Huntin’ Season About to Open

A flashback to a successful hunt in 2020.

The waiting period is just about over. Yes, the general, or firearms, season for deer and elk begins on Saturday morning at dawn. 

 The general season runs through Thanksgiving weekend, finally ending at sunset on November 28. This five-week season that Montana has is one of the longer big game hunting seasons in the country, and one of the many reasons we appreciate living in Montana, as we have that long period of time in which to bag a deer and/or elk and fill the freezer for the year ahead.

 For youth, age 10 – 17, there’s a special two-day youth deer season on Thursday and Friday. Let’s note that there are some special rules on the youth hunt, so check the regulations for the various rules for apprentice hunters, hunter safety training, and who must accompany a youth.

  As always, there are things going on regarding deer and elk hunting, such as shoulder seasons or possible changes in hunting regulations in an effort to simplify the rules. I’ll note that Montana has a 136-page regulations booklet for the 2021 deer and elk season, and at that length we should probably call it a book rather than a booklet.

 One of the shadows hanging over our traditional autumn hunts is chronic wasting disease (CWD). CWD has been in our wild deer populations for about five years, now, and to date 457 animals have tested positive for CWD.

CWD is an incurable disease that affects elk, mule deer, whitetail deer, moose, and caribou. It has been found in wild populations in 21 states, plus Canada and Norway. Here in Montana, about two-thirds of the infected animals have been whitetail deer and one-third mule deer. Just two moose and one elk have tested positive.

This isn’t scientific, but if you look at a Montana map showing where CWD-infected animals have been taken, most cases are on the High Line, north of U.S. Highway 2, and in the south, south of I-90/I-94.

According to an article in the September issue of Bugle, the publication of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, both the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture agree that humans should not eat meat from a CWD-infected animal. The FDA also advises hunters to test animals harvested in an area where infected animals have been found.

The problem with current CWD testing is that it may take days or even weeks to get a test result, and by that time you’d want to have that deer carcass processed and in the freezer. It takes several years for CWD to kill an adult deer and an apparently healthy deer may be infected. An animal with advanced CWD will likely appear malnourished and in poor health. Still, looking through a telescopic sight may not give the hunter enough information to judge whether a deer looks unhealthy.

 Researchers, including Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Hamilton, Montana, are currently working on technologies to come up with field tests so that hunters and biologists can quickly identify an infected animal or rule out CWD in healthy animals.

 My home state of Minnesota is struggling with CWD, a problem made worse because there are some 259 deer farms in the state, and captive deer herds are, let’s face it, incubators for CWD. Just last week Minnesota issued an emergency order blocking the importation and movement of captive deer into and within the state to slow down the spread.

 It was controversial at the time, but Montana voters passed an initiative in 2000 to ban elk farm canned hunts and transfer of breeding stock among farms. Nevertheless, one eastern Montana elk farm had a CWD outbreak in 2020.

 While CWD is an ongoing issue, this is, nonetheless, a wonderful time to live in Montana, with extended opportunities to go out in the great outdoors to harvest organically grown, top quality wild meat, and maybe even a trophy for the wall.

Remember, wear hunter orange in the field, and always get permission to hunt on private land. Keep an eye out on the weather. Stay safe and have fun.

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

Vaccinations and the Outdoors

To best enjoy October colors, get that Covid vaccination!

We often regard hunting and fishing outings as an opportunity to get away from things. That works some of the time, as several hours of standing in a river waving a fly rod and watching the drift of a dry fly down the river’s current clearly has a positive effect on one’s stress level.

 Then there are other times that the press of current events stay with us, though perhaps in different ways.

 On the last weekend of September, we took advantage of beautiful autumn weather to hook up the trailer and head for the Big Hole River. We camped at the popular BLM campground at Divide. We were surprised to see the usually busy recreation area pretty much deserted, but we took advantage of an opportunity to get one of the few riverside campsites.

 We speculated on why so few people were camping and concluded that, perhaps, word hadn’t gotten around that the Divide Bridge area was no longer being used as a fire camp and was again open to the public.

Before we left town, however, my wife and I took time to go to the weekly pop-up immunization clinic at the Butte Civic Center and we both managed to get Covid-19 booster shots. With the spread of the Delta Variant and increasing numbers of “breakthrough” cases, we were beginning to feel a bit vulnerable, and getting booster shots was both a literal and figurative shot in the arm.

 The nurse that gave me the shot asked if I’d had a reaction from the first two shots. I said that the day after the second shot, I spent most of the day in a recliner, watching TV and feeling kind of wiped out. I’ll note that the day after that I felt fine and went skiing a day later. She said I’d likely have a similar reaction to the booster shot.

 The day after the booster shot, I loaded up our black Lab, Kiri, and drove to one of my ruffed grouse spots. We didn’t see or hear any grouse, but as we walked up and down hills and through clumps of aspens, I was feeling kind of stiff and sore, and just a bit “off,” like I might have been coming down with a cold. After returning to the truck after a three-hour walk, I was happy to call it a day and to go back to camp to take a nap.

 My wife was having a similar reaction to her booster shot, also, so we both took afternoon naps and otherwise had a lazy afternoon.

Happily, the rest of the weekend I was feeling fine and had fun casting to rising rainbow trout that were feeding on the last of the season’s tricos.

I’m relating this story to show my support for the importance of getting vaccinated for Covid-19. Much of this past year and a half, many of us have tried to escape the specter of covid by going outdoors. Indeed, in the middle of surges of the pandemic, the outdoors was the one place that seemed to make sense, and where we could spend some time with other people without stressing out about catching the bug.

When the various immunizations became available, my wife and I were among the first in line when our age group got the green light. When boosters were okayed for people over 65 we again got in line as soon as we could.

 We’re tired of the pandemic. We’re tired of social distancing and wearing masks, though we try to not be obnoxious about it. But we’re also tired of seeing health care facilities jammed to the rafters with people who passed up opportunities to get vaccinated, and we’re tired of seeing, again, rising death numbers as our country passes the 700,000 marker.

