Science and Sarcasm
30 November 2005
Tangled Bank #42...

was published yesterday at Dogged Blog...

Technorati tag(s): , , blog carnivals

Circus of the Spineless #3 has crawled into view

CoS logoOnly 25 shopping days until Christmas!

For your gift-selection convenience, the 3rd installment of the newest and creepiest blog carnival around, Circus of the Spineless, has been posted over at Urban Dragon Hunters HQ. Nannothemis has presented the submissions using a creative taxonomic-tree-overlaid-on-a-toy-store theme. Selections include lots of pictures and stories of spiders, beetles and flies, butterflies and moths, snails and slugs and miscellaneous on-sale invertebrates.

Sneak on over and check it out; I think you'll enjoy it. Just watch where you sit...

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28 November 2005
Tush aimless on Iraq

Piece and free dumbOne of the more troublesome and important stories that seems to be emerging on the American political news- and blog-front today is Seymour Hersh's article in the December issue of the New Yorker (available online today). Mr. Hersh was interviewed about the article on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer on Sunday [transcript here] and the interview, together with the online publication of Hersh's article today, has generated quite a lot of discussion among the lefty blogoshpere today.

Hersh's piece is an assessment of the current views of the Tush White House on the subject of the Iraq War, troop withdrawals, time tables for both, outcome possibilities, political fallout and general philosophies of the powers in charge. Under recent pressure from Democrats and disappearing public approval ratings, Tushies have been insinuating a plan for drawdown of ground troops in the un-specified future. One of the morsels of new, and scary, information is the Tushies' plan to increase air power when/if ground forces are withdrawn:

A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President’s public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units. The danger, military experts have told me, is that, while the number of American casualties would decrease as ground troops are withdrawn, the over-all level of violence and the number of Iraqi fatalities would increase unless there are stringent controls over who bombs what.

These details and others were discussed by Hersh in the CNN interview with Wolf Blitzer.

HERSH: Well, you know, what I was writing about in The New Yorker this week is our plan is to pull out American troops if we start to do that. And I think the president probably will next year. But the war is not going to slow down. We're going to increase the pace of air operations. There's going to be more bombing in direct support of Iraqi units now.

BLITZER: Let me read to you what you write in The New Yorker magazine, the article entitled "Up in the Air." "A key element of the drawdown plans, not mentioned in the President's public statements, is that the departing American troops will be replaced by American airpower. Quick, deadly strikes by U.S. warplanes are seen as a way to improve dramatically the combat capability of even the weakest Iraqi combat units."

Explain what you're hearing from your sources.

HERSH: Oh. It's very simple. That we have a lot of units in Iraq that are not very good. And if we're going to put...

BLITZER: Iraqi units.

HERSH: Yes. Right. American -- not American.

BLITZER: Ground troops.

HERSH: Absolutely. Not very competent. Very weak. And if we must -- many of them Shiite, many of them controlled by militias. I mean, they're not necessarily loyal to any particular regime. And if we pull away the American ground support and the American air support, they're in trouble.

But if we -- we can take out troops if we increase air. In other words, the temple of air bombing, bombing's sort of the unknown story right now. We don't know how many bombs are dropped, where. Nobody reports publicly as they did, Wolf, in Vietnam.

During the Vietnam war, we got a daily total of how many missions, sorties per day, how much tonnage. We have no idea here how many bombs are actually dropping every day and where. But the idea is, you increase the pace of the bombing. And that will make an inadequate Iraqi unit be able to stand up a little bit, certainly against the insurgency. That's the thinking.

BLITZER: And then you go on to write this: "The prospect of using air power as a substitute for American troops on the ground has caused great unease. For one thing, Air Force commanders, in particular, have deep-seated objections to the possibility that Iraqis eventually will be responsible for target selection. 'Will the Iraqis call in air strikes in order to snuff rivals, or other warlords, or to snuff members of your own sect and blame someone else?' another senior military planner now on assignment in the Pentagon asked."

Your concern, specifically, is that American air power, which can be decisive, clearly, is going to be used for untoward, for bad purposes.

HERSH: It's not my concern. It's the concern of many senior generals in the air business, you know, in the Air Force. And planners, because they say, this is, you know, the power of American air is enormous. And the idea, it's, and it's, this is a skill.

People talk in terms, to me, the Air Force planners, of the exquisite nature of air bombing. The idea that you're going to turn over this control, this kind of force, to Iraqi units who can be penetrated by the insurgency, that have a lot of internal battles, as I say, many are militias. And they have problems that other people and other militias -- who knows what will motivate them?

This sounds like a pretty sketchy and incredibly violent plan. A plan drawn by those with no regard for human life. I've never been sure what is the best course of action at this stage of the game. A complete and abrupt military pullout certainly leaves the scene of the crime in a worse-than-Saddam state. However, a continuation of the current, ill-defined and unspecified approach is also not helpful to Iraqis or to Americans or to most of the rest of the world. I think the arguments by Murtha, Sheehan and others have at least been useful to highlight the latter fact, if not to argue the complete withdrawal option effectively.

Hersh goes on to describe the even scarier state of the Tush psyche and his "decision-making from God". Confirming what we on the left have been afraid of, the President of the United States is apparently inaccessible via logic, facts, investigation, research, assessment or any other means based in reality. From the New Yorker article:

Current and former military and intelligence officials have told me that the President remains convinced that it is his personal mission to bring democracy to Iraq, and that he is impervious to political pressure, even from fellow Republicans. They also say that he disparages any information that conflicts with his view of how the war is proceeding.

Bush’s closest advisers have long been aware of the religious nature of his policy commitments. In recent interviews, one former senior official, who served in Bush’s first term, spoke extensively about the connection between the President’s religious faith and his view of the war in Iraq. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that “God put me here” to deal with the war on terror. The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that “he’s the man,” the former official said. Publicly, Bush depicted his reelection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.

The former senior official said that after the election he made a lengthy inspection visit to Iraq and reported his findings to Bush in the White House: “I said to the President, ‘We’re not winning the war.’ And he asked, ‘Are we losing?’ I said, ‘Not yet.’ ” The President, he said, “appeared displeased” with that answer.

“I tried to tell him,” the former senior official said. “And he couldn’t hear it.”

