"There was the kind of wind burned happiness that comes from accomplishing not much but a few fish out of good water; no real point to the day just spent beyond the simple fact of its new existence." - Allen Jones, "Big Water, Big Fish" from the Big Sky Reader
The past year or so has been an interesting one for my wife & I. We were set on something that would determine a lot about the next phase of our life. That something isn't so certain anymore (our mistake for thinking that it ever was), which has led us to re-examine what we want out of our lives together and what the future holds.
A few years ago, when we decided to settle in, we were anxious to homestead, to let our roots take hold and to become a part of a place. Our family was close by, our good jobs were within a short commuting distance, and we felt like we could live here for quite some time.
Now, we find ourselves possibly looking at packing up our things, hitching what we can onto our backs, and doing a bit of exploring. This exploring could start within a year, 3 years, or ten. We just don't know anymore, and we are getting OK with that. However, I want to be prepared to leave when/if we decide to.
I was lucky enough to spend my twenties pretty much living out of a pack, working for the Park Service and The SCA, traveling and camping, eating burritos for three meals a day, and changing jobs and locations every six months. It was awesome and probably the best education I've ever received. However, I always have a slight pang of regret when I think back on all the places I lived and worked and, here it is, how much fishing I missed out on. I just wasn't a fly fisherman back then. I had a fly rod, but the only fly I knew how to even slightly use was a wooly bugger. Colorado, California, Maine, brook trout, cutties, big rainbows and wild browns - I missed out on all of them because I was too busy with other things. I don't blame anyone or anything, fly fishing just wasn't in my blood like it is now.
Which brings me to why I've been fishing so much. If/when we decide to pack it up and move on, I want to be able to leave this place knowing I explored every blue squiggly line I found on a map. I want to be able to KNOW this place. By knowing a place, I mean understanding its contours, its folds and schisms, smells and taste, its winter breath and summer sweat.
Looking back over this past year, I can assuredly say that I'm well on my way to truly understanding this small section of Pennsylvania. I've found some beautiful stretches of water, some with well worn paths along them, others still brushed in with thick rhododendrons and deep plunge pools. I'm beginning to become a blue line junky, constantly pouring over maps and tracing the curves of each blue line I see, day dreaming about the trout that may hide below it's surface.
...& some final numbers for 2014.
"...Numbers add up to nothing..." - Neil Young
Estimated # of trout caught & released - 155 - a mixture of Rainbows, Browns, Brookies, Native, Wild, & Stocked.
Streams fished - 24 different streams, 3 different states (Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia)
Days fished - Approximately 50.
Months of the year fished/caught trout - 12
Headspace created - infinite
Here's a nice little ditty that took me fishing the other morning. "Walking' Down the Line" by Sean Hayes.
One of the best albums of 2014 was Damien Jurado's Brothers & Sisters of the Eternal Son. It's folky, it's surreal, it's metaphysical, it's psychadelic, it's unique. Damien can easily carry a song with just with voice and guitar playing, but this album is both sonically & lyrically layered so beautifully that I keep coming back to it.
Just last night I found myself enamored with the song "Jericho Road".
Here's a performance of it -
This particular performance is pretty powerful. Jurado includes a lot of Christian imagery in his songs, and "Jericho Road" is no exception. My wife has a much stronger Biblical understanding than I do, so I had to have her explain the story associated with this place called Jericho Road. According to her, this is the road in which a Samaritan helped a man who had been beaten and robbed and was culturally his enemy. This after men of religion had passed over this downtrodden man. Hence, where we get the term "Good Samaritan". Please forgive my paraphrasing of the story, I know I probably left out a lot.
I can make fair interpretations of most of the lyrics (at times it feels like a conversation between two men instead one single narrator), especially in the context of the Biblical story. However, one line stands out that I'm still rolling around in my head like a koan -
"We are secrets sold"....
For some reason I find that line pretty powerful; I just don't know why.
That's OK to me. I'll let it roll around in my head for a couple of weeks or years and maybe something will eventually click.
Much to my wife's disappointment and annoyance, I've slowly fallen in love with The Grateful Dead over the past few months. I've always liked their music and listened to them casually, but this summer I really dug in and found myself loving certain runs of certain years, able to discern the different "Sugaree"s, etc. Out of all the things I love about the Dead, one of the things that keeps me coming back to them is that the sheer size of their discography lets me fall in love with certain songs and certain periods. Even though they aren't making anymore new music, I feel like I'm constantly discovering something new about them.
Once of those recent discoveries has been the brilliant song "Jack Straw". To be honest, I probably didn't realize the greatness of this song earlier because Bob Weir sings it... I usually skip over his songs...
This is one of those epic Western songs with outlaws, killings, and hangings. There's multiple characters, and the Dead are designed perfectly to carry out a song like this with Bob and Jerry switching back and forth on the versus in order for the story to really come together.
The climactic build up is as grand as the story itself.
One more thing... I love how the story itself can be interpreted a few different ways - "Jack Straw from Wichita cut his buddy down..." leaves a few things for us listeners to wonder. Did Jack Straw kill him because he was too slow, maybe didn't have anything else to share? Or did he cut him down after he was hung, out of brotherly respect? My answers change depending on the mood.
All in all, probably one of the Dead's best songs. It captures their truly unique way of storytelling both through song and lyrics.
Just last week I fulfilled my New Year's Resolution for the first time in my life. In fact, I don't think I've ever really had a resolution until this year. My secret to success? Picking something that I actually wanted to do - catch at least one trout every month of the year (on a fly, of course). I reached my goal when I landed a little rainbow on, believe it or not, an elk hair caddis, in the cold December rain. It's been a great year of fly fishing - one in which I feel like I finally figured out how to fish. I've been keeping a pretty detailed journal, and I'm looking forward to compiling all the streams I've explored and fish I've caught (and released).
Today was a pretty mild day for December, so I decided to do some exploring on new water. I went to a stream I've been wanting to fish for quite awhile, but I heard it was all on posted land. I finally found a stretch of it that was open to the public, so I ventured down south. I was hoping for higher water than what we've had, but the water was still pretty low. I managed to bring a few wild browns to hand, all on nymphs. There were some midges hatching, but I couldn't get them to take anything on top.
Sketches & scatterings. Rooted in Pennsylvania along the Susquehanna River.