Friday, 31 July 2015

Humpies on the fly

A feisty humpy.

Garrett and I fished north of Juneau - throwing flies at Echo Cove for pinks.  We arrived at high tide, which may not be the best time.  There was the infrequent fish that jumped, indicting there were at least a few in the cove.  I caught a nice one on a purple and pink marabou intruder. I was fishing Garrett's 7/8 weight 10' 6" Beulah switch rod with a Wulff Ambush line - a perfect set up for thsi type of fishing.

A nice chrome female pink caught in the salt.

After only one fish caught - we moved on to Cowee Creek.  There were a bunch of folks spin fishing at the bridge so we wandered down the path along the stream into a real bear garden.  Later found out that there is a mother Brown bear with two cubs in the area.  Cowee was full of pinks, more spent that the one I'd caught in the salt, but Garrett hooked and landed three.  I hooked up with one, but lost it.

Female Pink.

Male Pink salmon, AKA Humpie.


Spawning Salmon, Sheep Creek, near Juneau

First trip to Alaska!  Garrett is flying for Wings of Alaska based in Juneau and we're here for a short visit. These are mostly chum salmon and a few pinks/humpies.  The coho will start running in another week or two.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Reflections on Late Summer Mushroom Hunting

Boletus Edulus + Forest Kit (Cane, Browning Hi-Power and Leica Trinovid 10x42)
Back in the end of August I drove up into the National Forest for the afternoon.    By the time September rolls around it's getting late in the season to find King Bolete mushrooms.   King Boletes are big enough and, with their distinctive brown orange color, I imagined I could do some road hunting for them.  I drove slowly trying to spot them from the truck.  The bright yellow orange Siberian Slippery Jacks (Suillus sibiricus) are also easily spotted from a distance. Suillus are edible though David Aurora describes them in his book Mushrooms Demystified as "thin-fleshed, insipid and slimy". I've tried them and, sadly must agree.   In my experience, they can be indicators for Kings and so a bloom of Slippery Jacks is worth investigating.

Not far into the forest I stopped the truck in a spot where I've been successful before and decided to walk a little.  Almost immediately after getting out of the truck and stumbling around with my cane a bit I found a King Bolete!  I collected it but fully expected it to be worm ridden as they often are by late afternoon.
Driving very slowly and looking hard reveals what otherwise might remain hidden.
Quick success can make a hunt (of any kind) seem too easy.  After finding one bolete, I was certain I'd find many more.  I entertained visions of pounds of perfect boletes, enough to dry some for winter stews.  I worried that I had not brought enough bags with me to carry them all.   I did not find another.  And the further I drove into the forest, hunting for at least one more, the more I became convinced that the one I had found was inedible because of worms.

I drove home the long way, exploring some new country.  At one point, I stopped the truck for a few minutes to admire the view and in another minute saw a grouse head bobbing through the tall grass.  ... and then another and another.  I'd stumbled on a covey of six young dusky grouse.
Dusky grouse in the tall grass.

The covey headed for cover - the nearest tree in the open landscape.
It would be hard to convey the pleasure I got from seeing the grouse.  It had been a wet summer and the tall grass in this country was atypical, I've never seen it this tall.   

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When I got home I cut up my King Bolete. There were a couple of small worm tracks in the stem, but it was otherwise perfect.  Sauteed in butter and served together with a nice steak it made for a wonderful  meal.

