Saturday, February 11, 2006

"Indedibly Etched"-Fishing and Memory

I have a saying that I stole from some book I read over ten years ago-"Everytime you go fishing, at least one thing will happen that you will remember all your life." I have found that statement to be true in the extreme. I happen to be blessed with a fantastic long-term memory- (my short-term is lacking-for instance, I can remember our phone number when I was in first grade but I cannot locate my car keys at this time). All my fishing experiences, down to complete minutae, still reside somewhere in the recesses of my brain and a mere a mention of a place or time sets loose a torrent of detailed memories of the trip-what rod I was using, what reel I was using, who I was with, what the weather was like, what fly or bait was used, where the fish was caught and how many were caught. These experiences are recounted as if they happened that very day- as if they were the product of hypnotic trance. As my fishing buddy Scott likes to say, these experiences are "indelibly etched" in our brains. No shit!

I can tell you that I caught my first trout on a fly that I tied in 1993 in the East Prong of the Roaring River at Stone Mountain State Park directly across the dirt road from the trail that leads to Widow's Falls. I was using an Orvis 6'6' 4 weight rod with a Battenkill 3/4 disc reel. I was by myself and against the basic tenets of dry fly fishing, I was letting the fly float downstream of my position , not casting upstream and having the fly drift back towards me. I was using a fly called a bivisible tied on a size 12 hook and the fish was a stocked 12-inch rainbow-oh yes, it was the first week in May.

I can remember a float trip on the Snake River in Idaho with Scott and Mike Bradford and Ervin Brown where the weather in July began as hot and sunny but by the end of the day we were motoring the driftboat through a sideways freezing rain. I remember the sandwiches the guide fixed on the side of the river for lunch (I picked out the banana peppers) and I remember beaching the driftboats on a gravel bar to fish a 200 foot-long riffle where the fish rose with reckless abandon to gulp down the sulfurs (ephemerella dorothea) that rose from the pocket water.

I remember the three of us walking down a hill and fishing the Yellowstone River, standing in between boiling "paint pots," drifiting weighted nymphs in a deep back-eddy while the caddis flies were so thick we sucked them into our noses by the thousands. You can put up with that if you're catching large "cutbows," which we were.

I could drive right now to the exact rock on the Madison River below Slide Lake where every evening the caddis hatch came off at the exact same time and everytime I swung a caddis pupa across the stream it was violently nailed by a rainbow trout. I remember negotiating the steep sagebrush-covered slopes of the Gardner River Canyon near the northern border of Yellowstone Park and fishing the fast moving pocket water with big, bushy Royal Wulffs while a herd of elk grazed not 50-feet away.

I remember, and how could I ever forget, unfolding a brand new 10-foot cast net and throwing it over a huge school of menhaden. In my haste, I had forgotten one important step-putting the loop over my wrist. Scott and I watched as the green rope disappeared to the bottom of the 30 foot channel, never to be seen again. After the initial shock, we horselaughed the entire rest of the day and to this day still tell this story with glee. Cast net-$133.00. Having your friend watch you throw it into the water and disappear on your first cast-priceless!

I remember the exact details of every tailing redfish I have caught while wading grass flats at high tide. I can tell you the rod it was caught on and also the type fly I used. I can recall every detail of a South Carolina cobia trip year before last when we boated four weighing 55, 40 35 and 25 pounds respectively. I can show you the rubble from which I yanked out a 6 pound flounder last summer; the place where the bluefish went crazy one afternoon in the river; and the place on the South Platte that I hooked a huge rainbow that ran downstream between my legs and almost spooled me before me and the guide could chase it down and land it.

I do not say these things to brag-I have more times than not come home without getting so much as a nibble. I also remember those times as if they just happened. I say them to demonstrate the power of experience, especially shared experience. If I never fished again, I would be able to fish for the rest of my life by simply recalling and reliving with friends our precious time on the water.

2 Comments:

Blogger Dash said...

Those are great stories. Thanks for sharing. I think I've told you before that I've fished that same stretch of the Madison River in Montana and the Yellowstone in Wyoming. Good times and memories.

12:08 AM  
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