September 13, 2010

Reflections on moving water and other things.

I've cried, and you'd think I'd be better for it, but the sadness just sleeps, and it stays in my spine the rest of my life.
Connor Oberst

It was a well placed cast, made even more satisfying by the fact that it had been accomplished at all due to the obstacles presented dare I even entertain thoughts of such a feat. But now, as my Elk hair Caddis drifted high and free down through the convoluted hydraulic, that sense of accomplishment was quickly suspended. The shadows contrasted so sharply with the brightness of the mid-September sun that tracking my fly was more and more difficult as it wended its way through the rocky riffle...

Getting the elk hair to settle at the top of the hook while being securely fastened is a practiced art, and I use as few wraps as possible to accomplish this. No more than four; the lessons learned from years of trial and error still and always fresh in my mind as I work. A tight bundle that sits in its proper attitude on the hook while not flaring is the goal. It is then, for me, a much more viable fly in such a situation as the one I am now presented with.

There are only so many things we can control. In fishing with flies. In life. In my head, this would be a a perfect place to insert a witty quote dealing with the vagaries of learning how to deal with the impact of that reality. But maybe that's not where I'm going with this at all. Or maybe something along the lines of an Eastern philosophy concerned with a real man being able to bend. And not break. Something about rolling with it all...

Halfway through the rocky riffle is a trough where the flow slows visibly. From many past explorations I know this slot is deep. The bottom of the river here is a moonscape of jagged, algae-covered granite. My Caddis rides high in the shadows. I am silent, rejoicing a bit in the glory of simply being able to watch its journey downstream above the algaeous moonscape.

When the sun casts my shadow on the wall above the vise, I am struck for a moment. For a very brief instant I see my father's profile. Or is it my son's. Is it really mine? Of course it is mine, though it does not appear that way when I look away and then look back again. There is a reason, I surely think, that I saw this. I cut off another chunk of elk and comb out the secondaries.
I am about to throw in the towel on this drift. My blonde caddis is rapidly approaching the limit of its rather extended drift. I have done as much as I can to prolong it. But something within me hesitates. Stay the course a little longer. I reach for the fly with my rod tip...

Too little. Too late. I'm sorry, folks, but that's what I'm left with, although the 'too late' part is still up for discussion. And if there is, there better be some dynamite clarity accompanying that, with passion. You're up against the wall now as far as I'm concerned. Time is short, and the clock, as it has for a lifetime, is ticking. I'm a good runner. And I never tire at the wrong time. What is it I hear so often? Finish Strong?

There was nothing left. I could not extend its drift any longer. The joy of the classic cast now forgotten. The last inch of slack straightened. I watched, waiting to see the telltale wake of a tethered fly...

I never saw it. My little blonde caddis suddenly disappeared in a furious boil. Instinct replaced anxiety, and I lifted my rod. Tight. Again. Harnessed to my obsession, again. Reprieve. Sanctity. Freedom...

I walk back along the trail. The setting sun is behind me. And for a the briefest instant, as I walk, I am my father.
Or is it my son?

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