Desk-bound keyboarding had pushed me into a deep funk. Looking at my calendar I saw more dull weeks of mind-numbing cyber-work ahead, a time better suited for motorcycle adventuring and fishing. The summer was looking ugly if I opted to follow my current path to change locations to be nearer the equator and ride through the winter months, instead of being snowbound in my office looking at a laptop screen.
There was a narrow window on the calendar of possible fresh air, flogging lures, and jumping trout if I could hammer myself to ride 1,200 miles of pavement in two days, giving me a middle day to try to entice some foolish trout to accept my hidden offerings of a barbless hook.
My gray matter quickly did the math of mileage, time and economics and concluded two days of pavement pounding and one day of fishing would easily equate three days of summer in an office. That night I packed my motorcycle and conjured excuses not to answer email or telephone calls for the coming Internet-less fishing adventure.
I left the smelly and noisy concrete jungle of the city before rush hour. 500 miles of interstate later, followed by 50 miles of two lane byway, I stopped, wind-beaten, but two hours before dark. My sleeping bag and some canned foods and bottled fruit drinks were off-loaded and I set about readying my fishing gear for an early morning start the next day.
Overly anxious, I decided to try the river with what little of the current day was left, so strapped the fishing gear on the back of the motorcycle and rode over the two miles of gravel and dirt to park near the river bank and try my fishing skills.
The fish were jumping, feeding off some flies I could not match. For 30 minutes I tried various offerings including flies, lures and plastic worms. Nothing I had in my plastic offering boxes fooled them.
As I became flustered, I remembered having once met a wannabe adventure rider who was fuming and blustering above the Arctic Circle, kicking dirt and swearing at the motorcycle tour company that had found his group a place to stop and enjoy the scenery. His frustration was he could not connect to the Internet with his smart phone.
I remembered saying to him, “Hey, look around you. This is why you rode up here, the scenery, the adventurous ride itself, and the luxury of not speaking with your honey or office on the phone.”
As I stood on the bank of the river, watching fish jump over my fishing line, birds landing in nearby bushes and the red sun about to set, I said to myself, “Hey, look around you. You are alone. The rolling river drowns out any motorized sounds and you have got what thousands of motorcyclists often dream about: serenity after a long day of motorcycling with a taste of adventure in the wind.”
I decided to make one more cast of my lure and if nothing bit, calling it a day. That was when a lunker made a foolish mistake and tried to swallow my offering.
The next 20 minutes were spent trying to keep a four or five-pound trout from breaking my six-pound fishing line or unhooking itself from my lure by jumping, turning, running and diving. I waded back and forth along the river bank, trying to keep up with it as it made fast swims up and down the river. It finally tired and as I saw it close to the shore I realized I was not going to be able to safely land it by sliding it up on the bank. I looked for my fishing net, only to realize it was hanging from my parked motorcycle’s handlebar on the shoulder of the dirt path 10-15 feet behind me.
Slowly, I fed out hard-fought-for fishing line, keeping the tension on as I backed to the motorcycle, trying not to jerk or give the fish any reason to try to swim back into deeper water or flip in the shallows near the bank and throw the hook out of its mouth. With what might have looked like some strange one handed judo or yoga moves I eventually grabbed the net, reeled back in the line and netted the trout.
The fish was too big for me to eat in one meal. It had given me a whopping good adventure for nearly half an hour after my long day’s ride, but it was the fish’s lucky day as well as mine. I dug my needle nose pliers out of my fishing vest and wetted one hand in the river before gently grasping the heaving fish by its middle. I used the pliers with my other hand to slowly slip the hook back out of the fish’s lower jaw. It was freed of my lure and was about to regain its freedom.
After I carefully let the fish slide into the water I stood up and watched it gather some strength and then swiftly swim away into the depths. The sun was no longer a red orb, it had fallen below mountains, leaving a reddish horizon, but the river still made enough sound to let me know I was far away from the ping of my office phone or the inbound sound of an email.
I had enough canned food for a dinner of beef stew, peas and my supply of energy drinks, plus instant coffee for the morning, and I had another day to try to catch some pan-sized fish for frying. As I rode back to my sleeping space for the night I wondered if the wannabe adventure rider who I had met above the Arctic Circle had ever grasped the concept of motorcycling and serenity or if he had merely posted his blustering on some website or forum.
My thoughts as I tiredly nodded off to sleep that night were: “Hey, it’s not only about the journey, the ride, the destination or the adventure. It’s the memory of all the elements of a good day of adventure riding and fishing in the gray matter of your personal cranial hard drive.”
This story originally appeared in our August 2018 issue, which you can read in all its original high-res glory here.