Thursday evening I’d thrown my gear in the car. My pup tent, winter sleeping bag, waders and a couple fly rods. I was planning to leave straight from work the next day. Go camp somewhere by myself. Maybe do a little brook trout fishing on some small quiet streams tucked away from the rest of the world. But I didn’t sleep well at all. I tossed and turned, had stupid dreams, was awake more than I was asleep. When my alarm went off at 5:30 Friday morning I had two questions in my head. One, maybe it was time I get a bed finally? I’d been sleeping on a couch now for a couple years, maybe I’m just getting too damn old and actually need to spread out on a bed finally. But the second question was the more important one. Was I going to make it through the workday on little to no sleep? I already had a headache. I texted my boss. Using a personal day today. He texted back a thumbs up emoji, I rolled back over to face the back of the couch and closed my eyes again. I fell asleep and slept for a couple more hours. I figured that meant the lack of sleep was due more to knowing I was going to work than the old couch.
Around lunch time I left, a slight kink in my neck but Kiss blared through my Subaru’s speakers and the sun was out, so things were looking up. I drove an hour and a half north east only to find the seasonal state road that my campsite and brook trout stream were on was closed. I wondered if they just hadn’t opened it from the winter yet. I sat looking at the orange barrier markers for a moment, thought about other options, and drove back out to the pavement. I pointed the car west, back towards the direction I’d come. Van Halen wailed. Streamers stuck on my dash danced in the wind from the open windows. A few miles down the road a moose crossed in front of me, not close enough to make eye contact or get any real detail, but close enough for me to say I’d finally seen my first Adirondack moose. It made the long drive for nothing seem like it was for a little more than nothing now. Worth it.
I camped that night on a lake I normally avoid because it’s usually packed with campers who sound more like they’re throwing Super Bowl parties than out to enjoy the peace and solitude of Mother nature. But I knew it was still only April, still early in the year, still dipping down below freezing at night, and assumed that would keep everyone home. Or at least not here. I was right. I enjoyed a can of baked beans by a camp fire, walked to the outlet of the lake and gave the river my best shot but didn’t find any brookies, and finally around 7:30 crawled into my pup tent to the sound of a calling loon on the lake. I slept on and off for almost thirteen hours that night. Thirteen. I did poke my head out a couple times to look up at the billions of stars, but the frigid air had me pulling the sleeping bag back up over my head like a turtle pulling its head back into it’s shell only after a couple minutes both times. But seriously… Thirteen hours. I think that’s what’s meant by unplugging and recharging. Finding a place where you couldn’t get a cell signal if you wanted and nothing to do but whatever it is you want to. And those stars.
The next day I put more miles on the Subaru and fished three more rivers. I struck out again at the first, made my way in by compass on the second only to break the top 8 inches of my fly rod off before I even made my first cast, and finally, after a lot of work, found brook trout at the third.
Parking on a seasonal road at the third I was met my two anglers on their way out of the woods with fly rod and spinning rods. They were removing their waders at their trucks as I was putting mine on, so being polite I asked if they’d had any luck? It’s a standard question when coming across other fisherman, about as standard as saying you’re sorry when someone you know has a death in the family or telling someone to “Tell them I said hi” when having a conversation with someone about someone else you haven’t seen in a while for any number of reasons. Just cookie cutter ways of beginning or ending conversations really. Humans can be very generic.
Anyway, they gave me that look like they weren’t lying. I could see the disappointment on their faces when they said they hadn’t done any good, hadn’t caught anything. We traded the typical excuses back and forth about it still being early in the year, the water still being too cold, the stuff that’s true but are still only excuses, and then I waited until they’d driven away before I left my car and headed upstream. because everyone there goes down stream on a trail and I don’t like to tip people I don’t know off to good spots with no trails leading to them.
A couple hours later I managed three brook trout from one of my favorite pools, the first being the biggest and the last being satisfying enough to know it was my last. Along the way I picked up a couple beaver chewed branches, one being big enough to call a small log, because I’m always looking for something different that catches my eye to do a wood burning on. Plus, it was too easy bush whacking with only a 10’6” fly rod and net to get caught up in the trees. I guess I feel the need to struggle more some days. It’s tough being me.
I stuck Tom Petty in the CD player on the ride home, and turned it up louder when it got to Learning To Fly to drown out my own voice. I didn’t even remember what day it was until later that night. Hadn’t even thought about it. Most of the time not thinking about stuff gets me into trouble. But out there, not thinking is exactly why I’m going.
Mark Usyk is the author of Reflections of a Fly Rod and Carp Are Jerks. Stories about life, where fishing happens. You can find them Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and signed copies are ready for purchase here on JPRossflyrods.com
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