Written by: Bryan Eldredge, Falcon’s Ledge
[Editor’s Note: I was talking about fishing frustration with a colleague this morning, and I was reminded of this classic gem from Bryan Eldredge. I think we’ve all been there.]
I quit. It’s time to stop wasting my life chasing fish. It’s stupid, really. Pointless. Chase fish. Catch fish. Return fish to the river. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Pointless. The decision came as I trudged away from the river through knee deep snow up a steep embankment to the parking lot. I just thought to myself, “That’s it. I quit. I’m done.” There it was. Simple as that.
I’ve been distracted at work for the past week, planning, no, dreaming for this afternoon when I could break away and get back to the river. My evenings are wasted the same way. I embody Phil Hartman’s line on News Radio: “Give a man a fish and he’s fed for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll spend the rest of his life in the basement tying flies and neglecting his personal hygiene.”
Finally, this afternoon, I stole away to the river. Just a couple of hours to recharge. Who knew the temperatures would drop below 20 degrees? Who knew the breeze would ramp up to 15 miles an hour? Certainly not the weather apps on my iPhone. Oh well. Must fish. Until now anyway.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not quitting because of the weather, and it’s not because the bugs took the day off and the fish appear to be buried in moss beds sulking, which meant that the fishing was, well, sucky. And it’s not the multiple tangled nymph rigs, not the three times I lost the entire rig to snags, and it’s not even the hemostat and the small box of flies I lost somewhere mid river. Like I said, it’s just so pointless.
As I slide my rod into its tube and strip my waders off, I hide from the wind behind the truck and make quick calculations in my head. Selling all of my rods I could probably net me about, um. . . . Crap. What’s 12 times $350 anyway? My reels would be a little south of there. . . . I figure that once I throw in the waders, boots, vests, packs, bags, nets, polarized bifocals, gadgets, doohickies, and fly boxes, lots of fly boxes—and flies!—and suddenly I have enough money for a nice little vacation. Maybe even enough to finally get to Belize, Patagonia, Mongolia, or New Zealand. Of course, the appeal of those places needs to be reconsidered since I just quit fishing.
Driving down the canyon I consider the hours/days/months I’ve spent tying flies, sorting through photos, and editing fishing video, and it’s suddenly clear why I’ve never written that book, the book of essays centered around fly fishing. . . .
At the mouth of the canyon, I stop at the convenience store for a Coke. I’m way past feeling sheepish about my attire, highlighted as it is by tight-fitting green fleece pants. My daughters call them my “Peter Pan pants.” Especially today I don’t care. I won’t be needing the pants any more, since I just quit, and I’m too tired, too frustrated, and too cold for embarrassment. A leak in my waders could have soaked my crotch and I wouldn’t care what anyone thinks. I put pebble ice into my 32 oz. cup. Exactly 40% full. I pour in just enough regular Coke to cover the ice and top it off with Diet Coke. I take a long drag off the top, look around and see no one watching, then top it off again with regular Coke.
Back in the truck, I drink half the soda in half a mile and shove down a Mars bar. I turn the radio to the 70s station, and as I head north for the final few miles home. I wonder why on this day all of my cumulative fishing experiences—not to mention a decade of guiding—couldn’t help me catch more than one small brown trout of dubious intelligence. Wow, I can really feel the sugar and caffeine moving through my veins. Clearly the weather affected the fish and the bugs. I mean, there weren’t but a few midges. No blue-wings and no winter stones. I guess it’s really not that surprising. . . . .
I turn off the main road and ease through the speed trap at exactly 25 mph. And that one brown took that tiny Special J. I guess that’s proof that it’s not impossible. I wonder if something a little smaller, in a darker shade of gray might do it? I pull into my driveway and park. As I gather my mess from the back seat—two shirts, vest, balaclava, jacket, two pair of socks, reel, rod tube, and a wet pair of gloves—it hits me: A smaller hook and a tiny tuft of cream colored trilobal yarn fibers peeking out the top of the bead. Of course!
I drop my gear in the garage where my wife probably won’t run over it and head for the basement. If I get to the river an hour earlier tomorrow . . .