Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fly Fishing and Other Outdoor Adventures Book List

   What avid fly angler who also likes to read has not enjoyed books written by John Gierach?  His humor, including subtle yet catchy bits of wisdom gleaned from a life of chasing fin on the fly and then sparingly woven into his stories, is what hooked me.  Gierach is also good at sliding in low-key fly rodding education disguised as storytelling.  He was my initiation to fly fishing entertainment in print.  What an introduction!

   After this, the book A Different Angle, edited by Holly Morris, was given to me by a male fly angler.  I think he felt I'd relate to it since all of the fly fishing stories in the book were written by women.  While I relate more to my fishing companions by their personalities and how we approach the sport than by their gender, I did enjoy the book and feel both men and women would appreciate it.

   Over the last few years I've become enamored with listening to audiobooks during my 2 to 8 hour one way road trips in search of trout, smallies, musky, etc.  The 20 minute trip to and from work is also more entertaining with a book on cd than listening to the local radio stations.  I've also returned to reading and am nearly finished with the Cork O'Connor series of books.

   I've become a frequent visitor to the library.  But, obviously specific print and audio library materials don't have their own fly fishing section.  I've never seen an outdoorsy person fiction section, let alone the section further subdivided into regions the reader might like to fish or hike.  Since it has often been a fluke that I've found books with fly fishing subject matter (not "how-to" books) or books relating to outdoor adventure in specific regions that hold an attraction for me, I thought I'd list on my blog the books I've discovered and enjoyed.  I tend to enjoy murder mysteries with a strong and honest lead character who is also independent and adventurous.  Perhaps those who have so kindly taken the time to become a Follower on this blog and other visitors to this blog might appreciate the book list and may, perhaps, have suggestions of their own to share.

1) Books authored by John Gierach.  The intrigue created by titles such as Sex, Death, and Fly-Fishing and Even Brook Trout Get the Blues, simply prepares the reader for great content between the covers.  Certainly, you will learn a little something about fly fishing or a particular region of the country, and Gierach will pass on bits of wisdom gleaned from days on the water.  But Gierach's strength is simply that he's an excellent storyteller again and again and again. He knits together a real-life cast of characters, places, and adventures that most fly anglers would like to know, and in a way, we ultimately feel we do know after laughing and smiling our way through his books.

2) Time Is A River, by Mary Alice Monroe.  After my Aunt Nancy, who lives near Asheville, NC, and my fly fishing friend Kate had each struggled through breast cancer treatments, and then Kate and my friend Ruth (also my aunt's friend), and I particpated in Casting for Recovery, I discovered this book on a library shelf.  Talk about timing!

The main character is Mia, a recent breast cancer survivor.  She escapes to a long-shut cabin near Asheville, NC, offered to her by her Casting for Recovery (CFR) leader after Mia suffers family trauma after the CFR retreat.  Mia's escape soon becomes her self-discovery when she finds the diary and fly fishing journal from Kate, the cabin's previous owner who was a feminist and fly fishing guide much ahead of her time.  Self-discovery evolves into a murder mystery, along with Mia's added discovery of bugs, water, and bamboo.

3)  The Sean Stranahan book series by Keith McCafferty.  The Royal Wulff Murders and The Gray Ghost Murders introduce Sean Stranahan, fly fishing guide, artist, and private investigator, to the readers.  The author develops Stranahan's and other characters in a manner that helps the reader to feel a connection with them.  These first two books have a direct tie-in to fly fishing!  McCafferty's next two books in the series, Dead Man's Fancy and Crazy Mountain Kiss, retain a looser tie-in to fly fishing but still feature Montana country and personalities, and grow characters introduced in the first two books.  All books have been very good Montana-based murder mysteries.  Buffalo Jump Blues is the 5th book of the Sean Stranahan series, and I suspect it will be every bit as entertaining as the rest.

4) A Different Angle,
edited by Holly Morris.  This book of fly fishing stories was written by women.  It has likely been two years since I have read it, but I remember how much it was enjoyed.  While looking over a few stories to jog my memory, I decided I wanted to read it again after I finish my book in the Cork O'Connor series. What mostly strikes home with me is that these stories feel intimate, personal.  To me, that is also how fly fishing feels.  Tales about coming to terms, in her own way (I bet you know how), with a parent's death; and about the joy felt when one realizes she will love to fish, about a One-Fly tournament, and more, are found in this book with a fly fishing theme. 

5) The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.  
It's not fly fishing, but it's fishing and so much more than that.  This classic is a good read on many levels.  I've also enjoyed reading Hemingway's Nick Adams stories.

6)  The Anna Pigeon book series authored by former park ranger Nevada Barr.  Currently, there are 19 books in the series.  I was completely hooked by these murder-mysteries while listening to the audiobooks Blood Lure and The Rope.  Pigeon, a law enforcement ranger with the United States National Park Service, is a fiercely independent woman who is prone to little talk and much action and either finds trouble or is asked to fix known trouble.  The readers tag along with Anna after she takes assignments and job duties at various national park across the United States.  The ranger uses her intelligence and cunning to solve park mysteries while protecting park wildlife and keeping herself from becoming the next murder to solve.  That isn't to say that Anna doesn't suffer her share of hard knocks...

