Monday, July 6, 2009

The Last Day of the Trip

It was the rain that woke me.  It dripped through the cracked truck bed window and soaked the foot of my sleeping bag.  The stench of wading boots in the enclosed space made sure I stayed up.  The back of my sleep-crazed brain registered that we wouldn't be fishing the Little Juniata in the morning, or any time soon, for that matter.  The last stop of the annual 'Taste of the Dream' fly fishing trip would have to be re-discussed in the morning, hashing out the most viable body of water within reasonable driving distance of last nights home base, which just happened to be the parking lot of a Wal-Mart near State College, PA.

This is the third year in a row that my younger brother Mark and our friend Adam have used a broke, college student's budget to fall off of the grid for 10 or so days and fly fish their way through the best of Pennsylvania.  This was the first year I could join them and, through my newly acquired solvency, was able to ensure that we only stayed in 24-hour shopping center parking lots for three nights.  Only ate ravioli, cold and straight from the can, on a precious few occasions.  

The conversation in the cab of the truck was one-sided.  It was Mark naming theoretically fishable locales and the two of us, groggy from the shitty night's sleep and not looking forward to a day spent cold and wet, mostly remaining silent.  After the flu, a few awful nights in the truck bed and a week spend wading through some treacherous water I may have thought, blasphemously, that I was ready to head home.  Mark made a decision, plugged Fisherman's Paradise into the GPS and started the truck.


We pulled up to Spring Creek, the only flowing body of water he knew wouldn't be completely blown out.  The parking lot was empty, no one walked the shoreline.  The storm had taken care of them, and was awfully close to adding two more notches to its belt.

My brother looked at our faces and read our minds.  He exhaled, slowly shook his head.  He launched into a speech not unlike one usually reserved for aging generals preparing their nervous army for war.

As he spoke, instead of listening to his words I started to relive scenes from our fishing past.  Trips to Colorado for some western water, Erie and Ontario tributaries for steelhead, North Carolina for redfish and sea trout, stalking the homewaters with spinning rods as kids, the list goes on.  I remembered his respect and reverence for the water, and the fish he briefly encounters from within it.  I remembered his frustrating beginnings as a fly fisherman, 10 years past, and how I'll probably never approach the level of passion, skill and knowledge he as acquired since then.

He ended his speech with the words "...or we could go home, rejoin everyone else, go back to work."   His unenthusiasm for all preoccupations unrelated to fly fishing was obvious, dripped off of every word.

He opened the door and stepped out into the pouring rain, leaving his waterproof wading jacket crumpled on the dash.

I looked to the sky through the window, opened my own door, embraced the rain.

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