The Arrival of Fall

Fall has arrived here in Southeast Missouri. Breakout the pumpkin spices, the hoodies and the chili recipes. Let the bonfires begin!

Farmers will begin the removal and storage of their crops. The sky will be filled with the “honking” of geese as they begin their journey to their winter homes. We will soon awaken to cool crisp mornings with frost on the pumpkin. The countryside will become painted with bright yellows, oranges and reds. Mother Earth will show off her artistic abilities. Her forest creatures will be obsessed with gathering and storing their winter food.

Folks will turn to folklore to try and predict the upcoming winter weather. There are two particular methods that are popular in my area.

The persimmon seed. People will look for the ripe fruit and then they will remove the seed. They will split the seed open to see what shape, called a cotyledon, is hidden within. It is said that if the shape is that of a fork we will experience a mild winter. If it is the shape of a spoon we will have an abundance of snow and if it is that of a knife we will have a cold blustery winter so the saying “cut like a knife”.

Another popular legend is the “wooly worm”. The wooly worm is a caterpillar made up of 13 segments representing the 13 weeks of winter. The browner the worm the milder the winter. The blacker it is the harsher the winter. The number of black segments represent how many weeks of bad winter weather we will have.

Unfortunately there is no scientific evidence proving either method works.

Here in the Midwest we are fortunate to be able to experience all four seasons. Here in Missouri there are times you can experience all four seasons in one day. We all have our favorite seasons for one reason or another but as for me I am delighted that the fall season has begun. I can smell the chili cooking and the smoke of the bonfire.

Beauty of Nature

It was another hot day in Southeast Missouri. I had the evening off so I decided to head out to the Bismark Conservation area.

The area is made up of 1,188 acres that surrounds the 220 acre lake, DiSalvo. It is the headwaters of the St Francis River. There are good numbers of bass, bluegill, channel catfish and crappie.

This particular day I went chasing channel catfish. It is hot and the humidity was punishing, two ingredients of pop up thunderstorms. It sprinkled on me a couple of times. There was a thunderstorm skirting to the south. Lightning and thunder.

Mother Nature was presenting me with one spectacular show. I watched intently. The wind picked up and I enjoyed feeling it upon my face. So relaxing.

The fish weren’t cooperating. They had very little interest in the bait I was using, shrimp, hotdogs and night crawlers. At dark the bullhead catfish started to show interest in the shrimp. I ended up catching 3 bullheads before I had to give in and call it a night.

It turned out to be a great evening and it was much needed. Mother Nature was spectacular and gave me some great shots and I had it all to myself.

The Lure of Fly-Fishing

My friend since second grade and fishing buddy David Tripp

“More than half the intense enjoyment of fly-fishing is derived from the beautiful surroundings, the satisfaction felt from being in the open air, the new lease of life secured thereby, and the many, many pleasant recollections of all one has seen, heard and done.” – Charles F. Orvis

Imagine if you will standing beside a clear, fast moving stream listening to the music of the water dancing over and around the rocks and through shallows as it flows downstream. You scan the water looking for feeding fish and the perfect place to cast your fly in hopes to catch that elusive lunker. You step into the water your eyes drinking in the beauty that surrounds you. The rays of the morning sun feel warm upon your face and a heron floats past you on its journey downstream. The fast moving water rushes past your legs and you deliver your first cast of the morning. Your eyes focus intently upon the brightly colored fly line as it floats downstream, watching for a signal that a fish has taken your fly.

Nature’s presence can be felt all around you and it fills your heart with joy and excitement. The feeling seeps into your inner being and you are overwhelmed with the joy of being alive. It’s at that moment you realize you aren’t there for the fish. You are there for you to become one with Mother Nature and to embrace the healing powers She has to offer. It is always available to us but our minds and heart have to be in the right place to take full advantage of these benefits. Our minds have to be free of societal pollution and we have to believe in our hearts and know in our minds that it is real and attainable. That my friend is why I pursue fly-fishing.

