July 10th, 2000

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Long Term Memories

By Al Campbell
Prevously published in the Rapid City SD Newspaper.

I'm sitting here at a keyboard in South Dakota, but my mind is 600 miles and 28 years away. My memories are wandering the shoreline of a small lake high in the mountains of Montana. My brothers and father are scattered along the shoreline searching with me for the golden hued cutthroat trout that inhabit the lake. A fly rod in my hand, and rising trout that randomly dot the glass surface of the lake complete the picture.

The Professor

An all-but-forgotten fly called the Professor is tied to the end of my leader, but that isn't the key to catching the fish in this lake. Any wet fly with a white wing will do the trick. Summers are too short here for the trout to be picky about the menu. If it looks like an emerging insect, it's on the menu and it will catch these fish. They aren't picky, just hungry.

On a distant ridge, a cow elk leads a wobbly-legged calf to a better place to hide while she eats. Wolves and coyotes aren't her concern, but bears are. If the calf is detected, it'll be lunch within the hour. A salad of fresh grass can't compare to a fresh meal of elk steaks when you're feeding youngsters of your own. Hide your child well, mamma, this is a perilous time for newborn elk calves.

Not as dedicated to fly-fishing as I am, my brothers are casting small spinners and my father is dunking a worm. I'm catching more fish then the others, but nobody is suffering from a slow fishing day. The fish may prefer flies to other baits, but any meal is worthy of a taste when you are recovering from a long, hungry winter. If we weren't releasing our fish, we would have our limit and be forced to quit in less than 30 minutes.

The fresh smell of pine and the white crown on the pussy willows compliment the new grass that is reaching for the sky. Everything seems new except the snow banks that shroud the highest peaks. The clear liquid from the melting snow will trickle down the mountainsides, joining others to form the stream that feeds the lake. That's where spawning cutthroat trout are renewing their numbers and insuring the future of their species.

It's not my first trip to this lake; nor will it be my last, but things are different. This year I graduated from high school, and my life is changing in ways that will last forever. This is the last time I will fish this lake with my family as a dependant son. It's the last time my father will have all four of his sons living under the same roof. It's the last installment of a family tradition.

I'm sucking in every smell, sight and sound, and locking it securely in my memory. I won't take this day for granted like I have so many days before this one. New freedoms await me, but as is always true with new freedoms, old securities will be lost as I venture out on my own into a big world full of uncertainty.

I wish I could make this day last a few hours longer. I wish I could live this moment a little bit longer so the memories would be better planted in my mind. Unfortunately, the world doesn't stand still for me or anyone else, so I must absorb each item as fast and as completely as possible before the sun sets on this family tradition. It's a bittersweet moment in my life; one I'm sure I'll visit in my mind many times before the sun sets on my existence.

Back at my keyboard in South Dakota, I shuffle those memories to a corner of my mind where they can be found at another time. I have work to do, stories to write, and a list of things I haven't finished. My time is too short to waste it on memories of a day I will never see again, but is it really wasted? For some reason I feel more refreshed than I did an hour ago. I can now focus my thoughts a little better than I did before my memory trip. It was worth the time spent after all.

Where is your memory begging you to go today? What moments in time are waiting to refresh your soul? I think we all have a few special moments we will treasure for the rest of our lives; moments that will rescue us when daily life becomes burdensome. My moments often involve outdoor activities spent with people I treasure.

Is there someone who you should be creating moments like this with? Are you building treasures that will last your children or grandchildren a lifetime? Or, are your only treasures measured in monetary currency? I don't think I need to tell you which treasures are valuable enough to last forever. ~ Al Campbell

CREDITS: The photograph of the Professor fly is from Forgotten Flies, see the review of it here on FAOL.

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