7)  The Cork O'Connor book series by William Kent Krueger.  I read and enjoyed Tamarack County a couple years ago, but then headed on to supernatural mysteries.  Last year my friend Kate recommended and let me borrow Iron Lake, the first in the Cork O'Connor series.  While I have since elected to read, not listen to, each of Krueger's books in the series, tonight I will begin Windigo Island, which is book #14/15.  When I put a reserve on the latest book, Manitou Canyon, at the library, I learned there are 19 people ahead of me waiting to get their hands on this book.

While there are only a few mentions of fishing by Cork and others in the books, the book series does relate heavily to this Midwestern fly angler.  Cork, a sheriff, private investigator, owner of Sam's Place, white and Anishinaabe, and most importantly, a family man, is a native of Aurora, Minnesota.  Cork's life is centered around the Northwoods, its lakes, rivers, wildlife, Native American culture and reservations, the struggle for employment and a way of life.  His travels take me to places and personalities with which I am already familiar due to my fishing travels.  I think many anglers and hunters who visit the Northwoods will enjoy these books.

Cork is part white (Irish) and part Anishinaabe (Ojibwe).  His varying roles as sheriff and later, as private investigator often working with the sheriff's department, put himself and his family in danger as he works to solve the who and why of local murders while managing the delicate balance between white and Native American race relations.  Anishinaabe traditions and the role of Henry, the near-ageless mide, help guide Cork and his family along a path of acceptance, wisdom, and truth.  Strong morals and family values often clash with violence, greed, and murder in a land that is often as harsh as it can be beautiful.  While there has not been a poorly written book in the lot, Boundary Waters, #2/15, remains my favorite.

8)  The Kate Shugak book series by Dana Stabenow.  I have only read a few of the 20 books in this
series featuring yet another much-needed strong and intelligent female role model.  I am happy to write that this book series takes the readers to the region of Niniltna, Alaska, where they are introduced to Kate Shugak, a highly-respected and sometimes feared 5-foot Aleut woman who lives on a homestead in an un-named national park in the Alaskan Bush.  Kate's constant companion is Mutt, a half-wolf/half-husky dog.

Former investigator for the
D.A, in Anchorage and private investigator, who also hunts for morels, and who has worked undercover on fishing boats and the TransAlaska Pipeline, tackles murder-mysteries in the Alaska Bush and generally finds a way to ensure justice is served.  The rough-voiced woman with a neck scar travelling ear to ear demands and receives respect from law enforcement, Alaska natives and others, including the "Park Rats,", and takes the readers on adventures on fishing boats, pipelines, mines, the bush, and elsewhere.    

Friday, October 7, 2016

Browns, Bows, SMB, Rockys, Gills, a Creek Chub, and one 19" Brown Hanging with the Smallies

   Last weekend I was suddenly on a solo adventure to a trout stream I'd fished with friends a couple times over the years, and I'd yet to develop any strong desire to return. I'd hoped to enjoy a short weekend with friend Kate, but a sick dog altered her plans.

   Life throws us curve balls, some big and some small. While I'd wished Kate could have come, I never had a second thought if I should continue the trip solo.  A recent large curve ball appearing in my family's life demanded of me some "water therapy."  The pictures below, for me, continue to mirror my firm belief to live life fully whether alone or with others.

   This previously thought of "so-so" region slowly turned into my waiting delight while my Subie traveled the street-light pierced, darkened roads of this Iowa state park as I searched for the campground late Friday night.  I discovered the lake, dams, the river birthing the lake, quality campgrounds, and a welcome bit of peace. My primary excitement the following morning was seeing that I could visit this place and fish the lake for smb in my little pontoon, wade the shores of the river and creek downstream of the lake, fish below the 2 dams bordering the lake, and then enjoy fishing primarily for trout at the stream, located elsewhere in the park.  There is a lot to offer any fly angler in this park!

Saturday, I started out early and finished at dusk, taking the time mid-afternoon for a sandwich and a few sips of water. Saturday night I write without exaggeration that I was tortured by multiple leg cramps. I woke Sunday with a bloodshot eye. Stay hydrated!!!

   The morning was for trout. They wanted my dry fly, a wet fly, a streamer, but only one trout wanted a nymph, and it threw the hook.  I was pleased.  Then, I visited the water I was most excited about. Warm water.  I'd quietly hoped I could nab a large brown trout on the river, but my focus was on the powerful and acrobatic smb. 