 For readers who continue to resist vaccination, it’s time to face reality. Covid -19  is real and it’s a killer. Even if you survive covid, you could have long-term health complications. Vaccinations are the way out of the mess. It’s free and mainly painless.

In a nutshell: get the damned shot.

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

Tomatoes to Pheasants!

Kiri searching for ruffed grouse scent.

I declared an end to the gardening season last week. For some reason it seemed just a bit strange to be out in the hot sun harvesting green tomatoes. But at the end of September, we have to face up to the reality that as frosty nights become routine, it was the end of another season.

Years ago, when we moved to Butte, people told us that you can’t grow tomatoes in Butte. I keep trying to prove they were wrong and sometimes I succeed. I learned, in the process, that it’s easy to grow tomatoes in Butte; the trick is getting ripe tomatoes.

More often than not, I’ve gotten to mid-September and my tomatoes are just starting to turn color, just as we start having frosty nights. Several times, we’ve gone camping over Labor Day weekend and returned to see wilting, blackened plants in the garden, the victims of an early freeze.

 This past summer, however, with prolonged hot, dry weather, has been a good one as far as tomatoes are concerned. In fact, I picked my first ripe tomato on the 4th of July. Of course, the plant was an early maturing hybrid called, appropriately, 4th of July. Other plants started producing in August, especially a couple of cherry tomato plants.

 Then there are the late producers that are just changing color when I’m ready to call an end to covering them at night and watering them the next day.

 Some people suggest pulling the plants and hanging them upside down in the garage to finish ripening. I’ve done that and it works, though it’s messy as leaves dry and fall off the plants. An easier way, in my opinion, is to clip off branches that have fruit and just put them in a box in a warm place. That could be the garage, or inside the house after the garage becomes a secondary refrigerator. Sort through them every few days and harvest the ripening tomatoes. I’ve picked ripe tomatoes almost to Thanksgiving time.

We’re nearing the end of other seasons, as well. We went camping that last weekend of September and had near perfect weather for fall camping. I did some flyfishing along with the camping and got in on some of the last of the trico hatches, or spinner falls to be more correct, of the season. Unlike the tangible clouds of bugs we see in August, there were just a smattering of those tiny mayflies coming down to the water’s surface to complete their life cycle. Still, it was enough to get fish rising. I caught several nice rainbow trout that leaped their way across the river in their efforts to get rid of that little hook in their jaw. I was able to release them with a minimum of handling and send them back on their way.

While I haven’t yet put my fly rods away for the winter, I am likely done fishing for the season. My main priority from now on will be upland bird hunting; first for ruffed grouse in mountain foothill aspens, and then for pheasants. In fact, the pheasant season opens this Saturday, October 9, though it’ll likely be a few days later when I head to prairie country for those descendants of Asian immigrants that found a home and thrive on the fringes of agriculture across America’s heartlands.

 I love hunting for ruffed grouse and consider a ruffed grouse on the table as the best of all wild game. Still, pheasants were my introduction to the world of hunting years ago and remain a constant through all those hunting seasons since then. The sights and sounds of a rooster pheasant flushing from a weed patch never fail to thrill me.

As I was writing this, we got a call from one of the landowners on whose land I hunt pheasants every year. “So, when are you coming?” she asks.

The long friendships we’ve had with farmers and ranchers who let wildlife thrive and let me share in the bounty also thrills me.

Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

Harvest Time

The apples are about ready for harvest.

One of the paradoxes about time is that the less we have left, the faster it seems to go. 

 It seems like just a couple days ago when we celebrated the beginning of September and several fun days of hunting for dusky (or blue, if you prefer) grouse. Now, we’re at the end of September, a week past the autumnal equinox, and we’re well into fall.

I subscribe to the idea of the meteorological beginning of the seasons rather than the astronomical seasons. In other words, fall begins on September 1, when we start having autumnal weather, not at the equinox, several weeks after the beginning of fall weather. Of course, I might have different thoughts on the subject if we lived in another part of the country.

When we were first married, our first home was in Des Moines, Iowa where we lived for just three months while I went through training for the beginning of what turned out to be a long career with the Social Security Administration. In late September, when we arrived there, it was still mid-summer for all intents and purposes, with temperatures around 90 degrees and with heavy humidity to go with the package. It quickly turned to autumn in October and by the time we left Des Moines at Christmas time the city was buried under deep snow.

 Here in our mile-high mountain valley, autumn reliably begins well before the equinox. Even if we haven’t gotten any snow yet, we had two hard frosts before the equinox.

 I covered my garden before the freezing nights in an effort to prolong the gardening season. I was partially successful. Some less hardy plants such as green beans and eggplant keeled over in spite of protection. My tomatoes mostly survived, though with some frost damage. With favorable weather forecasts for this week, I figure my gardening season will go into October.

Most likely, in this coming week my wife and I will be harvesting our apple tree. Last year, our tree mostly took the year off, with a final harvest of just six apples, two of which we shared with our next-door neighbors. This year, our tree is absolutely loaded with ripening fruit that typically don’t get fully ripe until we get into October.

 If gardening season is on its last legs, other seasons are just ramping up. The Youth waterfowl and pheasant season happened last weekend. The general waterfowl season begins on Saturday, October 2. On the other hand, the sage grouse season ends on September 30.

 The pheasant and pronghorn antelope firearms seasons begin the following Saturday, on October 9. The general deer and elk seasons begin on October 23.

Mountain aspens in full fall color. Note the stand of aspens with orange foliage, contrasting with the yellow and gold.

If hunting isn’t on your to-do list, there are many other outdoor activities. This will be a prime weekend to take a drive in our countryside to check out the fall colors. Typically, mountain aspens are at their best right about now, though it doesn’t last long before leaves start falling. In fact, you’ll likely see some aspen stands that have already shed their leaves. River bottom cottonwoods are starting to show their fall colors, though they really don’t reach their peak until later in October, when most other trees have lost their fall colors.

 October can also be a good month for fishing. Keep in mind that on the Big Hole River we still have summer closures on much of the river. Also, under new regulations to protect brown trout, all brown trout caught from Dickie Bridge downstream to the river’s confluence with the Beaverhead River must be released. Anglers must also use single-hook lures. If you’re using a lure with treble hooks, clip off two of those hooks, and pinch down the barb on the remaining hook while you’re at it.

