Excuses by Mark Usyk

Sleeping bags were hung in the sun, draped over the canoe rack on my truck. My father’s tent was set up not where he would be sleeping in it by the fire but in front of my truck also in the sun. Along with some clothes that were laid out on the hood, everything, even my pack was emptied out and drying. A hasty camp the night before while lost in the Adirondacks and the subsequent storm that rolled through had brought all of our gear to varying degrees starting at damp and ending at soaked. It was about noon, and we had managed to find our way out of our predicament roughly an hour earlier. Instead of continuing on to where we wanted to go, we made the decision to drive out a couple miles the way we had come in and to just camp along a stretch of familiar river just off a dirt road, next to a bridge. We should have been miles from anything manmade, instead we were feet from my Toyota and the bridge. While water evaporated in the sun, I strung up my 3wt. We weren’t going to lose any more time fishing.

The storm the night before had the river running a little high, a little faster, and as I waded out into the water I searched with my feet for places to wedge my wader boots in between rocks to anchor myself before my first cast. I stripped line from the small reel and sent the white marabou streamer to a pocket about fifteen feet out from me. Landing it just above the boulder braking the water, it washed down around the near side and into the slack water on its downstream side and I mended the line with a quick lift of the rod to hover the false bait fish in place for a second before giving it life. On the first small strip in the pocket the Brookie appeared from below in haste and turned back to the bottom, my line going tight. I lifted, the rod tip bent, then went limp. I let the streamer drift and swim downstream and swing across below me and as I stripped it back to me another strike in more turbulent current, this time the rod tip bent and a fish was brought to hand. No more than 6” or so, its colors were brilliant. Bright pink spots with a halo of light blue, orange and yellow dots against almost black par marks above a bright rusty orange belly. Its fins trimmed in pure white, and a camouflaged back, if there was a fashion show for fish, surely the Brook Trout would be a super model.

All day while gear dried and bugs bit, the fish were willing, and my streamer became more ragged as the day passed by. My father on the other hand didn’t have quite the same luck. Lately it seems that on still water, lakes and ponds, he will out fish me on most any day, and on a Trout stream, our roles reverse. And whichever one of us is having the slow day, you probably wouldn’t know it by the looks on our faces. My father sat on a rock at one point, water flowing past him on all sides, his fishing rod idle. Just taking in the scenery all around and listening to the river I could see where he and I are alike, at least on the water.

Some people find all the excuses why they can’t go fishing. “I have to mow the lawn. I have to change the oil in the car. I have to get some work done on the house. I need new line for my rod. I’m out of flies. I’m too busy.” I brought another fish to hand and studied the varying colors and shades as I had on the previous fish, no two looking the same, but all of them quite spectacular in their own way. And there was my father, not having caught anything over a few hours, yet resting atop a boulder with content on his face, observing everything around him. And that is where we are alike. We don’t make excuses about why we can’t get out to fish, and when we’re out we don’t get upset about getting skunked. Instead of making excuses, the fish ARE our excuses. The excuses we use to get out and enjoy being out and away from the hustle of everyday life. The excuse of the fish is what gets us to these beautiful places, disconnects us from the stress of modern living, and connects us to what is important. Us.