   Much to my surprise, after failing twice to set the hook on a couple near shore strikes, I changed from a grey craft fur leech pattern to my black and chartreuse Guinea Bugger.  I cast long and downstream and had a hard strike followed by a hard hookset on my end. I'd brought out a rarely used, stiffer, fast-action 5 wt and really rekindled my love with the rod that day.  The fish stayed low and, as always, I chanted to "Please just let me see you," as I hate not to even see the fish that put such a bend into my rod.  Much to my surprise, when I first got a look-see of the fish when it emerged from the drop-off, my brain registered it was somehow lighter and more slender for its length than I'd expected. Then I saw the spots. That was no smb!!!  

   Thank God I didn't know it was a large brown prior to that time.  I would have gotten too excited and all of us have experienced what happens then.  I was able to land the aggressive fish, and I was further glad to have my net on hand. My eyes saw a +20" brown, but my net indicated a 19-incher.  Nonetheless, I hooted and hollered and gave thanks.  I've hooked and lost a couple 18s, and landed one 18" brown sipping bugs in a 2' wide hole on a stream near Decorah, Iowa, a few years ago. But, jeeze, this gal was supposed to be an smb and she took my Guinea Bugger, and she was 19 inches! 

   She also rolled herself counterclockwise in my net, wrapping leader around her mouth. After I worked a couple wraps off, she smartly rolled clockwise, unwrapping all but 2 wraps from her body. I did the rest, took a couple pictures to share with you, and set her free.  After visiting the bank of a large hole, I was soon getting into smb, rock bass, bluegills, and later,

a creek chub.  Between trout and warm water fish, I landed 6 species of fish that day. 

   Bragging? No! Grateful? Yes! I share because it's a pleasure to share one's happiness and because I hope I can inspire others to get out and do the things they love, not waiting for the perfect circumstances to go. Sometimes imperfect circumstances lead to a perfectly happy day.  Nighttime can be another story... unless the angler remains hydrated. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

A Sluggish SMB Start Leads to Mid-Afternoon Feeding Fun

   I was able to fish the Volga River yesterday -- finally after 1.5 years of wanting to get there again!  

Three of us. Water low and had to drag boats more than usual. Portage toons (like the meat in a sandwich) between 2 downed tree trunks in the water. None of us were complainers, and we had a good time. All SMB were small and then rock bass and a few chubs thrown in to widen the species caught. Ha! Too bad it wasn't the occasional white bass or trout that are sometimes pulled from here.

   I did finally trial my yellow popper and after broadcasting a hole, I switched to chartreuse popper (ole faithful) and had a couple strikes and landed one after casting to the same hole. There were a few more strikes later on, but the day remained cooler and the fish were lazy like I had been the previous day.

   Switched to streamers and had some more contact, but guys doing better (M knows the Volga VERY well). Then, I switched to an olive pattern -- no one fishes olive anymore, why is that?!-- and the game changed. Then Douggles switched to olive with orange. Bango!

   Whether is was the fly color, the time of day the fish turned on, or a mix of both, I got most of my fish with that fly. For me alone, probably ~20 bass day overall after a slow start. But, at the hole that had already been fished, I did pull out an SMB in the first few casts with that fly. It was an unpainted lead eye crawdad-like pattern with 2 rabbit strips as legs. Olive tinsel chenille for body. Rubber legs and a little flash. With rabbit strips located at tail of body, I think they may have contributed more to profile color than anything else.  I watched that fly while stripping it in the clear water. I tell ya, with that lead head and the chenille, that fly looked more like a thin baitfish imitation and almost translucent... delicate, thin and very vulnerable.
(Click on photos to see close-up images. Thanks for looking and please comment to let me know you were here! ~Twitch 9-5-15)

Thursday, June 9, 2016


On Lake St. Joseph, in Canada, I got to be “The Other Person.”  It was a yell-out-loud, hoot-n-holler kind of thrill after you work and wait and finally don’t fail when a chance comes along.

I had a great boat partner, Ed, who netted my big girl and who did other things to manage the pike that would not have been wise for me to then attempt.  Recently, part of my index finger had been “pulverized,” according to my doctor.  While I was wearing a splint, the wires had been removed just 13 days ago.

My only unfulfilled wish was that the picture could’ve been of both Ed and me holding this fierce-fighting fish with our friend John there to share in the excitement.  John had earlier motored off to prospect other water.

Last year in the Northwoods, John had been trying hard to get me on a big musky… And he did so.  It happened a couple times on a particular day, but I’d failed to convert. The following day I was in the zone but the fish weren’t cooperative. Late afternoon we had some action and a particular fish I converted felt like +40 during the fight.  In reality, its exciting, rod-bending action became 38 inches of musky in my happy hands.  No “+40” To A River Guide Service hat (yet) for me.

Also last winter, John convinced this frugal musky-hungry fly angler to take a 5-day, Canadian trip in search of pike.  The trip cost would eliminate my musky guide trips for this year since I’ve still not received payment greater than a dollar from the Mega-Millions. However, due to my proven faith in John’s ability to plan a trip and prospect good water, I decided I should grab a rare opportunity when it was given. Ultimately, we had a great group of 5 for the trip.

