Lair of the plastic worm

I put the fly rod away this spring, temporarily, so I could hone my conventional tackle skills. There's a small lake near the house full of largemouth bass, and I went to work with a drop shot rig, sorting out a technique that isn't as different from fly fishing as it might seem.

My preferred plastic baits are cucurbit-colored Yamasenkos — pumpkin, watermelon and green pumpkin.

The sourdough lifestyle

If you want to read my latest column on my new pandemic sourdough journey, click here.

I'm more of a hunter than gatherer. Archeologists and other smart people who study such things have concluded that in terms of calories provided, gatherers have always been more important than hunters. It's just that gatherers (usually women), went about their work of keeping the clan alive with little fanfare.

Hunters (men), on the other hand, have always made a big to do about the occasional mastodon they dispatched. Sure, it was a lot of meat, but most of it spoiled and three dudes were maimed in the process. It's the greens and tubers and occasional nest robbing of the women that kept hunter-gatherer society on the path toward world domination, rather than extinction.

Sourdough bread is more of a gatherer thing. Grain was gathered, and is now farmed. Sourdough fermentation is a by product of wild bacteria and yeasts that live on the grains, as well as the wind. The hunter in me was never too much interested in sourdough, beyond the pleasure of eating it. That changed in March when the COVID-19 pandemic forced all of us to isolate in place. Suddenly, nurturing a sourdough starter with it's daily feedings and kitchen temperature maintenance suddenly seemed feasible.

I'm all in now. This pandemic may have permanently ruined me for grocery store bread.

Jeremiah Johnson, not the “Between Two Ferns” guy

Many youngsters mistake this grinning screen shot of Robert Redford for Zach Galifianakis. The scene comes from the 1972 movie "Jeremiah Johnson," in which Redford plays the part of a mountain man in a story loosely based on the life of Liver-Eating Johnson.

I'm getting pretty stir crazy so I decided to review a "hunting" movie. This is sort of a "hunting" movie. There's certainly hunting in it. It's also sort of a good movie. Enjoyable, but not perfect.

Pandemic survival skills: sourdough

The pandemic has turned me into a sourdough ... baker. I have extra time on my hands, but have been confronted by empty grocery store shelves — in the yeast section, at least. So a couple weeks ago I whipped up a batch of sourdough starter, and now I no longer needed commercial yeast. The wild stuff is starter was enough.

The internet makes starting hobbies less intimidating than the dark old days when we had to rely on things like the Encyclopedia Brittanica to figure stuff out. YouTube is a great resource fo how to stuff like this, and that's what I relied on to get my sourdough game on. So far I've cranked out four loaves of bread, and there's sourdough pizza dough proofing in the fridge. And my starter on the kitchen counter keeps belching out CO2.

Here are some links to help you brush up your pandemic sourdough survival skills:

I followed this recipe from Joshua Weissman to create my starter. He's a young foodie social media influencer. The recipe works well, using unbleached AP or bread flours mixed with equal parts rye.

I used this Weissman recipe to bake my bread. It's from an episode of Basics with Babish, a YouTube foodie channel that I think is quite good. The recipe is great, but the Weissman-Babish bromance can be a little much at times. It's all in good fun, however.

Here are some other useful sourdough resources.

Sarah C. Owens is a California-based baker and author of "Sourdough: Recipes for Rustic Fermented Breads, Sweets, Savories, and More." I haven't read her book, yet. You can find her on YouTube baking sourdough bread here.

The Wild Life offers free online sourdough courses. I haven't taken one yet, but I plan to check it out.

Patrick Ryan is an Irish baker, and O'Day was my mom's maiden name, so I'm biased. His rye sourdough recipe on YouTube is on my schedule for next week.

Old School Montana

I curled up with a good book the other day: “Dale Burk’s Montana.”

Here’s my look back at the book. It was published in 2002, but it's filled with content that dates back at least two decades earlier.

Burk’s Montana is the Montana I never knew, first hand at least. The Montana Burk describes, writing in the late ’70s, was gone before I arrived in 1992. But I learned of that Montana in other ways, from friends and later in-laws when I married into a Montana family with roots dating to the early 1900s. And I learned about that Montana from Burk himself. I went on to lay my own, tentative, Montana roots. My twin daughters were born in Missoula, one graduated from the University of Montana, though neither live in the Treasure State today.

Work keeps pulling me away, but whenever I’m not in the nation’s greatest state, I’m plotting my way back, either for the summer, or hopefully some day, permanently. 

“Dale Burk’s Montana” is available at

A look back at the beginning of modern wildlife conservation: Leopold’s “Thinking Like a Mountain”

My latest "Out of Bounds" column in a continuing series on outdoorsy things to do while self isolating is a reflection on Aldo Leopold’s essay, “Thinking Like a Mountain,” from the classic “Sand County Almanac.” The image is one of my favorite pieces of wall art, a poster commemorating the Mexican gray wolf reintroduction in the White Mountains of Arizona in 1998. The iconic photo was taken by the great AZ Game and Fish photog, George Andrejko. It was a Mexican gray wolf Leopold shot, then watching “fierce green fire dying in her eyes,” that inspired his essay and the conservation movement he led and inspired.