A photo of a dirty bathroom floor sucked most of the funny from a recent post. The resulting flapdoodle and folderol was probably to be expected but it is interesting to note that the indignation expressed at the condition of said floor was nearly matched by the indignation expressed at its having been pointed out. But here’s the thing: This blog is dedicated to everyone who gives in to the urge to get away from it all, but it is especially dedicated to the brave souls who take care of them when they arrive and, as anyone who has had a job that included cleaning restrooms can tell you, from posh resorts to the most modest of camps, floor-dribblers aren’t the half of it.
Cleaning up after others is a job not many are willing to take and we tend to look down on those who do. When a restroom is found in poor condition it will be demanded that “someone needs to clean that up!” but no one ever demands that “someone needs to stop making messes!” The fact of the matter is that the guy or gal with the scrub brush and rubber gloves is not the one who made the mess but he or she will take care of the problem, often under the contemptuous gaze of those who would never stoop so low as to mop a floor or wipe a wall, several times a day if needed, and if you believe they couldn’t pay you enough to do a job like that it’s a fair bet they aren’t paying the person doing it enough, either.
It’s not a topic to be discussed in polite company, but bathrooms get dirty, someone cleans them and, to be honest, it’s a bit disheartening to spend time and effort trying to make things nice for people only to find later that those things have been peed upon. Or worse.
So, why would someone like Quill Gordon be willing to spend so much time cleaning up messes that others have made, some of them rather unpleasant? Because, my fellow anglers, I love fly fishing and everything about it, especially fly fishing for trout, and life at a fishing camp just happens to include the occasional unpleasant mess. It’s not my favorite part of the job, and it takes up a lot of my time, but it’s part of how I earn my time on the water. Plus, you couldn’t pay me enough to commute to an office every day.
I don’t particularly enjoy mopping floors but I love the places trout live, with cold, clean water beneath hemlocks and spruce. I’m not fond of wet towels and dirty sheets but I love the grace of a well-cast line and the rise to a well-placed fly on a pleasant evening as the wood thrush sings at dusk. I don’t enjoy picking up the poop of other people’s dogs but I love watching mayflies emerge in the gloaming and the tug of a trout on my line. I don’t like cleaning drains and septic lines but I love being immersed in the literature and lore of our sport, the connections to its past, and hope for the future. I don’t care much for garbage day, State inspectors, or trespassers who stand their ground and give me grief, but I love anglers (most of them, anyway), even if they occasionally dribble on the floor.
Fly fishing is a sport that lends itself to solitude but it is us as a group, you and I and everyone who has gone before us, that make it the richly satisfying activity it has become. Sharing stories, advice and fellowship off the water is as much a part of the picture as our time on the water, and if one person out of ten leaves a bad taste in my mouth there are nine others who don’t, just like in the world at large. It’s just that, sometimes, it’s a really, really bad taste and from time to time fermented grain beverages are employed to cover it up. When the appropriate dosage is exceeded, however, unfortunate side effects can occur, like posting photos of dirty bathroom floors.
The photo in question will stay right where it is, though, as a reminder that wherever you go, my fellow outdoors enthusiasts, there is a caretaker, campground host, or staff member working hard while you traipse through the woods or wet a line or whatever it is you do out there and, when you leave (after a quick little Happy Dance), they will swoop in and work their magic so the next group to arrive won’t even know you’d been there.
To everyone who makes it possible for others to enjoy their outdoor passions, Quill Gordon tips his hat and raises his glass. Living and working where others dream of being has its ups and downs and is not always easy, but it certainly has its own rewards. Just don’t let on that, all in all, it’s not a bad gig.
The camps at Fish in a Barrel Pond have been very busy the past couple of weeks. Different groups, some staying three or four nights, some for a week, others just a night or two, have kept things hopping as we operate at or near capacity. Taking a break to get away from it all would be nice but out of the question, what with being on-call 24/7 and all. Besides, to most, I’m already “away from it all” so, when the chance to enjoy it myself comes along, I take it.
While waiting for a hatch of yellow drakes that ended up being feeble at best, I steered the boat as we drifted while my companion for the evening, a rather notorious character, covered rises with a floating caddis pupa pattern. A single fish, rising once, makes it a guessing game to figure out which direction it is moving. Cast to the right and it is just as likely the fish is moving left. Or away, or closer, or even down. It’s a crap shoot but, with one guess being as good as another, a few trout were brought to hand. The odds tipped in my friend’s favor when we would stumble across a cruising brace or small pod on the move, and he caught fish with the caddis while I stubbornly waited for drakes.
At long last the waxwings appeared, flying out over the water and boomeranging back to the branches of trees at the water’s edge. Pale wings fluttered on the water as a mayfly pulled itself from its shuck and as it took to the air a trout struck at the place it had been. Gaining altitude, it flew into a ray of low sun and hovered in back-lit glory just long enough for a bird to draw a bead and when it snapped shut its beak those pale wings fluttered slowly to the water from whence they came.
Poetic nonsense aside, I saw the fish and I had the fly so I turned the boat and motored slowly that way, stopping now and then so Don could land another one.
Barely a dozen mayflies came off, with just a few half-hearted responses from the trout, but I cast anyway, figuring that sooner or later a trout would swim by. This is called “leading the fish” and I am sometimes able to “lead the fish” by as much as half an hour but I wasn’t messing around tonight so I gave my fly a little twitch. Four fish rose in quick succession. Three of them swatted my fly with their tails and the fourth one sort of came up real slow and gave it the stink eye, but I finally covered a swirl and hooked up with a cold, dark brookie, nearly black and all of eight inches long.
And that was it. Hardly a hatch at all but the fish were still rising over deeper water so I motored back out and Don covered rises with that caddis, politely pointing out each fish he hooked. A nightcap by the old camp stove ended the evening and as I made my way home the reflections of stars rippled across the water.
That was last night. Last night there was nary a mayfly to be seen but tonight they are coming off in droves. Last night the female loon was still on the nest but tonight she’s swimming with her mate and two newly-hatched chicks.
Last night there were anglers on the lake who are now sitting at home but others have arrived to take their place. Tomorrow there will be more, and the day after that and the day after that, and Quill Gordon will be here, doing what he does for a chance to be on the water.
Summer’s just begun but it seems it won’t be long before those chicks fledge and leave at the first sign of snow. Go on, get out there, people, before the season is over. Traipse through the woods, wet a line or whatever it is you do out there. Turn off the phone and give in to the urge to get away from it all.
Someone will be there for you when you arrive.