As a principal of a school, I'm given many gifts. I'm able to support teachers in growing their skills, connect with kids, and build a feeling of community at our school. It's truly rewarding work and I love it. However, it's a lot of long hours saturated with stress. Fortunately, I get a good deal of time off to rest and reconnect with nature. Over winter break I took some time out from family obligations and went north on my own. Over the course of two days, I explored some of my favorite rivers and to my delight, they allowed me complete solitude. On one of those rivers, I spent the day being rained on while gliding nymphs through off colored pocket water. The cold weather and damp conditions kept everyone near the fire while I was waist deep, balancing on submerged boulders.
As anticipated, there were plenty of fish to be had. I've fished this particular river for about four years now, mostly solo. There are a few spots that consistently produce fish and they're always rainbows, sometimes big ones. However, this time, I was able to hook up with a nice 19-20" brown that caught me by surprise. Once I landed that big girl, the rest of the day was icing on the cake. I fished slowly, reflecting on the beauty of the river, and took every opportunity to soak in the solitude. Towards the end of the day I explored some new water that had piqued my interest on my last trip. The new water greeted me with good success. I'm not sure about you, but when I'm on my own, I tend to fish the places I know well. The places I know produce fish and that I know few people will be. Sometimes getting away from that routine can be just as, if not more, rewarding. As the sun began to dip behind the pines, I took my last few casts and walked back up the steep dirt trial to my car. With a deep breath and an even deeper sense of contentment, I packed up my fly boxes, broke down my rod, and drove back to the quiet hum of a small mountain town for the evening.
In the past few months I've talked about some of the reasons fishing is such a passion for me. From the complex puzzle trout and moving water present to the beautiful landscapes, and escape from the stresses of every day life, the reasons I fish are many. Most of which are actually pretty hard to articulate in writing, it's something you just have to experience. However, we all know the power of a good friend. A solid fishing buddy is that and so much more.
When I'm on the water, I'm more than happy to spend a few days adventuring on my own. The solitude and silence of being alone in nature is a really great reset button for a self-identified introvert like myself. On the other hand, fishing with a friend or two makes things that much better. Over the years I've fished with quite a few really great people. Some I met in college others through Instagram or at the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club. Regardless of where they've come from, being immersed in nature with a good friend tends to magnify the experience of fooling a tricky brown trout or landing that pig that crushed a 6 inch articulated streamer.
When I'm out on the river with a buddy our approaches vary depending on the water we're fishing. Some days we get to the river and fish "together" giving thumbs up and the occasional hoot or holler from a few holes apart. Other times we're on tiny creeks trading runs and riffles. One of us sneaks up on the fish while the other tries to spot feeding fish. By approaching the river as a team we get to trade tips, advice, flies, and help with the netting or photography of a really nice catch.
Fishing with a friend also gives you time to share stories of fishing adventures past. Long car rides or post river beverages give plenty of time to reminisce about that one pond we'd sneak onto in college, the last trip to Montana, or that rainbow that aired out three times before spitting the hook earlier in the day. This type of comradarie make me enjoy this sport more that I would if I was on the river alone. It's a chance to connect about the happenings of life, push each other to make a cleaner cast, and share in the beauty of the places that fishing takes us.
I'll always appreciate my time on the river alone but sharing the experience with a friend, building relationships, community, and a shared story makes this sport a really special one. I'm not sure if it's just the people I've met through fishing or if it's just anglers in general that seem to be really solid people. We're fortunate to share this great passion and I feel lucky to have friends willing to get out on the river with me. Friends that will fish for 12 hours without hesitation. Friends willing to hike long trails or dip into unknown creeks to chase wild fish. A good fishing buddy is hard to find and even more challenging to replace. I fish because sharing this passion with a friend makes the experience of adventuring through mountains and rivers more memorable.
Get out there and bring your buddy!