I missed writing and posting my blog last week. The first one I missed since I started in January of 2020. Guilt hung with me to a degree most of the week, as I felt like I let down myself for not keeping my weekly habit and for disappointing any readers who enjoy the blog. Part of me wondered if anyone would even notice. Also, I felt slightly free from responsibility, and I recognized my desire to decompress. I was looking for some time to slow my brain down.
Last Sunday, instead of writing, I spent the day driving to the Catskills to first drop off my stepdaughter at Irish Step Dancing Camp and then to rest and relax in Livingston Manor, NY until we needed to pick her up and drive back home. My wife and I rented a restored vintage trailer, originally built the year we were born. It was cozy and the close quarters of the bathroom took some getting used to, but it was a fun home for the week.
We spent the week exploring the towns of the southern Catskills, hiking to waterfalls and overlooks, having a pint or two at some local breweries, and fishing the fabled streams of the region. In five days, we visited the Neversink River, Willowemoc Creek, Beaverkill Creek, Esopus Creek, and the West Branch of the Delaware River. It was the first time in my life I’ve fished five consecutive days, and I was lucky enough to catch multiple fish each day. I was able to add a few more new streams to my goal list for 2023 (I’m at 9 of the goal 10) and added my fourth state to fish in for the year.
Each night as the sun began to descend behind the layers of forest covered mountains, I pulled on a sweatshirt and tied on the rusty spinner to see if any fish were rising. And they always were. Some formed subtle concentric circles on the surface, while others were splashy, launching themselves out of the water. There were enough fish that it became hard for me to pick one. A luxury I am not accustomed to enjoying. I cycled through a variety of flies and found the rusty spinner was the ticket. Just about the time when my eyes would begin to fail in the twilight, I would hook my last brown trout of the day each night. Then I’d find my way back to the campsite and sit gazing into a dancing campfire. For some reason, I sleep better with the slight smell of campfire in the air.
As a fly angler who typically fishes in smaller windows of time, I depend on nymphing because I don’t encounter hatches often. But with a week of time in the Catskills, I was exposed to rising fish much more frequently, multiple times each day. Practicing casting dry flies helped me gain accuracy and the ability to adjust my casts with reach casts and pile casts to add more slack into my casts. By the end of the week, I caught more fish with better drifts. Practice makes you better, probably not perfect. And a week of practice helped me catch more fish.
The trip also reminded me of the importance, maybe necessity, of versatility. I was able to catch a fish at each stream, for two of the streams it was the first time I’ve ever seen them. Lessons taught to me from mentors, friends, guides, books, and YouTube helped me to find patience and skills to read water and switch up approaches. I used dry flies, dry dropper, contact nymphing, indicator nymphing, and streamers. My nymphing rod and mono rig was capable enough to switch through many of the rigs and I stuck with the Harvey Leader for my evening dry fly sessions.
Beyond rigs and equipment, I was grateful for the lessons I’ve learned regarding managing my mindset. Struggling with learning, contributing, and seeing some positive feedback from my actions or presence can be my kryptonite. Feeling out of place or that I’m not good enough is unfortunately an easy mental trap for me. Fishing is a way to get out of my brain and focus on the water and the setting, but if I focus on what I am doing wrong, my brain can use any activity as mental torture. Versatility is a tactic to combat my internal tear down. It also creates a process and ritual that frees me up within a structure. Things become smaller, one step at a time. One place, one activity, allows me to concentrate on each element.
The most important element is nature itself, the setting. I take it in and observe. Deep breaths and thinking like a writer connect me to my senses. Then I perform each action. Observe, process, react, repeat. It may seem odd to some, but this process helps me relax and clear my mind.
Last week was the most relaxed I have been in some time. It was wonderful to spend time with my wife, talking around the campfire was a perfect way to end each day. Five days of hiking, fishing, exploring, and connecting is as good as it gets.