In the not too distant past, I was one of those smug twenty-somethings who prided myself on walking farther, floating longer, and staying later than other anglers to get my fish. I still think of myself as that angler, but the prevailing reality has changed a bit. It is a rarity anymore that I find myself with a whole day, much less an entire weekend free of responsibility, to spend at my leisure. The days of loading down the cooler, kicking the dog into the truck and taking to the river before dawn with no immediate plans to return are few and far between.
I miss those days, of course. Waking in a haze as the rising summer sun put the mosquitoes in a tizzy and turned the air to sticky mush. Taking our time breaking camp, slugging a breakfast beer to take the edge off, whether there was an edge in the first place or not. Drifting with the current for hours, back-rowing half-hardheartedly knowing there was more water than we could ever hope to cover with a fly. Anchoring for a swim at midday, grilling a small pike for lunch, coasting into the night and casting into the black. Wash, rinse and repeat. Yes, I miss those days.
But too much leisure can make you a lazy angler if you’re not careful about it. You forget why you’re there in the first place, which is of course to catch fish. A lot of them, ideally, and the bigger the better. We hold these truths to be self-evident. While I’ll be the first to tell you there’s more to it than that, it’s hard to argue with the facts. If there’s one good thing about fishing on borrowed time, it’s that it refocuses you on the central mission. If you’ve got a whole weekend to piss away, tough fishing can get watered down in the details to the point of being nearly insignificant. When you’ve got thirty minutes after work before picking the kid up from daycare, getting skunked is just a double kick in the dick.
As all beings evolve, I have adapted to my new reality by perfecting the art of the Kamikaze run. The first step is getting past the cognitive dissonance surrounding all the bullshit you will have to endure to seize your window of opportunity. The early departure, the race to the river, the chaos of prepping gear on short notice, the flack you are bound to receive for being late to whatever it was you weren’t supposed to be late for. Push it aside, and push on.
Furthermore, it’s imperative to have a plan, even if it turns out to be the wrong one. Maximize opportunity by beating the after-work Jerry’s to your local drive-in spot. Or, sacrifice some angling time to hightail it to that one run you know is holding. Rigging time should be kept to a minimum, so keep your gear at the ready. Fish with confidence – fly changes should be kept to a minimum. Do you make a second pass through that run, or march downstream to show your fly of choice to virgin water in hopes of finding the player? You’ll need to lean on angler’s intuition for the answers to these questions, but whatever you decide, be willing to accept the consequences. There is great satisfaction that comes from pulling one of these plans together under duress, and this is how a has-been like me breathes some life into my deflated ego.
I still hold out hope for the day when I return to my former glory of fishing long hours with little fear of consequence. I figure at 30, there’s still plenty of room for that dream. With my second son on the way, though, the immediate prospects for gallivanting all day are grim at best. Come quittin’ time, you can find me in the passing lane, doing my damnedest to beat you and everyone else to the spot. And if those fish are in there like I think they are, the kid can wait an extra fifteen minutes.
Artwork by David Wilson.
Jim Lampros is a co-founder and contributing author for Floodplains. Instagram @jlampros2 Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.