Raiders of the Lost Fly Box by Mark Usyk
When I was a little kid I wanted to be Indiana Jones. True story. I wanted to be an archeologist and search far off places that were hard to get to. The history part was cool no doubt, but seeing places and things that most other people didn’t get to see and the adventure that got him there was what grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me with incredible excitement. I wanted to carve my way through a jungle with a machete, and let’s face it…We all wanted the hat and the whip. Before the word epic was thrown around it was iconic. The hat and whip were just that and still are. Iconic.
Had I been a brighter student focused more on actually working towards something instead of just stumbling through my school years, maybe I’d have followed my dreams and went further than high school with my education and attempted to get into the field, gotten to see some really cool history first hand. A couple years ago I met a real life archeologist that works in NY State and when she revealed her occupation to me I won’t lie. There was a bit of jealousy that crept up on me, so I guess old dreams may go dormant and fall to the way side, but they never die.
I couldn’t be anything farther from an archeologist these days, turning wrenches on greasy machines, but I get my exploring fix while fly fishing. I get out every day that I can, and while there’s plenty of waters close to home to cast a line on, if you give me the chance and the time I’ll drive right past the easy spots that I know I’ll catch fish at like everyone else and choose to take the less traveled path to lesser known waters in hard to get places. Sure, the chances of getting skunked may be greater walking into unknown places, but I’m happier where fewer people tread.
This past week I attempted to hike into a remote Adirondack lake with my father that only those who search for it and are willing to hike in with a couple days gear on their back ever get to see and fish. It should have been an easy 7 mile hike…But never trust a ribbon on a tree. After hiking for about 2 hours we found ourselves pushing through dense forest, the fly rod tubes jutting up from my pack hanging up in the intertwined and grabbing branches, the ground cover so thick that you couldn’t see through the ferns and new growth trees as to where the ground was under your feet. We were fighting our way through the fauna to get to each ribbon and then spending long minutes sometimes trying to find the next ribbon marker which might only be 30 or 40 feet away, but the cover was so thick that most of the time you were lucky to see past 20 feet.
That night, an hour before dark, lost and tired we made a hasty camp in the middle of nothing, a small fire, and a quick dinner of hot dogs because they were the one meal we had that would go bad now in a situation that we didn’t know how long we would be in it. After a stormy night, the next morning as we attempted once again to find our way out, I couldn’t help but be distracted from the concerns of being lost in the thick woods of the southern Adirondacks at one point as the metallic “ting” sounded over and over while I sliced and hacked our way through an almost impenetrable wall of greens and browns to somewhere unknown with my machete. The child hood memories of pretending to be Indiana Jones came back to me for a few seconds and I realized sometimes you do get what you want, it’s just so long into the future that that you forgot you wanted it and now you’re supposed to be to responsible enough to not find joy in such irony.
Later that afternoon after finding our way back to my truck in a clearing and giving up the idea of the remote lake on this trip, I found myself casting my fly rod on a stretch of river not pressured hardly at all by other anglers but easier to get to. I felt a grin pull my lips tight as I sent the fly line looping back and forth over my shoulder to reach out and hit my target finally in front of me. I had hacked our way out of the jungle, my machete now resting in its brown leather sheath strapped to the side of my pack leaning against a tree next to my tent. I could still hear it slicing through foliage in my mind. Now as I sent the fly line cutting through the air, rolling over itself and stretching to its full length I couldn’t help but relate it to the whip the great adventurer used to get himself out of so many predicaments. All I needed now is the hat. I’m a lot farther away from the great explorer and adventurer I wanted to be when I was young, but in some ways I guess I’m still there. Cue the iconic theme music, I’m going fishing!