The best fishing trips begin with a walk. When our boot laces are tied and the wader straps are buckled, a journey into the morning fog of the canyon begins. A good walk streamside clears the mind, releasing anxieties and the questions of a life left back at the truck — and beyond. Walking through the floodplain among sparse hemlocks and ferns fills us with hope. And it reaffirms our eager, innocent belief that today we’ll catch a legendary fish.
The walk is preparation. It is contemplation. It warms our blood and replaces every remaining chill with vigor. It loosens stiff limbs and stretches our legs. As each step lands on the soft ground we’re in touch with the earth below. We scan the forest and notice the details: mayfly wings in spiderwebs, watery starlings active streamside, a trio of rises at the tailout, and the dark shadow of a trout streaking away from the undercut bank as we pass above. These signs merge with our intuition, until eventually, something urges us to leave the borders of the bank and wade into the river to begin anew.
We wade for the feel of it, for the sensory return while we’re an active part of the river itself. Because we are in the water, we push waves and move currents. Wading a river places us inside the system that we love so much — what we long for and dream about for so long. What we have anticipated, now we are part of once again. Our boots touch the same rocks where trout reside. Our legs feel the swirl of currents that carry life to those trout — oxygen and food, all mixed and passing at varying speed. A timeless procession of resources in the flow, and we’re part of it all.
We wade for exhaustion and strength. These two states mix in our body. Because there is no satisfaction like having weary, river-worn legs while sitting in the easy chair back home, with visions of the river dancing in our short, vivid memory.
We wade for the challenge, for the endless surge of water against our body. It trickles over our boots in a skinny riffle. And it pushes against our hips as we cross pocket water. We challenge and cooperate with the river all at once.
We wade for the risk. Because we know that a misstep may wash away our balance and take us downstream. Whether the free ride is a few yards down current or around the next bend, we meet the possibility of a rightful soaking and feel alive for taking the chance.
We wade for the opportunity. Because careful positioning among the flow places us within perfect range of endless targets — and because those targets are seen in greater detail at these angles. Because refining our presentation and approach with subtle nuance is a joyful complexity to this game, accomplished only at this level. Because a fishing life is dedicated to the details. And discovering them deeply is best learned with our boots on the ground.
Wet and waterlogged, exhausted and weary, we wade extra miles and return through dim twilight. This is why we wade.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N