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Posts Tagged ‘Vision’

I was the only car on the four lane interstate that morning.  Not surprising considering it was 5 am on a Sunday, but it still felt novel.  The vastness of a 4 lane interstate when there are no other cars around is both freeing and a little freaky.  The wide open pavement means you can drive with abandon.  At the same time it almost feels like standing on a roof top.  There no constraints to stop you… also, there are no constraints to save you.  It is not that it isn’t what I thought it would be like, the empty road.  It is that I couldn’t pre-create the feelings that it being like that would evoke.  About a week earlier I had received permission to fish a pond that I was very excited about, and I was finally on my way to give it a shot.  I had been told that the panfish and bass fishing in this pond would be something between falling in love and losing your virginity.  I had an idea that slight exaggeration was occurring, but none-the-less, I had the excitement of a man on his way to…. well…. get some.

It was a gorgeous morning.  Not a thought of a cloud in the sky and so still that exhaled cigarette smoke would just hang in front of you like the world had gone into slow motion.  The sun was just causing the collision between earth and sky to become visible in the east.  When she was up and in full fury that day, the sun would warm my little spot on the earth into the high 80’s, but not yet.  No, it was still a pleasantly cool 60.  It was a damn shame the 99% of the population would not being experiencing this little gift of time.

On a morning like this, the valleys of rolling hills in the area can sometimes be full of a dense fog.  I am not sure if it is a product of temperature differences, or moisture differences, or if it is natures way of ensuring that the requisite number of deer experience death via Chevy in order to keep the population in check.  But that is how it is, and it is cool to see and nerve-wracking to drive through.  This morning happened to be one of those mornings.  With no wind and the sun still not up to burn off the fog, some of the low spots were so full of this mystery vapor that for maybe 200 yards of driving the outside world had been erased.

I eased off of the pavement and onto the winding gravel that would descend into the area of the small pond.  This was not one of those hardpacked, straight as a string, gravel roads that one can comfortably traverse at 60 mph.  Rather this was a seldom used meandering little stretch of crushed rock and brown/orange dirt.  The lack of traffic and large looping curves made this a 30 mph job unless you thought you were a dirt track racer and are comfortable in a fishtail.  This is the kind of road that is there to remind us that slowing down and seeing can be worth alot more than the 6 minutes you save by hauling ass.  Despite my – Junior on his way to prom – excitement I was taking her as she comes.  The road looped and lobbed and slowly flowed down toward the pond.

I was just entering the curve that would whirl me directly toward the pond when the wall of white loomed up in front of me – ready to swallow my entire jeep.  The lack of impact as I entered the dense fog was almost surprising.  I am not used to seeing something so apparently solid and yet being able to move through it as though it doesn’t exist.  This was a serious fog.  I couldn’t see more that 5 feet beyond the windshield.  The only thing keeping me on the road was the change in sound as my tire left the gravel and began to tread on grass.  At that point I would know to correct my steering to keep me on the road.  So I pinballed my way down the road at about 5 miles a hour, eyes open as wide as they would go – not that that helped because I was driving by sound. I may as well have been blindfolded.

Eventually I parked in a small turn off.  I would later discover, once the entirety of my surroundings was unveiled, that miraculously I had found the right turnoff and parked as though I was an old hand at this.  I threw on my vest, strung up without tying on a fly, and started on foot in the general direction of the water.  You can always tell which way the water is because it is downhill from wherever you are.  The putt breaks towards the water.

Walking in the fog was stranger than driving in it.  Each step revealed an incrementally changing world. A slow progression as one plant was replaced by another and one tree grew slightly larger as it slowly entered the tiny bubble of reality that I was able to comprehend.  It was like watching time lapse photography of evolution. Behind me the fog swirled and eddied and slammed shut.  I was not cutting a path through the fog any more than a scuba diver cuts a path through the ocean.  All I was doing was fleetingly bringing into my tiny sphere of sensory perception pieces of a larger and hidden outside world.  Simply to have them erased from my immediate consciousness by my next step forward.

Eventually the water edge came upon me, as though I wasn’t moving forward, rather the rotation of the earth had brought it to me like a conveyor belt.  I sat on a rock and decided to get my wits about me.

