Sometimes rain is your best friend, and sometimes it's your worst enemy. Today was the latter. Our first stop was near the mouth of a mid-size Lake Huron trib. We were soaked before our rods were strung. Jason went upstream with an indicator rig while I stayed low to swing down to the mouth. A few hours later we regrouped and decided to head farther north, to the Two Hearted River.

LakeEFF5Google Maps walked us through a maze of washed-out logging and snowmobile trails, which is fine if you've got four-wheel drive. But not so much in a Grand Am. We drove through the remnants of a huge 2012 forest fire and into a barren wasteland. At the mouth of the Two Hearted River, Lake Superior crashed against the rock-covered beach and had me wishing for a surfboard. We dinked around the sand dunes at the mouth, and decided to head upstream to escape the 40mph winds coming out of Canada.

Nick Adams fished the Fox in Hemingway's "Big Two-Hearted", and we couldn't help but take photos of each other standing in the Two Hearted, drinking Two Hearted Ale, while reading the classic. We parked upstream and bushwhacked to the river to find the water was black and high. But the whole scene was still gorgeous. Jason headed downstream, and I found a horseshoe bend that dumped into a greasy run.

LakeEf FBLet me preface this by saying I'm still figuring out the whole two-handed thing. I've had a few suspicious bumps, but have never hooked a real live swimming fish on the swing. The fly came through and was just about to dangle, and there was a sudden tension that turned into a subtle pull. I lifted and immediately felt head-shaking. And I suddenly forgot everything I knew about catching a fish.

LakeEFF3I pointed the rod up and backpedaled. A huge Coho slashed on the surface. And then the line just went limp. For about two milliseconds, I was heartbroken. Then I screamed a sound that was a blend of Howard Dean's concession speech howl and a wolf howling over a fresh kill.

A fish really ate, and 5 hours later... I'm still smiling.

Chuck and Duck blogger Alex Cerveniak goes roadtripping steelhead-style this week. His mission: To fish tribs to all five Great Lakes, while cultivating epic facial hair, dining on gas station grub, and writing about all things along the way. Part II, from a barstool in Cecil Bay, MI, starts here. —Ed

As a fisherman, I'm inherently superstitious.

"Whatever you do, don't get laid tomorrow or it'll wipe out our beard mojo."

"Now you've gone too far!"

"I'm serious. There's nothing more unlucky than getting some ass the day before a trip."

"That's bullshit."

"They call it getting lucky for a reason, and you only get so much luck. If you use your luck up on a girl, I'll know why the Catt gets blown out the day before we get there."

"I thought you were a science major?"

I'm writing this from a small tavern near Cecil Bay at the tip of Michigan's northern lower peninsula. Other than a couple guys at the bar giving me funny looks, I have the place to myself.

I skipped out of work a few hours early to hit a small Lake Michigan trib before meeting up with Jason later tonight. There were a couple old guys fishing at the base of a small dam near the parking lot. I tried making small talk before getting geared up, but they just nodded and went about their business.

While tying an intruder-style baitfish pattern, I realized they were taking turns fishing a single rod. One of them hooked and landed a chrome fish shortly after. A good sign as I wasn't sure if there were fish in this stream right now or not. Photos were taken, and the fish—still in the net—was transported above the dam and released.

"They quit stocking this stream over 20 years ago, so I like to let 'em go above the dam to help 'em get to the spawning ground and preserve the fish of the future," the old guy said, brandishing a proud smile.

I was tempted to remind him that steelhead spawn in the spring, but I let it go.

LakeEf"Nice fish," I said. "What'd you catch it on?" He showed me something that would make most tyers cringe. But it had a guide-fly vibe to it.

"Looks like a fish catcher, you tie it?"

"Yeah, it's one of my best patterns."

They left after we checked out each other's fly boxes—grandkids needed picking up from school soon. I fished down to the mouth and didn't touch a fish. There were rotting salmon swimming around here and there, and the air smelled like death.

