Thanksgiving was good, spent with friends, my contribution to the dinner a couple bottles of whiskey. With my boys gone to Florida for the week I’d been alone for days, whiskey had become a staple of my diet over the past week. Good, bad, or indifferent, I viewed it as all three at different times depending on my mood. I also hadn’t had a fly rod in my hand in probably a month. That had to change.
Black Friday is called that for a reason. It’s a tongue in cheek name given to the day for ridiculously poor scenarios played out in every city in every big box store every year. The name really illustrates how horrible it all is and yet society is so used to such atrocious things that it’s simply no big deal anymore. I’ve always avoided it with purpose. I save my holiday shopping until the last day or two before Christmas most years simply because I really don’t want to be around people during the season. Black Friday. I like to call it fish Friday.
I woke up on the couch, my neck a little sore like it has been for a couple months now… probably time for a new couch. It was light out. I’d planned on going fishing but hadn’t actually prepared for it. I brushed my teeth, threw on a pair of jeans, a thermal undershirt and t-shirt, then put on my fleece pants with the foot straps to keep them from riding up to my knees when I pulled my waders on and lastly grabbed an old Jogging pullover with a high collar and pulled it over my head. I’d been awake for about fifteen minutes now and thought that maybe I should take a few minutes for a bowl of cereal. I ignored the temptation, retrieved my waders and boots from the garage and checked the contents of the chest pocket. A couple spools of tippet and my hemostats. Good enough. I walked over to the fly tying vice on the kitchen table and selected four nymphs, sticking them in the brim of my ball cap. I’d tied them with a glass of Bib And Tucker Whiskey a couple nights earlier, and I selected them now for a simple reason. They were the only ones I’d tied. They’d have to do.
I’ve come to a point with my fly fishing outings now, the local ones anyways, where I’m comfortable not taking a fly box all the time. Whatever patterns I take are stuck on my hat, a couple spools of tippet, and my small net. I don’t worry about running out anymore. I don’t think it’s that I’ve become such a proficient angler that I never lose flies in trees or break off fish, because I still do those things frequently enough to say I’m still fairly good at them. I do it because it’s just simpler, not carrying all the extra crap with me on a creek.
I jettisoned extra stuff from my life a couple times during 2019. Stuff that I’d decided I didn’t need, didn’t need to be a part of, stuff I felt wasn’t taking me in directions I wanted or needed to go. I know I hurt feelings along the way, something I don’t enjoy, but I found life was like my fly boxes, I was carrying more than I needed, and just like them, it could be streamlined, simpler. So I sleep on a couch, I answer to no one but myself, I carry what flies I can on my hat and don’t need anything more. If I do end up running out of flies, well then the rest of the day is a nice hike or I go home. I’ve yet to go home because I simplified things and found nothing left on my hat. So it works all the same. Less clutter. Easier decisions on what to tie on next… It’s whatever I have left.
On the short drive to the creek I’ve got Motley Crue blasting. My favorite song on the album is just beginning, and for some unknown reason it starts to make me think. I always like the speed and the energy of the song. Its lyrics, the story behind “Same Ol Situation, they’re not exactly about a life I’ve ever lived, but suddenly on this drive the chorus starts me thinking. I connect with the song for the chorus as much as the energy. “It’s the same ol situation. It’s the same ol ball and chain.” My life has always been the same ol situation, always knowing what it is I want but never doing anything about it, always stopping short of those goals if I even start towards them at all. I’m my own ball and chain. People have tried to push me, make me improve myself, but I never listen, never act. Maybe it goes back to the fly box getting left behind, trying to keep life simple by not getting in over my head with stuff I still enjoy. Questions to ponder over the next glass I reckon.
The creek was colored up, visibility less than a foot, and it was a little high. The rod already had a nymph of sorts rigged, so I didn’t even bother to pull one from my hat. I say a nymph of sorts because it’s really not, but I was about to use it as one anyhow. Because it was already on. That simplicity thing. It’s a tiny bone fish fly that Tommy Flemming gave me a long time ago while we sat up at the 16 Stone and talked fishing over a couple beers. He thought they’d be good for carp and they are, but this one is small enough, maybe a little over a half inch, that I call it a nymph in certain situations that call for a nymph when it’s what I have. A tube wrapped body, tiny bit of deer hair over body, dumbbell eyes. He used them for bone fish in the Bahamas, I’d caught everything from trout to bass to almost carp up here with them. This whole fly fishing thing really only has to be as complicated as you want it to be. I like simple. Sometimes it works.
I nymphed up a couple runs with the bone fish pattern handed to me over a dark porter probably two years ago now, and was thinking about Tommy being down in the tropics somewhere possibly wading a salt flat. I was noticing my fingers were getting sore, beginning to sting a little bit from the cold temperatures, and was starting to realize that it was probably actually well below freezing and I wasn’t even wearing a jacket. My thoughts shifted to being an idiot like they often times do when I realized my line had come tight at the end of a swing. It took a couple seconds for it to register that it was a fish, and then even still it took a few more seconds for me to realize I should probably lift the rod and act like I wanted to catch it.
Back at home I sat on the church pew on the front porch, the one that my buddy Dale had given to me and that Chris and I had strapped to the top of my old Jeep and driven home with. It got some odd looks that day. Good times. Good times it seemed always involved two things. Friends or fishing. I leaned back on the church pew, looked up at the sky over the house across the street, watched my breath lift away and fade into the air around me. My wool glove smelled like a trout. Life could be worse.
Mark Usyk is the author of Reflections of a Fly Rod and Carp Are Jerks, books about life where fishing happens. Both are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and signed copies are ready for purchase here on JPRossflyrods.com