Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Best Fishing Trip I Never Went On

I consider myself a fortunate man. I'm blessed with a wonderfully understanding wife who does her very best to tolerate my obsession with bug chucking, three children who - at least in this early stage of their lives - both adore and respect their father, and a small but tight-knit circle of friends who share my passion for tight loops and an evening spinner fall. Within an easy drive of my home are myriad opportunities to cast a fly in warmwater, coldwater, or saltwater, and my career is such that I'm usually in position to take advantage of these opportunities whenever they arise. Again, I'm a lucky guy.

When I consider that I've been casting a fly, however poorly, for a little over thirty years ... well, I have to admit that the avalanche of memories brings a smile to my face. There are certainly far worse ways to spend the better part of three decades. I owe this and so much more to my father, who had the foresight to give me that first fly rod. I'm grateful, and while I don't know that I could ever repay the debt I owe my dad, I do try to pay it forward whenever the opportunity presents itself.

To that end, I've taught any number of people to tie flies and cast a long rod. I've watched as these folks grow to appreciate that water as I do. In some ways, the small part I've played in the development of each of these anglers affords me the opportunity to live vicariously through their experiences. It feels good to see someone catch a fish on a fly I've taught them to tie, to throw seventy feet of line after a casting lesson, or read the water and locate a fish without any suggestions from me. I suppose it's a teacher thing. The carpenter or mason can step back from his or her work, and know that he or she has done a job well. Teachers can only look to their students, and hope the successes those students achieve might just have something to do with the teacher's tutelage. This brings us to Ben.

Ben and I have fished together quite a bit over the last three or four years. I've helped him clean up his cast, taught him how to tie some knots, and to wrap a hook with fur and feathers. In return, he's helped me rediscover my passion for steelhead, and to think creatively when sitting at the vise. Ben has an artist's eye; I do not.

In the time we've shared stream side, I've watched Ben come into his own as a bug chucker; I'm almost sad to say that he no longer needs my instruction.

That he no longer needs my help was obvious on a recent trip Ben took to Idaho with his uncles. Everyone caught fish, and they did so in some of the most beautiful places in this country. I wasn't able to tag along - although I was invited - but I did get to enjoy the trip vicariously through Ben's photographs and stories. Some of those moments, he's most graciously agreed to share on The Rusty Spinner. With luck, you'll be able to live Ben's vacation as I have. I should tell you that it's probably the best fishing trip I never went on.

The road in...

The Hairy Ass Stone Fly @ the tailout.

No unicorns but a lot of these guys.

The snow had ended...applying desiccant to a blue wing olive.

You should see this place rock on Movie Nite.

First morning...


...more neighbors

Quick Fix...all waders leak.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Please Dislike ...

Was hoping my all too few readers might do me a favor, go to YouTube via the link below, and dislike the video you'll see. Watch it and you'll understand why it is that I ask. The Salmon River in New York could be a top notch fishery if only chuckleheads like the one in the video respected the resource. In the words of Bartles and James, "Thank you for your support."

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Suicide Run

Sometimes, we bug chuckers need to fish. We do not care if it's convenient. We do not care if our schedules or day-planners agree. Ultimately, we do not even care if the fishing is particularly good. We need to fish, and wetting a line is all that matters.

Such was the case yesterday. We knew the river was low, and had been low since the summer. We read the reports, and knew that few steelhead were coming to hand. We knew that gear-slinging chuckleheads would likely line both banks of every likely hole and run along the river's entire length. We knew that if we were measuring our success by counting fish in the net, we would likely leave the water both exhausted and disappointed. We didn't care. We needed to fish. Our suicide run began at 2:30 a.m. with the two and a half hour drive to the river, and ended twelve hours later when we drank our victory beer.   

We thank the river gods for bestowing upon us their benevolence and largesse.

There are few experiences a bug chucker may have that are quite as sweet as that first (or second, or third, or ...) steelhead of the season.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

More Perfect

"When I was young, a teacher had forbidden me to say "more perfect" because she said if a thing is perfect it can't be more so. But by now I had seen enough of life to have regained my confidence in it." - Norman Maclean, in the NOVEL, A River Runs Through It

There's a certain air of expectation that precedes any fishing trip. For days, perhaps even weeks or months, we'll think about the possibilities. We tie flies through the early morning hours, and crawl - bleary eyed - into bed alongside disapproving, less-than-understanding spouses. We check and recheck our rods and reels, cleaning lines, lubricating drags, and waxing ferrules. We buy topographic maps, examine routes, form plans and back-up plans. We could be traveling 20 miles by car or 2,000 miles by plane, the anticipation we feel is the same; the difference is only a matter of degree.

Springing from the same place as our anticipation and hope, is the disappointment we feel when a trip falls through; for one reason or another, the river gods sometimes conspire against us, and rob of us those long anticipated moments. Such was the case this past weekend. I had thought to visit the Salmon River one last time before the real rush of king salmon - thousands of fish - dash upriver followed closely by ten sets of waders for every chinook's tail. Sadly, it just wasn't meant to be. The gods of water, fur and feathers conspired against me, and I spent Sunday afternoon mowing the lawn.

And maybe having missed a trip, having forever lost the promise of that moment, I've discovered a small part of the formula that makes our time on the water so precious. As much as anything else - as much as the rods and reels, flies and fish, rivers and lakes, mountains and meadows - fisherman need hope. We need the undiluted anticipation the precedes that first fish, that first cast, that first moment of revelation when we step into the river.

I think that hope may be the best part of any fishing trip. Hope gives us a reason to string up our rods, struggle into wading boots that are always just a bit too tight, stumble across the currents and the rocks, and set up in a run where we think there might, possibly be a fish. Hope is what keeps us coming back to that run when that fish does not necessarily follow the script. Hope is what makes every day we spend on the water just a little more perfect than the last.