LakeEf2I waded out into the Straits of Mackinac from the mouth of the river and just stood there, staring out at the Upper Penninsula, while the waves lapped into my waist. The fact that I didn't have to go back to the office for six days was starting to sink in, and it felt so right to be fishing.

Chuck and Duck blogger Alex Cerveniak goes roadtripping steelhead-style this week. His mission: To fish tribs to all five Great Lakes, while cultivating epic facial hair, dining on gas station grub, and writing about all things along the way. "Part I" starts here. —Ed


I'm rolling into my mid-30s and everything is going just fine. Got a nine-to-five with a nice corner office, a house back in the woods, two amazing children and, after a dozen years, I still love my wife.

But I need this trip.

Why? Because nine-to-five is really seven-to-seven, and that smartphone my prick of a boss bought me is really a tether to an endless parade of emails and conference calls. Having a nice house back in the woods means having to rake an endless supply of leaves every fall. And because there are bills to pay and mouths to feed, and homework to help with, and kids to pick up here and drop off there, and honey-do lists, and bills, and, and... fuck, man!

It's time to have a pre-mid-life crisis, grow a beard, grab a buddy, and hit the road for a few days. It's time to live off gas station food and drink whiskey, tie it in with a Drake Bake, and do what needs to be done in November, and that's roadtrip for steelhead.

planningThis is a condensed version of a trip I've been dreaming about for more than five years. The full-blown plan would take five weeks to do right, and hopefully that day will come. But this year, it's at least one trib to each of the five great lakes. Five and a half days, four states, seven'ish rivers, 1,800 miles on the road, 40 or 50 hours of available daylight on the water, and evenings standing next to fire.

"All this rain has me worried the Catt will be blown out."

"Assuming it doesn't rain between Saturday and when we get there, we'll pull into perfect swinging water."

"Besides, there's no need to worry, we've got beards."

Rod, reel, tippet... check.

John Wark's vertigo-instigating work bucks the confines of terra firma in exchange for a rarefied view: one that starts high in the sky, via the cockpit of his Husky A1 bush plane. Those images—including recent shots of Ma Nature doing her best to drown Colorado during last month's biblical flooding events—continue to be featured everywhere from the pages of National Geographic and The New York Times to regional magazines, newspapers, and television stations.

So what ingredients go into framing the ultimate top-down image? Wark says impact is the goal. "Disaster has a good deal of ready-made impact, but really pulling in the viewer requires aesthetic elements, as well." When Wark pulls the trigger from 1,000 feet, for instance, he's factoring in framing, angles, lighting, and other details that go into capturing a compelling story.

"Anyone can take a picture of someone crying," he says, "but will it be a great, sad, and moving photo? Probably not, unless luck or skill and training has been introduced."

Wark recently sat down with The Drake. Here's his story.

JW Top

The Drake: What came first, the camera or the plane? And how did you end up combining the two into your current vocation?

John Wark: The camera. I took photos early, about age 10 with my own darkroom. I bought a commercial photo studio in 1992 and became a professional photographer. My dad [Jim Wark] was a pilot, and when he retired from his career as a mining executive around 1993 he started taking pictures from his bush plane, the same plane I use today, a Husky A1. He would travel around North America in the Husky taking photos, eventually in all 50 states, Canada, and Mexico. I had my own business, but we ended up working together on many projects. About 10 years ago I started flying and as dad slowed his flying I picked it up.


The Drake: I imagine fiddling with apertures and f-stops in the air could present potential problems/safety issues? How have you dialed in your system?

JW5 LJW: The Husky A1 is a tail-dragger bush-type plane. Used in backcountry flying it's very good for aerial photos. It will fly slow, has plenty of power, is stable and very responsive. The procedure is this: I see a photo-op. I position the plane as needed to get the composition (going higher/lower and around for the angle I want). Once I get there, I pick up the camera, usually a Nikon D800 and I take the photo. It takes about 3 seconds to get a photo. No fiddling with settings as they are all preset for conditions at the time. It's true that there is a level of multi-tasking, but it's quite manageable, especially when one is familiar with their camera and their airplane.

