Trying New Things: Fly Fishing

Several years ago, Byron and I took a road trip down to the Bay area and visited our friend, Jay. At the time, Jay was super into fly fishing. He even tied his own flies. There were at least a dozen of them lined up on his desk, showin’ off their different feathers and sparklies and colors. I pointed to a pink fluffy one and said, “Wow, Jay, that’s really pretty!”

Jay immediately gifted me the fly. I named it Fernando. Fernando now lives in my car and gets his feathers tussled by gentle sun-roof breezes. Sometimes I sing ABBA to him.

A pink fly for fly fishing.
Fernando riding shotgun.

Fast forward to present day. I was having dinner at my parents’ house, and my dad was sitting in the living room, going through his fly fishing vest. He had just gone fishing that day and was sorting things out. True fact: there is so much stuff that goes along with fly fishing. Little tools, different types of line, all those different beautiful flies. I pestered Dad with questions as he put things away, and finally he asked, “Would you like to go fly fishing sometime?”

So off we went.

Woman casting a fly rod.

We were after cutthroat trout — they follow the dying salmon upstream, eating their eggs. The salmon presence was unmistakable — from the moment you stepped onto the stream, a faint yet definitive fish smell hung in the air. And you could see them in the water, of course, laboriously making their way upstream. One of them scared the crap out of me as I waded through the stream bed, suddenly lunging out of the water about three feet away from me (I SWEAR IT WAS TRYING TO ATTACK).

Now, I can’t say that I’m a total newbie at this. Dad taught me once before — I think I was in middle school? But, you know, my skillz have gotten a bit rusty, to say the least. Dad had me tie the flies on the line, for practice. First cast — that fly I tied on oh-so-well goes slipping off. Oops. Good thing I had my super-snazzy fly fishing vest with all the pockets to hold all the things. Including extra flies.

fly_fishing
How on earth can a fly line get so incredibly tangled with one flick?

I can see why a lot of writers enjoy the pastime of fly fishing. Like running, it’s a physical task, and a very rhythmic one. The sound of the stream going by, the weight of the pole in your hand as you cast, the swish swish swish of the line snapping through the air. The methodical nature of it all helps clear the head. And that’s what we writers need from time to time: something to clear away the jumble, get us out from the darkness of our mind-grapes and into the light of day, so we can work out whatever word tangle is troubling us.

Fly_Fishing_Walking

Since the good weather probably won’t hold out too much longer, I doubt I’ll get much more fly-fishing practice in this year. But I could see myself enjoying it in the future. That evening after I got home, Byron commented that I must be tired because I’d had an adventure.

“A ‘Laura’ adventure, though,” he clarified. “Sun, not a lot of people, nice and quiet.” Yes, that sounds like my kind of adventure indeed.

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The Bees

“What’s that?”

“I think it’s a fly.”

No. No, it was not.

I’ve never been much of a hiker, but last year I decided that since I live in a gorgeous corner of the world, I should boot up and get out there. So far the hiking adventures have been… minimal. But! Good intentions! And it was with those good intentions that Audrey and I set out to the Mountain Loop Highway this past weekend.

Stillaguamish River on Mountain Loop Highway

Mountain Loop Highway is a really beautiful drive that travels along some meandering rivers and pretty epic forests. Most places in the Northwest, you throw a stick and you find a place to hike. So we figured we’d putter along the road until we saw some trailhead signs and take it from there.

It took us much longer to find a trailhead sign than we originally envisioned, but finally we spotted one. I turned the car right and headed up a gravel road that climbed…and climbed…and climbed. We joked that the landscape around us was either Middle Earth or Jurassic Park — but seriously, it was weird. Woods of reddish trees filled with shadow and light, crazy big-ass plants that seriously looked like something a dinosaur would nibble on, and bright purple foxgloves dotting the road.

Finally the gravel road ended, and we came to what looked like a trailhead (I mean, there were other cars there, it had to be something). We clambered out of the car and, after sticking water bottles and a box of crackers in Audrey’s backpack, started walking.

After about twenty yards down the trail, we heard the buzzing.

“What’s that?” asked Audrey.

“I think it’s a fly.”

It was a lone bee, circling Audrey. Now, Audrey is not a bee fan, having stepped on a hive once as a child. So, understandably, she wasn’t too keen on this bee following her. And it was following her. She jogged forward a couple paces, hoping to lose it. Nothing. She ran backwards — nope, still there. Finally, after some very determined maneuvers, she seemed to have lost the thing. We forged on.

