Tuesday, July 5, 2011
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.