There are some fishing trips that are memorable for not fishing. Today was one of those. Years ago, I drove a few hours to the Tully only to have forgotten all my flies, tippet, and nippers. I phoned a friend and found a fly shop and got enough gear to fish. I have also forgotten my wading boots and fished in Teva sandals. Today, I brought two left boots. And unlike Gerry Fleck, I do not have two left feet.  

I opened the hatch and located my boots, following my typical routine for gearing up. As soon as I grabbed the boots I cussed in my head. Not out loud, just in my head. I’d like some credit for my restraint. A sigh and scrunched nose went along with my frustration and annoyance. Go home and tie flies or figure something else out on the river? My brain went to the checklist to begin my decision-making process. The weather was winter nice, with recent snow to add to the ambiance. I was at the river, near sections I hadn’t fished before. What to do?

I decided to walk along the river and check out spots for the future day when I was properly equipped. It’s funny the things you observe and think about when you are thinking about fishing, but not actually fishing. Wading and hiking in well-made waders and boots comes with an extra level of security and bullet proofness when navigating wet surfaces and patches of briars.   

First and foremost, “off road” crocs are well suited for around the house, and they are my go-to footwear for pre and post waders, especially in winter when I wear multiple layers of socks, but not so much for slushy, muddy trails on steeper slopes. I was quickly reminded that slips and catches are much more painful as a near 50-year-old than as a teenager. Slips and falls are worse, but the tweaked back and dull knee pain from the jolt of a near fall still linger.

Along the trail, I was easily distracted from my mission of scouting new stream reaches. Multiflora rose and greenbrier form natural barriers along lengths of the trails and breaks in the hedgerows, made by deer or anglers, typically lead to good locations to wet a line, and places to have your hat snatched off your head by encroaching brambles. Along edges of the forests, grape vines reach far into the branches of poplars and sycamores, grappling with the branches in the struggle between rising to the sun or falling back to the ground. 

Grape Vines Growing Into the Canopy

Ground birds rustled in the leaves, kingfishers glided just above the water surface, while vultures and hawks soared in the thermals above. Each gust of wind bent branches and swayed trees, whose deep creaks and groans sounded like the subtle growl of a large predator. I am reminded of the warmth my body can generate through a few minutes of motion and then how quickly a sharp breeze can cut through my layers. Aches and pains of my cold, idle body are soothed by the rhythm of my steps and the optimistic energy my hiking creates.  

Stopping at a bridge, I gazed down at the river. From this bird’s eye view, in the clear, calm water I delineated clean edges of boulders and identified pebbles, gravel, and the ripples in the sand deposited in the channel bottom. Where the water surface is riffled and broken, channel substrate appears as if I am staring at an impressionist painting of a stream. Even with minutes of intense concentration, my eyes cannot find any movement within the blurry depths.     

A Bird’s Eye View

The further I roamed from parking areas, the fewer footsteps I saw and eventually my steps were the first to mark the two-day old snow. North facing slopes were snow covered and shaded, while some south facing slopes appeared on the precipice of spring. With several spots marked for future fishing expeditions, I headed back to the truck. My body and imagination were engaged and satisfied, not phased at all that I had two left feet.

Keep mending…

2 Replies to “Two Left Feet”

  1. So I am not the only one?!? Glad to see another angler that forgets stuff. Just finished your book and it was deeply moving.

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