Chris and I drove down to the Eleven Point River in southern MO a couple of weeks ago. We both were suffering from a severe and debilitating case of C. feveritis. I'd been down here once before, alone, and was really anxious to show the place off to Chris. The beauty is unique, rare, and unmatched in my travels around the Ozarks of Missouri. He was happily impressed.
In the photo above he's looking up at Turner Spring, something I stumbled on during my first trip (go a few posts back here for some photos and copy about that trip).
There is a danger with the water down on the 11...it's like a Siren. It's always deeper than it looks, it's calmer than it looks, and always stands between you and some amazing-looking stretch of water. We didn't have tubes with us, and we weren't floating it--just wading. It takes two guys to safely wade this river--one to get allured and the other to say, "Hey man, be careful there." It's impossible to be in this water and not get tempted deeper. It's just that good.
The sections we were able to really work through were great, though. We barely caught anything--just two all day--but the experience of being back in water that captivates, surprises and challenges us was enough. I left this river nearly fishless and still happy as a clam. The more time I spend away from water, the more I realize that there is something in my soul that dries out when I'm away from it. I wish I could say I am such a good fisherman that I love catching fish the most, but I'm not. I love the life of a fisherman the most, and that includes having my ass kicked by water that is smarter than I am. Days like this one make me feel as though the trout and water I tangle with are older brothers--they teach me with punches and kicks of "failure" sometimes. At the end of the day though, bruised or not, my "brothers" and I are best friends, just happy to be together in one place again.
The guy I fish most with, Chris, is more of a real brother than I've ever had. We aren't related in a single way--genetics or law, but damn if we aren't related in some more real way. There are friends you can take for granted too easily--those are the closest ones. Chris has the unique ability to make me a better fisherman, better husband, and worse person-in-the-world. He and I are traveling the same road for sure.
Being surrounded by all this makes it impossible not to see the rest of life--jobs, money, houses, cars, politics, etc.--as worthless distractions. I find myself continually asking and searching, "What can I get rid of or avoid that is keeping me from being in the water?" It's funny how definite priorities can clarify life and bring it into submission to simplicity.
All of life rests in focus just above the surface of water like this. I am convinced that fly line, tippets and wet fingers are conductors of that focus.