Friday, December 12, 2014

The River is on sale now

Tony Leach is back.

The second book in the Tony Leach series, The River, is now available on Amazon. Like Two Shots, the first Leach book, The River is set in Bemidji in northern Minnesota.

Here’s the summary of the book from Amazon: Minnesota game warden Tony Leach is back in the action-packed follow-up to Albert’s debut novel, Two Shots. As an idyllic summer unfolds, trouble comes calling under a star-drenched sky. First, there’s a report of invasive fish that threaten the very essence of northern Minnesota, and then the DNR commissioner’s daughter turns up dead. But as Leach works to determine what’s what, the body count continues to rise and higher-ups within his own agency turn up the heat on him and do their best to sideline him. As the situation intensifies and a sordid portrait emerges, Leach finds loyalties crushed under the weight of sex, money and power. It’s nearly impossible to get a handle on constantly shifting alliances, but if he fails to do so, Leach knows he’s as good as dead.

The River is available as an ebook on Amazon. However, you don’t need a Kindle to read it. Click this link to download the free Kindle reading app for your computer, phone, or tablet.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

When it comes to fishing, kids teach adults what it’s all about

It isn’t easy to take young kids fishing.

They want to know when the next fish will bite. When they can have their snack. They want to move from the front of the boat to the back, and then to the front again. They’ll probably trip along the way. Sometimes they want to hold the fishing rod, sometimes they only want to reel in the fish. And when they do, they reel until the bobber or the sinker is pressing hard against the tip of the rod, and you’re scrambling to make sure the line doesn’t break as the fish flops in mid-air.


And when the fish is finally in the boat, you’re in a hurry to get the hook out, lest it fly out of the mouth of the fish and impale someone.

But when you hand that fish to the kids and let them hold it, you can see the wheels turning in their minds. Hard to know what they’re thinking. About half the time, they ask if they can throw it back. The other half, they ask if they can eat it.

Lots of curiosity, questions. And lots of work for the adults – the word relaxing certainly doesn’t come to mind. But it’s oh so worth it.

This summer marks the first time I’ve really been able to take my kids – 4 and 2 years old – fishing. They’ve come with me in the past, but this year was the first time they seemed to get it. (The 4-year-old, anyway; the younger one just likes to be around his sister.)

So it’s no coincidence I fished more this summer than I have in years. It was back to the basics, and it was awesome. I learned you’re never too old to appreciate a bobber dancing on the water and then shooting below the surface. You’re never to old to appreciate the valiant struggle of a 7-inch bluegill. And you’re never too old to enjoy the simple act of fishing.


From the perspective of an adult who’s fished his entire life, that last point may be the most important. For years, fishing was about finding bass in preparation for a tournament. Couldn’t find them? Wasted, stressful day on the water. Sure, there were highs when the right ones bit on the day of the tournament, but that didn’t happen often enough. Then, it was about catching muskies. There are few things more exciting in freshwater fishing, but when you get to taking it too seriously, then 10 hours on the water without catching a fish amounts to a worthless day.

This summer, fishing with the kids reminded me what it’s all about. It’s being on the flat-calm lake and watching the sun light up your surroundings, or watching the shadows grow longer as it dips below the trees. It’s about hitting the water without expectations, except for to enjoy the hour or two or however long the trip lasts. It’s about going home at the end of the day with hands that smell like fish, and not worrying about the size or species that caused them to stink.

So whatever work is involved in getting kids on the water, the rewards are far greater.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Close encounters of the moose kind

Earlier today, Kim and I and the kids went out into the woods and marsh in our backyard on a “bear hunt.” We’ve also gotten into looking for shed deer antlers – as I’ve written about before – so we were doing that, too.

But aside from deer tracks in the crusty snow – which Tori identified correctly, by the way – all we saw were a few tweedy birds. Not that any of us were complaining about a nice hike on a sunny winter day.


As soon as we arrived home, I saw I had a text message. It was from my cousin Kirsten, who lives in Anchorage, Alaska.

“I’m just trying to shovel, and look who walked up and interrupted my work!” she wrote. And pictured was a big ol’ moose.

Figures.

The thing is, I could search and hunt my whole life, and as far as experiences with wildlife go, Kirsten probably could beat me every time. I could see a deer in the backyard, and she’d have a moose in her driveway.

It has to be a function of where we live, though, because as excited as I am to see all the bears and moose and salmon she encounters, she’d likely be just as excited if I sent her pictures of the Mall of America.

At some point, Kim and I hope to take the kids to Alaska. My family’s trip there in the mid-1990s remains one of my fondest memories.

Until then, I’ll just live vicariously through the lens of my cousin’s camera.

An update from four hours later: "He's back!"


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Book No. 2 – The River

Roughly 37 minutes after my first book, Two Shots, was available on Amazon, the inquiries began: When’s the second one coming out?  OK, maybe it wasn’t that quick, but I feel like I’ve been fielding that question for a long time.