 October has always been my favorite month of the year. Of course, I was born in October, which might have something to do with it. It’s a wonderful time of the year, and a great time to get out and enjoy our natural world before we start shoveling snow.

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

New Life for Waters of the United States

A small mountain stream – part of Waters of the United States

As a hunter and angler, water is an important part of my life, as it is, indeed, essential to life, itself. As this drought year reminds us, we can’t take clean water, or any water, for that matter, for granted.

 As a fisherman, I wade in rivers, lakes and streams, or ride a boat on the water, while in pursuit of fish. As a hunter, I wander wetlands and creeks for waterfowl, as well as for pheasants and deer that grow up near wetlands and creeks. Even in the dead of winter, I ski mountainsides on crystalized water that eventually ends up in wetlands, lakes, or streams.

 I’m also a member of conservation organizations such as Trout Unlimited and Ducks Unlimited, both of which base their work and existence on the importance of water and wetlands.

With this as background, I’m happy to report that, in August, a Federal District Court in Arizona reversed a Trump Administration rule on what constitutes Water of the United States.

Waters of the United States (WOTUS) is a term used in the 1972 amendments to the Clean Water Act. WOTUS is a “threshold” term of the Clean Water Act, defining the scope of federal jurisdiction when it comes to enforcement of the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act does not actually define WOTUS but leaves it up to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army (Corps of Engineers) to define the term in regulations.

 The definition of WOTUS has been the focus of various governmental rulemaking and court decisions, not to mention changes in political philosophy of various administrations. Without getting too involved, in 2015, the Obama Administration issued rules asserting that wetlands were included in WOTUS because they are “inseparably bound up” with navigable waters and have “significant effects on water quality and the aquatic ecosystem” in those waters.

 In 2020, the Trump Administration changed the rules, essentially declaring that non-connected wetlands and ephemeral or intermittent streams did not meet the definition of WOTUS, and thus were not subject to protection by the EPA.

 This year, the Biden Administration was in the process of re-writing the rules to return it to something more like the 2015 rules. The Arizona court decision, however, accomplishes that without having to go through the administrative rule-making process.

 The court found that the 2020 WOTUS rule essentially removed all Clean Water Act protections in the states of Arizona and New Mexico, and thus was an unlawful extreme shift in the status of streams from previous Court rulings and administrative rule making.

According to The Hill, A Washington D.C. digital media company that specializes in political coverage, the 2020 rule concerning ephemeral and intermittent streams removed protections from 59 percent of all the streams in the U.S., as well as 81 percent of streams in the arid southwest. Over a third of the country’s population drinks water derived, in part, from these intermittent streams, not to mention the importance of these streams and wetlands for trapping sediments, mitigating flood damage, and benefits to wildlife and fisheries.

Regrettably, people who make land use plans based on Federal regulations now find themselves having to go back to the drawing boards. Under the 2020 rules, farmers and ranchers, developers and industries could, without much hindrance, drain wetlands or dump chemical waste in areas that were temporarily not within the WOTUS definition.

 For many, all this rule changing may not seem all that important or even interesting. To put it into perspective, we must remember that, unless we live on a mountaintop, we all live downhill from something or somebody else. If I, for example, lived up a hillside from you, and there was a coulee on the hillside that might drain spring runoff from my property to yours, you would probably be deeply concerned if I threw chemical containers down that coulee where residual chemicals could drain down to your property to poison your wells, kill your livestock and destroy your crops.

That’s why the meaning of Waters of the United States is important to all of us.

Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

Grouse on the Mountaintop

Early morning in grouse country.

If an elk family runs across the road as you’re heading to a hunting spot, that must be a good omen, right? I don’t know what their hurry was, but a cow elk, followed by a pair of calves and a yearling calf, ran across the forest road, as I neared the spot where I was going to hunt.

 I wasn’t planning to hunt elk, however. In fact, the archery elk season opener was still a couple days away. I was heading for this sagebrush covered mountainside, down from old-growth timber on the mountaintop, in search of dusky grouse, or blue grouse if you prefer.

It didn’t take long to test the theory. We were still in our first 15 minutes of our walk when Kiri, my black Labrador retriever, got too far out and bumped a bunch of grouse. I was going to yell at her for getting too far out, when two grouse flushed nearby. One of the grouse flew right at me, then veered off and I was able to swing my shotgun on it and shoot and was gratified to see the bird drop.

 I am pretty darned sure it’s a good omen when the first shot of the hunting season results in a big blue grouse in the bag.

I had shots at a couple more grouse in the next few minutes, though those birds kept flying.

 We made a long walk in the trees and sagebrush and eventually circled back to where we started, and about 100 yards from where I’d parked the truck, we flushed another bunch of grouse. I managed to drop a grouse on the initial flush and a few minutes later, put up a single bird, completing our limit for the day by 9 a.m.

Kiri and a limit of dusky grouse.

“We did it, Kiri!” I told my dog, celebrating our achievement. I can’t even begin to remember how long it had been since we’d gotten a limit of mountain grouse, either blues or ruffed grouse. I have more memories of long treks through those sage ridges without seeing anything, much less taking any. Last year, I celebrated getting just one of those big blues on opening weekend. 

On the drive back down the mountain to where we were camped, I spotted more grouse along the edge of the road, some five in all. They were cooperative enough to let me photograph them.

A young dusky grouse poses for my camera.

The next morning, on my drive back up the mountain, that grouse family was still right about where I’d seen them the day before. I kept on driving, because that road had been carved from the mountainside, and it was pretty much straight up on one side of the road and straight down on the other. If someone was going to make like a mountain goat and chase those birds it’d have to be someone a lot younger than I.

 On that morning’s walk I had just one shot at a grouse and didn’t connect. I was just glad to see them, again.

 These early September outings aren’t just for grouse, of course. I spent the afternoon on a nearby trout stream, not having any luck until a little brown trout took mercy on me and took my fly, so I had, at least, one little victory for the day.

