There's a saying, "The worst day of fishing is better than the best day at work." However, I'm not a pessimist; hence my alternate take on this in the title. I didn't catch a fish, not even a nibble. Not one. But does a lack of activity on my fishing rod equate to the "worst" day? That, to me, is completely unfair to every other aspect of adventures like these. If your evaluation of a successful fishing day rides entirely on fish count, good luck having a good time.
After our trolling trip back in May, I told my fishing buddy/expert Bruce, "Maybe we can go again sometime before the summer is out." Bruce was realistic, not thinking he'd have much time. Quite frankly neither did I. We're both adults who work long hours and collapse on the couch in rare moments of free time. Fishing is a joy, but it takes effort to get out there and do it. In late June, however, Bruce pointed to a couple free Wednesdays he'd have available in August. Juggling work, writing, family life, and wedding planning, it was hard to pinpoint my availability. However, a few weeks went by and, as my summer's outlook grew more clear and with a handful of PTO days to spare, I figured why the hell not.
We met up at Bruce's condo at 9:45 because Route 287 didn't let me get there at 9:30. "Hey, you made it!" said Bruce, smiling. Originally, we had planned on paddling in Bruce's canoe down the Raritan River, but persistent thunderstorms throughout the day's forecast made that seem a little unsafe. Bruce is an adventurer and, granted, so am I within reason. I have a healthy respect for the line between safe and risky, but I'll happily cross it if the chance of realistic danger isn't too great. "A quick afternoon summer storm doesn't bother me," I remarked. "But all day? Doesn't seem like a great idea." Bruce agreed, and so we chose Round Valley Reservoir.
I had never been, so Bruce was happy to show me around. We packed up our gear, his dog Sadie hopped in the back seat, and off we went. Conversation in the car and at the lake later-on covered an array of subjects as wide as Round Valley itself: NPR podcasts, his audiobook on Alexander the Great, upcoming vacation plans, and comparing Northeastern cities like Boston and Portland. We of course also enjoyed talking about our writing: the process, current projects, etc. I don't always get to talk to other writers still actively engaging in the craft, and it's refreshing. It's also quite cathartic to complain about the difficulties of publishing outside of a blog (no offense Scorum).
We arrived and I decided to leave my lunch cooler in the car, a decision I regretted almost immediately (no offense not-very-filling breakfast cereal). The incredible view /mostly/ muted my hunger, however. Rolling hills across the horizon about 2 miles away, which doesn't look very far across water (See: last post's monologue about open spaces).
We walked along the shore and fished for the bass that stick around in the shallows this time of year. We tried a spot for 15 minutes or so, then moved on. It was a great spot where the land ended up jutting out into the lake, great for panoramic views. Not knowing in the morning if I'd be wading through a river or not, I happened to be wearing water shoes. This paid off, as I was able to walk a few feet into the water -up to my knees- and cast further out. Plus, with the thick clouds still not doing much to cover up the humid sun, the cool water felt nice. "If I wore a bathing suit, I would've walked all the way in by now," I said.
At one point, I mentioned how I was happy that I was getting more than one use out of my year-long fishing license. It earned its money today, as the law decided to walk by. "Make sure your license is visible," said Bruce. I didn't want to stick it on my shirt and use up the adhesive, but I folded it up and stuck it out of my pocket. This turned out to be sufficient. "Just make sure that dog is on a leash," said the officer. Technically she was, but the real issue was that no one was holding the other end. We did after that...for a few minutes at least.
After making sure we were legit, the officer turned more casual and recommended the cove around the corner, citing another guest's previous success a few days earlier. This matched Bruce's hunch. Besides, the only thing coming out of the water at that point was Sadie after frequent swims and drinks. "It's like a giant water dish! And it feels so coooool," is what I imagine she was thinking.
We had seen plenty of the view anyway, so we walked back to the car to drive it over to the cove. We made our way down a rocky trail to the shore. I made sure to bring my lunch this time; if I wasn't going to catch any fish I may as well have a full stomach. A fellow fisherman was already down there, and we all hit it off initially about the lackluster fishing results that day. As I plowed through my sandwich, nevertheless anxious to get back to the rod, bang!, Bruce got one on his very first cast. It was a tiny largemouth, no larger than his hand. Too small to take home. If I remember correctly, the same situation happened two more times. However, even though my ability to cast a drop-shot gradually increased throughout the day, the fish weren't deceived by my bait.
Alas the day wore on and I got some minor sunburn I wasn't expecting. "I enjoy the contemplative aspect of fishing the most," said Bruce. So do I. And although I still had to go to my part-time gig afterwards- meaning I could never quite fully get lost in the day- there were plentiful moments for quiet, peaceful contemplation.
"I'm tired of being trapped in work all day," I said at one point in the car. "I'm missing..." I gestured broadly outward. "all this." At least today was different. Today I got to cast those responsibilities aside. Sometimes the small victories make all the difference.