May 5th, 2003

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
This is where our readers tell their stories . . .

Funny Thing About Rivers
By Tammy DiGristine Wilson, CA

Funny thing about rivers, they capture you. Somehow, the predator (that would be us, as fly anglers) when on the river, sometimes become the prey, lured in and totally caught up in the river's net of beauty, power and mystery. Some rivers are subtle in their allure, others bold and outright obvious about it.

I was reminded of that once in NC, on the Nanatahala River, where I fished alone on a trout stream for the first time. The mountains rose above me on either side, alive in the fire of fall, and the river flowed beneath me, around me, and somehow, through me. My tears fell like rain, and they fell into the waters that were the river, and somehow, when they met those waters, seemed so much smaller, so much more insignificant, and less important.

They washed away like the river washed away my troubles, and left nothing but the river and me. It was a good feeling. I have always known that rivers held power, since the first day I sat upon the banks of the Indian River, alone, pondering the mysteries of life. Every question I asked, the river answered. That river and I became the best of friends, I was always there for it and it for me. Somewhere, right now, a part of my soul is still out there on it, wading in it, sitting beside it, learning it, loving it, fishing it and becoming it. Most of all, part of me is still there listening for the answers.

I rode in the Banana Boat, Jan's big yellow boat with him, and saw how the St. John's River transformed him from a 60 year old man to a young man again. Everything about him was different when he was on that river. I could see him as he was 30 years ago, my age, and young and strong and free and wild. I listened to his stories, learning the history of the river, and knew that he knew how I felt about my river. Whenever I was on the river with Jan, it was always as if we were back in time, and it was the magic of the river that made such time travel possible.

There are ghosts on that river, and when I am out there amongst the reeds and cattails, riding along at breakneck speed around the many turns, I catch a glimpse of them here and there. I know then, that the river has held a spell over some people for as long as it has flowed. The Branford River in Connecticut still holds me spellbound.

I sat upon its banks on a big rock with a man that I shared something special with for a time. The hills rose up above us, the leaves fell silently down upon us like rain and the sunlight shone down on us, but barely, as it was filtered by the forest around us. It started slowly, a flicker in the sunlight that was a bug. It fluttered in and out of a ray of light that fought its way through the trees and lay upon the river. Soon there were more, then hundreds, then thousands, surrounding us, everywhere, shining in the light that was the sun, but only barely, as if it were but my imagination, and they were tiny pixies flitting around the river. Then, as soon as it began, it was over, leaving me to wonder if it ever really was.

The Savage River captured a piece of me as I laid on a large boulder on its banks and listened to dusk set, watching as the waxwings came out from their hiding places and fed on rising insects. I listened to night settle in, barely breathing, not wanting to miss anything that a sigh might cover up. I made a cast into the darkness, and with it caught my first smallmouth bass. I fished the confluence that was made where it joined with another, smaller, unnamed creek and actually managed to get a trout to rise to my fly, although I missed it. I watched a deer struggle across it in dusk's fading light, and somehow felt as if I was home and not 1100 miles away from it.

The Big Qualicum River captured my heart and soul as easily as I caught my first salmon from its waters. I stood in its waters, an alien, and yet somehow conquered it in a small way. It gave up its secrets and its fish and it gave them willingly and graciously. When it was over, it rose higher upon my body and showed me its strength, its power, and that it was not a river to be reckoned with. It nearly knocked me off my feet with its power. It certainly swept me off my feet with its beauty and grace.

The Oyster River flowed its way into my heart...another artery supplying the vital fluids required by my soul to continue on. I waded out into its current and stood there in the middle of it, as if defying it, daring it to sweep me away. I fished it with a vengeance, and it gave up nothing. I got lost out there that day. As I stood there in the midst of its raw power and force, I found myself at home again, on the flats, wading out towards a tailing redfish, stalking it, already making it mine in my head. I stood there, in the middle of a northern river, headlong into the current, casting like a crazed woman who needed more. 80 feet, 90 feet, then finally 100, out in long even tight loops over its water, only to have it washed back to me.

I did some of my finest casting out upon its waters. My friend looked over at me when I came out of the trance I was in with a look of confusion, wonderment and a hint of understanding. I suppose that at some time in his life, he has been homesick as well.

There is a river in Nicaragua where one can get lost in the jungle beat. The pounding of your heart becomes the beating of long ago drums and the screaming of the reel becomes the screaming of a woman, screaming her song while dancing around the fire with such energy, and those sparks from the fire land upon your arms and you reach down and slap them, only mosquitoes after all. There is magic at work, there, and you can see that woman although she isn't really there.

There is the San Joaquin River delta in California, upon which I caught my first king salmon on the flyrod, witnessed by a man who proposed over my line control. It's a place where you can see the Sierra, the White mountains in the east that brings the sun and Mt. Diablo (The Devil Mountain) in the west that brings the darkness and there is something powerful about that. Those deep waters hold more than large fish, they hold secrets.

I don't know if it is true about all roads leading to Rome or not, but I am certain now, that somehow, in some way, all rivers lead to home. ~ Tam


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