Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Late Nights...

I love late nights.
Emails slow, television airs tosh.O, the world around me sleeps and I let down my guard as I delight in a long awaited release of sarcasm, humor, truth and other trivial fruitions that I'm not so sure the general public would be overly impressed to learn about me.  

I laugh with my mouth open, disregard chocolate stuck in my teeth and model my sweat pants like they're sexy in rhythm to the music of the late night "want-ad" commercials.
Colby cocks an eyebrow and looks at me in disdain - naturally I mock him in the husky voice chanting the 1-800 number and laugh at the ridiculousness of it all...
Yup, I love late nights.

In this wonderful world of fishing, I am often brought abroad where I find that while my fishery of choice may change with the seasons, my level of professionalism may not.  

Surrounded by classes often full of testosterone, jokesters, presumptions and innuendo, I turn a blind eye to the off colour comedy and ignore the open faced text messages of "is she at least somewhat intelligent?" (true story) and reference to how perhaps I'm better suited for either the kitchen or a playboy magazine.

Pretending to have the capacity of a G-rated Bob Saget routine, I shy away from response while my brain silently plays a Roast in the words of Lisa Lampanelli and I remember why my humor needs to stay confined to the after-hour sweat pant charade and the company of like minded friends.

Playing coy to the intricacies of such thoughts, I admittedly censor myself here on my business blog but will confess aloud, however, that I am not bound alone by such strict mental confinements.

For it is a similarity in all professions; one that I witness every day on the river.

It is the doctor thankful to crack a joke without offending a patient, a saleswoman mocking her male-dominated office, a priest stumbling over rocks and landing on the sharp edge of profanity, the housewife who comes clean about who she really is...  They are the people who so often control their mannerisms only to engage in freedom and unbiased pleasure as they pour their facades into the non-discriminatory currents of the washing tides of the river.
I guide them, mentor them, accompany them, befriend them, and of course, mind my manners while doing so.

There was a time once where such mindful restrictions were not so necessary.
Before the plethora of cell phone cameras and wireless internet on river streams, gossiping forums and dirt-digging social rejects... before the assumption of 'mi business es su business', life for many of us seemed a little more relaxed.

It was in the dark of a late night recently that it occurred to me that my safe place was and had always been a large river in my beautiful home province of British Columbia.
Large enough to lose sight of others anglers, hard enough for only the serious to pursue, wide enough to not have to engage in small talk and close-knit enough to know where, if ever needed, help could be found... this river was a no-guiding zone, free from competitive trash-talking and slanderous outbursts.

I could curse like a sailor if I lost a big one, pick my nose if I so desired and sing my heart out as I swung through the immense runs.  
The next morning my bags were packed and it was off to the sub-zero terrain of the interior and the reminiscing of more candid days.

The roads were quiet after the holidays and the snow lined the path to freedom along the slushy highways.
Immediately tension lowered in my body and we rolled into the small town in time for a whiskey and a convenient dinner of prime rib.

Good friends and my sister had been plagued with the same thoughts as I and there were a few of us congregated at the dinner table that evening.
Not having to bite my tongue or follow cautious guidelines, a few of us headed to the bar for a evening game of (very painful and unskilled) pool.

Dripping icicles gave away the rising temperatures and a sunny morning awoke me from my holiday hibernation to allow for Ben and I to get an afternoon start on the river.  

The long sleep was much needed and I struggled internally with contemplation about my lack of motivation to awake for an early morning pursuit of over-wintered summer steel.   
I sat in the warm Tacoma, the sun reflecting on its gold flecked paint giving the very real impression that the temperature had actually risen above freezing. 

Why had I lost all desire to fish eight to ten hour stints during the subzero days?  
I used to live for this... 
Was I losing my passion?  
This once epitomized who I was...
Did this mean I was losing me?
I stared blankly at Ben as I confessed my lack of guilt at our late morning start and a very possible deliberate stall over piping hot coffee and glorious cot stretching.

His light laugh lifted my frown and together we analyzed the situation... yep, it would appear that I had indeed graduated to the right of selectivity and unless I was targeting hot summer steelhead, tailing permit or a brand new species, I was content with half days on the water.
The way I saw it, I was either getting old or spoiled... neither of which excited me much.

