4am Salt Dreams by Mark Usyk

I open my eyes, but they refuse to focus. It’s dark. Where am I? I’ve got a sore neck and my head is pounding like someone’s put a stereo speaker in a metal 55gal drum, put the top on, and cranked the volume knob all the way up on some Iron Maiden. My eyes begin to clear up and I spot the clock on the cable box across the room on the TV stand. 3:30. Should I be at work? I lie there and think for a moment, panic trying to creep it’s way in, but I suppress it. No, for the past five weeks I’ve been working the midnight shift over the weekend but this one I finally got off somehow. I’m right where I should be. Well, almost. I’m on the couch, my bed is down the hall, but Holly must have thought I looked comfortable here…Or she’s just used to having the bed all to herself.

I grab a bottle of Tylenol out of a cupboard and wash pills down with water straight out of the faucet like a kid drinking from a garden hose. Do kids even do that anymore? Whatever, my mind is still wandering just coming out of a dead sleep, but I know I’m not going back to sleep so it settles on it’s cruise control setting. Fly Fishing. I could flip on the boob tube and scan 8oo channels of nothing but reality TV crap but instead it’s out to the room. I sit at the tying bench in the corner and survey the chaos of last night’s tying session, do I clean up first or pick up where I left off? I push aside bags and plumes of feathers and find the small bag of streamer hooks buried below them and tighten a hook in the vice. I haven’t cast a fly rod on water in 2016, and now it’s January 30th. I’m a sorry excuse for a diehard so far this year, but turning 40 has had me visiting doctors, laying on tables for unpleasant procedures, and eating pain meds like candy. So I could use that as my excuse, but I still feel deep down inside like a slacker. I try to make up for it writing about fishing and tying flies, but it only lasts so long before you realize you just need to be standing in waders with a rod in your hand.

Most winters I sit at the tying bench and tie whatever I feel like just to pass the time. I tie all year so it’s not like if I don’t buckle down and focus that come spring I won’t have anything, it’s just a constructive way to stay the course, to keep fly fishing active on the front. I might tie Streamers, I might tie nymphs, and I might even tie some dries even though I’m not a huge dry fly fisherman. I just tie to stay active. I tie whatever I feel like at the moment. This winter is different. In March we’ll be taking the kids to Florida, a trip Holly makes each winter with the boys, one I haven’t been on in six years. But this year, somehow we’ve worked it so that I’m going too. It’s a family vacation, but my wife being the awesome, loving wife that she is has given me one day to myself for fishing, plus two early mornings before we take off for the day are mine too as long as I can get out of bed. I think I’ll manage that.

I’m half way through tying a squid pattern when a roaring sound forces its way through the walls and windows. I question the presence of a slow, low flying jet at this hour since my mind was just picturing stepping off the plane into the warm Florida air. Then the yellow light strobes past the windows flashing light across the interior of the house at split second intervals and reality checks in. Snow plow. Here I sit in my own world dreaming of standing in thigh deep turquoise salt water, my 7wt pointed out at the horizon as line shoots through the guides. The dream shattered by a steel behemoth with a steaming cup of coffee resting in the cup holder as a driver peers through the windshield over a tall yellow steel blade. The blade scrapes ice and snow from blacktop just as it scrapes the scene from my head. It’s gone, interrupting others dreams up the street and I’m once again left to my 4am day dreams.

The squid looks awesome. I’m truly happy with it as I place a drop of super glue over the thread wraps at the eye. Will it catch a fish? I don’t know, but I think it looks salty for what it’s worth, and it doesn’t need to catch a fish here at the vice. This morning all it needs to do is make me forget about the snow plow as it makes another pass by the house hitting the opposite side of the street. It doesn’t bother me nearly as much on its second pass. My eyes are studying the little squid in my vice and picturing it slowly sinking and moving along pulsing with each wave as a fish of some unrecognized salt water species makes a hard charge for a meal. My line goes tight. I strip set hard making it a point not to set the hook as if I were Trout fishing back home, my feet slowly sinking in the grainy white sand with each passing wave.