Monday, February 15

An Articulation Complex

There are a few themes that pop up without fail every time I sit down at the bench and try to fill my streamer boxes.

To start, there are too many bad ass patterns that trigger immediate indecision.  This creates a problem for an average tier like me.  I end up with one of every pattern, all tied like shit, that will never see the water because I have no faith in them.  It's not hard to lose a day watching Brian Wise spin up the newest, sickest critters...maybe it's the dub step that keeps me coming back for more. The second and perhaps more glaring issue that no one seems to talk about is materials.  I spend what I would consider to be a fair amount of money on fur, feathers, and synthetics, and never seem to have the right combination for the flies that I just HAVE to tie, which leaves me using substitutes.  My flies end up looking like some mismatched regurgitation that Kelly Galloup aborted early on in the design process.

We've all thought it, so let's not pretend that while tying a quadruple articulated Cluster Fuck tm you haven't at least entertained the idea that this new age streamer design has been set in motion by the material companies.  Give it a few years...the go to streamer will require 4 packages of rabbit strips, which of course will be in short supply by then if this trend continues.

The most challenging problem, at least for me, is the amount of time they take to tie.  Hear me out.  It's not that they are too time's that I  have too much time to think while tying.  I'll start out with an olive Drunk and Disorderly in mind, and by the time I'm done, I've mentally committed to tying an olive over brown, a brown over olive, half olive zonked and half brown, olive with brown mallard flank and brown with olive mallard flank, olive with a touch of chartreuse and chartreuse with a touch of olive, olive over white and white over olive, olive with copper flash, and olive with only olive flash, olive with only a brown head, brown with an olive head. The problem only compounds with every pattern and color combo, and inside of an hour I've decided I need 4,000 drunk and disorderlies just to be safe.  Then and only then can I move on to the slop mops, the skin heads, the sids, the pearl necklaces, sex dungeons, red rockets, double deceivers, the circus peanuts and peanut envies.  But wait...the maraceiver first.

As I tie, I'm generally cycling through a few of the following thoughts:

"has anyone ever caught a fish on a streamer"

"holy shit, this is going to catch a DONKEY"

"spinning and trimming deer hair is voodoo...I'm never doing it again"

"damn...when did I get so good at trimming deer ha- AW SHIT"

"this is uncharted territory here...guess who's about to hit the front page of every fly fishing publication known to man...street cred, here I come"

"I should probably stop this fly right here...It's getting the razor blade treament"

"maybe I'll just throw it in the never know"

"I think I'm going to share this on social media...this bad bitch would go viral"

"Streamers are for dip shits and people who don't know how to fish bugs"

"Bugs are for bitches, streamers are the only way to go"

"I should just buy a Rapala...or is it RAPala...raPALa...?"

"I just dropped $150 on material...where did it was right here a few nights ago"

"I'm only going to fish and tie Galloup's patterns this year"

"I'm only going to fish and tie Andreas Andersson's stuff this there's a guy that knows what he's doing...not like that Galloup joker."

"I'm only going to tie Mike Schmidt's stuff this year...he seems like a solid dude and I need to simplify"

"I should be a streamer designer.  I think I'm only going to fish my stuff this year."

While I'm on this tangent I may as well add that, although I love it just as much as the next person and use it religiously, the circus peanut is literally just a double woolly bugger with estaz wrapped eyes (or a dubbing loop if you're feeling crazy).

It's quite possible that the real problem with streamers is the time they take to tie.  In the 20 to 60 minutes it spends in my vice, any given streamer may be involuntarily committed to the catching of 3 or 4 fish, 12 chases, and hooking into at least one true legend which escapes description.  This fish of legend destined, in time, to meet the streamer and replace the jaws of my vice with it's own.  It's never routinely landed in my imaginings, although often times its sheer size is witnessed and noted by whomever else occupies the imaginary river that flows through my vice and spills out onto the material trimmings and unspun hope that fills my bench.

Chase contentment
Chase trout
Tie Junk


Monday, December 7

My comprehensive fishing report which includes: locations, flies used, and what holes the fish are hiding in!

     I set out yesterday with one thing in mind...nymphing.  I do it a few times a year.  Probably a half-hearted attempt at becoming a more well rounded angler.   Every fall/winter I get to the point where I haven't caught a fish in so long that I'm willing to try anything...anything.  I made it a little longer than normal...about 30 minutes.  After that I tied a weighted streamer to my floating line and finished the afternoon out with exactly zero fish to hand.  On the bright side, it was 46 degrees, which meant most of me was toasty warm.  The downside is that now both feet in my waders leak, as well as the crotch. I should have gotten out of the river a little sooner...there was a painful thawing of toes on the drive home.  At this point, my waders are more aqua seal than anything else, but my wife's newest rebuttal when it comes to shelling out $300-$400 for new ones that I need (not want) is that...if broken down...costs "MORE THAN A DOLLAR A DAY FOR A YEAR...JUST FOR FISHING."  That's a new one on me, so we'll see where I get.

If I could draw your attention to the lack of ice in the guides  Fish or no fish, it was a good day...leaky waders and all.

Saturday, December 5

Found Wanting

     When I was a boy, probably 10, my grandpa gave me a fly rod.  Well, kind of.  He gave me half of a fly rod.  The other half had been lost on the way out of a god forsaken swamp somewhere in the middle of nowhere, never to be seen again.  To fix this, he had fashioned the top half of an old spinning rod to take the errant half's place.  It would have been fine with me if it wasn't for how beautiful a crimson color the blank was. I spent way to much time imagining how grand a rod it would have been were it whole again.  To accompany the rod, he gave me a reel and some fly line with a leader on the end.  This was also fine...except the reel was one of those automatic ones, which was a new concept to me, and really something...when it decided to work.  To practice casting, he tied on one of those rings that come off of the lid from a gallon of milk and I was off to the races.

If my memory serves me correctly, I can almost see the VHS of a fly casting demonstration, but of that I'm not 100% certain.  It feels familiar though.  If you've never tried to cast a half fly rod/half spinning rod combo I'd suggest that you ought to.  If you can throw a decent loop with that I'd be willing to bet you can out cast just about anyone.  Needless to say, I couldn't quite make it sing, and not for lack of trying.  To add to the frustration the concept of leader/tippet was foreign, so as soon as I had caught enough trees and retied enough times to eat up the leader, a straight mono leader was my answer.

I gave it a hell of a go, and even brought it along to the headwaters of one of the trout streams my dad and I frequented at the time.  I remember the excitement when a few small fish, chubs no doubt, chased the fly around the top of the water for the first time.  The problem was the trees...the god damned trees.  It didn't take long to realize that a spinning rod was a far superior method for the time least if you want to catch fish.  If you want to have fun in the backyard, a fly rod may be the right choice, but that was about it.