I got a Visa and then on May 25 laughingly predicted John’s minor frustration at seeing me pictured with my personal-best Esox… in a net on my lap.  A thrashing head or tail from a 42-inch pike with a 15 ½” girth does not mix well with a broken finger, and my poor grip could cause the fish to fall in the boat.  I'd elected to "Play smart to fish more, then practice safe release.”

I know that John missed converting a couple super-sized pike, including one right at his boat, and First-Cast Ed had a few mid-30s. The always-funny Steve and his daughter Sam, who was a novice fly angler, daily returned last to the cabin after competing for how many pike each could get.  Yes, there were some slow moments, but we all caught lots of pike. 

While it took me until the final day on the lake, we all landed walleye on the fly.  I cheered just like it was the 42-incher, having joked previously that I would become the first walleye fly fishing guide.  That wally also came to one of my 8-inch BB’s Forage flies, just like 42 did.  Those who tie flies understand that pleasure.  Another bigger pike was coaxed to my fly that day.  After a brief fight, it was gone because I forgot to set the hook a second time.  Right after that, I got a huge snag.

During those days on Canadian water, in beautiful surroundings shared by an excellent mix of people, I experienced many firsts.  42 was a blessing, and I’d always longed to feel the weight of a big girl and feel the release when she left my protective hand.  That pike was also a grand fighter, forcing my rod tip to circle the boat, making 2 short runs, and jumping twice from the water and tail-wagging.  This was Ed’s first big-pike experience too.  To top it off, I discovered she’d also left me with a tooth.  I gave Ed my fly.  I also had my first top-water experience, and that pike was boated with the only surface fly I’ve tied. Really, the fly is an embarrassment, and I call it Ugly Big Head.

Near the cabin, I waded and landed a pike one evening, fly-line-jigged and missed fish from the dock a couple other days, found blue crayfish claws and caribou prints and felt a greater intimacy with Canadian land and water.

Despite my finger, as the days progressed I started to learn how to safely manage my own netted, small pike.  The final evening at the cabin I went out to fish before the imminent lightning and thunder arrived.  I planned to fly fish off the dock but also explore a tiny point viewed from our cabin’s kitchen window.  The point had been a popular spot for beaver, a merganser pair, and gulls.  Would fish like it too?  After fishing the dock, I made the short, rocky hike to the point.  First cast and I had a pike!  Ultimately, I netted three pike while fishing a fly over the steep, rocky drop along that point.

Thunder chased me back to the cabin and we five friends soon enjoyed a final supper, including 4 racks of barbecued ribs, foil-grilled potatoes, and baked beans, with a great salad prepared by Steve and Sam.  Since John did the bulk of each evening’s cooking, the rest of us did the cleanup.  We’d planned for one meal of walleye, but John had brought and prepared so much good food for suppers that we didn’t harvest any walleye.

That evening, I ate with my waders on, having decided to fish again after supper.  If I got one special fish or a few smaller pike then I’d be satisfied.  I would not need to get up early the next morning for 30 minutes of last-hope fishing before the float plane arrived. The second time at the dock, with waning light and a post-thunderstorm sunset, another small pike was netted.  Did I once see a long, white belly turn from my fly in the haze of deeper water?  I’ll never know, but I ended up setting my alarm for 5:15. 

The first time that evening at the dock I’d landed two pike.  The first pike managed to get the fly moderately deep.  All my solo musky have been mouth hooked, so I had to put on my big-girl pants to get the current job done. I learned to keep the fish in the net and learned why the jaw spreaders kept coming undone.  I am, by nature, a jumpy person.  Whenever the pike would thrash, I would jump and squeeze the previously-placed spreaders, allowing the pike’s mouth to again close.  Ultimately, the good fingers on my left hand held the ring of the spreader while my right hand managed the pliers and the fly.  My butt was put in charge of the net handle. The second pike inhaled the fly more deeply.  After calming myself and mumbling that I might have to catch & keep for the first time if the pike did not consider my hook removal a success, I went to work.  I looked through the spreaders in to the mouth and down to its esophagus.  I’d never seen an esophagus before.  Deep breath.  The fly came out more quickly than the first pike’s fly had.  A safe release coupled with much relief.  The big-girl pants fit well so I need to keep wearing them.

By 5:30 am I was back on the dock with the previous night’s popular Umpqua fly on deck.  Then, it was my minnow-patterned BB’s Forage.  No fish sign.  With time running out, I put on a Supercharger; a red, flashy fly created by Jared Ehlers.  Ultimately, nothing was hooked, but it was worth getting up early… 

I had a follow.  It was another broad, 40+ pike, following inches away from the gaudy fly, right toward the dock!  When I look back, she seemed to be the fishy equivalent of the slow walk while scanning the morning newspaper, followed by an unhurried turn to the kitchen to relax and enjoy a good coffee.  I’ve imagined hooking and fighting her, all others rushing to the dock, with Sam, the youngest person and novice angler, being guided on netting a big toothy critter and ultimately getting to feel the heft of that scaled, powerful body.

