We've all heard of those bizarre events when the dream world
and waking world briefly overlap and the normal boundary
separating the two domains blurs. Does every person experience
one of these events? Perhaps more than one? Beats me.
We know that dreamscapes spontaneously appear from mysterious
subconscious origins, after which you're pretty much stuck with what
you get until it runs its course. Still, it's doubtful my own dream/reality
overlap would've happened if I'd been fishing from my canoe. My
on-board fishing gear kept squared away, alone that might have
prevented it. Why wasn't my canoe involved? This is just one of
the questions I'd like answered.
But no: I'm standing on land, fishing from a lake shore. As always
when standing, my strip retrieves drop line in random coils at my feet.
These coils love to snag on twigs, weeds, rocks, grass, my shoe laces,
whatever they can catch hold of they will. A big fish hits and just one
of those coils hangs on something, in a heartbeat my line and leader
get pulled taut as a banjo string. Bang! Adios, amigo.
Old Reliable is creeping through cover. Close to shore and seconds
from getting lifted out and thrown back into the lake, he's grabbed by
a powerful fish that runs a short distance then jumps. It's a wall-hanger
largemouth that shakes its head trying to throw the hook but can't
(lucky-lucky!). It crashes back into the water and resumes fleeing,
angling off to my left.
The philosophical function of my brain appreciates the hit and is not
concerned by it. I'm fishing for bluegills. Huge bass aren't good table
fare so if this fish gets away it's no big deal. I might lose the nymph,
coupla feet of leader; small price to pay.
The predator function of my brain always overrides these considerations.
A big fish grabs a fly I've put in the water, all my energies get committed
to battle. I will overwhelm this bass quickly or wear it down gradually,
exploit its every mistake, utilize all advantages available to me. I'll
release it immediately but I will catch it.
Fine, fine, but those line coils are getting violently jerked into the air
by this lunker's wild rush to freedom. My left hand darts to #1 rod
guide, I grab the escaping line between left thumb and forefinger and
squeeze gently – "hand drag" must control this situation until
all ground loops get pulled through the guides. My reel's mechanical
drag will then take over, freeing my left hand to turn the reel handle
and palm the spool as needed. Standard combat technique and I'm
on it, I'm on it. This show is just starting.
Then like a calf roper's lasso a loop of line flies up, flips over my left
hand and half-hitches it! The bass is running hard, forcing my rod ever
downward and I can't release the line pressure, can't get my hand free!
He's gonna break me off any second! Just as I finally, frantically, wiggle
my hand loose with the bass miraculously still on, my eyes snap open
and I'm awake, breathing shallowly.
In the dawn light filtering though the window shades I check my wristwatch.
Time to roll out and prepare for the job interview scheduled this morning.
Can't be late for it! Awake-time reality takes over, coffee gets perked,
whiskers get shaved, the fishing dream is immediately forgotten
Four hours later the job interview is behind me. I need to relax.
By coincidence I'm in southwest Lawrence, neighborhood of Yager's
Fly Shop. So I drive over, walk in and there's owner Ronn Johnson.
We visit a half hour or so then he begins showing me fly reels, which
I'm definitely in the mood to look at. See, for almost two years I've
been dealing with an irksome gear problem.
My first 00-wt. Sage fly rod and the reel I used with it, both items got
stolen from me in a garage burglary, spring of 2007. I kid you not,
that ultralight outfit caught fish like a hand grenade in a hatchery pond.
Its theft traumatized me so badly that to this day I can't tell you what
brand reel was teamed with the rod.
Another thing: the combo was so perfectly balanced it threw a fly thirty
feet without my conscious participation. I missed that rig so much I
bought an identical new rod. But for a replacement reel I could not
remember what I'd had earlier, or even where I'd bought it. Cabela's
maybe, probably, but when I looked there no luck. I checked other
fly tackle shops including Yager's; nothing anyone had on hand rang a bell.
I had to get something just so I could use the new rod. A Galvan #1
is what I finally bought, from K&K Fly Fishers. It's a gorgeous reel
and works great. Ned at K&K suggested putting it on my replacement
00-wt. Sage rod (earlier bought at K&K) and trying a few test casts
before buying it. But it's so tiny and pretty! Must spool with backing
and line now! Must take home today!
