Thursday, October 11, 2012
I am 62 today. (And my bobicator won't bobicate)
A central Washington lake is where I took my favorite fishing picture. That picture predates digital cameras. None of my three favorite fishing pictures has a fish in it. They portray places; places that I have grown to love. Certainly that love is in part because of the fishing but not entirely.
As I look at my favorite fishing pictures it is interesting to me that they are all taken in the fall. The late day, diminished light of fall adds rich color and clarity to a scene without editing or enhancement. The fall is a time of transition—shorter days, cooling air, returning wind, and leaves dressed in their brightest colors. I love the fall. The occasional warm fall day helps me remember and savor the heat of the summer. Colder, shorter days bring back sweatshirts and fleece. A cool, fall breeze causes a quick shiver that says, “Change is in the air.”
The average American man currently has a life expectancy of 75.6 years. If I live precisely that long I am at this moment 82% of the way through my life. Visualizing those 75.6 years spread over a 12 month calendar, I am very much in the autumn of my life. More precisely I would be in the last week of October. I love the fall and I am loving the autumn of my life. Still I know, literally and figuratively, winter is coming. Cold days and difficult conditions are in my future.
My left hip hurts much of the time. A day or two of wading on cobbles lights up my right knee. Most of the balance I had as a 40 year old is still with me today. But not all of it. My hearing is like my balance. The autumn of my life is now. I miss the warm days of summer and I am not looking forward to winter. I fear what I won’t be able to do in the winter.
And, as I said in the title, I’m 62 today and recently it would not bobicate. At least it would not bobicate the last time I tried to get it to. What’s a guy to do?
Last week, for the first time in several years, I fished that central Washington lake where I took my favorite picture. About 7 years ago the lake had become overrun by small spiny rays. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has rehabilitated lakes in the past. That means they treat the lake with rotenone and kill all the fish. Then they plant trout again. With reduced budgets and less staff, programs they were able to support in the past had to be abandoned. There was no longer any budget for this lake. I had not fished the lake in years; though I go there each year just to stand for awhile, reflect and give thanks for “warm memories” of fishing in the past.
In 2011 the lake was treated with rotenone and stocked with some Triploid Rainbow. For months I had been planning a fall trip to the lake. I had such high hopes of catching 20 or more 16 to 20 inch Rainbow. Last week I strung a rod at this lake for the first time in years. Wonderful memories blended with high anticipation. When I was 17 or 18 years old I would run from my car down to the water I was so excited to fish. Even in my early 20’s I was still doing that once in awhile. I've gotten a little old for that now. And yet I still feel the anticipation just as I did 40 years ago.
Gear all assembled and ready, I took a knee at the side of the lake and blessed myself with what I think of as holy water. Out loud, I said the same four prayers I have said for decades, the same four prayers I always say when I start fishing.
Low water levels and high weeds made getting out on the lake in my pontoon boat a bit challenging. Being the only one there added to my sense of how spiritual fishing can be for me. Out in the open water my first cast settled on the surface. The last time I was at this lake, years ago, I finished the day fishing a Chironomid under an indicator. Like so easily and comfortably picking up a conversation with a good friend I hadn't seen in years, casting the indicator and the Chironomid just made me smile. Like old friends, the lake and I picked up where we had left off. It was comfortable. It was good.
Staring at an indicator gets old for me. I like indicator fishing when the indicator, indicates. It has to go down for it to be fun. Otherwise I stop liking it. I know the lake well; I know where the shallow water is, the deep water, and all of the ledges. My indicator sat on the water over all of the spots I used to frequent.
When the indicator won’t indicate I start to call it names like a stupid indibobicator or useless bobicator. That damn bobicator just sat there on the water. My bobicator would not bobicate! It just sat there like a well fed, sleepy cat content to do nothing. Calling the indicator names has about as much effect as telling the cat he is lazy. He just happily closes his eyes.
I switched to the rod with the sinking line and tried casting and stripping nymphs near the ledges and drop-offs. Nothing, again, nothing at all. I didn't get a strike. Not a single fish jumped or rose.
Unusually long periods of hot weather in July may have killed all the Trout in the lake. Maybe they were hiding in the deep weeds and are still getting fatter. Who knows?...
I had to realize that this lake, while it is one of my favorites, will likely never be the same as I remember it. The “warm days” of catching so many fish there are going to be memories for me to savor. And I do. I had to face the reality that like me, in a way this lake is likely in the fall or winter of its life as a good trout lake.
Returning to my truck I was surprised that I wasn't a good deal more disappointed than I was. I wanted the fishing to be the way it was in years past. It wasn't. I want my hip and my knee to be the way they were in years past. They aren't and they never will be. That bothers me more than the fishing.
There was nothing for me to do except adapt and make the best of it. I returned to the Carp Lodge where I tied some flies, drank some beer, had dinner, and got a good night’s sleep.
The morning saw me heading to different water. I gave that indibobicator about 20 minutes to indibobicate. It didn't bobicate so it got benched in favor of dry flies. Ahhh…that felt a lot better. If I’m going to get skunked I would rather get skunked fishing a dry fly than a wet fly.
Well now, go figure, some Rainbow liked my dry flies. Damn I love it when I see them take the fly; it is just so darn cool! Some of them were nice and porky, just how I like them.
Eventually I will be in the December of my life; the day will come when I am less able to fish and am confined to only very easily accessible water. The day could come when I won’t be able to fish at all. It is after all the autumn of my life and I feel the cold winter of life nearing. To be sure it is bittersweet.
I am 62 today. I am in the autumn of my life. In the autumn of my life there is rich color and clarity not seen in earlier seasons. I know it won’t last. I am scared of the winter. I love the fall, yes indeed; I love the fall.