Wadeoutthere Philosophy

Every Once in a While, Look Up.

The beginning is special.  It is in the beginning that the bond forms.  After the excitement of something new wears off.  When you are not catching fish.  When you have to re-tie your knots.  When the fish are rising to everything except your fly.  It may not seem like it.  And you may not notice it, but these are the times when something special happens between you and the river and the fish you chase. 

Because in the beginning, if you stuck with it, there must have been some part of you that did it for something besides catching fish.  

There were things you saw and feelings you had that kept you coming back to the river.  Made you progress.  Made you learn.

My Uncle reminded me of this on a sunny day, drifting down the Yakima River in my brother’s drift boat.  A year earlier he told my aunt that he had always wanted to try fly fishing.  I went with him in North Carolina and watched him catch his first trout on a fly rod.  Now I was with him again, trying to make his drifts count, rowing him to the seams that would hold fish, along tall grassy banks that sloped up to a brown rock canyon wall.

My Uncle is a big man and he would sometimes heave the line out or reach and muscle his mends to make them work.  His face shifted between joy and anticipation as he moved between casting, mending and stripping line.  I looked past him to judge my path downstream, then back to his strike indicator, hoping to see a twitch or bob in the current. 

As I rowed, I spoke to him between long drifts.

 “Yeah, that looks good.”

It was midday with no clouds.   The sun made the river in front of us shine.  Silver on blue.

 “That’s a good mend Tom.  Just let that go.”

The river straightened out and there was a mile of calm water ahead with dirt cut banks and clumps of roots and grass hanging over the river.  It was a good spot.  

“No, that was a good one.  That was a good cast.”

I stayed quiet and pushed the handles forward on my thighs, so the oars floated above the water.

“You want all that slack line gone so when you hook set the line goes tight.”

A train passed by.  Its cars were rusted red and brown and black.  After it passed the air was quiet and the rivers sound was crisper.

“That’s perfect.  That’s a great drift.”

I kept watching my uncle and the river ahead.  There were no boats downstream.  I shifted in the seat and looked back at my father.  He smiled.  No boats behind us.  I turned back.

“Every once in a while, Tom.”  He quickly looked at me then focused back to his drift.  “Try to look up at all this.”

My father laughed.  “Now that’s good advice son.”

Toms eyes scanned the cliffs and the river and the grass.  His line dragged in the current while he smiled at it all.

“Yup.  This is mint, Jas.”

He knew that it was beautiful.

I am thankful for those years and those times when I was learning so many things the hard way.  They taught me to enjoy fly fishing for the right reasons and gave me the ability to see the special things around me on the river.  In hindsight it is easy to recognize.  Experience makes it is easier for me to see how special those things were and are.

A herd of bighorn sheep creeping down a rocky slope to drink from the river across from me.  Looking up to the screech of an Osprey and seeing his claws clash with a bald eagle.  Reaching into the river and pulling out a brown whose spots are a little brighter red than the rest.  His colors more vibrant.

It is all there in the beginning, and you can take it with you.  Look up. 



Jason Shemchuk

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  • Reply
    September 25, 2019 at 6:49 pm

    Except when you look up just as the float dips straight down…and the bait is gone.

    Well played Mr Salmon. Free lunch to you. Well played.

    • Reply
      Jason Shemchuk
      September 27, 2019 at 11:40 am

      Ha! True enough. Mr. Salmon, much like the enemy…, has a vote!

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