Monday, May 22, 2017

Not the Same

Anyone who chases fish is bound to encounter a certain quote on the Internet, sooner or later.  The original source is reported to be the Greek philosopher Heraclitus.  Being something of an introvert, it appears that he didn't go to great lengths to publish or popularize his thoughts.  Others, such as Plato and Plutarch quoted, or perhaps paraphrased his thoughts. Time and translation have taken these thoughts and put them through a game of "Telephone."  You whisper "The cheese is old and moldy" into your neighbor's ear and then it proceeds down the line until "Purple Monkey Dishwasher" emerges from the lips of the 20th person.  Keeping that in mind, here's the modern version:
No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.

I made my way to the river this past weekend.  Recovery from my most recent surgery has been astonishingly quick.  I feel far better than I should, though I feel the frequent urge to nap.  We loaded the Mobile Hotel® on Thursday, hooked it up to the truck Friday afternoon, and hauled it to one of our favorite places in the world: Maple Springs Campground in southeastern Minnesota, the Driftless Area.  The bunk beds in back of the Mobile Hotel® are not more than twenty feet from a small, cold, spring-fed creek.  I now consider this creek my "home water," because I fish here more often than anywhere else.

This is our fourth year of camping and fishing here.  Setup and social duties required my attention Friday evening, but I set my alarm for 5:30 AM and eagerly began the day.  Rain was nearly guaranteed, and I embraced the forecast.  There was a logistical problem with coffee (no cream or sugar!), so the single-serving Keurig produced a cup of hot cocoa before I geared up and walked to the doorway of my church.  Rather than the grandeur of a pipe organ or the peal of a bell calling the faithful to worship, I listened to the voice of waters.  My thoughts coalesced momentarily, "Thank you for allowing me to do this again."  A simple prayer.  I knelt and stepped into the water.

Last summer, I discovered a very productive fishing lane just upstream from our campsite.  I caught brown trout from this lane more reliably than any other spot in 2016.  It seemed the place to begin.  Perhaps I'd made a poor choice of fly or maybe it was my terrible cast, but no fish were interested.  Shortly, I decided to move on.

I brought rain to the next spot I visited: a deep hole, known to be holding area for brown trout of all sizes, fingerlings to lunkers.  I emerged from the greenery and was greeted with an unexpected "gift" from the recent weather.  A skinny tree on the opposite bank was now leaning over the creek, draping its canopy rather squarely over the middle of the hole, with a few branches touching the water.  I resigned myself to drifting flies into the pool from upstream, realizing that for the foreseeable future, it would be impossible to cast into the pool from downstream.

When the cold robbed my fingers of dexterity, I retired back to the Mobile Hotel®.  I was unable to tie a knot to attach a new fly after losing yet another.  The waters of the creek are often a siren's call, but I've gradually learned to listen to my body instead.  Best to treat the fishing season as a marathon, not a sprint.  On my short walk back, an uncontrolled smile and mental warmth made me realize something: I'd never been more grateful for a few hopeful minutes on the water.

The afternoon brought a break from the rain, replaced by a haunting mist that didn't quite require a raincoat.  I grabbed the fly rod and wandered down stream a short way, not two minutes from the campsite, to another familiar pool.  The sharp right turn in the creek was familiar, but a large diameter log was missing at the downstream end of the pool.  It had been there for years, partially blocking the width of the creek and causing a small waterfall.  The creek now flowed freely around the bend and into the shallower run below.  And several fish were rising in the pool.   I presented a parachute Adams and missed several strikes before losing the fly in the willows on the far side.  I replaced it with a small black caddis imitation that was much less appealing, but was tempting enough for one fish.   One fish was perfect.  I couldn't have asked for more, so I didn't.

I walked back for supper, listening to the water laughing at me.


  1. To be there is 90% of the battle....and you were there.....and caught a fish. Few things are more perfect than that.

    1. I know you understand the feeling of walking back to the creek after you weren't sure you'd ever make it back to one.

  2. At least you got out. Nice post. I'm glad to see you're still having adventures.

  3. Well my friend you have moved on and a hardy welcome back to that watery world you love so much.