The stiff smell of flammability greeted me as I walked into Troutwater Outfitters in Cle Elum, WA, yesterday morning.
The shop was empty except for the makings of a good shop – back issues of The Drake and Fly Fusion behind the counter, bins of flies, rods, reels and some Patagonia gear on the brick wall. In the back, Jim, the owner, was refreshing the surface of a tired fiberglass oar with resin. Hence the smell.
We filled the otherwise empty shop with talk of Alaska steelhead and Yakima River which flows through town. He directed me to some hot flies and I was off.
With waders and a 5-weight borrowed from a friend, I walked out into the Yakima which was running low and clear. Jim had told me dead drifts weren’t the way to get rainbows and cutthroats to hit, so I wiggled, danced, skated, swung, dabbed, twitched and stripped the stimulator across the water in the shadows of still trees with leaves turned orange and yellow by the fall.
Once I landed my first rainbow and was able to relax a bit, I did. There was nothing about my life that made me think I’d ever fish the Yakima River. Of course nothing indicated that between April and that moment mom would have had two brain surgeries which would consequently provoke me to leave great colleagues and great kids at a high school in Manteca, to move back home to Klawock, Alaska.
Without that information, one might think I’ve been living the Trout Bum life.
Since taking sixth period attendance for the last time in California on September 27th, I’ve spent two nights on the floor, six nights in hotels, two nights in a tiny stateroom on a boat, three nights on a couch, two nights in my childhood bed, ten nights at the Camlin in Seattle and finally, two nights in Cle Elum, Washington. In that time I’ve fished the Upper Sacramento (CA), Klamath (CA), Rogue (OR), Umpqua (OR), Klawock (AK) and now the Yakima.
But I’ve also walked up and down the 96 steps from the neurology care ward to the hospital cafeteria dozens of times, listened to doctors, Googled their words, summoned nurses and typed out midterms for graduate school courses from sterilized hospital chairs. My fishing tour was stopping for a few hours as I crossed rivers on my drive north to Alaska. When I arrived home, I stayed for a few days, then flew to Seattle for mom’s second surgery. That’s not the life of romance.
But now things calm down. I start working again Monday as a long-term sub at my former high school, and I can start finding stories around my new/old home to write about. Mom can move on toward full recovery from two aneurysms, and start enjoying retirement.
Finding a spot for all my stuff should take days but will probably take months because it’s hunting season, and in a few weeks, steelhead will start showing up.
Sometimes you have no choice but to ride the current of life. You might miss where it swept you up, but sometimes it takes you where you need be.