Simply sauteed in butter with salt and pepper.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Malcolm Brooks reading in Denver

Malcolm responding to a question at the reading. [Photo: Reid Farmer]
Malcolm Brooks is a friend whose first novel, Painted Horses, has been receiving a well deserved widely celebrated reception. His book has been included on many summer reading lists, he has been featured by Barnes and Nobel in their "Discover Great New Writers" series, and the book is widely receiving glowing reviews. Malcolm's writing is being compared to the best of the best: Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy, Charles Frazier, Ivan Doig,  and Michael Ondaatje, Wallace Stegner, Thomas McGuane, Annie Proulx and others! All favorites of mine - no wonder I loved the book.  Here's an excerpt from a review in Dallas Morning News.
Painted Horses reads like a cross between Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, with a pinch of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient for good measure. It’s an earnest, romantic novel that seems destined for the silver screen. review by WILLIAM J. COBB, Dallas Morning News.
 I won't say much about the plot except to note that it's a Western novel (with a capital "W") mainly set in 1956 (my birth year) with flashbacks to WWII.  Not only that, but there is a significant character named Caldwell. Malcolm assures me that the character is named for me.

Carlos and I drove down to Denver last Wednesday for Malcolm's reading and book signing at the Tattered Cover.  Steve Bodio flew up from NM for the reading and to introduce Malcolm.   Other Denver friends showed up as well.

Malcolm reading.
Malcolm read one of the most heartbreaking and dramatic pieces from the book. After the reading, Malcolm took questions from the audience. There were some wonderful questions about his process and the origins of the novel. Malcolm's articulate and deeply personal answers captured the imaginations of all of us there.  Aside from the compelling sweeping narrative, Malcom's book reads like a vocabulary of almost lost words, words describing western landscape, horse anatomy, and technical language related to horse tack.  The breadth and depth of Malcolm's experience and research is astounding.

Gathering of the clan: Carlos, OldGunkie, Reid Farmer, Malcolm Brooks, Steve Bodio [photo: Connie Farmer]
And for all of us who think we might just write more if we had the time, Malcolm wrote the book over a period of five years while working full-time as a carpenter in Missoula.  He puts us all to shame.

I took the pig over the door as a very good sign indeed and the menu and food did not disapoint.
After the reading, on Arthur's recommendation, nine friends retired to a fine Italian restaurant Osteria Marco to continue the conversation with food and drink.  I could not resist the Ciccioli Succulent Braised Pulled Pork appetizer and had the Rabbit Roman Gnocchi, Apple-Fennel Braise, Whole Grain Mustard Sauce as a main course.  Wine drinkers among us shared a bottle of red Tuscan wine recommended by the waiter though I do not recall the name.

Our group included:  Arthur (a friend of Steve's with expertise in rare antique military weapons), Arthur's sister, Malcolm, Connie Farmer's sister, Connie Farmer (Reid's wife), Reid Farmer (archeologist and contributor to the Querencia blog), Carlos Martinez Del Rio, Steve, and myself. The food and drink was excellent and then, of course, there was endlessly fascinating and wide ranging conversion; writing and writers (good, bad, and obnoxious), falconry, guns, pigeons, more guns, food, wine, and music. A woefully incomplete list of topics I can recall that were mentioned or discussed included: Annie Dillard, the post-punk band Mission of  Burma, mushroom hunting, Johnny Cash, the eccentric Oxford naturalist Jonathan Kingdon, Remington Model 8 rifles,  Mauser Broomhandles (especially regarding the merits of the 7.63 Mauser cartridge over the 9mm Luger chambering), Annie Proulx, the 1903 Mannlicher Schoenaur rifle, technical details (that were beyond my ken) of evolutionary biology of horses, dinosaurs, birds and lizards.

Our table at Osteria Marco.
A good time was had by all.  I can not imagine anyone who better deserves the astounding success Malcolm is enjoying and the wonderful reception of his exceptional novel.   Congratulations Malcolm!   ... and if you don't have a copy - get one. 

Friday, 5 September 2014

Man Down

Antique Italian photograph of a man off his horse - dated  in pen 8.3.1926 
It's been some time since I posted here.  I spent most of my summer seeing a small army of physicians. They diagnosed an autoimmune condition as the cause of the peripheral neuropathy that has been affecting my feet and lower legs.  The experts will rarely say with certainty what causes this kind of condition, I am sure it is the result of a major viral infection in 2010 caused by Colorado Tick Fever.   For the time being anyway, I am mostly disabled. I'm able to get around with a cane and am wobbly from the drug therapy I am undergoing.  Nerves heal, but even in the best case it will take a year (or more) to regain my balance and strength.  For concerned readers I should note that I maintain what I like to think of as a realistic optimistism.

