Monday, May 19, 2014

Break Away

"The unexamined life is not worth living."
-Socrates (according to Plato)

Why is it so hard to break away from some patterns of living? Sometimes we get stuck in a rut and form a white-knuckle death grip on habits and patterns.  At times I find myself just existing rather than living a deliberate life. I think we all fight the monotony of the everyday grind.  Some say that life is about doing what you want to do. I think there is some truth to that, but at the heart of that ideal is the temptation for the person to live a life focused inward.  Being selfish or living a life miserably for someone else's sake isn't really living either, there is a balance.  Doing what has to be done is a necessary part of life, but there needs to be purpose, a plan, and a deliberate (examined) approach to decisions.  Anyone with small children understands that life is not always fun, entertainment, and personal time.  Personally, all the selfish "what about me?" thoughts melt away (and they are there every now and then) with one smile from my 2 year old, with one squishy hug from my 4 year old, or with one "Dad, I love you" from my 6 year old.  There is something unbelievably satisfying about pulling into the driveway after work and having at least two of my little boys run out the front door screaming "DADDY!"

Concerning selfishness, I'm not necessarily sure it's having kids that makes all the difference, though I think it can make it much easier to forget yourself (I highly recommend the experience for lasting happiness).  Having children demands sacrifice, but if you do not require children to be a better giver and a more compassionate person, than you my friend are far ahead of this selfish old codger and are headed in the right direction.  Thank goodness for moments, people, and experiences that jolt me and shake me out of the inward patterns of living.  Sometimes the blinders are slowly removed from our eyes, one small portion at a time. Other times they are ripped away, but either way we are helped and we can see there is so much more to life than our daily routines.  It is hard to do, but when I break away from the plain, selfish, and unexamined and try to focus on others, I find I am truly happy, not always entertained, but truly happy.


Lately I have been lucky to have even one day every other week to get out on the water.  You would think I'd be more guarded about those precious days and where I chose to spend them since they have grown much fewer.  On those free days I would normally opt for chasing large trout in water that is not kid-friendly for wading, and often requires a decent hike. I'm not sure what happened to make me let go, but something has helped me let go and break away. Something opened up my mind and softened my heart, and spending my free days with my family has been far more important than chasing large healthy trout. I'm sure my fishing mania will return to some degree (it always does), but taking these extra days with my wife and children has been exactly what we all needed. (This makes it sound like I am never with my family.  We actually spend quite a bit of time together, but I think this is all about having more quality time.)

Birch Creek

The day started with a pretty laid back feeling, something I'm not used to for a day dedicated to fishing.  About 10 o'clock the van was all loaded with our gear, and Will and I were on the road. After two trips back home for forgotten knickknacks we picked up Mark. This was to be Mark's second time fly fishing and so we planned a day trip for a small creek full of hungry little trout.

Birch Creek is an excellent location for beginners. Just 20 minutes outside of Mud Lake, Idaho it has 15 miles of easily accessible water.  It is very wade-able, holds many smaller wild rainbows and brook trout up high, and is heavily stocked with planters down lower in the campground stretch.  It fishes about the same year round, and isn't touched by the runoff.  It really is a neat place, and one of the reasons I grew to love fishing so much.

It's been years since I have really fished it, since I usually opt for a bigger quarry, but it felt great heading back to a place I consider my homewaters. Sometimes it is easy to forget that these kinds of fisheries are what generate a love for the sport.  The drive up through the desert is enjoyable this time of year since it is in that small window where much of the desert is green with new life.

After arriving, we geared up and tied on big royal wulf patterns. Will was excited to get on the water, despite the chilly breeze.

Will got hooked up with a couple small nymphs and a thingamabobber since it was so windy.  I pointed to a small barbwire fence upstream a bit and encouraged will to go try by it while I helped Mark figure things out.  Not but a minute after he started casting Will was yelling "Hey Dad, I got one!" I went and helped him release the little rainbow and returned to helping Mark. Will kept catching fish all by himself throughout the day.  I was sure proud of him.  You don't hear of too many 6 year olds who can hold their own with a fly rod.  I did get hooked twice and spent a decent amount of time untangling knots and line from bushes, but I'll trade those hazards anytime for a smile like the one on this kids face.

First of the day.

One of the biggest treats for the day happened toward the end. We had been fishing up higher for the smaller, wild trout, so we decided to go downstream and scope out the campground to see if there were any holdover planters.  My grandma loves fish, so we wanted to bring a few home for her.  After wading a short distance toward the top of the campground I couldn't believe what I thought I was seeing. Stoneflies (salmonflies) were hatching!  I was blown away!  I had no idea Birch Creek, a tiny creek in the middle of nowhere, had stoneflies.  They were everywhere, so I quickly tied on one of the three patterns I happened to have with me and indeed the fish were keyed in on them! The fish were small, but the takes were remarkably aggressive.

We wandered around, looked at the big bugs hatching, fished here and there, kept a small handful of fish, and by that time the light was failing. Will begged to make some more casts so I let him take my rod for a bit while I cleaned the fish. We then loaded up the car, munched down some cold sweet watermelon slices, and began the trek back home. 

Stomach contents: a few adults and a bunch of nymphs.

It was an amazing day.  I love watching my son grow to love fishing.  I had to laugh when he didn't want to stop.  I caught a glimpse of myself at his age, with all the happiness it brought me, and thought if this is what it's like to break away, I need to do it a whole lot more.