I learn something every time I go fishing. Yet with every lesson I realize that the boundaries of my ignorance are farther away than ever. Usually this “progress” comes in bight sized chunks that, like parenting, are great for maintaining humility. It’s a puzzle here (jab), a challenge there (jab, cross) and maybe even the occasional quandary (jab, jab, hook) that keep you bobbing and weaving on your toes; a fun little give and take. But lose sight of angling’s fundamental mystery and you’ll eventually find yourself blinking into a ten-count, asking what just happened. I recently shared a day on the river with my friend Latane that may have sucker-punched me into an alternate reality.
I should have seen it coming when we chose a river that flows across a mountain range. Not from, down, around, beside or near a mountain range… across. Let that sink in for a second. If the concept leaves you curious, and you have a moment, try and find another example of a river crossing mountains. You won’t be able to. In fact, you’ll likely have a hard time finding this one in your atlas. Early cartographers, understanding that water runs down hill, and thus not believing such a phenomenon possible, gave the river two names, one for each side of the would-be divide.
The water’s inexplicable behavior wasn’t confined to the horizontal though. I stood thigh-deep in this river for hours and emerged colder and wetter above the waterline than below. The miracles of modern wader technology go a long way toward explaining this particular head-scratcher, but they don’t make it normal.
So there I am, upside-down sodden, in a river that goes where it can’t, when lo and behold, what should appear? Long, broad shouldered trout, with tails like whisk brooms leaping from cold, fast water into the driving rain. The type of fish that I’d come to believe (by way of ego protection) only emerged at midnight during the second full moon of months ending in “ber” – and then just to eat mule deer fawns – were jumping like jackalope all over the river. What could possibly bring these trolls to the surface and beyond in a near frozen May downpour? I still don’t know. I tried everything in my box. It was like looking for a river that crosses mountains.
Had it only been river, water and fish that broke with convention, I’d have walked away without ever registering that I’d crossed some bizarro fishing boundary. My own inconsistencies finally tipped me off though. I’d always been faithful to the age old maxim “you never catch anything on your last cast”.
It turns out that ignorance really can be bliss.