The tiny piece of water I could see was smooth, making the pond look like it was made out of a mix of corn starch and water, rather than just water.  Like if you ran fast enough you could get all the way to the other side, but if you stopped for a second you would be slowly swallowed.  The sounds were incredible.  I don’t know if it was the lack of vision, or the moisture in the air, but all sounds seemed amplified and non-directional.  The birds were everywhere and unseeable.  From the Non-Newtonian pond came the splash of jumpers, the pop of Bluegills eating surface bugs and the BLLOOOOP of Largemouth Bass opening a hole in the surface of the water for the small frog to fall into.

The reason that reality no longer existed was immediately clear; silvery white cobwebs of steam lifted from the entire surface of the pond like cotton candy pulled for a cotton candy machine.  I sat in wonder and watched as the soul of this pond left it’s body and ascended.  After 20 minutes I decided it was time to fish.  I tied on a nice little yellow popper, stripped out some line, and pulled it into a backcast – bending my rod backward – and then rocking into a false cast – bending my rod forward – rocking back into a backcast and then into a false cast.  Holding 30 feet of line in the air.  On the 3rd false cast I shot my line forward streaming it through the line guides on my rod and into the unknown soul of the pond.

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My first flyfishing experience was a (very well) guided flyfishing trip in Breckenridge, Colorado.  I had not so much as picked up a flyrod in my life and the amount of information that was thrown at me on this first weekend was astounding.  Our  guides presented us with a half day class on entomology, knot tying, casting, the names of various stream structures (such as riffles, undercuts, etc.) and a primer on what types of locations fish were likely to me found.  It was really an astounding to me how much there was to know.  These two men did a fine job of explaining the why’s and wherefore’s of everything they were teaching us and I left that half day class feeling well armed to undertake this proposition.  I mean hell, I had been fishing as long as I could remember, how hard could it be?

Well, it was like anything.  A class on it, or reading a book, will leave you over-confident and under-prepared for actually undertaking the tasks being described.  The casting was atrocious, I was totally befuddled by the fly box, or more precisely what fly to choose from it, and locating fishy looking spots was a helluva lot easier on a whiteboard propped up in the back of a pickup than on the stream.  Still, I knew what I was SUPPOSED to be doing and it was just a matter of learning the nuances that would allow me to become more proficient at those tasks.

The one thing that I could absolutely not get a grip on was spotting the fish.  I mean, I can see a rise as good as the next guy.  A foot long fish eating a bug off of the surface is hard to miss.  But these guides could see fish that were underwater and that were STAYING underwater.  I have very good eyesight and I am really good at spotting game, but I couldn’t see this fish for the life of me.  I tried squinting, squatting, and cleaning my sunglasses.  Of course I had come with the required polarized lenses, but there must have been magic in the glasses these guys were wearing.  By the halfway point of the second day the answer had become clear.  These men were obviously super-human.  They had been endowed, on the planet of their origin, with the ability to see through water as though it isn’t there.  I mean we aren’t talking about peering to the bottom of a glass of drinking water after all.  This is moving water, with a choppy surface distorting everything.  And the chop is moving so the distortions are changing.  On top of that the sun in is shining and reflecting off of the water.  This was like trying to do an Eye Chart that is stuck on a pole while riding the Teacup ride at the fair.  A Herculean feat.

I found it truly disheartening that there was no way I would ever be able to spot fish like these people could.  Fishing for fish you can see is a big part of the enjoyment of flyfishing to me.  I love that fact that flyfishing is somewhere in between sitting on a bucket watching a bobber and stalking a deer.  Unfortunately, I was apparently deer blind.

As our final hours approached I found myself walking past my uncle, who was on the trip with us, as I leapfrogged to a new spot.  I stopped to chat and he mentioned his frustration with not being able to spot the fish.  We were standing together, looking at the top of a stream that others could see the bottom of and bitching to each other about our failings when one of our two guides approached.  I told him our troubles and he smiled.  Then then pointed far upstream of where we were casting and said,”Look up there.   Every once is a while there will be a small window of smooth water traveling down the stream.  Find one and follow it with your eyes.  It will give you a survey of what is beneath the surface.”  He then walked on ahead to help my brother get a fly out of his hair.

Uncle and I stood there, looking for the magic window of smooth water.  Soon one appeared and sure as hell.  If you followed it with your eyes, and you worked to see through the water and not see the water, you could get a traveling view of the world beneath the chop.  A small moving square of knowledge and insight.  A fleeting pane of clarity.

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