Another year. Hard to believe. It seems like most people use New Years as a time for reflection - and after the rush of the holidays, a nice landmark where one can cut the old, and begin the new can prove to be pretty useful. How does a fisherman reflect on a year of fishing?
Looking back today, some of the memories are only peripheral. Maybe I should have stopped casting long enough to take them all in. I always enjoy thinking back to all the wonderful places I've wet a line in the past year. Some I fished many times before, and know every rock, ledge, log, and fish holding lie. Others I've only fished once, and probably never will again. Not because I don't want to, mind you, but that's just how things work out sometimes.
When you travel and run around like a maniac fishing as much as I do, it's pretty important to take a step back, and try to figure out what you're really after. Don't hold your breath - I haven't found the answer. Maybe it's bigger fish, prettier fish, the same fish eating different flies in unfamiliar places, or unfamiliar places with strange, different fish that end up feeling like home. The more I think about it, the stronger I feel that it probably doesn't have anything to do with the fish themselves. Maybe it's just that sometimes you want to drive down unmarked dirt roads until they end; hike past the farthest point you've ever fished up a particular canyon; go fishing in a place where you barter in pesos instead of paying with dollars; or float down a side channel that isn't navigable for the better part of the year. Maybe it's that in the hustle and bustle of the "modern experience," it's nice just to be gone, and bringing a rod and fishing while you're doing that gives you vague direction and sense of purpose. Let's just say that I was lucky to be gone a lot in 2011.
These last three pictures are some brief snapshots of memories that I'll keep close for the rest of my life.
The day I spent with my 84 year old grandfather - the man who got me hooked on fishing longer ago than I can remember, that was spent on a medium sized "cow pasture crick" in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming.
The days I spent on the water with my old man, who fostered my passion for fly fishing and encouraged me to take the path the I'm on now without worry, and without regrets. This day in particular, with a great friend/amazing guide, and my Dad on the Gulf of Mexico that I'll never forget.
And the days I spent on the water with my best friend, fishing partner, and co-author of this blog, Jim. When you're in your mid-20's, cancer is an unspeakable word. His diagnosis brought back painful memories of losing my mother, but I'm convinced now that if any kind of "experimental medicine" cures cancer, it's got to be fly fishing. Having good friends (who are also damn good fishermen) to spend time with on the river with is an increasingly rare thing. Although I think of myself as a cagey, and self-sufficient angler, there's no doubt in my mind that I owe most of the best fishing I've ever had to my friends.
Looking back at all the pictures, and sifting through all the memories in my head it's easy to remember the big fish, perfect days on the water, epic hatches, or the "days of a lifetime." I had to pinch myself to remember the broken rods, mosquito bites, blown hook sets, heartbreaks, and sunburn - but these experiences are equally as important. After all of it, though, I can draw only one indisputable conclusion: they were all damn good days.