And from the CNN transcript:

HERSH: Suffice to say this, that this president in private, at Camp David with his friends, the people that I'm sure call him George, is very serene about the war. He's upbeat. He thinks that he's going to be judged, maybe not in five years or ten years, maybe in 20 years. He's committed to the course. He believes in democracy.

HERSH: He believes that he's doing the right thing, and he's not going to stop until he gets -- either until he's out of office, or he falls apart, or he wins.

BLITZER: But this has become, your suggesting, a religious thing for him? HERSH: Some people think it is. Other people think he's absolutely committed, as I say, to the idea of democracy. He's been sold on this notion.

He's a utopian, you could say, in a world where maybe he doesn't have all the facts and all the information he needs and isn't able to change.

I'll tell you, the people that talk to me now are essentially frightened because they're not sure how you get to this guy.

We have generals that do not like -- anymore -- they're worried about speaking truth to power. You know that. I mean that's -- Murtha in fact, John Murtha, the congressman from Pennsylvania, which most people don't know, has tremendous contacts with the senior generals of the armies. He's a ranking old war horse in Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. The generals know him and like him. His message to the White House was much more worrisome than maybe to the average person in the public. They know that generals are privately telling him things that they're not saying to them.

And if you're a general and you have a disagreement with this war, you cannot get that message into the White House. And that gets people unnerved.

An adept Daily Kos diarist, ademption, has written a summary of the Hersh article that is a pretty good read. The most knowledgeable academic blogger on this subject, Juan Cole, also has comments on Hersh's article together with additional information on the implications for the various ethnic and terrorist factions within Iraq. His post is here.

Cartoon from Mr. Fish - Catch of the Day

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27 November 2005
Rogue River fishing report [27 November 2005]

Rogue River steelhead weatherOur weather here today was 150% overcast with misty drizzles and occasional rain showers. Maximum temperature reached into the low 40s and all the snow we've recieved over the past week melted away. Melting snows have caused the rivers to rise slightly. We fished the Rogue River this afternoon and found it to be a few inches higher than when we fished it a week ago. Overcast skies and rising water levels this time of year often yield good steelhead fishing, so we were looking forward to catching our first steelies of the season. Sadly, this expectation was not realized - we were skunked again.

We arrived at the lower river at about 1:30 pm. We slipped into our waders and rigged up our 8-weight rods while standing in muddy puddles of melting snow. We didn't have to dress quite as warmly as earlier in the weekend given the warmer air temperature, but standing waist-deep in cold water still necessitates plenty of insulation. No one else was around this stretch of river and there were no new prints on the footpath, so we were happy to start in the first really good hole upstream from the parking spot. We drifted eggs and nymphs under indicators for a good hour up and down this very nice run. No results. We were quite surprised that we didn't even hook a trout.

When we started to feel a little cold, we hiked upstream quite a ways to warm up our legs and feet and to get to the next really nice indicator-fishing spot. On the way, we encountered one other fisherman who reported that he hadn't caught anything today either. He insisted that he was having a good day anyway. Sometimes I can claim the same, but this afternoon was not heading in that direction. We drifted eggs and nymphs through this second promising stretch for another hour and were amazed that we didn't stimulate a single strike. Wow. On paper, this afternoon possessed a typically productive set of conditions, but we failed to tempt a single fish of any kind.

Feeling a little frustrated and disappointed and a bit cold, we switched tactics to swinging streamers for the return trip downstream. I also switched to a really heavy sink-tip line to make sure I was getting all the way down to the bottom. I was, but still no results. By the time we returned to the nice, fishy hole we started in, the rain had increased to a steady shower and gave the impression it would continue to escalate. Darkness had settled too, so I fished this hole quickly and packed it in. We conceded to the freakin' skunk and headed back to the car. Peeling off cold, wet, neoprene waders in the rain, without having hooked any fish, is rather miserable.

Layers of fleece necessary for optimal comfort, assuming longjohns: 1 mid, 1 heavy, plus a rain jacket
Lost flies: 2
Wildlife sightings: very scant - red-tailed hawks, an eastern kingfisher, some LBBs, one rabbit
Water temperature: 36 oF
Did I get to use a spey rod?: No
Enjoyment grade for the day: B

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25 November 2005
Hard water

“Well, we said we were going fishing, and we did.” - John Gierach

Secret Creek at Thanksgiving 2005B and I had been looking forward to spending our post-Thanksgiving Friday with our friend Speytrout, fishing for steelhead on his home river. We really wanted to get together, but the cold weather forced a unanimous decision to reschedule. All 3 ended up enjoying brief and separate fishing outings anyway, but with a lot less driving investment. I'm not sure where Speytrout ended up fishing, but we headed for 'Secret Creek' (not it's real name) since it's one of our closest steelhead tributaries.

We expected to fish only for an hour or two, or even not at all, since the temperature was only in the low 20's after a morning temperature of 10 oF. Yikes. Sunshine was infrequent and indirect through the big snowflakes and wintry haze. Without direct sunshine and/or temperature above 28 or 30, wet fly line freezes to iced-up rod guides pretty fast. And human fisherpersons, standing in a river, don't stay warm without shivering in these circumstances either. At 23o, we weren't too sure how long we'd last. Before we even had our waders on, we made a pact: if either of us caught a fish and one of us had to submerge any portion of an extremity to land it, we'd call it a day and warm up on the drive home.

Layered up in our warmest long undies and a double dose of fleece, we stepped into the river at about 3:00 to fish the last couple hours of daylight. Normally a popular stretch of stream, we found the river uninhabited with only one set of footprints in the snow. We drifted orange and yellow yarn eggs under indicators in a deep swirly hole for an hour and found nothing but a couple of underwater snags. The cold air did necessitate rod guide ice removal every 10-15 minutes or so. B and I leapfrogged each other downstream for another hour, bouncing black beadhead woolybuggers and nymphs through dark runs and riffles without a single tug. I think we were both a little surprised, and self-satisfied for some reason, that we stayed warm (enough) for 2 hours.

We discovered several of our old favorite deep bends and pools have been rearranged by a year of sand deposits and formation of new side channels. It's a bit sad, and simultaneously satisfying, to have been fishing the same river long enough to see these natural changes.