Fast forward a year, maybe two, and my dad and I started spending time in the U.P...together.  It started at a spot he used to camp while bear hunting.  A smallish campground...5 or 6 spots, with a water pump and later a pretty decent porta potty set up.  Our first several trips up were normally spent exploring water...canoes, float tubes, and eventually as the spots were narrowed down, just wading.  I was able to stay interested in fishing for about the average time for a kid my age, a few hours.  After that, throwing stuff in the water, speeding down the runs, and eating snacks kept me entertained.

The more we fished the more I began to realize that I was probably being treated a little differently than most kids and I didn't want that to change.  I had freedom.  If you've ever fished with my dad it wouldn't take you long to learn that he regards fishing as something best done with someone, alone. You should arrive together, work out a game plan together, go your separate ways, then talk about how the fishing was when it's all said and done. My dad and I may enter the river at the same spot, but he's going to fish up, and me down...or maybe he'll walk upstream a good clip and fish down to me.   Either way, I was given adventure with a sense of security.  I fished in the knowledge that he may be around the next bend, or might be waiting at the truck when I was all finished for the day. We fished together, alone.  A unique concept that I'm at a loss to explain, yet seems to have etched deep, defining consequences somewhere on the permanent version of myself.

My dad always had a coffee cup in the truck.  Naturally, as my father's son, so did I.  Mine normally held pop or water, but it was the idea that counted.  Imagination is a gift I was cursed with, so it wasn't uncommon for me to work my mind into a frenzy if my dad wasn't back to the truck "on time". If he wasn't around the bend that I thought he should have been...panic.  I'm 30...this curse still haunts me.  This day was no different.  I had never been to this section of river before and didn't quite realize that I had taken the wrong fork.  When my dad said "I'll be upstream", there's not much that can be screwed up.  After what felt like hours and miles of heading upstream, and was probably more like minutes and yards, I decided I had best go wait at the truck.  Eventually no doubt, in my terrified young mind, I would have to walk to the nearest house as darkness set in, to report his disappearance or abduction.

After a few lifetimes of waiting, my dad's head popped out of the trees...instant relief followed closely by embarrassment of yet another unnecessary, imagined crisis.  As the situation was cleared up I decided to take a quick look at the forks that I had somehow missed on the way up while my dad took his waders off.

When I got back in the truck that day...this day...for the second time, still basking in the elation that is "life as I know it"...that is to say that the status-quo of my life had not changed in a significant way as I had feared, I grabbed my coffee cup...the one with the Colorado Avalanche logo on it...the one with the lid that never seemed to close right...and took a hearty swig...and promptly spit it across the dash as I yelled in disgust.  "Oh shit" was my dad's explanation. As I ripped off the lid, the lingering flavor in my mouth already told the story.  We used to keep fish...most fish...and there were two brook trout in my cup.  The flimsy excuse of not having a cooler and the badly hooked fish did little to ease the sting.

One of the things that strikes me most about these early trips to the U.P. was, on at least two occasions, my grandfather was able to come. He didn't necessarily fish the entire time, but he was there.  At breakfast, for a little while with a rod in his hand, and around the campfire that night.  As a kid, the passage of time doesn't mean a whole lot.  I'm not sure at what age I stopped hearing people say "you have your whole life ahead of you" but I can tell you without question, that I don't hear it anymore.  If I would have known...maybe appreciated the fact that never, as an adult, would my grandpa accompany me on a fishing trip...exploratory mission...or just an afternoon on the river, I would have...what?  I don't know, taken more pictures?  Watched his every cast?  Cherished those moments even more?  Maybe.  What I do know is that the idea of knowing when something good...something once in a lifetime is coming to an end, the idea of knowing it will be coming to an end seems incredibly important.  It seems to make the idea of that thing disappearing easier to swallow.  My guess is, in reality, it doesn't.  Ask any widow whose watched as Alzheimer's...or cancer...ripped their world apart.  It creates a new set of problems.  Is it really better to know that this may be the last conversation you'll ever have with someone or to carry on in ignorance?  Is it better to know that this may be the last time your child will ever fall asleep in your arms, forever to old to rock to sleep. The last bed time story you'll read.  The last time your dog will ever point a bird...better to know that this is the last campfire you'll ever share with both your dad and his dad...or to convince yourself that time isn't real...that good things do come to an end, but not today...not this day. Soldier on in the belief that things don't change, and when you need him, your dad will be waiting around the next bend, or just over that ridge at the truck.

Wednesday, May 13

River Temperature Beer and Bugs

I haven't really had time to write, or at least made time to write.  Instead here's a list of reasons I am chronically and hopelessly addicted to chasing bugs:

-it's not nymphing

-checking the weather and barometer every 10 minutes during the day's not nymphing

-hastily tying a few more patterns before I head out for the night

-the elation of finding bugs...followed by the devastation of watching them disappear into the trees

-sitting on the bank for an hour or two by myself, eyes to the sky.

-sitting on the bank for an hour or two with someone else of questionable sanity, talking about
 nothing and everything.

-the chance to catch fish above my skill level

-river temperature beer

-the assumption that yes, I'm going fishing tonight unless otherwise explicitly stated

-peppermint schnapps out of a flask

-the regret of drinking peppermint schnapps

-swearing to never drink peppermint schnapps on the river again

-an extreme lack of focus at work characterized by minutes of actual work, 10 minutes of reading and planning for the night, 2 minutes of work, an hour of reading and planning for the night...

-trying to catch suspended mayflies when they refuse to fall to the river

-deciding to become an entomologist

-deciding that I really don't care what the exact bugs are, I should just do my best to imitate them.  All  you need is an Adams or Borchers, really...right?

-deciding that I HAVE to know what the exact bugs are if I am to catch a fish.  Amateurs use Adams

-mousing or throwing streamers back to the Jeep if the bugs don't show up...sometimes...but mostly  giving up on them...because it's DRY FLY SEASON DAMN IT

-showing up at the river, even when you know conditions aren't right...because just maybe

-the unexplainable feelings that accompany seeing that first bug on the water

-wondering if you picked the right stretch of river

-changing locations, only to go back to the original spot after 15 minutes at the new spot

-wondering if mayflies taste good

-not casting to the little fish, or even the bigger fish, because you have become such a snobby douche...normally this phenomenon happens later in the bug season

-the inability to hold a normal conversation

-immediately becoming suspicious of anyone who asks if you've "been fishing much" or dares to ask "how the fishing's been."

-an eventual immunity to mosquitoes and the ability to tie a flawless knot regardless of the fact that there are 100 mosquitos per square inch on your hands.