Being a backcountry pilot who flies into canyons with tricky winds and short rough strips means I have acquired a fine sense of the airplane's attitude, performance and what I can and cannot get away with.


The Drake: Your client list includes high-profile editorial and television work, corporate entities such as Boeing and Goodrich, and... artist. Where do your shooting priorities lie these days?

JW: I have great corporate customers who use me for mostly ground-based work, in factories and showing processes, people and products. The media groups are usually aerial customers for the news cycles that come and go. My priorities are where the clients take me, but my personal work is almost all aerial right now as there is so much potential and not many others doing this.


The Drake: Your aerial work is a mash-up of man-made and unmarred environment. As subject matter, what is it about earth's sinuous arteries that appeal to you?

JW: When I'm flying around shapes grab my attention and rivers are so varied and their effects on the land can be so significant that they jump out. There is sometimes an organic feel, sometimes geometric or fractal, but whatever it is, when I see it I respond and try to capture the essence of what I'm seeing or feeling. Contrasts of texture, color, or subjects get me too. I like both man's work and nature's work. I also like to see decay.... buildings lost to time, etc. It reminds me that we are here for a spell then gone.


The Drake: In addition to rivers, what features make up some of your favorite subject matter and why?

JW: Patchwork of farm fields always get me looking. I like to compress farm landscapes with telephoto lenses to create abstract images with their color variations and positioning the shot to create unexpected border lines or circles. I also look for shots that I call 'aerial street shooter' shots. I always have liked street photographers who capture everyday life in compelling ways, such as Winogrand, and Friedlander. I attempt this from the air and have a good number of shots that have not been seen. And nature is always a favorite, I try to fly after storms or early or late in the day, the mountains especially look good under these conditions.


The Drake: NPR recently ran a series on your stark "Flying Above Colorado..." shots. What inspired you to get out and document the Waldo Canyon fires and flooding events on the South Platte and Big Thompson rivers?

JW: Any subject matter with potential for unique images is right up my alley. Smoke can make for dramatic scenes, and when there is real disaster unfolding the image are even more. Reuters and Associated Press and The Denver Post will call me directly sometimes and ask me to get stuff for them.

Not-So-Fictional Fiction

[Brickhead originally ran in the Summer 2010 issue of The DrakeFor the all new Part II, click here. —ed]

QUINTANA ROO, MEXICO. HIS DOGS WERE torched. He'd forgotten to put sunscreen on his feet the day before. He had taken his wading boots off after a mile walk on the flats and just spaced it. His feet cooked on the deck for the rest of the day as he stood and stared, unsuccessfully, into the water looking for fish. Now, his white socks dried slowly around burnt toes as he stood on the bow of the panga. Today he didn't dare take them off.


It was early in the spring of 1981 and the world was a hot and tumultuous place. Earlier that fall, Ronald Reagan had defeated Jimmy Carter, but the hostages were still in Iran. In New York City, Studio 54 had been closed for over a year. Most importantly, British Honduras was now called Belize and was on the verge of full independence. Rumors had been rampant about a treaty with the U.S., where any boat flying a Belize flag could be boarded and searched for contraband by the Coast
Guard. The heat was on, indeed.

As a simple, hard-working transporter of cocaine, the time had come for a move. He decided to shutter his small operation in Dangriga, move north to Mexico, and get a new start. He had "acquaintances" in Punta Allen. Now, when he had downtime from his business obligations, he also had new water to explore.

Staring out absentmindedly across the shallow water, his tongue licked at his thick mustache. He tasted the caked salt and squinted away a drop of sweat that pinched his eye. That's when he heard the turbulent, highpitched Spanish aimed his direction. He understood one word more clearly then the others: palometa. Then came the spanglish. "We git out, we git out," said his new friend, Isaha.

