Articles With the Tag . . . Memories

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 . . .

Patience vs Persistence

A good angler doesn’t need patience. He needs persistence.

I forget who said this to me, and for that I apologize. But the message has endured. It’s a guiding theme for me, not just on the water, but in everyday life. The distinction between the two states of patience and persistence is a maxim that carries over, well beyond the river.

In some ways they are opposites. Patience is waiting for something to happen. And persistence is making something happen.

Over time, patience has been pinned to fishing, as if the two go hand in hand. And I think that’s a mistake. It’s an attached stigma that doesn’t fit — not for Troutbitten anglers, anyway . . .

The shakes, and why we love big trout

. . When I hooked him, I felt a tremendous release of emotion. Satisfaction merged with adrenaline. My yearning for such a moment finally came to a close as the big wild brown trout slid onto the bank. I killed the trout with a sharp rap at the top of its skull, because that’s what I did back then. I knelt by the river to wet my creel, and when I placed the dead trout in the nylon bag, the full length of its tail stuck out from the top.

. . . Then I began to shake. The closing of anticipation washed over me. The fruition of learning and wondering for so many years left me in awe of the moment I’d waited for. I trembled as I sat back on my heels. With two knees in the mud of a favorite trout stream, I watched the water pass before me. I breathed. I thought about nothing and everything all at once. I felt calm inside even as I stared down at my wet, shaking hands.

. . .When a gust of wind pushed through the forest, I stirred. Finally my lengthy revery was passed, and I stood tall with my lungs full of a strong wind. Then I walked back to camp . . .

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...

Legendary

Legendary

Because I couldn't fight back the tears, I turned away. Because I'd never had a moment where I felt such immediate loss, I surrendered to the defeat. The emotion was too big for a ten year old boy, and I fell apart. — — — — — — Hours earlier . . . I walked behind Dad...

How It Started

How It Started

There was a small shop attached to the house where he tied flies and built fly rods. Everything was a mystery as I opened the screen door, but I recognize the smell of cedar once I walked in. I knew nothing about leaders, tippets, tapers or nymphs. I just knew I...

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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Winter Welcome Home

Winter Welcome Home

Author's Note: I first published this to Troutbitten in the winter of 2016. This past week I had a day so strikingly similar that I had to dig this one up. I edited a few things and added some pictures from the latest trip.  God, I love the winter. I slammed my...

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Respect the spots, man!  | A fisherman’s thoughts on friendship and spot burning

Respect the spots, man! | A fisherman’s thoughts on friendship and spot burning

There are two ways to tell the experience of an angler: how he holds a fish and how he keeps his secrets. The latter is probably more important.

My secrets aren’t your secrets. The places and dreams that I find sacred and worthy of protection are likely much different than your own. Among good friends, though, the respect for another’s treasure is given. It’s hard to find a good fishing partner who yields to this tenet — to find a friend who will protect your secrets like his own — because secrets are a burden to carry, and most choose to shed that weight and give up a prize that isn’t theirs.

So we come to accept that holding secrets is a lonely affair, and that’s okay for me and the other introverts — of which I think the majority of the fishermen’s gene pool is comprised. It’s the damned extroverts that you have to be wary of. It’s the gregarious guy whose off-hand remarks about a river can sink the best of spots.

As most of us quickly realize, good fishing friends are hard to come by . . .

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