-being able to fish every night without the guilt of missing out on time with the kids because they are already in bed.

-missing out on time with the kids because...based on temps/river conditions/barometric pressure/moon phase/water temps/farmers almanac/an old man's whisperings/gut feelings/male to female bug ratio...what if the bugs fall early?!?!  I should check the barometer again.

-questioning my sanity becomes a regular thing

-having days or even weeks go by without seeing a single fish rise

-spending countless hours on the river for what often times amounts to a 10 minute fishing window

-promising to try a new spot, only to find myself parked at THE spot later that night

-deciding to take tomorrow night off and finding myself on the river...again

-carrying bear spray after close encounters and being pretty certain that it will just make you taste  better

-knowing the local beavers by name

-driving as fast as possible to the I have longer to wait

Not infrequently I have to ask myself if this kind of behavior is I losing my last tenuous grip on reality?

There's a good chance, had I decided to put this effort into med school, I'd be a doctor by now, but who wants those kind of hours!

Chase contentment, chase bugs


Monday, March 23

On Time

Fleeting, fickle, and deceiving.

I struggle silently with many things, we all do.  For me, the focal point seems to stay the same: time. Eventually we will all succumb to it, but not before having been molded into a thousand different versions of ourselves.  Sometimes the change is immediate and lasting, oftentimes for the better but not always.  Sometimes the change is gradual, going unnoticed until we take stock in who we've been, who we are now, and just how far we've come.

There's not enough, there's too much.  I can't seem to strike a balance or reach an accord.  I don't get to see the kids it seriously not their bedtime yet?   I haven't fished in weeks...I should probably leave the river and get to know my family again.   Have I really been reading this same book for 2 months...I started this god damned book yesterday, I need more!  I'll visit my aunt next month...I wish I would've taken the time to drop by.

We are nearing trout opener and I'm nearing my 30th birthday.  It's been a seemingly long winter, bitter cold, unforgiving.   My first 30 years have been tenuous at best.  On a good day I was a poor decision maker...on a bad day, I had to put that "one phone call" to damn good use.  My late teens and early twenties were a battleground.   Later, a new father trying to reconcile a sense of wild invincibility with responsibility.   Not an easy task, nor one that I've found success after the first try. Or second.  Or countless others.  When I look back at the last 6, almost 7 years of being a father, humility is what comes to mind. I've learned more about myself through the eyes of my 2 children than I did in the first 25 years without them.

On the hunt for early chrome

I don't necessarily care about being "30", nor do I necessarily care about "trout opener"...I fish for trout all year.  But they are both torch holders for the same monster, the same sirens call.  Both ominously indicative of the same plague, the same good fortune that befalls us all...time.  They are both a mile marker on my hasty, clumsy journey I will never quite understand.

Contentment? I love to tell myself that my ultimate goal is be truly satisfied. And often times, I am. Is it often enough?

I approach my symbolic 30th like I approach the symbolic trout opener. With the unvoiced, reluctant hope that I will find what I'm looking for. That place where reality and a trout stream collide. And if I plan it just right...a setting sun, a rising trout, and a contented heart.

                                                 Aubri and her "Papa" headed to the river

 Chase contentment, chase trout.

 -Ian Bancroft

Sunday, February 22

Opinions are Like Ice Holes

     Today was the day.  It was now or never.  Get out and fish, or continue to wait for the weather to turn.  It had to be done.  I could have stayed at home sulking again, maybe tried to write about cabin fever or something, but I've already read some pretty sweet write ups on the subject and I don't really think I could capture the feelings any better than has already been done. I could have tried to tweak some fly patterns for the thousandth time or finished my hex patterns for the year, but my last calf tail was eaten by the dog and I haven't made it to the fly shop yet.  I could have re-organized my boxes, or cleaned my tying bench...again... or read another book about the pursuits of a trout bum, but instead I said yes to the invite.

Fly fishing in itself has made me a different person, a better person, but there are a few bad qualities that is has drawn out of the closet and shed some light on.  As it turns out, I kind of enjoy snubbing my nose at "lesser" or more base forms of fishing, such as, but not limited to:  anything involving fish but not a fly rod.

Ice fishing is sort of like when the best looking girl at the bar FINALLY comes to talk to you, but only to ask if you'd like to dance with her frigid, ugly sister.  It's ok if you're several drinks in, but you certainly don't want your friends to see you doing it, much less sober, and aren't going to tell anyone about it.  That said, when you have an itch you have to scratch it, and when it boils down to it I'd rather have a jigging rod in my hand than no rod at all.

Alex is an old school ice-aholic. (You can tell by the picture) In the last few years he has seen the light and been saved by the grace of Trutta and Fontinalis, but he still spends most of his winter, when possible, on the ice.  By the time I got to his house the thermometer was already reading 8 degrees.  Balmy.  I wish I could say I have some cool ice fishing, snowboarding, or snowmobiling gear, but alas, I could be seen wearing my old school puffy black snow pants.  The kind that feel more like plastic bags when you're actually putting them to the test out on the frozen tundra of a northern MI lake.  The snowmobile ride out was pretty quick, but I could already tell that I may not be quite as tough as I'd like to think.  After drilling the first few holes my nostrils were frozen shut and I couldn't have closed my eyes if I wanted to.  It should be noted that Alex is a tough bastard who probably wouldn't admit he was cold even as he drew his last hypothermic breath.  He works outside all winter long, currently on the shores of Lake Michigan. The wind picked up, temps dropped, and we were both in silent agreement that we would spend the afternoon tucked away in the portable shanty, to hell with checking flags and freezing fingers.

I have a few rules about ice fishing.  I'd buy the minnows this time as long as he doesn't EVER bring it up in conversation, especially not within 20 miles of a trout stream.  Secondly, any brown trout caught through the ice immediately loses 50% of it's length for the purpose of bragging rights and should never be brought up during talks of browns caught honestly on a fly rod.  Any legal walleye (I think 14 inches) are all the same.  A 12 pounder holds as much "weight" as a one pounder.   I haven't developed a rule for perch just yet, but I'll get there.

At this point, I should probably back track and admit that I had a hell of a lot of fun. We didn't catch a single fish, it got as cold as -4, I thought I would cry when my fingers thawed out, but it was exactly what I needed.  5 hours talking about this spring's streamer trips, the hendricksons that would follow, drakes, hex, way too much mousing, a few U.P. trips, a few beaver dams, and a brook trout lake or two, while having a few beers can do wonders for your mental stability.  Being cooped up for so long can take it's toll but the beauty of living in  Northern Michigan is that the winters bring a sense of urgency to the short spring, summer, and fall.

