Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Rite of Spring

Thursday afternoon the PUDs will begin to trickle from disparate places into the valley of the Brule River in northern Wisconsin for the opening day of the steelhead season on Saturday, March 30th. Their destination is an A frame cabin on Balsam Bend that has been ground zero for 32 opening weekends. Thousands of hours of fishing, drinking, story telling, political maneuvering, conspiracy theorizing, bluegrass jam sessions, gastronomic marvels, and pure bliss have emanated from this one little piece of paradise.  I am humbled and honored to once again be among them, my brothers of the chrome pursuit.

Looking at one of my old journals while rummaging and sorting gear for the upcoming pilgrimage, I stopped to remember the entry from Saturday mid morning of the year 2000. "Brule Opener - hooked five steelhead, all on a purple and black wooly bugger. Road Hole D was watching me from downstream and I could see he was becoming more frustrated at his lack of bites with each successive fish that I connected with. Presently, he walked upstream and bummed a W/B off me, marched back to his spot and immediately banged a fish. Hot damn!"

This year the snow in the valley is as deep as midwinter. The lower river is still covered in ice. The fish may not even be available, but the PUDs will still howl at the full moon !

Monday, March 25, 2013

Signs of spring

It really has been hard waiting for winter to exit. Crushed expectations are a daily reminder that each season is unique and that I shouldn't be surprised at the excrutiatingly slow pace of the coming spring season.  After all, this is more the norm of decades past. We have been lulled into feeling like winter is easy these past fiften years or so. We even have a new term - "open winter" - that sounds inviting, yes ?

The vernal equinox dawned to minus 12 degrees - not a good start. But there are a few signs beginning to show even though the snow pack in the woods is still very deep and will take weeks to disappear. Between 21 and 28 inches were recorded over the weekend while floundering around off the snowshoe trails. But the texture of the snow has changed.  No longer the powdery fluff of midwinter, it now crusts and twists, expands and contracts as the temperatures flux around the freezing point.  That textural change can only mean that the snow is not long for this season.

The barn roof has developed a glacier that slowly slides toward its breaking point each day. In the past, this five month accumulation would all come off in one big avalanche when the temperature reached around forty.  Well, we have not even come close to that yet.  Thirty two or threeish each day has created this most interesteing exposition of plasticity.

Red oak leaves are beginning to fall from where they have been clinging tightly all winter.  They collect in the trails as a kind of road map toward the lengthening days as they absorb the heat of the approaching sun.

A bit of bare ground begins to emerge and grow each day the sun shines, but every other day it seems is overcast, so nothing like a thaw is achieved.

But the surest sign is at the end of the road. Dirty snow. Salt and sediment laden, the snowbanks are receeding at the same pace as the barn roof glacier, but the color change from pristine white to dog shit brown is in full swing.

An interseting note:  It is late enough in the spring already that some birds are beginning to court.  A few days ago there was a hairy woodpecker drumming on a dead and hollow aspen.  He would hammer a few beats and then scamper up the trunk a few feet and give the hammering another go.  This went on until he got to the top of the tree some forty feet up.  Then he would fly down and repeat the whole song and dance.  He played that aspen like a flute.

A very loud THUNK!!! on the big picture window ended the ambitions of a cock grouse out looking for a place to drum.  All the usual drumming logs are still under the snow, so I can only guess that he was looking for an open space to display.  It was an odd and unfortunate opportunity for the youngster to perform a perfect retrieve.

 Last fall I said "Hurry April". Now I'm hoping, "Hurry warm April."

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Come on !!

Wednesday morning - 7am - six below zero. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr !!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

And still the grip does not relax

Snowed another 7 inches over the weekend.

Not a forty degree temp in sight.
Snowshoes will be required footwear at Brule

Enough already
Eat me