Ninja, please

The punter evening shift was hiking down as the the punter day shift – the Dark One and your author – were hiking up. Their waders were all dry and did not have goose shit on them. Their hands did not smell like fish slime and beef jerky, and were not coated with the earthly residue of mashed-up midge larvae or mayflies squished on the wing.

“Get any?” the evening shift asked.

“Yeah.”

“Nymphs or dries?”

Ninja, please. Do you see any Thingamabobbers?

My first video

It is what it is … home movies, mea punter culpa. Shot on a Flip, edited in YouTube, and I’ve learned some things: bluegrass abounds in fly fishing videos because it’s about the best and most simpatico option offered in the YT video editor; the clips of rising fish look better when watched on a large player; midges can be bidges; and the Dark One looks so good walking away in Simms it’s almost a shame he’s ever coming back.

the one

Lots of each are nice but sometimes one is all you need.

The one need not be big or rare, just timely.

The clutch fish turns the day around. The clutch fish improves your subsequent casts, unfurls your leader, betters your drift, lets you carom flies off trees and leaves and onto the holding lie; it lets you laugh full-throated at missed strikes, makes you feel smarter than you actually are.

Today’s one was my first fish of 2012, and she came from way up a feeder creek that was running clear while the main branch was becoming higher, cloudier, and colder as the sun melted snow off the bluffs miles upriver. Crawling over old elms downed in last year’s flood, tiptoeing through ankle-deep water on flat cobbles that looked like they were hovering under rippling air, casting upstream to every broken top deeper than my boot.  In the trough of a long riffle the drift brought up the fish that would have busted the slump and I missed the take, but when I made the cast again she came back – a little nosy blip and a flash of wormy olive and the weight was there, fighting to gain what passed as deep safety in that austere March stream. When she was close enough to net I saw she was a spec, a brookie, a streamborn native and that my year on the water was starting auspiciously. The hook was fair in her left maxilla; her right pectoral fin was torn along one of the rays. She rested in my cupped cold fingers for a while and breathed water and then pushed back into the creek and turned invisible again. And as I sit at home with a glass of beer and a picture I hope this hard winter is coming to an end, and I hope she ate a big fucking dinner of stonefly tonight.

The Thing

There’s freedom in the obliteration of 21st century wifi ego by a system of water: the utter loss of self duing a blizzard hatch or while working down your favorite run as the film goes quicksilver at the magic hour. The endless thudding heartbeats it takes to bring a good fish to hand. The gravityless grace-state of drift. But eventually the bugs stop, the pod is put down or the pool goes flat, daylight fails. You spool up and go home, back to regular life, back to Babylon (with maybe a vanilla malt in the intermezzo if you earned it). It’s temporary at best, and it’s also the point of entry for all the painful “fly fishing is an addiction, man” rhetoric because we keep seeking those moments in the resonant void.

As both Siddartha Gautama and Kris Kristofferson teach us, true freedom is only arrived at through non-attachment. But where does that ultimately leave a down-and-across dude?

There is no non-attachment for these punters. There is slack and there is mending and there is sink, but always a physical connection to the unseen, a stick to poke into the guessed-at and unknowable. Galileo’s telescope or a turn of the webby ahead of some silk to find what we desire and confirm what we suspect. Ahab’s harpoon or the sleechy sculpin muppet meat pushing water at the end of some chop-shop CCT, from hell’s heart I cast at thee.

I suggest we deal with it, friends. We’re on the wheel, Nirvana is from Seattle, and maybe we will be reincarnated as an osprey or a Burkheimer.

2012 Opener: Milk Run with the Monster

I won’t sit here and feed you a line about why it’s not called “catching” or about the crushing continuation of a beatdown that started on a fishing pier above some wily sunfish almost a year ago now; but the best thing about fishing with a 3 year old is that they always think it’s just nice be out. And the Monster still has that skunk on her back. Continue reading