Enjoying my first cup of coffee this morning I found a rare fly fishing show on the television, watching a few minutes while I sipped myself fully awake. ‘Tis November and the off season for the dry fly angler, and a time that many are talking of and wishing for some dream fishing adventure.
The show I watched idly of course offered it’s own suggestion: Alaska on a budget! A measly $3,000 gets you a week with a bed to sleep in, a kitchen to cook in, and a small boat to fish out of. It doesn’t get you to Alaska, nor feed you, nor provide a guide; strictly a do it yourself adventure. There is an appeal to that idea I admit, though I expect that by the time you figure airfare, food, taxes, etc. you will double that figure. Though I am generally not an angler who fishes with guides, Alaska is the kind of place where a guide would make a great deal of sense, both for improved odds of success and personal safety. Though this particular destination mentioned that guides were available, the cost of the service wasn’t mentioned. My guess would be to triple that starting figure, then add another grand for gratuities and contingencies. Welcome to the ten thousand dollar dream trip category.
I have a few friends who take fishing trips like that, and once or twice one of them has truly had his angling dreams come true; at least for a week. I am not one of those guys who is inclined to gamble a small fortune upon the vagaries of an unknown climate, whimsically variable river conditions, and the devious delights the Red Gods seem to plan for fishermen. Yes, I would love to fish Montana, or Patagonia, and certainly Alaska, but such excursions are not within the realm of possibility for me and, even if they were, I am not inclined to take the big gamble. I plotted a surer course for living my dream.
When I was toiling in the trenches for more than forty years, I had one angling dream that stayed foremost in my mind. It was my hope to spend one full season angling the Catskill rivers I grew to love through twenty-five years of all too brief visits and gorgeous memories. I really didn’t dare to hope that I might retire in the shadows of these mountains. That too seemed out of reach.
When my health began a downward spiral a decade ago, I fought with everything I had to recover from each blow, just in time it often seemed to stand and take the next one. When life offered a chance to catch my breath, I often thought of my angling dream: a season in the Catskills.
I was lucky enough to weather the storms, and to find a way to survive and actually contemplate retirement near to the rivers of my heart. When it seemed to be nearly in my grasp, I found another battle and scratched out a small victory, emerging here, with a small house close to the rivers that feed my soul. We live simply in these quiet surroundings, and I am blessed to spend my days upon the rivers of my heart. I had dreamed of one season; I have enjoyed three, and hope there are many more upon the horizon.
At times I still feel that I live on borrowed time. I do my best to keep the enemies of my health and longevity at bay, but life is a gift that may be taken away at any moment. The past three seasons have been the best of my life. I have been blessed to share time on my rivers with my three best friends, to while away the quiet hours tying hundreds of dozens of dry flies and, best of all, to cast them upon the bright waters with the lithe bamboo rods and vintage reels that I love.
Moments in time define the seasons of the rivers of my heart. Each day offers promise: some, simple moments of quiet contemplation; others the thrill of arching rods and singing reels, or the heart stopping explosion of a grouse suddenly aloft, weaving effortlessly through the branches!
If I could crystallize one moment and suspend it in time, it might well be the five sequential leaps and startling run of a wild Delaware rainbow on a bright June morning last spring. My seventy year old Granger bamboo rod arched deeply, and the reel literally screamed with the energy of that great fish as it rocketed skyward over and over, and then away. Could that moment be etched more indelibly in my mind had it occurred in Patagonia or Alaska? No. It lives for me as I return to that place often each season. I stand and relive that incomparable thrill, just before I make the cast that might well provide the next one; right here at home!