Outdoor Writers Association of America
Northwest Outdoor Writers Association
This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

January 12th, 1998

Green Cabin Pool

"The cabin is as green as the grass upon which it sets, and the forest which surrounds all of it is equally green ..." Quoted from the very first issue of the original Angler's Journal. The author continues, "A log lays firmly lodged in the bed of the stream. Lying parallel to the flow it provides a perch where a heron, or a human, can set and contemplate."

The stream referred to is the main branch of the AuSable River in northern Michigan. The same green cabin pool, and the exact log was the beginning of one of life's great adventures for me.

One warm august evening, which seems like a million years or so years ago, I sat on that log waiting for the hatch. The anglers curse rental canoes (Americanus alumininus) which had launched earlier in the day from the canoe rentals upstream had finally ceased to float past. Most other people were busily engaged in eating dinner. Finally, the river was quiet.

Sounds from the nearby campground were muted by the sounds of the river. Only an occasional whiff of wood smoke reminded me that portable civilization was nearby. It could have been any one of a hundred streams or a hundred different pools. But somehow, fate had placed me on that log.

Fifteen minutes or so before the anticipated arrival of the evening hatch, another angler approached the pool. We had met briefly before, so we spoke, chatted about the river and the quality of the fly fishing. It was a different time, a time when courtesy and mutual respect were more common. We agreed to share the pool for the evening.

To my fellow angler I must have been a curious sight: tennis shoes, blue jeans, (no waders) a buggy whip of a fly rod, floppy brimmed black hat, and a small crooked cigar. (It kept away the bugs.) Well, my waders really did leak. I would have been equally wet had I been wearing them, besides the water was not all that cold, about sixty-five degrees or so. There was no excusing the fly rod. It was a cast off that had belonged to my ex-husband. Now that I think of it, so were the leakly waders. No matter, I knew something about the fish, brookies and browns, what the insects were, and I could cast just barely well enough to get my fly where it needed to be. Most of the time.

My companion for the evening was better equipped. As we began to fish to the rising fish, I noted that he cast very well.

Darkness set in, and after the last riser was caught and gently returned to the pool, we walked back up the hill together to the campground. I don't recall the conversation, except he mentioned there was a pot of coffee on the fire.

One year later we were married on a grassy hillside a short distance from Green Cabin pool. Our attendants held up crossed fly rods as we walked forward to take our vows. The judge that married us had to be forcibly hauled out of the river to perform the ceremony. He was a fly fisher, and there was a hatch in progress.

All of that was nearly twenty-five years ago. Now the coffee cup sets next to my computer, and I have not seen the pool in many years; nor do I plan on returning to it. Like the water which flows through the lovely Green Cabin pool continuing toward its destination, our lives flow ever onward, carrying us to new places, new waters.

Now we reside on the coast of Washington. Our angling is much different here. Streams flowing to the ocean have few resident trout, and fewer insects. Our targets now are salmon. The rods are bigger, and the flies are huge in comparison to the delicate dry flies I love. The angling is different but the exercise and principles are the same. One learns to read the tidal flows much like reading the currents and eddies of a river.

Fly fishers are connected by a common thread. It's the flow, whether in rivers, streams, lakes or oceans, that connects us all to each other. We share an understanding, mostly unspoken, and rarely written. Some call it corporate memory. We know how certain things were, what we saw and heard, the scent of certain places, and how we felt. They can be recalled at will, as can the people who shared those experiences with us. The memories are a continuous part of us and we of them.

That understanding rises from a common frame of reference. Our love of fly fishing has nothing (well, maybe a little) to do with catching fish. The flies, meticulous and beautifully dressed, are tiny jewels that adorn our endeavor. The elegant rods and incredibly machined reels are tools, enhancing the quality of the fishing experience. Without the experience, they are all things not without merit, but sadly lacking in meaning.

What is this experience we share? Is it the places where trout are found? Knowing where the trout will be? Learning the insects and their habits? Is it the challenge of outwitting the fish and conditions? Is it matching the hatch or timing the feeding pattern? Is it precise casting, perfect presentation or flawless mending?

Although you and I may not have fished the same waters, as long as we remain fishers either in fact or spirit, we share two common bonds. The first is pursuit of knowledge. Fly fishing requires learning. Gratefully no one will ever know it all. There is so much to learn and do that one lifetime is hardly enough. A willingness to learn, to keep an open mind, transfers to every other aspect of our lives.

The second, and most important bond, is hope. Each new day or stream or fish re-establishes us.

The pursuit of fly fishing recreates the very best in each of us. It is hope that allows us to carry on in our day-to-day lives. The doom and gloom pessimist is not a fly fisher.

It is hope that keeps bringing us back, time and again to the common essence of our being, to our very own "Green Cabin Pool." ~ The LadyFisher

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