Over the years I have enjoyed many peaceful hours walking the banks, and stepping on the rocks of my favorite trout streams. This is more than just a way for me to spend a few hours away from the noise of our community, and the intrusion of people. It is a reminder of my roots and a source of great comfort in what can be a very demanding and uncomfortable world.
Life is way too busy for the most part, and very few people, myself included, know how to step off the fast track. There are demands, responsibilities, emergencies and mishaps that have a way of commandeering every waking moment. Family, friends, business partners and even those who are not so friendly can grab our attention and time in the strangest ways. They can make life get pretty complicated and we just let it happen. So, when I feel the creeping tentacles of the life I DON’T want wrapping around me, I head for the mountains, drink in the solitude, and reconnect with my ancestral roots.
As I head north into the Adirondacks something happens like clock work. To being with, I hit the last Dunkin Donuts for miles around, and get a cup of hazelnut coffee with double cream. Then I slow down, roll down the windows and begin to inhale the pine scented morning air that floods my Trailblazer. It’s astounding how this impacts me at every level. Childhood memories of summers at Meacham Lake and Upper Saint Regis, boating and kayaking trips with my beautiful wife, camping with my sons on Indian Lake, and a hundred other events come floating into my mind. I am once again reminded of the wonderful life I have lived, and how God has guided me all along the way.
After two hours of traveling north, heading down twisting dirt roads and watching the sunrise over the ancient peaks, I arrive at my destination, and life comes into undistracted focus. There is no cell service, no emails and no intrusive text to invade this sacred place. I am alone in the wilderness, hearing the birds sing their morning songs, and listening to a distant clap of thunder. In that moment I am more than ready to face any challenge that might come my way. My 9mm is strapped to my side, and my Swiss army knife is pulling on my pants pocket. My trout rod and night crawlers are in hand and my wicker creel is slung over my shoulder as I push into the lush green underbrush. This is life the way my father lived it, and it is life the way I know it was meant to be.
The sound of water bubbling over primal stones draws me in and captures my imagination. I remember other days and other trout pulled from this very stream, and I being to anticipate what awaits me up around the next bend. I scan the streambed looking for the deepest pools, the overhanging rocks and the shaded banks where speckled trout will be lying in wait. My heart begins to quicken, but I become still and deliberate. Even my breathing is measured and smooth as I move with care to the edge of the stream and flick my bait into the water.
The moment it hits, the line begins to “run” and I know I am about to enter into an age-old struggle. I wait a few seconds, set the hook with a sharp jerk and the line begins to strip from my ultra-light reel. It screams briefly as the trout flashes back into its secret underwater lair. But, for that particular fish it’s already too late, and in a few moments I have hoisted a wiggling slippery beauty into the air, and deposited it in all it’s flopping, twisting glory into my creel through the hole in the cover. I pause to look at the fish with satisfaction and I enjoy all the beauty that surrounds me. Most of all I thank God for such a wonderful moment in time and then, it’s up the stream and on to the next deep pool.
This is life on a trout stream. It’s basic, it’s beautiful and it is brutal. It’s life and death in a raw and unedited form. No matter how many times I go, or how many trout I have caught, it never loses its attraction or fascination. I feel the wonder of a mountain stream, the power of a hooked trout and the finality of a fish slapping it’s tail in my creel. All of these things move me. They bring out the kid in me, and they unlock the joy of just living for that brief moment of time, on a trout stream that I alone know.
Part of the beauty is that I know all of this could be gone in a moment. A heavy rain could rip the streambed apart and all would be lost. Others could discover this secret place and soon trample it under foot or fish it empty. Worse yet I could become sick or fall and no longer have the mobility to hike into this pristine place of rest. But for now, and for as long as I can, I will return here again and again. I will make my pilgrimage to this forest cathedral and thank God for the privilege of one more day to discover the hidden treasure that awaits all who come here.
Do you want a peace filled life? Let me suggest that you find a trout stream of your own. Go learn its secrets and take the time to live a little on its banks. While you are there, look at all the beauty all around you and then look up to heaven and thank the God who made this just for you! Once you meet with Him in honest conversation, you will never be the same! Best of all you will always know where to go to reconnect with what’s really important. All I can say is, no one has really lived until they have found the pleasure of life on a trout stream!