We have all heard of the phrase “Call of The Wild” but what does this phrase mean to you. For me it’s being drawn to the unknown. The adventure and pursuit for something bigger than myself.
As a California kid, I found myself searching for the call of the wild in an array of different places. From the urban suburbs, big city metropolis, to the creeks, streams, and rivers of the sierras.
As I’ve now settled down quite far from home in the small towns and big country living of sunny South Carolina. I feel the same calling I did as a young boy scampering up the granite slabs of Yosemite and catching native golden trout on small dries out of alpine meadows.
I’ve traded the lavender colored alpine meadows for dense laurel lined mountain streams and rivers. Appalachian chain mountains and pikes like something you’d find in a Steven Spielberg movie or a J.R.R. Tolkien novel. Small babbling creeks cutting through the hill side filled with native brook trout eager to attack a small dry. Rivers cascading down the mountain into glassy pebble pools with aggressive wild browns waiting for the next ambush.
I find myself scouring google earth and topo maps like a crazed teenager pining over there first love. Scouring old 1950s and 60s books for old flies that have died with the times of big streamers and over engineered nymphs. Like my granddad would say if it’s not broke don’t fix it. Half asleep draped over my vise after working or guiding nonstop all week just to trick a fish with the brain the size of a peanut.
I’ve set my alarm 5 times. I have been plaining on checking this small creek out for weeks it’s the only thing on my mind. The alarm goes off I drag myself out of bed, and spray some water on my face. Grab my rods and gear and head to the car.
In my sleepless haze, I crank up the stereo blaring some Jefferson Airplane to get my mind right. Driving down forestry roads, headlights darting threw the dusty air.
I arrive at what I believe is the area that I scouted out on the small paper sized topo maps in my bedroom. I shut the car off and start to gear up. The morning is crisp the sun has yet to rise and you can see the stars belted together in the sky. I throw my head lamp on and it’s time to start bush whacking.
Every few steps I’m getting stuck on limbs and brush but I push on. The sun is now starting to come up and I can finally grasp my bearing. I take a seat for a minute and have a sip of coffee and look over the map I’ve looked at 100 times before.
By hour two of bush whacking and hiking there is a change in my terrain. The overgrowth opens a little to unearth a creek cutting through the mountain. I take a minute to gather myself and collect my gear.
As I’m tying on that first fly I continue to observe my surroundings. The birds chirping, the small creamy midges and bwo dancing off the water. The smell of the plants dance in my nose.
I drag some line off my reel and position myself for that first cast. The line shoots out the rod and lays my dry on the surface of the water. My whole body bracing and waiting for the first fish of the day.
It’s been a few casts later with no success. I cast my line again, this time draping it over a small log so I can dance the dry right off into the sweet spot. I go to slap a bug from my ear, and I catch a glimpse more like a flash and the sound of water splashing and I raise my rod just slightly to set the hook.
I’ve hooked up, every muscle and bone in my body starts tingling my senses heighten. I fumble with my net like a set of janitor keys my hearts racing. I drop the net to the water and I guide the fish to the net.
That’s when I drop to my knees and let out a primal scream. All the work all the time spent was worth it. I wet my hands and go in to claim my prize. In that moment, I couldn’t care more if it was a brook trout or a rainbow or brown, I was just happy to be one with the wild.
We all search for the call in many different ways. You could be scouring the flats for tailing reds. Hiking with your animal friend up to the peak of the mountain. Or conquering a boulder or climbing problem you’ve been working on for years. Find your wild side and make your howling call, you just might get one back.
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