Ben laughed at my confused face and shut the engine off as a gentle "get the hell out".
He smiled warmly to ensure me that my growth was perfectly normal, succeeding in concreting a huge smile on my face before handing me my rod from the back of the cab.

Stumbling down to the river, our cheeks flushed with excitement and frost.  Four hours was better than no hours and we were going to make the most out of it.

Our hands desperately pieced our weapons of choice together.

Unimpressed by how early the sun began its set, I begged Ben for one more cast until the clear current eventually dimmed into an oozing black tar.  
With no vision, no fish and a vanished sun, we admitted defeat and shook hands that the following day we would put in a full effort as our last day of steelheading in 2012.

The next morning came fast.
Having flipped over the face of the digital thermometer the night before, I had committed to spending more than a few hours on the river (regardless of what Mother Nature threw my way).

With Buff high and mittens dry I slid down the trail to one of my favourite runs.

The dogs played and I rocked the spool of my reel back and forth to try and slow its freezing process.  

It was bloody cold outside... my hands took notice, losing feeling and tormenting my finger nails much like I would imagine the cool steel of a hitting hammer would.
My gloves, wet with ice chips (courtesy of stripped running line) were soon discarded and a cursing Ben showed up behind me with a block of ice that once was his reel. 
Turning to him, I pointed my iced guides up and together we laughed at our misery.

Step - cast - step - cast, turned to, ten steps - cast as best as you can - ten steps - pray that a fish doesn't take while playing disc jockey on your reel.


Two whiney dogs, a flushed man, and hands that quit on me without asking pretty much had us racing to the truck where I would proceed to complain like the woman I swore I would never be as wretched pain shot through my poorly circulated hands, making sure to hurt them as much as possible before allowing the poor little purple guys to indulge in any relief.

All was silent as we loaded into the truck and a -3 reading on the gauge secured the discomfort that crept through our toes.
The insulting thoughts of how much of a wimp I was slowly subsided as fishing had always been less enjoyable for me in anything below -1; that hadn't changed.  
I shook my head in disgust at the difference a mere 2 degrees made but accepted it for what it was.

I had only given myself two days of fishing, both of which may have equaled the effort that I once put into a full day during my younger more 'hard-core' days... with the exception of trout, there had been no seen fish.
Apart from an embarrassing game of pool, there had been minimal socializing on my part, this new wireless iPhone fascination pretty much guaranteeing that steelheading in the small no cell-service town would never be the same again (we once used to talk about our days at the pub... now it's just a bunch of bent heads absorbed in the app of the day).  

I had changed, the scene I once loved so much had changed, the fishery had changed (albeit just slightly), the world had changed and to be quite frank, from where I stand none of these changes are deserving of any warm or fuzzy feelings.

So why the hell did I feel so satisfied?

It was on the way out of town that I saw through the dark and the obvious occurred to me...  
In the end it had been the river herself who brought me back to her year after year.

It was not the steelhead, nor the social hour in the bar.  It was not the abundance of pride that I felt after a productive day of fishing or the satisfaction of having worked hard for success.
It was none of the enamouring qualities that for so long I immersed myself in while believing that they were the answer... at the end of the day it was all so much more simple than that.

It was her, my river, my friend... a relationship that could pick up where we had left off and reconnect as though no time had passed at all.
We had grown up together and she never minded my faults, my humour, my passion, my pride or my truth.  
She didn't care about what I looked like or where else I had been.  She couldn't care less about my professionalism and while she certainly picked on me on occasion, she had also always been the one to pick me up whenever I would fall.

I had run to her after breakups and heartaches, losses and gains & she had fed my heart with the love that I needed most at the time.  Authentic and pure, our visits (both short and long) were a sincere cleansing of my built-up and putrefying tongue-bitten frustrations.  

Similar to the comfort of my beloved late nights, together we laugh at my idiocy (open mouthed and chocolate stained), break the noise of the refreshing silence, let loose like the world could end tomorrow and delight in the privacy of our silly moments.  Colby, though a new addition to our camaraderie, still cocks an eyebrow as I playfully model my waders between swings and naturally I sing a poor rendition of Beyonce before laughing at the sheer ridiculousness of it all...

Happy 2013 everyone,
See you on the river.