To prime myself for the start of a reading tour promoting Beautiful Like a Mayfly, I went fishing. No surprise there, right? It was a cold day with snowflurries and an air temperature never climbing out of the 30s. There was no one on the upper Allegheny as far as I could tell; the guys were probably out bow hunting or watching their favorite football team. I caught some rainbows on a wet fly, but as the snow began to thicken in the air above the woods and river, not even the Blue-winged Olives dared to fly.
The kick-off for the reading tour was a minor event. I fielded some interesting questions and, admittedly, was taken aback momentarily when someone asked, “So what’s the point to what you’re saying?” A legitimate question, and I’m thankful for it. I answered as kindly as I could.
It’s good to have direction and substance in what we do, but does everything need to have a recognizable point? Some folks like to pigeonhole each new thing encountered. For them, a book is a murder mystery or a how-to or a lurid romance; it can’t be just about the passage of life in the many places we all share. I can see those people in the midst of Yellowstone or Yosemite asking, “What’s the point to all of this?”
My second stop on the tour was (again) a small event but this was more like a “party.” To celebrate those moments, I went fishing the next day with my friend Tim (no surprise there). We headed north to look for brown trout in the Lake Ontario tributaries. I mentioned in last week’s post that the water level then was low and that the salmon run had barely started. This week the level of our tributary was just as low, and the run of trout and salmon still appeared to be in the earliest of stages.
Everything seemed to be waiting for rain. Great swaths of our country were on the verge of drowning from super storms, but here the tributaries were as thin as skeletons wrapped in rags of green and blue.
We saw only one or two brown trout the entire time. Even the chinooks were relatively scarce. At this time of year, the creek is usually fairly rank with decomposing salmon, but we saw just a carcass or two. The salmon weren’t numerous, but you could see a few ghosting about in the deeper pools, or battling upstream, fresh and green-toned from a life in Lake Ontario.
I sent it home safely to its pool beneath the willow boughs.
What’s the point of casting for a fish like that? A lot of anglers sniff at the idea of catching big Pacific salmon for reasons I’ve never been able to fathom. Maybe they’re the ones who are still reluctant to admit that kings and cohos will strike at a fly or other lure while on their one and only spawning run.
The sheer butchery of snagging salmon on their spawning run was legal in New York until the 1990s when the state finally determined that these powerful and majestic creatures could be taken fairly in a manner other than being towed out with a 30-pound line and a giant treble hook.
If I had to catch fish like this every day from here on out, I’d need a metal plate in my gut to brace the bottom of the fly rod, and I wouldn’t last for a month. The big fish, trout and salmon, are a fun diversion for a while and they broaden the angling horizons, but I’m really looking forward to returning to the rivertops where fish are small and beautiful and where light can be refracted from a mayfly’s wing.
I hope you’re not surprised by that.