Friday, February 21, 2014

On Birthdays, Big and Tall, and a Bit of Perspective

I'm a 3XL guy, and I've been a 3XL guy for most of my adult life. I haven't been a 2XL guy since I was a soldier and an athlete, and I haven't been a soldier or an athlete in a very long time. I don't think I've been an XL guy since I was in the 10th grade.

A rare photo of yours truly. That's me behind the camera with Shawn Brillon in the background (photo courtesy of Ben Jose's iPhone)

On the day my children were born, the nurses - God bless the gaggle of them - tried their very best to squeeze me into an XL gown. "This is the biggest we have in the hospital" one nurse said. On any other day I would have offered a lurid yet witty reply, something sure to make my wife roll her eyes and offer an apology on my behalf, but only moments before I had been listlessly wandering the hallway in a sort of pre-paternal daze. I wasn't feeling particularly witty. I was terrified.

I vacillated between terror and nausea as a nurse pried one of my legs past the too tight stitching on the too small hospital gown. As my leg slid in, one of my arms came loose. Another nurse wedged in the other leg, and the gown slipped off my shoulders entirely. The process of dressing me must have taken 30 minutes, and when it was over I imagine I looked a little like a disturbingly fleshy caricature of King Kong Bundy circa 1985.

Bundy ... In the flesh.

When the gown was tied off, one of nurses fit me with a mask and slippers while another touched me gently on the shoulder and looked directly into my eyes. I remember being struck by her eyes. They were different colors - one hazel and one blue - and full and beautiful in the way songs are sometimes beautiful. She said, "Mr. Daley, it's time", but more than her words it was the kindness in her eyes that spoke to me. Her eyes said she understood my trepidation, that she knew I was scared, and that she would handle me with a soft touch; as I allowed myself to be led down a hallway humming with fluorescence, I was vaguely aware of both her arm on my shoulder and a numbing tightness in my chest. She was absolutely right. It was time.

The entire process from epidural to incubator took fewer than twenty minutes, which is amazing when I consider that 20 minutes amounts to roughly seven minutes per child. When the flurry ended, I was left standing alone and dazed in the back of a delivery room that smelled vaguely of my grandmother's lilac bushes - perhaps the remnants of a nurse's perfume. I think I might have stayed there indefinitely, overwhelmed and stupefied as I was, had one of the attendants not returned to lead me to the elevator that took me to the N.I.C.U.

And as I sit here at this keyboard - separated from that day by seven years, dozens of football games, hundreds of soccer practices, and more dance recitals than I ever thought I could handle - I find myself going back to that elevator ride and those first few minutes with my children. Before that moment, I thought I knew what it was to love.

When I was a boy I loved my dog, my kid brother, and my parents. When I was a teenager I loved my friends, heavy metal music, and a dazzling blonde that was too far out of my league ever to approach. As a young man, I loved my country and the other soldiers with whom I served. Later I loved my girl, and I loved her all the more when she became my wife. Through it all, I loved fly fishing. Fly fishing had always been the cord that bound together the various epochs of my life. Then my children were born, and in the instant when I first walked into the N.I.C.U., my entire understanding of the world changed. There is no love like the love a devoted parent has for his or her child. Everything else - even casting a fly - moves to the periphery when one's children are born.

The weather forecast the day before the triplets were born. Ask me how much fun it was to drive to the hospital at 4a.m. (I was in the red band).
All of this - my burgeoning waistline, a hospital's best attempts at being hospitable, and the premature arrival of three precious little people - is always foremost on my mind this time of year. Most of my friends are focused - if not fixated - on steelhead, and not long ago I suppose I would have been too. But for me things have changed, and I think they've changed for the better.

That having been said, I wanted desperately to fish this week. I had every intent on doing two days on the Salmon River chasing some ornery winter steel. Things didn't quite come together as I planned, however, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just a little bit jealous when the reports started rolling in from all the usual sources. It seems this was a good week to be on the water.

But if I had been on the water as much as I wanted to be then I would have missed some really good stuff. I would have missed Madison singing Let it Go in the shower - again. I would have missed the dining room light flickering as Emma tap danced like a 57 pound rhinoceros on the floor above. I would have missed a family outing to The Party Warehouse, and if I had missed The Party Warehouse then I would have missed Michael getting his groove on.

