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Archive for the ‘fly-fishing’ Category

I went fishing in Eastern Washington near Cle Ellum – the Teanaway. The most beautiful possible summer day – warm, not hot – astoundingly blue sky.  I live in Western Washington. The halves of the state differ by rain fall – it all tends to fall on the west – stopped by the Cascades – so that on east side the small river runs, as it would on the west side, cold, fast and clean, but it surrounded by banks of large needled pines and dry grass. There is an open understory unlike the crowded cedars, firs and drooping hemlocks to the west.

I did not get to fish last year but three times – my summer was taken up by other tasks. Not only that but the first time I did my car was broken into. Even this summer I have been occupied with getting my house ready to try and sell in the most depressed housing market of the century. I might not sell it after all…

So here I was at last, the tail end of July 2011, in welcoming waters – second cast and a willing cut-throat was on my attractor fly. So small I don’t even use my reel, just lay the rod down and pull the five inch fish in by hand – wetting them now that he is within reach to not disturb the ‘slime’ I pull the hook out with the forceps as quickly as possible. It’s been a very long time – but it’s all here in my motor memory – reading the water, walking in the river, reading the water again, casting, watching the float, looking for what might be a strike and setting the hook. I don’t even have to think. My mind goes blissfully blank as I walk, cast to likely places and catch and release beautiful fish. They are mine for a moment – we meet and separate. I am the Zen master of my thoughts while fly-fishing.

But when I’m back to my day to day routine I often begin to feel  that life is so dismal and I wonder if I want to live at all. I’ve found the transition very difficult from the sublime times of doing anything so engrossing like fishing or working on my art, riding my new bicycle or going to my dance class. I enter that state where the self disappears – the state of flow –where the activity is greater than the self and I am at peace because there is no me. But again, coming out, then there seems to be only me and that great sense of pointlessness and that leads to depression and even suicidal thoughts.

My therapist suggests that I try to remember on the river how the me actually feels – kind of ease the transition back to my awareness from the state of flow – go into the wonder of fishing, but not leave my troubles too far behind else the pain of picking them up again will feel too great.

I got to a deep pool – not very big – but deep. It was at the bottom of a small fall. I had only about ten feet of distance for the float before the fly would come to a log that I didn’t want to hook – the presentation had to be just right in the fast water – I might get three or four chances but that would be all.

I didn’t really have to think too much about it – I just knew how to stalk this unseen fish, to position myself in the river to approach the sweet spot where he would be feeding in the seam of the current – I worked my way down the opposite riffle so I could fish upstream a little – that would create the least drag – and just cast. It was all perfect, the hook set and the rod bent.

I reasoned it must be the speed of the water that was causing the pull as I got this fish on the reel and played him right and left pulling him in towards me and walking towards him where the line was in the water so I could get him out quickly and return him safely.

As I got closer I realized the pull was not the current – it was a fairly large fish! I played him into the slower water so as to not hurt him and get a good look. Most of these trout fit easily into my small hands but this one was fat. I laid him out in my hand from finger-tip down past my wrist. Then I let him go.

Now a nine inch fish might seem unimpressive, indeed, I’ve caught a seventy pound tarpon on a nine-weight fly rod, but that was in the Everglades and this cut-throat was a very large trout for this river and felt like a prize. Like something precious had been given to me. But I considered it was not effortless – how long have I spent on these small rivers? I’ve been fly-fishing now twenty-four years – and sixteen of them on shallow sweet small rivers, rivers that an unassuming and short woman can wade safely. I had the skills. I own them, they are part of me.

So I was glad for the fish too numerous to keep count of that day. But I did as it was suggested and took time to remember – to take into account the things that were making me feel sad so that these disparate realities could be true at the same time. And it was a good thing. The wonder of my fish and the automatic way in which I found him had no less glory. Nor did the pain of my everyday life away from the river grow any less woeful – but the gap between them began to close.

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Due to major responsibilities this summer – and well, there are always excuses – I didn’t get to go fishing much this summer – only twice so far. And once my car window was smashed – and my rod broke on the same day. Still, It was glorious to be on the river …

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standing on the bridge
sunny day on the middle fork
i see bottom fish scooping up
remains
while the nimble trout
sip the surface
the edge of their domain

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Scud

The Snoqualmie was a zoo this weekend. Everyone was there. I took Elaine up Saturday and she decided to carry her beach chair on her back but changed her mind about the flower press (thank god) and left it in the truck. She did manage to catch a nice trout – second time fly fishing – and then sat in the chair and read. I told her some people pay $400 for a guide to show them how to catch a fish like that. Plus tip. She bought me a hamburger and a beer later that night at the North Bend Bar and Grill and I was very appreciative. It was a particularly tasty hamburger.

Anyway as we were going up river yesterday, this couple was coming down, they were obviously local white trash – cigarettes, tattoos and a spinning rod – even though the river is catch and release and fly-fishing only… Elaine is always friendly to who ever she sees so we stop and say hello.

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Even a bad day fishing is better than a good day doing something else – I think I wrote something like that a long time ago when I was writing stories. Then again, maybe someone else wrote it. It must be a universal truth for people who fish with intent. A great day fishing is one where the water and the sky and the rocks, (oh how I do love the rocks as they glow underwater and the current moves around them!), vacuum all the thoughts from my mind until it feels as empty as the river looks; the ideas, feeling and worries become hidden like the fish are in the seams of the current.

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The thing I was not expecting was the pressure of the water, how it held me, at once kindly like in an embrace and at the same time,

very small cut-throat on the Snoqualmie

threatening to push me over.

I had been fishing a lot as a kid, growing up in the northwest, we had a boat, a decent size cabin cruiser and we went out a lot until my father went though a mid-life crisis and sold it.

Sometimes we’d troll for salmon.  We got these dollar bill sized shiny chrome spoons with wire leaders and li

ttle florescent orange salmon eggs leading to large hooks.  I didn’t think that would ever fool any fish, and indeed, it never did for us.  Still, people at the little stores in the islands, the San Juans, and Canadian Gulf islands, swore they worked.

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