The usual

The usual catch on my usual spots near Redding, CA


I’m trying to decide if having a “usual” is a good thing, or an indication of deeply rutted habits which lead to predictability and ultimately stagnancy. Stagnancy might be a little harsh because there is a difference between doing the same old things and being mechanical and stale.

I just walked into my usual weekend eatery and was asked if I wanted the usual. When I’m done here I’m going to go to my usual spot and catch the usual sized rainbow trout, but I’m always hoping for a steelhead. It’ll be the first fish of the year and I’m pretty confident it will happen, because it usually does. The nice thing is that once I get there, it usually doesn’t take very long because my favorite spot usually doesn’t have anyone in it.

I had usuals when I lived south too.
There’s an old wooden bridge that stretches between rock piles over the Stanislaus River it emerges from a steep canyon. That’s where we usually went on opening day. It wasn’t the best place, but it was close and there was a relatively good shot at getting a trout. The drive took about an hour and passed a dozen stands with fresh produce from the local farms.

My buddy Kurt and I kicked off what would be my last opening day in California on a river that was becoming our new routine since it was only another twenty minutes south down old country roads. It was fairly new to us at that point but had been epic at times, and epically slow others. The fish were incredibly temperamental but larger than the rainbows on our usual river and more readily took dry flies. When they were in the mood of course. Kurt and I fished most of the daylight hours and only managed a four-inch rainbow.

I was pretty disappointed because the previous week I had written a column about the excitement of hooking the first fish of 2013. I had tied up a dozen No. 20 RS2 patterns that are about half the size of a thumbnail clipping. I didn’t want to write a column about opening day failure, but I had I no choice.
So the next weekend I decided to go big and head three hours north to my never-fail usual where the trout were big, plentiful and I knew where to get them. Redemption. My usual campground was closed for the winter so I got a room at my usual hotel in Redding then made drive up out of the valley to the Upper Sacramento River north of Lake Shasta.
I woke up, pillaged the free breakfast in the hotel lobby, then proceeded to catch nothing at all my best spots. It was ridiculous. I sat down in the crusty snow in the early afternoon and contemplated heading north to the Klamath River or even up to the Rogue in Oregon.

Part of me wished I would have stayed true to my habits and gone to the wooden bridge on the Stanislaus where the best I could have expected was a foot-long fish. I shook that thought. Yeah I would have had that ceremonious first fish of the year, but I guess at some point the usual doesn’t cut it any longer, which forces some sort of change and that’s probably a good thing.
That said, my usual breakfast was just as good as it has always been and I will be here next week. Unless I’m fishing.

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