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.

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.

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.

Re-org 2012

It’s that time again. Crap must be reorganized. All that is old shall be made new, or at least all the old shall be made to be put in new Akro-bins from my new favorite store. On the docket: reorg the warmwater materials storage,  reorg and restock the early season-slash-go-anywhere trout box, inventory tippet, clean some lines, lube some reels, wax some ferrules. And what’d be smart is to get a head start on tying for the spring stands on the ROP. And prototype some warmwater monstrosities.

Ah, what’s the point … we’re all going to die. 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

on Wisconsin

One finds that wade-fishing for the trouts in two of three states in the Driftless lacks a certain squalid je ne sais quoi.

I’ve seen gutted does bungeed to the hoods of old sedans parked in front of the one bar in town on snowy midgeless northeast Iowa November Sundays, and I’ve seen the creepy, last-human-being-in-the-world sadness of abandoned farms along empty spring creeks in Allamakee county on endless solstice evenings, and also the bad manners of grown men packed shoulder to shoulder in 10 yards of river bank trying to floss the same three sorry stocked alien fish at the mouths of North Shore spates in the Minnesota Arrowhead. But for my money nothing can touch ‘sconnie, and here’s what I think it comes down to:

Wisconsin never, ever forgot that it used to be frontier.
Continue reading