Thursday, February 26, 2009

Days 61 through 64, 2008: Flashback

Breaking the silence of a waterway daydream, the phone in my office starts ringing. I Cringe instinctively and look down at the caller ID. The muscles in my jaw release as I recognize the area code. The voice on the other end of the receiver says without introductions,

“You in front of your email? There is 7:15PM flight to Boise on US Airways. You should be on it. It’s time.”
The pop-up window in the lower right corner of my monitor squawked with new mail. No text, just four picture attachments. I opened the first photo, and immediate brought up my internet browser and started to type

“One second, online, booking first, ask wife second. “ Sputtering back into the phone. The thought, I wouldn’t let her know the order of my decision making process, ran through my mind.

“Fuck-me Suzan! $1485.00” The ticket price for flying out same day. Flipping between screens (Alt-Tab), going back and forth from ten-pound-plus bull trout in the photo and screen reservation page with insane ticket price. I opened the second picture, and pulled out my credit card.

“Paul, I’ll see you in six hours.” I placed the receiver back in its cradle, and dial the wife’s office line from my blackberry.

I hung up with my wife (we will leave it at, she wasn't thrilled) and opened my calendar. Three calls between now and the flight’s boarding time. I scan through the details of the
upcoming meetings, both my boss and his boss would be on the phone for two of the three conference-calls.

"Shit, shit, shit", slips through my lips silently.

I took the first meeting from the car on my cell, and baited two middle-weight managers into an argument. The plan was to use their banter as cover while I made my way home and packed. The second call got tricky, right in the middle of an albright, my boss, asked me to explain the next few slides. Seriously the nerve of that guy I thought. I curse his name while on mute and then wing walking the participants on the call through the pages of the presentation. My copy of the slideshow was back at my office, not in my garage, where I currently stood. When my third call came around, I couldn't take it anymore, the anticipation of the impending trip completely overrode any mental obligations to my current employer. Instantly, I decided to skip the call all together. The rationale was simple, my fate is better left in the hands of the fishing gods.

I pull the car into short-term parking, and any notion of work had melted away. In retrospect, I never really did figure out which one of the three phone calls got me fired? Alas a story for another time, right now I have a plane to catch and ten pound Bull trout to stick.

Paul’s white pickup pulled up to the curb, shiny under the lights of Boise International. Eighties rock exudes from his truck, loud enough that through closed windows the song’s author, title and lyrics are fully discernable: Quiet Riot, Girls Rock the Boys. Paul and I fish together a lot for living 1200 miles apart. I find any and every excuse to head his way as frequently as my married life can tolerate. The plan was to drive until we got close to our target water, pull over somewhere and catch a few hours of sleep before light, then fish. Simple, traditional, and consuming: a perfect fix, for a three and half day get-away from my cubed existence back on planet no–fish of corporate America. No matter, it’s 11:15 PM my bags are tossed into the bed of Paul’s truck and another chapter of my dual-identity lifestyle is about to begin.

Three hours later the freezing chill of a sub-thirty degree night filled my nostrils. The stars give up just enough light to make out the craggy peaks of the Sawtooths against the horizon. Looking up at sky full of crystal holes I found myself sleeping in the dirt again. I wonder if all anglers get to be this intimate with the fisheries they visit – I doubt it. Hopefully I drank enough Oban to kill the nip that will inevitably find its way into my bag tonight. Better to fight the hangover with a morning-cold-one, than pick ice out of the goat at 3AM. Cold toes I can sleep through, but frozen facial hair, sucks-ass.
Light broke into the Canyon ten minutes before 6AM, Paul and I had both been awake for an hour. Four hours sleep,some instant cold coffee, washed down with jerky and a pop-tart, I tossed my bag into the back of Paul’s cab, and cracked a silver bullet to clear my head. We spread a map out over the tailgate, and I looked for highlights as Paul read through printouts and emails constituting the research we had been doing months prior. Not being sure where to start is always an issue with us, Fucking-Addicted to fishing, but polite as hell is a good way to describe the stalemate that always happens when we both think we should start in different locations. A quick game of paper, rock, scissors is decided by the creative add of hammer: South Fork of the middle fork of a river somewhere near a wilderness area is our X-marks-the-spot. Jumping in the truck, I was having a hard time hiding my excitement. Breaking out in song, is not a normal every- day thing for me, but the moment caught me. Recognizing the lyrics Paul joined in. The two of us murdered our way through the majority of the Beastie Boys Anthology the remainder of the drive. The hour on the road ended as quickly as the road itself did. Paul drove the pickup as close to X as we could get on four wheels. Truck in park, we jumped out quickly, I let go of some fluid buildup and started putting my rod together. Giving a quick glance to my friend,
“Time to ruck-up”
Got the head nod from Paul and we started to hike along a ridgeline following above the river headed downstream. It didn’t take long to become apparent, that dumb luck was on our side. We had stumbled onto the biggest spruce moth hatch either of us had seen. Glancing at my wrist: 7:14AM, I looked up at Paul and mustered the saddest face I could,

“I can’t take anymore. I know I just flew a thousand miles for Bulls, but the call of, every Cutthroat in the river coming up to binge and purge on these retarded caddis. It’s too much for me. “ Raising my arms above my head, emoting UNCLE, for extra emphasis.

(The irony of being drawn to the water’s edge like a flame, to fish a spruce moth hatch, didn’t escape my attention.) In agreement, we both worked our way down the canyon to the water’s edge.

Quickly I add tippet and tie on caddis. My seven-weight would make quick work of Cutthroat. Flattening the elk hair with my thumb, the first cast was the same as the next, and the next. About a bazillion twelve to fourteen inch cutthroats later it was time to head back to the truck.

Paul and I huffed as we hiked back up river. Like bad sex, we had got some, but weren’t quite fully satisfied. Searching for Bulls we settled for Cutts. One fourteen inch Bull trout between us, we would have to try again in the morning to locate the migrating pods of bulls. By the time we made it back to the pickup the sun was just starting to set.

Under the cover of darkness Paul killed the motor. With the windows down, the hum of water rushing over stone told us both, we were here. In Silence the two of us set out fold-up chairs and plopped a cooler between them. The smell of Scotch hit my nose hot. At a hundred dollars a bottle you shouldn’t have to drink from a glass, but I did anyways. Twenty minutes past before either of us spoke, we just let river lull us a while.

“About that time”

Paul asks rhetorically, getting up to roll out his bag.


I drifted off to sleep; a smile crept over my face, consciously thankful for one more night sleeping in the dirt.

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