Chase Contentment, chase trout (if you can find moving water), and fish on!


Monday, January 26

A grinding halt

    If  stretch my mind a bit, I can vaguely remember a time or two sneaking around late at night with my dad.  We were in the old truck, a brown Ford Ranger, the one I rolled 2 weeks after I got my drivers license.  The one with a giant plow frame that never seemed like it belonged there.   The cab smelled like him.  There was always an old peanut butter jar, washed, then filled with chocolate and other candy for "emergencies".

The late night run was for my great uncle.  He was terminally ill with little to no time left.  I wasn't sure what we were doing at the time, but we would stop at the store first, the one that had the bottles in the back.  My dad would pull in the driveway and leave the brown paper bag outside, near the basement window.  I'm not sure if he hid it under some leaves, or left it out in the open. I don't know if it was a time sensitive mission or an "I'll drop it off one night this week" sort of thing.

I don't remember exactly how my dad explained to me what we were doing, but if he were to explain it now I'd imagine it would go something like this:

Life is complicated.  It's not black and white, and people don't always agree on what is right. Life is short...but it doesn't feel that way until it's too late.  

Eventually...we will all meet our end.  Nowadays it is rare to meet your end with the dignity we all had imagined we would take our last breath with.  Loss of mind, loss of body, loss of control...a complete and utter decimation of the person we used to see in the mirror.  This man deserves a god damned drink if he wants one, and that's what he's going to get.

My dad provided reprieve.  A simple pleasure to ease suffering, and for that I am proud.

My aunt passed away a few days ago, and my heart aches for my mother.  When I was a kid my aunt lived across the continent.  One of my first memories of her was dropping her off at the airport with my mom.  Everything seemed fine. My mom bought me a can of mini coke at the Canadian airport cafeteria.  I remember because it was the first time I had seen a miniature can. It wasn't until we were in the car that my mom let her tears fall.  Being a kid, I had to ask why she was didn't make sense. When a continent separates you, visits are few and far between, and always too short.  Time was never on their side.

Today while writing this I got a phone call from a client.  A newly discovered lump, desperation and disbelief in her voice. Yesterday she was just like me, just like us...oblivious.  Today, life has taken a decisive turn, a more ominous urgency rather than casual certainty.

I saw a client at the grocery store...not an hour after getting off the phone.  After the normal pleasantries he informed me that his wife was in hospice care.  She was at home, but her lungs were failing and that it wouldn't be long.  I didn't know what to say.  I never do.  What are you supposed to say?  I heard myself blurting out how sorry I was before I could help it, but what I really wanted to do was give him a hug, lie to him, and tell him it would be OK.  Tell him that eventually the sting would lesson and life would once again appear normal without her.  It just so happens that this man possesses more grace than I could ever pretend to have, and his response of "it's ok...this is part of life" was almost too much to handle.  His face.  His god damned face. His wife.  His god damned wife.  We all make this deal...but it's not really a deal.  It is a mutually exclusive relationship, life and death.

One of my greatest fears is that as I lay on my death bed I will be haunted by my decisions.  Not the little decisions, but the ones that matter.  Have I been myself?  Have I let anyone know who I am?  Do my kids know me, does my wife know me?  So much time wasted on trivial things, too many harsh words, not enough patience.  To many "I can'ts" and "too busys"  and not enough "why the hell nots".

My grandpa is sitting in a nursing home as I write this.  He's been there about two weeks.  Of all the people I've known, he may be the grumpiest.  He also happens to be one of the quickest people to tell a joke, embellish  a story, or try to get a smile.  In all the years I've fished with my grandpa, I don't think I ever saw him once catch a fish on a fly rod.  He was the first in our family to pick one up, and may have been throwing dry flies at salmon for all I know...but he never gave it up, never complained that the fish weren't biting, and never resorted back to his spinning rod.

I took my son in with me to see him the other day.  Within minutes he was sharing one of the coolest stories I think I have ever heard.  How much of it is true, I don't know, but I choose to believe it all.  I will do a poor recording of the events here:

The person he was sharing a room with at the hospital the week previous was "a goofy bastard....nice...but different."  It was about the second night there that they hatched the plan.  "Want to blow this joint with me tonight?"  the roommate asked.  "Damn straight." my grandpa grunted.  They set an alarm, 2 am sharp.  Their bags were packed and they were primed.  My grandpa had a car but no license, the roommate had a license but no car...a  match made in heaven.  My grandpa was awoken that night by the roommate, "still comin'?" and they "crept" out of the room and down the hallway.  They made it about as far as the nurse's station where they were inevitably stopped.  "What in the hell do you guys think you're doing?"  they were asked.  "It's time for us to go" was the reply.  "We're going to have to call security if you don't get back to your room" the nurse replied.  "I don't give a good god damn if you call the National Guard, we're getting out of here!"  A battle cry.
  Eventually, after enough threats, the roommate was convinced to head back, so my grandpa was left with little to no choice but to retreat as well.

I couldn't stop least at first.  Later, I couldn't get it out of my head.
Relentless, determined, single-minded and unwavering...disheartened, defeated, crushed...despair. Too many feelings.  Fleeting and temporary, the body betrays the mind.  Even more devastating to watch, the mind betrays the body...and there you are.  

Chase contentment, chase trout, but don't wait.


Tuesday, December 16

Chasing Unicorns

The garbage cans were out by the mail box, emptied, when I pulled back in the driveway this afternoon.  That must mean today is Tuesday. I don't seem to recall dragging them to the road yesterday. This time of year lags...and it's only December.

Today may have been the last "warm" day of the winter, so I had to skip out on work this morning and hit the river for a few hours.  I changed my plan last minute, afraid the road to the spot I really wanted to go would be washed out with the rain we've gotten recently combined with the snow on the ground.  The car thermometer read 37 when I got to the river...t-shirt weather.  The water wasn't as high as I had expected, and the rain was spotty for the moment. Perfect morning  to spend a few hours fishing.

Winter fishing for me is simply a form of life support.  I plan on catching exactly zero fish and almost always succeed in that endeavor.  I still hold out hope, I always do, but more reminiscent of the type of hope that I may see Sasquatch or glimpse a unicorn than an honest's a hope lacking in anticipation I think. though...was no different.  HOWEVER...I moved three fish.  THREE FISH in only a few hours. They were between 16 and 20 inches or so, and very well could have been steelhead.  Since this is my story, we'll call them browns...because that's what they were, browns.

I didn't really move 3 fish. The second fish I managed to move twice.  The second time he came out to play I was so sure of the impending hook up that I had worked out how to land him, where to take the picture, and what I would tell my grand kids about my rare winter fish, all in the split second it took him to change his mind and retreat back to his hold, taking my heart with him.  SHIT!

