In high school I thought there was exactly one girl on earth, and her name was Natalie.
I articulated my affection for her though 90s love songs because they spoke for me. The reality was I was 17, which is the numerical equivalent of clueless.
Predictably, a lot of what I thought I knew growing up ended up being either wrong, or I grew out of it.
One thing I did get right in my teen and pre-teen years, was fishing. There is now no doubt that at any given moment, I’d rather be on a river somewhere not just because it’s one of those lines that makes people sound interesting, but because I am obsessively interested in standing next to a wild river in wild country.
Even if I am rejected by fish, it is still largely fun and exciting.
Not that I needed more evidence to support the lack of stagnancy in the sport, but last week I got three exhibits anyway.
Abe and I turned the corner at Cape Ulitka in his 26-foot boat on our way to fish the outside coast of Noyes Island. We saw at least two dozen eagles dive-bombing baitfish. Ocean Fishing 101 says to fish feed-balls, because king salmon like to eat, too.
We fished there, and caught none. We followed the coast through unimpeded ocean swells to a spot with no boiling bait-fish on the surface and limited on king salmon in an hour.
The next day Steve and I went to the Thorne River where the trout fishing is hot and will be until the salmon show up in a little over a week. The point of fly fishing nymphs and dry flies for trout is to try and trick them into biting something that looks somewhat natural.
Nymphs are supposed to be fished without drag so they look like they are helpless bits of food drifting in the current, but Steve and I caught dozens of fish stripping nymphs in against the current. Dry flies are supposed to be fished on the surface, like a fly landing delicately on the water. We stripped those in below the surface and against the current and still caught fish.
It’s close to what John Gierach said, “If you fish the wrong fly long and hard enough, it will sooner or later become the right fly.”
A few days after catching fish pretentious purists would say we didn’t deserve, I put together the spinning rod for the first time this summer. There is a terminal coho salmon run on the east side of the island at Neck Lake.
Think ‘stocked’ salmon, only natural fish are released into this otherwise dead mile-long lake drainage as fry, resume normal salmon migration patterns in the ocean and return as adults.
You are allowed to snag six fish per day here. All you have to do is wait for one to swim by, yank a barb or two into its side and after an acrobatic fight, toss the fish in the cooler.
Sounds easy, right?
It took Eli and I three hours to get five fish. Granted, I did lose four, Eli lost two and it was so early in the run we were really only targeting one school of about 40 fish, but as Eli said, “It shouldn’t be this hard.”
Though I have had plenty of days I didn’t catch fish, and some in which the ones I did catch made no sense, no day is predictable or mundane.
We are told that we need things to reset our minds, things that provide us sheer joy so we don’t get too caught up with our retirement, house equity and five-year plans. In a world of familiarity, routine and bored expectation fishing provides me the antithesis. It’s my thing, a wise choice according to Izaak Walton who wrote, “No life is so happy and so pleasant as the life of the well-govern’d angler.”
To contact Jeff Lund, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.