Shades and Shadows

As winter in the West is swiftly coming to an end, I find myself looking back on the seasons passed. Traditionally speaking this not an act I take lightly. I like to believe there’s an unspoken spell that binds us not to revel in the memories of old unless they are tempered in the light of joy and grace. One can briefly crack a smile before we invest our focus in the riddles left unsolved. For years without knowing I started building an concrete timeline of fish caught and lost in the back of my mind. This timeline isn’t to be confused with a value of numbers. As fly fishermen we like to pride ourselves with the idea that it was never about the fish. As I address the elephant in the room, it really is. For some it is a numb out cry for approval, others it’s a couple of fish to hand that required a handful of fly changes. Either way when we get skunked there’s always an empty void left unfilled. The timeline was a way I could relive the triumph and tragedies I faced from a one day old fishing license to the expiration date. Funny thing about being a trout intoxicated addict (especially one that ties) is that we don’t view seasons like the rest of the sheep. For instance, when I start taking fish on big hopper patterns I begin to get very excited about chukar and hockey. For me the timeline holds little in the ways of “best yet” fish. Some of the all-star highlights are fish that were caught around a very interesting structure or a fish that had eluded you for the 3 past trips. Dishing out refusal after refusal, then you finally take enough hackle and hair off he says “Ya, that shit’s real.”

I always find myself relating fly fishing to music often, especially the tying facet. I remember when I began tying, it was so overwhelming to imagine one person would need so many flies. It wasn’t until I read AK Bests’ “Production Fly Tying” that l realized personal preference was the only way to look at it. I loved Metallica’s “And Justice For All”. It was still heavy, they were still pissed and it still made your hair stand up. To me I started looking at it like a stimulator was that albums equivalent where as “The Black Album” was an olive wooly bugger. There will always be those flies out there that you will just down right turn a nose to. Whether it’s because they’ve never caught you a fish or they float like a stone, we all begin to find a style. I would be comfortable saying it comes down to what you love. Can we sleep at night or weld under a hood for 10 hours thinking about a way to achieve our dreams that doesn’t meet a standard set by the passions we have in our hearts? We were born to dissolve the excess stimulus, it becomes a constant and we adjust our priorities to stand in front of the norm. Tying becomes a chore, from the point you stage materials to the whip finish after a couple dozen of the same patterns give or take a handful of hook size changes. You settle in, get right with your head and accept that you’ll endure repetition for the rest of your night. At that point the mind always drifts into a realm of “Is it worth it”. Mostly, if you’re a decent man this fly will be tied to a leader, on a line of a rod in the hands of someone who hasn’t casted it. Someone who needs this magic to seal and heal the damages of past and present. All the work you’ve done unfolds into a sloppy cast, full of drag and slack. The ace in hand is that you’ve done your homework and your fishing the easy water; water meant for mistakes and full of forgiveness. A small brookie rises and you find yourself staring at the face…not the fish. Once the release is finished you ask a very complicated question…”How did that feel?” What happens next will be the magic that fills your heart and makes those hours at the vice make sense. It makes it a necessity.

I’ve never found myself reaching out to fish with “Fishy” people. I just took friends fishing. Showed them a little slice of how beautiful it is to plug-in and plug out, leave as you arrived. We play a simple game, sometimes we win, sometimes we lose but if you decide to do this for the right reasons and with the right people you’ll always win. The memories made around a fire with some good people full of worth and passion will make the blank chess moves on the water dissolve. Take your hero shots and brand passion to the bank, find someone who’s in pain…..someone who needs to return to earth and watch the wonders at their feet shine in full color. We can not only be a decent angler but a great healer. Spread some love….

