Wednesday, August 13, 2014

For All That Wander : Iowa at Summer's End

 Now look back close to Home : Iowa Farm Pond

I just got back from a family visit in Iowa. I've been a lot of places this year
but this part of the world really surprised me this time around. I had an intense conversation with the native Largemouth Bass. Fly fished the Mississippi River. Held a baby - Woodson Whitacre.  Had more than my share of great cooking and enormous solitude.

An average Farm Pond under extraordinary circumstances. At an acre and 15 feet deep. A fresh rain and summer water temps prime the Bass to explode on food items as large as mice and frogs. At times attacking dragonflies along the shore.  

Downtown Muscatine, Iowa near the Riverside Cafe. I need to do several long walks around my hometown every time I visit.  Noting changes and noting stalwarts.  My big heartbreak is the corner of downtown near here that no longer contains Maid Rite sandwich shop. They do still exist at other locations though and serve "loose meat" (sloppy joe)  sandwiches.

My Parents collaborating on a flower arrangement. Gary and Mary gearing up for a party.

Getting lost on a few acres. The summer creates a small Iowa jungle. Insects thrive here in a way they don't back in Oregon. I had my own personal Everglades for days. This past week and this pond will forever float in my memory as magic.

Real art along Muscatine's south side. I always appreciate low riders. Something wonderful is airbrushed on the hood as well.

My dad said this had been in the garage refrigerator for "at least 3 years". Sadly it does not take much of a "situation" for me to drink one of these. I put this one back in the time capsule though.
My mom fishes in a relaxed manner while I prance about with fly rod.  This is at a new park called "Deep Lakes" - an ecologically  unique network of sand lakes surrounded by "artificial desert" - an area of very sandy soil with rare plants and animals - including Prickly Pear cactus, Whiptail Lizards,  Hognosed Snakes and Eastern Box Turtles. We saw a giant Gizzard Shad (big river fish) zip by us right here in the stillwater.  My dad has a long history of fishing this area - which has always been called the "Gravel Pits". Up into the 1970's it was lawless with lots of swimming, drinking and fighting.

Bluegill fight hard for their size. 50 years ago I would have said "They give a good account of themselves on a fly rod." Boldly feeding in the same areas as the MUCH larger Bass and creating a zipping popping sound when pulling a fly off the surface. The Bluegill is the fish that started it all for me. 

Curiosities along the Old Burlington Road. Ruins of an ancient gas station at the base of the river bluff. (We could not get any more photos as they were about to shoot a dusty Robert Plant music video. hee hee)  Hey... in all seriousness though this is near where they found a huge hibernation den of Blue Racer snakes when I was a kid.

Raising a ruckus. With a face only Nascar could love. Alert and with great eyesight. Stalking XL mice "flies" under the moss for a great distance. The heavy midwestern stillness shattered by electrifying surface crashes as they busted right through the moss - never missing the mouse on top. Fly fishing is not all just Trout - at its most indelicate it looks like this. If you haven't fished - I suggest not starting for these kinds of perfectly violent reasons. I had over a dozen Bass do this - and it scared me everytime.  These Bass overwintered last year under a full 2' of ice on this pond dreaming of these kind of moments. I would hate to be a 4" Chewbacca or Boba Fett for that matter trying to make a crossing.

        A short video of me catching a cruising Bass :


Portrait of Perseverance. My mom will do 10 mile walks at the drop of a hat. Blood and conversation flows. 

A note on my alcohol consumption: Before I left Oregon I stopped and camped at the Kalama River - it was dusk and I watched a big flock of Swifts come out over the river to take advantage of the evening's insects. I was mesmerized by the flight patterns. The Swifts left as twilight set in and a group of Bats then came out as it grew truly dark - the shift change happened fairly quickly.  The Bats flying with radar and a different pattern. I was quite drunk at a picnic table watching this and it troubled me that the Bats and Swifts were not enough. What fear had caused me to be at this campsite blitzed on that particular evening ? I felt something dark in the hard buzz and I did not like it. But it also provided a certain clarity. As we head into fall - I will be pursuing alcohol with less fervor.

Farewell Shot :  My cousin Eric took me out on the Mississippi River in his boat. He and his dad Richard generally run diddy poles for huge Flathead Catfish. With the help of his expert local knowledge I managed to catch  some Smallmouth and White Bass on fly. The White Bass is an open water speedster of midwater attacks - and known locally as a "Striper". I had to a least try throwing a few flies here in the Big Muddy. Twain could have something clever to say about me flailing this storied water with the long wand.         Goodbye Iowa and family !  See you at Christmas !

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