Sacred Space

“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again.” – Joseph Campbell

I really never understood my overpowering compassion for the river until one day I came across this quote. I read it and the lightbulb in my head went off.

The river is my sacred space, or safe place, where I am free of societal pollution. Once I am in the presence of the river I am free to think with my mind, heart, body and soul. I have the ability to examine my own own beliefs and thoughts in great depth and to understand why I believe the way I do. I reach an understanding of who I really am and who I want to be. The revelation of what I want to accomplish in life and most importantly why becomes apparent. In this place I find a me that I can respect and love. If we can’t love ourselves what’s the point of loving at all?

With all the animosity in the world it is easy to plunge ourselves into the pit of depression which robs us of peace and happiness.

Seek your sacred space, find it and visit it frequently. The real you will soon become visible.

Recreational Fishing

Smallmouth Bass

“If Fishing is a religion, fly fishing is high church.” – Tom Brokaw

Recreational fishing is the nation’s second most popular outdoor activity after jogging. Each year nearly 1 in 7 Americans grab their rods and reels and head to the water giving chase to different species of fish.

From 2011 to 2019, freshwater fishing population grew 11%. Anglers 16 or older spent $48 billion a year on equipment, licenses, trips and other fishing related items. This in turn supported 828,000 jobs in this country. Recreational fishing in some rural areas helped support entire communities. In 2010 $1.45 billion was generated by anglers for fisheries conservation efforts. Fishing is also responsible for putting smiles on the faces of children. That is something you can’t put a price tag on.

Rainbow Trout

Speaking from my own experience, fishing is therapeutic and cheaper than a psychiatrist. The peace and joy I get while fishing is priceless. It recharges the spirit and calms the soul.

I fly fish, tight line fish and fish with limb lines. I enjoy them all but fly fishing, I think, is the most rewarding.

I enjoy catching all the species of fish but trout and bass fishing are my favorite. Even if you get skunked and catch nothing it isn’t a wasted day. The solitude you find from fishing is a reward in itself.

Pumpkinseed

If you have never got to experience fishing I encourage you to do so. Most state’s conservation departments have programs that teach the basics and help beginners to get started. For the seasoned angler I encourage you to take a child and introduce them to the world of recreational fishing.

Gone Fishing!!!!

A Cold Day of Trout Fishing

Rainbow Trout caught at Giessing Lake

Fishing provides that connection with the whole living world. It gives you the opportunity of being totally immersed, turning back into yourself in a good way. A form of meditation, some form of communion with levels of yourself that are deeper than the ordinary self.” – Ted Hughes

My childhood friend David Tripp drove in from Texas for a visit. Now that only meant one thing; fishing trip. We decided to invade Engler Park in Farmington, MO and try our luck at fishing for trout in Giessing Lake.

Temp was supposed to be near 50. It would have been nice if someone would have told Mother Nature. David opted for a fly rod and I grabbed my spin cast. I tied a yellow Glo-ball/bait with a quarter ounce split shod and a bobber about 2 feet above the Glo-ball.

It started out really slow with no bites. I had been sitting there for what seemed like 3 months and couldn’t capture the interest of not one trout. Wow! I have never been skunked on this lake before. My reputation is at stake! After about 20 minutes of sitting there freezing my arse off, BAM! Trout on. The fight was on. This fish was having no part of this. I finally landed him.

First trout of the day.

I released him back into the lake, and cast my line back out. I had got my hands wet while freeing the trout back into the water. Yeah I know not real smart. It wasn’t long until I couldn’t feel my fingers and kept checking to make sure they hadn’t fell off. BAM! Number 2 was now on the end of the line and about 40 minutes later I landed number 3.

Second of the day!

