Miles Today: 0
Total Miles: 10,816.0
Days on the Road: 161
Seriously, you should have seen the other one. It was... slightly bigger.
Osteichthioid Captured, Released
Zigzagging our way across this great, strange, huge country, we've encountered a fair number of whaddayacallem', Americans. Nearly all have been very friendly, that Volkswagen mechanic in Ironwood notwithstanding, and some have saved us from possible catastrophe (see Ohio), likely humiliation (see Ohio), and certain inconvenience (see Ohio). Several of the folks we've met have given us things; tires, money, directions, suggestions, lemonade, religion. A few have invited us to their homes or to some event or other. This is a story about one such event. It's about fly-fishing.
Josh Gr**nberg (We respect his privacy, so we won't use his full name. It could be Groinberg. Or Grainberg. Graznberg. You think of one! It's fun!) had been following our travels since we were in Richmond, taking the car apart. He has himself one of these Volkswagen camper dealies, which is how he and many others have found their way to our site. We may not have a book deal, or a movie deal, or any deals at all (though we are trying to work something out with our creditors), but we do have a loyal following among owners of a certain type of foreign car. Life is good.
So, Josh is a big fan. Perhaps our biggest fan. He claims to have actually read our entire site. We're pretty sure even our parents haven't done that. Come to think of it, we're quite sure. Liz has a certain brother, we're not mentioning any names here, who has told us flat out that he only looks at the pictures.
As we approached Colorado, we received an email from Josh, telling us about his van and inviting us to go fly-fishing with him if/when we got to Colorado. Neither of us knows a thing about any kind of fishing, and certainly not about fly-fishing, except that it seems to be all the rage these days. Every one of our yuppie-outdoor-activity-type magazines has had an article on fly-fishing this summer. We didn't read the magazines last summer, so as far as we know, it's a sudden craze. We jumped at Josh's offer.
Several days later, the arrangements having been made, we left Josh's address and phone number with Liz's sister, in case he turned out to be a serial killer, and headed for Boulder. We all piled into Josh's unbelievably unblemished and beautiful 1983.5 Vanagon, Susie, and headed north into the mountains. We arrived at the Lily Lake section of Rocky Mountain National Park, parked, and began gearing up. We were fully dressed in waders, boots, hats and many-pocketed vests when a Park Ranger pulled up and asked for our fishing licenses. Whoops.
We shuffled our feet around in the dirt, trying all of our we're-not-from-around-here tricks to no avail. We claimed that only Josh would be fishing, Liz and I were just going along to watch. "What? Three poles leaning against the car? Uhhhhhh, hmmmm. That is weird." The ranger was sheepish, but firm, so we gave up and asked where we could go to buy a license for the day. She pointed us in the direction of Estes Park, about 30 minutes away, and kindly let us off without a fine.
Let it be mentioned here that we fully intended to buy licenses the day before, as Josh had sort of suggested, but we forgot. Just plum forgot. Actually, we had been in two different outdoor stores that day, and Liz later revealed that she had thought of the license while in the store, but inexplicably didn't mention it. We support fishing licenses, we think. Can't just have everyone with a stick and a worm running around hauling the fish away. There'd be a panic, or something.
An hour later, as the sun sank quickly towards the ridge to the west, we were finally waist deep in a beaver pond, mud up to our shins. We had practiced casting a bit in the road, so we were ready. We started flinging our lines all over the place, A River Runs Through It style, with very little luck, style, or grace. Anthony's average stuck-in-a-bush-behind-him to successful cast ratio was about 6 to 1, but we soldiered on. There were fish out there, we could see them flailing around, jumping out of the water, taunting us by eating real bugs instead of our fake ones with sharp hooks hidden in the middle.
*Editorial, by Anthony*
Anthony finally got a nibble, let out a little yelp, shouted "What do I do now?!" and promptly let the fish get away. Our instruction out on the road hadn't gotten to the What Do I Do Now lesson, so Josh filled us in on the 'jerk the rod to set the hook' technique. Still, after many casts, neither of us had nabbed anything more significant than a twig. Josh took pity and handed the rod to Anthony after he hooked a small trout. Anthony reeled it in, and tried to grab it. Fish, it turns out, are slimy and very wriggly, so the comedy was high as the little sucker squirted out of his hand time after time. Finally the fish was so near to death that it had no more energy. The hook was removed, the fish released, and there you go. Fishing.
We eventually moved to another pond, as the setting sun coaxed seemingly every insect in the park out onto the water. The fish were jumping circles around us, it almost didn't seem fair, until we remembered that we're not very good at fishing. The song "Summertime" (the Janis Joplin version) came to mind, and stayed there. Above the ridgeline to the east, the moon rose above the pines, pale and full. If we had ever lost sight of why we were on this road trip, at that moment it was perfectly clear. We casted onto the still water over and over again, actually getting the line to go forward several times. Anthony occasionally handed Josh his rod, the line hopelessly tangled. Josh seemed to be good at doing something about that, and remarkably good natured about it.
By the time it was so cold that we were unable to use our hands, Anthony had hooked three fish, all by himself, and Liz one. It was a great day in the mountains. We'd escaped a run in with the law, tried something new, and had some measure of success at it. We climbed back into Josh's van, satisfied that we would eat well tonight. Burritos.
© 2002, 2003 Anthony Hecht and Liz Jones. All rights reserved.