Collectively Alone

From what I can tell there is one other person on the water this early in the morning. The turnoff I typically hit up when I’m on this side of the hills has one other truck in it, a surprise for 7 in the morning. On the roof, a rod vault left open and empty. This angler is likely more proficient at the sport that I am. If he sees me downwater I’m sure he is the kind who will silently judge my horrible cast and probably critique whatever fly I’ve chosen for that day.

Fortunately, I will not run into this person. I’m alone on the water today.

The Blue River is running a lot faster than I last remember it. The flow, largely determined by what they let off of the dam, is supplemented by some sporadic rainfalls upriver the night before. This morning the residual cloud cover keeps everything cool and dark. A single stonefly pattern yields three browns inside of 45 minutes. Between the frequent fish, the aggressive flow of the water, and the lingering hangover I find myself getting tired, quickly, and sit down on the bank. It is a quiet, lonely river today.

Fishing can sometimes be about the camaraderie. Other days, I want it to be about whatever the opposite of camaraderie is. Aloneness? Isolationism?

Having others help you get away – a place to put the excuses. “Devin hasn’t been out in a while, I’m worried about how stressed out he seems,” I’ll tell this to my wife, and now my fishing excursions don’t feel like a selfish use of time. Of course, to drag Devin into something like this is to coordinate the chaotic dance of schedules, determining who is going to drive, how early we plan on leaving, who is bringing the beer, and where we will ultimately end up going. The trip out there will be peppered with just enough talk of the fish, the new gear, a selection of flies picked out for the day – enough talk to show interest, but not excitement or the kind of oppressive know it all-ism.

Then, on the water is an unspoken conversation. Who is pulling the better fish. Who can go out for longer. Then the conversation of lunch or that brewery we passed on the way in or the storm cloud that is rolling in over the mountain.

Alone. It feels so damn good to be alone. The cities grow and get loud with opportunity. A thousand possible conversations at any moment, a hundred radios playing the same song, a neighbor idling his afternoon away on the porch with a pack of smokes and a bottle of bourbon.

Here, on the bank, it is the difference between Din and White Noise.

I stay for a bit, jotting down things in a notebook I keep in the bag and sorting through the flies that had shaken loose. The overcast cover turns into rain, so I make my way back to the truck. The other truck is still there, rod vault still open and empty, and I can’t help but imagine a more sinister story. I’m sure he just wanted to be by himself, too.