Friday, June 24, 2016

Altitude is good for the attitude

Goose Lake is a high lake near Red River, NM. The rocky, steep, Jeep trail starts at 8500' and runs to 11,500'. I've never been up and Derek's never ridden real off-road trails on his dirt bike, so we planned a trip. Leaving home at around 8 am, we stopped in Cimarron NM at the Cree-Me Drive Inn, which has the best soft-serve ice cream in the world. It was too early for ice cream and burger, so we "settled" for breakfast instead. Well... my breakfast burrito turned out to be one of the best I've ever had and Derek took 3 bites of his pancakes and said "These are really good!" He rarely says things like that. After stuffing ourselves, we continued on to Red River.

Our RV park (Roadrunner RV) ended up being right next to the Goose Lake trailhead which made things easy. We pulled in at 11 am and got camp set up. After some thinking, we decided to ride the Goose Lake Trail first, then go fishing a bit, and then ride the Greenie Peak (11,400', too) and Moonlight Meadow trails the next day.

Off we went! Now, remember, Derek just started riding a dirt bike in February. Goose Lake Trail started with a steep and loose shale ascent. I was about 100 yards up when I spotted a Polaris Razr coming down the trail. Turning quickly to find Derek, I promptly crashed, landing hard on my butt. Derek also crashed and couldn't pick his bike up on the slick surface. So, I parked mine, walked down, got him started, pointed out the line, and off he went. I took off, waved at the Polaris, and up we went. After that rocky start, things went well, although it seemed like we climbed forever. Finally, up near the lake we got some downhill time and in a fairly short time- it's only a 7 mile ride- we arrived at the lake. I, unfortunately, left the mount for my helmet cam at home, so I just have stills to show you.

In the parking lot at 11,500'.
Derek is glad to not be battling rocks.

Derek is growing

Goose Lake

The ring of rocks

The lake was surprisingly pretty- a crystal clear little thing surrounded by a ring of rock, snow still in place. It's a popular place and there were numerous ATV's, Polaris Rangers, and such in the parking lot. We were the only bikes, though. After some photos and observation, we headed back down, during which both Derek and I observed that we needed to adjust our rear brakes! On the ride down, my butt started hurting from the fall and it being only 1 pm, I thought maybe we should go ahead and tackle the other ride and save fishing for the 'morrow. So, we loaded up and off we went! Again!The other ride starts on the opposite end of town and winds thru some pretty fun trails. Uphill, downhill, level but with water washouts... it's a great ride up to Greenie Peak. From there, you can go back down and branch off one of two different ways to make a big loop. We rode that one and Derek proclaimed it as "much better" than the other ride. By this time, we were tired and hungry and stopped at "Anchovies Pizza" in town where we had a pepperoni- artichoke heart/olive/tomato mix. It was pretty good- not quite as good as Bruno's in Raton, but still pretty good. We'd definitely eat there again.

Sittin' on top of the world.

Derek with clouds

Wondering if we're gonna get wet (we didn't)

 After a nice night's sleep in our new Casita (3 Ibuprofen later, my butt quit hurting), we went fishing. I don't have much to report there except that there is a steep curve where fly fishing along brush choked little streams are concerned. After a rough start (I already used "rocky start"....) during which my BOA laced wading boots lace broke and I had to use a leader to shut, which necessitated rebuilding my leader/tippet, we caught nothing. The Red River was whipping and places where there's normally pools were raging rapids. We packed up and headed over to Eagle Nest to visit Eagle Nest Fly Shack and get my boots re-wired, and then grab some food. Got all that done, eating at Kaw-Lija's where we had a breakfast burrito and pancakes again. We agreed that the food was good, but not quite as good at the Cree-Me Drive Inn. Nevertheless, we'd eat there again, you betchya.

