I had been looking forward to this trip for exactly a year. We've hit the tributaries on this weekend like clockwork for the past five years because it's the only time I'm on the continent when the fish are running. We'll do it again next year.
To step into a flowing river and to feel the pull of the water on your waders after thinking about it for so long is a funny experience. I know what it feels like and I can call it to my imagination without hesitation but the coldness seeping into my boots always makes me feel extremely alive.
Familiarity with such processes probably leads to a dulling of the senses regarding the smallest things, or maybe not. Ice slowly accumulates in my beard and guides, chemical handwarmers wait for my hands in the pockets of my jacket and I try very hard to take note of everything, to install it in my memory so I can recall it when I'm sitting in my apartment, sweating from the African heat, to escape it.
Our old man was along for this trip, which caused me to prepare for it with a greater sense of anticipation. He always catches something remarkable, despite his lack of experience and technical skill.
On the 2nd day of the trip, he and I split off from our group with another friend. We headed downstream and crossed the current to an island in mid-river with a deep, undercut bank that had to hold fish. The island was covered in 15inches of pristine snow absent any human footprints. We had the chance to lay first tracks and were getting pumped.
My dad decided to fish the tailout at the downstream edge of the island while Justin and I set up along the undercut bank. My brother or I usually stand next to him to instruct his casting and mending but I was caught up in the prospect of the unfished bank and left him alone, feeling kind of selfish about it.
Three minutes later I heard him holler. I ran over and saw he was tight to a good fish.
I started to call out instructions but he was doing just fine on his own. The fish flashed and revealed itself as a large brown trout and I got really excited. I was hoping that he could play the fish properly and not pop it off, but I didn't have to worry. I netted the fish for him and let out a whoop of joy. We hoisted the fish for a quick father and son photo before letting her swim off.
There are quite a few of these father and son photos and over the years my facial expression has become less surprised-looking.
A few minutes later I was just about to make my first drift along the undercut bank when I heard my dad whooping it up again. I ran across the island and quickly netted a 2nd brown for him. He was laughing and joking the entire time about it being the same fish, but it was considerably smaller.
Finally, I had the chance to fish the bank. Over the course of 90 minutes, nothing happened. Then, my brother showed up and pointed out some fishy seams. On my first drift through, I hooked up and felt some big head shakes. I was finally connected with a fish that I had hoped to catch on each of the previous 4 trips to these rivers - a lake-run brown.
My brother was able to net her for me, and take a few photographs before we slipped her back into the current.