No fish catching to report, but we had a good time and no one got hurt. There is something very gratifying about fishing comfortably in snow flurries standing in a cold river. You can't do it for more than an hour or two sometimes, but most folks miss out on it altogether.

Layers of fleece necessary to tolerate 23o, assuming warmest longjohns: 2 heavy weight
Lost flies, B v. TG: 1-0 (a rare victory for me)
Wildlife sightings: slim pickins - a few cardinals, a Cooper's hawk, and a big male Marsh hawk.
Water temperature: a little crunchy around the edges
Did I get to use a spey rod?: No
Enjoyment grade for the day: A

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23 November 2005
Things I'm thankful for

Great Lakes Steelhead parr

  • My family
  • My friends (including the bloggy type)
  • Blue states
  • Clean air, clean water and unmolested forest
  • Wildlife
  • Conscientious, compassionate humans
  • Science education, including the parts about evolution
  • My right to privacy
  • Freedom from religion
  • Weekends and vacation days

Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone.

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I and the Bird #11 is up

I and the BirdFrom way up north in Arctic Bay, Nunavut Province, Clare at The House & other Arctic musings, sends us the Thanksgiving Week edition of the I and the Bird blog carnival. He has included a Frappr map to provide a geographical context for the bird sightings and stories that are included in this the 11th installment of the carnival.

Clare has done another creative job of weaving together 30+ posts into a delightful trip around the globe. Stories of a wayward Snowy Owl in Alaska, a wayward California Condor in Minnesota, a birder friendship with Dave Barry, some early Feederwatch returns, a couple of posts on migrating geese and a few posts about more exotic species. Great job Clare!

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22 November 2005
I don't understand

Isn't heterosexual abstinence the same as homosexual abstinence?

Then, what's up with this:

Vatican Speaks Against Gay Seminarians

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The Vatican is toughening its stand against gay candidates for the priesthood, specifying in a new document that even men with "transitory" homosexual tendencies must overcome their urges for at least three years before entering the clergy.


Critics of the policy warned that, if enforced, it will likely result in seminarians lying about their orientation and will decrease the already dwindling number of priests in the United States. Estimates of the percentage of gays in U.S. seminaries and the priesthood range from 25 percent to 50 percent, according to a research review by the Rev. Donald Cozzens, an author of "The Changing Face of the Priesthood."


What in the world is the difference between abstaining from gay sex or abstaining from straight sex? And, why can't the Catholic church simply form a policy against pedophilia instead of mixing homophobia where it doesn't belong? Or at least where it isn't helpful?

At least all churches are not so narrow-minded:

Methodist Church apologizes for anti-gay rulings

The largest Methodist church in Minnesota held a service of protest last Sunday, nearly doubling the normal attendance to over a thousand worshipers. The Hennepin Avenue Methodist Church in Minneapolis used the occasion to make a statement in opposition to two rulings last month by the denomination's highest court, the Judicial Council.

...the [council] defrocked lesbian minister Irene Elizabeth Stroud, a Philadelphia cleric who was open about her life partnership with another woman. ...That decision was overturned on a technicality by an appellate court before the high tribunal gave her the final boot. Stroud will continue as a lay pastor.

...the council admonished two liberal regional bodies on the West Coast, both of which came out with pro-gay resolutions during the last year. The council ruled that church law trumped those regional policies.

...the council reinstated minister Edward Johnson of South Hill United Methodist in South Hill, Virginia. Johnson was suspended for a year without pay by his bishop after he refused to allow a gay parishioner to become an official member of the church.

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More clarity from Faux News

Fox News Won't Show Ad Opposing Alito

WASHINGTON - Fox News is refusing to air an advertisement critical of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito, citing its lawyers' contention that the spot is factually incorrect.

A spokesman for the groups sponsoring the ad said the network's decision reflects the political right's effort to shield President Bush's choice for the high court.

The ad says that as an appellate court judge, Alito has "ruled to make it easier for corporations to discriminate ... even voted to approve strip search of a 10-year-old girl." Referring to a document Alito wrote in 1985 while seeking a job in the Reagan administration, it quotes him as saying that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."

The groups backing the ad include the Alliance for Justice, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, People for The American Way and abortion rights organizations.

"It's not about ideology, it's about quality and honesty," Irena Briganti, a Fox News spokeswoman, said of the decision to reject the ad.


Faux News is suddenly concerned about accuracy? I believe they're using a bit of Rovian logic to suit their purpose. Here are just the most recent (last two days) accuracy deficits compiled by Media Matters:

An additional point: the anti-Alito advertisement is designed to show a persuasive message rather than provide balanced, neutralized perspectives. It's an advertisement. 'Accuracy' is probably not the best test. Unless you need to fabricate a reason to throw it out. Faux News: I suggest you apply this same test to a few commerce-oriented commercials and see how they fare. I predict a low success ratio.

Kevin Drum puts it this way:

Put it this way -- if Fox News was willing to run Bush-Cheney 2004 ads, this Alito spot should have cleared the network's fact-checking process with flying colors.

Lastly, if Faux News is promoting the confirmation of Alito, and the organizations listed above are against it, we should all be scared of him.

FYI - People for the American Way has a petition to sign...

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21 November 2005
Midwestern, rural, soggy-pants soil sampling

A beautiful day for soil sampling, not.

My coworker and I spent the day in the 40o wind, mist and drizzle sampling soils today. It's a job we'd have preferred to have completed a couple of weeks ago, but there's just not enough time to fit everything in. Today we used a combination of this mechanized, hydraulic soil probe gizmo and a manual bucket auger to make sampling these plots two feet deep a one-day job. We punched a total of 700 holes and filled up almost 200 ziplock bags in about 6 hours. I went back and forth putting my raincoat on because I was getting wet and taking it off because I was getting overheated. Tomorrow we'll be right back in the same plots to sample soil again but in a different, shallower, easier way for altogether different measurements. The temperature is supposed to be 33o maximum. Yeeha. We'll be breaking through a surface frost tomorrow that we didn't have to deal with today. Thank goodness for Carhartt overalls.

'Twas a tad damp

I will be crossing no creeks.

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20 November 2005
I and the Bird #11 is coming...