The next day I thought our morning walk was going to be just exercise, but side-hilling our way across the sagebrush hillside, a pair of grouse flushed and I managed to drop one on my second shot.

We were ready to pack up and go home the next day, but I had time for one more morning walk on the mountain. My flatlander legs were protesting yet another walk on the mountain, and I was limping along while Kiri got ahead of me, again, and put up another bunch of grouse.

I came back to camp empty-handed, but happy about the outing. It had been a long time since I’d seen so many grouse, and we were taking some home for future dinners.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

Reflections on Late August Flyfishing

A cold, dark morning on the upper Big Hole River – even though it would be warm and sunny if not for the smoke from area wildfires.

The upland bird season is on, though I don’t yet have anything to report on those first walks of the season, for the simple reason that I’m writing this in the last days of August.

 I have been reflecting on the last couple times I went fishing, however.

 In mid-August, I took a drive up the Big Hole River with the plan of hitting the trico spinner fall in mid to late morning.

The last time I fished this stretch of river was in June. River flows at that time were lower than usual, but lots of people were still floating the river. That included me, in my little pontoon boat. I had pretty good action with caddis imitations.

Coming back in mid-August was quite a change. The river’s edge was about 20 feet from where it was in June. Floating a boat through here would be a real challenge, as the river looked like it was mostly ankle-deep.

 It was also rather a dark morning. We had clear skies and bright sunshine or would have if it wasn’t for the smoke. Midway between fires west of Wise River and west of Wisdom, the smoke hung heavy in the air, and the sunshine really hadn’t burned its way through the haze, and it also felt rather chilly. The water also felt icy, though it was shallow.

But the tricos, those tiny mayflies that fish love, were in the air and dropping to the water’s surface. In a calm bit of water, I could see fish “tailing.” People who fish saltwater flats in the Bahamas often talk about seeing bonefish tailing, in other words, actively feeding in water shallow enough that their tails are above the water’s surface.

 I figured that most of the fish feeding on the bugs were whitefish. I was pleasantly surprised when the first fish I caught was a grayling, one of those shimmering jewels of the Big Hole River.

 The fishing was active and fun, as fish were rising to most every cast, and, indeed, most of them were whitefish, and several of them were good-sized and put on a good fight, going for long runs and putting a good bend in my 2-weight rod. Besides the whiteys, I also picked up a brook trout and an acrobatic rainbow trout. I also noted that, while the river was shallow, there were pools that were relatively deep, at least deep enough that Kiri, my Labrador retriever and faithful hunting and fishing partner, had to swim through it instead of just bounding her way through.

 Then the spinner fall was over and so was the morning’s feeding frenzy.

 When Kiri and I walked back to where I’d parked the truck, the sun had finally overcome the smoke and we shared a sandwich in warm, bright sunshine.

 A couple days later, Fish, Wildlife & Parks closed this stretch of river.

 A week later, I was back on the Big Hole, but about 30 or more miles downstream. It’s been kind of a treasure hunt finding spots between closed sections of the river, but it’s worth the effort.

I was fishing a long riffle with lots of pocket water created by big rocks in the river.

A rocky, swift-flowing section of river.

It’s pretty water, though this time I’m afraid the fish weren’t pigging out on any kind of fly that was small and dry.

In fact, I didn’t have as much as a rise or a nibble for quite a while until I got into a pool where I saw some rising fish. I had some rises but nothing that materialized with a fish getting hooked.

Still, we had a good outing. We’d had some good rains and there wasn’t much smoke haze in the air. The water was cold enough that, for the first time since early June, I wore waders instead of wet-wading.

Those rains kept coming for a few more days, so even if August ended up with warm, dry weather, it seemed that we made it through the worst of this year’s drought.

 Fishermen are optimists, of course.

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

September Means Birds!

September success!

It’s September and I’m beginning to think we’re going to make it through this hot, smoky summer of drought and pestilence.

 We had some meaningful rain in August, which helped clear our skies and dampen our forest fires. We’re not out of the woods yet (pun intended) but I have hopes.

 Best of all, the first of Montana’s general hunting seasons open today, as hunters across Montana wiped the dust off their shotguns and loaded up their bird dogs and headed to the prairies, aspens, and mountains in search of prairie and mountain grouse, European gray partridge, or Hungarian partridge if you prefer, mourning doves, even wild turkeys. Don’t jump the gun; pheasant season doesn’t start until October 9. Waterfowl season will open on October 2.

 Also, there will be a weekend for youth waterfowl and pheasant hunting, which will be September 25 and 26.

 I’m not an archery hunter, but archery deer and elk seasons begin on Saturday, September 4.

In other words, there will be a lot of people out and about on this Labor Day weekend.

October 24 may seem a long two months away, but a lot of people already have this date circled on their calendars, as this is when this year’s general (i.e. firearms) deer and elk season begins.

 In normal years, I look at September as this magic month, when fishing is still great and hunting is beginning, but with the severe drought, fishing has been a challenge this past month, as drought forced closures, hoot owl rules and all the other stuff we’ve been going through. So, we can celebrate the beginning of hunting seasons and hope we get rain so fishing improves, as well as to reduce the danger of wildfires in our hunting areas.

What is the outlook for this year’s hunting seasons? That’s a good question. Last winter was relatively mild, so that wildlife had it easy, as far as coming through the hard months of winter and were in good shape in springtime.

 On the other hand, we went directly from mild winter to a dry spring and a hot and arid summer. Wildlife habitat is hurting and food for many of our game species is in short supply. There have already been reports of deer leaving their usual late summer haunts and coming into towns to dine on urban greenery.

 The young chicks of pheasants and prairie grouse need grasses and weedy cover for food and shelter, and that, again, connects back to rainfall. Mountain grouse will, I suspect, have things a bit easier. I also suspect that the rain of the last couple weeks may have spurred some late season growth of ground cover.

Still, that’s speculation. It’s all a guessing game until the seasons start and we get out and start walking.

 For my part, my wife and I will be camping and walking the mountainsides for dusky grouse (or blues, if you prefer) in the morning and wading a trout stream in the afternoons or evenings.