I was drenched and 37 degrees in the pouring rain feels more like 17.  I deserved that fish, I earned that fish!  Then it happened.  A hook up.  FISH ON.  I'm not really a "woo hoo'er" but I woo hoo'd. Out loud.  I played the fish for about 5 seconds, 5 drama filled seconds that bordered on eternity until I came to a horrible realization.  I was fighting a stick.  No fish.  How did I not know it was a snag?  My brain is a powerful weapon capable of cruel tricks, but on a positive note, it's also capable of some pretty decent delusions.  A half day fishing combined with a half day working kind of feels more like a whole day fishing.  Work doesn't seem quite so real, quite so serious, and the lingering image of a few fish from this morning are enough to take up most of my thoughts for the afternoon.

Chase contentment, chase trout, and fish on!


Wednesday, December 3

The master list: this year's Christmas wants and new year's resolutions

I've decided to do a list of what I'd like for Christmas, mixed in with a few new year's resolutions.

First a few disclaimers:  it goes with out saying that of course I'd like my family to be happy/healthy, world peace, and all of those other feel good things that are obvious.  So here it is, the real list, the master list:

I'd like to never talk politics again.  Or be forced to listen to other people talk politics.

In fact, let's eliminate small talk all together.  I don't care what you heard about the weather, or what you think about the school system, you don't care what my kids have been up to.  Agreed?  Maybe I'm just an introverted asshole and should work on my people skills.

I'd prefer to never step foot in a wal-mart again.

Some of those Steelhead Gloves from Kast.  I've never found a happy medium when it comes to gloves for winter fishing...maybe the problem is that I haven't bought an $80 pair yet, but alas, that will probably never happen.

A sign for everyone that prefers to do 100% of the talking during a conversation.  It would just make it a hell of a lot easier...that way I could just walk away.  They wouldn't even notice.

A drift boat.  What brand you ask...I don't give a shit.  Does it float?

I'll need a trailer to go along with the boat...and a trailer hitch for a Jeep compass.

One day, I'd like to have a best friend with a plow truck.  All of the benefits, none of the hassle.  I'd just take him fishing in my drift boat as repayment.

A $5.00 spool of amnesia, 25lb test, so I can bang junk in the Cheboygan river...and cry myself to sleep at night.

Also, someone to tie my egg flies for me.  I'm not sure what it is but I've never been fond of tying eggs.

I'd like 2 spare spools for my Allen reel.  I should have bought them a long time ago.  Why didn't I?  I'm to lazy to change out the sinking line for the floating...half the time I just convince myself I was going to throw streamers anyhow.

It'd be cool if Allen finally sent me my replacement rod for the one I September...but the loaner is working out ok.  I guess the replacement hasn't been released yet, I don't know.  Also, I broke the first loaner they sent me so they had to send another one, so all in all I'd say they're being pretty cool.

A replacement top half for my Redington Classic Trout that was inadvertently launched across the river into the great abyss... but I think I'm going to buy a Mystic rod to replace that one anyhow.

I know this is counter intuitive to me writing a blog, but I'm getting pretty god damned sick of reading the same fly fishing articles over and over. Social media doesn't help. Let's get some new shit this year!  Although, I found one of my grandpa's old fly fishing magazines...this thing was from the late 80's...guess what it talked about?  I don't hold out much hope.

I'd like to be nicotine free in 2015...except for hex season.  That doesn't count.  Oh, and my U.P. trip, that doesn't count either.

I'd like to spend a few minutes in a room where everyone wasn't vying to be the smartest person there.  We could just admit most of use are dumb.

I'd like to get my wife onto some really nice trout...maybe that's not it...maybe I'd like to be able to have her experience some of the emotional subtleties of fly fishing.  Yeah.  To watch the sunset as you cast to the last rising trout during a small hatch of drakes.   Bingo.

I'd be ok with another horrendous winter.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not a big fan, but last winter made for some ridiculous fishing this spring and summer!

I'd like a winter supply of Oberon.  Not for everyone, just for me.  I don't want to ruin the appeal, but a few months of the stuff isn't long enough.

I'd like to stop rushing.  I'm not sure why I rush, I don't really have that important of a life, but I'm always in a hurry.  I'd like to slow down, take a breath.

I'm going to throw in a custom bamboo rod for good measure.  I'd be too scared to fish it though.

I'd like to spend a week without the kids.  Perhaps even just a weekend.  I love those kids, but I'd really like to get away...from them...or stay in...just without them here.  It'd give me a chance to miss them!  That might make me a bad person, I don't know.

And I'd like to get out and FISH!  I spend half of the winter planning on going out, the other half telling myself it's way too cold.

There should be no snow on the ground by this weekend so the good spots should be accessible!  Maybe I'll see you out there...hopefully not though.

Have an amazing Christmas, keep your sanity, tie up some eggs for me, and fish on!


Wednesday, October 29

Alibis and Addictions

       It's a blessing and a curse...having the "fishing gene" as a friend calls it.  I have an unrest, there's something not right with me.   If I haven't been on the river in a while, people around me start to notice.  I can feel it right now.  It's been about two weeks.  Two weeks since I've stepped into a trout stream, two weeks since I've connected.  Not with a fish necessarily but with myself.  Connection with a fish is a bonus. Maybe it's why I haven't written much in the past month. I think fishing gives my life cohesion, allows it to have a natural ebb and flow.  Without it I spend way to much time with a 1,000 yard stare, trying to be somewhere else, conjuring up a new existential crisis.  

Trout are my scape goat, my alibi.  I think.  Maybe that's why I have no real desire to keep a trout.  Trout have no dog in this fight, in fact they'd prefer if I wasn't there.  But I use them.  I use them to transport me.  To occupy my time, thought, feeling, and energy that would normally be devoted to such worldly things like:  bills, work, workplace drama, relationship drama, yard work, the leaking faucet, the strange noise coming from the Jeep, and the time bomb that is my septic system.

I use them.  Why else would a seemingly normal person spend every night not spent on the river in a space dedicated to the sole purpose of spinning falsifications of fur and feather designed for deception.  Designed to fool my excuse. It makes me wonder which one of us is being fooled.