We all want to return to the cabin, to those Canadian waters and to its pike and walleye.  And I sincerely hope that everyone gets their own chance to be “The Other Person.”  ~Trip dates: 5/21-28/16. Story finished 6/11/16. Thanks for reading it! Twitch

Back at Slate Falls Outpost office, I was the first person with the honor of filling out the board for landing a 42" or greater pike!

View of  the 154,348 acre Lake St. Joseph just prior to the descent to our cabin.

Another view from the Otter float plane. Note that the land at the  lower right corner looks like a beaver. There were many beaver lodges on the lake, and they attracted finned toothy critters too!

John taking the time to appreciate life.

Steve, left, his daughter Sam, Ed, and I visit on the deck while John grills bbq chicken around the deck's corner.

Waiting out a morning's cold, wind, and rain with breakfast, a book, and a nap.

Ed  adds a little more warmth to the cabin on a chilly, late afternoon.

Our bathrooms 2 & 3 are located outside.

Ed was happy with small fish, big fish, in the rain, and in the rarely-seen sun.

I think this was Ed's first larger pike. It was 34" and d/t its girth it appeared large!

I put the netted 42 in the water. Ed removed 42 from the net and initiated a safe recovery (above), then I held her tail to finish the recovery. Meanwhile, Ed returned to his rod and another pike he'd hooked!

The first pike I decided to mug with for the camera. Even the pike is smiling!

Discussing a particular stretch of water.

We enter the channels on a particular stretch of water prior to entering the main body of the lake and heading the boats back to our cabin and supper.

Our cabin in the morning.

Travelling at 133 mph and 1000 feet, I enjoy a ride in the cabin of the 1961 Otter with pilot Rich as we return to Sioux Outlook.

Our group and luggage have been removed from the plane and we ready to begin the drive back through International Falls and to our home, the U.S.A.

One of 2 bears seen (at the start) on our trip as we headed through northern MN to International Falls.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

My Journey as 3 Paw

March 18 - April 30, 2016

   On March 18, 2016, I trekked down to a favorite fishing hole in search of beauty and browns. I soon held a Brush Creek brown in my left hand and took a picture, already hoping to return again the following afternoon. However, by mid-morning on March 19, I'd suffered an injury to the proximal phalanx (about 1.5 inches of bone) of my left index finger & would not be holding brown trout again anytime soon. On April 4th, I was able to take pictures of my hand and the 7 K-wires holding the 15-20 fragments of bone together. The surgery had occurred on March 29, but since March 21st I had been (& still am) immobilized from my mid-forearm down to my 2nd & 3rd fingertips.  

   Yesterday (4/28), I was told that the doctor wanted the wires to remain in the finger for 2 more weeks. Seven total weeks of immobilization.  It's official; my index finger is going to have all of the flexibility of a carrot. Occupational Therapy began yesterday to my wrist, hand, & other 4 fingers. My middle finger is very rigid & everything else is tight. My goal is to regain 50% of my range of motion (ROM) by my next OT appointment on May 2nd and to have enough movement to tie flies at our club meeting on May 1st..

   Life deals us problems or challenges, & most of the time we get to pick our hand.  Our hand is also known as "attitude."  So far, I have decided that I have a challenge, and I decided to figure out how to fly fish (nearly) 1-handed.

to be continued...

   During April 13-17th, 5 of us gals made a roadtrip, spending much of our time at Mountain Home, Arkansas' Sowbug Roundup. I observed a double haul casting class & took notes by using voice-to-text to send myself emails.The fly tiers & other people in the region were friendly, & the bbq was great. We got to meet Tom Schmuecker, owner of Wapsi Fly, Inc., and tour the business. Tom is also one of the founders of Hawkeye Fly Fishing Association, the club that 4/5 of us belong to. My friends spent some time fishing the White River, & I spent a morning with the hook cut of of a Guelk Nymph, honing my new 1-handed casting technique. I could cast & shoot line out fairly well.  But despite coming up with a 1-handed system to strip line under tension, I still resorted to stripping in line between my left thumb and the part of the hand below the index finger.  Located above this area were two wires helping to hold the bones of my index finger together.  A friend and I returned to the cabin to fashion a baggie over the stripping area to prevent my splint from getting wetter.  It was then that I decided to stop casting for the day, knowing both that I should not be using the left hand and that I currently did not have the discipline to only use my right hand.  I yet thought that I would fish another day, but another good opportunity didn't arise.