Isaha was a local fisherman with a boat. Isaha usually went out for lobster and jack but agreed to take this new gringo out for a cash fee. His words were an urgent whisper. They had spent a number of idle days on the water, looking. He followed Isaha as he quietly slipped into the green Caribbean waters of an area known as Tres Marias, named for the three islands that seemed equidistantly spaced, just to the south. As the two poled the flat throughout the day, the three islands had grown in size. They'd covered a lot of water.

He hit the ocean and it went quickly up to his stomach. This was a permit flat, but deep. The problems of the world and his enterprise left his mind as quickly as the big fish had materialized. They began quickly making their way toward the fish as it bobbed and slowly turned in the sea.

The most prominent features on the permit were its black markings and forked tail—both held his wide-eyed stare, standing out against the ocean bottom like a bright stripe of paint.

They arced around the fish, attempting to position the wind against their backs.
"Slow, slow," said Isaha. The subsistence fisherman and the sport angler got within fifty feet of the fish. One of his white socks slipped from his foot and was eaten whole by the ocean.

"Do you see?" asked Isaha. Sock gone.

"Yes," he responded. It was all business now. He was locked on. There was no way
to miss the fish, and he would not allow a misplaced sock to break his stare.

"OK, move round till you get good shot," whispered Isaha.

"Yes," he thought. He felt like a robot. He tasted the salt on his upper lip again and it stung his tongue this time. Things seemed to be moving fast yet going in slow motion—as people sometimes describe a car wreck.

He knew the chances of seeing the permit eat were slim, and that the smallest misstep or technical mistake could send the 25-pounder off the flat and back to the blue hole in a matter of seconds.

He knew all of this only intuitively because he had never caught one. During his downtime in Belize over the years he'd cast at many of these fish without success.

He took a deep breath through his nose and let it out through his mouth. He did it again and repeated his new mantra: "Do not fuck this up."

He repeated this phrase in his head again. Then another breath, slower this time, and with the rhythm of the long, silent steps he took along the bottom.

He continued doing an end-around on the bobbing permit, going unnoticed. At times the water pushed up to his rib cage and his elbows dipped into the water. Isaha suddenly was at his side again. His feet were bare and clearly visible on the grey bottom.

"Wait," Isaha said. He stopped dead in his tracks. He looked down to see where the 70 feet of fly line was, hoping that it wasn't wrapped around his legs or in some type of salty bird's nest. To his surprise, it wasn't. It trailed behind him in a tight, 35-foot loop.

"You steeel see him?" asked Isaha. His head snapped up. His eyes squinted through the sweat and sunscreen and focused on where the fish should have been. The aviators on his nose were beginning to collect condensation.
The fish was gone. He willed the large, forked tail to reappear but it would not.

"No," he said. Panic. He had taken his eyes off the fish and now... no more fish. A simple mistake, but the kind that destroys these opportunities.

"There, there," spat Isaha. "Nixt to da rock, da white spot. Point yer rod." Hepointed all nine feet toward a white spot on the bottom of the flat fifty feet from where he stood. He felt like he was in a tunnel. Isaha reached up and touched the cork of his rod handle and made a slight adjustment to the right. His arm was outstretched and his shoulder was pushed against his right ear. And there he was, as big as life itself. Big permit.

"You see now?" asked Isaha.

"Yes," he said. There was no way he could miss this fish now. The permit had turned and was facing him so he couldn't see the big tail. He could see his head—it was as wide as a large masonry brick. "Brickhead," he thought.

"You cast farther now. More left," said Isaha. He took another deep breath and began to work line out. He had a passable double-haul in good conditions but add in the deep water and the cross wind, and everything immediately went to shit.

His first cast wobbled and folded twenty-five feet from him—twenty-five or thirty feet short of the fish.

"No, no, no. You strip in now!" said Isaha. "You see him or not?"

