A bad day in the lab can ruin two weeks of research. Now
I will have to continue my summer project into the school
year to finish it. That won't be easy carrying 30 credits
in medical school. To make matters worse, I'm in Phoenix
until I graduate in three years. The only trout within 200
miles are hatchery harvest packed on ice in the grocery store
meat department. They aren't even pretty to look at with
their dull colors and their fins rubbed off. The only
bright side is that it is Friday and it is my anniversary.
Of course, that means I have to replace this mood I'm in.
Six miles isn't long enough for the air conditioner to
cool the car down after sitting in the Arizona sun all
day long. I come inside and try to act happy, but she
can tell. Finally I just tell her I need five minutes
and I go to my den. I plop down in that ugly green
chair in the corner that is so comfortable, turn off
the light and turn on the fan. I need to go to my
special place for a while.
Almost closing my eyes, I squint through the piercing
sunlight barely able to see. The reflection from the
water makes it even harder. The river is wide and
hallow but narrows through a bend and becomes almost
too deep to wade. Right at this spot, I walk out into
the river. As the water raucously sloshes past my waders,
it disturbs the wide canyon I am alone in. I don't even
know what fly I have on or whether the leader is good, I
just try to start casting. I let the line tug from my
fingers as I throw a little longer piece of line with
each awkward cast. Tailing loops and dragging line is
all I can muster. My rhythm is off. I can barely keep
the line above the water. Why do I even do this? I keep
casting but notice that I can hardly stand against the
eight of the current. The sloshing of my line is drowned
out only by the constant noise of the river around my legs.
Nothing is rising; nothing is hatching.
Pausing, I let the line straighten downstream. "Focus."
I tell myself. With a flick, I send the line straight
upstream in a way that almost looks respectable. I turn
a little in the river and it quiets down. The line drags
a little and I pick it up and cast again. Short casts at
first, then a little longer. As I cast, I can start to feel
the rod load in my hand and the loops stop tailing. I start
to add a little double haul to the cast. The sound of the
river becomes melodic and I find a kind of rhythm. 10-2,
10-2. A little more line. 10-2. More line. 10-2. A
little bit sideways and a little bit of wrist action. 10-2.
It is not the traditional cast, but it is my cast. 10-2.
A quick tug with one hand and a gentle forward motion of the
rod with the other and it begins to feel effortless as I shoot
the line forward again upstream. The line is floating freely
and only the slightest mend is needed to keep it drifting
nicely by. I notice that the weight of the river is keeping
me balanced on the rocks around my feet. Yes, I remember now.
Rhythm. Balance. 10-2, 10-2. A few more times. The loops
are tight and easy to throw. It feels like I'm just watching
myself from the bank and it looks so easy. Over and over,
I cast, just feeling the rhythm. 10-2. Then I hear a foreign
sound like a door opening and my wife's voice saying,
"OK honey, your five minutes are up."
I open my eyes. I am still in my favorite ugly green chair.
My tying bench is to my right and fishing paraphernalia hangs
on the walls. My beautiful wife has something special planned
for tonight and she is almost ready to go.
"What were you doing?" she asks.
"Casting." I say.
Smiling, she understands. The pressures of life aren't gone,
they are just balanced now. I guess you could call it meditation
or something trendy like that. For me, life just feels lighter
when you can stop and cast a fly line for a few minutes.