This was our ambition: to be small and clear and free. – John Ashbery
It happens, unwilled and unbidden and by many who are close to me unwanted, around this time of year, every year. Deep in the mind far back a latch breaks, and the snapping sound wakens something irrepressible that had been asleep, storing itself in a state between hibernating and germinating: the urge not only to fish but to fish far and wide, indiscriminately if necessary, excessively if possible.
It’s a bright yearning trending toward necessity: to patch tents, stash food, cram car crevices with the armaments of survival and move into that mystical space–part real, part imagined–from which all the rest of the year’s dreams, desires and directions are born. This space welcomes new methods of navigation, presents opportunities to put into practice the Michigan poet’s dictum (or a variation of it, anyways): to learn by fishing where I need to fish. And so starting soon I’ll commence to doing just that, for two months maintaining a fish-and-go life where I’m guided not by gps or starcharts but by the gliding constellations of evening riseforms, among other things.
But that hour of piscatorial reckoning is still two yawning, gaping weeks away. To sate my ebbing hunger until then I stuff myself full of dreams. Dreams of wildness, remoteness, loneliness, and danger. White-pine scented dreams latticed by bugs and leavened by stars. Dreams of water, so much water.
I dream of Northern Wisconsin’s boulder-toothed brawlers, alternately flat and hysterical smallmouth streams cleaving remote, roadless forests where secret farmers plant the meadows with dope, and a reckonable percentage of the Midwest’s mountain lions skulk through the lushness.
I dream of the Driftless, my trout-fishing Harvard and Yale, not necessarily wild but remote and beautifully lonely as few other places can be, a place whose size and secrets seem the greater for the impossibility of fully comprehending the land in map or mind. Everything—thoughts and water and roads—must follow the coulees, and the coulees must follow the whims and weaknesses of the unglaciated earth, the humping hills and permadark valleys where several seasons can exist at once, winter and spring, summer and fall.
I dream of Northern Michigan, of a riverside meadow where an almost endless two-track bleeds out into a sandy delta. The river there sounds like a melting piano, and there is no better way to wait out a spinner fall of Hendricksons than sniffing on white pine and listening to the riffles riff.
Two more weeks. Plenty of time for this cold earth to warm up just a touch. Plenty of time for filling a few fly boxes. Plenty of time for any dream that needs dreaming.