Thursday, October 17, 2013

A good day fishing!


What an AWESOME day yesterday! I have so many thoughts rambling around in my head this morning and trying to put the excitement and feelings about my first fly-fishing trip into words is not an easy task, even for a “wordy” girl me.  I’m guessing it will take several days to capture all that I’m thinking.

The day started out very early. My friends Cathy and Ken Zimmerman, very experienced fishermen and long-time friends of the charter captain, Dave Roller, were the ones that invited me along on this trip. They picked me up in the wee hours of the morning and we made our way towards Ludington to Dave’s house. It was about a 1 ½ - 2 hr. drive in the dark. Once we got to Dave’s, we loaded up our supplies in his van, dressed in our waders, and drove the boat to the river to launch. It was still dark when we set out “up the river” to one of Dave’s favorite spots in hopes that we might get lucky and catch a few of the salmon on their way upstream to spawn. We didn’t have high expectations of catching a lot of fish yesterday because according to Dave, it was  the final day or two of the salmon run and a week or so too early to begin fishing for steelhead. But, honestly, I didn’t care whether we caught fish or not….I was more excited about the experience and thrill of doing something “outside my comfort zone” that I had never done before.  This definitely was a new experience for me!

It started to rain just as we anchored the boat, and it rained for a good portion of the day, sometimes just misting, but often quite heavily. The temps were in the 40’s and 50’s, and with the rain on and off, it was a wet, sometimes cold day, but we were prepared for the weather. At one point, I had water dripping down my face and my hair was soaked, even though I had on a raincoat. Surprisingly, I didn’t care!  The bottom half of me was dry though because I had on thick Neoprene waders. What an experience that was! Just getting INTO them took a lot of effort because they fit tight like a wet-suit and are very heavy; definitely not flattering in any way, but they sure kept me warm….and dry. They also gave me a sense of security because I am so terrified of snakes and other things in the water and I knew that nothing could get through those waders. I had absolutely NO FEAR about walking around in the river or climbing over a big slimy log to get to the bank….or even peeing in the woods!  Getting in and out of them….well, that’s ANOTHER story completely!  J

Once we got settled and ready to fish, Dave rigged up the lines, poured us a cup of coffee, and proceeded to teach me how to cast and handle the rod/reel. I’ve fished since I was a child, but not like this, so I had no idea what to do and was eager to learn. He was patient and kind as he showed me….over and over again…how to flick my wrist to get the line out and how to bring it back in. There is definitely an art to this sport. It took me several attempts and I made some mistakes along the way as I learned, but I didn’t give up and eventually got the hang of it. He pointed out the things I was doing wrong and showed me how to correct them. He was an awesome teacher….one of the nice things about going on a charter trip!  My friends are quite experienced and knew exactly what to do.

No one was catching anything but Dave pointed out the occasional “ripple in the waves” that indicated that there was still a lingering fish or two making the run, so we remained hopeful.  Cathy finally hooked one and the fun began.  Holy smokes……what a thrill. I’ve never caught anything bigger than a keeper size pike or bass before and I’m used to pan fishing so I had no idea what to expect with a big 20+ pound salmon. It was amazing. That fish was jumping out of the water…running upstream….putting up a terrible fight and causing Cathy to work really hard to get it in. Dave grabbed the net and jumped over the side of the boat. The fish slapped and splashed and jumped as Dave struggled to net him. Oh my….what excitement!  I’ve never seen anything like it before….and suddenly, I forgot about the rain and cold. I was “in” for the long haul and SO GLAD that I didn’t give in to my fear and apprehension about accepting this invitation.

The rain stopped briefly and I decided to venture into the river to try that approach. Once again…another thrill….and definitely a first for me. I’m used to canoeing and playing in the river, but not in 40 degree temps or a pair of waders, knowing there are monster size fish with BIG TEETH swimming around. The heavy waders kept me warm and the feel of the current added to the fun.  Finally, my turn came….and I began the fight of my life to land my first fish. The fish took me close to the boat….where that big salmon Cathy caught was on the stringer….so I had that big fish jumping and flailing around at my feet….and another one on my line. My fish jumped and fought and jumped some more. I managed to get him all the way up out of the water and just as Dave tried to net him, he spit out the fly and managed to get away.  I was a bit bummed, but I think Dave was more disappointed. He assured me that I had done everything right in getting him that far and sometimes…well, oftentimes, this is what happens.  Honestly… I didn’t even care, because I had the “experience” that I went out there for. I was happy as a lark!

We fished for several more hours at that spot, then Dave fired up the grill and began to prepare lunch. I had suspected that they would be grilling so I came prepared with a couple of chicken hot-dogs which he gladly added to the big burgers that he made. No one took offense to my choice of food. I ate those 2 hotdogs….minus bun…and some yogurt and later a pear, and managed to stay on track. Being prepared (bringing my own food/snacks), and being willing to be ‘different” (I explained that my lunch choices were in no way a rejection of his hospitality), have been important keys in my success along the way. YES, I could have eaten a burger and chips with the rest of them BECAUSE I was on a special trip…..but if I justified it “just this one time”, then tomorrow it would be easier to justify it again.  After all….Saturday is Sweetest Day… I could each some chocolate….Sunday is Oktoberfest….I could have a brat and sauerkraut……Next week is Halloween… forth.  See what I mean????  It’s much easier for me just to plan ahead and not find excuses to make exceptions for ANY reason.

We fished the same spot for a bit longer after lunch and the rain started again. No one was catching anything so we decided to move to another spot. Again, no luck. Our last spot was a place referred to as the “sanctuary” because of all the logs and debris. Dave said that sometimes there will be a few fish “holed up” in the deep areas there but it is very difficult to fish there because of the downed trees. I let Dave and Ken do the fishing there. I was content to sit back and watch. We had been fishing for nearly 8 hours and the only fish landed was Cathy’s. Mine was the only other one that even came close to the net. I didn’t feel bad about not catching more because if the captain and the experienced fishermen weren’t catching them, nobody was likely to. Dave takes clients out 7 days of week, rain or shine, and he wasn’t really optimistic today. Ken and Cathy went out on Labor Day and said that fish were jumping all over and they were catching them faster than they could net them. Apparently, that’s what it’s like early in the spawning season. Perhaps I’ll go again next year.

But…. I saw a few  fish jump, enjoyed the INCREDIBLE autumn color, spent time with friends, learned new things, and just had an incredible experience!  LIFE IS SO GOOD….and to think… I almost MISSED IT because I was afraid to try something new!

SO… terms of my/our personal journey…how does this relate? This is what I learned:

1.       Be willing to learn from the expert fisherman….(read nutrition books, follow successful dieters or recovering addicts, learn about calories, talk to others who have been on this journey, etc.)

2.       Realize that no one can do it for you….but others can help encourage and teach you.

3.       Be willing to make mistakes along the way and don’t get discouraged when you do. Try again!

4.       Don’t give up when it rains or is cold (it gets hard or you are tempted)….Keep fishing!

5.       Realize that there are going to be times when you do everything right…..and you still don’t catch a fish (see results on the scales).  Even the “pros” have plateaus!

6.       Fill your boat with others who are ‘doing the same thing as you’ and don’t be intimidated by the fact that they are more experienced than you (get a great support team of others who are on the same journey….like us!)

7.       If you don’t catch fish (or see results)…be willing to  move the boat and try something new (alter your eating or exercise plan)

8.       Finally…ENJOY THE RIDE!  Be open to all the new experiences and new sights along the way and focus less on the “number” of fish you catch (pounds you lose) and more on the journey.