 When these seasons start, I always feel a little unsure about heading for the hills. I’ve been in the geezer sub-segment of our population for more than a few years and I’m all too aware that there may not be many more hunting seasons in my future.

Happily, every September, I’ve been able to trudge across those sagebrush ridges and aspen thickets in pursuit of grouse, watching Kiri, my black Lab, rummaging around for interesting scents that sometimes lead to a flushing bird.

If I wonder how many hunting seasons are in my future, I also wonder how many hunting seasons are in Kiri’s future. She is now six years old, in the prime of life for a bird dog. Sadly, that prime of life is just a few short years before they begin their long decline.

 Happily, dogs don’t worry about things. When we start those first walks of the season, Kiri will be happy and carefree, doing what she was born to do, and for both of us, life is good.

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

Sifting Through History

Past OWAA president Phil Bloom deciding what to do next. Photo courtesy of Phil Bloom.

“Dear ol’ Exec Director,

 “My dogs ate my dues notice and so am sending some cover money to at least keep me current till matters get straightened out.

“Need another dog?”

 That letter excerpt was a gem from the archives of the Outdoor Writers Association of America, even if it was headed to the shredder.

 22 years ago, in the spring of 1999, my wife and I went to a party in Missoula. The Outdoor Writers Association (OWAA) was in the process of moving headquarters to Missoula, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation hosted a party to welcome OWAA to western Montana.

OWAA had its start in 1927, when outdoor writers covering the annual convention of the Izaak Walton League huddled together and decided they needed to form a professional organization for the many people who made a living of sorts by covering the great outdoors.

Over those now 90 plus years, the organization’s headquarters has been in several cities, depending on where the organization’s executive director lived. At one time, headquarters were in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, housed, appropriately in the Brown Deer Professional Building.

 For many years, headquarters was in State College, Pennsylvania, and the executive director was Sylvia Bashline, a well-known outdoor writer, who often teamed up with her writer husband, Jim Bashline.

Back in 1999, OWAA hired a new ED, Steve Wagner, who left a home and job in Oklahoma, started work in Pennsylvania, and then moved the office to Missoula. The move had already been decided, and Steve was hired with the understanding that he’d make the moves with the office.

 I became a member of OWAA in 1997, but hadn’t attended any conferences or other events, so the welcoming party was a peek at my organization. Tom Wharton, outdoor editor for the Salt Lake Tribune, was then president of OWAA and he and some board members were on hand for the party.

 Part of the move’s appeal, besides being in Montana, was an opportunity to buy its own office, a condominium in a new office building. The University of Montana, with both a forestry and journalism school, was an attraction, as well.

 So, OWAA hired some local staff and settled into its new digs in Missoula. A few years later, one of those new hires, Kevin Rhoades, became executive director. In a recent phone conversation, Kevin told of issues and disagreements with the majority owner of the office building, which eventually led to a sale of the condo—turning a nice profit in the process.

A later executive director arranged to work out of his home in Virginia, though he made regular trips to Montana to meet with local staff. One of those staff members got married and moved to Washington, though continued to work from her new home. OWAA’s current director, Chez Chesak, lives in Cincinnati.

In other words, our concept of office work changed, in this case several years before the Pandemic. The bulk of the office, including furniture and files, went into a pair of storage units. In a previous house-cleaning, that was pared to a single unit and now I was one of the volunteers cleaning out this storage unit.

 It was a volunteer project, headed up by Phil Bloom, twice a president of OWAA, who traveled from his home in Fort Wayne, Indiana. My assignment was to go through old membership files, deciding what to save and what to discard.

 I determined that files to save would be of people who were famous, or whose files were interesting. Among the files of the famous were Hugh Grey, editor-in-chief of Field & Stream in the 1970s, and Warren Page, longtime shooting editor at Field & Stream magazine. There was correspondence in many member files from Homer Circle, a past president of OWAA, and a renowned angling expert. Some files included final farewells from terminally ill members, or obituaries written by grieving colleagues.

I confess I felt some guilt in consigning some files to the shredder pile. It might have been the practical and realistic thing to do, but it hurts to throw away even tiny bits of history.

Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

U.N. Climate Change Report Card

Associated Press photo.

According to the weather app on my phone, today should be a cool day with a high in the 60s. In other words, almost autumnal weather. 

When is the first day of autumn? Some go by the autumnal equinox, which will happen on Wednesday, September 22, at 1:21 p.m., MDT, also known as the astronomical beginning of autumn. The other faction would say September 1, or the meteorological beginning of autumn.

For my part, I suggest that in our mile-high city, autumn began on Sunday, August 8, when a Pacific weather system rolled through our area, bringing rain and chilly temperatures. On Tuesday of last week, my thermometer registered a cool 38 degrees when I got up in the morning. We didn’t get a frost, but it was a warning that frosty mornings will soon become the norm, again.

I won’t claim that the thermometer outside our bedroom window is a scientifically calibrated instrument, but it’s a pretty good indicator that things are changing as we near the end of this hot, smoky summer. We’re not out of the woods when it comes to hot weather and we’re going to need a lot more wet weather to put those fires out, so we can have a return to clear skies.

For that matter, even if we did have a major storm that puts out Montana’s fires, we’d still be getting smoke from California and Oregon. Indeed, those west coast fires have caused burning eyes and unhealthy conditions as far east as Denver, and red sunsets along the east coast. Indeed, we might recall, a few years ago, we had smoky skies from fires burning in China.

If we think we’ve had a hot and dry summer, weather scientists will point out that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

 Last week, the United Nations issued a milestone report card on climate change, pointing out that the world has been missing the mark in reducing emissions, and we’re failing at hitting the goal of reducing the rate of global warming. As reported by the New York Times, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are the highest in two million years. Further, the past decade is the hottest decade in 125,000 years. The report points the finger of blame at us: human activity; burning oil, gas and coal, is to blame. Update: since I wrote this, the news came out that July 2021 was officially the hottest month on record. If it seemed hot, you were right.