I’m just gonna tell you guys now — this trail was a dud. After walking for less than half a mile on loose shale, we ended up in this weird semi-circle of rotting tree stumps. It looked like there’d maybe been a forest fire through there at some point, and we were looking at the aftermath. It was…interesting? I guess? But odd, I got a weird vibe from it — and there was no trail leaving the semi-circle. That was about the point that we decided no, this trail wasn’t working, time to pack it in.

Rotting Stump on Mountain Loop Highway
A rotting stump on the weird semi-circle.

Of course, the only way out was to come back the way we came — which at first was fine. And then the buzzing started.

“Is it back?” said Audrey.

Yes, it was. Just the one at first. And then as we kept going it was joined by another…and another.

I like bees. Mason bees are useful. Honey bees provide me with delicious sweets. The bumblebees that lumber around my lithadora amuse me to no end. But these bees? These bees didn’t seem too happy. And as they kept circling Audrey — and, by extension, me — they seemed to grow less and less happy.

“Why don’t we try running a little bit,” I said, “see if we can lose them.”

We ran about ten yards down the trail and stopped, listening for the tell-tale signs. Yup, still there. And what was more, the number of bees had definitely increased. In my mind, there were dozens. In reality — there were probably eight or nine. But, you know, eight or nine is plenty when they’re frickin’ following you and circling your heads.

I can’t remember if we agreed to start running again or just started. And as we ran down the trail, the bees followed us. I could hear them whipping around my head (and one of them INTO my head). I kept waiting to feel a sting.

“Ok,” I said, reaching into my pocket for the car keys. “I’m going to open the car from a little distance, then we’ll run and jump in. Just…don’t let any bees in.”

As the car came into sight, I pressed the unlock button — the headlights flashed to say hello. Audrey and I picked up the pace over the last few yards and, without pausing, yanked open the car doors, jumped in, and slammed them behind us.

We listened for a moment. No buzzing — the car was quiet. I’m still not quite sure how we managed to get in there without a single bee, but we did. As we sat there flabbergasted and laughing, I looked out the window and saw a lone bee sitting on the side-view mirror, looking in.

Welcome to the Jungle

We have a BIG backyard. Grande. We figured out this weekend it’s about 4,200 square feet. And let me tell you, I have grande plans to match it. It will be an amazing sanctuary and adult play area, complete with hammocks, a fire pit with dedicated s’mores area, and of course, places to rest your adult beverages.

The only problem — this is what the yard looked like when we moved in:

Welcome to the jungle.
Welcome to the jungle.

Oh HEY there, crazy six-foot weeds! HEY ivy that threatens to take over everything! And oh, majestic cedar (fir? pine?) trees, feel free to drop your needles everywhere. Please, feel free.

I’ve been eager to attack this project, because did I mention HAMMOCKS? I realized the other day that spring is rapidly approaching, which means summer is hard on its heels… and damn it, I WILL relax in this yard come summer.

THIS is what I will look up at from my hammock. A lovely...seriously, I need to figure out what these trees are.
THIS is what I will look up at from my hammock. A lovely…seriously, I need to figure out what these trees are.

So this weekend we tackled the ivy. I’ve had a long-standing hatred of ivy, inherited from my father. It’s invasive in the area and takes. over. everything. I want it dead dead dead. I enlisted the help of a bored friend (REALLY bored) and my poor husband, who really just wanted to relax inside instead.

Sorry, Byron!
Sorry, Byron!

But over the course of two days, we got SO MUCH IVY pulled. We’re not 100%, but probably about 70% of it is OUT OUT OUT.

This is just SOME of the buried treasure we found:

  • Half a racquetball
  • A broken flower-pot
  • A ridiculously huge amount of rotting plywood
  • Elmer’s glue
  • Blackberries! Surprise!
  • Sheets of black plastic (which didn’t contain a body! yay!)
  • Crushed soda cans
  • Candy wrappers
  • The limbs of a felled tree

I mean, SCORE, right?? Thanks, former owners!

By the end of the weekend, we had gone from jungle to this:

Panoramic view of the backyard, with 70% of the ivy out.
Panoramic view of the backyard, with 70% of the ivy out.

Progress. Next steps will involve all sorts of fun stuff, like leveling and rototilling (I’m trying to get myself psyched for it).

Dad was laughing because THIS was how I chose to spend my weekend, rather than, you know, going to a movie or something. But you know what? This all feels like a new adventure to me right now, and I’m gonna ride that wave until reality comes crashing down. And it’ll all be worth it when I’m drinking a mojito on my hammock this summer.

Spring is coming!
Spring is coming!