As I sat on my stool the wind was showing no mercy. I had begun shivering and they could hear my teeth chattering three counties away. Earthquake! False alarm. It was just the ground moving from my shivering body. Reminded me of that song “I feel the earth move under my feet….”. My dad always said I didn’t have the sense God gave a turnip and at this point I was beginning to think he was right. Finally after what seemed like an eternity I was able to land number four.

Third one of the day!

My friend David caught three and got them to the bank where they managed to slip the hook. Good for him he didn’t have to get his hands wet releasing them.

All in all, even though I felt like I was a popsicle, it was a good day. I love to watch David work a fly rod. As I sat there in the cold my Mom’s words from when I was a young un came back to haunt me, “Now make sure you dress warm.” Why didn’t I think of that?

Camping In Missouri

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach of us more than we can learn from books.” – John Lubbock

Camping has become very popular for many Missourians. Camping venues, state and private, fill up rapidly on the weekends and some places are booked weeks in advance. They bring everything from RVs loaded with all the conveniences of home to the simple tent. Whatever makes them happy.

At the age of 66 I still prefer tent camping. I have been known to just roll out a pad and sleep on it. The simpler the better. I have a one man tent and a 3 man. I use the one man for one nighters and the 3 man for extended nights in one place.

3 man tent
Food taste better when cooked at camp.

There are so many choices for campers in Missouri. There are 41 state parks with over 3600 campsites. From lakes, rivers to trout parks there is a campsite waiting for you. Fun for the whole family. mdc.mo.gov

You can also find an abundance of privately owned parks throughout the state. Campers have so much to choose from in the state of Missouri.

Kayaking on Bismark Lake

A Night of Solitude on the River

It’s 2 am and I am alone on the river. There is no moon and the night sky is black as ink. I hear the crackle of the campfire and the sound of the river as it makes its way across the rocks in the shallow rapids before finding its way into deeper water. Bam! A beaver slaps its tail on the water warning others that there is an intruder in their domain.

Yip! Yip! Yip! I can hear the coyotes on the other side of the river making their way along the river bank. The lightning bugs illuminate the darkness with their blinking tails. As a child they reminded me of airplanes against the night sky with their blinking lights.

The bull frogs had been eerily quiet tonight but the deep bass croak of a bullfrog begins to resonate throughout the river valley followed by the scream of a screech owl.

With the soothing sound of Mother Nature’s symphony I begin to relax and I let my mind wander. I wonder if there was someone camped on this very spot 250 years ago. Perhaps a Native American or a settler. Were they fishing or just passing through? Were they in search of a place to settle or were they making their way to the mighty Mississippi? How much different it must have been. No litter or tires along it’s banks. How clear the water must have been. Were they as mesmerized by the beauty of the river as I am? Did they enjoy the peace and solitude? Were they alone too?

I am brought back to the present by a ruckus behind me. I turn around and in the darkness I could discern five figures in the darkness. It appears to be a mother raccoon and her offspring. She seems to be scolding one of the youngsters. Maybe it had ventured too close to me and she was worried about its safety. They soon moved on in search of food.

I readied my bedroll and crawled inside it as the desire for sleep won over the marvels of the nighttime. I lay looking into the night sky watching for a shooting star but there would be none tonight. The smells of the river were crisp tonight. The smell of the river and the campfire were the most prominent and complimented each other. I begin drifting off playing the days events back in my mind. At the same time I wondered what tomorrow would bring. Would I catch my personal best smallmouth or would it just be a day of photography? As sleep began to overtake me I was one with the river rooted in my safe place. A place of peace and tranquility. A place to recharge my soul and mind and cleanse my spirit. Life is good. I am on the river.

Abounding Excitement

“Camping: The art of getting closer to nature while getting farther away from the nearest cold beverage, hot shower and flush toilet.” Anonymous

I awoke at 5:00 a.m.excited that I was finally afforded the opportunity to go camping for the first time this year. Finally a weekend without rain.

