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Freud Would Know

By Joe Hyde, Lawrence, Kansas

We've all heard of those bizarre events when the dream world and waking world briefly overlap and the normal boundary separating the two domains blurs. Does every person experience one of these events? Perhaps more than one? Beats me.

We know that dreamscapes spontaneously appear from mysterious subconscious origins, after which you're pretty much stuck with what you get until it runs its course. Still, it's doubtful my own dream/reality overlap would've happened if I'd been fishing from my canoe. My on-board fishing gear kept squared away, alone that might have prevented it. Why wasn't my canoe involved? This is just one of the questions I'd like answered.

But no: I'm standing on land, fishing from a lake shore. As always when standing, my strip retrieves drop line in random coils at my feet. These coils love to snag on twigs, weeds, rocks, grass, my shoe laces, whatever they can catch hold of they will. A big fish hits and just one of those coils hangs on something, in a heartbeat my line and leader get pulled taut as a banjo string. Bang! Adios, amigo.

Old Reliable is creeping through cover. Close to shore and seconds from getting lifted out and thrown back into the lake, he's grabbed by a powerful fish that runs a short distance then jumps. It's a wall-hanger largemouth that shakes its head trying to throw the hook but can't (lucky-lucky!). It crashes back into the water and resumes fleeing, angling off to my left.

The philosophical function of my brain appreciates the hit and is not concerned by it. I'm fishing for bluegills. Huge bass aren't good table fare so if this fish gets away it's no big deal. I might lose the nymph, coupla feet of leader; small price to pay.

The predator function of my brain always overrides these considerations. A big fish grabs a fly I've put in the water, all my energies get committed to battle. I will overwhelm this bass quickly or wear it down gradually, exploit its every mistake, utilize all advantages available to me. I'll release it immediately but I will catch it.

Fine, fine, but those line coils are getting violently jerked into the air by this lunker's wild rush to freedom. My left hand darts to #1 rod guide, I grab the escaping line between left thumb and forefinger and squeeze gently — "hand drag" must control this situation until all ground loops get pulled through the guides. My reel's mechanical drag will then take over, freeing my left hand to turn the reel handle and palm the spool as needed. Standard combat technique and I'm on it, I'm on it. This show is just starting.

Then like a calf roper's lasso a loop of line flies up, flips over my left hand and half-hitches it! The bass is running hard, forcing my rod ever downward and I can't release the line pressure, can't get my hand free! He's gonna break me off any second! Just as I finally, frantically, wiggle my hand loose with the bass miraculously still on, my eyes snap open and I'm awake, breathing shallowly.

In the dawn light filtering though the window shades I check my wristwatch. Time to roll out and prepare for the job interview scheduled this morning. Can't be late for it! Awake-time reality takes over, coffee gets perked, whiskers get shaved, the fishing dream is immediately forgotten‚

Four hours later the job interview is behind me. I need to relax. By coincidence I'm in southwest Lawrence, neighborhood of Yager's Fly Shop. So I drive over, walk in and there's owner Ronn Johnson. We visit a half hour or so then he begins showing me fly reels, which I'm definitely in the mood to look at. See, for almost two years I've been dealing with an irksome gear problem.

My first 00-wt. Sage fly rod and the reel I used with it, both items got stolen from me in a garage burglary, spring of 2007. I kid you not, that ultralight outfit caught fish like a hand grenade in a hatchery pond. Its theft traumatized me so badly that to this day I can't tell you what brand reel was teamed with the rod.

Another thing: the combo was so perfectly balanced it threw a fly thirty feet without my conscious participation. I missed that rig so much I bought an identical new rod. But for a replacement reel I could not remember what I'd had earlier, or even where I'd bought it. Cabela's maybe, probably, but when I looked there no luck. I checked other fly tackle shops including Yager's; nothing anyone had on hand rang a bell.

I had to get something just so I could use the new rod. A Galvan #1 is what I finally bought, from K&K Fly Fishers. It's a gorgeous reel and works great. Ned at K&K suggested putting it on my replacement 00-wt. Sage rod (earlier bought at K&K) and trying a few test casts before buying it. But it's so tiny and pretty! Must spool with backing and line now! Must take home today!