The report is also a call to action. If governments around the globe make drastic cuts in emissions, we could stabilize the climate at about 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming compared to pre-industrial levels. We have already warmed the climate by 1.1 degrees Celsius, or about 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

 At that, the nations that participated in the 2015 Paris climate accords set a goal to limit climate warming to 2 degrees Celsius, and virtually every nation that signed on to the Paris accords is far off-track for meeting its commitments. I won’t even make any snarky comments about the Trump Administration temporarily pulling our country out of the Paris accords.

 We are now at the point, according to the report, that every fraction of a degree will bring even more destructive floods, deadlier heatwaves and worsening droughts, and rising sea levels that threaten the very existence of some island nations.

Currently, all of Montana is, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System, in drought and our corner of Montana is in extreme to exceptional drought. We have wildfires in many areas. Montana’s agricultural community is facing an uncertain future, as operators run out of irrigation water, and record prices for hay and grazing. We can expect many ranches will be forced to drastically reduce livestock numbers to survive the year.

For those of us who fish and hunt, we have already had many restrictions and closures on fishing. The State is proposing grazing and hay cutting on some wildlife management areas, which may help some ranchers, but will reduce forage and habitat for wildlife.

 The scary part is that, at the rate we’re going, in years to come, people might look back at the 2020s as the good old days.

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

Sage Grouse – an Endangered Tradition

Sagebrush steppe ecosystem. National Park Service photo.

Now that we’re well into August, it’s hard to avoid looking to that next page on the calendar and thinking about a new hunting season.

 For many hunters here in southwest Montana, a long tradition is heading to big open expanses of sagebrush in search of sage grouse.

 Sorry to say, that is an endangered tradition.

  Sage grouse are an iconic game bird of western states and Canadian provinces. When we think of sage grouse, we think of sagebrush steppe habitat, those semi-arid expanses of brushy foothills and prairie. Sage grouse live out most of their lives in or near sagebrush, where they find shelter from winter weather and predators, plus get the majority of their food from sagebrush leaves, especially in winter months.

That sagebrush steppe habitat keeps getting degraded, and, as cartoonist Walt Kelly’s character, Pogo, famously said, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

 Mining, oil drilling, grazing, urban sprawl, fire, and conifer encroachment are factors causing change in sagebrush habitat, and as habitat declines, so do sage grouse numbers. The U.S. Geological Service (USGS) tracks changes in habitat and grouse. In the 11 western states that have sage grouse, down from 16 states, greater sage grouse populations are now less than a quarter of what it was 50 years ago. As reported by Shooting Sportsman magazine, the annual rate of loss of birds is now 3 percent. Presumably, hunter harvest is just a tiny part of that decline. Alberta and Saskatchewan have only token numbers of sage grouse left. Western Wyoming is the only region, according to USGS, with stable sage grouse numbers.

 Here in Montana, the sage grouse season now just runs for the month of September, with a bag limit of just two birds and four in possession. Sage grouse hunting is allowed east of the Continental Divide only.

I will note that I haven’t hunted for sage grouse, or taken any incidental to other hunting, for over 50 years, when I did harvest a few sage hens when we lived in Miles City. My wife and I made a deal back then. If I didn’t bring any more sage hens home, she wouldn’t throw any more out. As many hunters will reluctantly agree, sage grouse can be a challenge in the kitchen, though some people really enjoy sage grouse dinners. An old friend and fellow outdoor writer, the late Chuck Robbins, of Dillon, loved hunting and eating sage grouse, but conceded, “I can make them taste good, but not necessarily tender.”

Looking forward to any hunting, right now, is kind of speculative. Last week, John Barsness, a well-known outdoor writer based in Townsend, Montana, raised the question, on his Facebook page, if hunting seasons might get delayed if we don’t get substantial relief from our extreme drought conditions. He pointed back to 1988 as an example of another drought year when hunting seasons were delayed.

I looked back in my hunting journals, which I’ve been keeping since 1985. My first hunt of the 1988 season was on September 17, and I wrote, “It was to have started on September 3, but due to the extreme drought, all seasons were postponed until some moisture came. In fact, there was a total ban on all outdoor activities.”

We remember 1988 as the year when Yellowstone National Park had the big fires. The fire season came to an abrupt halt on the second weekend of September when we had heavy rains and an early snowstorm. After that early storm, Montana’s hunting season opened on Monday, September 12. Due to the time constraints of gainful employment, I didn’t’ get out until Saturday, the 17th.

 For whatever it’s worth, in that first hunt, Alix, my chocolate Lab of the time, flushed several ruffed grouse though I missed the only shots I had, but I did bring home three trout, two brook trout and a rainbow trout, from a mountain creek in the National Forest.

 My journal also notes that on the day after that outing, we woke up to five inches of snow on the ground.

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

Fishing and Heat!

Wade Fellin in his office. Photo credit: Upper Missouri Waterkeeper

After a morning of flyfishing on the Big Hole River, I was enjoying a lunch break in the relatively cool shade of the cottonwoods at a fishing access site. 

 A woman came along, being towed by her big Newfoundland dog. Naturally, my Lab, Kiri, had to say hello to the Newfie, and while they went through the canine niceties, the woman and I struck up a conversation. Our dogs, naturally, have broken the ice many times over the years and led to many conversations with people.

 The woman was camped at the access site and was looking forward to flyfishing in Montana. She lives in Washington and fishes there, but this was her first time in Montana. She’d just stopped at a fly shop that morning to get her Montana license.

 I told her I wished her luck, but also suggested she kind of missed out on her first day of fishing, as it was, by then, past noon, and the stretch of river we were next to was included in the “Hoot Owl” restrictions, meaning no fishing from 2 p.m. to Midnight.

 This time of year, fishing is pretty much a morning game, even in normal years.

 Happily, even in this summer’s almost unrelenting heat, we still have cool and sometimes chilly nights, so in mornings the river water is usually cool. Also, this time of the year is Trico time, the emergence and spinner falls of Tricorythodes mayflies, the tiny mayfly that makes up for its size by sheer numbers. In late mornings, there are tangible clouds of tricos in the air and most of those bugs will be settling on the water to lay eggs and complete their life cycle and begin the life cycle of another generation of mayflies.

