I pause for a moment, staring at a deer’s half-consumed rib cage that is resting between a pool filter and a Top Ramen noodle bag. If I duck down I can see the river through the trees- I’m almost there, but my curiosity beckons. Who threw their pool filter in the middle of the woods? What animal left a half eaten deer next to the river? And I’m not sure who would make noodles and toss the bag in the woods, but I notice they are also missing some hair ties, RC Cola cans, and a heinous amount of used toilet paper. And what’s with the pool filter…did you really bring that out here? The eeriness of all the untold stories, and people’s failed attempts at camping, bothers me. The coldness sweeping over me could also be the cloud cover that has rolled in and darkened the river valley, adding to the mysteriousness. I keep walking, knowing I can’t pick it all up right then, and hoping the further I wade out into the river, the further I get away from the idiotic humans and the animals that may come back for lunch.
I can hear my family in the distance, shooting bb guns, and throwing rocks for the dogs. It’s been about a month since I was able to fish, so I’m desperate to just see the river, even for only a few moments. Soon I realize this isn’t the trail I used to use and I decide to plow through the thick alder brush to find my way. The sticks grab onto my fly rod as if they were trying to warn me and I end up crawling for about 10 yards (that’s not awkward). While crawling like a little baby, I can feel leaves falling down the back part of my neck and my waders have a smattering of moose droppings on them (thank God the ticks are gone…wait are they?). After pausing several times to listen for a cougar following me, I make my way around the corner to the river, finally.
My brain struggles to process what I see- the last time I visited this river, this section of water was completely dried up. It had been an insanely hot summer, with little snow pack, and wild fires raking the woods for months. To see somewhere I love to fish so damaged was heart wrenching, but to see it raging with water again was delightful. I step into the river- the current is strong and the water is frigid, so I take calculated steps across, rinsing off moose poop on the way and I feel like a heroine when I make it to the other side.
I explore the new river, walking up stream for a while, and come to a beautiful rock wall with deeper sections of riffles and pools. I don’t see any fish rising, but a hefty caddis flies by me so I decide to put on a caddis emerger with a classic san juan worm on the bottom, since the river is flowing high. I can feel my heart pumping faster and faster, so energized by the prospects of casting and potentially holding a trout in my net. [When it works out, and we get past the fears, and the river is fishable with a perfect fishy section in front of you, you can’t help but be grateful for that moment].
I float my nymph rig through the section two times and decide to move my indicator up higher than I’m comfortable with. The first cast out, I hook and land a good size cutthroat (compared to what I’m used to catching on that river). I move upstream to the section I know will be money, since I only have a few more minutes to myself before the rain hits and the kids will want to eat. Carefully roll casting across the river, my rig falls where I want it to. I throw in a couple mends and as the indicator goes past where I consider the catch zone, it dives under. Once I set the hook I realize this is a much bigger fish than the last one! By the time I get it to the net, we’ve done a bit of a dance and my arm is tired. I drop down to my knees to stare at this rare gem I have managed to trick and land. I try to pick it up for a picture, but because of it’s size I feel like I would hurt it trying to hold it out of the water, so after I get a few pictures, I say ‘Thank you’, and let her go. “YES!!!”, I shout! I am shocked to have found a fish this big in this little river that was recently dried up.
And that’s all I needed. I’ve received what I came to find and so I reel in my line and start my journey back to ‘mom zone’, with a bit more pep in my walk and a geeky smile on my face. I don’t remember noticing anything on my way to my family, I just had a joyful feeling, and that is why I love river adventures. Every time I go, I feel like I receive something that is difficult to explain- the further I get out past the humans, the more I feel God right in front of me; I learn more about what I am mentally capable of and I am filled.
When I think about it, the river always has a way of opening my eyes to the bigger picture, beyond catching a fish. With all the turmoil and hatred going on in our country, seeing a river healed and teaming with unexpected big cutthroat trout, gives me hope that what I expect to happen is not what will always take place. And even when the world feels dark and uncertain, and the humans aren’t making sense, I can keep walking (or crawling) and get to a beautiful place. I have choices to make and sometimes we all need to just suck it up, be brave, and keep forging through the water, choosing to see the beauty. Rivers have a liberating way of getting more than just moose poop off of us!
And that’s why we all drive the long drives, fishing hard regardless of the weather patterns, and hauling everyone we can convince to experience it….to find what we seek, to understand our passion, to grasp why we fantasize about running there every single day. I think humans would be better humans if they spent more time in nature, and less time in front of the TV watching the news.
With that, humans, have a wonderful Holiday Season! Get outside, take better care of yourselves, each other, and the natural world that has so much to teach us! Try not to be, or raise, someone that thinks tagging bridges in the middle of no where is productive or cool (although we did find some hilarious literature on this bridge):
The further I get past the humans, the better……
~Mammaflybox, strange mom/fisher-lady, hopeful human, believer that love conquers (even though I want to take that pool filter human and shove their face in the dirt) 🙂
Photo by Hailey Decotto