Thursday, June 26, 2014
I dipped the mesh back of the ball cap into the fast current and shook the excess cold water from it and slid it back on over my head. The brilliantly shining hot sun flashed and danced off of the stream. The green around me was lush and in seasonal abundance. The coolness of the late June breeze that swept downstream, coupled with the wet cap sent a welcoming chill through me. I was wading up well past my knees, swaddled in the fast cold flow. I held the rod in my right hand as I stretched both arms out wide and looked straight up at the kind of blue I remember from childhood. Stared straight upward, stretched deeply, and gave thanks for all that this moment had to offer.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Sunlight slips down, its amber glow through patchy woods across the stream, filtering the perfect light of dusk onto the water. Time is slowly going, or standing still, I cannot tell which and I don't think about it too hard. This business about it "flying when you're having fun" is only true when you are thinking about the fun you are having rather than actually just going about the business of having it. And I am. A calm, thoughtless, one with nature, kind of fun. Close to God's fun if I had to place it. But, hey, I don't have to place anything. I just have to stand here in this river and fish.
Ploink. A rise. I had hoped for that. Ploink. Behind. To the left. Another. Ploink. Ploink. The white, yellowish sheen of the large fluttering bugs that dance up and over the stream must be what I have come here for. Sulphurs? Ploink. Yup, sulphurs.
I lose my breath, just for a second. Swallow hard. Calm now, man, choose the right fly. Ploink, ploink, ploink. They all look so similar in the fly box all of the sudden. Concentrate. Ploink. How could all of these pale flies even be in here?? Settle. Settle...
Choose. Now tie a good knot. Getting tough to see. Ploink, ploink, ploink...you get the idea.
There, across the stream under that overhanging limb, is the most consistent rise. It'll demand a good drift across a couple of these currents. Easy now...easy...and...Thwack. Shhhuuup. And the fly line is ripped up off of the water. Novice. Stupid.
I shrug it off. Breathe. I address another rise. A take. Fish on. Okay...I can do this. Another cast, another fish. Here we go. Good choice on that fly, hey? Little guys but they stoke the confidence.
The last of the light is fading. The chill in the air on the back of my neck after the first hot day of the season. The place really comes alive now with an abundance of sound as sight slips softly away with the day. The environment becomes something that I am no longer separate from. It shrouds my existence and welcomes me into it as an equal part. I stand, watching. Listening. Calm.
Back under the tree, the rise is back. I try again. The cast effortless, thoughtless.
Photo By: Nick Boehme
Thursday, June 12, 2014
I slip down the rock and mud trail and hit a small landing to watch the unfamiliar stream. The water rolls off the hood of my cheap vinyl rain gear. A ball-cap underneath keeps the drops from hitting my nose. Drip, drip, drip. I watch. Only an hour to fish. I've taken the risk to be here, dead in the center of a late afternoon in which the weatherman has doomed with a call for two to four inches of rain and it seems that, for once, he's on point. If this is truly the case, tomorrow morning will be out. My thought is that maybe I can beat the "real rain" and remain on the water for the small window of time I've actually got. I need to be back to a work function this evening so this quick fix will have to do. Just this morning I had all intentions of "working straight through". In fact, those intentions remained right up until the work day ended and I sat at my desk and thought, "Who fishes in stupid weather like this anyway?" Yeah...right. I sprang up like a mad man and now here I am.
This is my vice. This is my addiction. But this is just another quick and untimely sip if you will. What I really need is a bender.
I need a trip where the sun comes up in pink over the hills as the truck rolls out and across the meadows. The morning dew glistens off the tall grass and wildflower as I lazily look out the passenger window, the beaten ball cap slung over my brow. I'm tired but ready to take on another stream.
I need the music to be just right to set the tone of the day. A tune that is unknown to me but is somehow all too familiar. The driver knows this and says nothing of it even though he made the selection with purpose.
The rods rattle in the back, still strewn up from streamer fishing off the beaten path in the depths of last night. A bottle of something smooth that followed and maybe a cigar smell that lingers on my flannel sleeve as I rub my nose against it like a kid. Something about the cool early June morning through the crack in the window that makes my nose run just slightly.
Soon, a map spread out on the hood, the wind kicking up the corners, as the GPS signal is lost up here and this little gem wouldn't show up on a computer anyway. We bounce from small stream to small stream. We fish hard, once in a while stopping to chomp on some fresh jerky that we picked up at a dusty old country store, deep in what is clearly not our neck of the woods.
The fish are plentiful. There are sizable browns and wild cutthroat trout. The first of these jewels is the first of a lifetime and a memory all its own. She tangled in some overhanging briar patch on the far bank, and I barely managed her to the net. When I finally do, the large thorns stick out of my arm as I rip it away from the brush, drawing some blood at which my partner finds uproariously funny. He's right.
A break in the action with a cold beer at a tavern that feels like days gone by. Can you believe these wings? "Damn good", is muttered as we quietly lick our chops. For years the story will start, "Remember that old lady shootin' pool?"
Some more fish at the camp waters that sip on emergers in the fading orange light. We've certainly had a day to remember and there's more around the bend tomorrow.
Later, the fire-pit lofts a smooth cedar smoke through the overhanging moonlit trees. A guitar strums quietly, muted only by the crickets and the distant trickling of the stream. I start to doze in the camp chair, hands comfortably clasped behind my head, looking straight up at the stars. There must be a billion of them, I think. Eyelids slipping down...almost there...almost there...
For now, none of that is in the cards. The reality is that it's pouring in New York with a lot more work than time and only small trips to close waters. And yet, the addiction always prevails. I'll take the hour in all its hard earned glory. I'll chuck this nymph as the sheets come down.
Eventually, a small brown puts a bend in the rod and comes to hand. She swims happily away and into the fast current and in that instant I know that this is just as good.
I slog back up the trail as I head for the car. Gotta hurry back now.
A bender would be nice but a drop of the stuff is better than nothing at all.
Friday, June 6, 2014
It started with Dad, years ago. It began in beauty.
I hung the waders in the attic over the garage the year he died. Once every so very often, they would find a stream.
There were sparse Beaverkill trips that masked a sad search for a man I couldn't find, no matter how many times I could swear he was just around the next bend in the river. The fish did not matter.
There was a splash of stream-side manner in California, hanging the wrong fly in the wrong stretch of water at the wrong time of year. It was a cast into the dark of a search for who I was at a time of uncertainty. It settled me temporarily and the fish did not matter.
Another long lapse as the waders grew dryer and dryer. Cracks in the boots and dry rot in the old Hodgman suspenders as they hung up there in that dark place. Years went by.
Eventually, a rallying cry to family and old friends that unearthed a new found quest for calm running rivers and emerald green pools. It was just a few years ago. The company mattered and the fish did not. Finding my way.
The journey continues. Its purpose evolving. Its sadness and uncertainty lifted entirely and replenished with joy and laughter.
And the fish do not matter.
What begins in beauty must return to beauty.