The Photo That Got Away

“It’s okay,” said Steven in a clipped, slightly strangled tone. He was kneeling in the riverbed, gazing into the middle distance as he spoke, as though looking for his happy place.

I’d had it by the tail four seconds earlier – if not his happy place exactly, certainly a reasonable five-pound stand-in. But like the handful of portrait quality browns and rainbows before her, this one too had kicked free before Steven got the shot.

“Hey man. Sorry about that. I uh… I thought I had a good grip. She just…” I muttered.

“No, it’s good. What a great fish, huh? Congrats!” said Steven, standing and gracefully trying to change the subject.

He was right about the fish – buttery gold, long of snout, sturdy at the shoulder and chock full of attitude – a classic Big Horn brown trout. One might have called her picture perfect, but …

Combining your avocation and your vocation can be tricky. Opportunities to do what you love become freighted with the responsibility to do what’s needed. Steven and I don’t actually get to fish together all that often. When we do, unless specifically on assignment, we’re first and foremost two friends, enjoying time on the water. But we’re also, inescapably, partners in assorted creative endeavors, all of which need stories and pictures. Workday or day off, nobody wants to let his team down. Yet with opportunity knocking all morning, I’d been the guy fumbling at the latch.

Which is, of course, a ridiculous way of looking at the situation. Disappointment after a fish like that amounted to first-degree felony ingratitude. So I took a moment to collect my thoughts and my hastily jettisoned gear from the shallow eddy before standing. If I didn’t get my acute cranial-rectal impaction cleared up quickly, I realized, I might actually miss something important, like the contagious peace of a sun-dappled pool, or the otherworldly beauty of wild trout.

“No, yeah, totally. What a beaut, right?” I answered.

“Absolutely!” agreed Steven, already back in gregarious, happy-go-lucky form. “Now let’s catch another. The light is perfect.”

Ah well… there’s no rest for the weary.

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