   The day prior to the trip I used a piece of cane to mimic a fly rod and discovered that placing the butt end in a waist pack with my left arm wrapped around the upper portion of the "rod" gave it enough support to allow line stripping with the right hand.  After Googling 1-armed casting, I noted the assistive devices often incorporated a strap around a thigh to aid line management.  I used a long and a short carrying strap, & the sheath for my long-nosed pliers to make my own line-management system. The longer carrying strap connected the shorter strap buckled around my lower thigh to my wading belt or waist pack, keeping the shorter strap from falling.  My woman's shape would prevent the thigh strap, which the sheath was attached to, from riding up too much.  I mimicked stripping in line, wrapping it below the sheath to get tension & then releasing that same section of line just as I grabbed more line to allow me to strip again.  Due to my nature to overthink things, I hoped that one evening in our Arkansas cabin we could come up with ways to simplify the 1-handed casting system.

   The first night at the cabin, Scott, a MN friend and invited tier to the Roundup, paid us a visit.  Scott has made his own dubbing tool, among other things, and was the perfect person to simplify the casting system.  After his suggestion, the leg strap was removed, and the sheath was attached to the right side of my waist pack. The line was stripped, and then wrapped only below (not around) the sheath to provide line tension but still allow an aggressive fish to take line out.  Scott also suggested using a cord to attach the rod to something on my body. Due to the inability of my left hand to grip the rod, there was a chance the rod could dislodge from the pouch of my fanny pack.  Taking the small coiled cord from the unused pliers, the cord was looped around my rod and reel and the opposite end could be clipped to my clothing.  Near the end of the evening, Scott mimicked a hooked fish flopping around on the floor, to test how I would contain him and remove the hook. During this visit, Scott also dubbed me with the moniker "3 Paw."  I liked it.  

to be continued...

   I keep my hand out of the splint as much as possible, and I stretch and exercise my fingers and wrist... at home, while working out on a recumbent bike, while visiting a friend, when at the library, etc.  I try not to attempt too much movement of the index finger, but it can't move much anyway (carrot-like, remember?). I also have mixed feelings about the very skilled doctor, who was on vacation when my injury occurred but gave me surgery right after he returned & also changed surgical sites to ensure my insurance covered the surgery.  Yet, after a surgery and 2 visits to the clinic, I don't think I've seen him a total of 10 minutes.  To him, I am the severely comminuted finger fracture and feel I received the human patient assembly line instructions.  When you don't see a doctor enough to communicate with him, you don't know why you can't move a joint, and it becomes challenging to follow doctor's orders.  The OT will be my bridge to the doctor, since the OT will also treat my muscles and tendons, and consider how well my personality, my discipline, and patient goals will figure in to my treatment.  I wish I'd insisted on having OT ordered 2-3 weeks after my surgery, but if wishes were fishes...

   My next OT appt is tomorrow and I will see the doctor or his PA again on May 12th, when the wires will likely be removed.  On May 20 I leave to meet up with a friend in Michigan where we embark on a long-planned group trip to Canada to fly fish for trophy pike, and walleye.  I accept that I will have plenty of challenges, and I hope for no problems. 

First Real Fishing Expedition

   Yesterday (4/30), I went smallie fishing on a creek close to home.  Shortly after hitting the water, I hooked one but quickly lost it.  I hadn't honed my 1-handed technique yet and was unable to keep enough tension on the line.  I spent hours on a cool day walking and fishing.  I had more chases but no further hook ups, yet still had a great day.  I believe I thought every day last winter about springtime smallmouth fishing and summer float trips for smallies, and I am one day closer to my first smallie of the year.


   I keep my promises, even ones made to myself, and a few weeks ago I promised myself I wouldn't use my left hand in a manner to risk injuring it.  My left arm can stabilize the rod when the rod butt is in my waist pack, and I use the tip of my splint to slowly wind line on the reel when I'm moving to the next hole.  But when I'm actually fishing, the left hand and fingers are currently out of a job.  The right hand initially wrapped the line around the lower part of the sheath with each strip & captured more line.  It was slow and awkward.  Now, I strip line, let go, and immediately catch more line with the hand.  I occasionally reach line back to the sheath so I am still in practice for when I need to manage and strip in a tauter line, i.e. line with a fish on it.  Still not ideal but fly fishing 1-handed isn't ideal.  I haven't waded, and I don't know that I will, since wires entering the skin are also the same areas where bacteria could enter.  However, I haven't made myself any promises.

   I kept the rod, rigged up, in the car along with my other gear.  It's a chore to get ready to fish, so I wanted to take that out of the equation.  Besides, I might not be able to break the rod down without assistance. ;)  However, now it's been raining and the creek will be running too high for a couple days, so it is time to find more morels. ~April 30.

to be continued...

May 1

   Part of the reason I am writing this is because I work in the healthcare profession.  I want to share that sometimes our bodies change and we can't do things in the manner we previously had.  But, our greatest tool is the brain.  If one is willing to be creative and flexible, we can often come up with a way to still do the things we love and do them safely, too.  

to be continued...

