Friday, March 27, 2009

Getting the Skunk Out

Almost there. Five days. Just five days. I can make it. I can make it.

Winter is especially brutal when you're a fair-weather fly chucker. The season is closed. The rivers are frozen over. Steelhead? Sure, if you want to make a four hour drive, one way, in lousy weather for a chance to wet a line in any one of a dozen declining Great Lakes tributaries. But hey, you can always tie flies.

Eventually though, your boxes are full, your friends' boxes are full, and flies are spilling onto the floor where they're sure to be eaten by pets and children alike. No, flytying is to flyfishing what masturbation is to the menage a trois. It wets your appetite, satisfies you temporarily, maybe even helps you sleep, but there's really no pay-off. No memories are made.

The only remedy is to get the skunk out. You know what I mean. It's been four or five months since you've made a cast. You pull the waders out of the closet, fondle each of your rods adoringly (in such a way as to raise the ire of your wife), choose one ... or two ... or three, make a pot of coffee, curse your buddy's lateness and finally hit the road at 4:30 am. It's an annual ritual; a day off for fathers and a rite of passage for sons. It's opening day, and you're going to get the skunk out. You're going to catch that first fish of the year.

Of course, some opening days are better than others. Was it April 1st of 2004 or 2005? I don't recall. Adam would remember. The man remembers every fish he or I have ever caught, the date and time of the catch, the water temperature, ambient air temperature, and position of the sun relative to Ursula Major. Total freakin' recall. It's uncanny, but I digress.

It's April 1st, 2005. The weeks leading up to opening day have been mild, the water in the main river and its tributaries is relatively low and clear. Water temperatures are in the mid forties at first light, and warm throughout the day. Conditions are perfect, and we slay 'em. We bang 'em on streamers and eggs. We bang 'em on beadheads and softhackles. I'm lucky enough to take a twenty-inch bow below the falls, and I lose an even bigger brown. Memories were made.

Then there's opening day 2007 (or was it 06? I'll have to ask Adam). Adam, Ben and I are fishing the usual stretch of early-season water. The fishing is lousy, but the company is good. But wait, what's that? An orchestra? Barbershop quartet? No, it's a ... it's a banjo. A pair of banjos maybe? Dueling banjos? It's the theme from Deliverance accompanying Billy Baitdunker as he scrambles down the hill, and saunters up in between the three of us. Imagine the scene. Three flyfishers standing within twenty or thirty feet of each other, fishing a pool maybe fifty feet in length, and a spin fisherman walks right up into the middle of us (without so much as a word) casts his line and sits his exposed ass-crack on a nearby log. And he enters the scene with his own theme music. Grand.

Normally, the three of us would simply have shrugged, hiked up the hill, and found a "Billy Free Zone" in which to fish. But this was opening day. We were just beginning to satisfy a five month jones for running water. Billy (should I call him William so I don't seem like one of those elitist fly guys?) picked the wrong day not to exercise a little etiquette. No, there wasn't a fight. No one found the bloated body of Billy Baitdunker bobbing buoyantly in the river. There were, however, some rather unpleasant words exchanged. Ben (maniac, tofu-smelling vegan that he is) represented our group in the debate. Inside of ten minutes William looked like a dog that just had its nose rubbed in excrement. Priceless. Memories were made.

Opening day last year? Well, it was pretty bad. As bad as it was, however, it was better than the day before. And that's the charm of opening day. Opening day is hope. It's chance. It's the opportunity to get the skunk out. It's the reason we fish, regardless of the result.

- Mike

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