Fall and early winter are hands down the best time of the year to enjoy our public lands, whether your pleasure is fishing, waterfowling, or upland hunting, but it can get a little overwhelming having so many options to choose from when work and family obligations leave precious little time for adventure. Being of a somewhat obsessive-compulsive mind when it comes to outdoor pursuits, and with a two year old dog (read, princess) to keep happy, duck hunting has dominated my free time since the beginning of October. With the decoys put away and any plans for the drive east put on hold for eight long months, my weekends are suddenly wide open.
I hadn't been steelheading since August. Hadn't been fishing at all since November. A week into my new found freedom and it's already clear that my time away from rivers was both restorative and foolhardy. With my singular focus on waterfowling, I managed to convince myself that fishing for steelhead was a big waste of time, gas, and energy. I just couldn't be troubled with swung flies or indicators when mallards and wood ducks were on the menu. Somehow, I was able to forget the peaceful calm that comes from time rowing a small boat and two-stepping through runs.
Two days on the water and my blood pressure is lower, my shoulders are loose, my mind is less cluttered. For me, fishing is more about appreciating my surroundings and less about putting food in the freezer. Much like the 15 minutes before shooting time in a duck blind, I'm constantly marveled by all the secrets nature reveals to those willing to listen and watch. Gallery cottonwood forests home to curious bald eagles that leapfrog my drift boat down the river. A blacktail deer caught red handed fording a rifle and nearly floating into the bow of my parked boat as I watched from upstream. Mayflies gracefully ascending skyward. While I'm glad life took me away from the pursuit of steelhead for a brief time, I'm glad to return with a renewed appreciation and a more relaxed approach. And I hope I'll be able to say the same thing next October, when I put away the drift boat and dust off the decoys.