Bed-time in the Casita

Fueled with food and information, we headed for Cimarron Canyon to fish more. Amidst much line tangling and fly losing, Derek snagged 2 small brown while I had several strikes but nothing solid. Tired and grumpy, we headed home but not before stopping in Ute Park for real, 100% gasoline, no ethanol added and in Cimarron guessed it!... the Cree-Me Drive Inn for soft-serve ice cream.  And a few hours later, tired, we arrived home just in time for it to start pouring rain. As I write this, just over a 1" of badly needed moisture has fallen.  This is, literally, awesome.

All in all, an excellent adventure. Derek got to ride his dirt bike off-road for the first time, we both went to Goose Lake, we ate at 3 new places, we camped in the Casita... good stuff!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016


(Mat 4:18-19 NKJV)  And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."

I figure that since more than one of Jesus' disciples were fishermen, it might behoove one to become a fisher of fish before becoming a fisher of men.  Because, like, if you can't fish for fish, then how are you going to fish for men's souls?  If you can't fish?  You know?  I mean, is this logic or what?!  So, to this end, a few years ago we set out to become fishermen. 

Now, I fished in my youth, but it was bass fishing on small prairie potholes. You cast a lure in the water and like as not a hungry largemouth bass smacked it right away.  If one didn't, then you moved to the next pond.  This is radically different from lake fishing. Small pond fishing is more like fishing for men at a "We Want To Know Jesus!" conference. There are limited choices and the fish there are hungry. It's easy. Lake fishing- where there is a lot of water and many more choices in food, shelter, and depth for our sought-after fish- is more like fishing for souls at a Rolling Stones concert. It's gonna be a tough one and um...Keef!!!!  Start me up, man!!!  Sorry... where was I?  Anyway, having found justification for my fishing ("seek, and you shall find...", right?), and, um... let's ignore the fact that I only found justification after I was well into fishing again, shall we?... here's where we're at, fishing-for-fish-wise.

We started fishing after David's death. Couple of reasons for that. First, none of the 3 kids could swim and I didn't want to worry about them falling in and drowning, esp David who was physically weak. I also didn't want to spend all my time untangling rods and such. There were other things we did- archery, traveling, museums- so we did those things. Afterward, Brianna was old enough to handle herself and I got Derek swimming a bit. They both wanted to fish, so off we went.  We hit nearby Clayton Lake once or twice and got skunked. Then we discovered Gravel Pits Lake in Cimarron Canyon, a kid-friendly little pond stocked with rainbows. That's where we started learning about treble hooks, weights, and Powerbait.  Prior to this, I was using a medium stiffness spinning reel loaded with 10-12 lb test line and big spinners and spoons- bass tackle, in other words. Trout are much more delicate and it wasn't long before I had an array of Light and Ultra-Light rods and small reels loaded with 4 lb test line. 

Derek's first fish, ever, at Gravel Pits- Sept 28, 2012
Still using heavy tackle here.

Our first real success came at Lake Maloya near Raton where we all caught a limit or close to it of trout. 

Derek and Brianna on our first Maloya trip- April 25, 2013

After that, I started going to different lakes around northern New Mexico, exploring and trying them out.  We've hit Morphy Lake twice.  First time was slow- D2 and I caught 4 fish between us. It's hard to get to and I don't think it'll be our favorite lake, although Teresa's Tamales is just down the hill and a worthy stop all by itself.

Morphy Lake

After Morphy, we went back to Lake Maloya and again caught some fish. We've been back to Maloya 6-8 times and have had good fishing every time. I think it might be our favorite lake on the whole.

Lake Maloya
Derek and I went to a 3D archery shoot back in July 2014 and just weren't having much fun so we bailed early to take in some fishing on the way home.  This was our first visit to Coyote Creek and we had a great time there. We didn't catch a lot of fish, but the scenery more than made up for it.

Beaver dam at Coyote Creek 

Clayton Lake is our "local" lake but it took us awhile to figure it out. Eventually, we started catching fish fairly regularly, but it's never a given.  In 2015, I got something new- an inflatable Intex Mariner 3 boat. I've never been a boat person, but it's fun and it's really opened a new door as far as fishing goes. Shortly after this, I bought an Intex Challenger K2 kayak. I like the kayak for its lightweight and maneuverability but it's not as comfortable with 2 people and is obviously much less stable than the boat, I really enjoy using both boats to explore the waters.