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Those of us who spend time in rugged country inhabited by large predators are often too keenly aware of the dangers posed by teeth and claws.  Being attacked by an animal that can kill and eat you is a primal fear dating to the very beginning of human existence.  Statistically, it is the tiny guys, the bacteria and viruses, that present the greatest threat, not the lions and tigers and bears. 

There are a couple of examples that come to mind, one fictional and one not.
Hemingway on safari in 1934
Hemingway's story The Snows of Kilimanjaro is structured around the irony of a seemingly inconsequential event resulting in the most dramatic outcome. Harry dies on safari, not killed by dangerous game but as the result of an infected wound caused by a thorn.  

Egyptologist Lord Carnavon, died from a mosquito bite.
The genesis of the Curse of the Pharaohs rests with a mosquito bite. What could be more inconsequential? The extraordinarily wealthy British adventurer George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, financed the expedition to excavate King Tut's tomb in the valley of the Kings.  In 1922 Lord Carnarvon entered the tomb. In 1923 he died in the Continental-Savoy Hotel in Cairo from a mosquito bite infected by a shaving accident.  His death, and others, spawned the legend of the curse on those who disturb the tomb of a mummy.

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While I was laid up this summer I spent far too much time looking at vintage and contemporary photographs online.  I looked at thousands of photographs but I did not know what I was looking for until I saw it, an antique Italian photograph of a horse and rider going down in a cloud of dust. In a rather stunningly symbolic way it represents my own situation. Man down.

The author with the Man Down photograph.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Swing the Fly - The Voice of Spey

Ran across this excellent (and free) online magazine today  Just plain honest, unpretentious talk about fishing long rods.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Eating Around / Le Pigeon

Chef Gabriel Rucker at Le Pigeon.
Had a wonderful meal at Le Pigeon last night. Chef Gabriel Rucker was cooking and we sat at the bar giving us a birds eye view of preparations.  Le Pigeon is perhaps my favorite restaurant in Portland.

 I had the Pigeon starter which was served on a plate of cold blood sausage puree, with cipollini and shaved asparagus, sprinkled with egg yolk.   It was rich a rich sauce and the pigeon breast was perfectly cooked medium rare.  I quaffed down a good class of Coteaux du Languedoc -- Podio Alto -- Domaine du Poujol -- '09.  For her starter, P had the Crab and Artichoke Toast with arugula and fried artichokes.  She had a glass of Greek white wine, Roditis/Malagouzia - Petra - Kir-Yianni Estate - ‘12 Amyndeon.  The crab toast was a bit uninspired, but the batter fried artichokes were amazing.  We shared an entree of Corned Lamb Shoulder served on a bed of potato with cabbage cream, huckleberries and horseradish.  I'd never heard of corned lamb but could immediately imagine it.  I asked Gabriel about it.  He said, "I had an idea. I'm not the first to make it and won't be the last."  Like corned beef, the meat is brined for four days and then cooked sous vide for most of a day. To plate the dish they chopped a hunk of the corned lamb and sauteed it in a pan to heat it up. They sliced it, stacked it on top of the potatoes, sprinkled with huckleberries and shredded lots of fresh horseradish on top. The lamb was surprisingly ham like.  It was a really unique dish, the kind of thing I expect at Pigeon.  For dessert we shared a carafe of Stumptown coffee and a Crème Brûlée which also came with a Vietnamese coffee pot de crème with whipped cream, amaretti crumbs.  I have no idea what made it Vietnamese, but it was excellent.

Gabriel Rucker has been nominated for, and has won, numerous awards from the James Beard Foundation, including: Rising Star Chef of the Year 2011, and the 2013 Best Chef in the Northwest.  Thanks for another great meal.