Monday, November 19, 2012

Pool by Pool

Light comes slowly in a canyon, here at the bottom. They’re a reminder, Gierach writes, of the human condition. They’re a reminder of our coldness, our stubbornness, and yet in the end our ability to carry on although we may be in the lowest, harshest, bitterest place possible.

Because still here, there is life.  


There is water and there are willows, and raspberries in the summertime. 

David Goodrich , Jay, and I drive north – to another canyon. We’re in no hurry. Because remember, light comes slowly. As if everything and everyone’s pulse calms a bit come wintertime. Gets sluggish, like oil and lube that’s sat overnight in many-degrees-below-zero. That’s how it feels, my blood, for an entire six months, and how it has felt for the past three; thick and reticent, reticent to begin on what it knows it must.

There is no rush though, there is no pressure – to beat crowds or thunderstorms -- to make early morning hatches. We rig midges and nymphs and I dig out an indicator for the first time this season. A small white thingamabobber, reminding me of Whatchamacallit's --bought at a 7-11 on Leavenworth, at the bottom of The Big Hill, with pocket change from $0.05 can returns. Ten-speeded cruising in the neverending days of childhood. Neverending, like that hill on the way back home. 

And we all add layers, gloves, and hats. Knee-high wool socks for good measure.

Dropping in, we stagger out -- pool by pool. That’s how you fish a winter river, skipping over the pockets and runs you’d hit during the summertime. Now the trout are held up in the deep places, bracing for the weather to turn. Now it’s one thing at a time, baby-step by baby-step, believing it all worthwhile (or not, but even so there’s no place to go but on. So embrace the pointlessness of it all, I'm told, embrace it. Make it your own. And somehow through that process, something worthy does in fact, evolve): pool by pool, bird by bird…word by word, that’s how you have a conversation, give a speech, write a book. None of which I’m very good at doing, especially presently: leaving all behind except one thing. Just one thing. That's what I've got to figure  out. Concentrating, studying, what’s she up to today?  My mind wanders and I end up with riffles, American Dippers, and any and all similes for cold running races in my head.

The Dippers win, and I watch them bathe for a while. They scold – you’re kinda in our pool, lady. They've got attitude. But I don't move (so I suppose I have something verging that, too).

They keep polar-plunging anyway.

And light hits the pine tops at last.

And then a large pool below a bridge where we all migrate: basking in the sun like reptiles on rocks. Following the sunspots through the afternoon – like a cat on a living room floor -- there are midge hatches and rainbows and browns enough. Laughter and stories among good friends; split shot and curses occasionally, too.

There are all of these things. And there is more…much...


…until light takes its leave as slowly and quietly as it came, reminding me of where I am. Here, in this low place. At the bottom of something majestic from far away. Something beautiful...enough it can make me cry. And does. Yet it's cold and dark here, up close. I can't feel my feet, but I hear Jay and David stomping theirs on the bank. 

I am not alone.

The human condition.

And as goodbyes glow in headlights, we all promise – let’s do it again soon. Because at least I know, I'll need the reminder. 

60 comments:

  1. Light comes slowly in these low places, but it sure does seem to part quickly these days. It's a little confusing, like a friend who shows up late and leaves early. Was it something I said?

    Doubly confusing is one of Hershey's latest: the Thingamajig. Contrary to expectations, it is not a Thingamabobber for spin fishing. But I did find it to be a much bigger hit on Halloween.

    And, yes, do it again soon! The rest of us need the reminder as well.

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    1. Daniel - Sometimes I do wonder if I've done something to offend. Thingamajig!? My, the branding people at Hershey's do have some fun, eh?

      Thank you ever so much, as always.

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  2. Erin,

    Well said! I've several canyon streams I used to fish often. Invariably I'd have to stay at those runs and pools that never see sun while my boys abandoned me and fished where they found warmth. I'd make a better dipper than them. The relative solitude is the reason I only fish trout and whitefish in the winter now, few borish people in trout fashion to raise my blood pressure. I get the vehicle thing, we plugged in in Alaska and drove on square tires until they warmed up. Good for you.

