Friday, March 21, 2014

Scouting Water and Sleeping Babies

Spring has been making brief appearances in Southern Wisconsin this past week.  There's been a lot of melting going on and the sun has been shining.  It makes a person want to shake out the cobwebs and find any reason possible to get outside and feel the warm-ish breeze and listen to the birds sing.
This past winter was rough.  I normally really enjoy the snow and sometimes lament the loss of it this time of year......but not this season.  With the prolonged frigid temperatures that never seemed to let up, it was difficult to enjoy time outdoors.  Even when my husband offered to watch our son for a few hours, I didn't feel like hitting the cross country ski trails with -30 degree wind chills. My son was born in October, and I think I can count on two hands the number of times we've spent any amount of time outside besides rushing to and from the warmth of the car. So to say I have cabin fever is an understatement, and I think my son is feeling it too.
On one of these inspiring days when spring started to peek through the curtains of winter, I found myself driving with a sleeping baby in the backseat.  Instead of heading straight home, I took a detour to scout some trout streams near my hometown.  I've spent so much time driving into the western portion of the Driftless Area, that I've rarely fished the streams in my own backyard.  With a baby at home now, my time is a little more valuable and I don't want to be wasting 90-minutes driving to a particular stream when I could be rigged up and fishing within ten minutes of leaving my house. 

On this particular drive, I "discovered" a class II trout stream that is exactly 8-minutes from my driveway.  It wasn't very big, but the water was clear and I could see several nice runs and undercut banks from one of the bridge accesses.  After looking up the stream later on the DNR website, there's apparently 10 miles of stream to cover, which means I won't be lacking for water this season even if I stay close to home.  I had spent so much time fishing water a couple counties to the west that I never realized how much good trout water is much closer to home.  It's exciting to know I can likely spend this entire season exploring streams within a 10 mile radius from my house without getting bored.
After my son woke up, I ended the scouting mission and turned towards home, but I couldn't get the image of the perfect bubble line out of my head.  Luckily, my in-laws were visiting for the afternoon and were more than willing to babysit, so I quickly threw my gear into the car and returned to the stream.
I only had an hour, which led to me feeling rushed, which led to me hooking everything possible except a fish;)  It didn't help that, despite the sunshine, the air temperature was still low enough to freeze up the guides and the water was probably still pretty cold due to recent melting.  As every fly fisherman has said at least once, "It was just nice to get out."  Though I didn't kick up any fish on this particular stretch, I'm sure they're in there somewhere.  I'll certainly be heading back soon to do some more exploring.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Baby Duty with a Splash of Fly Casting

My son is nearly four months now, and it's true what people say about kids growing up so fast.  He's changing a little bit every day, and the past four months have been a blur. When I try to recall the first few weeks with him--or even the first month---I find it hard to remember the details. I understand now why my mother-in-law has trouble remembering specifics about my husband as a baby when I ask her for comparisons. I guess it's one of those clich├ęs that are totally true, but you just can't realize it until you're experiencing it firsthand. I try to keep this in mind when I'm struggling to get our son back to sleep at 3:00 am or trying to comfort him when he's fussy. If I find myself daydreaming about "easier" times down the road, I try to remember that these days are fleeting and will be missed down the road. I've heard the time with a young child described as the "longest shortest time," which is a totally accurate description so far. Some days and nights drag on and I start wishing for a break, but then I look at my son and realize just how fast he's growing up. I know that the frustrations we're facing at the moment will be distant memories soon enough.
I'm fortunate to be able to stay home with my son for the first six months of his life,  which I try to appreciate when I start feeling stir crazy. I know many women have to go back to work much earlier and it must be very difficult for them. I currently get to spend every waking and sleeping hour with my son, which I'm greatful for, but it's nice to get some time to myself every once in awhile.  Thanks to my husband and the fact that our son will now take a bottle when needed, I've recently been able to get out of the house for some "me time."  These short breaks help me re-energize and I look forward to returning home to my family afterwards.  Fittingly, most of these outings have revolved around fly fishing.
My first official solo trip away from home since my son's birth was to a casting open gym. Some friends recently formed the Madison Fly Casters Club as a way for area fly fishers to get together during the offseason for some winter casting practice.  They reserved a couple basketball courts at a local sports arena and arranged for a couple hours of casting, beer drinking, and socializing.  At first it felt strange getting into the car without the baby carrier and diaper bag---I had the feeling I was forgetting something--but it didn't take me long to start enjoying the drive. I turned up the music and took in the rolling hills on each side of me. Once there, it was really nice to chat with some old and new friends about fly fishing and babies. Finding out that other parents of young kids have gone through and survived all the same problems my husband and I are facing made me see the big picture. It helped me realize that the things currently stressing us out are pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. So overall, the open gym was a great way for everyone to fight cabin fever and get their casting arms moving again. I'm looking forward to the next one scheduled this month.
Photo courtesy of 
Just a few nights ago, my husband volunteered to babysit so I could attend the Fly Fishing Film Tour (F3T) that was in town. It was nice to sit back in the theater with a cold beer and get lost in some good fly fishing footage. It was also good to see friendly faces and visit with friends. I've met a lot of great people through fly fishing, and it's always nice to catch up with them. Though there were a few too many salt water films and not enough spring creek footage for my taste, it was a great reason for a night out in subzero temperatures.
As my son gets older and the frigid temps become more manageable, I'm sure it will be easier for me to get out of the house--with or without the baby. I'm very thankful to my husband for encouraging me to do so. He's had to work off and on over the past four months and probably feels a bit guilty that I've been "stuck" at home so much on baby duty. If it weren't for him, I wouldn't have been able to get these moments to myself that helped me gain perspective and return home happy to be back on baby duty. I used to envy my husband when he had to leave for work; he was able to socialize with other adults, get out of the house, and experience some freedom without having to battle our son during naptime. I now realize, though, that I was the lucky one who got to stay home with our baby. If the first four months have gone by this quickly, he'll be a year old before we know it. Instead of worrying about whether our son is getting enough "tummy time," we'll be worrying about gating off the stairs. I'm sure as time goes by we'll look back wistfully on these early months, and rather than lamenting the weeks stuck at home on baby duty, I know I''ll appreciate the amount of time I was able to spend with my baby boy.

**If you're in the Madison area and interested in joining the Madison Fly Casters Club, check out their Facebook page: