I’m unlike most younger men…I like things slow. Everything, driving, fishing, making food, sex, tying flies, enjoying a smoke or a coffee…I’m never in a hurry. I didn’t used to be. College, family, my previous business, my previous work…it always seemed like I was chasing another paycheck, another appointment, another school function, pay this bill, pay that bill, can’t afford that, can afford this, run over here and do this, over there and do that. Just a never ending spiral of running around chasing my tail it seemed.
I was always hurried to the water, trail, or slope. Get there fast so you get as much time as possible, one more cast in, one more run, another 3 Miles in. Get away from all the noise, the bills, the kids…the people. Unplug, disconnect, and sync up with the outdoors. I never felt like I had enough time to enjoy all of it before. The past 4 years have been quite the opposite.
I only chase one thing now…fish. Typically Trout, but the angler in me needs more. I’ve got other water, other fish, and new experiences on the brain. Knowing this has made me really appreciate the homewater and the entire watershed from sources to confluences and down river. I’m observing it all…I’m a very visual person. Things that stimulate the eyes and make the mind ponder and wonder are something that still take my breath away, make my heart flutter, the adrenaline I am so addicted to course into my body.
Things like: a Trout eating a dry fly. A mountain and glacier shining faintly but intently in the alpenglow above the lake. The whitewater of a class 4 rapid, the bubbles and chaos of water underneath while snorkeling, the smooth worn rock that the river slides through, the trees…oh the trees…to this day I lose myself in watching them sway against the night sky…that lime green hue that comes just after sunset…the first faint stars glistening against the deep purple…moonless night. These things enrich and fulfill me in a way that I cannot explain. I can only introduce others to…and hopefully they feel something similar.
I was reminded of this yesterday during a river float. Two friends and clients were planning a birthday float. I wasn’t busy…so I invited them to fish with me. The fishing was spectacular. And the company couldn’t have been better. Plus a few bottles of bitchin’ wine as a thank you is also nice. Thanks Darby. Seriously. Darby Wine…
But at one point we were all fishing separately…and Jordan hooked up on a beautiful big cutthroat. I helped net, videoed the release and snapped a few photos as I tend to do. I was very stoked for him, a big trout on a birthday float is hard to beat. As I was walking back, I turned back to say something cheeky, and noticed Jordan just standing…kinda spacing off…at first I didn’t get it…my super stoke level and all…but he said…”I’m just trying to be present.”
When he said that honestly…my heart skipped a beat…that’s the kinda thing…as a guide…but moreover, just as an angler and outdoorsmen…you want to share with people. That moment…that fish, that ascent, that wicked run…when it all hits you…you’re not sure what it is…but it’s something. You can feel it, your body, your mind, the place you are in, the things you see, smell, hear, taste, all the stimulus, the sensations, that overwhelming sense that something is connecting you…to something.
Like I said…hard to explain. Clients and friends, anglers and fellow guides… all share that common connection. Some feel it more deeply than others, maybe because of their life history, or maybe they’ve experienced trauma, or depression, or maybe they just need to feel something other than the spiral. No matter how, who, what, or why…doesn’t matter…that connection is sacred… it deserves reverence…respect. Never doubt or underestimate it, never judge those who feel it deeply…like myself. Yes I get excited, very loud, but if you knew me before the age of 25-28 you wouldn’t believe it’s the same person both in appearance and in personality.
I stopped caring what others thought about how I am when I feel that connection. A lot of the time I meet people that don’t know how to feel or react. I’ve been asked if it’s okay to get into it, more times than I can count! Yes! Hoot and holler, curse and swear, have fun, or be quiet and focus, be intense…but be something. Feel something.
This constant connection makes me slow. Makes me patient. Whether it’s being low holed by experienced guides out here, having rookie ones blow through water, old ladies making snarky comments about my beard, asshats making jokes about the way I live and the way I guide, or all the other shit…I’m just to chill to give a shit anymore. There’s so much more going on in the world right around all that stuff I tend to get distracted and forget about it. Keeps the negative out of your life a lot more. Makes you happier as a person. Haters gonna hate so to speak.