"Yes," again, like a robot. I see Brickhead, he's right there in front of me, he thought to himself. The fish was even bigger then he originally thought. He stripped frantically to fix his bad cast and start over. A fresh new cast. Reboot. All sins forgiven.

His second cast miraculously punched through the wind. The loop was big and awkward and it still wobbled, but it somehow delivered the crab five feet to the left of the fish.

"OK, good. You wait," said Isaha. He sounded happy, happier then he'd sounded in days. The two stood motionless. He could not see his fly now but he could still see the fish and knew in his heart that the presentation did not spook him.

"Long steady strips, that is the way they like it," he told himself.
"OK, es-streep," commanded Isaha. One long strip, followed by another. The fish immediately reacted. There was no mistaking this. He moved two or three feet toward the fly.

"He sees it... es-streeeeep," hissed Isaha. It was as if Isaha was perched upon his shoulder, whispering methodically in his ear. The drama really began to build, and quickly reached a deafening crescendo of manic whispers. The permit moved straight toward his fly and Isaha continued to hiss commands.

"Es-streeep... es-streeeep." The permit closed the gap between himself and the fly. He moved from five feet to three feet, then three feet to two. It was going to happen. The permit was slowly moving toward the angler and his guide.

He was no longer breathing. Just long strips. He was focused. Isaha continued to hiss into his ear and everything around him melted away. Everything except his fly and Brickhead. He could now see both fly and fish.

He could see the permit's eyes, both of them clearly. He waited to see his mouth open. He waited to feel that slightest hick-up in the long strip. He waited for that slightest bump that signaled the connection. He willed the permit's mouth to open and eat. "Eat. Eat you fucker, eat!"

"Es-streeeeeeeeep," Isaha was almost squeaking at this point. The fish was less then 15 feet from the two of them.

And in one strikingly clear moment, before his wide eyes and tight jaw, Brickhead refused the fly, turned, and headed toward Punta Allen.

He delivered one more frantic cast to recapture the magic, but he knew in his heart it was over.

Both socks were now long gone. And so, too, was Brickhead.


Thanks to an armed populous wielding image-capturing devices of all calibers the "outdoors photographer" has become a dime-a-million lately. But most of us have never inhaled the intoxicating chemical fumes of a stop bath, nor spent much time wrapping our brains around the nuances of f-stops and apertures... because, quite frankly, it's hard to find a reason. The advent of digital has allowed us to click-click-click our way to awesomeness and delete-delete-delete the rest.

This vortex of images has also made reaching career photographer heights that much more of a daunting climb; forcing professional photogs to work harder, longer, more creatively... and often for less.

Sounds like hell right? Well, according to Drake contributor Bryan Gregson (see Spring 2013 cover and much, much more over the past couple years) it ain't all bad. There's been some great fishing, new friendships forged, and an escalating client list that proves that his journey, one spurred by a busted knee back in the day, was always worth taking the shot.

Here's his story.

BG 6pack -10

The Drake: Talk about your experience in the ski and snowboard industry and early influences in the SLC-area.

Bryan Gregson: Those were the days... [laughs]. Thinking about those times makes me feel old. Looking back I was extremely fortunate to work with some of the big names you see today. Everyone was young and hungry, loving it for what it was... pure fun. Camera equipment was all film back then. I was living with photographer Will Wissman at the time, after I blew my knee during a night shoot... I miscalculated the landing off a building in the dark.

After surgery, I started working for Will by default. It was an easy transition, we'd already been working together for a few years and I knew the routine and his style; scenic with action. I also rode a lot with Ash Christensen and, as luck would have it, found myself working with Ash and Absinthe Films, along with their top riders.

Ash's brainchild backcountry cable camera was groundbreaking. It was absolutely crazy, I'm surprised nobody was killed or seriously injured. Justin Hostynek hit a tree going head first at full speed once. He had a safety line rigged on him, but the super 16mm camera was ripped apart on impact. At that age being surrounded by people who were doers, who had drive and who had an intense passion to follow a vision, was inspiring. The most important things I learned from all of them about capturing a moment on camera is hard work, sacrifice, and integrity.