Post Script: Some featured in the photos below showed and taught me the magic. Whether it was inflow or outflow

dad hopper hat.jpg


frank spit.jpg

Jeffs first bow

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The dog days are here, and our cool mornings have faded along with the high water. The praised greenery slowy browning, each day looking more like the phosphorus tip of a match. The “honey do list” has compiled into full weekend affairs and I’m slowy getting back to a first name basis at Home Depot. Amazing how a simple gate demands 4 return trips, 1 grinder, 8 set screws and 12 beers to keep 3 dogs from the great escape. I’ve never held the heat in high regard, it clouds the mind, cuts into the cold silence that observation prospers in. The graceful purity of warm vapor tainting the cold morning and clouding the vision is replaced with a discomforting shotgun hit from a blow drier. These old injuries bark for a season’s transition back to the sore mornings and a cup of coffee that isn’t forced down before the sun crests the summit. 

fire place

In the full scheme of things I can’t find a single complaint about the fishing. The seemingly endless void of dwindling hope left by years of drought have been washed away by a solid “haymaker” of a winter. The reservoirs have steadly climbed to that sage brush where you once landed a decent rainbow and the rivers pumps oxygen back into gills that were waving the white flag. The chase is now all over the map, point the finger at a blue line and go! Each trip has a nestled thorn to it, the hope of a pull from a fish hitting his upper twenties or a day of slay in the wild gardens that still hold the free ones. The insatiable hunger mimics the heart and soul of why we started this in the first place. What was brought to life off the vise the night before, the standoff with a rattler an hour into his tan, picking the fox tails out of a dog’s paw too tired for the wrestle at the end of the day. All of these repetitious acts that still encompass the magic we feed on.

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In the beginning I was content enough to label it as fishing. Time being the fickle beast it is changes the way we perceive everything we’ve come to love. Do I think the term fishing really spells out what this means to me anymore? I recently spent a couple days on a healthy stretch of water that still intimidates the hell out of me. By no means does she let you get away with the petty mistakes. She rubs hard against your borders of frustration and self-denial. Her rough exterior only a small shade amongst her beautiful layers. She’s fruitful one morning, and will be cold as ice the next. Yes, I’m still referring to the river. The season’s outings had taken 2 tents to the grave, reducing them to a pile of faulty zippers and broken poles. The only tool of slumber still holding strong was an old cot purchased from the Army Salvation shop years ago. I went along with the idea that it would serve it’s purpose regardless of the elements I was subjected too. I vaguely remember awaking late one night, my mouth numb, suffering from the effect of too much beer and a lack of water from the days events. My eyes struggled to grant focus, I imagine a compiling effect from reasons likewise to the first. When all senses finally fell back into sync I laid in audience of the most imposing show of celestial architecture my sight had ever beared witness too. The kind of astral experience that cuts through a weighing thought, laying waste to the normality of our concious; streaming visuals of grander tee off into a mind riddled with thoughts pinned to the rear view. They call it fishing, I would say rather we call it escape.

Every run or night at the vise will inevitaibly reveal the clarity I need to stay ahead of the game. The mental scale of plus and minus is forged into a charity, a charity that dishes out reward in it’s most simplistic form; relief that the hurdles we face are merely an illusion of self restraint. The void collapses into the nether, engaging the prefrontal cortex and allowing light to be shed on the fear we’d rather not confront. The eyelids close, a soft breath escapes the lips, and I’m back to echoes of nature; a state of mind where for a sliver of time everything makes perfect sense. As a butterfly engages the two lane leading outta town it faces what one would think to be certain failure. It will erratically fly along it’s path from one white line to the other, ascending and descending in a forward motion, a kind of procrastinating fate our complex minds believe to be just a waste of time. What happens next is quite funny, the advancing vehicle squares up with the butterfly and it’s easy to accept their card is punched, yet they gracefully fall into that cup of resistance that takes them on a detour, over the hood into the rear vacuum of the jet stream. A point of recovery is met and they are tagged back into the original plan……..relief.

So arm your heart with self-worth….Yet prepare for sorrow and pain….Don’t let the fear eat you from inside….Wear your weaknesses with pride”

A Sense of Purpose

spinner dinner

A concerning, yet familiar state of mind has me running at an hour slumber should’ve already taken hold. It’s creeping fast on the witching hour as I lay awake riddled with anxiety. Hell bent on saving the world and keeping a good woman happy, all the while chipping at my selfish ego, barking for the chance to fuel up on stories of testosterone and the chase. Eyes peeled wide at the darkened outline of this old home; buried in it the decades of memories. Racing thoughts of the past have me painting pictures of a good man who’s head laid not far from where I lay my own. His hands hard as stone and a back as twisted as the old truck that still fires in the cold mornings of Nevada. I lay in envy of my imaginary role model and hope to wake the next morning feeling as though I’ve learned from an old soul who stories I’ll never hear. I count to 50, slowly the worry subsides, victory is awarded, sleep at last.

