SOMEWHERE BETWEEN MARYLAND AND WEST VIRGINIA
Man I must have drank too much Mountain Dew this summer because I love West Virginia. Almost every week, around Monday or Tuesday the questions would start bubbling up around our conversations. “Sooo…. Where are we fishing this weekend?”
A little town called Warnick became our home in the woods. The town lies right on the North Branch of the Potomac River, which creates a border between Maryland and West Virginia. We made jokes that if we ever got into trouble with the law out there, we would swim to the middle of the river, international waters, out of jurisdiction for both Maryland and West Virginia police. But it never came to that.
Camping with the boys is like we are all famous, and the trees are our screaming fans, the river is our instrument. Needless to say, we live the life of rockstars when we’re in the woods, and indulge like we are rich, and get pretty wasted. You know, the good life, blah blah blah.
But this river… These fish… Or at least the fish we never caught. They became sort of like ghosts that we knew were all around us, yet remain hidden. The Trout. Rudi probably got the closest to landing one of the monsters, but his $15 Walmart fly rod was too soft to stick it, so he lost it. But we all had our chances.
I was fishing a deep pool with a tiny foam ant, and I was doubtful that any fish would even see this black speck floating down with the current. As the fly drifts about a foot in front of me, I watch as the water beneath my fly lights up. All I saw was this massive, fat and golden trout come all the way up to the surface, and reject my fly at the last second as it rolled back down under the rocks. It felt like we made eye contact for a second, and as he was about to gently slurp the ant, he saw me, and curled back to the bottom.
I freaked out, casted a few more times in the same seam, but couldn't get him to dance again. That 10 second window, of his fat belly curling over, the brightness in his scales, and the size of the fish, is all that I needed to keep coming back.
Windly Pipes lost his white whale to strong currents, and all he has to remember this fish by is how heavy it felt against his doubled-over rod as it anchored itself to the bottom of the river. It looked like it was heavier than a rock. He might have actually just hooked a rock… But we never saw it, and it doesn’t really matter anyway.
We did end up catching plenty of fish, with the exception of Rudi - a few beautiful native brookies, and a bunch of smaller rainbow trout. But these fish weren't what had us crawling back to this river again and again. What kept us coming back was the fish that we never got. For the ghosts that stay hidden under overhanging rocks, who feed at night, and for the fish that only grace us with a glimpse of their existence. Besides the fishing, I guess we are just too addicted to the lifestyle of the rich and famous to stay away from the woods. And the fans are still calling.
Tight lines, and stay core.