“Grown Ocean” – Fleet Foxes
we went west. to the island. to get away from the fifty shades of brown back home. to exchange snow for rain. for the sea, for the surf, for the food, for the rest and a chance to recharge after a long winter still lingering. to paddle the big waters, wander the beaches, and explore the forests.
an opportunity came up, through a friend of a friend. short notice. real short. the logistics meant that it would cost. we were in the area but the funds were tight. the decision was made and the accounts drained. Knowing full well what that meant . . . rent would be late, provisions would be spartan. but next month is next month and it may never come.
and this may not always be here.
a completely intact river. from source to sea. no highways, no roads, no railways, no trails. no dams, no powerlines. no homes. no cottages. no logging, no mining, no industry.
just mountains and old growth forest and one single old cabin. just water and the possibility of steelhead. a thing so rare i scarcely knew it could exist anymore.
and we would float it. every mile of it. from that alpine lake on high, down to the salt water below.
i wasn’t prepared. i hadn’t done my homework. i hadn’t sought advice on flies or techniques. or worked on my casting . . . double or single. the only thing i knew about steelhead is that i knew enough about steelhead to know that i don’t know anything about steelhead. the only card i was holding was “beginners luck”.
not a particularly strong hand when sitting at the table with steelhead.
especially since i’d been forewarned that this river didn’t have a particularly strong run of fish and it was getting near the end of the season.
i didn’t sleep much the night before, too excited naturally. but mixed in was apprehension, as i’ve never once had a guide. but the logistics of this particular river meant it was a must. it felt weird. its just . . . i don’t know, i can’t explain it really.
the next morning we arrived at the dock before sunrise and met our transportation.
a 50 year old de havilland beaver and the ride out was nothing short of magic.
the fog . . . the water . . .those hills . . . that light.
an hour and half etched into my mind forever. so beautiful that it was incomprehensible.
we descended onto that lake, unloaded the gear, inflated the raft ,checked out the old cabin and took a moment to breath it all in, before we pushed off shore in search of fish.
we came to the first pool and i stepped into the river, apprehensive to begin with, moreso considering that this was the best pool and this time of year held the greatest likelihood, however slim, of holding fish. there was no warmup I was like a goalie coming in off the bench to face a penalty shot.
i let out the first hesitant cast of the year and knew instantly that i was fucked. someone else’s rod. sinktips and unweighted streamers. timing right off. it all felt a little foreign. success wasn’t a likely outcome.
the guide must have read it on my face.
“just send it to the far bank. mend and few times to get that fly where you want it and let ‘er swing. y’know?”
i nodded. The kind of nod that looks like a shrug.
i flog the first pool. wife flogs the next. we haven’t a clue between the two us. this is not Alberta and these aren’t grayling or bulls. this is something more. we gradually get better as we work our way down the river. but I still feel like a monkey fucking a football. the spey rod comes out to enhance this feeling.
but then it happens.
no not a fish. this isn’t a made for tv movie and i don’t carry around that sort of juju.
. . .but something happens nonetheless. i let out a cast, something to be proud of. the roll. the lift. the sweep. the anchor. the D. a snap T. damn near proper like. i put that fly right where I want it. i mend that line. . . once. . . twice. . .thrice . . . i get it down, the current grabs that line and swings it through this slow-moving run.
this is what it is supposed to feel like and in that instant i can sense it. if there’s a fish in here. this is when he/she/it will eat. the anticipation so intense i can taste it.
here it is.
this is it.
my heart pounds. i feel nauseous. there’s electricity running through my arms and down my legs. and i’m afraid. dead scared that something will eat and i’ll faint or shit my pants or forget to breathe or cry.
and then just as quickly the fly swings harmlessly out the back end of the pool and i silently stare at it as it pulls in the current. mesmerized by something that never happened.
but I get a glimpse. a little glimmer of what it could be. i understand something, something that I didn’t before.
the guide breaks the silence.
“if there was one in there theyd’ve ate that, couldn’t have swung it through any better myself”
i nod and smile.
we continue down the river, fish the few good spots remaining and soak in as much as we can because it’s about as beautiful a place as we’ve ever seen. Remarkable to be somewhere so untouched.
its a place i don’t understand, it baffles me. the tides. the green grass in march. the moisture in the air. trees so massive they look as though they should topple at any moment. fish that appear, then disappear. only to return again at some other time. i didn’t catch one of these fish. didn’t deserve to, to be honest. i would have took it and been glad, but i’d have know down deep that i wasn’t worthy of it.
in a world where instant gratification and unbridled convenience are paramount. it’s nice to know that there are places where the only currency still valued is time and understanding.
and if i ever come back here or fish for steelhead somewhere else, it won’t be a one off like this was. i will get intimate with it. i want to learn. i want earn it. i want to acquire that currency. that understanding.
and if i don’t ever get back, well then thats the way it goes but I’ll always have this and the memories of a river from source to sea.