I and the BirdClare, our friend in the north at The House & Other Arctic Musings, is collecting bird-related stories and posts for the 11th edition of the I and the Bird blog carnival. The deadline is early on Tuesday (11/22) this week as the edition will be published on Wednesday this time since Thursday is Turkey Day. How appropriate that IATB doesn't want to upstage a day devoted to our focus on a big bird, eh? Anyway, email your submissions to Clare ASAP so he has plenty of time to organize them into a giant flock of avi-tainment.

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Mr. Fish now has a blog...

Exit strategy

...called Mr. Fish - Catch of the Day (RSS feed).

I'm a fan. I've included a link in my blogroll.

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19 November 2005
Rogue River fishing report [19 November 2005]

Fishy water...I really like deer season. Once the firearm season for deer begins, there is very little competition for prime steelhead water. B and I headed for the lower Rogue today; we expected pretty good results. The water level is currently 300 ft3/sec, a tad above the historical seasonal average (230 ft3/sec) which is significantly higher that it's been in a long time. The skies were partly to mostly sunny and the 43o air felt warm after recent days of 20o, wind and snow.

Neither B nor I were in the mood to start drifting nymphs and eggs under indicators for steelies yet, we've got all winter for that. So we rigged up 7- and 8-weight rods with heavy sink tip line to drift and swing streamers and spey flies. Heck, that's how Speytrout's been doing it. Though I think he's targeting fish closer to big Lake Michigan, where they've just begun their upstream migration, while we're fishing for steelhead that have already swum 100+ miles. Maybe that's important, and maybe it's not.

We hiked through the woods to a really fishy spot - a long deep run on the far bank. For some reason, I required quite a few casts and a couple tree branch disentanglements to get the hang of landing my fly on the opposite bank with no back cast. B fared better from the get-go. She caught a nice little 12" rainbow on her favorite 'Smallmouth Crack' streamer, right where I'd been standing a few minutes earlier. I tried dark colors then lighter and finally bright pink or orange numbers with no results. We probably fished a half-mile of river in total - including one really deep, snaggy and fishy spot downstream from an island. I did detect a couple of trout smacks, but I had no hookups all afternoon. Two other fishermen we ran into later in the afternoon reported the same kind of day - a trout or two but no steelhead.

I got skunked but it was such a pleasant day that I didn't mind. Chilliness chased us back to the car around 5:30 or so, after the sun went down. I'm looking forward to getting out a couple more times late next week.

Layers of fleece necessary for optimal comfort, assuming longjohns: 2
Lost flies: 1 (pretty good for me)
Wildlife sightings: lots of chickadees, a couple red-tailed hawks, a couple ghosts of salmon-past and a shot & drowned deer-past
My prediction of how many more times B will wear her slightly leaky waders before repairing them: 2
Water temperature: 40 oF
Did I get to use a spey rod?: No
Enjoyment grade for the day: A+

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18 November 2005
Why I love to fly fish...

Part 1 of a series, I suspect.

Speytrout's steelhead 11/14/05My friend Speytrout sent me this gorgeous fish picture earlier this week. I'm grateful that he helps sustain my fishing requirements by sending pictures of some of his beauties. He fishes a lot and he's an accomplished fisherman. He caught this fall run steelhead earlier this week in his home stream... on a spey fly of his invention. For scale, the rod in the picture is a spey rod with probably 22-24" of cork+reel seat. I saw the picture, drank in the silvery-pink pearlescent colors that exist nowhere else on the planet and thought it would help convey my attraction to fly fishing for salmonids and a few other species. These fish come in colors that knock my socks off sometimes. The picture is beautiful, but it still doesn't do justice to the colors, texture and iridescence of the fish. That deep orangey-yellow of a brown trout underside or the lusty deep apricot-peach of brook trout fins are not colors that are found in a Crayola box or in a wallpaper sampler. They exist nowhere but on the exterior of a trout. And only sometimes. On some strains. And only for parts of the year.

I think these attractions are similar to those serious birders would list. Birds are another category of wildlife that offers spectacular and elegant colors, adaptations, designs, habits, all with unique time and spatial distributions. Most birds must be pursued, they don't just appear on your doorstep. Well, a few do, but the other 99% must be vigilantly traveled toward or waited for. There's one important difference between observing and appreciating these features of avian and of piscine wildlife, however. You really can't see fish unless you catch them. You can't sit on a river bank with binoculars or even an underwater camera and see them. Observation requires a more invasive approach. Hence the invention of catch-and-release fishing.

Speytrout's orangebutt spey flyCatch-and-release fly fishing, and all the subtle techniques associated and implied, is not a perfect solution to the conscientious fisherman. Use of barbless hooks, quickly landing fish, a quick photo, and gentle resuscitation of a tired fish are helpful practices, but occasionally a fish can still be injured. B felt so guilty about this possibility that she fished with hookless lures for a couple years. That's dedicated fishing. Try to explain that one to your friends who think catching fish only to let them go is illogical. Many of us C&R fisherpeople still struggle with the ethics of our habit at least some of the time. The rest of the time we're busy smiling.

The shapes, textures and colors that are found in the riverine fish world are very unique and beautiful. And I like to appreciate them up close and in person. A muscley, slippery, shiny fish in your hand is a heavenly thing. Speytrout landed a medium-small silvery steelhead for B last winter and briefly held it up for us to admire. He remarked that he could stare at these beautiful creatures way too long if he wasn't careful. He still has to remind himself in these situations to limit his gawking and return the fish to the water before it freezes in the cold air.

Steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are essentially a large and anadromous (migratory) subspecies of rainbow trout.

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Still searching for sarcasm

This morning's searches:

  1. sarcasm
  2. amorphophallus titanum stuttgart
  3. rogue river fishing report
  4. science what does salt do to potatoes
  5. make scottie dog out of pine cone (What???? and Google directed this person to my blog???)
  6. ausable river restaurant
  7. draining bile from bears
  8. rockford dam
  9. corpse flower
  10. swans found in michigan
  11. guinness commercial evolution fish
  12. boisea trivittatus australia
  13. wild winter steelhead video clips

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16 November 2005
A very good Republican speech yesterday...

Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) gave a very nice speech yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations. He seems to be one of the Republicans most likely to speak against official Tushie positions. Here are a couple of high points from his speech, but definitely read the whole thing.


Trust and confidence in the United States has been seriously eroded. We are seen by many in the Middle East as an obstacle to peace, an aggressor and an occupier. Our policies are a source of significant friction not only in the region but in the wider international community. Our purpose and power are questioned. We are at the same time both a stabilizing and a destabilizing force in the Middle East.


The Iraq war should not be debated in the United States on a partisan political platform. This debases our country, trivializes the seriousness of war and cheapens the service and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform. War is not a Republican or Democrat issue. The casualties of war are from both parties. The Bush Administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them. Suggesting that to challenge or criticize policy is undermining and hurting our troops is not democracy nor what this country has stood for, for over 200 years. The Democrats have an obligation to challenge in a serious and responsible manner, offering solutions and alternatives to the Administration’s policies.


“What distinguishes America is not our power, for the world has known great power. It is America’s purpose and our commitment to making a better life for all people. That is the America the world needs to see. A wise, thoughtful and steady nation, worthy of its power, generous of spirit, and humble in its purpose.”

I can get behind that.

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15 November 2005
When is the last time you heard Tush tell the truth?

How about even a half-truth? Half-truth anyone? I'll take a shred of truth. Anyone?

From The Immoral Minority:

George Bush is not the first president to lie. Just the first one to go Pro.


Bush lies about everything! He makes up facts, he ignores conflicting data, and he ignores any input from any individual who is not telling him what he wants to hear. I think that George Bush is the most dangerous liar of all. He is the kind of liar that believes his own lies! Bush has faith that what he says is true which makes him think "evidence, I don't need no stinking evidence"!

Unfortunately for Bush his "faith based" approach to world affairs is completely insane! You cannot expect everybody else to respond to the same voices that are ordering you around. I predict that when all is said and done that we will discover that virtually everything that the Bushies did was either illegal, immoral, or both.

Here here.

Also, a good column by E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post and another nice op-ed piece in the Boston Globe by Tom Oliphant.

Don't get me started on Snarly Dick...

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14 November 2005
Another cartoon by Mr. Fish

Welcome Sideshow readers....

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11 November 2005
Western, urban, soggy-pants birding

I spent this past week in Salt Lake City - attending a big agronomy/soil science conference. I'd never been to SLC before, or to Utah for that matter, and found the city to be a pretty nice place - bustling but friendly, lots of old interesting architecture, clean, relatively safe-feeling, quaint sections, with obvious pockets of hippie-intellectual influence. And then there's the gigantic Mormon presence. This was not so much evident from inter-personal observations mind you, but instead from the magnitude of concrete, steel and acreage owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Holy cow. There must be at least 3 whole city blocks of LDS real estate. Across the street from my hotel, there was a 10-acre walled 'compound', for lack of a better word, called Temple Square that houses the Salt Lake Temple, the infamous Tabernacle, a couple of visitor centers, many gardens, displays, statues and fountains. The first two days I was there, I thought it was just a special park of some kind. Then I started to notice that it was much more than that. It is obviously a 'focused-culture' center; nearly all the men wandering around are clad in black suits and ties, and the women are mostly wearing long skirts. Many wore name tags. The 'tour guides' stationed at the gates are international and multilingual and apparently love their mission.

The adjacent city blocks, outside the gates of Temple Square, are also owned by the LDS Church. The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is huge. I don't know what facet of LDS activities go on there; it could be a housing or dormitory-type of facility. Just north of Temple Square, there's an enormous Conference Center with a 21,000 seat auditorium(!). The main business building, the Church Office Building is the LDS Worldwide HQ. This ominous building is 28 stories high and occupies half a city block. It's technically the 2nd tallest building in SLC, but it's on a hill, so it's functionally the tallest in the city. This giant concrete obelisk, with 30-foot globes chiseled into its facade, looks like it could house the nerve center of the Interplanetary Postal Service or the Martian CIA.

Anyhoo... The conference was pretty good. The weather was gray and cloudy - rain and snow were forecast but never quite materialized. On Tuesday afternoon I had a chance to skip out of the meetings for a couple hours of outdoor exploration - I headed for City Creek Canyon. I had researched some urban birding locations in the city and this one seemed like the best bet for the automobile-deficient birder. I hiked north, uphill until I couldn't take it any longer, then I skidded down into the canyon only to discover that I could have taken a lower, easier route to arrive at the same point. Nice. A small freestone creek runs down through the canyon and into the city. There's a narrow riparian park area along the length of the creek, which ultimately widens into a larger, less manicured green park area and ultimately into City Creek Canyon Refuge further out of town. It was worth the unnecessarily steep hike however; the views of the snow-peaked mountains and surrounding brushy landscapes are something I don't get to see very often living in the Midwest. These pictures would be a lot more beautiful if the sun had been out; these are beautiful landscapes.

I stayed on the roadways until I could skid down to the creek without injury and was immediately joined by a packet of roiling black-capped chickadees madly scavenging the trees for some kind of seeds. I hoped perhaps to find a more exotic bird or two of another species mixed in with them but did not. I followed a narrow footpath up and down the steep bank, hoping against a misstep in the loose leaves that might put me in the creek with a broken wrist and a bump on my head. I came to a point where the steepness of the bank no longer looked like a smart option, so I decided to hop across the creek to the more accommodating side. The creek is only a foot or two deep, and there were several stones above or near the surface, but it turns out they were pretty slippery. My cat-like balance failed me and I ended up wading across really fast. I was quick enough that I never got any actual water inside my boots thankfully. The boots lived up to their waterproof claims once again. It is kind of amazing how panicky-fast reactions make you more water-resistant. Now, I just felt a little stupid wandering against the light flow of mountain bikers and joggers with my binoculars and wet pant legs.