    Gregg

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    1. Gregg - I do the same things...I rarely fish the "popular" trout streams and never in summer (best to keep that blood pressure low!). That's time for carp and the high country. Don't quite have to plug in in the canyon...but certainly takes some time to warm up. Thanks for the good words!

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  3. Hi Erin, I love the shift in seasons and how light comes slow in the winter. Unfortunately steelhead anglers don't honor the seasonal change, we all race to the put-in, setting up boats before the crack of dawn with headlamps to guide us, you should try it this winter.:)) Mia

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    1. Mia - Ah, would love to! I'll work up to it. :)

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  4. It is time to slow down and calm ourselves--not just to acquiesce to winter but to embrace it.

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    1. Mr. P - Exactly. Living in the moment...of what we've been given. I like it.

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  5. You beat me to it! The whatchamacalit reference took me back to a simple time. I really enjoyed this one. Even if I wasn't there.

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    1. backcountryfishnerd - Only just barely! Jinx! =) I'm glad you enjoyed it...the fishing and the reading.

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  6. "…until light takes its leave as slowly and quietly as it came, reminding me of where I am. Here, in this low place. At the bottom of something majestic from far away. Something beautiful...enough it can make me cry. And does."

    Absolutely beautiful.

    My first sunrise of the day. The next one comes in a few minutes when the sun rises over the field and forest behind my house.

    You are a gifted writer.

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    1. Robin - How true about sunrises. I see them first on the mountain tops on the westside of the canyon. And then eventually, they stream down to me. Takes awhile though. Thank you for the good words, and for stopping by.

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  7. …word by word, that’s how you have a conversation, give a speech, write a book. None of which I’m very good at doing, especially presently: leaving all behind except one thing. Just one thing.

    This explains a lot, including the need to escape to the canyon. Just take it pool by pool, Erin. and everything will be just fine. But then, you knew that.

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    1. Mike - I think you get my drift. ;) Thank you for that. And as always, for reading.

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  8. Very nice...There were several occasions while out in your neck of the woods this fall that I just sat streamside and watched those American Dippers doing their thing. I enjoyed watching their antics so much that I had to do some research when I got back to civilization and find out just what kind of bird they were.

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    1. HighPlainsFlyFisher - Aren't they a hoot? I remember the first time I saw them....hey! A bird, diving like a duck! So strange...and so very fun to watch.

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  9. "word by word, that’s how you have a conversation, give a speech, write a book. None of which I’m very good at doing, especially presently" Says who? I think you'd be great at writing a book.

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    1. Kevin - Your faith in my abilities is much appreciated. But one's harshest critic is always oneself...or at least, should be.

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  10. Erin,

    I think that as long as the book is in English and you continue to write as you think, that you've got a best seller on your hands.

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    1. cofisher - Thanks for the positive thoughts :)

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  11. Happy to meet your words today, and to follow them into this place of quiet contemplation. Lovely, Erin.

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    1. Emily - Many thanks for coming along...

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  12. Season closed out end October here, until March 1st 2013. I'll cruise with you and the guys this Winter, if that's OK?

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  13. Jealous... Another Colorado blogger fish outing! This was beautifully written. I have been at the river when it made me shed a few tears as I just stood there and listened and watched. It is amazing how it can stir ones soul... That's why we keep going back.

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    1. River Damsel - Thanks for stopping by...and the water certainly has special powers, eh?

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  14. Funny how light comes so slowly and seemingly leaves so quickly in a canyon.

    I think Dippers are the best. Always a streamside highlight for me.

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    1. Ivan - It's a unique world, a canyon, that's for sure. And the dippers always make my day! Thanks for stopping by!

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  15. You've captured this time of the year perfectly--a little sluggish but how wonderful that sun feels.

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    1. Kathy - Thank you! And indeed, winter sun is very near divine.

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  16. "split shot and curses". Yup, sounds like a winter river indeed! Great stuff Erin.

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    1. Ty - Ha! Absolutely. :) And thanks for stopping by...and the good words.