Murphy's Law is still penalizing me for dismissing Ned's advice. I started
fishing this replacement double-aught rig and with each trip hoped it would
begin feeling better in my hand. It didn't and still doesn't. The problem?
If I relax my grip on the cork handle even slightly the rod shaft rises to
vertical like an ice fisherman's tip-up. There's too much weight behind
my hand, which lets the rod move too fast, unnaturally accelerating my
casting stroke. The rig catches fish, yes, but feels all wrong doing it.
"Balance" in fishing outfits is everything to me. It has no relationship to
price tags. My childhood mentors were excellent fishermen but never
mentioned tackle balance; I can't explain how this consideration developed
into a point of personal fussiness but beginning in my mid-teens the feel
of balance in my hand became something I carefully selected for when
shopping for any new fishing outfit regardless of its type.
So the fundamental problem with my new double-aught rig is obvious:
I broke my own acquisition rule. Over-eager to recover a past joy, I
chose the wrong reel for the rod. The aspirin tablet I occasionally take
is knowing this isn't anywhere close to being the costliest occasion when
an irresistible combination of beautiful design and apparent light weight
soon proved heavier and harder to handle than I care to deal with long-term.
As the old saying goes, "Live and learn." Someday my Galvan will
perfectly balance a different fly rod and it won't be somebody
At any rate, there I am in Yager's looking at reels. One, a Sage model,
could be the match for my replacement 00-wt. Sage rod. (Is a match
name-wise.) If so, it will deliver that much-loved balance. Ronn said I
can put it on my rod, test-throw it and see an offer I will gratefully
accept once the weather warms and I've rat-holed a few more nickels and
This particular Sage reel has no drag mechanism, there's just an extremely
quiet clicker. Right away that intrigued me: No drag on a high-end fly reel?
I've never seen that. Ronn detached the spool from the housing and showed
me the starkly minimal design.
"You know, that would work for me," I told him. "About all I ever try for
is bluegills anyway. They're such a ball to catch, and great eating. Shoot,
with this on my double-aught if I hooked a big bass I'd justlet it
I froze, blinking.
"Wow, I'm having a dream flashback here. Just this morningbig
bass running, my left hand got tangled in the line when I was trying to get
him on the reelwanted to catch him and"
Embarrassed, I risked a glance at Ronn. He was studying me with a
sly smile but said nothing, which made me think (made me hope) he's
already had a similar dream-time/awake-time overlap? The guy does
go fishing a lot, more than me probably, plus he owns a fly tackle shop.
During REM sleep periods wouldn't he wouldn't any fly shop
owner or employee stand a better than average chance of
having a dream about fishing that is packed with true-to-life action
and then at some unexpected moment, perhaps days or months afterward,
the dream flashes back? Makes sense to me. Doesn't it to you?
Still, I was spooked; the whole thing was so weird! Even weirder,
a couple hours later I began feeling more normal than at any time
during the two weeks previous, ever since bitter cold weather set in
and locked down my fishing. What's up with that?
Northeast Kansas is just now entering hard winter, so I don't need
any more dreams about hooking big fish and almost losing them. It
was a lunker largemouth so I won't worry about this one. But some
January or February morning at 4:00 a.m. if my left hand gets tangled
in the line and a 15-inch crappie breaks me off
That happens, I'm gonna go see somebody. ~ Joe
From Douglas County, Kansas, Joe is a former municipal and
federal police officer, now retired. In addition to fishing, he hunts
upland birds and waterfowl, and for the last 15 years
has pursued the sport of solo canoeing. On the nearby
Kansas River he has now logged nearly 5,000 river miles
while doing some 400 wilderness style canoe camping
trips. A musician/singer/songwriter as well, Joe recently
retired from the U.S. General Services Adminstration.
Joe at one time was a freelance photojournalist who wrote the
Sunday Outdoors column for his city newspaper. Outdoor
sports, writing and music have never earned him any money,
but remain priceless activities essential to surviving the
former 'day job.'