The sun’s last rays of light wrap themselves around the red rocks above us, signaling the end of the day and the beginning of a delicious evening bug hatch. A warm breeze rolls through the canyon gently and the sounds of Enya echo through my brain…you know the sound: peaceful and sort of primal.
I routinely listen for kids fighting or for rocks being thrown into my casting spot on the river by a mischievous toddler, but then I remember they are at home with a sitter. This is magical. I am just getting to the finest part of the Enya song, where in my mind the flowers fall from the sky and I am soaking in a warm bath of nature’s finest relaxing aromas, when I hear:
“Son of a….!!! You piece of trash!!! I ought to cut your heads off!”
My blood pressure rises to the warning level of ‘angry mamma bear’, while I stand up straight in the water and pull my line in to look around. It was the man just upstream from us, pouting because he lost another fish. He yells ridiculously loud to his buddy:
“That was the third fish I lost that broke my tippet off! Stupid fish!”
Like a sprinting cheetah, I dash upstream towards the man and do a Billy Blake’s Tae-Boe chop (the only form of ninja skills I have) to his jugular. Then I bend his fingers back and flip him over my shoulder into the water while I say the only thing I can think of:
“Fish are friends, not food”, from the movie, Finding Nemo, of course (remember I’m a mom).
Alright… Well instead of actually doing what I was imagining me doing, this is what really happened:
I take a few ‘Mother May I’ size baby steps down stream and vow to myself to move to another part of the river if he did it again. Wow, I am so tough.
The big Brown trout are starting a feeding frenzy on PMDs, and with only two more hours of sunlight, I know I need to stay in this spot in order to land a big one. I start to focus again and tie on some more 5x tippet just to make sure I have the best presentation. Here comes the ‘peaceful nature feeling’ again as fish are rising and crickets are telling the sunlight where to land.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see the angry angler taking huge ungraceful (Not the ‘Mother May I’ type) steps in the water towards me. He stops about 30 ft. away from me and starts casting towards me. His line slaps the water near my fly as he mumbles,
I can feel the mercury in my blood rising (some people have it, some don’t), deep breaths…maybe he doesn’t understand river etiquette (I always give people the benefit of the doubt). Then he yells to his buddy unnaturally loud:
“HEY, I THINK THOSE LADIES HAVE THE BEST SPOT!”
I yelled back to him,
“DON’T CALL ME A LADY- you don’t even know me. My kids are with the baby sitter until dark and I rarely get a full day of fishing in. So you don’t want to mess with this mama bear. This is my time, pal. So back your abhorrent attitude out of here and away from my fishing space, you angry angler”.
Ya, you probably know I didn’t yell that. Instead I move closer towards him this time so he knows he can’t push this “Lady” out, hoping my confident body language will save me from a confrontation- or save him from me letting the mama bear out of her cage (I really haven’t met her before, but I know she is on speed dial, waiting for her moment to charge).
Despite my desire to run away from him, I cast again. As soon as my fly gets close to the water, a brown trout literally jumps out of the water to inhale my PMD fly. I set the hook and my husband comes out of the bushes, where he was resting, to check it out (He caught a nice one right before me- few). I look up at the angry guy and he starts stomping his way back upstream, cussing under his breath.
*Winning*, I think, (against my general moral character and self-made fly fishing rules, AKA, I hate competition fly fishing).
My husband nets the Brown for me and it’s a good 20 inches at least, with beautiful black spots on his back and a shimmer of orange and purple in places. I quickly take a picture so that my kids can see it and I guess so I can also brag on social media about what I caught…just like the jerk upstream is probably hoping to do (dang it, I’m just like him?).
As I let it go carefully, I notice an even bigger fish dead on the river floor below me. My first thought is from Alaska, where I remember the fish spawning, and dying, then getting stuck on my leg while I casted in the Newhalen river. But I know this one probably didn’t die from natural causes- more than likely a hook got stuck deep in its throat, or someone like the angry angler wasn’t careful with it and dropped it on the rocks. This makes me mournful in a strange way.
I look over at my new friend fishing downstream. She hasn’t landed a fish in a while, and yet she is out there smiling at the experience and taking in the moments of nature that are happening around her, regardless if she lands a big fish. Meanwhile, the anger ball angler has moved upstream and I can hear him from around the corner, he is so loud and obnoxious its embarrassing.
I look down again at the dead fish and at my friend and suddenly remember that this isn’t my favorite kind of fishing: where people are so close, judging my every move, cramping my space and hammering the fish that live here. I don’t want to have to think about the psychological reasons of why this man is so angry and why he needs a fish to compensate for his feelings of inferiority. Or why he can’t tie tippet on to save his life.
I don’t want to have to mull over how I feel about him calling me a lady either.
I think I am like most fly fishing moms: we just want to be outdoors, improving our knowledge of hatches and reading the rivers. We just want to fish new waters and use the fishing experience as metaphors to handle our own lives- to find strength to wade through the deep waters of not knowing what happens next in life (fly fishing has so many wonderful metaphors). It can be spiritual or it can be just another river or just another day where we caught fish. It is creative and unique to each individual.
But most of us fly fishing moms just want a moment of peace- where otherwise we are planning, cleaning, problem solving, working, wiping butts, answering our children’s strange questions and doing a whole lot of cooking! We don’t want to deal with toddler-type tantrums or worry about anyone or anything accept ourselves really.
I don’t know who this ‘anger ball’ dude is, but after I was no longer frustrated, I felt bad for him. He is missing the whole reason behind why people love fly fishing:
It’s not about the numbers, or being a professional, or wearing a hot red bikini while holding up a prize trout- it’s about being able to just sort of BE in nature, out where we don’t need to be defined or labeled with daily roles or the expectations of others. It’s a place to clear our minds from the tasks that weigh on us in the real world and focus on one thing: tricking fish and enjoying nature.
With that in mind, it’s always hard to leave the river and morph back into those other roles I seem to be using nature to recover from. My husband made fun of me because after all the other fishermen left, we fished until it was so dark that my friend and I had to find our way to the shore by scooting our feet carefully on the river floor, over boulders we could not see. I think at one point I said,
“Even if you can’t see your fly, just set the hook on anything you hear”. That was some real brilliant advice. A bat hit my rod and I was quickly done for the day.
Needless to say, but Ill say it anyways: I am a fly fishing addict, but definitely not a professional and I am fine with it. Apparently I can also be somewhat ‘mama bearish’ (a term I might have just made up and you can re-use) when it comes to my fishing time without kids. If you are an angry angler: you should fish alone, or find a counselor that can help tame your rage. If you don’t, next time I might flip you over my shoulder for your own good.
Tight lines, mamas…and everyone else that just wants ‘peaceful Enya time’ in life or on the river!