Not that I’m complaining.  After all, if people didn’t like the first book, they probably wouldn’t care when – or if – there was a second book in the offing.

  
Well, I’m happy to report the first draft of the second book – The River – is complete.  As any writer will tell you, now is when the hard work begins.  The River is another Tony Leach novel, is set in Bemidji in northern Minnesota, and revolves around current events in the outdoors.  I’m pretty darn excited about it.  So excited I'll share the first few paragraphs below:

THE RIVER

CHAPTER 1
The fish’s eyes were set below the centerline of its head, so even when held upright, it had an upside-down appearance.  Its body color was faded silver, the top of its head dark gray.  A nasty fish in looks and effect, the man thought.
Still, he released them one by one into the Mississippi River.  Slime coated his hands and the fish slid from his gloves before hitting the glass-flat water with a plop.  The moon was full and high overhead, but he didn’t watch them swim away.
It was his fifth night on the job, and he looked forward to being done.  Good money, but far-from-ideal conditions.  Access to his current location involved tramping through a quarter-mile of the thickest shit he’d ever been in.  And the reward for all that hard work?  Swarms of bloodthirsty mosquitoes and black flies that called these swampy backwaters home and left the man with buzzing ears and welts all over his body.

It’s too early to say exactly when The River will be available, but check back for updates.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The EagleCam

As I start to write this blog post, it’s under the protest of my two kids.  Because in order for me to write, I need the computer, which means they can’t use it anymore, which means they can’t watch the Minnesota DNR’s EagleCam anymore.

 
I’ve generally mocked those who spend their time watching live video of animals.  After all, how much fun can it be to watch a bald eagle sitting essentially motionless in a nest atop a tall tree?  A heck of a lot, as it turns out.  When I started watching the other day, the eagles’ nest was just your basic nest made of twigs and other brown material.  But the biggest snowstorm of the winter was working its way across Minnesota, and I watched the first flakes of snow begin turning the bird birds’ backs white.  By the next morning, it looked like the birds were just sitting in a depression in the snow.  And that’s still what it looks like today.

I can’t pinpoint what’s fun about watching the EagleCam.  And even though in the time my kids watched it there was hardly any action, they loved it, and called out every time the bird moved its head.  I suppose it’s just our innate nature to enjoy seeing things from a new point of view.  Or maybe it just brings out the voyeur in all of us.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The hunt for shed antlers

When I’ve left home the past two or three years for deer camp, I’ve received the standard hug and kiss from my wife, followed by a demand: “Bring me back some antlers.”  When I return, the first questions aren’t about how it went or if I had fun.  Nope – just an expectant, hopeful look, which I crush with my story of having fun, but no deer, blah blah blah.


Last year, I considered asking someone else for antlers from their deer.  Or buying some.  And I may have done it, had a buddy of mine a couple of months ago not seen two bucks in the big, marshy area that abuts our yard.  “Look at that rack!” he said.  I didn’t realize right away what he was referring to, but when I looked where he was looking, it became clear.  About 20 yards beyond our property was a big-racked buck, and a smaller one following him.  Later on, I shared the story with my neighbor and he said he, too, has seen a nice buck down there.  So the old boy must live in the marsh and patchy woods that back up to our yard.

The thing is, this is in Bloomington, and so I’ll never be able to shoot him with a bullet or an arrow.  My best hope is to find his antlers on the ground.  I believe mice and other critters will be my primary competition.  While I see people back there from time to time, they all seem to be just out for a hike, not looking for bones in the snow.

When I set out on a recent Saturday, it was my first time hunting for sheds.  I’ve read a bunch of articles about shed hunting, and have hunted deer long enough to have an idea of how they behave, so I’m relatively optimistic I’ll be able to find something.  Plus, I’ve seen deer in the area a number of times, and with fresh snow, it’s impossible to miss all the deer sign.

The big marsh is east of our house, and I cut a bunch of deer tracks as I walked toward it.  I followed some, but stopped when the marsh grass got too dense.  There may be sheds in there, but I won’t find them.  So I made a quarter turn and headed south, following the edge where the woods meets the marsh.  Several times I followed a trail into the woods, but more out of curiosity about how they move through the area rather than belief I’d find antlers.

Finally, I walked out to the edge and headed south again, to the spot 150 yards in front of me.  This is a south-facing slope that flattens and then meets the marsh.  I figured this would be were deer spend a lot of their winter, soaking up the sunlight while staying in the protection of the woods.  And I was right.  Tracks crisscrossed the area, and there were at least four recently used beds. I spent a few minutes looking through the area, focusing primarily on the patches of heaviest cover where I could envision an antler getting caught and falling off.


That first hunt didn’t produce any antlers, which I expected.  The snow was nearly up to my knees, and it would take a fair amount of luck to happen on an antler sticking out of the snow.  But now I know where to focus, and once the snow melts a bit, the search will continue.  And maybe one day I’ll come home and be able to say, “Look at this rack!”