       I've recently learned that it's easier for me if I get a clean break from fishing.  If I go a long period of time (generally 14-21 days) without fishing, I can begin to function as a normal person towards the end of it.  Here's my problem, my plight, my predicament:  if I fish once a week, the other 6 days are spent planning when I can get out next, maneuvering schedules and sidestepping responsibilities to try to make it happen.  This time of year presents a problem...I can only manage to get out about once every week, sometimes less.  It's not enough.  I should quit cold turkey and get the withdrawals over with .  When November hits I should clean and stash my stuff like a normal person...but I can't.  For the same reason (kind of) I've never really been able to quit nicotine.  I've quit smoking and used nicotine lozenges for four years, only to trade those for cigarettes and lozenges, back to just lozenges, and currently no lozenges but a pipe.  On a side note, I have to admit that smoking a pipe while tying flies feels ultra anti-authoritarian and hip.  Maybe I will try to get into scotch to round out the experience, but for now cheap whiskey will suffice.

Tying flies does help with the sting a  little bit though, gives me a reprieve from my insanity.  I tie differently in the fall/winter than the rest of the year.  Gone are the feverish sessions at the vice during the peak fishing season tweaking patterns, adjusting wing size, sparser hackle, slimmer profile, adding this, taking away that; sneaking a few flies in whenever I can if I'm not on the river.  The "off" season yields a much more calculated approach to tying.  I generally start with some sort of scribbled list of flies I'll need for next year.  I normally tie in the same order that the hatches occur, so first comes bwo's, hennies, then drakes, hex, isos, ephorons, terrestrials, etc. (streamers get thrown in somewhere in the mix, normally when I need a break from being so precise, and I never really stop tying mice patterns, just take week long breaks)

       I'm not quite sure why, but I always tie about 30-60 of each pattern, even though I know 3 days into the hatch next year I will deem the entire batch unworthy, and only fish with the flies I've tied right before leaping into the Jeep on the way to the river that very night.  Maybe that's weird, maybe not. I think it has to do with being tuned into the hatch.  You see, when you're in the zone you have to recognize it, and when you've been standing on a river every night chasing bugs and fish, you get tuned in to what they look like on the water, exact size, how they move, etc., and no amount of pictures or reading will ever compare to being in this "hatch zone" mindset.  I guess what I'm saying is, in my mind, those hastily tied patterns, whipped up in a blur before speeding off to the river, even if virtually identical to the winter tied patterns, are just better.  There's is something different about them, an unidentifiable, intangible quality that makes them superior.  Maybe it's that they haven't been "factory tied" by a fly fisherman in the depths of winter withdrawals, but rather by an all too excitable junky in the deepest thralls of his addiction...someone who is simultaneously at the top of his game yet out of his mind.  Deranged but astute and precise.

Over time, I've stopped using traditional dry fly patterns so to speak.  I guess what I mean is, I no longer google "gray drake pattern" and read everything there is to know about what patterns people like and use. I generally read more about gray drakes themselves and spend time looking at the bug and design my own pattern that way.  This does a few things, but I think what I enjoy most about it is I continue to learn more and more about the bugs I'm chasing from a technical perspective and also enjoy an ego boost when I catch a fish on not only my fly, but my fly pattern. Even though in most cases, every fly I tie is nothing more than stolen ideas of past greats, current innovators, and maybe the extremely occasional original idea from my own head.

It's time to go fish.  Time to cram way too much into way to little time before winter sets in.  A steelhead trip is only a few days away and I also promised myself I would find a big fall brown or two this year. Even if I don't, I refuse to spend the winter thinking it was because I wasn't out there in my element, wisely spending my time.  

Fish on,


Friday, October 10

Someone caught the biggest bass of his life last night.  And a few walleye too.  It definitely wasn't me though.  The picture has been cropped to protect the innocent.  Said individual may have had a lot of fun.

Why I Wear Waders

Monday, September 29

The Hipster Fly Rod: Grab your wood today, quantities limited

What do you do when you're 30 minutes into a 5 hour fishing adventure a few miles back in the bush and break your rod?

Introducing the new Sage line of Hipster rods:  The "Wood"

Are you tired of spending 3 months salary on a rod that is "just like everyone else's?  Well, sleep easy knowing you'll be the only one sporting a Wood on the river!

Most rods nowadays are measured in ounces...are you kidding me?  If you spend $500 on a rod that weighs 4 oz, that's $125 an oz!  The Wood is a refreshing trip down memory lane, priced at around $10 a pound.  That's right, per POUND.  You can barely buy a pound of bacon for that price.

The model shown is a 30 weight one piece, 8' 3 3/8".  A real back woods experience.  Guaranteed to not only give your arms the work out they need, but also to make your hands bleed within the hour. Not for the faint of heart, each rod is a "one of" and because of the quality, doesn't need a rod tube! The signature series will be personally inscribed with my initials, have a custom duct taped handle, and available only to the first 50 orders.       

For a nominal price, we'll also include a 12 foot section of old ratty fly line to tie to the end for ultimate fishability.  We've decided to do away with cork handles altogether, and are offering a whittled upgrade option.  The blanks are also available, but are the same price as the finished do the math!  The Wood comes in too many lengths and weights to ever list.  In fact, I'm even willing to do a custom length.  Weight may vary.  We've also decided to throw typical "action" descriptions out the window, as the Wood just isn't your typical rod and we didn't want to limit the possibilities.  I've included a list of our most popular models to help you in your selection:

broom stick   (our bare bones model designed with the hard core angler in mind.  a wonderful all                               around option)

tree stump     (great for those smaller rivers that still hold big fish)  

dad's wrath   (designed to compete with the fiberglass enthusiasts, very supple while still            
                       delivering an intimidating "sting")

car antenna   (are you all about presentation?  This is your rod)

carriage whip (like to beat the water to a froth, let the trout know you're there and mean business?                              This one's for you)

pole barn       (salt water, salmon, musky...pole vaulting)

splinter          (for the budget conscious, however this one will surprise you.  Think Harry Potter's                               wand meets Gandalf's staff and had a baby named Only in Orvis' Wildest Dreams.  

telephone pole (this is our Spey rod model...also, two people can fish this rod at the same time)

Again, you can rest assured that your Wood will stand out in the crowd!

Lastly;  if you're like me, you recently learned that if the broken half of your rod goes floating downstream making its way to the ocean, it doesn't fall under warranty!  Now you're left explaining to your wife why the lifetime warranty you raved about to justify the cost of your "typical" rod doesn't apply...and that no, you cannot in fact just "add some other section to it."  

