I lingered in bed the other morning, arguing with the day about whether it should begin.
The day won. It remains undefeated.
Before I conceded I took notice of the weather. The afternoon before I had put the mower to my shaggy lawn. It was a typical hot August afternoon requiring an ample supply of cold beverages to complete any laborious task, and I consider shaggy lawn trimming extremely laborious.
The morning was different. I had left the windows open and in poured cool, crisp air. The leaves of the apple tree out back clattered in a stiff breeze. I heard the occasional thud of falling fruit.
This weather is also typical of August. It always turns, albeit temporarily, to remind us that summer is soon over. When we get that first real taste of fall we mutter things like “Well, that went fast,” when we bump into friends in the grocery store. Soon everyone is wearing fleece that has been put away since June.
It will warm up again before summer’s finale, so it’s not quite time to retire the flip-flops. But the days of sock-less footwear are limited.
I don’t mind one bit. In fact, I’ve been waiting for this. Fall is my season, the best of the four. It’s not that I don’t love summer, but by August I’m usually tired of it. The world feels baked. The rivers are low. The trout are in a funk. And in every direction the mountains are on fire.
So a cool August morning feels me with anticipation.
There’s a lot to like about fall. After a summer of ignoring sports, it’s time to check in and see if my favorite ball club is in a pennant race. It’s also the season where I briefly set aside my IPA obsession and drink a dark ale or two. The cooler temperatures also get the trout feeling perky again. Some of the best dry fly fishing of the year is about to happen.
But the main reason fall is my main season is hunting. I sometimes wonder which is my favorite obsession, fly fishing or bird hunting. It’s hard to decide, but I know that I get extra hyped for hunting. Fly fishing I can do year round, but hunting season starts and ends. During that time fly fishing takes the back seat.
Since I’m a bird hunter my season lingers for months. Grouse and partridge open September 1 and you can still hunt pheasant as late as December. A few years back I spent a Christmas Day afternoon at Blasdel in the south valley. My setter Doll put up a rooster but I shot wildly, almost as though I was trying to miss. It was Christmas after all.
For the next few months, I’ll spend every available day in the field behind Doll, desperate to see her get birdy and go on point. I’ll walk so much I’ll lose 10 pounds without dieting.
Actually, I do the opposite as a freezer full of game birds translates into pots of coq au vin and my new favorite, ragù made with smoked chukar. If you finish some al dente rigatoni in a pan with just enough ragù to coat the pasta, toss in a bit of Pecorino Romano and Italian parsley, then drizzle with good olive oil, you’re on your way to heaven. A Willamette Valley pinot noir from vines grown with their toes in soil deposited by Glacial Lake Missoula completes the journey.
I’m chomping at the bit for the smell of wood smoke (not the same as forest fire smoke) and snow-dusted peaks and that first time I get to tell Doll, “Find birds.”
If you need to reach me on a non-hunting matter don’t expect to hear back until after the first of the year.
I’m busy right now.
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