I’m standing in the creek behind my new house. Normally when I’m fishing there’s nothing running through my mind except what’s in front of me. The water, the current, the fish I’m sure are right there that actually probably aren’t. The bushes on the banks I’ll most likely be snagged in at some point if I haven’t been already. And just because I have been already doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen again at any given moment. All of these things, even flies stuck in the naked early spring branches give me some kind of comfort, if for no other reason than I can count on them all to be there. Or in the case of the fish… To not be there. Something I’ve always been completely content with. Casting to nothing more than a little hope.
But this morning I’m thinking about stuff not on the creek. I could be thinking about the disorganized clutter of boxes and piles of clothes yet to be put away from the initial move. And I won’t lie, the picture in my head of all of my fly tying supplies buried in the back storage room while they wait on me to build my writing and tying area is kind of bothering me. I really need to set up the table saw and get to work. I drove a few miles last week with the rear hatch of the Jeep up and a load of red barn siding hanging precariously out of the back. I managed to get it home without any issues, but I’m sure it was one of those sights that made a couple people’s heads shake. I’ve got big plans for my small tying fly tying area in the living room. It’s going to be an important room after all.
The living room also happens to be my bedroom, writing room, library, and old fishing gear museum. Oh, and home theater. It’s not like it’s a one room house or anything, but plain and simply put there’s no one to tell me I can’t sleep where I tie flies and watch movies on a nine foot wide movie screen surrounded by old fishing gear… So I am. I could, and should be working in the house right now. But when I looked out the window and saw it snowing I figured how many times do you get the chance to fish in the snow on April 29th? It was a thought heavy in sarcasm, but an excuse to wet a line all the same.
But the thought of the work inside to be done only takes up a few minutes of my time while on the water on this cold almost May morning. What I’m really putting a lot of thought into as I send orange loops out over the water is the people I met yesterday down in the Catskills. It seems as though once I wrote my first book, people got the idea that I have something to say. They’re not completely wrong. I suppose you could ask some of the people I work with, a couple of my best friends, and I’m sure my ex-wife would agree. Yes, I do always have something to say. But it’s different when you get me talking about fly fishing. And finding people who want to listen is something I never considered when I started writing. And here I am thinking about my third speaking engagement (boy does that sound ridiculous in my head) of 2018.
I’ve talked at a couple Trout Unlimited chapter meetings, and an Adirondack fishing club invited me to speak once. They usually ask me to come and talk about my book, which is fun, but honestly meeting new people and hearing their stories is just as much fun to me. I saw a video at that Adirondack fishing club meeting of a guy reeling in a huge crappie, really big. They had to lift it a few feet out of the water before they could get it and for a second it hung precariously in limbo. Watching it you just knew the line was going to break and the fish was going to be gone in a twist of fate. Then out of nowhere a guy comes running to save the day. Not with a net, they all laughed at the fact that no one had remembered a net. No, this guy comes running out of the back door of the cabin they were staying in a few feet from the water and makes a diving reach to scoop the monster crappie up… In an empty pizza box. One of those instances where someone would say something like if you don’t have it on video it never happened. I saw it, it happened. I saw someone substitute a net with a pizza box in a roundabout way because I wrote a book. The world works in mysterious ways. Hilarious, but mysterious.
Yesterday I took a two and a half hour drive down to the Catskills to speak at the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers New York Chapter Rendezvous. I didn’t know what I was really going to, and I had no idea what I was going to talk about. It was left wide open. You’d think being given the freedom to talk about anything would make it a breeze, but in reality because I had so much room in any direction, it made it harder for me to come up with a real plan. So I winged it. Obviously I was going to talk about fly fishing, and I started in one place and ended somewhere totally different. It all related of course, and I seemed to keep the attention of most of the group, but what I didn’t realize was there was one in the back of the small crowd sitting at a picnic table, doing her own thing. She may have been listening a little, but I imagine she was in her own world at least for half of what I had to say… Because when I finished talking and handed the floor back to the event little Ruby came walking up to me with a smile on her face and as she said “I made this for you” handed me a crayon drawing of a fish.
Photo Credit: Greg Koch
I met quite a few anglers and hunters through the day, great personalities with lots of stories to tell of course. We had conversations about everything from fly fishing trout streams to salt water, Kevlar canoes to the ice still on the lakes in the north, to the fact that there’s an app you can get on your phone that will show you on a map who owns what lands! Yeah, tell me that last one won’t come in handy the next time you’re looking for access to a piece of water somewhere! I met some really great people. I sold a few books to pay for my gas on the trip, and it was amazing to be two and a half hours from home to find out there were three of us there that graduated from the same little rural school all within about five years of each other. Talk about a small world.
But it won’t be possible for me to forget Ruby, because I’ll hang her picture on that barn wood wall when my new writing and tying area is finished.
I’ve met some of the friendliest people since I picked up a fly rod a handful of years ago for the first time. Some of the greatest people on the planet are outdoors-men and women. And some of them have yet to make their mark on the scene. Ruby made her mark, and she didn’t even know it. I think when the tying bench is finally set up I’m going to tie a new streamer pattern. An orange split tale pattern called the Little Ruby. Yeah, it’s time to get to work on that wall.
Mark Usyk is the author of Reflections of a Fly Rod, available on Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, and signed copies ready for purchase here on this website, JPRossflyrods.com.