To combat this problem, we've upgraded the Wood's warranty to include literally anything, at no charge.  Need to start a fire and the only wood you could find was your custom problem!  Needed a wading staff and used your Wood?  No problem!  Got in a sword fight?  Needed to fend off intruders?  Scared off a bear?  Had to give pole vaulting a try?  NO PROBLEM!  We'll get a new Wood in your hands in no time!

disclaimer:  any likeness to an actual Sage rod is nonexistent and not implied, nor is it intentionally materially misrepresented and other things of that nature.  Please don't sue me.  Also...what the hell good was the broken section of my rod, Redington?  I tried to catch it, but it was a futile chase (and midnight).  You were just going to look at it, say "hmm", and send me some new pieces anyhow. Can I sleep at your house tonight?

other disclaimer:  warranty does not cover "incidental" damage.  Incidental damage is anything related to:  using your Wood to start a fire, using your Wood as a wading staff, using your Wood to sword fight, fending off intruders with your Wood, intimidating bears with your Wood, or attempting to pole vault with your Wood.  Other things not included under warrantly include but are not limited to: breaking.  

The Come Down

     I've never driven so slow in my life.  There were only a few cigarettes left in the pack and with the knowledge that I wouldn't be buying anymore, I reluctantly lit one.  There was an old guy, weathered hands and face, short a few teeth, changing a tire on the side of the road about a mile from my house.  I gladly stopped to offer my help, delaying the inevitable. He laughed and thanked me for the offer.

The worst and best part of fishing trips is getting so deeply immersed in what truly matters in life.    Maybe I should say "submerged" in what matters?  Or...maybe it's just being able to get away from what everyone else thinks matters.  Yeah, I think that's it.  In a few short turns I would be thrown back to the wolves, forced to smile as I returned phone calls, answered benign questions about insurance policies, and mostly, pretend like it all mattered.  Don't get me wrong, I have a great career.  One that affords me the ability to make my own schedule, answer to almost no one, and work at my own pace. Hell, I'm writing this in my office right now.  It's just that I'll never be quite satisfied with any career choice I guess.

I miss the kids when I'm gone, I miss my wife...but sometimes I miss myself when I'm home.  I know it's all fantasy...I couldn't stay gone forever and probably wouldn't want to.  I live in Northern Michigan to begin with, a place where most people go to "get away" and to escape the hustle and bustle of of yet another lost and wandering population of people.  Maybe it's the idea I'm in love with.  The idea of a life spent by the stream, around the fire, and smelling of fish, waders, and beer.  Contemplating only the next piece of water to fish.  Winter is coming soon...that'd probably make me change my tune a bit.  But still...the idea persists, no matter how many times I try to suppress it with common sense, beer, and manufactured agendas I can't seem to shake it.

I'm already busy planning the next escape.

It wasn't really a spiritually moving trip, no cosmic connections, rather a grounding.    A rekindling of feelings not often felt and rarely shared.  I was able to stretch my roots deep into the land, drink in the connection, and repair the scars that everyday life has a way of creating.  A reckoning of the year's ups and downs.

The drive up started at 3:30 am.  We had decided that if we leave at that hour we could arrive at the river by 10 am, hence losing no fishing time.  I crawled in bed that night around 9.  I'm not sure why. My eyes didn't close until about 1:30, but I was up with the first few rings of the uncommon occurrence.  Most of the drive was filled with hopeful conversations of the rivers and lakes we would fish, the fish that may inhabit them, and past experiences in the places we would again ply our craft.  We were to meet my dad the following day at the camp site.  He happens to be sane enough to leave at a normal hour and also had a few extra days to stay so the urgency wasn't there.

The Jeep was packed to capacity and then some.  By the time we arrived in "town", nothing but two bars and a few closed general stores, the car smelled of enthusiasm, impatience, expectation, and stale cigarettes.  We dropped a few things at camp and made the 30 minute
drive to the first spot in 20.  It was a place I'd never been, a spot Alex had put in the leg work to find.  It was a hard two track to locate, if you can call it a two track.  It was shady at best...disappearing only to re-emerge as the jeep passed over tree stumps and rocked through wash outs and down a narrow, twisting hill to the put in. The type of place that makes you question how far you're willing to walk back to civilization when you get stuck. A track with branches and trees laying across the road, re-enforcing the idea that no one had been there in a long, long time.  Maybe they were just smart enough to walk...but its's a long ways back...and it's my story.

The water was roaring; a truly fast Michigan stream.  It was a fly fisherman's wet dream.  Literally.  The depth of the water was perfect, about 1 to 3 feet, but the rocks and boulders were not to be taken was slippery and I'm clumsy.  The lay of the land made for relatively easy casting.  High steep banks on one side, a gorgeous rock cliff hanging menacingly over the bank on one side created an amazing undercut that occupied way too much of my time.  I know there was a fish in there, laughing as I changed flies to try to bring him out. I don't think I ended up in a tree the whole day, a rare occurrence.  The first fish took me quite by surprise.  A gorgeous 11 or 12 inch brookie in full fall splendor.  The next several hours were spent moving brook trout, landing several and missing many more.  I met up with Alex downstream.  He was sitting on the bank lost in the scene. It was pretty apparent he was in his element.  His childish delight radiating off the water was not hard to miss.  The fall colors were the perfect backdrop.
A little later that day and a lot further upstream, we were in a stretch with deep pools. I hooked into the first big fish of the trip.  At least a 15 or 16 inch brook trout.  I carefully played it being sure not to rush.  As I reached for the net, I glimpsed the fish for the first time.  It was all of 15 or 16 inches, but somehow, my trout had turned into a pike.  I felt a little guilty that my disappointment was so palpable.  I grimaced as I unhooked it.  No...I didn't take a picture.  The next fish was a 22 inch pike. It was time to head to camp.

We met up with my dad shortly thereafter.  A few beers in and during a nice fire I decided to say what we were all thinking.  "I'm too tired to go mousing tonight."  It was all Alex could stand.  "If you're to tired then I guess we don't have to."

The next day's adventure had been set in stone before the trip was even finalized.  The lake.  We all have a few spots we don't talk about.  We don't utter the real name under any circumstance and we don't take anyone least not without the proper credentials and a blood oath.  This lake isn't really hard to find, in fact there's a sign pointing the way.  It is hard to get to however.  You almost have to fish it with a boat, and the long walk down a winding rooted disaster of a path is the perfect deterrent to keep out the unworthy.  Last year around this time found my Dad and I quite dumbfounded.  We weren't just catching brook trout...we were catching gigantic brook trout ready and willing to rise to a dry.  It was truly the experience of a lifetime and one I will never forget.

This year the fishing was quite a bit more difficult.  The wind was up and over the course of 9 hours we managed to bring 3 fish to the boat, all on streamers.  The biggest of which was only (this lake is unique) 14 or 15 inches. The walk back was chorused by wolves...gorgeous albeit a little off putting. I insisted we go back the next day.  What choice did I have?  In fact, left to my own devices, I'd probably never leave the lake except maybe to chase some river fish from time to time.

