silver dollars

ROP running low and clear before my one stand of the fall, and lo and behold MZA is funemployed. Under challenging conditions, Employment Quest 2012 is underway and word on the street is that fish are being hooked: skinny water and down economy.

It occurs to one that a job search is much like fly fishing for steelhead – meat must be kept in water, chins up. Just cause there’s not a tug-tug when you swing through a run doesn’t mean your program is fucked – although it could in truth be fucked, but just not automatically, inherently, out of hand fucked. Whether crafting a cover letter or a streamer, use sticky hooks and nice paper. Be like a zen archer when you cast or hit Send, destroy the separation of you and target, annihilate both expectation and surprise.

I had a job that let me drink (and brew) beer during working hours and paid enough to buy fly lines more or less whenever I needed to, or at least when I remembered to. But, as happens in the course of human events, it became necessary to keep stepping down the run. Take stock, be mindful of what’s important and what’s transitory. I’ve got a typo-free resume and a passable low-water box and no leaks in my waders. Go time.

modes of participation in a migratory fishery as identity: a screed

Steelhead. Chasing chrome. Unicorns. An addiction, the most extreme form of freshwater fly fishing, a polemical and political minefield, where angling etiquette goes to die. The swing is the thing, strike indicators are for pussies, why don’t you want to actually catch a fish, it’s not as good as it used to be, this is our river you Fucking Illinois Bastards.

The rhetoric of steelheading as identity gets a tad exhausting. Can’t everybody be cool? It should be enough that they’re here, and we’re here, and that they’re miraculously ascending their natal system again before their cometlike peregrinations take them back beyond our ken, and that we’re casting flies at them instead of sitting at a desk or commuting or filing our taxes or any of the other muddy gray things that cast no light on the stony road of the inevitable. Why do so many of us have to be so loud and 21st century about it?

Hey, swinger. I get it, you’re a cowboy. Keep stepping down the run, John Wayne.

And you, with the strike indicators … don’t listen to them. You can be proud or ashamed, just keep doing your thing, but wait your turn. This isn’t Thunderdome.

And you, with the bait … you’re going do what you’re going to do, and you’re never ever going to read this anyway.

And all of you pick the hell up after yourselves and stay the fuck off the gravel. This isn’t your garage, and just cause it’s a self-sustaining population doesn’t mean we can’t still fuck it up.

Spring Branch, August 2012

Home water: it’s not glamorous, it’s not the lifetime trip destination river, it’s not necessarily action water, going there doesn’t even need to be about fishing.

The stuff of this aquifer flooded my cells for the earliest years of my life. Bubbling up from the rocks beneath where my grandparents lived and my mom escaped a bull through a split rail fence and my dad coached high school softball, down coulees as sudden and hidden as a Himalayan valley, draining into the aqueous highway below the Harpers Ferry lock and dam where generations of my family drowned worms in a blue Lund and listened to whippoorwills and the Soo Line at night all summer long.

My daughter is as much of a tourist here as I now am. We throw pellets to trout in concrete impoundments and watch them swirl and thrash and swim towards us and away from the rightness of their instinct. The fences around the spring-fed races are electrified at night to keep herons off the product. We’re all transfixed for different reasons.

There’s a pool downstream of the pens where the diverted water rejoins the branch. In the last days of this dry summer a mixed pod of wild browns and specs seems to hold in clear air alongside the cerise stripes of hatchery rainbows thousands of miles and generations from their mountain home. We watch from the high bank, rod unstrung. The Monster drops leaves on their heads and watches only the streamborn fish scatter.

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.