Monday, March 1, 2010

Remember Caesar, Thou Art Mortal

Last week was glorious. Yes, the weather was miserable. Yes, the kids were a little crazy. But wonder of wonders, mercy of mercies, the water was just right on the one day the boss granted me to fish. Unlike the weather and the kids, the river was perfect, and the company was affable. The steelhead were relatively cooperative with two fish hooked and one landed. All things considered, this isn't a bad tally for a day trip, especially in February.

Yesterday, we paid the price for last week's success. Ben and I made the two hour drive to the Salmon River, and we arrived just in time to make the acquaintance of the several hundred other fishermen who had similar plans. After quite a bit of driving - and just a little less trudging through snowy tundra - we managed to find some water that was a reasonable distance from our nearest neighbor.

The problem - as one might expect - was that the fish weren't particularly cooperative. We tried everything a Great Lakes steelheader might be expected to do. We drifted various glo bugs, estaz eggs, and stoneflies. We lined up with caddis, and swung brightly colored streamers. Ultimately, there just wasn't much we could do. The water was low, the sun was bright, and the fish were lock-jawed and skittish. At the close of the day we had little choice but to tuck our manhood in between our legs, and admit that we were soundly beaten.

And we needed to be beaten. We needed a reminder of just how little we know about the rivers we fish and the fish we chase. Sure, I enjoy having a good day. I think it must go without saying that I enjoy a tightened line and shrieking drag as much as any bug chucker. I imagine, however, that it must be difficult to understand the enormity of one's success if one has never failed. Yesterday's failure made last week's success all the sweeter.

I suppose this might sound a little odd, but I don't make my way back to the river to catch fish. If I did, I suspect I would often leave dejected and disappointed. No, it's the hoping that stays with me. Day after day and year after year I return to the Salmon, Battenkill, Madison, and all their sister flows armed not with expectation, but solely with the hope of catching fish.

Hope is enough.

Success is counted sweetest
By those who ne'er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need.

Not one of all the purple host
Who took the flag to-day
Can tell the definition,
So clear, of victory!

As he, defeated, dying,
On whose forbidden ear
The distant strains of triumph
Burst agonized and clear!

- Emily Dickinson



Anonymous said...

I can totally relate. How many times have I had an electric day on the water only to return a day or two later with high expectations, but instead get a good pistol whipping. Its all good though, and I view it as a wondefully humbling experience that makes me appreciate even more those days when everything goes right.

troutrageous1 said...

Great blog - glad I found it...I'm now a "follower." I've been exactly where you were in your last post. I don't mind the frustration that comes with fishing, all it takes is one to get the adrenaline pumping and TOTALLY worth it. Now excuse me, I have 59 posts from 2009 to catch up on!