I know what you’re thinking– trout and marriage do not/cannot mix. Adding a trout fanatic to a “normal person” in a marriage plan is like tossing gasoline into fire. But wait. Let’s talk about the marriage of extremes, or of polar opposite conditions, and how they sometimes intermix quite happily.
Two of my favorite cities in America are Sante Fe, New Mexico and Ithaca, New York. They are small urban centers, very different from each other, that possess an amazing cultural and natural diversity, and they seem to come together in my addled brain as one. For now, though, let’s take a look at Ithaca, which I’m more familar with than Santa Fe.
This small city is located in central New York on the southern shore of Cayuga Lake. It’s named for the classic Greek island of Ithaca, and it houses both Cornell University and Ithaca College. Its earliest known inhabitants were Iroquois peoples, and today this city of gorges, waterfalls and renowned beauty leans toward liberalism and the Democratic Party. So far so good…
But then I came along to stir things up and to fly-fish in the city. I caught almost nothing, other than a 27-inch brown… And actually, I didn’t catch that trout. I was only walking upstream toward Ithaca Falls when I saw an angler battling a large fish along the bank. When the fellow asked for help in landing the trout, I quickly responded.
He led the brown trout, obviously a spawner that had swum up from the depths of Cayuga Lake, toward me in the middle of the stream where I scooped it into my net, took a photo of the fish, and then removed the angler’s Egg-Sac from the jaw. Well pleased with the catch, we set the hefty brown trout back into the creek and watched it swim away.
Helping out the angler was the best that I could do that day, and I was fine with that, although admittedly, I’d have been more jazzed with a similar work-out from a large brown trout or a landlocked salmon, both of which are found in the autumnal city limits if enough rain has encouraged a run from the lake.
The water was low and the fishing pressure fairly intense below the waterfall. The weather was rainy, windy, cold, and miserable– great for fishing, if only the creek had a stronger flow.
I had come close to being more fortunate than I was. I’d been in the stream only minutes that Saturday when I hooked a large trout or landlocked that took me for a walk until the streamer came flying back alone. The fish may or may not have been fair-hooked. In any case, later on, when I was closer to the falls, I was releasing a small rainbow trout when I turned my attention to the cliffs in back of me.
I saw a wedding party on the rocks. I watched the bride move around in her white gown (with no jacket or protective shawl) and who must have been freezing out there in the 38 degree mist, among a couple dozen other folks– mostly gray-suited fellows and a handful of adoring female attendees.
That’s when it hit me– only here would I see such a sudden blending of opposing elements, like some harmonious convergence on the earthly plane. Wham! A marriage of man and woman, city and country, gorge and avenue, stream and lake, fish and no fish, helplessness and helpfulness, hiss and roar, summer and winter, fisherman and jogger, trout and matrimony, frozen foot and blood-red heart.
Stuff like this used to happen to me in places like San Francisco or Athens, Greece, but seldom in upstate New York. The young folks were getting married and an old guy in leaky waders was trying to catch a fish in the cold. Most of the fish were probably staging in the lake below, waiting for the flush of heavy rains to bring about the marriage of present time and future possibilities…