The Drake: How did you get your break in the flyfishing industry?

BG: Brian O'Keefe [with Catch Magazine] gave me my first big break and, ironically enough, down the road it was his online vision that led to the largest commercial paycheck for me with Volvo. I guess you never really do anything for free, what comes around goes around, O'Keefe is the man. Tom Bie at The Drake has been, and still is, a tremendous supporter. Slowly other editors and manufactures gave me a shot. I didn't set out to be a flyfishing photographer, it just kind of happened. I suppose when you really get down to it, the flyfishing industry is a big, but small family. For the most part everyone wants each other to succeed... or so I think and hope.

BG 6pack -6

The Drake: What year did you leave Salt Lake, and where did you go?

BG: That's a 10-part question [laughs]. I left SLC summers when I was 15-ish. I've lived all over... Utah, Hawaii, Cape Cod, Montana a few times, and Idaho once. At first I moved back to SLC from Hawaii only for the winter months. The spring and fall were spent flyfishing and summers I was commercial fishing off the East Coast. The fishing took a dive, I left the snow world and I found myself with time to once again explore my born state of Utah. Down the road the battle for public waters and public access started and when the state government closed over 400 public waters to recreational use, I needed to move if I wanted to continue to just fish and shoot.

At the time John Malovich put me in contact with the great folks at TroutHunter fly shop. The crew there basically saved my life. Rich [Paini] gave me a job doing media stuff, sometimes shop work, and I've guided a few days... although I retired from guiding after a 7 long days [laughs]. The training with camera and rod I received on the Henry's Fork was humbling and truly invaluable. I love that river, the people on it, and the life it's given to me.

BG 6pack -22

The Drake: You've been an integral player in the Utah Stream Access Coalition (USAC)—even since you've left the state. Where do you stand on the Utah public access debacle?

BG: Utah's waters belong to the people, plain and simple. The Utah Supreme Court has reiterated it time and time again: the public has a right to recreate on and in these waters. My home waters are in Utah, and as the law stands right now I am a criminal if I fish the waters I grew up on. I stand firmly behind the mission of USAC, because they are fighting against a movement that is trying to privatize this public resource, and hand it over to a few wealthy landowners. What happens in Utah influences the rest of the country—South Dakota ran legislation last year that was a mirror image of what we're fighting in Utah. People are watching to see what happens there, and that's why it's such an important fight to win.

What keeps this same bad legislation from coming to Montana or Idaho? That's a scary thought. In the words of Bob Marley, it's time to get up and stand up.

BG 6pack -19

The Drake: You just moved from Island Park to Bozeman to take a job with Yellow Dog... how has the transition been?

BG: It's been big move for me. I'm sad to leave the mighty [Henry's] Fork and the incredible tribe there. It's only a few hours away, so I'll be spending many days back on that side of the continental divide. I'm also excited to be working with Yellow Dog. It's a great team full of dynamic folks. Jim Klug has always been very supportive of my path over the years, and has been a huge help to me with the steam access issue..

I'm lucky to have a friend with a spare room and a bunk-bed. I'm currently living in what travelers have dubbed the "blue-room". It's full of gear bags, a computer, and I shoved the rest of my stuff into a shed. It works for now... don't mind at all. I do mind all the stop lights and traffic. I grew accustom to living in a small rural town of 200 people I suppose. I'll get use to it.

BG 6pack -17

The Drake: Who are you shooting for today? And what are your inspirations on the water?

BG: I've been working closely with Patagonia lately... photos, video, and research and development. They've shown me a remarkable amount of support. It's inspiring and humbling to see how one human's heart and determination can actually change the World for the better. I'm also working with TroutHunter lodge and products, Yellow Dog Fly-Fishing Adventures, Hatch Outdoors, Scott Rods, Korkers, Adipose, Rainys Flies, Warpath Flies, Casa Blanca Lodge in the Yucatan, and Las Pampas Lodge in Argentina.

