Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Deep Water


High water marks towering above my head score the canyon walls.  Ominous log jams packed with trees ripped from the river's edge serve as a stern reminder that big water shoves back with a vengeance, and with very little regard for your well-being.

Death-grip on the guide boat, standing in a push of heavy current, teetering on a boulder I cannot see, praying it stays anchored beneath my feet while I struggle to establish a stable purchase.  Water rushes in around my mid section forming a hydrolic downstream of me that consumes my free running fly line.  In that anxious moment, I imagine that's what I'll look like if I lose my footing and get sucked under.  "Pay attention," I think to myself.

Once stable, I release the boat, untethered to its safety and the confidence of my guide, left to my own competence and self-doubt.  Standing alone in a vast run in the middle braid of the river, leaning heavily toward the headwaters, the river fingers me like a bully.  My senses are tuned, my mind flooded with anxiety, exhilaration and a healthy appetite for adventure as I prepare to cast in torrent chaos.

Black water tipped with silver highlights swirling on the surface surrounds me as I groove down a run.  Strip, cast, mend, step, and swing, the metronome of Steelhead fishing.  Bouncing along on the slick subsurface, the current relentless to see me come unhinged; "fishing by braille," I call it.  And I love the sensation.  Will my next step be two feet deeper?  Where exactly was I told to move toward shore?  Don't turn my feet and face downstream!  Can I jump to that next rock?  Will it be steady?  Be careful not to lodge my foot between boulders.  Was that a tug?  All the while, fatigue and forty-one degree water punishes my joints.  Kicked to the curb, I inch back toward shore in submission, surrendering to deep water, the river unimpressed with my campaign.

9 comments:

  1. Beautifully painted. And "fishing by braille" is a brilliant description of it.

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  2. Thank you Erin. I've been feeling my way along river bottoms for more years than I care to recall. Sadly, my river legs aren't near as nimble as they once were. Then again, my wisdom has kicked up a notch or two. Thank you for stopping by.

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  3. Intense!! I do the "concentrate.concentrate." when I'm just in chest deep water, or rolling in the falls in the surf, in waist deep water. Great writing.

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  4. River Mud, thanks. So...what can you tell me about the Susquehanna flats and stripers?

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  5. Hey Gary, I've been following your blog for awhile now. Really look forward to the posts. Thanks. Todd

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  6. Enjoyed this a ton! Despite the ever present danger of the "Deep Water" and unknown, I could really get into this type of fishing.

    Cheers

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  7. Wow - love it. Hopefully I'll get my first shot at this experience this winter.

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  8. @Sanders - If you want to learn to cast a spey rod, I'd be more than willing to help you figure it out. I have a personal goal I set every year, to introduce three new people to throwing a long line. Count yourself in for next year if you'd like. The first ingredient we need is flowing water. I can give you a call when flows pick up in town so we can hit the South Platte if you'd like. Don't worry about a rod or lines, I've got a half dozen outfits that you're welcome to use just to try it out. Just let me know if you're interested. I usually try to get four or five people together for a day of swinging flies on the Arkansas before the hard runoff gets moving. We should have good water well before then on the Platte so I should be able to get you dialed in and comfortable. You strike me as someone who will be a quick study. I warn you though, this will change the way you think about fishing forever, and God help you if you ever make it Steelheading.

    @Josh - Thanks for stopping by! Like I said, God help you if you ever make it Steelheading. I've said it before and will say it again, swing flies for anadromous species will ruin your trout fishing. Proceed at your own risk!

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