Friday, November 22, 2013

The Salmon River (A Trip Report): Day Three - Swing That $#!% Until Your Arm Goes Numb

Day three began with a little prayer to the river gods; a prayer that day two would not repeat itself. We were ready - all of us - for some assurance that we were still men, that we could not be emasculated by a river, that if the apocalypse came tomorrow we could provide needed sustenance for our loved ones. We were ready for a good day. I was especially hopeful given we had decided to fish one of my favorite runs.

We arrived at a little before 5 a.m., and were pleased to see no one else parked in the lot. With headlamps ablaze I imagine that from a distance we must have looked like so many will-o-wisps flittering back and forth among the trees. Carefully, we made our way through the twilight darkened thicket and crept single file toward the head of the run. No sooner had we dropped our packs in a line than we heard the distinctive "creak-thud ... creak-thud" of oars and water working against the hull of an aluminum drift boat.

As the guide and his clients drifted past they complimented us for having the resolve to get down to the water so early in the morning. I couldn't help but marvel at the dedication of a guide who rows his sports down midnight-dark currents in hopes of being the first boat to reach many of the river's better holes. I wish it had been light enough to see his face or read the markings on the boat as I'd be sure to recommend him to anyone that asked. As the drift boat floated out of sight we began the process of rigging and re-rigging, and when the light began to peek over the edge of the horizon we were gifted one of the most beautiful sunrises I've seen in some time.

I'm hardly a snob insofar as fly fishing is concerned. My philosophy is pretty simple: I'll fish the way I do, you'll fish the way you do, and if we're not crossing lines mid-river then we'll never have a problem. Respect the resource, and I'll never make a judgment. I don't care if you're a swinger, nympher, pinner, or knuckle dragging gear head. All that aside, there is something special in the rhythm of fishing a swung fly on a spey rod.

I've always been impressed by a well executed spey cast - long before I ever picked up my first two-handed rod I was fascinated by the mechanics of the process. To my eye, a well executed spey cast transcends anything even the most accomplished angler might do with a single-handed rod. The structure of the spey is a marriage of form and function, a testament to efficiency, and when done especially well the process culminates in one of those rare moments when art and science blend to create something that cannot exist outside of the moment. The rod - twelve or thirteen feet of woven carbon fiber, or fiberglass, or fire-hardened bamboo - is a calligrapher's pen painting enigmatic characters in the air. And the line ... 

The line is anticipation. The line is potential. The line is all the promise of a day on the water. In a well executed spey cast our line is fluid - as the water we fish is fluid. She bends and yields, twists and tumbles. She dances for us, begging for the climatic moment when all of her potential is set in motion.

"Pffffffffffffffffffttttttt ... click."

In a well executed spey cast we wait to hear that click, and as soon as the line leaves our hand we know whether or not it's coming. One click. The reel wants to give more, but can only spare a click's worth. The rod jumps a little in our hands, and automatically we throw an upstream mend to slow and extend our drift.  In the course of a day we might do this hundreds if not thousands of times. Over and over again we probe the dark corners and recesses of the run the whole time waiting expectantly for some sign of life.

Then it happens.


Then it happens again.

Then you realize that the river gods were listening to your twilight prayers, and you run the remainder of the evening without so much as a thought of fish. You're content. Everything is right in the world, and as you watch the moon rise up to replace the sun you cannot help but smile at thoughts of the day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I just read the labels to this post and started rolling!!!