I WENT FOR FISHING on Sunday for a change. I usually stick to the mornings of the weekdays or late afternoons when I can count on having the place for myself. But it had been a few weeks since I had fished and the need to spend time in the water was eroding me, so I happened to take a walk on the weekend. I left the house shiny and early and spent a lot of time on the road — and still reached a crowded river.
I spent the first two hours in the pocket water downstream of a fishing trio of fishermen. I landed a few trout — keeping an eye on other fishermen all the time, as I did with my hook indicator. When they finally left, I moved near where they had been fishing.
I mistakenly assumed that everything upstream from there would be mine, until I spied on another lone fly fisherman. He was quiet in the middle of my favorite river stretch. Maybe I could have made my way there easier – but I did not want to risk passing through my holes. Besides, he would beat me for that, so I let him enjoy running for as long as he wanted. When he too finally left, I made my move once again.
I spent many good days on this river, which I thought of as my second home – but this casual Sunday ranks there with the best of them all. Once I had the stretch to myself, the beats were almost uninterrupted. From just one rifle, I found three of the largest trout I have ever caught there. More than once, after I released a fish and when I knew for sure I had the river to myself, I laughed out loud. Looking back, those moments of joy, freedom and escape marked for me the arrival of summer.
I continued upstream and reached a pool just below a spill. I tossed and threw my nymphs along a seam on the edge of a soft water. The indicator stopped… then sank. I placed the hook and, a few minutes later, inserted another brown trophy into my net. After releasing the fish, I started moving for a safe – but stopped before my flies could fly. EnoughI thought.
The older I get and the more I fish, the more days I have where I find myself wishing I had stopped fishing faster — with a high grade when I was happier. However, more often than not, I talk to myself to leave after another fish. But it just feeds the greed for one more fish and so on until I get tired and my casting becomes slow and I am frustrated because I just caught another hanging limb. Until then, any remnants of pleasure I had previously felt are forgotten.
However, this Sunday, I found moxie stopping after that last big coffee trout. I was not holding any of the trout I had caught, but as I was walking downstream to the car, I could not help but smile from the pleasure I felt as if I had caught my limit.
In nature, we encounter and experience all kinds of boundaries – the boundaries of hunting and fishing, the limits of our skills as hunters and fishermen, the limits we set ourselves with the equipment we use. Brand new edition of Field & Stream explores those examples and more. Welcome to the Limits issue.