adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_hard_labor_12adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_hard_labor_01I had just settled down for a long winter’s nap when it dawned on me that I’ve been negligent in my duties. Slow and steady wins the race, right? This post has been in limbo for quite some time. I partially completed the story a few weeks back, but the subzeroness of my daily life has left me mentally atrophied. Scrape windows, shovel sidwalk, shot of NyQuil, rinse and repeat. Fits of starts and stops have been commonplace. I’ve attempted to break up the monotony using a variety of tactics. I made an appearance at the Fly Fishing Film Tour a few weeks back, but that became more about clinking a few drinks with the fellas than an appreciation of the pursuit. Heck, I might even make an appearance at the Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo this weekend to shake off the rust a little bit. Speaking of rust, this autumn undertaking will be the last of my backlog. It’s an exercise in futility rehashing these distant memories, but let’s not dwell on the irrelevance. I’ll treat you to a dollop of winter angling with my next installment, so things will get frosty in a hurry.



adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_hard_labor_03
adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_hard_labor_04adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_hard_labor_02I’ve failed to delight you with many warmwater conquests lately, so this installment should make up for lost time. Mrs. Adrift was nice enough to furnish me with a kayak trip on the Upper Mississippi compliments of the fine folks at the Clear Waters Outfitting Company. I failed to seize this angling opportunity for almost a year. For better or worse, I held out until Fall when monster Smallies tend to put on the pre-winter feedbag. In a startling break from my usual solitary confinement I decided to fish with a few BFF’s. My college buddy Rob is a fly angler, but has rarely taken the stick out of the tube after we traversed Montana a few years back. My other pal Aaron is exclusively a spin angler that grew up in my Iowa hood, but now resides a few miles east of the mighty Mississippi in Becker. I couldn’t justify a visit to this stretch without extending him an invitation.

Previous experience told me that you can strike gold if conditions are just right. To be honest with you I rescheduled this trip in September, just so I could selfishly squeeze in a few extra trout expeditions. This delay proved to put us in a precarious position. The October temps proved to be fairly seasonal, but the forecast called for a gusty morning followed by the chance of late afternoon storms. Not to be dissuaded we unloaded our gear and prepared for the comfortable float down old man river. As we stood in the parking lot we receiving our crash course on the finer points of our journey. My internal alarm bells began to sound. A stiff wind from the south was much more substantial than I’d anticipated. It was the kind of gale that brings most fly rodders to their knees. I reassured myself that we’d find some protected shorelines to throw some loops, but Rob wasn’t so sure. He cowered to mother nature and returned his fly rod to the truck, instead brazenly brandishing a six and half foot spinning rod. Blasphemy by some standards, but no need to apologize in our presence, since we were a pack of ardent bilingual anglers. There’s no chance that I wasn’t going to fly fish, but threw a spinning rod in the kayak just for good measure. We pushed off from shore saying our goodbyes to our friendly dock hand, eager to see what was around the bend.

 


adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_hard_labor_05adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_hard_labor_06adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_hard_labor_08Within the first 20 yards of paddling it became clear what we were up against. This would be no casual afternoon jaunt. In the spirit of a Mt. Everest style adventure we were going to earn every inch. I tested the current to see what kind of velocity it presented and was instantly blown upstream at a decent clip. The wind was so intense that not only could you not float downstream, you really couldn’t fish with any confidence. If you were lucky you’d get one misplaced cast per spot. To add insult to injury it became clear to me that the bite wasn’t nearly as good as I’d hoped. I must confess to being spoiled at this stage in my life. I spend more time standing on casting decks than uncomfortably managing the delicate kayak paddle/fly rod balance. In no time I found myself beaching my craft to more accurately dissect a run. I quickly picked up a small fish or two, but not the size or numbers that I desired. Rob and Aaron didn’t fare so well, they couldn’t even muster a bite. After the first hour or two I began to feel guilty for getting these guys into this wild goose chase. I spent many years regularly fishing with them in my teens and twenties, but as time has worn on less so in recent years. You see these fellas are what I’d classify as “casual” anglers. They’ve had their moments flirting with the angling arts, but aren’t stricken in the same way as an addict. The sands of time have an uncanny ability to shift one’s priorities, and fishing has largely fallen by the wayside for many. Those in the know are well aware that like anything in life, if you love it you have to fight for it. My constant battle to keep angling on the frontline provided me a glaring advantage. Big water can sometimes be intimidating to the uninitiated, but I was able to read the water where they could not. I don’t mean to sound condescending, since these boys are experienced fisherman, but I’d pull a fish from a current seam where they had just struck out. Practice may not make perfect, but it does lead to more fish.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_hard_labor_09adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_hard_labor_10We all fantasize about a trip prior to departure, it’s half the fun of planning an excursion. A five-hour float can be extended into weeks of mental fishing if you put it off for the better part of a year. In my daydreaming I hadn’t conceived of this outcome. The ratio of hard work to fishing was 10 to 1. After the first couple of miles, planting hook into jaw or even snapping fancy pictures was no longer my priority. We were on a timetable since I had social obligations later that evening. I should have lobbied for an overnight/camping extension, but foolishly left it at a day trip. I began to run the numbers in my head and realized that unless we began to paddle hard we’d never make it in the predicted timeframe. Every fifteen minutes or so I’d attempt to position myself to make a few casts, but rarely was able to hold my position. This afternoon turned into a tough day at the gym, rather than the social occasion that I anticipated. adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_hard_labor_pullquote_01We each paddled at our own pace with every stroke feeling like one step forward and two back. This went on for a couple of hours until my arms and back began to burn with exhaustion. Eventually I decided to wade some of the shallower flats downstream just to switch from an upper to a lower body workout. Determination is written on my face in the selfie above, cheap rental life jacket and all. But the fact of the matter is that we had more pressing concerns than just social obligations. Ominous clouds combined with a wicked lightening storm began to chase us down the river. There was little time to look backwards as we had to bear down and grind it out. The claps of thunder and flashes of lightening proved to be more than a little unnerving. I felt like a child being chased by the boogieman. Occasionally I’d look for a good place to stop and protect ourselves from impending disaster, but the shoreline was largely barren of adequate shelter. This relay would prove to be both a marathon and a sprint as we passed the one mile to go mark. The cruel part of this mad dash was that I nervously began to survey the river for holding lies, simply as a distraction from my dangerous position. We were within sight of our takeout point when it finally dawned on me how good this portion of the river was. Protruding boulders, wadable riffles, and feeding lanes dotted the landscape. We’ll never know what lies beneath as it was passed it over like an awkward eighth grade boy at a junior high dance.

 

 

adrift_fly_fishing_labor_graphic_design_minneapolis_andy_weaverling_hard_labor_11The last five minutes of our saga were spent in a torrential downpour. It was just enough to saturate us to the core. We called the outfitter prior to our arrival and he pulled up almost on cue. The kayaks and gear were loaded up in a record pace and we jumped into the cozy confines of the warm van. The day was chaotic enough that we hadn’t even taken the time to eat. The sandwiches provided by CWO were fantastic. We tore into them like a pack of starved hyenas. For the first time in hours we were able to compare notes and decompress. It dawned on me that I had barely spoken to my compatriots over the course of the day. Each of us had our own cross to bear and there was little time for small talk. My inital reaction was, “holy shit what just happened?” It was not nearly as enjoyable as I’d hoped. Despite the pain and anguish I salvaged a haul of 9 or 10 average-sized Smallies and a midget hammer handle, but it was a blood from a turnip situation. My buddies weren’t so lucky as neither even sniffed a bite.

Life is like a box of chocolates…  But seriously, one of things that I cherish in life is unpredictability. I guess you could say that I’m drawn to the unknown. I like not knowing exactly how or where I’m going to spend the next few hours. This principle is regularly put to good use when I wander the countryside. Perhaps I got more than I bargained for with this one. It’s easy for me to just report the success stories and good times, but this is the type of day that really sticks in your craw. Maybe it’s karmic payback for some wrongdoing? The good news is that pendulum never stops swinging. Keep that smile on your face y’all, ’cause you never know when you’ll be sentenced to hard labor.

 

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