Who Am I?
It's six in the morning and the steering wheel of my truck feels like ice. My coffee mug is too wide for the cupholder, so I balance it on the seat between my legs while I turn on the radio. All Things Considered on NPR. Another day, another bomb. I'm almost numb to it now, but I don't want to hear any more of it. I used to get mad about the bombs; now I'm mad at myself for not caring. I turn off the news and turn up the music. Louder. I press down on the gas. Faster. Today, I'll take out my anger on monster browns. I'll throw four-inch streamers in a swollen river on a six-weight. I'll pound the bank and strip like I'm as scared as the baitfish I'm simulating, and I'll feel the thump in my rod when my fly finds its place in the upper jaw of a five-pound brown. Eventually he'll give up, and I'll consider laying him out on the bank for a picture before releasing him without taking one. Everyone always wants to see pictures when I tell them what I caught. I think I'll stop telling them.
It's another day now, let's say mid-autumn. I'm driving down a twisting two-lane with Tucker. He'll have his face hanging out of the passenger window, tongue flapping like a flag in a gale. Maybe I'll be sipping Coke from a glass bottle, longing wistfully for a time I never knew. I'll pull into some stranger's gravel drive, and I'll ask if I can cross their property to get to the creek. I'm fly fishing, I say, and I won't be keeping any. Folks always say yes to that. Tucker covers four times as much ground as I do as we hike, me in a straight line and Tucker chasing rabbits that crossed the field the day before. I string up a little glass three-weight when we reach the water, and I tie on a barbless dry fly and only sort of pay attention as I ply the water for little painted trout. When I find one, Tucker will give him a sniff and a lick before I slip the fish back into the creek. We'll stop for lunch, and Tucker and I will share a few bites of summer sausage and a bottle of water before getting back to work. Another pool, another fish, and another kiss goodbye from Tucker. Wash, rinse, repeat. And smile.
Sometimes, I don't know who I am. Am I the reckless idiot tearing down the highway blasting "Welcome to the Jungle" and lusting for big browns? Or am I the enlightened dry fly fisherman acting as though fish aren't really a necessary part of fishing? I don't suppose it matters. Either way, I don't fish for trout. I fish for me, and I can live with that.