I have a problem. Admittedly, it is a problem. I say this as I rest my feet after walking nearly five miles out of a Wilderness Area with one wet foot. The problem has many symptoms: Wondering what is around the next bend of the river, leading myself and others on copious escapades in search of trout that do not exist, piling miles on my truck driving down rough and dusty roads for shortcuts to fabled trout waters.
Over the course of the last month, in pursuit of wild trout, I have driven no less than three hundred miles and walked over fifteen… and I’ve caught three trout. Ordinarily I would put this out of mind, but taken in the context of a lifetime of such behavior does, perhaps, show a pattern.
I know some people who would put this in the category of a complete waste of time and money. I’ve even had this debate with myself as recent as mile three of my walk back to the truck today.
But what else would I be doing? Sure, my truck needs washed, the trim in my house needs painted, there are tree limbs in my yard that need cleaned up, there is baseball on TV, and it wouldn’t hurt me to take a nap once in a while…..BUT all of those things are a complete waste of time if one can be pursuing trout with a fly rod. Right?
The disappointment found at the end of my fly fishing trips is legendary. As I’ve been told before, they are mostly hikes with a fly rod, glorified camping trips, or a way to evade being productive. I can’t deny any of this. Like I said, I have a problem.
I had time to ponder this today, as I meandered upstream fishing empty pocket after empty seam. Why are there no fish here? How can such a beautiful, clean high-mountain stream be empty?
Two weeks prior I had been in Oregon fishing the area around Bend. I was completely surrounded by people walking their dogs, folks strolling the banks with friends, and giant trout swimming by me in crystal clear water seemingly mocking my existence in their river.
Last week, I slipped out for a couple of hours to a stream easy to get to. I climbed over one discarded couch, stepped over a dozen old Bud Lite cans, and managed to hook up three trout and land one. All with cars blowing by at over 60 down the mountain road above me. A far cry from the pristine vistas of Oregon.
So today I wanted a wild trout stream, in a remote place, and without people; a day to reconcile the prior weeks. I had fished this stream twice before, further downstream, and it was terrible. But the upstream section had been stocked with fingerling Browns years before, and I aimed to find them.
I did something today I had never done before. As frustration grew from empty casts, I felt myself getting tense instead if relaxing. So I did something unthinkable – I turned on my favorite playlist on my phone. I got lost in the river to the sounds of water over rocks, Gregory Alan Isakov, Tyler Childers, and Ryan Bingham. I felt like I was in the Fly Fishing Film Tour, but without the trout. And so I kept fishing, seeking, upstream, undaunted… all with one boot of my waders leaking. Finally, after many miles and many hours, the rain started and I gave it up. The river width had shrunk to just 25% of what it had been at the truck. I had risen one trout. Disappointing.
And so I pondered….What drives one to keep going back? To keep searching? To keep investing life in what many would consider empty pursuits.
We all invest our lives in something. We have just so many good years – with what will we do with them?
Somewhere out there is trout stream, away from people and beer cans, away from roads and cars… and there are trout there. Big trout. Hungry trout. Living in clear water surrounded by mountain vistas. It may be in the next life, but I’ll keep searching through this one.