Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dear River, WTF?

Dear River,

We've been together for a long time now; this past spring marked twenty years. The day we met, I was eager and full of energy, and you were the undiscovered country - an unknown whisper of a trout stream in an otherwise forgotten corner of my world. Twenty years. Nearly a quarter of a century, and I'm still wading your runs. 

In many ways, you're much the same as you were the day we met: beautiful if perhaps a bit temperamental, and able to make me smile as no one else can. For years you were constant as the north star, a friend whenever I have needed a friend, a confidant who helped to wash away my worry and regret. But something is different. Something small but significant has changed, and I know you've felt it too.

You don't embrace me the way you once did.  There was a time when I knew - with absolute certainty - that the third week of April meant the start of a tremendous hendrickson hatch. Fish would rise - big fish - with the carelessness born of a long winter, and I would leave the river every evening having been reminded that I am a man. After the hendicksons were sulphurs, and then drakes, and eventually white flies. Every hatch - every fish - was an assurance that you loved me the way that I loved you.

And as much as it pains me to say, it's over, isn't it? Seems I just don't know anything anymore. This year the hendricksons came in March. March? Really? Why? How could you so easily discard my favorite hatch, and throw it away in the weeks before the season began? You must know that the first hatch of the year is always the best hatch of the year. Was it deliberate? Did you want it to cut? Did you want it to hurt? It did. Still does. March? Really?

And now that spring has turned to summer and the time for trout has passed, I have to ask, "Where have the bass gone? What of the carp and pike?" Your lower water - the nether region - was special in a way warm water too often is not. Fish swam everywhere - in every run, riffle, pool and pocket, and fishermen were largely absent. Your water has always been gloriously absent of anglers; I've never had to share you with anyone else. But not now, not anymore, and I think you enjoy all the attention. I'm sad to say that wading your lower water just isn't quite the adventure it once was.

And why do you insist on embarrassing me? Why? Used to be that whenever I would introduce you to a friend or acquaintance - you would do the right thing. You would try to accommodate my friends because you wanted to me to be happy, and yes ... you wanted me to play the part of hero. That's not the case anymore. Is it? Now, whenever I bring a friend by - be it for trout, bass, carp, or whatever - you take advantage of the situation. You emasculate me. The water and the fish never behave as I predict; I'm left to shake my head and think I must not know much of anything anymore. I've never been so full of doubt.

So that is why - as much as anything else - I've decided that we need a break from each other. You need time to become whomever it is you're becoming, and I need a chance to explore other corners of the world. Please don't misunderstand. I love you. I will always love you, but I am afraid that I cannot go on loving you if things continue as they are. Maybe after we've spent some time apart we'll discover that what we really need is each other. I hope so. I do.



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