May & June 2013 Reads

Between gardening and house-sitting and a road trip, I didn't keep very good track of my reads in May. So I decided to combine May and June into a single list, and move on. I caught up on some favorite authors, and read a lot on my latest passion: learning to fly fish. More on that in a later series of blogs.

Here's what caught my interest in May & June:

Ann Stillman O'Leary | Rustic Revisited. Lots of good ideas to fuel my ongoing search for the perfect rustic style for our cabin.

Fly fishing | Dave's learning to tie flies, and it's been so fun to tag along and learn the process. So far I've worked my way through the Fly Pattern Encyclopedia, the L.L. Bean Fly-Tying Handbook, Essential Trout Flies, Flies That Catch Trout, and the Orvis Guide to Beginning Fly Tying, all courtesy of our library. 

Idaho road trip | Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho, Silver Creek: Idaho's Fly Fishing Paradise, Idaho Off the Beaten Path

Workout | I've been thinking about taking a class in yoga or Pilates, but in my usual style, I've been doing some advance research. I tried out three different Jane Fonda Prime Time videos, and also Yoga for Wimps and Pilates for Wimps. I loved them all. In the old days, I needed a VCR and television and workout space all in the same place. Now all I need to do is take my laptop to the patio on a nice day, or the studio if it's raining, and have all the privacy I need. Maybe I don't need that class after all.


There hasn't been much time for fiction lately, not with gardening and fly fishing classes, road trips and high school graduation, time with family and friends. But I still managed to reserve way too many books at the library, and it was tough to get through them before they were due.

Kate Alcott | The Dressmaker. Imagine taking a job as a lady's maid for a world-famous clothing designer... as she sets sail on the Titanic. I wasn't disappointed.
Stephen White | Line of Fire. The latest (and second-to-last) in the Alan Gregory series. The last book will be out in August, then the series is over.
Kelli Stanley | City of Dragons
P.D. James | Death Comes to Pemberly. If you're a Jane Austen fan, you'll enjoy this book. It continues the story of the characters from Pride & Prejudice, all wrapped up in a murder mystery.
Steve Hamilton | Die A Stranger. Catching up on the Alex McKnight series.
Steve Hamilton | The Lock Artist. A new departure for the author; great book and characters.
Kate Morton | The Secret Keeper. I love Kate Morton's books, and have been waiting anxiously for my turn at this one. She's a master at plots that take the reader from past to present, and keep them turning the pages. This was a cover-to-cover read for me. I couldn't put it down.
Michael Connelly | The Black Box
Robert Crais | Taken.  #13 in the Elvis Cole Series.
John Sandford | Silken Prey. The long-awaited next book in one of my favorite series.
B. A. Shapiro | The Art Forger. Picked this one up off the "Good Reads" shelves at my library. It was the title that grabbed my attention, and I was fascinated by the painting techniques and descriptions throughout the book.


Photograph change

Summer is here, finally... and it's time to change with the seasons and pick a new header photo. So in support of our warm summer weather finally arriving, I've chosen a familiar scene from the warmest place I've ever lived: SE Washington. All across that part of the state, vast wheat fields are a familiar sight. From the rich dirt with a wash of green as the shoots emerge, the rolling hills covered in stalks of pale gold that shiver in the wind, to harvest time when the fields are shorn to mohair stubble by armies of combines, the lifecycle of  wheat is constant and unchanging... and endlessly beautiful. This photograph was taken last fall on a road trip in the MS-5, in the wheat country north of Colton.

And just a few words about my previous header photograph, taken in the Rattlesnake Hills wine region of Washington, just before harvest. I was almost ready to publish the third Flow cookbook, and just needed to design the cover. My plan was to design a photo collage of good things to eat... herbs and fruits and vegetables, and, of course, wine. We had already planned a visit to wine country with friends, and I was fortunate to find these lovely Chardonnay grapes shining in the sun at Bonair.


Fly fishing diaries | Fishing our own lake

Solid rain for days on end... not especially great for fly fishing. But if you live in our little corner of the world, you'd better get used to getting wet occasionally if you ever hope to do anything outdoors.

Today I read, and wrote, and cooked, and washed dishes. We watched it rain and blow, watched the skies occasionally turn blue, then watched it happen all over again. And again. And again. The eagle didn't mind; it came through on a breakfast run and flew off victorious. The swallows did well too... there must have been a hatch going on.

In between rain squalls, I watched the lake for signs of fish rising. About 4:00, we couldn't wait any longer. Time to go fish our own lake.

The float tubes were already in the back of the Pilot; we grabbed wadersand headed for the public landing, just across the narrow end of the lake from our cabin. It's a safer place to launch than our own shoreline, which isn't used to inflatable boats. Clearing out the twigs and branches is on the list. We had just loaded up the boats and rigged our lines and were just about to step into the water when we heard it. Wait for it... yep, that's thunder. Really? Now?

So we waded in and fished from shore while we watched the weather. I practiced casting, and caught the bush behind me a few times. Oops. Dave gave me some pointers, and told me when I was missing my ten-to-two frame. Besides my casting "frame" we also watched the weather. Black clouds all around the lake, blowing south to north, then circling to the west. Not a normal weather pattern for us. The black clouds blew past, and the thunder got faint. Then the lightning started. Great.

