Wednesday, March 30, 2011


That's Mick Lovett, owner of Marble Canyon Outfitters, waving a "Hi, Mom" to my mother down in Chandler, Arizona.

When I snapped the photo, Mick and I were heading upstream for what was about to become an epic day of fly fishing. Epic not only for the number and size of the fish Mick guided me to but also for what Mick taught me about fly fishing. Another thing, fishing with Mick is plain fun. Mick is as enthusiastic as he is capable. Quite a combo.

Before we rigged, Mick asked what I wanted to get out of the day and I said I wanted to catch fish in as many ways as possible, that numbers didn't matter as much as the variety of methods employed, and I said I hoped he'd be willing to teach me throughout the day -- i.e., put up with lots of questions.

This request was right up Mick's alley and I learned about fly tying, knot tying, the coloration of different trout at different places in the river, the steelheadiness of these Lees Ferry fish, and how to use my own damn fly rods effectively.

Most of the day we switched between a midging rig and a rod rigged with a dry-dropper; I'd brought along two rods, a rod for nymphing and a rod for casting dries. Mick taught me how to use the comparative stiffness and softness of the two rods to cast and mend effectively, and to use them to do what they were designed to do. As a result, I am on my way to being capable of fishing up to the level of my highest-quality fly rod, the rod my wife and parents chipped in on as a 50th birthday gift to me. I had no idea it was that good a rod.

This was my third trip out with Marble Canyon Outfitters. My father and I went out on the river with M.C.O founder Dave Foster a couple of years ago and had a great day. We enjoyed our first foray up Glen Canyon so much that we went out again in October of last year with my mother and brother, too, and with M.C.O.'s new owner, long-time guide Jon "Rocky" Lovett. (I wrote about that trip in a previous post.

Rocky gave the four of us the trip of a lifetime; a trip my mother had been wanting to take for decades. The trip was so satisfying and complete that when I asked my mother if she'd like to go again sometime, she said, no, our trip was perfect, and that's exactly how she wants to remember Lees Ferry and the Colorado River. Our only regret was that my sister Lisa wasn't there to share the day.

Rocky's good nature was a big part of what made that trip perfect. His good nature and the way he ran that river. My mother loves thrill rides. She loves motorcycles and roller coasters so Rocky had his hands full getting a response out of her but he managed.

Throughout the day I could see how much satisfaction he got from making my parents happy. Something he knew was important to my brother and I, too. As a result, our dad caught twice as many fish as my brother and I combined.

You can imagine the sorrow we all felt when we learned Rocky passed away in January of this year. And you can imagine how heartening it was to learn that Rocky's son, M.C.O. guide Mick Lovett, is carrying on the family business. I am pleased to report M.C.O. is still going strong, as Mick reports on their blog.

There's an old saying that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. In the case of Mick Lovett, that's a good thing. A damn good thing. Go fishing with Mick Lovett. I recommend him.

Monday, March 7, 2011


rowing through
out of the mist
the wide sea

This haiku, written by Masaoka Shiki (1867 - 1902), came to mind when a friend told me she was taking her father's ashes to the sea. To me, this poem is both mournful and transcendent.

Shiki suffered from spinal tuberculosis most of his adult life and he wrote an especially poignant poem, a tanka, from his sick bed. It seems like an appropriate companion to the poem above.

stuck in a vase
clusters of wisteria
blossoms hanging,
in the sick-bed
spring begins to darken

Shiki is the last of the Four Great Masters of Haiku. Others in the pantheon may be more familiar names: Matsuo Basho, Yosa Buson, Kobayashi Issa.

These two poems were translated from the Japanese by William J. Higginson and are from his book (with Penny Harter) The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku (Kodansha International 1985).

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


The steelhead season has been frustrating for me this year. First, the river was blown out. Then, when it was finally fishable, I blew out my ankle wading in the river my first day out.

These things seem to happen more frequently as I wade deeper into middle age but, as is usually the case, there was a silver lining to the dark cloud that descended on my spey rod and I that morning.

Between applications of ice and heat, my friend James Den Boer and I explored the iMovie software. We'd been talking about doing so for quite a while. Jim is the managing editor for Swan Scythe Press and a poet, translator, independent scholar, and rare books dealer. In other words, a good guy to go exploring with.

The result of our iMovie explorations is a promotional video, about a minute and half long, for a new book from Swan Scythe Press. The book is the winner of the 2010 chapbook contest. It's by Hmong Poet Burlee Vang and the title is, The Dead I Know: Incantation for Rebirth. His poems are wonderful.

"After Our Honeymoon in Laos" genuinely captures my imagination. Fortunately, Jim had captured some footage of Burlee reading that poem at the Sacramento Poetry Center and we included it in the video.

The poem is written in the voice of the wife. She tries to assure her husband there's nothing to be concerned about when he says he's turned into a tiger and "the jungle is calling my name." I know exactly how he feels.