2:30 A.M. The alarm rouses me from a dead sleep. I quietly move through the house, trying not to wake up my wife and boys. The clank of a coffee cup as I pull it from the cupboard makes me shake my head, half expecting to see a 5 year old boy appear in the kitchen doorway because of it. I make two cups and spill it everywhere except into the thermos as I try to fill it up. Again, I shake my head. It’s 2:35. I should be sleeping. I walk out into a room off of the back of the house. One containing my fly tying bench, a rustic table with burned images of fish I have caught and have yet to catch, the walls covered in antique fishing tackle and a book shelf made from a cedar tree trunk I pulled out of the creek out back. This is the room where I write and tie flies. A room I escape to when I can’t “Get Out”. There are notes jotted down on a piece of paper on the table, ideas and memories of a summer fishing trip. My eyes move from the notes to the windows. Icicles forming prison bars, the irony making my head shake for the third time in mere minutes. I grab a magazine and walk out shutting off the light. Time to leave for work.
The truck door won’t open, it’s frozen shut. I pull and swear under my breath, a tearing noise as the rubber door seal separates from cold painted steel. The seat is as hard as a brick, the brake pedal stiff under my foot. It’s 14 below zero, nothing wants to do its job. As the truck warms up and I wait for a mail slot sized opening to thaw on the windshield before I back out, I set my thermos in the console cup holder, it rocks side to side. Picking it up, I find the reason to be two flies left there from the last days of warmer weather when I casted beside my father on the West Canada Creek. I hold them up to my face in the dimly illuminated cab and remember standing in the river. The feel of the rocks beneath my feet, the current pushing against my legs in neoprene waders, and the loop of the line. Past the flies I see just enough of an opening in the frost to drive away. I hook the flies on the visor and back out of the driveway.
Leaving my street I cross the first bridge over the Oriskany Creek. If it wasn’t for the white of the snow that covered the ice layer separating the creek from the frigid air above it, I wouldn’t even know it was there in the pitch black of 2:50 A.M. I think of a past summer day. Standing on the high bank below the bridge, the butt of my 3wt resting on my toes as I watch my 9yr old son bring in his third fish on his own. He is in his own world. Not asking when we can go home, not talking about video games, and not talking at all. Just fishing. I catch myself in the early morning day dream just as my next turn comes up, the truck drifts sideways through another corner, the windshield half thawed now. The road I drive to work follows the creek for a good distance, passing a pull off that I use every day on my way to work to get in “Just a couple casts”. I think about warmer days when I will once again pull off and hurriedly shuffle down the gravel bank and strip line in haste at the water’s edge. “Just one Smallmouth. Come on, I know you’re here. I have to go. Come on, just one bite.”
As I drive on, through the mostly defrosted windshield, I see nothing but snow banks on both sides and darkness ahead. I turn up the radio, and a song about a river and summer time fills the truck cab. It puts me in a canoe, mid-July, a blue sky. I can feel the sun on the back of my neck. Dragon flies hover inches above the water’s surface, bobbing and weaving, dipping to splash down and buzz off in another direction. The motion of the cast relaxes me, the line shooting forward excites, and the bend of the rod as the Bass turns and swims for freedom makes me feel alive. Then a stop sign. The truck slides to a halt pushing slush and snow in front of the tires and I’m back to 2:58 A.M. Reality. Winter sucks.