Fishing Vicariously

By Braton Machleit

[dropcap]L[/dropcap]et’s get down to brass tacks here. We have all had that stretch of time where life gets in the way and time on the water is relegated to the back burner. Yours truly is in that stretch right now, and it has me thinking of how nice it is to know people that do get out while I am stuck here in the world. Anglers the world over go through these spells, and if they say otherwise you are likely being told a boldface fish story. As awful as an extended period of time away from the water is, a look on the bright side will help you power through it and enjoy the next time out that much more.

In my own personal struggle with the lack of fishing time, it is especially haunting to keep a fly rod by the door. I keep telling my wife that I will break it down and store it, but every time I walk by it I am treated to a glimpse or memory of trips past. Maybe it’s a certain trip or a fish that stood out on whatever pattern I have tied on (olive crystal bugger). Not to mention, a fly rod in the right place is aesthetically pleasing. I think they look best in the corner contrasting against a hardwood floor. It also goes without saying that I have not broken down said fly rod as it is still standing at the ready by the door. About a week ago the memory glimpses every time I walked by the rod subsided and gave way to future glimpses. That first couple of casts that knock the rust off, followed by the cast that lets you know you’re dialed in and then the wonder of it all as you contemplate just what kind of day it is going to be. With time travel still impossible I must rely on the pictures and conversations I have with friends and family that are making it happen on the water and living (or fishing) vicariously through them.

While the stories may not always have the desired ending the audience or the angler in question would prefer, they still tend to help both parties. The angler of course has the experience of the trip, and the audience is given the juiciest parts of the tale without expending the necessary time and effort. But let’s face it—any angler worth his or her salt knows that all that time and effort is the backbone of the experience! I enjoy hearing about how the boat had to be dragged across shoals and the long backbreaking rows that followed, against the wind of course. Such is the build-up of many of the stories I am fed throughout a dry spell… and then we reach the turning point when the angler drops the telltale, “And then we struck out,” or “Dude, the fishing was epic!” Getting a fishing story from a friend you have shared time with on the water is always a good way to get through that dry spell because you can so easily re-live a previous trip. In most cases (especially mine) the tale of a previous trip provides comic relief for anglers and non-anglers alike.

My most recent fishing story comes from a new friend who helped me get through the final phase of this dry spell. I was sitting by the fire enjoying a beverage of choice with a good friend that put me on some Pennsylvania trout this summer and I received a text message from Michael Ernst, who has appeared in this magazine with some excellent work, I might add. He got right to the point with a picture of a solid Caney Fork brown trout, and then another. That’s how it starts, one guy does the work, and a handful of anglers have been helped out of a dry spell. Passing the cell phone around to show off those fish got us talking of big browns in our own past, and how well we have done chasing them in past winters. After a reply to salute Michael’s efforts which definitely paid off, it was time to scheme, at long last, upon finishing this piece; we are T-minus 48 hours until the fly rod by the door is throwing loops looking for that next set of head-shakes.