12:37 PM, Mountain Time
Somewhere above Montana
Leg one of the the 2012 trout crusade was off to a disconcerting start. Barely underway, there'd already been enough trip-ups and mishaps to make me think twice about carrying on. The first of them came nearly three weeks prior to our scheduled departure for the far northwest corner of ManTana. To that point it'd been smooth sailing and easy planning; this years trip was to be a repeat performance of the trip I hosted last September, one that'd been wildly successful by all accounts. I'd done my job as a trip host, recruiting the maximum number of patrons, including a number of alumni from the 2011 expedition. But an email from our Montana hosts changed our outlook in a hurry.
As you know by now, the Kootenai basin has been trapped under a veritable deluge that carried on through June and into early July. The Kootenai, the regions crowned jewel and our destination fishery, was unfishable and would remain so for the foreseeable future. We would be forced (oh woe-is me) to explore smaller tributary rivers and creeks, perhaps on foot rather than from the comfort of drift boats. This change of plans uneased several of my companions to the point that they decided they'd "rather just wait until next year." My group of 8 was now down to 5, but we were committed, excited to explore new water, and so packed our bags and carried on.
Three days from departure, I received a call from one of the remaining 5. Turned out that he had wrenched his back badly, was struggling to get out of bed let alone walk, and was unsure about his status for the trip. I quivered, told him to "get better, quick," and waited for his call on Friday. A little miracle work by the chiropractor and an an untold number of Vicodin later, we were shaking hands excitedly in the Cleveland airport.
As fortune would have it, the gate attendant in Cleveland had taken our bags without reciprocating the requisite "pink tags" that denoted them as having been security-cleared. Our connecting flight was to depart in roughly 45 minutes, and the only TSA-acceptable remedy would be to retrieve our bags at baggage claim and go through security, again. No problem, aside from the fact that baggage claim was at the farthest possible end of the airport, and that we were likely to miss our flight by the time we made it back to the gate...
Survey any of my former high school teammates about my athletic prowess and the one adjective your are certain NOT to hear is "fast" (indeed, the Fast Jimmy moniker is steeped in irony). But let's just say that, as I sit here in seat 21-C, Montana-bound with rods stowed safely overhead, I am considering making a late push for Gold in the 100-yard dash this summer. This evening, knock on wood (seriously... knock again would you?) we'll be enjoying cold Moose Drool, watching The Koot' roar by the front window, and prepping gear for our first day on the water. As you might imagine, that first cast can't come soon enough!
9:23 PM Mountain Time