Each year we go on a month-long adventure. Our guide service hosts a week-long trip to Colorado for clients. After that our pack is free to explore wherever the wind blows. Logging some hours on the road from Arkansas, there is usually time for reflection. It has been an interesting journey since our last trip. Right after we had gotten back in July 2017, I had a bike wreck. It was quite ridiculous and feel free to laugh. We certainly did. My husband built a bike ramp for our kids. I thought why not, so I plowed right through it neglecting to think through the change in geometry of my bike. It had been converted from a true mountain bike to a more roadworthy hybrid, leaning me way forward on drop bars. That lean doesn't work when trying to clear a ramp, and I knew I was going down as my front tire hit it. I went over like a sideways drinking bird, not even trying to fight it—separating my shoulder and partially tearing my rotator cuff. Yikes!
This put the brakes on a few things, including trying to run a sub-two half marathon on the road to my third full mary. At the same time, I had been slowly working towards getting to a point where I could offer guided trips for women after getting numerous requests to take people out on the water. We are on a tailwater, so all of our trips involve a boat. A typical day is a combination of fishing from the boat and wading when the water conditions allow. I have rowed the longer riverboat, but have not logged a ton of hours on a jet. I am choosing to work from the drift boat without an engine.
After the "wreck," my sleep was majorly disrupted, and the lack of running threw things off balance. I begin to have serious TMJ issues, which led to anxiety and panic attacks. Thanks to my chiropractor, MD, superman of a husband, and prayers, I got back to running and closer to my goal of being ready for the water.
This year our pack fished the San Juan and the Conejos—with most of our time being on the latter. It was cathartic for me. At one point on the trip, I realized I was sleeping! I was running! I was fishing! The anxiety was gone. I was a new woman.
I had been thirsty to get on the water, and maybe a little selfishly spent more time than years past grabbing my rod and heading to the river to quench that thirst. That is not to say that we didn't get some amazing family time on the water together. We even had two of our guides and their families join us for several days, which was incredibly fun.
The moments of solitude though that I got on the river were good for my soul. People often ask what is it about fly fishing that keeps you coming back for more. It's tough to put into words. At the risk of sounding cliché, I will try.
When I am by myself immersed in the water, there is a connection as if I become part of it. It reaches deep into my core. Time stands still, and all distractions are gone. For a moment, my feet are water, the fly rod an extension of my arm—the rhythm and timing of the cast a part of this beautiful melody surrounding me. This year all the feels were magnified.
I'm a decent angler, but there is definitely room for improvement. Fishing was tougher this time due to lower water from less snow melt and drought, so there was not a lot of room for error. This time was transforming. It was as if someone turned on the light switch. The river was teaching me! I was tying better knots and taking less time rigging. I was sight fishing, and high sticking dries in deeper pockets between boulders. Surrounded by stone and salmon flies, the beautiful rainbows and browns eating big foam dries and putting up a great fight are only etched in my memory. (Pausing to take a pic when flying solo is a tough one that often disrupts the harmony).
I am beyond grateful for this time. Without saying anything, my husband would hang back with kids—cooking a lot of our meals. He knew I needed this. He is one in a million.
So a new chapter begins with new adventures waiting to be had. I say goodbye to sleepless nights and all anxiety. Looking back, I think if I hadn't had my little bike wreck, I might have continued to fill my time with more running, not leaving much time to truly learn the water. It's funny how things have a way of working out for the better when you can't even see it coming.
Our pack always picks a theme song for our trip, and this year was no different. But, I also had one of my own—Johnnyswim's Goodbye Road.
"We may not be where we thought we would be. We made our home down Goodbye Road. Sometimes flowers grow in the soil of ashes. Pick 'em as you go down Goodbye Road."