Trying the Intex for the first time

Before long, we had to try fly fishing, especially after visiting smaller waters like Coyote Creek and Gravel Pits (and the surrounding Cimarron).  Using points from my Cabela's card, I got us set up with rods and reels and we were off.  There is a steep learning curve with fly fishing and at first, we were not very successful. One thing I learned about fly-fishing is that, unlike normal fishing where bodies of water are referred to as "Lake _____" or "_______ River", you call the place only by its first name.  Thus, the Cimarron River is simply "the Cimarron" and the San Juan River is "the San Juan".  Doing it this way lets people know that you "know". So if you want to sound like you, too, "know", I suggest you start referring to bodies of water by their Christian name. 

Fly fishing the Cimarron

To help get over the Fly-Fishing Learning Mountain, we hired a guide from Eagle Nest Fly Shack.  Tim, the owner, was our guide and both D2 and I learned a lot. That fall, we picked up used waders and boots from them, and applied our lessons on our own.

Learning from our guide

As of this writing, I have yet to catch a brown trout and D2 has yet to catch a rainbow on a fly rod.  We're in competition to see who can be the first to get the other's fish.

A non-guided trout
At Winfield 2015, D2 learned to tie flies.  Several of the Winfield guys are fly-fishermen and D2 and no shortage of help. He's caught trout- brown trout, no rainbows, please note!- on his own hand-tied flies.

Learning to tie flies at Winfield

Next on our list of fish to catch were walleye and bass.  Clayton Lake has them, but Ute Lake has more, so when Heather needed to zip down to Ute Lake to do a falcon exchange, D2 and I were all on board.  There, we met my ex-apprentice, Calvin, and another falconer, Mike, (that's four falconers fishing for fish, in case you lost track) and fished away.  D2 caught two keeper walleye and a couple of bass, plus Mike gave us his bass and we had a meal!  After trout, the walleye and bass were big fish.

First walleye and bass at Ute Lake
A few weeks later, we put our new Casita to use in an overnight stay at Clayton Lake where we caught several nice fish.

Casita Camping at Clayton Lake

The view from my kayak

D2 caught the big one
And then just a few weeks ago, we took the Casita back to Ute Lake where I caught several smallmouth bass, including a few keepers.  Derek didn't catch one until just before we were ready and then hooked one bigger than either of mine.

Ute Lake smallmouth

Well, that's fishing so far. Now that the weather's getting warmer, we're  moving back to the fly streams where I will catch a brown trout. We're both going to catch cuthroat, probably in the Valle Vidal, which is a place I've never been. Or maybe up in Santa Barbara creek, another place I've never been.  Later this year we have plans to head down south to combine fishing with hawking and javelina hunting. We've discussed moving to Logan (home of Ute Lake) in the winter. We can speak bilingually now, switching effortlessly from Spin-Cast to several dialects of Fly-Fishing. We have "A River Runs Through It" memorized- in my case, both the movie and the book. However, don't think that we are good fishermen, I think we still need a lot of practice. And we intended to practice. A lot.

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him all good things-trout as well as eternal salvation-come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.” 

“Well, until man is redeemed he will always take a fly rod too far back, just as natural man always overswings with an ax or golf club and loses all his power somewhere in the air; only with a rod it's worse, because the fly often comes so far back it gets caught behind in a bush or rock.” 

“As a Scot and a Presbyterian, my father believed that man by nature was a mess and had fallen from an original state of grace. Somehow, I early developed the notion that he had done this by falling from a tree. As for my father, I never knew whether he believed God was a mathematician but he certainly believed God could count and that only by picking up God's rhythms were we able to regain power and beauty. Unlike many Presbyterians, he often used the word "beautiful.”
― Norman MacleanA River Runs Through It and Other Stories