There has always been something slightly entrancing about pulling down the zipper of a nylon tent and slowly watching the flap of the door drop as your recently awakened eyes attempt to center on the beauty that, while you were in your slumber, you had forgotten you were surrounded by. Your eyes pierce the fog that has been hugging the river so tightly that you almost have to convince it to let go. You allow them to start focusing on the moss that is blanketing the river bank. Moss that could resemble an evergreen bud, so bright that is makes the water almost seem off in color as it roars down the canyon. It has always been moments like this that have melted my soul, like fresh snow melting in a warm pot. It is moments like this that remind me that fishing is life and the only life I can see myself living.
I’ll throw an extra layer on before I step out of the tent. Being surrounded by a dome of cedar branches, praying one of them doesn’t let go of a single drop of dew on a chilly morning because I know it will aim itself perfectly down the back of my collar and feel like an arrow has just notched itself into me. Letting the coffee percolate, I walk to the water to see what the flows are doing. I check the skies and the color of the water. In my mind I run through the sections of river I fished the day before and go over my mental notes of which flies worked and which did not. Then start doing the math problem in my head of all these factors so I can line up where I will put my first cast that day and what I will be throwing into the current.
It’s mornings like these that my wading boots are frozen solid and are giving the term iced over a whole new meaning. I often boil water after the coffee is done so I can avoid putting them in an equally chilly river to thaw themselves out. I have fallen in love with a piping hot pair of boots before I hit the first run of the day. Sometimes that first run is right at camp and my line has already been in the water before I have even rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. Being constantly surrounded by the men who dominate this sport, I have found that my early bird tendencies can be very fruitful at times. The swing, step, repeat through the entire hole before anyone else has gotten up for the day is quite gratifying, whether the “Fish Gods” produce for you or not.
Loading the gear for the day, the rods, the dogs and shoveling bacon in my mouth while piling into a fleet of trucks could quite possibly compare to the feeling a professional football player gets right before he takes the field for his first Super Bowl game. The adrenaline that gets my heart pumping as I drive on the wrong side of the road so I can read water and pick out the best spot for a swing is like no other. Spotting good water, some that you may have fished for years and have given a nickname to, or new water, that you will read like a map and decipher every inch of its legend before you leave its flows – gives me the feels more than watching my dogs get excited when I bring out the kiddy pool for them in the summer.
The ultimate feeling though is the tug, the pursuit the fish has just embarked on, sometimes slight at first or maybe it was a full head turn of a smash on my fly. For some reason I have always been a quiet one when I have something on the hook. And as I’m bending down at the bank to tail a Steelhead, Brown, Bull trout or Cutty, my surroundings become silent and I am alone with my thoughts, no matter how loud the river is or the guys praising my catch may be. It is always in this moment that I am again reminded that fishing is life and is honestly the only life that I ever want to live.