Ballad of the Lazy Gardener

Before our house was a house, it was a forest. I suppose a lot of people could say that—there is an old (and likely apocryphal) quote that says at the time of Columbus a squirrel could travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi without once touching the ground, so thick the forests were—but something seems a bit suspicious in the arrangement and distribution of what trees remain, particularly the over-abundance of jack pine that give the neighborhood a distinct Northwoods flavor. Soon after we moved in we learned that the neighborhood wasn’t born from some neglected woodlot at the edge of town, but instead was once maintained by and for the local school district for… educational purposes? Forestry classes?

Continue reading “Ballad of the Lazy Gardener”


Apologies to Roger Miller

Trailer for hauling boats, fully stocked with shotgun chokes

no phones, no GPS, I’ll just have to get lost I guess

but two hours with rod in hand, beats anything to do on land

I’m the man with the funny pants, I’m

King of the Woods


I know every bird’s nest in every tree

every species, and the songs that they sing

I got a turkey call and I can make duck sounds

I know what the critters do when you’re not around


I sing, trailer for hauling boats, fully stocked with shotgun chokes

no phones, no GPS, I’ll just have to get lost I guess

but two hours up in a stand, beats anything to do on land

I’m the man with the blaze orange pants, I’m

King of the Woods

A Fish

The Baraboo Hills pour forth some fine waters, and where they mix with the rich prairie soils of the Wisconsin River valley the result is nothing less than trout. The land knows the kind of treasures it keeps, too. Columns of grasses and forbs stand guard along the banks throughout summer before laying down their lives in the fall, stretching across the entire width of the stream, choking undercut banks, in order to frustrate anglers come springtime. Continue reading “A Fish”

DIY: The “T” Stick

It’s sacrilege, I know, but I will state it anyway: I find myself fishing less, even if I’m spending the same amount of time (if not more) outdoors. Lately I’ve had binoculars in my hands more than the fly rod, trying to get a handle on whether that tuft of brown-and-white in the oak tree is a house wren or a tree sparrow. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to combine a little bit of fishing with my other pursuits; I just don’t want to go birding while dressed to the nines for fishing.

If you’re out for a hike, or a birding quest, or picking wildflowers, or whatever, you’re best bet is a minimalist approach to your gear. I’ve mentioned before a method for attaching a tenkara rod tube to your sling pack, and suggested this is a good option when fishing is not your primary goal in your adventure, but instead a fun little side quest in the RPG of life. Up until now I’ve still carried a lanyard on minimalist trips, and lanyards work rather well at collecting the essential pieces of gear into a lightweight and compact package.

However, last year Orvis started stocking a new little fishing tool in the shop, the XSM Minimalist Fly Trap. It seemed like a neat idea if you wanted only the bare necessities for catching fish, but it also seemed like one of those things I could make myself with stuff I had lying around the house. It took a rainy afternoon and the “fish itch” to provide the initiative to put it all together. I’ve branded it the “T” stick; maybe because of the shape, maybe to honor my own frugal genius, maybe a reference to the tenkara-style of fishing that I most associate with minimalist fly fishing. Take your pick.

It’s simple. It takes five minutes to throw together. And if you fly fish as much as I have, you have all of the pieces you need to put this together right now.

What You Need:

A tippet bar

A zinger

A nippers with that little beadchain you get when you buy a nippers

The foam (or rubber) grip found on “classy” pens

Some tippet and flies

To Put it Together:

  1. Slide the foam pen grip over the tipper bar (the fit of the pen grip is almost exactly matched to the diameter of an Orvis-brand tippet bar, who would’ve thought?).
  2. Slide on 2-3 spools of tippet.
  3. Attach a zinger to one end of the tippet bar.
  4. Attach a nippers to the other end of the tippet bar.
  5. Add flies.

That’s it. You can see in the photo below that I’ve attached about a dozen flies, a mix of dries and nymphs and a couple of streamers, which (for me) is adequate for a few exploratory casts along the stream. The zinger allows for easy attachment of the T-stick to your shirt, or vest, or jacket, or whatever. It’s lightweight and unobtrusive.

Now, if you don’t have this stuff lying around, the XSM Fly Trap is probably cheaper than buying a separate zinger, nippers, and tippet bar. But if you have the pieces already this is an option for the minimalist in all of us. Plus, it’s easy to disassemble if you need your nippers back for your sling pack, or your need to grip your pen for signing autographs, or what not.


Angler at the Bank

(with apologies to Ernest Thayer, and poetry in general)


The sun was shining brilliantly out on the creek that day

in late September, summer swoons, and trout season turning late

Tall grasses hid the angler as he came up to the stream

knelt among the mint and cowslip, and the bending bluestem seed


Out ahead at thirty feet he saw a rise there in the bend

a swarthy chug of water as the trout took a meal suspended

And with no luck on mayfly bugs, or foam ants there from his pack

he pulled a fat orange hopper pattern that was resting on his hat

Continue reading “Angler at the Bank”