I finished the last of my coffee and read through some notes on scraps of paper in a shoebox by my chair. These scraps of paper I would empty out of my pockets when I got home from work most days. On these scraps of paper, I would jot down notes; sometimes single words that I would snatch out of the air to use at a later time, poems, entire stories, notes to people that I never intended to share with them.
Someday, I hope to either put some of these odds and ends together, or add them to a burn pile just so I can fill the box again. I read through things like this when I can't bring myself to write. Sometimes it helps to clear the fog, to lift my mood. Sometimes not. It comes and it goes.
After a couple of hours moping around in a melancholic fog, I decide I need to get out of the house. It was 40 degrees and overcast, not the conditions I normally consider good fishing weather, but I could care less. It had been so long, I wasn't sure of what condition my fly boxes, rods, leaders, or waders were in, so I just wadded up an armload of gear, piled it into the back of the car, told my wife I'd be back sometime, and drove off without so much as a plan.
The thick gray clouds threatened rain, or worse, according to the temperature on the instrument panel screen of the car. I drove as fast as I thought I should, I was anxious to make it to the water-- any water. I drove up a winding mountain road to a pull-off, and was pulling on my waders before the car stopped rocking.
I found out the hard way how much of a disarray my gear was in when I made it to the rock outcropping jutting out into the river. I spent the first half-hour untangling and tying on new leaders on both rods, arranging my pack, just so I could find what I needed, and returned a couple dozen loose nymphs that had came unhooked and were piled in the middle of my flyboxes.
I made my first twenty or so casts clumsily, like a child playing with a new kite for the first time. The only difference was that the kid could probably keep the kite from tangling in every tree limb in Greenville County. My casting leaves much to be desired, even when I fish almost every day. It comes and it goes.
For the next two hours, I flog the water with every thing I have in my pack. At one point, I thought of tying a few bare hooks on and adding a few split shot and try my hand at snagging, but I thought better of it. All the while, the same unwanted thoughts swirlled in my head, and it wears me down, like listening to a single Pink Floyd song on repeat for an entire day. A grinding in the back of my head, and working down my spine to my shoulders. Cast and drift down. Cast and drift down. Wash, rinse, repeat.
The wind was cutting me into shreds, and the only warmth I could find was on 5he downstream side of a large boulder, up to my waist in the swirling water. It kept the wind off of me, and I could at least warm up and get a better gameplan together.
Without as much as a nibble for three hours covering a half-mile or so of river, I decided to head down the mountain to the flatlands, back toward civilization and besides, it would give me an excuse to sit in the car and warm up for a little bit. I thought maybe I could catch a few stocked fish down there, but you never know. It comes and it goes.
I drove down the mountain road with my waders and chest pack still on. I did put down a few plastic grocery sacks in the floorboard to keep my felt-bottomed wading boots from leaking too much river water into the carpet. You can never be too careful.
I pulled into the gravel parking area at what could be considered Mecca for trout anglers in the mountains of South Carolina. An exquisite roadside outfitter, adjacent to some of the most pristine trout waters on this side of the Eastern Continental Divide. The sign is lettered brightly with the moniker BEST HOT DOGS IN TOWN adorning the rustic facade, for all of the local as well as out of towner sports and tourists to see.
I took only one rod, made my way to the river, and was delighted to find that the wind had died down somewhat. Of course, the troubles I had been mulling over upstream had somehow beat me to the car and had come down to the flatlands with me. So, my regimen of cast and drift down, cast and drift down, was once again applied.
The stock trucks hadn't been by for a while, it seemed. But I did get a few surges of excitement and a glimmer or two of hope whenever I would sight a stick that favored a trout tumbling in the current. I would cast to them anyway, even after a positive identification that it was, in fact, a stick. You just never know.
After about an hour, I was wearing thin, giving up hope, and still with a head full. I said I would work my way around a gravel bar, and if nothing, call it a day. I figured that even if I couldn't catch a fish, or even clear my head, that it was worth a tey anyway.
I had made a few casts and drifts down along the outside bend, across from the gravel bar, when it began to snow. A few more drifts, and the snow was falling heavier and heavier. I waded out onto the gravel bar, blinded almost from the snow. I sat down on the rocks and let the wet snow pile up on my cap and shoulders. My mind, for the first time all day, was focused on something other than my inner turmoil. All I could think about was the snow. I called my wife and daughter, on video call, to show them the blizzard.
The snow soon turned to sleet, and I felt the sting of all day on the river in my bones. I rose to my feet and could smell something strange, but familiar drifting with the cold wind, blowing snow and sleet. BEST HOT DOGS IN TOWN. Ok. Why not? I'll take two all the way, and a rootbeer, to go.
You always hear the phrase, It's not always about the fish, but I think that it's not always about the fishing either. Sometimes, I believe the fishing is just the vehicle that will deliver us to a point where something truly magical can happen. And I know that my internal struggle is a lot like my luck when it comes to trout fishing. It comes and it goes.