Before walking very far on the more civilized side of the creek, I stopped a couple of times to listen and scan the brush for little birds. It was quite windy, so I had a hard time hearing bird calls over the wind and the rushing creek. Instead of little birds however, I noticed a rotund Northern Flicker on a dead snag right in front of me. He was very bold, maintaining his perch while I photographed and binocularized him for several minutes. I was able to get a close-up photo by digiscoping through my 8x42 binoculars. This photo was my best one, but I did crop some vignetting out of the lower left corner. Mindful of the time, I continued on down the path looking for western birds I don't get the chance to see often. I scared up a small flock of dark-eyed juncos and was initially disappointed that they were another common species for me. Then I noticed that they were lighter and browner than the juncos at home - perhaps the western Oregon form. Further through the park, I found a mixed flock of American goldfinches, in their drab winter colors, and house finches gleaning while hanging upside down on tree branches. I scanned the little creek for fish everywhere I stopped but saw none.

Peregrine falcon @ Temple SquareI was nearly back to my hotel when I spotted the bird of the day, a peregrine falcon. Another life-list addition for me I think. I'm pretty sure I've never found one birding by myself before and I'm not sure I've seen one at all. He was perched atop a spire on the Salt Lake Temple, inside the Temple Square walls. I camped out in the fountain and garden area below and watched for about 30 minutes. I had hoped he'd move enough for me to get a better look and confirm my identification. He was content to stay where he was, so I walked around the building, binocularizing from all directions until I collected enough details to come back to the hotel and consult my bird guide. His moustache marks, long wings and streaked breast and legs added up to peregrine for me. So, back at my hotel room, I googled the topic and found that a pair of peregrines nested in the city this year. Sweet! In fact, young peregrines have fledged from nests on the adjacent Joseph Smith Memorial Building several times, and on other nearby buildings as well, since the mid-1990s. Very cool! I was quite self-satisfied. The hike was well worth the wet pants and odd stares from joggers. And I had bagged two life-list additions in one week!

On Thursday afternoon, I unexpectedly ended up with a couple of hours to kill before flying home, so I quickly headed back to the furthest point I'd investigated on Tuesday, then continued further north and quickly reached City Creek Canyon Refuge. I think I saw a Steller's Jay within the city limits, but he disappeared so quickly I didn't get a good view. I first noticed his voice, which sounded very jay-like to me. At the Canyon Refuge, I followed narrow footpaths along and across the creek and up and down the steep, wooded banks. Just inside the park, I spotted a small, warbly-looking specimen flitting among nearby brush. He sat still for a few seconds of binocular-viewing, but I am really not sure who I was looking at. A drab, winter-colored yellow warbler? He was a smooth yellow-olive color with darker wings. I didn't notice any eye stripes or rings or any pronounced streakiness. I hadn't carried my guide with me, but later perusal still didn't help to confirm an ID for sure. UPDATE: In comments, Nuthatch suggests my warbler may have been an orange-crowned. I suspect she's right.

Immediately upon crossing the boundary into the refuge, I noticed a lot more fish in the creek. All fish sightings appeared to fit into one of two groups: silvery rainbows or cutthroats (Genus Oncorhynchus) and darker brook or bull trout (Genus Salvelinus). Lots of them. Each time I poked my head through the brush over the bank, several shadowy slivers zipped from the bright, well-lit water into the darker hiding places. A lot of the time they're not that easy to see until you catch them darting through your peripheral vision. They're sneaky that way. These fish often seemed pretty large - 9-11" - for such a small stream. I heard lots of chickadees, juncos and nuthatches, but wasn't always able to find them with my binoculars.

On my return trip back to the hotel, I spotted a noisy black-billed magpie. His identificaton was a bit more straightforward than the warbler's.

ADDENDUM: This post was included in I and the Bird #11 hosted at The House and other Arctic Musings on 11/22/05.

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10 November 2005
I and the Bird #10

I and the BirdA little bird told me that I and the Bird #10 is hot off the presses over at Thomasburg Walks.

Pamela has done a superb job of assembling 28 bird-natured posts. One from here at S&S is included along with an essay about sharp-shinned hawk coloration changes over time (with pictures), an entry on sunbirds of Singapore, and a post on migration stopovers on oil-drilling platforms in the Gulf of Mexico (also with great pictures).

Check it out.

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The history of the Iraq War, told entirely in lies

Each lie is a direct quote from Tush and his Tushies - all assembled to tell their inaccurate story from beginning to...whatever.

From the good folks at Harper's Magazine.


We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. And we found more weapons as time went on. I never believed that we'd just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country. But for those who said we hadn't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they were wrong, we found them. We knew where they were.


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09 November 2005
What a hunk!

J. Boden Andrulaitis

Joseph Boden Andrulaitis
Born Tuesday, November 8, 2005 at 7:09 AM
8 lbs 13 oz, 20 " long

I'm an aunt again! Congratulations Joe, Mary and Edie!

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Wow. I believe this is what a real mandate looks like...

Here's the scoreboard, the morning after:

Two years is a long way away, but I hope the current lessons are still with us in 2006 when both chambers of the U.S. Congress and 36 governorships are up for grabs. To use Molly Ivin's words, 'we're living in a target-rich environment.'

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Dover and Dover again

via Pharyngula:

Yesterday, the Kansas school board approved, by a vote of 6-4, a modification of public school science standards to cast doubt on evolution and to include creationist explanations for natural phenomena:

The new standards say high school students must understand major evolutionary concepts. But they also declare that the basic Darwinian theory that all life had a common origin and that natural chemical processes created the building blocks of life have been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology.

In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.

Today, the voters of Dover, PA have elected an entirely new school board, comprised completely of Democrats who oppose teaching creationism in public school science class. The old BofE that voted in the creationist standards were completely swept out.

Order is restored.

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08 November 2005
Bizarre search terms

It's often quite entertaining to see which Google searches lead surfers to my blog. Here is the list of keywords for this afternoons searches, in order of popularity:

  1. conflict between anglers and canoers
  2. sarcasm bush
  3. background information about silver creek at florist drive, wisconsin
  4. ray schmidt fishing
  5. how to open a leech farms
  6. pickled bologna pictures
  7. au sable fishing report
  8. stats on sarcasm

I can't tell you how proud I am.

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07 November 2005
I need help from my bird geek friends...

My sister Anne is a high school teacher in a large east coast city. [A round of applause please...] For a little extra fun and diversion, she wants to teach a special summer course to younger kids (1st through 4th grades) on birds and birding. This course will be two weeks long (80 minutes each day), has a very small budget and must incorporate computer use. Seems like a cool idea, eh? She asked for some help and I suggested making use of some of the many great websites that provide information and interaction with birds. I also volunteered to plead for help from the bird-brains that visit here occasionally.

