Feb 17, 2013

Hurts So Good

Hurts so good
...in the miserable annals of the Earth, you will be duly enshrined.
- Lord John Whorfin from "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension."

I’m at the age where I feel like a comedian doing the same routine every day. Meaning, certain questions are met with regular, practiced answers. This approach to what often feels like an endless stream of queries, applies as well to my fishing. If you ask me about how my day of fishing went despite being handed a brutal steelhead beat down, I’ll reply, “Well, it could have been worse... I could’ve been working”. For being educated by several higher institutions of learning, I can sure be prone to ignorant utterances.

Quite some time ago, I suddenly found a week off with nothing to do after my alma mater failed to qualify for the College World Series despite having 3 hurlers that would later be drafted in the first round. After being granted clemency by my better half, I decided upon a solo road trip trying to hit as many famous Western rivers as possible. I tallied 6 unforgettable days of fishing and camping but instead of walking away from the craps table with my winnings, I elected to gamble and lose. On my final day I needed to be back in Hood River, but thought I could squeeze in a partial day of fishing on a legendary stretch of river. If I got done by mid afternoon, I could drive the 14 hours straight to make it back home. I did the requisite reconnaissance at a popular fly shop where I set up my shuttle and then raced to the ramp to prep my pontoon boat.

The Boat Ramp Hydra
My experiences have taught me to be methodical while setting up a pontoon or driftboat given my history of forgetting vital items. While I was leisurely “gearing up,” the parking lot which led to the ramp was continuously full of 6-10 rigs prepping to launch. As one rig would launch, it seemed like another two would sprout up to replace it, much like chopping the head off the Hydra. But I reassured myself that this stretch of river was lengthy and I would surely find a back eddy sanctuary away from this hatch of humanity. Again, my stupidity became self evident when I finally pushed off. I blinked several times to verify what I saw downstream, as each guide stepped out of the boat, grabbed hold of the stern and proceeded to walk his or her client’s downstream. My pontoon and I felt like a pinball cascading from bumper to bumper and trying not to tilt. Attempts to race downstream ahead of this gauntlet proved futile. Instead, I changed my mindset from a fishing day to a rafting outing, determined to not let this intense population density ruin my Zen. However, that Zen moment was quickly replaced by the mantra of “get me off this blankety blank river” when storm clouds rolled in with apocalyptic rain, and upstream gale force winds. The winds were so strong that I was forced to face upstream in order to make any headway. My only thoughts were to get to my truck which had been shuttled downstream and make my way home to a warm home, bed and wife.

For what seemed like an eternity, I rowed with my head low and hood pulled down until a slight break in the weather took pity on my weary soul. As I looked out from under my hood, I was pleasantly surprised to see no one around me. But then, my surprise was quickly replaced by abject horror when I confirmed by map that I had floated past my takeout by a couple of miles. I can neither refute nor confirm that crying commenced, though I’m pretty sure my eyeholes welled up especially when I realized that 5 miles lie between me and the next takeout. By this time, I had given up any efforts to fish. At dusk, I arrived at the take-out with my pontoon boat where I began begging for a ride from each landing party. After a solid hour of being refused like a geek at a high school dance, a guide took pity and loaded me up in the back of his SUV. He left to put his gear away, only to return with two 12 ounce golden malted beverages of liquid awesomeness still attached to the plastic rings, and stated, “By the looks of you, you could really use these”. May blessings forever fall upon the brow of that charitable guide!

I truly believe that, over time, tragedy can be replaced by humor, but near 10 years have passed since that fateful day, and that has yet to happen. I have vowed to never return to that river and I have filed that trip into the miserable vault of painful fishing memories.

Laugh While You Can, Monkey Boy!! -  Lord John Whorfin

-Charlie Chambers

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