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.