I guess it’s been 27 years on this rock now. 27 years of change. There’s a lot to be celebrated, best parents a guy could ask for and a loving brother. A handful of good dogs put to rest in this vast desert I call home. Their memory a immortalized stake sunken deep into the dirt of a good chukar spot. I recall growing up we were thrown to the gaunlet, myspace was firing on all cylinders, cell phones had their foot in the door, and you had to take a computers class in high school. Demographically speaking I could have easily ended up in a cubicle, crunching numbers on the 9 to 5. Luckily enough the leash came tight, tugging hard at the blue collar round my neck.

Years pass I find my way through the thick of it. Like all things though, a peak is reached. To find new ground we are forced to change yet again. Mine came to light one quiet night at a little chunk of land I used to call home. Simple little homestead forged right into the side of a beautiful backdrop. Old cars, refrigerators, and satellite dishes lined the horizon. Dusk accompanied the soothing sounds that only a 12 guage shotgun makes when trimming pesky Russian Olive limbs. The nights grew dark out there, enough to get my celestial fetish tickled. Only a couple lights could be seen from that porch, all dim, all weak. I imagine they didn’t want anything too bright or hot. Making meth has been known to be an explosive hobby. The lawn cold underneath my toes, a young basset hound hoping for a glimpse of the domestic rabbits hidden in the stack of firewood. Like most times when I’m left to my own devices, the mind began to sprint. She whispers (yes my conscious is a woman) “look, you did it….college, career, the luxuries of being a miner, you even had a girlfriend or 2 there for a minute. Why aren’t you happy? Why do you worry like the world is erupting under your feet? Why?” Minutes pass in silence, forcing away a quick thought of pity, I reflect. Any tree that plans on growing tall starts at the roots, it’s the source of life and support. Hunting, fishing, trapping….my roots. What happened? Why wasn’t that magic rolling my eyes into back of my head? The answer was simple, society has taught us to be so blind. I was corrupt, my ego inflated, druken weekends at the bar, a social network portraying my individuality through a meme. All of these materialistic ideas of who I thought I should be have sucked the roots dry. It was time, time I returned to what I loved before all this clouded my vision. 

The morning sun stretches through the tall pine trees surrounding camp. The biggest river I’ve ever laid eyes upon flows swift and strong just left of me, tumbling through rocks as old as time. Ospreys stalk the skinny water from their nest, waiting for breakfast to gamble fate. The smell of camp coffee breaks through the smalls holes in the tent, put there by the embers from the night before….a cold night before. There’s a magic that thrives in camp coffee, it’s purpose far from that of the 4a.m. cup at the start of shift. The weight of a moment held in the old mug from the bottom of it’s tote. I imagine she’s never been washed….I figure she’ll eventually have a seasoned edge to her.

I walk from camp to a sexy little cut behind a dead fall, a slight breeze stirs the pine in the valley. Everything as it should be, playing part in a cycle older than my fore fathers. Sliding off the bank, my head has cleared, only one thought seizes the borders of my concious. Can I still do this? Completely wristing a cast behind the dead fall, my offering finds it’s mark. Slighty bouncing upon the riffles, at the mercy of life itself, the water flowing beneath me acting as irrigation to the roots long forgotten. Time freezes, a wild trout pierces the surface, and sets the stage for the next 6 years.

We fall into the cycle, a constant flow of life. The mimicry of nature, our tools of salvation. The chase of wild fish and adventure seeks to pull our hearts into the state of complete euphoria. Mentors/friends accumulate along the path, like minds under a clause welded by the riffles and runs of these timeless rivers. We are the men and women of these waters, the breathing embodiment of life itself.

“You know it’s funny what’s happening to us. Our lives have become digital. Our friends now virtual, and everything you could ever want to know is only a click away. Experiencing the world through endless second hand information is not enough. If we want authencity we have to initiate it.” Travis Rice