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.
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.
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 →
A German delivery case-worth of homemade ale is now bottled (“but what are you going to drink, huh huh”) and my wife and daughter have a handsome stock of nothing but the most affordable food to microwave in my absence: almost ready for Stand #3.
As documented elsewhere, streets is tough. Last ROP trip of the fall – it is eye of the tiger time. Get hyped, remain hyped.
Rebuilding the squadron before Stand #3, next week. Preparing to take it on the chin, to feed the woodpiles and trees, to stay up late being responsible and wake up early to jack rigs like some kind of zombie punter Roderick Haig-Brown with breathables oozing ale yeast-and-burrito farts. Continue reading →
The era of wifi has made the role of Fighter Command obsolete, as Punter Patrol can now smear batter grease and Spotted Cow over the NOAA and USGS feeds on their mobile devices of an evening in the ROP watershed. No need to call home. These are different times.
Left to imagine the Dark One, Professor Cheeseburger, and Slint riding their ponies single file to hide their numbers, slopping down hills of red mud, gentlemanly low-holing one another in the fabled, historied pools of our river: Vin Diesel, Washington Generals, Nelson’s Glory Hole, Gay Lamprey.