Articles With the Tag . . . Memories

The Secret

There are two kinds of secret places, I suppose: one’s that are truly tucked away somewhere unknown, and ones that lies right underneath a fisherman’s nose. This place harbors a little of both . . .

Aiden’s First Brown Trout

Hundreds of times Aiden has snagged the bottom, pulled the rod back, and either asked me if that was a fish or has told me flatly, “I think that was a fish.”  This time, he finally experienced the certainty that a couple of good head shakes from a trout will give you . . .

Sight and Feel

While all five senses blend together into the rich, unmatched experience of fishing through woods and water, only two are necessary for catching trout — sight and feel. These two senses combine to tell us a story about each drift. Some of our tactics require both, while others require just one. But take away both sight and feel, and the angler is lost . . .

Grandfather

He didn’t fish. He hunted. Wandering over wooded mountains, and whispering through the wheat fields, I followed my grandfather into a broken forest. We climbed over long oaks, and we scaled fallen hemlock trunks to reach the other side of a small stream. My footsteps fell into his. He walked slowly — much slower than a boy’s patience could match. And when my eagerness overtook me, Grandfather turned to force my pause. He leaned in and granted me this wisdom: “Slowly, child. Life’s secrets are in these trees.”

He was gone before my sons were born.

And now, when I enter these forests, these forgotten tramps, miles away from industry and deep inside shaded canyons, the wet moss absorbs my footfalls and silences the mental rush of an average life. These muted and hushed moments are given for remembering . . .

The shakes, and why we love big trout

The shakes, and why we love big trout

I was about thirteen when it first happened. Dad and I had fished all morning and afternoon before walking back to camp to meet my uncle. His weather-worn pop up camper sat thirty feet off a seldom used dirt road. It made us a home among the wet leaves from the...

The Walkout

The Walkout

The bank at the outside bend had briers and stiff brush at its border, and it took some time to poke my rod and leader through the maze. Tippet, forceps, nippers and more dangled from my vest and reached for the nearest branch, so I hugged them close to my chest,...

Searching Through the Margins

Searching Through the Margins

**Note**  This December 2014 story is revisited here. Enjoy. I guess I was about ten years old when I started pushing past the boundaries of my parents' twelve acres of hills and trees. I easily remember the day that I walked into the damp valley and past the tiny...

The I’ll just lay my rod here for a minute mistake

The I’ll just lay my rod here for a minute mistake

People do the same things. The instincts of fishermen find identical paths upstream through the river — watery trails lead to the best water with the greatest efficiency. You can easily see where everybody else fishes. And I guess the flies and tippet-tangles in...

Some days are diamonds — Some days are rocks

Some days are diamonds — Some days are rocks

Austin and I left at dawn. We crossed the wide river at a tailout and entered a dense forest of hemlock and sycamore trees. Walking through dew and morning shadows, we quietly moved downstream toward a favorite, brushy island section for one final fishing trip.

Austin graduated from Penn State a few days before our trip last week, and he’s moving to North Carolina next week. And while many farewells are accompanied by a sincere “I’ll be back soon,” neither of us were willing to tell each other that lie. Sure, life may bring Austin back sooner than later, or ten years from now I may be talking about a good friend whom I miss and haven’t seen for a decade. It’s hard to predict.

I like that. A good life is unpredictable. If you have enough lines in the water, something unexpected is bound to happen. We might label those events good or bad, but I for one am happy for the variety. I’m glad this life is full of surprises.

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Right Here

Right Here

I guess I’ve been searching for something.

For months now, I’ve spent my limited opportunities on the water fishing progressively more remote locations. Turning down offers to float and cast over abundant wild brown trout on our major rivers, I thought I was looking for solitude. What I’ve found is a companion so powerful it cannot be passed off as simple memory. It’s my own history, and I’ve felt it so presently that it seems at times my flat shadow may take form and rise from the leafy ground to start a conversation.

I’ve returned to the waters where I’ve been, to revisit not the fish, but the places in time. These memories are eminently tangible out there, without the clutter of accumulated things in my home, the garage or the grocery store to get in the way. A trout stream, miles removed from hard roads, and sunken into a valley beyond the distance of average effort, offers a peaceful reward and a natural, blank slate for anyone willing to seek it. And when thirty years have passed between visits, the reflections I’ve found in these old, familiar waters are astonishing.

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The Fisherman is Eternally Hopeful

The Fisherman is Eternally Hopeful

Rich had cancer, and it was spreading fast. We both knew this was our last trip together and that a dear friendship was coming to a close.

We fished a long morning, and eventually, I worked upstream toward my friend. From thirty yards, I could see the exhaustion in his face. Rich stood where a long riffle dumped into his favorite glassy pool. He breathed a long breath and gazed at the cloudy sky. Reeling in his line and breaking down his rod, he looked at me, and we smiled. We each knew we were at the end of something.

I was fishing a large parachute ant, moving quickly and covering a lot of water, as was my habit on Clover Run in those days. And in the right months it was a tactic that brought at least one chance to catch and release a really good fish. But on that morning I hadn’t caught much of anything, so I threw a couple careless, hopeless casts into the glide ahead of me as I waded the last thirty yards toward my friend.

“Put a few casts to that bank,” Rich said, and he gestured toward a shallow piece of side water next to the riffle where he was standing.

With not much cover on the bank for a trout, and with the sun poking through the clouds at midday, I didn’t have any hope.

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The Dirty Fisherman

The Dirty Fisherman

I walked around the bend and saw his blue truck, but I couldn’t see Gabe until the lean man sat up. He stretched and slid slowly off the tailgate, onto his feet and into his sandals. The climbing sun made the blue paint of his pickup bed too hot, and when the shadows were gone, the dirty fisherman’s rest was finished.

Gabe leaned back on the hot paint again and grabbed the duffel that he used for a pillow. The faded bag was stuffed with clothes: some stained, some clean, and most half-worn-out. He pulled a thin, long-sleeved shirt from the bag and changed, tossing his wet t-shirt toward a damp pile of gear by the truck tires. The long sleeves were his sunscreen; the beard protected his face; the frayed hat covered his head, and the amber sunglasses filled the gap in between.

Gabe was a trout bum. Not the shiny magazine-ad version of a trout bum either, but the true embodiment of John Geirach’s term: authentic, dirty, and dedicated to a lifestyle without even thinking much about it. He fished on his own terms. He was a part-time fishing guide for the family business and a part-time waiter. We never talked much about work, though. I just know that Gabe’s life was fishing, and everything else was a cursory, minor distraction.

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Back to Basics — Back to Buggers

Back to Basics — Back to Buggers

Bill texted me at 2:00 pm.

“How’s the fishing, and where should we meet?” he wrote.

The day was changing from a perfectly cloudy and drizzly cool day to a pure washout. More dark sky slid over the horizon as I hustled back to the truck. Patches of heavy rain were dumping buckets throughout the region. In a few hours the whole river would muddy completely.  Some sections were still fishable, but not for long.

Under the shadow of the rear hatch, I stashed wet gear into the truck and changed into a drier shirt as another SUV arrived from upstream and turned into the dirt pull-off. The side windows slid down, and I saw three fishermen inside.

“How’d you make out?” they asked. “Is it muddy down below too?” The driver gestured in the direction of the rising river, just out of site beyond the hemlocks.

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It’s Not the Same

It’s Not the Same

** Note: This February 2016 story is revised and revisited here today. Sawyer skidded the truck sideways a little and pulled the e-brake as we lurched to a stop in the fly shop parking lot. He looked at me and grinned. "Be right back," he yelled, and he jogged up the...

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