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.

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

Smallmouth Alley, August 2002

Or, the transience of serendipity.

Winter, perilous with reflection, & c. …¬†you remember. I woke up well before dawn today, a Saturday, the last day of 2011. I woke up because I was haunted by warmwater. Let the dog out, made a huge mug of black tea (Ceylon Vithakananda Estate in a Big Gulp), and sat down to continue remembering a dream that revisited one of the linchpin moments in my flyfishing life. Bear with me while I get all philosophickal and maudlin.

I won’t say where Smallmouth Alley is, not because I don’t want it spoiled by punters – except for on one storybook dreamtime day in August 2002, there’s fuckall there to be spoiled. The GPS coordinates are irrelevant because¬†Smallmouth Alley isn’t a where, it’s a when.

Actually, I'm sort of lying. This ate a little orange popper and put a wicked hurt on the VPS in August of '09. But it was the only fish I got all day.

But I digress. We must return to a time when transport was Slint’s (bless him and keep him, you remember) Troutmobile, a time of non-breathable bootfoot waders and Terminator X Fitovers and a borrowed club of a 5 weight.

Continue reading

Middle Root, 2002

Far-off and maddening spring, when it’s all next, next, next. Bust out enough of this pattern to loan or lose in a week, block out the time and square away obligations to catch this hatch, re-up on tippet before the first trip, then get to the river as much as you can and soak it up like a solar panel. No. Sedentary winter, cold and slow, is perilous with reflection, hours and hours of Taurean dark streaked comet-like by tumblers of distillate, its accretion of seasons as imponderable and no less miraculous than your own.

My first trout came, as I reckon it here from this chair, when I was twenty six and out of work, spending a summer learning to fly fish in spring creeks. Continue reading