I have spent my entire life chasing inspirations around the globe, in one form or another. At one time my inspiration was to just push the adrenaline limits of water. I've almost drowned a few times and have been buried under snow. Nowadays, I find myself sitting on top of the mountain peak a little longer to admire the view, taking extra time getting into the lineup, and sitting on the shoulder to admire and touch the waves as they go by... and I've grown to love standing in the river without casting, especially in the early morning.

The hoarding phenomenon was evident as John Custer peered into his refrigerator. The right side of the door was jammed with a varietal of hot sauces. These sauces - many way, way past the date of expiration, hailed from distant and exotic locations - the islands of the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

Looking out into the standing room only crowd packed into Kitsumkalum Hall in Terrace, British Columbia, Shannon McPhail, Executive Director of the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition (SWCC), needs a reality check. She asks the crowd, just shy of 1,000 people: "Is this actually happening?"

Ride with Clyde VI

Adventures in Porn Camp

CLYDE WAS RIGHT where Viking had left him the night before, backed into a salmonberry thicket, booze and beer resting on his hood, a lone fly box open to the morning dew. I remembered then, vaguely, showing off some new patterns by headlamp after our arrival the night before. If the fly box was mine, the half-full IPA next to it must be mine, too. I looked over my shoulder before finishing it, then remembered that we were in steelhead camp, so who the fuck cares what I have for breakfast.

It's been one of those weeks when you forget to pace yourself. You hop around, fishing a different stretch of a different river every night, chasing bugs that were supposed to be here a week earlier. You can't take a night off, because if you do, you might miss it.

hexbrownThe hatch lasts a couple weeks on most rivers. And here in northern Michigan, you can follow it north from one river to another, and make it last over a month. But, it's that first night on a stretch of river when the fish go insane. The second and third nights aren't bad either, but after that, it's like the fish just get full.

You've been standing in the river for two hours waiting, when your wife calls at 10 p.m.

"You on your way home yet? We need milk."

"Babe, it's not dark. I haven't even started fishing."

The sun falls, the moon rises through a pink sky, and you start to wonder if you picked the wrong beat. You scan the water flowing around your legs with your headlamp and there's nothing but midges and the occasional clump of sulphurs.

You text a buddy who is fishing somewhere else.

"Seeing bugs?"

"Sky is full of em, nothing on the water yet."

"Nothing here yet. Shoulda went down to... holy shit...."

They're here. One. Then two. Then 80,000. A stretch of river you'd swear only held dinks starts making sounds that can, and do, visibly shake most anglers. Long after the hatch is over, you can still hear the sounds on trips into the fall and through winter. They're the sounds of big, happy fish.

For the fish it's like Super Bowl, Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving all mashed into one. It's like their mom got a job as a cook at their favorite restaurant. They just lose it. And if you've never experienced it, you have to.

More texting after three days on and no more than three hours of sleep.

"Dude, I'm afraid to drive home from work. I can't keep my eyes open."

"How long is your drive?"

"40 minutes."

"Roll all the windows down and sing."

"I will."

"You wanna go again tomorrow?"


The fish you're about to cast to sounds like it's at least 30-inches long. It doesn't sip, it sucks. And if you manage to get a drag free drift in pitch black and have your 3XL #2 parachute float by at just the right time, you're going to get an opportunity to set the hook. Even if you know it's about to happen, it still surprises the hell out of you. You won't believe it's happening until you lost it in a log jam or felt it slither out of your hands. Even after all that, it still won't set in until tomorrow, when you're at work, running on two or three hours of sleep, wondering which stretch of which river you should fish tomorrow.

Somewhere, on some stretch of river, it's gonna be night No. 1 all over again. And if you take a night off, you'll miss it.