Over the weekend I was hoping to find a subject worthy of writing up as my 400th narrative post for Rivertop Rambles. Times were hard, or so it seemed. I managed to secure yet another reading date promoting Beautiful Like a Mayfly, but the tour, itself, was faltering, and my time for fly fishing was minimal.
Nonetheless, I found myself in the Susquehannock State Forest and the upper Allegheny watershed for some limited casting. I wanted a new experience for my 400th post, and I guess I got one, though it wasn’t quite as “high brow” as I might have hoped to achieve.
About once a year I take a bath in cold river water, in autumn or winter, swamping to my neck while hoisting the fly rod over my head or grabbing at my hat to keep it from floating to the bay. This year’s tumble came on a small stream in the state forest. It was flowing clear and cold and up to its own ears from the heavy rains a few days prior.
I stepped into a braid of water near a beaver dam that looked to be only knee-deep but the silt at its bottom collapsed and sucked me in. If there’s any justice in this ass-over-teacups life of ours, then the small brooks and browns that I had taken and released had a good laugh as I floundered on my back. They would have heard me trying to annunciate a four-letter expletive to every bird and beaver of the neighborhood– a four-letter word now grown to eight or nine hyphenated letters punctuated with an exclamation point.
I don’t care what anybody says, flowing water pours into waist-high waders, no matter how tightly the belt secures one’s nether regions. My wallet is still drying out.
Although the air temperature was rising from its frosted knees to stand proudly in the upper 40s that day, I slogged back through the fields and woodland to the car feeling soggy, cold, and hapless as a Halloween spirit busted for decorating sidewalks with shaving cream and toilet paper.
I was wet, and too damned chilled to celebrate a possible 400th post by stopping at Galeton’s Wonder Bar for a beer or two. I drove straight home and changed my clothes.
Everything was warm and dry and peaceful at the house. I remembered an email conversation with a friend a couple of days before…
My friend is a married man with limited time for “play” on Saturdays and Sundays. He was working on the notion of heading out to fish the weekend while “trying to preserve domestic tranquility at home.”
I answered his email, saying, “I know what you mean about preserving domestic tranquility at home. It can be like walking a tightrope over a gorge.”
“Amen,” I said… thankful that my wife understands that fly fishing and being in the wild helps to keep me stable and free from a life in the Rubber Room.
I wondered if tumbling into the bottomless creek was in some way like falling off the tightrope over a gorge… No, it couldn’t be. There was peace at home. I had come back with all my bones intact. The only similarity was tipping over and getting soaked.
It was too late to stop now. I wasn’t complaining. I would do another public reading for my book. I’d head out to fish Dwight Creek and the Allegheny, catching more wild fish and even a spotted rainbow in the river itself.
Yeah, the wind would be wicked on Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t easy casting a fly when I half expected to see big trees come falling down. A warm front was moving in, and the sun banged its way through the clouds to the river valley.