Best stories stem from obsessions
Winter and summer provide ample opportunities for play, when winters are snowy and summers are hot enough for swimming. The shoulder seasons have always been the more difficult times of year for me to find self-amusement.
During our long, mild winter, I whined, “If I lived in Maryland this weather would make me hopeful for spring, but living here, I know better.”
Crocuses pop up in February and daffodils and even tulips are no strangers to the month of March in Maryland on the west side of Oregon.
Living in southeastern Oregon, my family would escape to Eugene during spring break for a dose of green and flowers before returning to a lazy groundhog’s prediction of three more months of winter.
Movie-style spring can exist in Washington, D.C., and if you have never been, go when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. The city is never as beautiful nor the climate more pleasant as mid-spring.
Wallowa County springs do not follow literary norms. Locals say, “You know, we get most of our snow in March.” To add insult to snowstorms, last April the average temperature in Union and Wallowa counties was in the 40s and May’s temps averaged in the 50s. Never mind about June.
I was advised long ago that fly fishing is the cure to the shoulder-season blues. I still have yet to fish, but I have learned to appreciate the art of taking a bit of feather and silk and using it to entice a fish to the water’s surface from the bank of the fisherman’s river.
That was an obvious over-simplification. Norman McLean is much better at describing roll casts and shadows casts and the choice of fly made based on a litany of factors. I can only explain so much as a mere observer.
Fishing as an obsession is personal and intricate. Fly fishing takes obsession to levels on par with big mountain skiing and free climbing, though not as potentially fatal. The precision of a cast, the choice of riffle or pool, comes from years of practice and focus.
I have never fished, but I have heard hundreds of hours of discourse on the topic.
Camping on Ollali Lake south of Mt. Hood, I heard a lecture one summer night about trout that took the entire length of a Credence Clearwater Revival album. When the cassette was changed, I insisted there would be no more talk of fish that night.
Like football, fishing has grown on me and by now I might know more about fly fishing than anyone who has never actually done it.
I’ve read “A River Runs Through It” three times and this winter I finally got to “The River Why” besides a steady exposure to friends who fish.
As a fishing inn manager, I used the little fish knowledge I had to draw out the experiences of my guests much like I do now as a reporter.
What fly did you use? Where on the river did you catch him? At what time did it warm up enough for the ice to melt out of the guides?
It’s well known that fishermen love to tell stories. As a reporter, my job is to tell other people’s stories and I find the best ones are rooted in people’s obsessions.