Tired of waiting. Time to launch and get out there, loving the smooth calm water and ignoring the rain. Like my sister Laurie says, it's only water.

It's my third time out in the float tube, and it's starting to feel natural. I've floated this lake a couple of hundred times in the 16 years we've owned a piece of it, but this is the first time I've fished it.

Our next-door neighbor was home from work, and he kept calling out advice. He lives here full-time, and knows the lake from one end to the other. "Try fishing around the white buoy, that's the sweet spot." He turned his steaks, and went back inside. A bit later he was back. "What are you fishing with? Wooly buggers work really well right now." Then a bit later: "Worms work, too... I've got some if you want."

He was right about the Wooly bugger; I had dozens of nibbles, and had trout following my fly as I trolled. And I got enough bites and fish on to make me happy, even if I didn't catch anything. Dave did; he got a nice rainbow a couple of feet from the white buoy, just like Gary said he would.

We fished nearly two hours in the pouring rain, and finally went in when my Tilly hat started to droop and I couldn't see. Wet, wet, wet... even more wet after we loaded our boats and gear into the Pilot.

Mental note: Get towels, lots and lots of big towels. 'Cause there will be lots of fishing in the rain in our future.


Fly fishing diaries | At one with my float tube on Cady Lake

I have two goals for today: learn how to control my float tube, and practice my casting. Best place to do that is Cady Lake, a small lake near our cabin. It's fly-fishing only, and no motors are allowed. The lake is privately owned, and there's a Bed and Breakfast and fly fishing lodge there. They manage the lake jointly with the state, which means the lake is stocked each year (and the owners stock the lake, too). It's small, has a great shoreline, and good wind protection.

It rained this morning, but we wanted to go fishing anyway. So about noon we headed down the road, and found we had the lake to ourselves. This beginner is glad to not have an audience!

Nice thing about lake fishing in a float tube: it doesn't matter if it rains. With waders and wading boots, a raincoat over, and my Tilley hat, there's nothing exposed to the wet except my hands. The lake water was pretty warm, too... so I didn't get cold.

First thing, dress as a fisherman. It doesn't seem hard, but the logistics have been interesting.

Pull off my jeans (and hope I'm warm enough in my long johns). Sit on the tailgate and pull on my waders, one leg at a time, putting my feet on my shoes. (Make a note: add a small tarp to the fishing gear; we need something to stand on while changing in and out of waders.) Then step into my wading boots, wiggle my toes around to make sure neoprene feet and boots are happy coexisting, then lace up my boots. Then I can pull up my waders and reach behind me for the suspenders, pull them up and over my shoulders, and clip them into place. Then a bit more wiggling to make sure everything fits, and I'm ready for my raincoat. And my Tilley hat.

Each time, it gets easier and more automatic. That's goodness.

This is the second voyage in my float tube. The first was cold and really windy, 18mph windy, and I didn't do well in the wind. So today it's more about figuring out the float tube than fishing. Getting comfortable in the tube will let me relax, and be a better fisherman.

The tube is very cool. I like that it has all these pockets for stowing my gear, and D-rings for attaching lanyards for my fly box, and for my rod lanyard.

The only thing to adjust on a float tube is the seat, and it gave me fits last week during our maiden voyage. So I took time to figure out the best way to adjust it so it gives me good back support. The trick seems to be to shorten the front straps to keep the seat back on top of the seat bottom, then snug up the back straps to hold it in place. Tighten the back straps too much, and the back slips off the seat, which makes the back too low for comfort, puts my weight too far back for balance, and makes it hard to pedal.

In the shallow water of the boat launch, I sat and pulled on my flippers, which is getting easier each time. Then I pushed off and started to pedal, out into the lake, into a mild breeze. Hey, this is feeling pretty good today! No whitecaps, no strong wind. Just a wide open lake, plenty of room to practice, and no one watching me.

Dave already had his line out, and I thought "why not?"  I cast out my line, and let it drift as I headed across the lake.

I need figure out how to master this inflated v-wing inflatable that seems to have a mind of its own. I stopped pedaling and let the wind turn my float tube sideways, and figured out what leg to pedal with to get back on track. If I look over my left shoulder, the shift in weight makes the tube turn the same direction. If I need to pedal with one leg to stay on course against the breeze, it works best if I tuck the other leg back against the pontoon. After an hour of experimenting, I started to feel at one with my float tube. It helped that the rain stopped and the wind died. A lot.

Time to fish.

Dave had disappeared behind a small peninsula and was happily fishing. So I headed for the other side, into a nice wind shadow where I could just drift and cast toward the bank, looking for a bite. The sun came out and the clouds drifted away, and I could see the tops of the Olympics. I laid my head back and drifted. This is a wonderful way to explore a lake, silent and slow.

The far shore of the lake has overhanging branches and lots of submerged trees, and I thought I saw the flash of a fish just breaking the surface. So I headed that way, casting my Parachute Adams as I moved along the bank, and thought I got one quick nibble of interest. Then nothing. So I changed to a dun-colored dry, with wings and a hackle, and got a lot more interest. When the trout finally grabbed my fly and ran, I was thrilled!

