Monday, March 7, 2016

30 Years of March Madness

After 30 years of fishing for steelhead on the Great Lakes you'd think I'd be able to handle March Madness a little bit better. Nope. For me this a season of high anxiety and irrational emotion. As I walked outside today to grab some lunch from the food truck I couldn't enjoy the sun's warmth. While others soaked up this first sign of a pending spring, I wondered how many fish others were catching. I wondered how many more days like this -- days when the rivers flowed green, cold and full of steelhead -- there'd be that I'd spend walking past office towers rather than shale cliffs.

As I stood in line waiting to order tacos and empanadas I looked (for the umpteenth time) at the calendar on my phone. Four more meetings; the last one scheduled for 4:30. Last night I had thought briefly about fishing before work; madness given the amount of work that needed to get done before 9 am. Instead I said a quick prayer as I loaded the waders into the car at dawn. The wader bucket went next to the rigged up Scott, 10 ft., 7-weight. Maybe if I got lucky I'd be able to visit the river for 30 minutes before dark and that might be enough to treat the latest wave of March Madness.

A welcome email arrived after mid-afternoon. My 4:30 appointment asked if we could meet via phone instead. Sure. By the time that call ends, I am in the Rocky River Reservation. Usually just being on the water is enough therapy for me, but not during March Madness. I need to catch a fish. This makes no sense as I've caught hundreds of steelhead over the years. But really, I need to catch a fish now. I didn't catch one yesterday. And I won't be able to fish tomorrow. And rain is in the forecast and it might make the rivers unfishable for the rest of the week and beyond. Yes, this is March Madness. I tell myself to relax as I cast along the edge of the fast water. My self-advice works too well. I'm so relaxed that I fail to set the hook on a subtle take at the end of the drift. Now the madness really builds as I obsess over what I did wrong and whether I'll get another chance.

Fishing is supposed to be fun, not madness. But better writers than I have been driven mad by trout. The good judge compared fly fishermen to drug addicts that "dwell in a tight little dream world." More like a nightmare. The judge was wise enough to retire early and feed his addiction early and often.

Thankfully there is a cure for the madness. The tug is the drug. And a young, fresh steelhead tugged my fly and was kind enough to hang on until I slid her into the net. A slightly larger male followed a few drifts later. The madness passed, for now.

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