 The action can (emphasis on “can,” not “is”) be hot and furious as trout and, of course, whitefish, take advantage of the millions of tiny bits of food hitting the water.

 But about noon, the spinner fall is over and if there was a feeding frenzy, it’s also about over, as well.

 For a number of years, I participated in the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Fishing Log program, logging in my fishing outings and the success, or lack of success, that I had. In most years, August was when I had the best fishing luck, and a lot of that was due to catching the trico hatch.

But, quitting at noon, during this hot summer, just makes sense.

 If this summer of heat and smoke complicates things for a wandering wade angler, consider how it complicates things for businesses that cater to anglers.

I talked to Wade Fellin, manager of the famous Big Hole Lodge, near Wise River. He and his dad, Craig Fellin, have been dealing with the heat plus, the last couple weeks, the smoke from the Alder Creek Fire. He admits, first of all, “I’m stressed, but I’m confident we’ll make it through the season.”

He says that, in spite of the heat and smoke, they’re at full occupancy, though many prospective guests inquire if they should cancel. He tells them, “Yes, our rivers are running low, and the fish are stressed. But we’re still going out. We leave early, very early, and we go farther, to the Madison, Rock Creek and other streams. We monitor water temps and when it reaches 67 degrees, we reel up and go home—we’re done for the day.”

 Wade suggests that our current hoot owl regulations aren’t responsive to the situation. “I think we should just make a rule of no fishing if the water temperature reaches 67 degrees, regardless of the time.”

Fellin appreciates their clients who, so far, have kept coming, and if water temperatures don’t allow fishing, they say they’re happy to just be on a river and enjoying the outdoors.

Wade also gives a lot of credit to the lodge’s kitchen staff, who are up and working extremely early, so guides and clients are able to be on the road by 6:30 a.m. or earlier. “They’re our real heroes.”

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

Water – the key to Everything!

The Big Hole River in early July. The clear, blue skies mean the photo was taken before the most recent fires in the nearby area.

About 20 years ago, the Outdoor Writers Association of America had its annual conference in St. George, Utah. The event was in early June, so we missed the intense desert heat they probably have in mid-summer. St. George is in Washington County, in the southwest corner of Utah, close to both Arizona and Nevada. 

 St. George was one of the fastest growing cities in both Utah and the country, and it was obvious that the town boosters took pride in that. In 1990, the population was 28,754, and that almost doubled to 49, 628 in the 2000 census. St. George is a desert town, at the northern edge of the Mojave desert. It has average precipitation of 8.8 inches per year.

 I recall asking one of the local hosts about all this population growth and where do they get the water to support population growth, because it certainly doesn’t come from rainfall, and snowfall amounts to around one and a half inches per year. “Oh, we have wells with plenty of water,” I was told. Tapping into an aquifer can produce water, but what happens when the aquifer is tapped out?

 According to the city’s website, the city gets its water from the Virgin River, and there are two reservoirs that capture river water and deliver it to the city’s water treatment plant. The website also states that the city cut water use by some one billion gallons from 2010 to 2015.

Another website acknowledges the limitations on depending on Virgin River water and proposes a pipeline from Lake Powell to guarantee enough water to sustain population growth, projected to reach 500,000 people by 2065 (Kem C. Gardiner Policy Institute, University of Utah).

Lake Powell is also a victim of the drought and is currently at critically low levels. The St. George Spectrum and Daily News recently reported that the pipeline proposal is considered by many as a boondoggle and critics are protesting any further diversion of Colorado river water.

 St. George continues to boom, with a 2010 population of almost 73,000 and 2020 population of 94,535. County population is estimated at over 177,000 as of 2019.

 A lot of St. George’s appeal is its mild winter weather. It is also a golfer’s paradise. There are some 12 golf courses in and around St. George with, judging from photos, lush green fairways and water features. If that’s not enough, there are another dozen courses at Mesquite, Nevada, just 35 miles away.

 I’m not writing about St. George to promote more growth, as much as to point out the insanity of what we’re doing in the West, and only now, in this desperately dry year are people starting to face the reality of what’s happening.

 Last week, the New York Times reported on Oakley, Utah, a town of 1,750 population, about an hour’s drive east of Salt Lake City. The city just took a major step, imposing a construction moratorium on new homes that would connect to the city water system.

 In Arizona, developers in desert areas between Phoenix and Tucson must prove they have access to a 100-year supply of water to get approval to build new homes. The reality, however, is that the agriculture industry already has claims on that water.

The city of Bozeman, already Montana’s worst-case scenario, has imposed watering restrictions as Hyalite Reservoir, the city water supply, is getting seriously drawn down.

Meanwhile, here in our corner of Montana, the drought continues. River flows keep dropping. The river flow on the Big Hole River at Maidenrock Bridge was just 371 cubic feet per second last week, compared to long-term median flows of 708 CFS. FWP has closed the river to fishing downstream from the Tony Schoonen (Notch Bottom) access site to the confluence with the Beaverhead River. The entire Jefferson River is closed to fishing. The entire Madison River downstream from Yellowstone National Park is on hoot owl restrictions.

 The American West is ground zero for climate change, and drought comes with that warmer climate. Water demands should be the first consideration for everything.

Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

While Montana Burns, Guv Pulls out of Climate Alliance

There are wildfires west of Wise River and Wisdom, and in the upper Madison, near Cliff and Wade Lakes. In eastern Montana, there are wildfires in Yellowstone and Musselshell Counties. The tri-county area of Missoula, Mineral and Ravalli Counties has had 227 wildfires this calendar year, with 45 new starts just last week, according to Montana Public Radio.

 The Bitterroot National Forest has declared “Extreme fire danger,” and Fire Management Officer Mark Wilson issued a release, “Last week, I said our high temperatures and dry fuel conditions were ‘unprecedented’ and ‘record-setting.’ You can now add ‘historic’ to the 2021 fire season, which is already shaping up to be one of the hottest and driest on record.”

