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Thursday, June 16, 2005

Little Eva

Pre-transition readers may remember that I was preoccupied with fishing for several years, as a result of my dad's influence when my parents lived here a year. In a way it was the last hurrah of my many "manly" activities.

I haven't been out in the kayak much this year, except for just paddling. There have been a number of factors. The weather has been rough, and I'm more susceptible to cold and exposure than I remember; my name change was slow, and the Fish and Game are paranoid about name changes; I'm increasingly domestic; I'm not as predatory as before; I've been active in anti-fascism, and all the few nice days have coincided with the interminable indoor meetings.

Since I'm a chair-bound office worker, I'm developing a terrible roll around my middle. We have a walking group that does a mile around the campus on breaks, but I can't always go; and mowing is exercise but -- you know?

So, yesterday, immediately upon getting home from work, I changed into a bra cami, shorts and sun visor, dug out the boat from the garage, slipped it into the back of the station wagon (it's that small!) and headed for the reservoir, eight miles point to point.

Such a beautiful place to live!

All my necessary gear is in the boat, Little Eva, and I carry it to the water in one trip, one-handed. I've carried suitcases heavier. I'm glad I chose this boat because not only is it durable, stable and seaworthy, it's very light --17 pounds unloaded. This is proving to be more and more important as I lose muscle mass.

I set the boat down on the swimming beach at the marina, put on my vest, assembled the paddle, arranged the few items of fishing gear, clipped the landing net onto the deck line, assembled my fragile old 1971 Herter's fly rod, and tied on a woolly bugger on a nine-foot leader.

Yes, apparently I can still do and enjoy these things.

This boat is not easy to get in and out of, so I like to launch from flat, shelving locations. It's like climbing into a motorcycle sidecar. So one is still practically on land when setting out, and this activity tends to draw a crowd of onlookers. They're sure I'm going to have to climb out and "do it right," but one shove with the paddle on the sand and a little hunch forward, and you're ten feet out and drifting away.

There were eight three-meter sailboats racing between two orange floats, half a mile away. An antique yawl with orange sails bobbed on the swell from a zooming runabout. An eagle hovered, looking for a free meal. Almost peaceful; it would be, if they'd ban the big motorboats. But extraordinarily scenic, and different every day. People become obsessed with this place; their sloops show up in the marina and never see another body of water again. There's a regatta every Fourth of July that looks like a sailing fleet from a period film.

The lake is used by rowing teams, and one went barreling past me, an eight, all girls. One of them I've seen round the university. They were sprinting for home and didn't look up, but a couple of single sculls came by and we chatted a bit.

Now, I know I did a little name-dropping with the bit about the fly rod, but let me tell you I have never been any good at what is called "fly-fishing," which is a code name for "fly-casting." Those who have seen A River Runs Through It know what that is, and it's a skill, and it has eluded me. I could have taken classes, but I'm nearly deaf, which makes me shyer than I should be about these things -- and -- it's a big "and" for people with my background -- it seems a snobby thing to get involved in.

What I do, though this will make any "real" fly-fisher cringe, is simply paddle backwards a bit, strip out line till the fly is forty feet in front of me, then drift backwards, plopping in a paddle blade about every ten seconds. A tug on the line, pull back gently, and -- "fish on."

The part where you play and land the fish works for me. You learn how to to read hooked-trout behavior, and know when to let go the line and let it whistle out through the guides, preventing a snapped leader, and when to "strip in" to prevent a thrown hook. Rainbows notice slack and will rush to the surface, leap in the air, and thrash around -- and this often is your last look at them.

There was a bite on for about fifteen minutes, around seven o'clock under gathering clouds. There's often feeding activity with a slightly falling barometer, and I had the fortune to be in the right spot at the right time, and the green woolly bugger looked good to a passing school. I hooked six and landed three, about two hundred feet from the darkening shore.

It was a very satisfactory experience.

Yes, I can still do and enjoy this.

Girls do, you know.

Beloved likes to eat trout, and so do I, so I like bringing them to her, and making a dinner featuring them. These are not wild trout. DFW puts them in the lake and they live for three or four years, never reproducing, because there is no gravelly stream running in, and there are dams above and below.

I paddled back to the beach, hopped ashore, broke down my paddle and stowed it, then shucked my vest. The elderly park ranger, a retired volunteer, who knew me when, had recognized my odd little vessel on the water and ambled down to see how I had done. As he neared, he took in the hairdo, earrings, lipstick, cami, shaved legs, and new shape, and raised one eyebrow.

"Things are a little different this year," I said, nonchalantly. Then, going for broke, I added, "I bet I'm the only trannie on the lake, ha ha."

"Nahhhh," he said, eying my catch appraisingly. "Some 'a them rowers is trannies. Looks like you done good, here..."

-- risa b


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