Friday, February 14, 2014

Fish Don't Always Bite but Boys Will Be Boys

 This blog post is not so much about how to catch fish and more about a nice day I had because I was not catching fish. I am often asked by people at work if I caught anything while fly fishing on my days off. Sometimes I say, "Nope" with a big smile on my face and this usually leads to a puzzled look from my coworkers, like I just told them I had grasshoppers for lunch.  I have also been asked this basic question, "Doesn't it get boring not catching fish and just sort of standing around?" Hell yes, when you put it like that, fly fishing could get boring but standing around waiting to get bored is even more boring and I try to avoid it. Fly fishing is the A.D.H.D cousin to the more common and sedentary technique of fishing with a lawn chair and a beer, although that has some merit too.    Let's move on.
African Fish Sticks Anyone?

Last March I was on the verge of having one of those boring fly fishing days. The water I was fishing had recently turned silty with spring runoff and not a creature was stirring above or below it. Fly fishing seemed hopeless after a time, so I did what almost any boy does when there's nothing to do, I started chucking rocks, kicking dirt clods and generally poking my nose where it shouldn't be.  The day was in shambles and acting like a child was cheering me up. Soon I felt the impish boy of my youth urging me to walk just a little farther up stream, daring me to jump that fence, enticing my curiosity with "what's that noise, and where's that terrible smell coming from?" Boys will be boys and once I gave into that idea I had a grand old time.

First, because I was truly worried that boredom might find me I changed course and started walking in no particular direction. I find that random acts of misdirection tend to keep boredom at bay but can land you in trouble. It didn't take long before boredom and a good mile were far behind me.  I marched merrily along a game trail and soon stumbled across a nice warm springs hidden among cattails with hundreds of tiny yellow, darting fish. "What weird looking perch," I thought as I snagged my trusty GOPRO3 camera and dunked it in to take this nice photo. During my youth I kept many types of aquarium fish and I swear this is an African Cichlid. I played in the spring for a while, crawling on my hands and knees and eventually stuffing one hand into the sand where the warm water bubbled out from the earth. My skin didn't burn and sluff off so I moved on.

Sagebrush and thorns scratched at my arms as I crunched along in my waders but the pain felt good now. A sagging barbed wire fence let me know I was entering or leaving someones property but I stayed near the bank and impishly assumed no one would care. A few steps over the barbed wire and a very low, "Oont, oont" greeted my ears. I realized too late that the fence was meant to keep something in, more than keep me out.

First came snapping branches, then dust and stickers and finally a hulking black shape lumbered into the clearing in front of me. The massive bull was all slobber and snot and muscle and pissed or worse... horny. I channeled and presented my best impromptu interpretation of a log. Time passed slowly as I pondered if running or standing still would keep me from getting trampled.  Either my log pose worked or I wasn't the bulls type and after a few snorts he let me back away into the bushes and then across the river with my life. I moved quickly on.  

Spring Break! Let's party as soon as I warm up.
As mid-day approached I came across a sandy bluff and watched a family of barn owls take flight from large holes that speckled the bluffs face. They flew off and landed in nearby cottonwood trees and didn't return for their photo shoot.  I am headed back there this spring and hope to catch them roosting. I also met this snake who was so cold he could hardly move, which was great because I wanted a photo. I checked for a rattle then gave him a little pat on the back before I moved on. Snakes are 50% back so that was easy.

Merrily entrenched in exploration, I soon lost track of time and suddenly found that I was very far from my truck and with fading day light. It was like I was 8 years old all over again, running to get home, sure that my mom was calling out for me and possibly getting worried.  I am a lot taller now than I was then and I made great time back to the truck and even had time to poke this dead thing with a stick. You haven't had a truly good day of roaming around until you have poked a dead critter with a stick. I jabbed at it twice for good measure and took a photo to capture the childish moment. I think it was a badger that dug his home too close to the bank and the decision cost him his life. I made it back to the truck but drove home in the dark and it was my wife who was worried this time. I applied another boyhood trick and apologized feverishly and promised to never return so late again. That night I showered to get the chill out of my bones and felt the hot water burn my chapped lips and the tiny scratches covering my arms. It was a great day of fishing if I could even call it that. Maybe it was more of a muck-about or a wanderlust but a great day nonetheless.

Poke, Poke
For all my fellow fisherman who come home empty handed but happy, I applaud you, for the thrill of fishing is not just in the catching but in the going.

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