Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Shin Deep

There are two ways to plan a trip. The first is to agonize over the details, to spend late nights devouring maps, setting waypoints, gauging distances, scheduling travel times, and establishing to the nth degree every move, every stop, to be made. The second is to book a flight to and from a jump-off point and, in-between the coming and the going, trust the wind to blow you where it will. I like the later.

With big plans come big expectations, often unfulfilled. Sparse plans come with the tingling sense of uncertainty and adventure that can't help but be realized, for better or for worse. And you have to admit, once survived, the for worse often makes the best stories. Besides, the things you remember about a trip are seldom what you expect. What’s remembered is the chance encounter with a colorful local, the stream found far from where the knowledgeable crowd congregate, or the local off-the-travel-guide fly shop and impromptu bar-and-grill. What you remember is the color of the sky, noticed only by looking out to the horizon rather than down at an itinerary. You simply can’t plan such things. Why try?

So, instead of immersing myself to the chin in the river of details, I wade but shin deep into a plan. My upcoming Montana trip is no exception. I won’t bore you with the details - they are surprisingly few - but beyond a flight to and from Denver, my fate is in the hands of a couple of good friends that I have yet to meet. And yes, I understand that Denver is not in Montana. Adventure, remember?

As you can imagine, with such inclinations, my preparation for a fishing adventure may be a little different than most. Sure, I arrange the fly boxes, noodle over which fly rods to tote, and wonder about the weather in an effort to decide how many layers to pack, but I also try to prepare myself for the tone and feel of a trip. I try to find things that speak to the emotional and historical topography of a destination - to do what I can to tap into the spiritual essence of a place or situation.

To that end, I spent the heat of the day yesterday, the 4th of July, stretched out on the screened porch of our friends' lake house, reading Shin Deep, a collection of essays written by ex-journalist and current Trout Unlimited conservationist Chris Hunt, the host of my upcoming Montana expedition. And a delightful read it was.

In the first sentences of the book Chris establishes that “I’m not terribly introspective when I fish… so you won’t expect me to prop up the pages of this book with profound nuggets of wisdom I’ve somehow managed to acquire from my time spent on the water”. But he then proceeds, within the confines of that admission, to get straight to the heart of things. His essays are simple language, simple actions, all leading to the truth.

Having read the book, I know that I’ll enjoy standing shin deep in a stream with Chris. He’s not above tossing a wooly bugger to trout, nor ashamed to admit it in print. He has my ability to leave a fly box hours behind, but the resourcefulness to get around it, including tying on a found Rapala and making it work for him. He’s willing and excited to fish anywhere and for anything, from eastern trickles to southern redfish flats to his beloved western haunts. And he has fished everywhere.

But mostly I know I’ll enjoy his company because, in simple ways, his book builds an emotional momentum that culminates in touching tributes to his children, his friends, and the man who taught him to love to fish, his grandfather. The arrival of the bamboo rod in the final pages will tug at your heartstrings. Whether he admits it or not, Chris knows that fishing is so much more than chasing fish.

And whether he admits it or not, in Shin Deep he brings the nuggets.

14 comments:

JGR said...

I agree that over planning can ruin a trip, but for me that's how I stretch out the enjoyment of it all. I am an obsessive planner by nature, but I do try to step back and just let things roll. However, my experience has been that without at least a loose itinerary, you miss the really great stuff and end up wasting some of your free time. Which is, for me, a rare commodity anymore.

upacreek333 said...

Damn... Mike, you 'da bomb, brother... See you in a couple weeks, where, hopefully, we'll have more stories to tell.

-Chris

Cofisher said...

I'm with you Mike. Over-preparation somehow seems to dim the spirit of adventure.

Cofisher said...

And Chris, I found the link on your site...thanks. I can't wait.

Owl said...

While I realize that there are things I can't control, where I can plan and control the details of any event I sure like to do so.

I don't enjoy the unplanned things. Maybe an unplanned night lost in the woods did that to me? Maybe not.

I just know I enjoy the details and the planning.

To each his own, no?

Mike said...

JGR, I hear ya. I do indeed put a loose itinerary in place - I'm not completely crazy - but it can be deviated from without much thought. And I am indeed lucky to have the free time to get away with it.

Chris, can't wait!

Howard, like minds... And while I'm in Denver...

And yes, Owl, to each his own. Definitely.

e.m.b. said...

"And you have to admit, once survived, the for worse often make the best stories." I laughed -- as a writer, you have to almost maniacally hope for 'story material' a.k.a. hell at the time...

I will definitely check out Shin Deep, and happy planning to you!

Travis said...

great review mike, see you in a couple weeks

Trout Magee said...

I have the opposite problem. I usually under plan for things and end up paying for it in the end.. You might call it dipping my toes in :) Not quite shin deep. So it works perfect that my wife is someone who likes to pack the canoe until it is just about sunk in the river :) We end up meeting in the middle. Belly Button deep. I like the fact that Chris fishes how he wants and is not afraid to say it. Whether it be matching the hatch or using the rapala. Good Stuff. Good luck on your trip and Tight Lines to you.

THE RIVER DAMSEL said...

Sounds like you have a plan that is planned enough!! Oh, you are going to have a tremendous time!! Can't wait to read about it.

HighPlainsFlyFisher said...

Looking forward to reading about your adventures , those are the kind of trips where you bring home stories that last a lifetime.
Jeff

Fly Waters Edge - Kevin said...

Strap on a pack and start walking. Hopefully by the time you remember you forgot something your to far to go back. Make do or do with out, I beleve is the say'in. I'd say Good Journey to you but I think your already on one!

Sanders said...

I think that we are going to travel pretty well together...ha!

Looking forward to the adventure ahead :-)

Matt said...

Aside from deciding on flight departure and return times (hell, even they aren't reliable anymore), everything else happens as it should.

Enjoy the trip Mike. Looking forward to the read.
Matt