Sunday, January 30, 2011

In the Locker Room

I've started a swimming fitness regimen. Over the course of a regular week, I try to swim 3-4 days, with my eventual goal being able to swim a mile non-stop. It may sound like a daunting task, but I think with disciplined and structured practice, it is a very doable achievement in six weeks. We'll see.

During my pre swim "de-dress" and post swim "re-dress," I get to enjoy the spirited banter that doubtlessly occurs in the male locker room. Interestingly, I'm an anomaly in this group. The overwhelming majority of these men could be my grandfather. They are from a generation that endured the hardship of the Depression, tempered by the horrors of world war and succeeded in helping build one of the world's great industrial democracies. And from the diversity of English accents, I know some are not in the country of their birth. But to the young, impressionable listener, they have lessons to share and wisdom to offer.

Sometimes I wonder if the locker room is akin to the old barber shop -- a communal gathering place for men to shoot the crap and reflect on the state of things. It generally seems to be that way. The talk ranges from families, military service and sports to opinions on current events and society. Certainly the "old days were better" sentiment is endemic among the older generations, though, in some aspects, I don't totally dismiss their claim.

I was once told that you can't learn anything if you're talking, so I go about my business in the locker room while keeping an attentive ear on the collective conversation. One day a gentleman was lamenting about his grandson -- the particulars I didn't catch -- but later the same man made a comment about how how his grandson's generation doesn't have the work ethic as the older generations did. Everything comes too easy. In a society that tends to overhype and water down what achievement constitutes, I am somewhat sympathetic to this man's view. Of course I do think my generation brings many positive attributes to society, and when the time comes, we'll ably lead our businesses and country.

Maybe one day I'll contribute to the locker room conversation. For the time being, though, I'm just happy listening.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Flies, Coffee and Bull

Lately, my Sunday mornings have been uniquely satisfying. Whether it's a few hours of quite reading or tying a couple favorite fly patterns, I find the time therapeutic, reflective and mentally refreshing. Of course variety to this emerging Sunday routine isn't a bad deal either, particularly if that alteration involves flies, coffee and shooting the bull with like minded people.

On Sunday I ventured out to Bass Pro with my vise, tying materials and related accoutrements....oh, and that large, hot cup of java. As a member of the Buckeye United Fly Fishers (BUFF), I helped man a table promoting the club's annual Fly Fishing Show in early February. The show consists of fly casting and tying demos, expert speakers and some vendors selling their wares. BUFF bills this event as educational outreach, and fly fishers of all skill levels will find the show worth their time.

I was joined this morning by fellow BUFF member and tyer, John. We had taken a tying class together last fall, but it was nice getting to know him better. Between the both of us, we had enough flies and tying equipment to draw curious glances and subsequent inquiries from many people strolling around the store. In this environment you're bound to meet some interesting people, and even if they're not really keen on learning the finer points of fly fishing, just talking with folks who share your general sensibilities about the outdoors is fine with me.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Order of Things

I've always been fascinated by nature. Spending a summer morning wading a midwestern river for smallmouth bass, hearing the birds chirp and watching the animals scamper brings peace to my mind and contentment to my heart. While I don't subscribe to any kind of religious philosophy, I do believe there is order in how nature conducts its business -- of living, reproducing and dying. So, on this Thursday night, I can't help but take a few listens to The Byrds' classic, Turn, Turn, Turn. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Breakfast and Data Sharing

Every January the volunteers of Green Acres' Saturday Stream Snapshot meet at the Izaak Walton League in Loveland to share breakfast and discuss water quality data they obtained through lab analysis from the previous year. We met this past Saturday.

Under the auspices of the Green Acres Foundation, citizen volunteers collect and analyze water samples taken from the main stem of the lower Little Miami River and its tributaries. The Water Quality Project Director directs the Stream Snapshot program and offers training and support to volunteers.

2010 represented the 8th sampling season. For me, water collection and lab analysis is a family affair. My dad and mom, along with my sister and me, have been involved with the Stream Snapshot program for 6 years. I'm not sure how it precisely came about, but our family developed a proclivity for testing fecal coliforms. So it was hardly surprising, albeit amusing, when we earned the witty moniker, "First Family of Fecals."

I always look forward to the data sharing breakfast. Most of the people involved with the Stream Snapshot are long term volunteers, which not only makes them allies in environmental protection and conservation, but good friends as well. Who doesn't like to share a great meal with friends?

The health of the Little Miami is a work in progress. While the main river is doing okay, some tributaries and creeks need help...some more help than others. It is the role of programs like Stream Snapshot to help identify contaminated areas, the particular contaminants, and possible sources for such contamination.

Citizen driven environmental data has become extremely helpful for local and state environmental agencies. With small staffs and dwindling departmental funding, government entities don't have the budget and/or personnel to effectively monitor all local waterways. The need for citizens to take an active role in monitoring and protecting environmental resources is extremely important. As it was succinctly stated at breakfast on Saturday, "Volunteers drive environmental quality."

Some pictures from the event

Using the GSI coordinates, here are all the locations volunteers collect water samples from in the Little Miami Watershed. Locations are marked in green.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Carp on the Mind

My fascination with stalking carp on the fly had its genesis during the winter of 2009. I fancied pursing the carp because it's a worthy adversary, strong fighter and widely distributed across southwestern Ohio. Outings from 2010 yielded little action and no fish to hand. Frankly, my signature memory from last year's carping was spooking a very nice fish rooting around in the shallow mud, actively looking for food. Was my presentation inadequate, or even worse, fatally flawed? Perhaps I should have been more judicious in my fly selection? Canoe placement? It seemed fine at the time. Whatever the factor(s) leading to the carp bolting for deeper water, the situation underscored my neophyte status as a carp fly fisher.

Now it's 2011. A new year presents a fresh start and also offers an opportunity to rekindle the fires of passion. I'm focusing my tying efforts on producing carp specific flies on the vise -- two of my favorites being the Backstabber and Clouser's Swimming Nymph. Of course presenting a well designed fly can only be accomplished with sound fly casting mechanics. If you ever see a slightly deranged man waving a stick in the field, you can justly assume it's me practicing my accuracy casting. And if you're extremely fortunate, you might even help me with a carp grip and grin photo-op.

While fly fishing is my passion in life, I still get excited watching others execute the craft. Jay Zimmerman, designer of the Backstabber carp fly, has a great video of winter carp fly fishing in Colorado.Yes, please, I'd freeze my balls off for this.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

My New Association with Rivers Unlimited

Over the past couple of years, I've had the pleasure of knowing the good people at Rivers Unlimited. This Cincinnati based conservation group is in the business of protecting and restoring the rivers and streams of Ohio. In December, I agreed to join RU's board of directors. I'm humbled to have this opportunity and look forward to using my talents to help advance the work of this premier conservation organization. 2011 should be a very promising year.

One of the major, local accomplishments of RU during 2010 was getting the Great Miami River designated as a state Water Trail. What does this mean? Essentially, the Great Miami, as a 150 mile long river, offers an ideal place for recreational pursuits such as canoeing and kayaking. Because of this, the state of Ohio has the Great Miami on all state maps and markets it as a tourist attraction. In turn, conversation groups like RU can apply for grant money, which will be used to increase recreational access and bring awareness to the river's many assets. At the present time, there are only 7 Water Trails in Ohio. So, when the time is right, get out there and enjoy all the Great Miami has to offer.