My son at the party store ... pimpin' ain't easy.
It would be almost too easy to wish this time away, and fast forward to the day when I get to have it all - birthdays and steelhead. What a fool I'd be if I did.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lee Wulff and Curt Gowdy in Canada

Over the years, I've watched this video too many times to count. I first saw it when I was young, and then it reappeared with the dawn of the digital age. Every time I watch it I find myself thinking I was born in the wrong time and in the wrong place.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Blog Roll: The Green Eyed Monster - Volume Two

I sometimes find hard to believe that I've managed to keep The Rusty Spinner up and running for five years; few things in my life have had such longevity. As I sit here at the keyboard and reflect on that time, I'm struck - as I have been many times before - by the realization that I maintain The Rusty Spinner because blogging provides me with the opportunity to do that one thing I most enjoyed about working in a fly shop.

Of course, fly shop work is in many ways just like working any retail job: answer the phone, fold some shirts, stock the shelves, cash or credit. Being a fly shop flunky differed from other retail jobs, however,  in one very important way. My time in the shop allowed me the opportunity to talk fishing - serious fishing with anglers from all over the world - all day and every day. The same is true of this blog. I have the opportunity to talk fishing every time I sit down at the keyboard. Sometimes it's a one way conversation, but sometimes it's not and those are the moments I most enjoy. I guess that's why I started The Rusty Spinner, and I suppose that's why I continue.

Fortunately for all of us, there are any number of other bloggers who seem to enjoy that conversation every bit as much as I do. Some write professionally.  Some are directly involved in the fly fishing industry. Others are simply talented amateurs who seem to use blogging as a way to get to the stream when they can't actually get to the stream. The point - if there must be a point - is that there is no shortage of good stuff flowing through the veins of the bug chucking blogosphere. I might even go so far as to argue that blogs have surpassed more traditional forms of print and digital media as go-to reading material for the average bug chucker. I haven't picked up a fly fishing magazine in two or three years, but I read blogs everyday. What follows is an abbreviated list of some of my favorites.

1. Gink and Gasoline -  Kent Klewein and Louis Cahill are the Grand Poobahs of what I believe to be the very best fly fishing blog on the web; I write that as dollops of jealousy drip from my keyboard like green Jello oozes from the mouth of a lobotomy addled schizophrenic. They do things over there that I just cannot do. The writing is fresh and original - an interesting mix of the tangible and intangible, the concrete and the metaphoric aspects of our sport. New posts appear almost daily, and the authors' writing covers myriad topics that will almost certainly appeal to coldwater and warmwater, freshwater and saltwater bug chuckers alike. The photography is eye candy too good to be given away for free; every time I visit the site I'm immediately reminded of how inept a photographer I am. Perhaps more than anything else, I find I most enjoy Gink's honesty. The blog clearly benefits from a handful of advertisers, but Klewein and Cahill do not seem to have sold themselves to the bug chucking industry devil. The web is full of fly fishing blogs and bloggers who will say - or write as it were - just about anything to earn some free swag. I've never once had that impression of Gink and Gasoline. 

Tarpon: It's All About Letting Go

Is Your Introvert Personality Holding Back Your Fly Fishing Growth? 

The Toughest Water In Wyoming

Georgia Man Catches Trout On Car Key, But Why?
2. Dudewater - Dudes can write. I'm not sure there's much more to say so I'll say it again just to be sure I've made my point. Dudes ... can ... write. While not as polished as G and G, Dudewater is one of the most well written blogs I frequent and a welcome read every time I receive notification of a new post. Like Gink and Gasoline, Dudewater is a collaboration between two angler-bloggers whose travels take them to some genuinely beautiful places and put them in line with seriously impressive fish. I don't know either of the blog's contributors, but the quality of their writing and penchant for using expletives sparingly but to great effect make me think they'd be good company while rotating a run.

Me and Mick
Just Passing Through

Dead Metaphors
3. Flyosophy -  I wish I could double haul an entire fly line as easily as does Steve Rajeff. I cannot. I wish I could tie married wing Atlantic salmon flies with as much flair as the late Paul Ptalis once did. I cannot. I wish I could write with as much a mind for internal dialogue and controlled nuance as does the FlyosopherAgain, I cannot. While I don't know the Flyosopher outside of the pages of the blog, I suspect he does what he does entirely for his own amusement, and it is precisely that tone which makes his writing as enjoyable to read as it is. As long as the Flyosopher is Flyosophizing, I'll be Flyosophizing along with him.    

Decision Makers

Fighting Addiction 

Hanging with Mr. Guide