The next day found the lake in much the same situation...high winds and a boat full of impatient anglers.  Finally, around 6:00 the lake started to turn to glass.  Good god yes...they would start rising any minute...and eventually they did.  There was about a 30 minute window where they were sipping the surface.  And damn were they fussy about presentation.  Fly choice didn't seem to be a huge factor, but fishing a lake is different.  You can never be quite sure about the best strategy:  are you fishing to cruising fish, in which case you should just leave your fly the hell alone and let chance do the work, or should you chase rising fish and put it on their plate.  We tried a little of both with limited success.  We both caught a few 9 or 10's, the biggest fish again being in the 14 to 15 inch range.  (A great brook trout I know, but still).  This is the LOST LAKE.  This is brook trout paradise. That was the last time we fished the lake.  It's a commitment to head in there and there are just too many places to fish to spend the whole week in the same spot.  I could however be heard muttering the rest of the week: "we should be there right now...I bet now would've been a good time". I've said it before, but having "catching" expectations shattered isn't a bad thing.  The uncertainty is what keeps us going.  It's why I'm salivating as I write this, and why Lost Lake will haunt my dreams until next year.

The next several days were spent trying to cram as much fishing into the little time we had.  Mousing unfamiliar and hazardous water at night, chasing brook trout during the day.  Eating way to much food.  Probably drinking a little too much beer.

It's shit like this that a successful trip is made of:  

and don't forget to cast your ballot for Glasscock! He won't go soft on crime, and refuses to pull out until the job is done, and done right...

The official trout season is coming to a close in a mere day.  Even though trout season never really closes in Michigan, I'm still sad about it.  It's the mark of another year gone.  A season that I may remember for the rest of my life, or may be pushed out to make room for others.  Other fish, other places, other experiences.  I hope it doesn't though.  This has truly been one hell of a season, and the trip was the icing on the cake, the rise in the riffle you've waited all night to see.

Go chase your contentment, chase trout, have an experience...this year I've had more than I deserve.

fish on,


Friday, September 12

Reflections From the River: The week in fishing Sep 6th-12th

I laugh to keep from crying.   Here it is.

Sep 6th- Sep 12th

 I'm not normally this type of person, but damn it I'm I glad this week is coming to a close.  I got out fishing 3 times this week, and strangely enough they were all for salmon. Not a single trout trip in the mix.  Not ideal, but acceptable.

There are a few reasons this week was such a bad week to get out, but the main one is my son.  Dealing with medical issues is never fun, and the poor guy is at the beginning of what may be a long road.  Tuesday we took him down to the children's hospital and received the diagnosis of tourettes syndrome.  He's 6.  My wife and I don't quite buy the diagnosis conflicts with the other pediatric neurologist, and something is still off.  Soon we'll be off to see another specialist, maybe at a different children's hospital, but we need to figure out what the hell is going on.  He's a different child than he was last year.  At best, it's something called "inattention adhd", a relatively unique disorder.  It doesn't entirely explain the motor "tics" he has though, but tourettes doesnt explain the "spacing out."  Not the worst diagnosis out there by a long shot, but it'll make life tough on him.  At worst, he's on the autism spectrum.

It could always be worse I guess.  I'm not sure why I say that.  I don't think anyone anywhere has ever heard someone utter those fucking words and felt better afterwards.  Fuck.  We've never really dealt with anything major like this before.  At one moment I feel like I may just physically let lose on the next person to cross my path, the next I want a hug, and for someone to tell me it will be all right.  It will all work out for the best.  It will be all right...right?  Maybe.  Probably.  Maybe not.  This is probably why I chased salmon this week.  The salmon can be a glorious fish for mindless casting...truly letting your mind go and losing track of time, waiting for the explosion of a fish or emotion, whichever comes first.

On a positive note, my buddy caught his first salmon!  A fantastically ugly and gorgeous buck that waited until the last second to attack. "Holy shit!  It's BIG.  Do you think it's a salmon?"  It was hilarious watching him try to hold it for the picture.  "It's too big, what do I do?"

The last two times I went by myself.  The first night a husband and wife parked their kayak 30 feet from me and proceeded to cast they're spinning rods (which they were holding upside down) in my direction.  Luckily, I wasn't really there to catch fish anyhow.

I finally got my hands on a salmon last night. Well...kind of.  I started the night by wading as deep as I could into the "serene" Cheboygan river. Within minutes I had my first fish on:  the second biggest walleye I've ever caught.  I slim 9 incher.  About 20 minutes later I was into my second fish of the night.  A feisty 12 inch rock bass...on 15lb tippet.  I was starting to feel like a real sport.

I swung an egg sucking leech for about another hour when I saw it:  A nice size salmon jumped right in front of me.  Then again.  Then it floated to the surface at my knees.  It slowly tried to get back down and began a slow course downstream, tail up.  I took a few steps down and casually grabbed it by the tail (a dangerous move in the Cheboygan river).

I spent about 5 minutes reviving the fish and contemplating the contradictory nature of what I was doing. I was overcome with the feeling of how futile this all  Not just the resuscitation of this particular fish.  But all of it.  The  I've modeled my fishing pursuits around a fly rod and around catch and release.  I stood there giving CPR to a half dead fish, who, for some reason or another thought I was a safe bet to die in front of; a salmon that, regardless of what I do, will be dead in about a months time.  A salmon that was probably so sick of seeing spoons and treble hooks ran in front of it that it may actually have been begging for a quick death.

The fishing was over at that point.  What else can you do?  Go on fishing like it hadn't happened, pretending like it actually mattered whether or not I caught a fish when one, literally, landed at my feet only so I could temporarily revive it so it could swim away.  Pretend like it was going to live or even make it through the night.  A temporary fix.  The salmon is almost certainly dead by now...but maybe the goal was to feel like I accomplished something.  Maybe I just didn't want to see it die and it was easier if it died out of sight...out of mind...not my responsibility.  It would have tasted fine on the grill, it wasn't decaying, relatively silver, a little green. Probably caught and fought until the last second only to have broken off.  Slipped away, temporarily escaping his fate only to come face to face with it downstream as we all inevitably must.   It's all downstream.

I don't want to watch my son slip away.  I don't want him to have autism.  I don't want him to go through that and I don't want him to be "different." Not in that regard. I don't care how that sounds.  I don't pray and I don't believe in God, but right now I want to believe.  I wish I believed.  I want him to grow up, I want him to laugh at just how futile fishing is, and love it all the more for that very reason.  I want him to hold a dying salmon in his hands and embrace just how fleeting life is, how truly pointless most of life's pursuits are, and how the most pointless of those pursuits are often the one's worth spending the most time on.  I want him to swim upstream, against the current, not helplessly float down while I pretend like it will be OK.  I want him to be OK.

I want him to be him.