Getting Ready for 2010

I thought I was coping well this winter. I had a plan. I was going to keep busy and be totally prepared for the next year. I cataloged pictures from the year, broke down and cleaned reels and line. I washed and patched my waders before folding them in the closet for the season. I re-felted and re-studed my boots and backup boots. I refilled the stuff to make stuff float, sink, indicate, and tie things to. I replaced bent hemostats, worn clippers, dull knifes, and non-retracting retractors. I called to renew my Fly Tier subscription which I found out was good until 2014. I paid for two more years just to be safe.

Then I retyped my fishing log and marked my days with coded flag pins on the large stream map in the office. I consolidated the odds and ends of picked through fly boxes and made lists of the essentials to retie and then a second list of local variations and then a third list of possibly useful flies and then a fourth list of saltwater flies that looked too cool to pass up (for some reason I have no desire to catch a permit but some primal urge to perfect a crab pattern).

After a considerable amount of further puttering, I settled into a tying routine. Work was hard to come by this fall so I would wake up and make my sugar mamma a pot of coffee, and pretend to be searching the classifieds when she emerged from the shower. I would scribble down a few phone numbers, write some combination of milk, eggs, cheese and salad fixings before making up chores that would be hard to prove I didn’t do (oil the refrigerator flanges or snake the kitchen drain). Invent tasks that would be hard to track: call Mom to check in on her arthritis. Introduce myself to the mailman. Analyze the dog’s gait. Then label it in giant letters; TO DO LIST. Kiss wife goodbye. Make another pot of coffee and retreat to the office. Then it was just me and the vise. Day after day I filled box after box. I was going to be okay.

The first sign of trouble came when I missed New Years Eve. Unshaven and still in my bathrobe, my wife walked by in a cocktail dress. I coughed out of surprise and then ran with it. Thinking fast, I placed a stream thermometer under a lamp until it read 102. “I had better stay home honey… but…no reason that you should not go out.” Later that week, I woke up to capture a Nyquil dream of a creeping stonefly with bobbin and thread. In the morning it looked like Alexander Calder threw up on a hook.

Most of January, February, and March is a blur. I remember picking undercoat fur dubbing straight from the dog and apologetically buying a new coffee grinder when my wife found a near perfect batch of pearl-flash, rusty dun in the old one. From the bits and pieces I can recall, it seems as though we moved, I landed and lost a job, my dog learned that the sofa is largely edible and I think one of my parents may have become gravely ill. Just like forgetting a new acquaintance’s name during the first sentence, it is a little too late to ask about the details now.

The severity of my seasonal depression always comes to light in a shocking way. You never know how deep you are until you have an epiphany. “Rock bottom,” is the preferred term at AA. I was reading an article about the Iditarod and how the dogs teams are in danger of falling through the ice on the rivers and all I could think about was how unfair it was that the trout and young salmon should live with the knowledge that at any moment the could be startled by the intrusion of 13 furry beasts and a sled.

Spring has come in earnest and the veil has lifted now. Even runoff can’t scare me. My dreams are hopeful and the thought of trout sipping mayflies doesn’t make me tear up. Fish reawaken to feed and we don’t have to explain why anybody why we put up with ice forming in our guides just to get skunked by fingerling trout who are just as depressed as we are.

But this year I promise that I will enjoy each day more because I know how fleeting it is. And this joy will make the pain that much worse when it fades again next year. All we can do is smile when all the pieces come together and we are fortunate enough bring another trout to hand. And maybe, just maybe, I will get it right this time round.

Mark Appling