I don't know how this info could be arranged into a course, but I can list a few resources. Here are some websites I've discovered:

Anybody got any other suggestions or ideas? I'll add them as they're posted in comments.


from John of A DC Birding Blog -

Thanks John!

From a certain 'French' relation -

Thanks Goop!

Anne - Dave and Alan have left additonal remarks in comments. Do you think you could find a local birding club or falcon club member that might volunteer to show up with a live bird or two? I bet you could... Thanks guys!

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A little perspective

Bob Harris summarizes some current 'approval' statistics and puts them within a larger context so interpretation is more relevant:

Bush's approval rating has fallen to 35. Maybe America is starting to realize that secret prisons and endless war aren't really the best government we can possibly hope for.

Dick Cheney, in the same poll, has a 19 percent approval rating.

19 percent.

That's two points less popular than cheating on your spouse and seven points behind corporal punishment in schools.

That's down in what can be politely called lunatic territory. As I've been pointing out for years, twenty or thirty percent of Americans believe any insane thing you can imagine.

Dick Cheney is now 18 points behind the number of people who believe alien beings have secretly contacted the U.S. government.

Bush, similarly, now trails the number of people who think astrology is scientific by five points.

Scottie McClellan, however, can still spin things: Bush only trails the aliens by two points.

In another post, Bob links to these approval ratings graphs comparing Tush to Nixon at comparable points in their respective presidencies. For those of us who prefer visual aids:

More statistics and graphs at A Tiny Revolution

Disclaimer: My scientific side requires that I point out that the comparisons these authors are making wouldn't stand up to much technical scrutiny. The surveys were not conducted on the same populations at the same time, yada yada yada. It's still a fun composition.

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05 November 2005
B's 'spider' invention

Here's the spider fly that B was having good luck with recently. It's tied in a mostly traditional way using hen saddle hackle and a bit of hi-vis. B used peacock herl for the body instead of thread, floss or dubbing.

B's 'spider'

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Unseasonably warm, with an afternoon life list addition

Dylan, during a rare split-second of stillnessI'm looking ahead to a busy week, so the weekend has been largely spent on preparations for that rather than on fun pastimes like fishing. However, we did take the time this morning for a 2-hour hike at Sleepy Hollow State Park. B, Dylan (our year-old border collie) and I hiked the same trail that I've blogged about before, but this time we budgeted an appropriate amount of time and did not have to hoof it back in the dark.

The park surrounds a 400-acre lake and many acres of associated marshlands. Sleepy Hollow is a good birding location as it's a temporary stopping place for lots of migratory birds in the spring and fall. It's a popular home for a number of summer and winter resident species as well. Birding with an active dog is definitely not optimal for maximizing bird observations, but it's a good tradeoff. Our favorite hiking trail is one of the shorter choices and can be completed in 2 hours with no dilly-dallying. The path is fairly well-worn and snakes through open fields, dense hardwood and pine stands, dense stands of understory shrubs, and lowland marshy areas. There are lots of little-bird hot spots along the way. The deciduous trees have dropped the majority of their leaves by now - the oaks are still hanging on, but the maples and ash are mostly bare. The morning was very warm for early November - 50 F - and partly sunny.

There's a fungus amungusOne of these birdy hot spots is a stand of gray dogwoods within the first couple hundred yards from the parking area. There, we spotted black-capped chickadees, blue jays, a downy woodpecker rapping away on a goldenrod stem and some unidentified little brown jobs. Further along, we spotted crows, who were abnormally silent, and a red-tailed hawk. Later, as we passed along the south edge of a marshy area with some open water, we scared up a very handsome osprey. He flew from a fairly close perch to a dead tree out in the water and posed for a lengthy inspection. I'm always happy to find osprey in a place like this close to home, away from large, pristine forested areas where you expect to find them. Several young osprey were released by the Michigan DNR just to the north a couple of years ago and have appeared to find the area suitably comfortable.

Deciduous leaves decorate a white pineThe highlight of our birding today was a beautiful fox sparrow of the reddish, eastern variety. They are a transient, migratory species here, preferring to spend summer to the north, from Alaska to the Hudson Bay (Clare's territory) and they winter in the southeastern US. This guy appeared to be travelling alone, sending out regular single note chips which I assume were contact calls. This is the first time B or I have ever spotted a fox sparrow. Now that I've seen one, I think I shan't confuse them with other LBJs (also affectionately called LBBs). The reddish rufousness was quite distinct. If we had an official life list, we'd have added a species today. Perhaps now's a good time to start a list...

ADDENDUM: This post was included in I and the Bird #10 hosted at Thomasburg Walks on 11/9/05.

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Disgusting budget cuts shift debt repayment burden to the poor

The House and the Senate put forward incredibly disturbing budget cuts this week. The two bills are different, but both are equally disgusting. They've both addressed a small portion of the huge deficits we're incurring because of Tush's spending on the Iraq war and disaster relief with cuts to food stamp programs, agricultural subsidies, Medicaid programs, child-support enforcement programs, foster parent payments, student loans and prescription drug programs. The Senate bill passed by an almost party line vote: 52-47. Two Dems voted for it - Landrieu of Louisiana was one of them (!) - and 5 Rs voted against it.

Is there any doubt that our government values corporate interests more than those of our most needy citizens? All the rhetoric about our ridiculously inhumane views and policies toward poverty were laid bare to the world after the Katrina debacle - and this is our response. Sickening. It's worse when you realize that the $50 billion in cuts is a pittance compared to the several hundred billion in runaway spending we need to pay for. Making those who can least afford it make these sacrifices while those with more than enough are asked to contribute nothing is hideously immoral. Unlike cutting the $300 million bridge to nowhere in Alaska, these cuts will harm and kill people directly.

The concentration of wealth toward the already-wealthy orchesrated by the GOP should be evident to all. Our Democrats have been unacceptably complicit. It's immoral and it's anti-democratic.

ADDENDUM: John has a related post about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge oil drilling aspect of the budget bills - including an annotated bird list of the 180 bird species found in the ANWR.