I’ve been camping since June now. I’ve been all over the place. Seen all sorts of things, people, and stuff. The couple having a conversation with me mid shower, the kids that grabbed my extra snorkels and picked up trash at the Cooper Hole the other day, the younger gal walking around the French Cabin Creek camping area…picking up everyone’s trash. The 60 plus campers celebrating Phillips Birthday up until 2 am for 3 nights, the people just yonder watching a movie on a big projector in the middle of the campground with a bunch of kids, the parties, the families, the RV’ers, fellow RTT’ers, the mellow, the chill, the crazy and loud. All of them out here…connecting in some way. I feel like everyone else is missing out. Like they are racing around and just need to take the exit and get out of it for a bit. Facilitate that connection somehow.
All the driving around and camping, putting the boat in and out, walking and snorkeling the rivers…I do notice a lot of people in a hurry. To get to that spot, get to that campground, be first up the mountain, first to the next Trout filled spot. I get passed a lot, honked at…even flipped off by the occasional person…(they typically have a large jacked up truck with a certain bumper sticker on the back). I ain’t in a hurry…they are. I always hope that someone stuck behind me on one of these roads actually looks out the window and enjoys the drive a bit. I mean damn…you’ll be in traffic soon enough. And you can be first to the run…Trout will be there tomorrow and the next day…and there is another spot just yonder. I can chill and watch the birds and the trees for a spell…what’s 15 more minutes.
I even have to remind clients to look around, enjoy the birds, the trees, that big ass owl over there, the swallows picking bugs out of the air, the eagle swooping in, the otter along the bank…that fish…eating your fly! As a guide I’m constantly trying to improve on that, and remind myself and clients…it’s not just about the fishing.
Even now…the campground is quiet…dead quiet and it’s 10 pm. Earliest it’s been quiet all week. Thankfully I can’t hear the airplanes leaving Sea Tac in the Teanaway. Just the occasional fire helicopter or plane. I assume because of the large pillar of smoke to the south I saw when I drove down from the highlands this evening. I hear a car door every so often.
But the chatter, chirping, clicking, and buzzing of insects among the trees drowns it out. There is a good breeze…10-15 mph I would say and it’s still warm…65-70 degrees. I can hear the tops of the trees creak as they bend and sway in the wind. That low soft hush they make as they whisper amongst themselves. I have the lights out…so it’s dark…save for the glow of this screen. If I look up and let my eyes adjust the stars are bright…I can make out the band of the Milky Way, and Cassiopeia is winking at me through the branches. The trees are black against the deep dark blue sky…silhouetted behemoths, towering over me.
I enjoy the quiet. And the solitude. I’m not lonely, quite the contrary. I miss my family, and I’ll see them soon. And they will join me in my adventures in the times to come. But this whole endeavor, this constant connection, being here, in it all, enjoying it, seeing it, smelling it, tasting it, listening and hearing it…it’s been a goal of mine for some time now. I’m loud, and excited, talk a lot, and am with people most of the day for work. So the time solo is cherished and selfishly indulged upon. I get offers to fish with others or hang out…I typically don’t respond…I find it’s easier than saying…”I’d rather fish on my own.” It’s not that I don’t like people…it’s just…well…I’m not much of a people person. Guiding and fishing are two different things. And there are plenty of days I just don’t wish to be bothered while I’m connecting. I don’t like interference…and when I’m guiding I’m the one trying to plug people in so it’s different.
This is the time of year I work…and I play…hard. I don’t sit still except at camp. And even then it’s excruciating to be bored so I’m always finding something to do. Seeing all these people, and seeing the race they run…reminds me to slow down some more…take it all in…there are no rules about how long or how deeply you can connect to things out here.