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  17. Even though I don't often leave a comment, Erin, I always read your beautifully written works. Since I live very near this particular canyon, I applaud you for writing about your thoughts. You are way
    cooler than me.

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    1. Mel - Thanks for leaving a note. And even more, thanks for reading. And if being a book nerd is cool...than cheers to that!

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  18. Best part about winter fishing is that for some reason it not only doesn't work to be in a hurry, I at least just don't feel the need.

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    1. Trevor - Exactly. Even though I'm always freezing, it's in many ways far more relaxing than summer streams. Thanks.

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  19. That was wonderful. It really brought to my mind the winter processes of life and fly fishing in particular. Well done.

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    1. reviveflyfishing - Many thanks for taking the time to read...and for the good words.

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  20. Great perspective! Recently read your piece on "Plan B" in Trout magazine. Well done.

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    1. Seth - Thank you, on both accounts!

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  21. frostbite can't actually occur inside a boot can it? My toes numbed reading this. Nice.

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    1. Mr. M.A. - Oh, I believe it can...hope you warm up soon!

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  22. Hi!

    Very moving story. I've been there and felt the cold air and water. Sometimes fishing from the edge of the ice on the river. Once I lost my balance netting a trout and fell backwards into the +4 degrees centigrade water. That was a shock! Happily I could get help although I was fishing alone. But I got the 2+ lb trout at least.

    Have fun fly fishing in the cold,
    M.O.

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    1. M.O. - That would be a shock, indeed! But a story with a happy ending. :) Thanks for stopping by to read and leave a note. Much fun and winter fishing to you as well!

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  23. Nothing like some cold weather to concentrate the mind..................... crisp mornings with a touch of frost and a pike rod in hand, you cant beat it.

    Lovely as ever Erin.

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    1. Tom - You're right, it can't be beat....winter fishing has something special all its own. Thanks as always for stopping by to read!

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  24. I've been known to be a little dramatic at times, and your words of a place being so majestic and beautiful it pushes you to tears rings true with me. I find my emotion isn't so much that of awe at the sights in front of me, but a more dark thought that the present is so beautiful it pains me to know it will be over soon. I guess I fear the day I can't chase a stream.

    Fortunately, I have a short attention span and a love of puns and, therefore, have no little time to stay so melancholy :)

    Your words provide a nice breath of fresh air after a long day at work. Thanks again, e!

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    1. David - Glad it was refreshing, even if it is a little dramatic. ;-) Thanks as always for reading!

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  25. Erin,
    Love your writing and I just ordered your book. Looking forward to reading it.

    "until light takes its leave as slowly and quietly as it came, reminding me of where I am. Here, in this low place. At the bottom of something majestic from far away. Something beautiful...enough it can make me cry. And does. Yet it's cold and dark here, up close. I can't feel my feet, but I hear Jay and David stomping theirs on the bank.

    I am not alone.

    The human condition."

    Beautiful enough to make you cry

    regards
    Dan

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    1. Dan - Many thanks for your support...and I hope you enjoy my book! And thanks also for the good words...the human condition isn't so bad when we have kindred spirits, eh? Cheers.

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  26. I hope the beauties of nature never stop making you cry. And I hope you never stop writing stuff that sometimes makes me cry.

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    1. Hart - I hope they never do, either. Although I am not worried...I seem to be getting more "weepy" with age.

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  27. Can't believe I just discovered your blog! Thanks for adding another very literate voice to the fly fishing community.

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    1. tenkara ambassador - Well I'm very glad you did! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read.

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  28. Strange how the cold magnifies our enjoyment of a day astream. Winter's lens focuses our expectations in a way that summer's abundance and comfort do not. Coming in from a day in the cold is a pleasure that is inexplicable to me, hardwired somewhere deep in my Neanderthal DNA.

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    1. tenkara ambassador - Indeed it has a way of focusing....something prehistorical for sure. Hope you were able to warm up!

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  29. Wonderful. This story has shadows and sunlight, and I feel warm and cold at moments through it. I've been learning to fly fish for 3 years.

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    1. Doug - Thank you for stopping by to read. It's quite the journey, eh...learning? And it never ends, thankfully!

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