There was a time when nothing - absolutely nothing - would stop me from getting to the river. I remember being an undergraduate student, and working the night shift at a local convenient store. My schedule was set. Classes from three or four in the afternoon until nine or so at night. Grab a quick bite somewhere, and then off to work for eleven. My relief came by seven a.m., and by eight I was on the river. Six or eight hours on the water, nearly everyday. The weekends meant fourteen hour fishing days, and evening spinner falls.
I remember once being so sleep deprived and out of sorts that I asked my buddy to pull the car to the shoulder, and I promptly vomited all over route 313. Three days worth of Green Mountain Home Blend coffee and gas station chimichangas formed a Jackson Pollackesque smear on the shoulder of the road. Afterward, I simply shrugged it off, and continued on to Arlington to fish the hendrickson hatch on the Battenkill. Caught some good fish too.
How many times have you swatted at your alarm clock as the buzzer rang, and the LCD flashed 3:00? I've done it on the first of every April since I was sixteen. Every April since I was sixteen I've been the first person to the river. Nearly every April since I was sixteen I've caught fish on opening day, but I just don't know that it's going to happen this year. I'm getting older. I'm getting tired. I have other stuff on my plate. Let's face it, even though I've plenty of natural insulation, I just don't deal as well with the cold as I once did.
Is it possible that fishing just isn't my first priority anymore? Yes, I suppose it's possible. After all, I am a husband and father. Three children have a way of making one reorganize the essential elements of one's life. My wife isn't exactly high maintenance - in fact, she's about as laid back a woman as any man could want - but she needs some attention too. Then there's my career. Contrary to popular belief, teaching takes a lot energy. Teaching well does, anyway. All that aside, however, I am in no way suggesting that fishing isn't essential.
I simply couldn't imagine my life without fly rods, waders, and bits of fur and feather wrapped around strands of wire. Few things bring me as much joy as a well tied fly, a well executed cast, or a solid fish pulled from a difficult holding lie. As I look through the kaleidescope of my history, most of the images I see involve running water and fleeting flashes of silver and gold. Increasingly, however, these moments - precious as they are - run in the background.
Now, images of family occupy most of my thoughts. As I sit here at this keyboard I find myself thinking that it will be a special day indeed, when memories of family and of fishing begin to meld into one. Until then, I'll try to be content with looking forward to the day when my boy and my girls ask to fish one of my bamboo rods or to teach them to tie a woolly-bugger. And while this might be the first year in two decades that I miss fishing on the first of April, you can be damn sure I'll probably be fishing on the second.