And, since this is a fly fishing blog, I'd be remiss if I didn't single out a few blessings for which to be thankful on this, the most thankful of days. So, in no particular order, let's get started:
I didn't catch a bonefish, despite my best efforts, but I'm thankful nonetheless for the chance to visit and experience a place so special. I'm grateful for willing baby tarpon and feisty barracuda. I'm thankful for Kalik beer and conch fritters (perhaps too thankful, truth be told). I'm thankful for Anejo rum and clear waves crushing white sand. I'm thankful that, on my last night on the island, I ended up at a political rally, of all things, where I was the only gringo in the bar and felt as welcomed and included as I've ever felt. I'm thankful for the trials and tribulations I endured while walking the flats for five days with no bonefish love. I'm thankful for 30-knot wind and driving rain. I've paid my dues--just wait... I'll get my bone.
2) South Texas. I give Texas a hard time, but, truth be told, a lot of who I am today is because of the Texas rooted deep in my bones. I grew up in East Texas amid the piney woods and on the banks of the muddy Sabine. I caught bream and bass and catfish and trespassed often to do it, with only minor consequences, including a spattering of bird shot a few feet from my butt. In recent years, I've taken to visiting the Gulf Coast of South Texas in the spring--not because the fishing's particularly great (spring is tough, with the wind and such), but because it's about then when, if I don't get a dose of sun and saltwater, I tend to go a little crazy. So I'm thankful for South Padre Island, good Texas friends and shacks situated perfectly on an island in the middle of nowhere.
mangroves, turtle races, sailcats and speckled trout. I'm thankful for lime-green kayaks and friends with flats skiffs.
4) I'm thankful for the chance to visit Australia, and gain some perspective from the other side of the world. I'm thankful for new Aussie friends, Rugby Union and the Hacha. I'm thankful for jungle perch and the Great Barrier Reef. I'm thankful that, no matter where you go in the world, you can almost always find an Irish pub and somehow feel perfectly at home. And I'm thankful for platypus, too.
5) I'm thankful for the view out of the cabin window in Cooke City, Mont., and I'm thankful for Tenkara rods and the laughter they induce. I'm thankful for otters and geysers and native trout. I'm thankful for trap nets and grizzly bears. I'm thankful for lost trails and bushwhacking in the backcountry. And Bigfoot.
7) I'm thankful for quiet Appalachian trout streams that run off the shoulders of Shenandoah. I'm thankful for native brook trout and boulder hopping. I'm thankful for lonely waterfalls and redbuds and dogwoods among the green of early spring.
8) I'm thankful for bull trout on dry flies, cold, clear Idaho backcountry water and smoky skies at sunset. I'm thankful for dysfunctional wading sandals and beaver ponds and lost rivers. I'm thankful for lonely desert drives that end in alpine destinations, within earshot of cold, rushing water.
9) I'm thankful for Alaska and the Chena River and fat Arctic grayling. I'm thankful for the Haul Road, and the Arctic Circle and the Yukon River. I'm thankful for new friends and old, all gathering around the trunk of a rental car, toasting the day with cold Alaskan beer.
And, of course, I'm thankful to you, the frequent visitor, for putting up with the pap to get to the substance ... for taking the time to leave a note of encouragement. It means a lot.