Thursday, June 9, 2011
The Best Trout Fishing Trip Ever
"… and as she’s releasing this big, beautiful brown - a fish she’d caught with G-Man’s setup and from the pool that G swore was as empty as Frank’s beer cooler - she looks up, gives him a wink, and says that when he’s ready for some real fishing lessons he should give her a call. Poor G-Boy couldn't utter a word."
Hearty laughter flares around the campfire, though G’s is understandably a bit forced, as another best trout fishing trip ever story draws to an end. It’s time for a brief nature-driven excursion beyond the fire’s bright glow, another pass of the flask, and the start of the next tale. My turn.
Throughout the last story - one that this familiar tribe of anglers has heard a dozen times and in a dozen forms but never tires of - I wondered which of my trips to recount. Which is my favorite trout fishing outing? Is it that crisp winter day spent soaking up the weekday solitude of North Carolina’s Wilson Creek? Perhaps the misty summer splash in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area. Or is it my week in Colorado, rock-hoping the Arkansas, or that magical snow on Virginia’s Smith River? All great trips. All great stories. All worthy of telling. And embellishing, of course.
But which was the absolute best? Which to tell? The answer comes in the pop of an oak knot and a shower of sparks from the blazing pyre. My favorite is the next trip – the one that I’ll take tomorrow, next week, or next month. Yes, my next expedition will be the best.
On my next, my very favorite, trout outing, I’ll be just down the road, wading my comfortable home waters, replete with willing rainbows and browns. I’ll be hiking the Southern Appalachians, along tight, overgrown trickles, chasing brilliant wild brookies. I’ll fish classic limestone creeks in Pennsylvania and wade, waist deep, in fly fishing’s past. I’ll travel west to snaking, high plains fisheries, in search of west slope and Yellowstone cuts. I’ll push to the coast to find golden trout in a golden state. I’ll go global. I’ll stay in my own back yard. It’ll be the best trout trip ever.
My fishing buddies will be along for the ride. T-Bone and Couscous and Po’Boy and Finn. Pipes, The Professor, Puddin' and Gin. I’ll fish alone and bear witness to the white-noised silence of a backcountry mountain stream, with no hint of another man’s existence. I’ll teach Mary to fish, or the grandkids. I’ll fish with someone old, someone new, a fellow blogger, maybe you. We’ll enjoy each other’s company.
I’ll take my delicate TFO two-weight, my trusty Redington four, my new-and-itching-to-go-fishing St. Croix five, my elegant Winston six. I’ll drift dry flies, swing streamers, and bounce nymphs on the bottom. I’ll untangle birds nests, free tree-snagged backcasts, and pour sand from my boots. I’ll wade barelegged in the summer heat, bundle in neoprene against winter’s chill, stand cozy and dry in the drift boat. It’ll be great.
On my favorite trip I’ll land that local-legend rainbow. On my favorite trip I’ll lose yet another huge, savage brown to the tenderness of my tippet, the inadequacy of my knots, or the heavy-handedness of my rod play. The catch will be satisfying, but memory of the loss will quicken my heart for years to come - the fish forever six inches larger than if it had been netted. Maybe eight.
I’ll see strange new places and sit on rocks that have molded to my backside after countless afternoon breaks. I’ll fish an hour, a day, a week. However long, it’ll end too soon.
Yes, the next trip will be my favorite, but only until the one that follows. That is, if one does. For to insure that I, and my children, and theirs, are allowed to realize our best trout trips ever, we need to diligently protect and painstakingly restore our coldwater habitat. It’s a small slice of what needs to be done to reestablish our natural heritage, to keep our earth alive and healthy and fresh, but it’s a start that just might inspire us to follow through, downstream. For, after fishing a cool, tumbling creek in the midst of a breathtaking mountain cathedral, how could anyone not wish to keep this orb alive, keep it wild and beautiful, keep it ready for the next, best, trip? How could they not act?
The tribe returns to the fire and my story time has come. But how do I tell the tale of my best trout trip when it’s still ahead of me? How do I wriggle off this temporal hook as so many trout have wriggled off mine over the years? Simple. Like any good fisherman, any good storyteller, I’ll make it up as I go.
"It was a Carolina scorcher, so hot that the snakes sizzled as they sunned themselves on streamside rocks. Loki and I rigged up and started down a trail that would make a mountain goat puke…"
It was, it is, it will be, the best trout fishing trip ever.
Note: My heartfelt thanks to Trout Unlimited for their heroic efforts on behalf of us all to keep our coldwater fisheries alive and vibrant. Thanks also to the Outdoor Blogger Network for partnering with TU to provide a special opportunity to us unworthy bloggers. Here's hoping that this post catches your fancy and that my Next Best Trout Fishing Trip, Ever, will be in The Last Best Place, Montana.
June 20th Update: Pinch me. This piece won. I'm going to Montana. Holy @#$%.