May 6

   Went fishing yesterday at the same area. One can usually sight fish and find smallies here, but I only saw suckers. No luck at all except that I met "Ken," who gave me a good tip on where to find sizable smallies. I guess it is a little treacherous in a rocky way to get to the hole, so I will either go with a friend or wait until my wires are removed...unless I get a wild hair.

   Tomorrow is the annual local fly casting clinic, held in Bettendorf. Dan Johnston, St. Croix rep, is the main instructor, and others give him a hand.  I'm looking forward to providing instruction, and this can be done 1-handed.  It will be a pleasure to help others again, especially since so many folks have offered to help me since I became a "3 Paw."  

   I watched the latest episode of "The Voice" tonight while using lotion and a wash cloth to scrub off what seems to be the tenth layer of dead skin from my hand. There is definitely muscle atrophy up to the forearm and some swelling remains to the fingers and hand, but at least it now the appendage looks alive.  I think "the Voice's" season finale is on May 24, and I will be well into a big pike fly fishing vacation in Canada by then.  My buddy John called tonight to discuss food ideas for the trip.  My hope remains that the wires will be gone, and that I will have a splint that will allow me to manage line with my left hand.  I can manage a rod fine with either hand, but double hauling with a 10 wt has mostly always been a L-handed affair.   

   I wonder if I will wake up tonight doing range of motion to my hand with it out of the splint-- as I had managed to do in my sleep a few nights ago.

May 9

   Our casting clinic went well. I want to be a better instructor. Still learning too much there! LOL! ...The OT is happy with my progress. I am hoping wires are removed on Thursday, otherwise 2por1 margarita celebration will be 2por1 margarita bit%# and moan session... I layout the newsletter for our fly fishing club, and it will be finished tomorrow. Time to set sites on Canada trip for big pike!!! (still need to post hilarious pics from Sowbug)

to be continued...

May 12

My finger has turned into a carrot, but the final 6 wires have been removed (the last 2 required a little twisting and harder pulling)! More protective splinting and OT to come. Weird sensations in the broken area at times that make me jump like I just  realized something was crawling around in my shirt with me, but overall not too bad. Celebrated with margs & Mex then went to the monthly "Music Night" in my friends' basement.

Trying desperately to find intermediate line prior to Canada. Time to start packing and will likely have to skip an invitation of trouting and camping for this weekend so I know I can be ready for the big trip.

More gross pictures to come...
5-12-16: Wires are removed!!

Finally landed smb 5-13-16. OT made splint
after wires removed 5-12-16.

Friend John met me at the stream.
May 18

I've been able to fish a little locally and finally landed some small smallies. I'm wearing a less restrictive splint on my hand to protect the finger that is always rudely pointing. It is challenging managing the fish since I can't sufficiently pinch, grip or lip yet, with the fingers on the left hand. But, casting is improving and all is slowly progressing. 
5-17-16, took pic to show OT the movement
 I can force at the joints of my finger.

Sinking (type 6) and intermediate lines have arrived.

Tied 4 Clousers, so far, for the trip. After 3, the middle finger and wrist are sore.

After small modifications to my 2 splints, one feels worse and the other rubs in new places. Must return to clinic again tomorrow. Going out to practice cast again tonight to make sure no other concerns with splint I'll wear when fishing in Canada. I leave on Friday for Michigan and a friend's house. We leave for International Falls and Canada on Saturday.

to be continued....

May 20-29

Driving to SW MI solo and then MI to/from Sioux Outlook, north of International Falls, with friends, and from Superior, WI, to home solo I spent most of my time exercising my finger by forcing it to bend at a single joint or at multiple joints, or by moving it the little it would go under its own power.  Listening to audio books makes all my travel time for fishing trips go much smoother.  I stopped wearing a bag over my finger when showering at our cabin, located along Lake St. Joe, Eagle Island, in Ontario, Canada.  I also got my personal-best Esox, had another +40 follow the final morning, and did get one walleye on the fly, too.  

See my post titled "42" about this great trip with 4 other fly anglers.  My splint worked great, allowing me to double haul, pull up the anchor, and eventually remove flies from my own pike, safely.

Safest way to then pose with my personal-best Esox

Another friend John who consistently casts beautifully.
In winter, he invited me on the trip & kept faith that I would still go
following my injury. This and timeliness of my recovery was something
I had  to choose not to worry about.

June 1

The day of another doctor's appt.  The surgeon, my OT, and I all agree that my goal to return to work by June 6 will not be met.  Progress is good considering the trauma and length of immobilization, but the finger is still too stiff and Dr. V wants to see more radiographic healing. Doctor actually giggled when viewing current Xrays. "Remember," he said, "that bone was smashed to smithereens."  He went on to detail the current, generally good shape of the bone and the good alignment between joints.

