December 31st, 2006

Taking Stock
By Neil M. Travis, Montana

2006 will have entered the record books by the time you read this, and if you are the resolution making type you may have concocted a list of 'must-do' things you have resolved to accomplish in 2007. Personally I avoid the resolution game, not because there are not things in my life that should be changed but because I realize that most resolutions made on the cusp of a new year are rarely realized. Rather than making resolutions I am unlikely to keep I use the changing of the year to take stock of where I am, and make plans for where I hope to go in the coming year.

The start of the new year is a good time to drag out all your gear and take an inventory. I normally start by taking out all my fly boxes for inspection. First I discard the chewed, unraveled, and otherwise unusable flies, and make notes of the patterns that need to be tied to replenish those patterns I use constantly during the year. This process normally results in a time of reflection on the days I spent on my favorite trout waters during the past year. Which reminds me that I spent fewer days fishing than I had planned, and I should correct that in the coming year.

Fly boxes finished, I then move to the rods and reels. If you're like me you have far more rods than you ever use in the course of a typical year. There's an Orvis bamboo in the back of my rod cabinet that hasn't seen the light of day on a trout stream in over a decade, and there is my favorite Leonard, and a couple other fine bamboo rods that seldom get more than a few hours of use each year. My work horse rods are a couple graphite models circa 1990, and two old fiberglass models from a much earlier era. I remove each one from its case, wipe them down with a soft cloth, and inspect the guides, cork grip, reel seat, and overall rod finish. Satisfied that all is in order I place each one back in its case to await the coming of my next outing.

My reels usually require my most detailed and time consuming inspection. First there are the lines that need to be inspected and cleaned. Occasionally it is necessary to replace a line, there are leaders to be removed, and needle knots to be checked and retied as necessary. I disassemble each reel, check for wear, lubricate as needed, and reassemble each one.

Finally I get out my vest and go through all the pockets. I am always amazed at all the stuff I carry, and I usually resolve to cut back on some of the gadgets but somehow it all ends back in the vest when the inspection is done. I am positive that if I remove a certain item that the very next time I am on the stream I will need it. It's this kind of rationalization that keeps most of us from ever throwing away anything.

There are still waders to be checked, rain gear, float tubes, pontoon boats, and a plethora of miscellaneous gear that will need to be inspected before my first fishing trip of the new year, but I normally never get that far.

Sitting in my fly tying room with my fly boxes spread all over the table, rod cases stacked on the floor, and fly reels lined up awaiting inspection I find my mind wandering. As I open a rod case the smell of a warm summer day curls around my nose, and suddenly I am knee deep in my favorite stream with a hatch of caddis flies fluttering around my head and trout boiling the water. Then I find myself sitting on a grassy bank watching the bats skim the surface of the water in the final moments of daylight. In the west the flick of heat lighting illuminates the face of towering cumulus clouds, and the cool air slipping down the surrounding mountains momentarily sends goose bumps racing down my arms. Walking back to my car in the gathering dark I spook an unseen deer in the stream side willows, and it splashes noisily across the stream snorting and blowing a warning. As I put my gear in the suburban from the distance a great horned owl calls, the first stars begin to appear, and the distant rumble of thunder reminds me of the approaching storm.

Back to the present I look at the pile of gear that demands my attention, but before I begin to dump the fly boxes and service my reels I pause to give thanks for yet another year. I am thankful for the memories, the friends old and new for the wonders of the natural world that still fill me with awe. I am thankful for sunsets tinged with red, for the smell of distant rain, and for trout streams and mountain lakes. I am thankful for a wonderful wife, a beautiful daughter, and for all the blessing that have been afforded me. Perhaps, by His grace, I shall yet be here another year taking stock as the old year fades and the new year dawns. ~ Neil M. Travis, Montana/Arizona

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