In the last week of June, the entire Pacific Northwest had an unprecedented heat wave with Portland OR having record highs of 112 degrees, and Seattle had triple-digit highs for three consecutive days. In British Columbia, a small town, Lytton, had a record-setting high of 115, only to break that record a few days later with a high temperature of 121. That’s in Canada, mind you. CANADA! Shortly after that high of 121, the village was mostly destroyed by wildfire.

 While the conclusion is still tentative, climate scientists seem in agreement that the weather of the last few weeks wouldn’t be possible without human-caused climate change.

With that backdrop, Governor Greg Gianforte quietly, and without announcement, withdrew Montana from a multi-state group, U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of 25 states, committed to taking action to combat climate change, with a goal of keeping temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Under former Governor Bullock, Montana joined the alliance in 2019.

A spokesman for U.S. Climate Alliance said that Gianforte didn’t respond to an invitation to continue Montana’s membership.

 As reported by Montana Public Radio, Brooke Stroyke, a spokesperson for Governor Gianforte, issued a statement saying the governor believes the solution to climate change is unleashing American innovation, not overbearing government mandates. Stroyke did not respond to requests for clarification as to what the governor’s climate goals are, or what sort of innovation is necessary in Montana.

 It should be clear, in my opinion, that the forces that cause climate change, and the forces to deal with it, are not just local. They are regional, national and international, and Montana can’t afford to drop out of interstate alliances trying to deal with the problem.

The “Lego” handgun cover. Culper Precision Photo.

 From that, let’s move to Provo, Utah, and a company called Culper Precision, that came up with a kit that covers a Glock handgun with what looks like red, yellow and blue Lego blocks, so that the gun now looks like a children’s toy. They marketed the device to promote the idea that “Shooting sports are Super Fun!”

 The Washington Post reported that Lego sent the Culper Company a “cease and desist letter,” and the company president, Brandon Scott, admitted that he had legal advice that Lego would have a strong case against his company, and decided to comply. Up to that time, they had sold something like 20 Lego kits.

Gosh, what could go wrong!

 Finally, we note the death, on July 5, of Dr. Valerius Geist, an internationally renowned wildlife biologist. Geist was known for his expertise in wildlife management, particularly with wild sheep, mule deer, and elk. His death was announced by the Alberta Chapter of The Wildlife Society.

 Geist was a longtime professor at the University of Calgary, the author of many books and articles on deer, elk, antelope, and wild sheep. After he retired from teaching, he moved to Vancouver Island, but continued to write and publish, including some controversial views on wolves.

 Dr. Geist was a featured speaker at a conference of the Outdoor Writers Association of America around 15 years ago, and he held his audience spellbound during his presentation on his findings on wolf behavior. I’ll also note that a North Dakota writer friend, Patricia Stockdill, had the opportunity to pick him up at the airport and enthused about what a decent and down-to-earth person he was.

Farewell to a giant in wildlife science, in the tradition of Aldo Leopold.

Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.

In Search of a Creek

A gentle little stream in a mountain meadow.

It was nice to have some thundershowers in early July. It’s funny how a little bit of rain will help revive a lawn more than running sprinklers. Still, if we want to keep our rivers running, we’re going to need a lot more than an occasional shower. We need some serious rain.

 Our son, Kevin, and his family, have been visiting here, and, of course, Kevin and I went fishing. It’s what we do this time of year. When we get together again, this fall, we’ll go pheasant hunting. It’s what we do.

 While we enjoy the outings, the drought is making it a challenge.

 We fished the Big Hole River one day, and while fishing this beautiful river is always rewarding, it’s sad to see how low the upper part of the river is for early July. On the bright side, wade fishing is easy, with shallow water, and lots of privacy and solitude. Where just a few weeks ago, during the salmonfly hatch, there was a constant parade of drift boats and rubber rafts, this morning we didn’t see a single boat on this stretch of river. What boat traffic there was, was on lower stretches, where tributaries add more flow to the river.

Another Dog on a Rock photo. a couple weeks earlier, this rock was totally underwater.

 For figuring out the next day’s fishing, I recalled a conversation with a Kansas outdoor writer friend, David Zumbaugh, a few weeks ago. He and his wife had been on a western vacation, and we got together one morning after an overnight stop in Butte. David was enthusing on fishing a mountain creek in the upper Big Hole valley. The fish were both plentiful and willing, according to him.

The drive along the upper reaches of the Big Hole is pretty, though the river looks extraordinarily low, with hardly any current.

Still, the upper Big Hole valley, with its vast stretches of green fields, is always impressive. The early mountain men dubbed these mountain valleys “holes,” such as Jackson Hole, and others, but this valley was truly a “Big Hole.” Driving through the little community of Jackson, I mentioned to Kevin that the hot springs there were visited by the Lewis & Clark expedition, and they made stops there on both their way to the Pacific and on the way back.

We found the turnoff for the creek (which shall remain nameless), driving a gravel road across ranchland and then up a Forest Service road. I was wondering where the creek was, but we spotted a turnout and Kevin said, “There are willows down below.” I drove in and, sure enough, there was a pretty mountain stream, flowing gently through a mountain meadow.

With two Labrador retrievers with us, we didn’t exactly sneak up on the creek, though even after Kiri had checked things out, I could see rises at the upper end of a deep pool.

 Kevin went a little farther upstream, where he reported that his black Lab, Kota, was fascinated with the skeletal remains of a moose that had likely died during the winter. Other predators had cleaned off all the flesh, but there was still evidently enough aroma to be interesting.

We wandered around in this stretch of the creek, exploring a bit and hoping to not break a leg in various beaver channels through the swampy creek bottom.

I enjoyed fishing that deep pool, catching around a dozen little brook trout, mostly six inches, or smaller. If I’d thought about it earlier, I would have brought a cooler with some ice, for a fish dinner, or appetizers, to be more accurate. But, without ice, I released the brookies back to the creek.

We took a lunch break, finding a shady spot to set up some chairs where we could relax while having lunch and swatting deer flies.

We talked about the fishing, and he expressed his frustration that, while he had some rises, he hadn’t actually hooked any of those willing little brookies.

 He took it philosophically, though, noting, “There’s probably more distinction in NOT catching any fish in a brookie stream like this.”

 Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.