I have a confession to make: I have not been fishing.
I’ve been skiing, I’ve been running, hiking and gardening, but no, I have not been fishing.
My trusty fly rod — “Joan” — sits neatly in the rod holder in a corner of our dusty garage. My waders and boots are coated in last year’s mud and bug repellent; the smell of deet puts my mind at the river’s edge.
But in my mind is as close as I’ve gotten this season to the water and, well, that’s just not acceptable.
It’s time for a change.
Like most springs in Southeast Alaska, things have started off slow, according to Brad Elfers and the crew at Alaska Flyfishing Goods.
Yes, our winter is changing to spring, our spring to summer, to full-on fishing season.
In his most recent report, Elfers talked of rumors that the Dolly Varden trout and steelhead are roaming local waters. He said this year’s hefty snowpack is translating into cold, oxygenated runoff in local streams. As a result, he said, salmon fry have hatched, pushing out of their gravel nurseries a bit early. Dollies, always the opportunistic predator, have keyed in on these tasty morsels and are feeding in typical areas such as the mouths of Sheep and Salmon creeks.
Then there are the steelhead. Oh yes, those sleek bullets of chrome and power that test the patience of even the most seasoned fisherperson. They are here, Elfers said, but in slim numbers.
Yes, I must change my ways and end this fishing famine.
Because you see, there’s many things I miss about the sport, but the things I crave are not about the fish.
Instead, I miss the water.
There’s something about standing, hip-deep, in a dark ribbon of river, methodically working that riffle or run. For me, the repetition of movements creates a place of deep meditation. There’s the cast, the mend, the drift. Then, cast again. The water seems to hug me as it pushes and presses by; the line works through my fingers.
I find I can stand for hours in the same place thinking of nothing but what might be lurking under the surface.
Cast, mend, drift.
I think of how that fish must be eyeing my imitation, critiquing my drift and chuckling at my ignorance.
Cast, mend ...
In a society driven by multitaskers, it’s hard to slow down. But, the water forces me to flow at its pace — a hasty step will send me stumbling and a rushed drift creates drag.
If I’ve learned anything about fishing, it’s that patience pays.
Generally speaking, Elfers’ report hints that things are still a bit slow in our Southeast waters.
For me, that’s ok. Certainly I yearn to feel the fight on my line, to see my rod bent and relish in the resulting adrenaline, but really it’s about the rhythm of the water.
Time for me to hydrate.
• Contact Outdoors editor Abby Lowell at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her blog at juneauempire.com/opinion/blogs/abbylowell.