A look back at 2014
Every great fishery has a signature backdrop. These are the arenas and the stadiums, the sets before which the drama of our sport unfolds. On Wyoming’s Snake it is the towering Tetons. The Deschutes scours the Oregon high desert, the Pere Marquette sneaks through Michigan’s northwoods, the steelhead rivers of the PNW gush below the auspices of coastal rainforest. My home water, while perhaps not of the same caliber as the aforementioned, has a backdrop too. Shale walls, formed over millions of years by compacted sediment, decorated by gravity-defying hemlocks, provide a privacy curtain from the bustling urban world on the other side.
The walls tell the story of Deep Time, a concept of geologic history so awesome in magnitude that humans can only relate to it in theory. Like other earthen formations, they capture moments - tectonic and atmospheric events that shaped the world as we know it today. Caves, crevasses, tilts and twists add punctation to the tales. Bound by the fleeting timeline of a human lifecycle, we view them as snapshots, or rather a series of snapshots. On a slow day of fishing one might pause to look up, study the layers, and wonder about a world so different from the one we know that we can’t even begin to place ourselves in it. Individual layers are, at every moment, in the process of being added and deleted. Only after millions of years do the stories begin to flow together.
The breakneck speed of the modern world seems to shatter any notion of Deep Time. It is near impossible to remove ourselves from the moment long enough to observe the primary storylines unfolding around us. Even so, around this time each year I make an effort to look up at the walls and read the stories, a look at my own personal construct of Deep Time.
One of the great phenomenon of air travel is the ability to fast forward half a calendar year in climate, hopscotching hemispheres in a half-days flight. The shock of breathing hot, heavy air with those first steps onto the runway always rattles me. Saddling up to a sea-side watering hole has proven a good first step for dealing with this shock. Taking the bow of a flats boat is the real remedy, though. In late January I got my fill of both for the better part of a week in Belize, extending my stay as long as possible before making a reluctant return.
I didn't even log a full nights sleep in my own bed before I was on the road again with rods in tow. Even at the time, it seemed maniacal: A mid-winter Esox hunt with minimal advance recon. But then if there's one thing I've learned about pursuing muskellunge on the fly, it's that a certain degree of lunacy is a pre-requisite for success. Like all memorable fishing trips this one was punctuated by highs and lows, and looking back on it, a couple of 40-inchers make the whole thing seem only slightly less absurd.
I don't know if such a thing as "early spring" still exists in our part of the world. The prevailing seasonal sequence anymore seems to be a sudden shift from late winter to late spring. This only added to the urgency with which I fished during the months of March and April. With the birth of our first child looming I soaked up all the water I could before trees turned green.
May and early June came on in earnest and delivered on some of the anglers great expectations for the season: rising trout and hungry smallmouths. I visited some of my favorite waters in search of both before fully embracing the warm water season.
The days grew longer and my love-hate relationship with toothy swimmers ebbed, temporarily, towards love.
As I made the turn on 2014, on an otherwise ordinary outing at an ordinary summer haunt, I released an ordinary bass. I reeled up and headed back to the car, leaving what theretofore had been my ordinary life behind and capping the stratum of my pre-paternal angling career. For the first time in a long time, fishing was about to take a back seat.