How to not succeed while really trying
By JEFF LUND
February 07, 2015
The weekend trip to some river somewhere else was unsuccessful. This somewhere else is my special somewhere else; my clutch somewhere else, my desert island somewhere else. But it let me down, or the fish let me down, or I let myself down or maybe a little of each.
That’s what steelhead fishing is - euphoria with long stretches of failure and coping. Steelhead fishing will cure you of any sort of arrogance, over-confidence or even general self-esteem while ridding you of a healthy back account.
I’m just about done with the grieving process, and figuring out how much this failed trip cost me. I’m not too concerned about it, because the point of having a passion or hobby is not to have it break even on a bank statement, it’s to help one achieve mental and emotional equilibrium while navigating the river of life.
That doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating.
The common defeated angler is the metaphorical equivalent of a volcano.
On one end you have the Mt. Rainer Angler, stoic but potentially catastrophic should it blow its top. It never does...but if it did... One summer, a friend of mine from California was embarrassingly incapable of catching a single fish while myself and another had limited on silver salmon in minutes. When he finally hooked up, the fish broke his line. He quietly reeled up, set the rod down, and simply stated, “That’s it, I’m done.” There was no anger in the voice, just a simple, calm declarative sentence he would have used when ordering a Big Mac.
On the other end there’s Mt. St. Helen’s - the angler furiously spewing vulgarities like molten lava. But it doesn’t stop there, the heat causes flooding which erodes landscape. The devastation can last generations, or in the case of a friendship, the entire drive home. If a fish is caught in a catch and kill situation, you can bet the demise of the poor fish will be epic. Hours of dormant rage freed with frightening (maybe a little comical) results. I’ve seen straight legs lifted to chest level then brought down on flopping fish, the heel of the wading boot punishing an unlucky salmon for the transgressions of its cousins. I’ve seen rocks, sticks and fists thrown in fits of cathartic rage.
It’s funny when it’s not you.
With steelhead, you have no choice but to be reserved. The human body is not capable of sustaining a St. Helen’s eruption each time an angler is deprived of bringing a steelhead to hand. Especially if you’re fishing for native fish with a flyrod.
Eventually you end up at the hotel, local watering hole or campsite away from the offending parties, so in order to enjoy your friends and the experience, hopefully you’ve stopped being a comparison derived from geological events.
In my case, I simply took a breath and looked up at the trio of bald eagles watching from a dead cedar tree high above me. They were dark specs in an increasingly dark evening. I noisily left the water, traversed the trail, drove home and finished the last of my to-do list - set fire to the old pallets in the burn pit.
I think I handled that well.
Jeff Lund is a Teacher, Freelance Writer, living in Ketchikan, Alaska