Monday, February 4, 2013

Penance

fly rod, winter fly fishing, fly fishing, trout, fly reel
The price we pay.
It's the price we pay for summer, I suppose.

Those bright sunny days spent casting over hidden backcountry waters to naive wild trout come with a debt that can only be collected in large doses of winter. And it usually comes with a hell of a vig... interest rates for such a loan aren't manipulated by the Fed.

Instead, summer's debts are paid down slowly, over months of subzero temperatures and brown grass hidden by deep snow. We chip away at them by shoveling the walks and writing checks to the gas company. We cut into the principle by marveling at the hoar frost on the front-yard birch, or by taking a bit pleasure in untracked snow... before the postman arrives and trashes perfection.

We endure our debt by flipping through the pages of the gazetteer and following our fingers along obscure blue lines, wondering what really lies in wait when winter's worst retreats and cold, clear water flows down the shoulders of hidden slopes.

It takes effort to hang onto the last threads of sanity when winter's grip seems so firm ... so relentless ... come the first week of February. Knowing that summer will come isn't the same as its arrival. As we pay and pay in both real and emotional currency for green grass, blue skies and rising trout, we know that we're only working our way out of debt before we take out yet another loan from Mother Nature.


Come August and 'hopper season, we'll be writing checks against a dwindling line of credit, hoping they'll clear the bank and keep summer around a bit longer. As we get into fall, and we're lucky enough to catch a few nice days in the high country, we're borrowing against our springtime sanity. A second mortgage on our emotional well-being, if you will.

summer, fly fishing, trout, eat more brook trout, Chris Hunt
The payoff. 
But if you look at every blustery winter breeze, and every melting icicle as currency in its own right, it's not so bad. If you think of that blast of winter that screams into the house at the opening of every door as one step closer to a balanced account ... to snow-free gravel roads and the lively smells of bug dope and sweet willows, it can make winter manageable, for a time at least.

And we'll push it. We know we will. We'll head to the river in March until the "I'm too old for this shit" mentality overtakes us, along with frozen fingers and ice blocks for feet. We'll venture outside on a nice day in April and think we're ready to start writing checks against the coming storm, and it might work for a bit. We might cast to a few trout, and we might catch a few, too. But winter in the Rockies is a tough out. We might think we've managed to beat it, but then that Memorial Day blizzard will blow through, or the Fourth of July will feel like anything but.

Then summer. When you think about it, by the time it arrives, it's almost over. But those weeks of careless casting to silly cutthroats at the end of an hour's hike into the wilderness make it worthwhile. They make winter seem so far away, so distant and so insignificant. Only when you're in the throes of a three-day stretch when the high temperature reads "2" do you remember those sunny days and start naming the body parts you'd gladly give up to have one come around tomorrow.

Fly fishing to rising trout against summer's magical backdrop must be a sin, for winter is a hell of a penance. It's a dozen "Our Fathers," a hundred "Hail Marys" and a gallon of communion wine. It's Jewish guilt and Episcopalian Lent. It's the fire and the brimstone of our chosen sect. It's the last lamb from the yard stretched tight to the altar.

It's the price we pay for summer.

11 comments:

  1. I'm financially and morally bankrupt right now. I hope Spring will cash a check for me.

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    1. I'll put in a good word for you, Howard ;-)

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  2. what a great post! although here in PA winter flyfishing is a very real thing, i'll try and get out this weekend as a matter of fact. I enjoyed your writing style there!

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  3. Great writing Chris! Very well thought out and constructed. Having said that...

    Down here...regarding your weather plight, we southerners would say "bless your heart" which is southern for, Shit! "Sucks to be you!" Hang in there buddy...the check is in the mail.

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  4. If we didn't have to suffer a little bit, I'd feel horribly guilty for how glorious the summers are...
    A very, very fine piece.

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    1. Thanks Erin... You know exactly what I'm talking about...

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  5. Damn fine writing. I feel your pain. Heading out to freeze my feet again on Sunday.

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    1. I can't figure out why neoprene went out of style...

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  6. Great writing, Chris! Really enjoyed this one. Can't wait for some warmer weather!

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    1. Thanks Ashley... I'm with you... I'm ready for some spring...

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