There are places I fish that stay with me long after I leave the water. The smell of the air, the constant movement of insects and wildlife and the force of water against my legs imprints my memories, so when I close my eyes, I can bring back the setting in my daydreams. A soundtrack of chattering birds and jostling leaves is underlain by the soft roar of falling water. 

There is no cell signal, let alone an annoying calendar notification. No planes in constant rotation to faraway places and only rarely, the sounds of nature are offset by the crunching of gravel under tires and the low rumble of a truck’s engine. Wild and remote places, even if it is only related to my normal suburban setting, clear my mind, and fill me with hope and possibility. 

Often places I fish are interrupted by roads, power lines, houses, or park trail networks. Occasionally I visit a place that feels timeless and untouched. My presence will be cataloged in my mind, and when I leave it will be as if I was never there, except for leaving very small metal hooks in logs and between boulders. 

A Family of Mergansers

When I go to wild places, I carry only one pressure. To catch a single fish. I recognize it is a silly pressure, particularly in comparison to being a father, husband, or leader at work. Once I catch one fish, I am completely at ease. 

A Beautiful Brown Trout

I explored a new reach of my favorite creek yesterday. Every step opened new water to fish. Unfortunately, due to a sprained ankle, every step was also painful. To my benefit, my sore ankle forced me to be slow and thoughtful, especially in a difficult to wade stream. I examined the water types and developed an approach for each cast. Areas I would normally pass by in favor of my “type” of water I fished and used a variety of techniques. I swung wet flies and used dry dropper, contact nymphing, indicator nymphing and dry fly techniques. During a “normal” fishing session that lasts two to three hours, I will typically only use one or two techniques. 

Dame’s-violet

In my physically hobbled approach, my mindset and mood improved my landing percentages. Each hook up with a fish turned calm and methodical, instead of nervous and shaky. I took a moment after releasing each fish I caught to appreciate the fish and observe all the activity around me and the beauty of the setting. This peaceful break also allowed me to catch my breath and reset my feet. 

Can you find the Bald Eagle?

After catching my first fish, a mink scampered along the water’s edge in front of me, slipping through an obstacle course of overhanging bank vegetation and boulders. Following the release of my second fish, a family of Canadian geese hurriedly waddled downstream, while the adults kept watchful eyes on their fuzzy goslings. A bald eagle soared over me as I released my third fish. While catching the fourth fish, a family of mergansers dutifully paddled by me in a regal procession. My fifth fish coincided with a clumsy stumble in the shallows that helped me to discover a spent green drake, its striking “coffin fly” form. 

The Green Drake Spinner – AKA the Coffin Fly

I caught a few more and lost a couple over the course of the day. Grateful for each moment on the stream, I felt like I sported a perpetual smile. As the pain in my ankle increased, I began to dread the hike up the steep trail to my truck. I decided to call it a day and make the slow ascent. My smile stayed with me the rest of the day until I fell asleep with an ice pack on my ankle, with thoughts of the river rolling through my dreams. 

 Keep Mending…    

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