I tend to do what others don’t. It’s not for any defiance or bravado, either. And I’m not trying to prove anything. I just like going where most people don’t. And I like trying stuff that others won’t. Because when everyone is off doing one thing, I know I can have space by doing the other thing. I choose fishing locations based on this first fact. And I like the predictability of it all.
I like empty places.
Think about one of your favorite rivers — but pick one that everyone knows about. Think of a popular water that has a good reputation for being fishy. Got it in mind? Now, where will the anglers be tomorrow? Do you know the river well enough to make these predictions yet? If not, you will. After years of fishing trips, you’ll know the habits of fishermen on your river — you’ll forecast their daily and seasonal rhythms. And if you’re like me, you’ll make plans to do the opposite.
And so it was, yesterday morning, that I was on the water at 6:30 A.M, just after dawn. Because fishing at sunup is another way to do what others don’t. (Fishermen everywhere have trouble getting up in time to see the sunrise.)
For the stream that I had in mind, I knew the out-of-towners and first-timers would be in the paved lot, because everyone starts there. I did on my first visit to this water. You probably did too. Why wouldn’t you? Some of the locals would be in that same lot, for both the easy access and the social event that hangs around the prospect of Tricos. I say prospect, because it’s been a weird year for the little bugs. Despite that, there’s a group of dedicated, daily regulars out there. And I love it. But I love solitude more.
The part of my nature that’s been questioned as anti-social by some seems right at home among the introverted misfits of fly fishing. Strangely enough, being withdrawn is normal behavior in this world. Even when we do pass each other on a river, half the time no one says hello. And that’s perfectly fine with both parties. Yes, I think most of us appreciate a good dose of loneliness on the water. Don’t you?
You like the empty spaces.
You crave both the gurgle and roar of a river — the calm and chaos. And no matter what part of the riffle, run, pool sequence you wade into, the water makes you lighter. It suspends you a bit, lifting your deepest thoughts to the surface to ponder for a while. The contemplation in between casts is broken up by the occasional trout — frequent on the good days and less frequent on the slower ones. And those days are just as good — just in a different way. For as much as we strive toward perfection and completion out there, we’re humble enough to submit to the low fish count as a simple run of bad luck. Hell, we’ve seen even the most talented of our angling friends come up empty plenty of times.
I think this is what Robert Traver meant by “quietude and humility.” You can be gung-ho, season after season, with the fishing so fast and frequent that it’s easy to think that a full net is where the joy of fishing comes from. For a while, maybe it does.
But when all of that dries up, when the travel seems too long, when dawn comes too early and when chasing a bunch of foot-long trout seems like something you’ve already done, then what’s left — always — is the river. What draws you back is the alluring loneliness of standing against waves and water, until there’s only your thoughts — final and pure against the whispering backdrop of a canyon wind.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N