June 13

Doctor doesn't giggle when looking at this date's Xrays, he laughs.  He is very happy.  More healing present, but still a couple wider, darker (less healed) areas on Xrays that will keep me guarded and wearing my splints more often than not. My range of motion continues to improve and I have about 47* of flexion at PIP (middle knuckle). Moving 2-3 joints simultaneously is expectedly more difficult with less movement present. We still know a tenolysis (surgery to remove tendon from bone) is still a possibility, but we both agree that continuing therapy with OT and on my own is still the best option to see what other gains I can make. Doctor agrees that it is time for me to return to work. He didn't mention a splint, but my OT and I have one in progress that I've dubbed my "mini splint." I'm hoping to wear it without Velcro or other material needed to keep it fixed to my hand. Small enough to pull a glove over it, and hygenic and eassy to clean without any fabric-type of material attachments.

June 15

I return to work with all 3 splints available to me, but am blessed to be allowed to get all of my learning assignments on the computer completed first.  It takes all day. Tomorrow I begin patient care on my favorite floor, but it is also the floor where therapists see the greatest number of patients in a day.  I'm a bit nervous about that, but throughout this experience I've made decisions at particular times to decide not to worry about things and those things worked themselves out very well. A fortune cookie fortune I got during my recovery reads, "Fear is interest paid on a debt one may not owe."

It will be harder to make time now to continue to give my finger the intense amount of therapy it needs, but I must make time to do it, or suffer the regret later.

***** I sense this post is winding down, as I am more of a 3 2/3 or 3 3/4 paw now!  However, basic life challenges still exist, such as writing, cutting food, pulling my rod sections apart, etc. Work will also be challenging and my risk for re-injury is still very much present. There is still much modified fishing to do, but I CAN fish! ( I also rowed my little pontoon and caught LMBass at a local lake on my 50th birthday - June 10th. It was my best day on this lake. My friend kate paddled her kayak and hunted agates, also finding success.)

So, I will continue with this post until some of the fog of the unknown clears, such as will I heal without incident and how much range of motion can I get back (without tenolysis) after a crush injury and 7 weeks + 5 days of immobilization?

Remember you can often decide if you have a problem or a challenge!!!***** 

July 19

I went on a float trip for smallmouth bass yesterday.  It was my first one of the year and the first time I fished with Doug. We had a good time and my finger held up quite well.  I am still wearing a splint but can hold the rod in my left hand again.  That is very, very nice except that using a larger weight rod (and rowing!) in that hand with a splint on taxes my wrist and the 3 non-splinted fingers. Those fingers have to grip harder and move at an odd angle. So, I fished one day, not two, knowing it would be too hard to resist also casting with my left hand. I did lip a smallie for the first time with my left hand!  It took a bit to get my hand in position, but it was done. Near the end of the float a large smb catapulted up from the water to attack my chartreuse popper! It was hooked after the aggressive attack but I was managing line then with my left hand and I fumbled the line between the splint and my free fingers, failing to set the hook like I normally would. The biggest, most aggressive fish of the float was gone. I yelled something like, "Son of a fish!" and my tantrum was done.

I wear a different splint at work. I will be happy when I no longer have to wear this one but with the different splint needs at work, it does the job. Work can be challenging but it is getting easier each week. My co-workers still have difficulty reading my handwriting (with either hand), but some days that is better too. 

The range of motion of my finger continues to improve, especially the passive range of motion (PROM). By force, the pad of my finger can occasionally be made to touch the palm of my hand. Should I need the tenolysis surgery, it is very important to have the best PROM possible. Active range of motion (AROM) is improving but at a slower pace now and one of the 2 muscles that bend my finger joints is being especially stubborn. This is attributed to the usual culprits, tendon adhesions.  I continue strengthening, stretching, and doing vinegar soaks. I also continue with Mark, a Certified Hand Therapist and Occupational Therapist, who has been fantastic. He also gives me iontophoresis, again using vinegar, AKA acetic acid, along with exercise/ROM. 

Unless Mark or I am forcing my finger to move, I have very little pain.  I did mow the grass without wearing a splint for the first time a few days ago. The vibration from the lawn mower started to cause me discomfort, so I will return to the splint for mowing.  It was a gentle warning telling me that that bone is still not healed enough to perform moderate to heavy tasks without added protection/support. As of today, it has been 4 months and 1 day since my injury.

I return to the doctor on July 21.  I will start to make plans for and learn about the tenolysis surgery while still working very, very, very hard to avoid needing it. I am guessing the doctor will want me to continue to wear a splint when I'm doing more aggressive tasks and that he will say I don't need it at night.  We'll see.  I will be curious to learn what else he has to say and wonder if he will giggle or laugh again out of happiness due to how my bone has healed.  I only hope I can do the same someday due to my tendons freeing themselves up from the bone and letting me move my finger more actively again.

Examples of things that remain awkward and/or hard to do: knocking on a door, using round door handles, brushing my teeth, using a zipper, lipping a bass or managing any fish. Anything that requires a grip is now challenging.  I believe I read that when one loses an index finger, around 50% of grip strength is lost.  So, I will continue to do all I can to get that finger moving better again.