Thinking back, there's no way I should have landed this fish. Thankfully some sort of autopilot took over, and instinct told me to just let him run with the fly. I had my rod and fly line in one hand, fumbling to get my net free with the other. When I finally got him netted, I held the net under the surface, and Dave called over "How big is he?" In my net with the numbers, 8 plus 5 equals a nice plump 13 inch rainbow. My first wild trout since I was about 17 years old.

I let the fish rest in my net until he started to wiggle. Then I moved the net out of the way, and let him swim off.

Today gave me much-needed confidence in casting, in my float tube, and in my antique fly rod, too. I still want a modern reel and graphite rod, but am content to fish the antiques for now.


One more day at the Point

It's our last night at Three Tree Point. We had pizza and Sangiovese at Vince's, then headed back to the beach. We went up to the crow's nest, opened up the doors, and watched television until the sun went down.

The light was so beautiful, I just had to push the pause button and take a break to photograph the deck and tubs of flowers and wicker chair, sitting on the floor, so the water and Vashon Island would show in the background. Beautiful and familiar, and I love it.

Catching up... again

It's been a busy six weeks, and I'm woefully behind on my blog journal. Between fly casting practice (I need lots of that) and pulling weeds (there are lots of them) and getting ready for my sister's visit, I haven't had much time for writing. If you read my blog (thank you!), new blog posts going back to May 1 will be posted soon, along with photographs from our Idaho road trip.


Fly fishing diaries | First fish on a fly

Amazing morning. Not just because the farm was so beautiful and the morning so clear and sunny. It was everything. The day. The great guys from Orvis who so obviously love what they do. Learning new techniques, and figuring out how to put it all together.

This was our home for the morning: a private farm at the base of Mt. Si, with a gorgeous pond stocked with rainbows.

I learned a couple of new tricks today, things that helped me pull my whole casting stroke together. We worked on the grass for a while, and Jason spent time with each of us. We were practicing line stripping: pull out a bunch of line, back cast, then as you cast forward, let some line slip through your fingers. I'd been doing it wrong, letting the forward cast pull the line, which made it rattle through the guides, which slows the line down. The right way, which no one ever mentioned before, is to release the line at the moment I stop the rod at the 10 o'clock position on the forward cast. It took some practice to get the sequence right, but when I did it correctly, the line shot out smoothly and went farther than I've been able to do it until now.

The other "ah-ha" was when we went to the pond to try and catch fish. Leland, one of the instructors (and sea-run cutthroat fishing expert) hung around with me and Dave, and took me under his wing. As I cast my line, he'd give me pointers, and this sort of instant feedback is how I learn best. How did he know that?

His tip:  false cast 3-4 times and shoot line to get more distance, then immediately drop the rod tip to the surface, move the line between my fingers and the cork handle, then use my left hand to strip line below my right hand until the slack is out of the line. Holding the line between fingers and cork handle lets me feel what's happening at the fly, and I'm more ready to set the hook if I get a bite. I've been just letting the line dangle, trying to strip line from this floppy out-of-control line, and no one corrected me.

It was a perfect thrill to catch fish today. The pond was so clear you could see the trout coming to inspect the fly, so you could see if you made the curious, or were scaring them off (there's that instant feedback again).

The first two rainbows got close to shore before flipping off the hook, then I caught another and landed it (and learned the correct way to release a trout). The fourth strike was just a nibble, then two baby trout struck on the same fly (they flipped off right away). On the second and third fish, Leland said I made those fish bite on the fly by how I presented it and stripped line to make the fly look real. He was very proud!

Today was a day of putting it all together. I can now cast farther, my line soars out straight on the forward cast, and the line is under control and ready for a fish to strike the fly. It felt really good to get it right. Now that I've felt it for myself, lots and lots of practice will help me perfect my casting skills.

The fish was pretty cool, too... my first fish caught on a fly.


Signs of the past

I live in a town full of brick buildings, with the original Main Street storefronts still pretty much intact. My town once had its share of old faded shop signs, painted directly on the bricks. They're mostly gone now, painted over or faded beyond recognition.

Whenever I find these old, wonderful signs of days gone by, I try to record them in photographs. And I'm grateful that so many small towns on our travels still have intact historic main streets. This sign is on the wall of an old freight company in a small town in Idaho. It lists all the goods that the company once shipped, and it's one of my favorite signs.


Good Reads

I love this website! It lets you keep track of books you own, books you've read, books you'd like to read. Think of it as a virtual library that you can organize to suit yourself, with customized bookshelves for any category: cookbooks, fly fishing, horse management, crafts, whatever you want.

For years I've kept a list of my favorite authors, with all the book titles and the year published, and whether I own a copy, or have just read it. Now things are much easier. I added all the books from my book list to my account in Good Reads, and as I read new books, I just update the list.

I can share my list with friends, and see what they're reading. And the website suggests titles I might like, and there are links to my favorite authors, so I can keep track of what they're working on.

Good Reads is a cool website... check it out; you might like it.