Murphy's Law is still penalizing me for dismissing Ned's advice. I started fishing this replacement double-aught rig and with each trip hoped it would begin feeling better in my hand. It didn't and still doesn't. The problem? If I relax my grip on the cork handle even slightly the rod shaft rises to vertical like an ice fisherman's tip-up. There's too much weight behind my hand, which lets the rod move too fast, unnaturally accelerating my casting stroke. The rig catches fish, yes, but feels all wrong doing it.

"Balance" in fishing outfits is everything to me. It has no relationship to price tags. My childhood mentors were excellent fishermen but never mentioned tackle balance; I can't explain how this consideration developed into a point of personal fussiness but beginning in my mid-teens the feel of balance in my hand became something I carefully selected for when shopping for any new fishing outfit regardless of its type.

So the fundamental problem with my new double-aught rig is obvious: I broke my own acquisition rule. Over-eager to recover a past joy, I chose the wrong reel for the rod. The aspirin tablet I occasionally take is knowing this isn't anywhere close to being the costliest occasion when an irresistible combination of beautiful design and apparent light weight soon proved heavier and harder to handle than I care to deal with long-term.

As the old saying goes, "Live and learn." Someday my Galvan will perfectly balance a different fly rod – and it won't be somebody else's, either.

At any rate, there I am in Yager's looking at reels. One, a Sage model, could be the match for my replacement 00-wt. Sage rod. (Is a match name-wise.) If so, it will deliver that much-loved balance. Ronn said I can put it on my rod, test-throw it and see — an offer I will gratefully accept once the weather warms and I've rat-holed a few more nickels and dimes.

This particular Sage reel has no drag mechanism, there's just an extremely quiet clicker. Right away that intrigued me: No drag on a high-end fly reel? I've never seen that. Ronn detached the spool from the housing and showed me the starkly minimal design.

"You know, that would work for me," I told him. "About all I ever try for is bluegills anyway. They're such a ball to catch, and great eating. Shoot, with this on my double-aught if I hooked a big bass I'd just–let it–

I froze, blinking.

"Wow, I'm having a dream flashback here. Just this morning–big bass running, my left hand got tangled in the line when I was trying to get him on the reel–wanted to catch him and–"

Embarrassed, I risked a glance at Ronn. He was studying me with a sly smile but said nothing, which made me think (made me hope) he's already had a similar dream-time/awake-time overlap? The guy does go fishing a lot, more than me probably, plus he owns a fly tackle shop. During REM sleep periods wouldn't he – wouldn't any fly shop owner or employee – stand a better than average chance of having a dream about fishing that is packed with true-to-life action and then at some unexpected moment, perhaps days or months afterward, the dream flashes back? Makes sense to me. Doesn't it to you?

Still, I was spooked; the whole thing was so weird! Even weirder, a couple hours later I began feeling more normal than at any time during the two weeks previous, ever since bitter cold weather set in and locked down my fishing. What's up with that?

Northeast Kansas is just now entering hard winter, so I don't need any more dreams about hooking big fish and almost losing them. It was a lunker largemouth so I won't worry about this one. But some January or February morning at 4:00 a.m. if my left hand gets tangled in the line and a 15-inch crappie breaks me off‚

That happens, I'm gonna go see somebody. ~ Joe

About Joe:

From Douglas County, Kansas, Joe is a former municipal and federal police officer, now retired. In addition to fishing, he hunts upland birds and waterfowl, and for the last 15 years has pursued the sport of solo canoeing. On the nearby Kansas River he has now logged nearly 5,000 river miles while doing some 400 wilderness style canoe camping trips. A musician/singer/songwriter as well, Joe recently retired from the U.S. General Services Adminstration.

Joe at one time was a freelance photojournalist who wrote the Sunday Outdoors column for his city newspaper. Outdoor sports, writing and music have never earned him any money, but remain priceless activities essential to surviving the former 'day job.'

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