Same Old by Mark Usyk
How many times had I been up this stream? A couple at least. Enough to say I knew it, I’d fished it before, and I knew what was around the next bend. The water might be a little higher or a little lower than the time before, but I’d seen it, maybe too many times, and as I released another fish back into a familiar pool I found that I wasn’t questioning whether it was a wild fish or not, but instead if I really wanted to fish this same stretch anymore. Some streams you can fish your entire life and never get tired of them, and others, well, once you’ve seen them, once you’ve learned their curves and bends, found their deep pools and slow runs, maybe they just don’t interest you anymore. Maybe you begin to think it’s time to move on. I broke my fly off on the same damn tree I had the last time I was here and thought to myself…Shouldn’t you have seen that coming? Same old story.
I made a last minute decision to walk up to Reeds Pond in the last remaining daylight. I wasn’t sure why, but then again I wasn’t sure of a lot of stuff lately. My feet carried me in that direction, so I just followed. There were so many bugs in the air that they seemed to outnumber the stars in the perfectly clear Adirondack sky, and when the pond came into view I saw it boiling like a pot of water on a stove. I’d caught a brookie out of the pond only once, so naturally I wondered what was rising. Certainly they couldn’t all be brookies. I made a few casts with a dry fly that might have been just a little too big, or maybe just not the right pattern, or it could have just been that I’ve never been a good dry fly angler, and now I felt even less confidant on a still water. Where to cast? Anywhere? There was no current and the fish rose randomly everywhere. I finally caught a break when several fish rose in one place and I made a decent cast, and found a small chub at hand in the end. Not that I have anything against chubs, but I just looked at it as another sign. Perhaps it’s time to move on.
Back at the camp site I started a little fire at the back of the Jeep, but I wasn’t really sure why. A granola bar for dinner didn’t actually require a fire, and while I did have a folding camp stool, the black flies were so bad that I didn’t see myself sitting out for more than a few minutes before going insane. I guess I was lighting a fire because that’s just what you do when you’re camping. It’s an expected routine thing. You’ve always done it, so whether you need one or not it just seems the thing to do. It passes time anyhow.
I waited until the sun was almost gone, just dark enough for the black flies to disappear for the night before I opened the Jeeps back hatch and laid out my sleeping bag inside. On the hood rested my strung up 3wt and 5wt, I figured out here they’d be safe from thieves, no need to lock them up. Inside I could hear the river just outside rushing over rocks and on downstream just like the other times I’d camped here, same old story. The river flows by like you’re not even there, like you don’t even matter. Sometimes you need these realizations to put your life into perspective. Next to the river, you’re small and insignificant. It’ll be there long after you’re gone. With any luck, so will the brookies, which anglers will still chase, while your name is inevitably forgotten. I slept next to the river in the back of the Jeep, my pillow a rolled up sweatshirt next to a tool box, next to a pile of rod tubes and my damp waders.
In the morning I finally woke up with a stiff neck and a sore hip to the sound of birds all around. The sun was just beginning to illuminate the sky, and then the birds quieted down. It’s as if they all wake each other up, which I suppose isn’t so farfetched. After a granola bar breakfast I had a bend in the 3wt and a brookie on the line, out of the same pocket behind the same boulder I always found one in. Same old stream, same old story. I loaded up the Jeep and looked at the atlas in the pile of stuff in the passenger seat. Perhaps it was time to find someplace new, which in itself was again the same old story.