Friday, July 11, 2014

The Middle-Aged Man and the Fish

The middle-aged man wasn't always middle-aged. At one point he was a strapping young buck who lived off the land - hunting, fishing, hiking and camping. The fact that he went home and slept in his cozy bed most nights is beside the point. He loved the outdoors, and he spent every waking moment thinking about it. He was totally in-tune with nature. He could catch any fish in the stream; he could start a fire with nothing but the greens from a dandelion and a limp fettuccine noodle; and he could set up a three bedroom, two bath lean-to in record time during the heaviest of downpours. His favorite hobby was wrestling rabid wolverines after dinner. He was a manly man, that's for sure.

He spent countless hours catching every fish within a 40 mile radius. But there was one fish he had never caught. He had never ventured out to the Wild West to catch one of the native cutthroat trout that lived there. This caused an emptiness deep in his soul that brought with it sleepless nights, sweaty palms, and gastrointestinal unease that would make a hyena frown. Now that he was approaching middle-age at the speed of light, he finally decided he needed to do something about this.

The Wild West, where cutthroat trout prosper. Photo courtesy of
So, he marched through cornfields. He trudged through miles of soybeans. He slogged through oil fields. He tramped through the badlands. He plodded through swamps. He clambered up steep slopes. He ate only what he could forage from the wilderness, and drank only rainwater, and the occasional Pepsi, if he was near a Quik Trip.

He finally made it far enough west that he was in cutthroat territory. He was tattered and torn from the journey, and he had just the clothes on his back, a handful of flies, and his trusty 6 wt Scott SAS fly rod to help him achieve his quest. After hours of toil, he finally put his Madam X fly right where it needed to be. The great fish came up, eyeballed the fly for what seemed like eternity, and then finally sipped it in with a delicate slurp. The man deftly set the hook with the skill of a true craftsman, and the fight was on. The fish fought mightily, but he was no match for the man's cunning and finesse. The fight was over quickly, and soon the man held the beautiful cutthroat trout in his hands. His quest was fulfilled. He could finally truly be happy. Middle age didn't look so daunting any more...

An artist's rendering of the man's first cutthroat trout. Illustration by Joseph Tomelleri.

That's how I remember it happening, I have always wanted to catch a cutthroat trout, and I finally did last week when we were in Yellowstone, but it might not have been quite as intriguing as I made it out to be. In reality, I just walked down to the Gardner River while the rest of my family was eating a picnic lunch, and caught my first cutthroat a few minutes after I started. It was exciting for me, but I thought I better liven it up a little when I wrote about it.

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