendium of offensive words or beliefs?

The other says that he prefers not to be listed in the blogroll because of an inferred framing of his words. In other words (pun intended), he is upset that his opinion forms an opinion in a reader’s mind? Wasn’t that his purpose?

From my perspective, the bloggers just practiced a form of self-censorship. I think they are wrong to have done so.

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Ahhhhh…..Montana.

MontanThe Agricoli have temporarily relocated to the relative cool of the Gallatin River, in South-West Montana. Already trout have been caught (and released), flies lost in stream-side brush, and intimate contact with the in-laws re-established. Already we feel the stress of the daily existence falling away, as we soak up the restorative ambiance of The West. Already we are dreading the return to the Real World.

But for a few days, we will act as if we have no cares except for the exact time of the late-morning caddis hatch. Heated discussions will take place over the advantages of nymph-fishing versus the "purity" of the dry fly. Conversation, or, even better, long silences, will nourish our souls as we enjoy the beauty of the river and the company of loved ones.

Soon enough it will end, but for now, it’s great to be in Montana.

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Enough is Enough

So said Steny Hoyer the morning after the latest kerfuffle in the House. Watching a television report on the television tonight, I am hard pressed to differentiate between, say, Congress and the Taiwanese Parliament, or, God forbid, the miasma that is the Iraqi political situation. From here on my sofa, there isn’t a lot of difference between the three. What seems to be the common denominator for the three is fanatical partisanship, endemic corruption, and arrogance that knows no bounds. What seems to have disappeared from the arena is a sense of comity, adherence to a common set of values that places the state above the person, and any sort of perspective that places moral behavior ahead of personal needs.

Our country, indeed our world, has situations that threaten our continued prosperity, security, and  well-being.  Confronted with intelligence and the best of the human spirit, they can be overcome and our continued existence on this lovely orb extended. But only if we elect the best people we can, and only if they are committed to the greater good, even if it comes with short-term sacrifice.

Enough is enough!

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