I was headed to my property in Frank Clay, MO. I arrived a little after 10 a.m. I began the task of setting up camp. I soon found out that the seed ticks survived the winter. It was far worse than in years past.

I decided to take a break and parked myself in a chair. The woods were quiet except for the sweet sound of song birds. A donkey began braying in the distance and some Bluejays began fussing at one another.

When camping, time seems to move at breakneck speed. I dug out the lantern and readied it to bring light to the darkness of the coming nightfall. I gathered wood and started a fire.

“The fire is the main comfort of camp, whether in summer or winter.” – Henry David Thoreau

I settled into my chair and turned my attention into enjoying the glow of the fire. I pulled out my journal and began recording the day’s events. A donkey began to bray just east of camp. It was such a sad sounding bray. A whip-poor-will began sharing its song. To the north of camp a pack of coyotes began yipping playfully and the woodland insects began their nightly symphony. As I sat watching the flames of the fire dancing around, my eyes signaled it was time to turn in for the night.

Morning came early for me. I awoke at 4:00 a.m. and even though still half asleep managed to find my way out of the tent. I was met by temperatures in the low 50s. I added some kindling to the fire to rekindle it’s flames. I grabbed the coffee pot, added water and Cameron’s Highland Grog coffee grounds. I placed the pot on the fire and sat back and waited for the finished product. Caffeine! I need caffeine.

I don’t know if you have ever experienced the taste of camp coffee and if you haven’t I am here to tell you the flavor is in a league of its own. My childhood friend David Tripp has always been fascinated with the flavor of my camp coffee to the point he has mastered the technique and become a master at brewing camp coffee.

Finally the coffee was done and I poured myself a cup and sat back in my chair watching the fingers of light from the rising sun overtake the night sky bringing dawn to the woodlands. I was awoken from my trance by the barking of a squirrel. I finally located him. It was a gray squirrel moving erratically on the limb of a white oak. He seemed upset to find this human invading its territory. After about 10 minutes he lost interest and moved on. Two geese flew just above the treetops honking noisily as they went. The songbirds began filling the air with their music. My stomach began to growl and I heated up the Dutch Oven so I could begin the preparation of breakfast.

I loaded the oven with bacon and the morning air was filled with the aroma of cooking bacon. I then fried some eggs over easy but because some dummy forgot the biscuits breakfast would only consist of bacon and eggs. Food always seems to taste better when cooked over a campfire.

After breakfast I sat back and reflected on the weekends events and finished my last cup of coffee. It was time to break camp, clean up and head back home.

As a side note I had a phone conversation with my childhood friend and fellow blogger David Tripp telling him about my camping trip. David is doing a story about Hank (me) and Randy (David) on his blog and is doing his own illustrations. I urge you to check his blog out and follow the adventures of Hank an Randy. https://davidtripp.wordpress.com/. and check out his website Recollections 54 The Art Of David Tripp http://www.davidtrippart.com.

Life Is Like A River

“Surrender to the flow of the River of Life, yet do not float down the river like a leaf or log. While neither attempting to resist life nor to hurry it, become the rudder and use your energy to correct your course to avoid the whirlpools and undertow.” – Johnathan Lockwood Huie

I spend as much time as I can exploring the rivers of Missouri. I am mesmerized by their beauty and amazed by how much they are like life itself.

Like life a river is long and winding filled with adventure and obstacles. It ebbs and flows, builds and falls. Like life it can be rough and at other times be calm and peaceful. One minute you can be making your way through a calm pool of water and at the end of it you find yourself thrust into the rapids dodging rocks and trees trying to keep your boat upright.

The river can be calm and pristine flowing within its banks then the spring rains can transform it into a raging torrent of water causing it to surge out of its banks destroying everything in its path.

Life is full of mystery and the unknown and the river is full of the same. As you approach a bend in the river you know not of what lies ahead of you. Like in life you can only hope that you are prepared for anything that the river places before you. Will you fail or will you be victorious?