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04 November 2005
I've secretly worried about this...

Don't forget to brush your fangs

from Three Bulls.

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Why do leaves change color in the fall?

Big Man mapleHere's a good, brief discussion of the subject.

I subscribe to the 'protection against radiation' explanation. The red/yellow/orange pigments are present in the leaves all year (most likely as a protection against radiation damage), but because of the chlorophyll (green color), they're not visible. Once the chlorophyll breaks down and disappears in the fall...voilá!

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03 November 2005
Tangled Bank #40

The Tangled BankTB #40 is posted over at The Examining Room of Dr. Charles. Seek, and ye shall find good geeky blog posts....

Also, a Reuters update on the evo-terrorism in Kansas.

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02 November 2005
Continuing in the 'feeling blue' theme

Here's a link to a very creative little animation from The entitled "Become Republican." The video does have some background music, so make your own decision about watching it at work...or perhaps your coworkers will enjoy it too.

ADDENDUM: Driftglass has a most excellent rant on this same subject today.

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01 November 2005
It's 'feel blue' Tuesday


  1. Harry Reid kicked ass with an emotional speech and, in a surprise move, forced the Senate into a closed session to discuss the non-existent Phase 2 of the Iraq intelligence investigation, which made a few Republicans lose their cool.

  2. Matt Cooper of Time Magazine named Karl Rove as his source in the Plame leak scandal.

  3. And this, via The Sideshow:

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Muskegon River fishing report [31 October 2005]

B changes fliesB and I took the day off from work and headed north to the Muskegon River on Monday. Yeeha! We were hopeful to find some early steelhead or eager trout that would chase a streamer. I was looking forward to using my big, new-to-me, 14' 9 weight spey rod. It was a birthday present from B earlier this year, but I'd not fished with it yet. This rod is a cannon - I should be able to fling lots of line, with or without sink tips, if I can muster the coordination.

We arrived at a favorite stretch at about 1:30 to find one other car in the parking area. We jumped into our waders and rigged up our rods - B decided to use her 9'6" 7-weight for plenty of streamer-chucking power. The skies were overcast and drizzly-looking, though actual precipitation hadn't begun. We dressed warmly but skipped the rain jackets.

We hiked down to the river and found it to be as expected - low and clear - with lots of chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) bulldozing gravel, protecting redds, and fertilizing the banks. As I waded upstream I passed by gravel slicks with gaggles of 4-7 salmon each and that's only as far as I could see out into the wide river. I had secretly hoped that most of the salmon action was sparse or already over as the thought of hooking into one of these necrotic, overripe beasts and having to fight and land it does not appeal to me. At all. Plus, I'm really not interested in interrupting their last worldly activity - spawning. C'mon, how would you feel? I wondered if I really wanted to swing my fly over any of this stretch. I took some comfort in the knowledge that these salmon have one thing on their minds at this stage of life and it's often difficult to get them to take a fishing lure.

Biology in actionHoping for the best, I began casting across and swinging downstream, taking a step or two every 2 or 3 casts. I began by casting just a floating mid-head line, then added a sink tip once I felt like I might not hurt myself. Fortunately it didn't take more than 10 or 15 minutes to reach that confidence level. I was able to make a pretty nice 60 or 70' cast every, oh, 20 attempts or so. The bad ones are getting better. I think I started with a black deer hair leech pattern and eventually switched to a white & brown conehead sculpin fly and then to a yellow and to a purple egg-sucking leech. I used some big fluffy marabou spey flies in there somewhere too. B started below me and was fishing upstream somehow. We again managed to coordinate fly color choices, but this time we never reached a particularly effective conclusion. We leap-frogged each other and fished up and down this short 250-300 yard-long stretch all afternoon. Most of the time we were within shouting distance.

Hatching insects were somewhat prolific during the afternoon. A few BWOs swept through along with the occasional caddis and even a straggling white fly. A handful of surface smacks convinced B to switch to BWO imitations. She caught a few pretty browns and rainbows on emerging and wet flies. I had one brief hookup on a streamer early on, but it didn't last beyond 4 or 5 head shakes. At one point, B watched a group of nice sized trout snarfing down salmon eggs behind a group of redds. If we were in the mood to drift eggs under an indicator, we might have caught more fish. Or maybe not.

DownstreamFishing in these circumstances, among spawning and dying salmon, requires steady nerves. A spawning or fighting salmon will jump clear of the surface occasionally crashing down in a big splash. They're big animals, weighing up to 40 pounds, so the splashes can sometimes be startling when they're suddenly close by. These big salmon are functioning in, what I assume has to be sort of a 'seriously hungover' state of pre-death. They'll cruise right up to your legs and suddenly realize you're not a stump or a stone and charge off with a big splash or wake. Or they'll rip past your legs out of nowhere. You catch them in your peripheral vision in the split second before they zing past your ankles. Once in a while, a seemingly dead one along the bank will come to life and splash or zip away out into the depths. Flyfishing is darn good cardiac exercise in more ways than one.

We ended our fishing day a about 5:30 pm. My shoulder was beginning to feel sore, B's leaky foot was feeling cold and it was beginning to rain. The rain increased to a steady shower as we drove home. Maybe that'll bring a few steelhead upstream and flush out some of these smelly kings.

B's catch to mine, approximate ratio: 5:0
Wildlife sightings: pretty scant - a kingfisher, a sharp-shinned hawk, a few herring gulls, some forest floor rodentia
Culinary selections: McDonald's burgers and cheesy popcorn
Did I get to use a spey rod?: Yeah!
Enjoyment grade for the day: A

UPDATE: I must rectify a glaring omission: the wet fly B successfully used was her new spider-based invention. Whoops....

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A worthy link

I direct your attention to I Blame the Patriarchy, a blog written by Aunt Twisty, feminist with enough smarts, spine and vitriol to fuel herself and the entire Democratic Party from now through the revolution. Austin, TX is apparently teeming with this sort of wit. Twisty is currently basking in the afterglow of a mastectomy. She divulged her condition about a month ago and has occasionally shared the details, sometimes with self-photography, since then. You'll see, however, that this is not the main focus of her patriarchy-blaming.


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