Thursday, May 3, 2012

I do attend College

There are many times, like when I am fly fishing, where I actually forget that I am a college student. Sadly, sometimes school takes over. With the high water flows of the nearby Clark Fork, Bitterroot and Blackfoot, it's been tough to fish anywhere but the Mo for the past few weeks.

We are also rapidly approaching the most dreaded week in college... Finals week. Luckily for me (or unluckily for me), I have had three finals this week including two Lab finals (Organic Chem and Biology) which were composed of an exam and an independent biology study that I have been working on for the past month. I also have an entire Writing101 portfolio to assemble, which brings me to the purpose of this post; I would like to share with you my last essay that I wrote for my writing class. The theme was a Life Place essay. We were supposed to pick a moment in our lives that meant something special to us. Of course, I couldn't help but write about a moment on the water. When I am a college student, I still relate almost everything to fishing.

In this essay I reflect on a moment in 2007 when my dad and I stumbled on the small town of Ennis while fishing the Madison River in Montana. It ended up being one of my most memorable evenings I've ever had on the water. If you've ever fought a nice Madison brownie, you will know the feeling. Call it cheesy writing but it means a lot to me. Enjoy (or don't enjoy). It's up to you...

             Growing up, I was exposed to the outdoors and a variety of outdoor activities. It wasn’t long until I found my calling: Fly Fishing.  Over the years, fly fishing became my obsession. My life revolved entirely around the sport and soon enough I was overtaken by the simple fact that I had to fish. There is no shortage of moments in fly fishing that are, in their own way, perfect. The initial step into a cold stream on a hot summer day, feeling the rocks beneath your feet and the cold seeping, what seems like, to your bones. The moment when you find a big rising trout that is waiting for your fly to be placed nicely in its feeding lane. To watch the fish come to the surface and every so softly, sip your fly as you prepare for the set. Time is lost in these moments, and when everything comes together to make a perfect moment, you then realize the meaning of your existence: To fish.

In 2007, my dad took me to Montana to fish. It was my second time in Montana, for I had been exposed to big sky country when we went to Yellowstone National Park the previous year. I was already in love with the west, especially the fishing, which was all that mattered to me at the time. We had already experienced a great trip, but we decided to head for some new water, specifically, the Madison River. We drove and fished all day and eventually came to a huge valley with a sky that seemed endless, bordered by jagged snow capped peaks. We arrived in a small town called Ennis, easily taking notice to the sign that said “Ennis: Population 660 people, 11 million trout”.

That evening, my dad and I fished the river just below town and experienced some amazing fishing. It wasn’t until the sun was setting when everything came together to make the perfect moment and, though I didn’t realize it then, change my life forever. I was already having an amazing evening of fishing. The trout were actively feeding on the thousands of hatching caddis. As the sun set, I watched as a large trout smacked a caddis downstream of me. I made what seemed like to me an excellent cast and as my fly swung downstream I felt the take of the fish. My rod bent over and line screamed off of my reel. It was by far the nicest fish of the night. The fish continued to rip line off the reel and I was into my backing before I could even pursue the fish. My dad was a few hundred yards upstream and I knew I would be on my own with landing the fish.

I began to wade down in pursuit of the fish, gaining line ever so slowly. The fight seemed like an eternity and I was becoming fatigued as I tried to get to slower moving water. Finally the fish began to tire and I started to get a glimpse at what I had hooked. It was a large brown trout of about 20 inches, the biggest brown of my life at the time. I directed the surprisingly cooperative trout to shallow water and stared in amazement at the beautiful fish. I didn’t have a camera, but I didn’t need one. I unhooked my elk hair caddis from the fish’s upper jaw and gently lifted the fish to bring it out into the current. The energy of the fish flowed through me as I held it under the surface waiting for it shoot off into the depths. Instead of shooting off, the fish slowly slipped through my hands. I watched as it swayed slowly in the current below me, as the sun set behind those jagged peaks of the valley. 

For the first time in my life I felt a sense of belongingness. I had lost all sense of time and space. I was in the place that I wanted to be and doing what I love. It was the perfect night of fly fishing and capped off by the perfect moment.

A few years later I found myself in Montana again, this time looking at colleges to decide my future. I didn’t know it then, but my decision was already made. Of course I still considered schools closer to my family in New York. But in the back of my mind, something pulled at me to go west. It was moments like that night in Ennis, which caused me to feel like I belong out west where I can do what I love, every single day.

By Alec Underwood

Here is a photo from that very evening....

Lookin' Hungry?

The amount of stress I've had in the past week is pretty outrageous. Everyday it lessens though. It looks as though I am headed back to New York for a short two week period. I'm very excited to get back to the family and fish my home waters. Until then I probably wont' be fishing too much. Back to work...

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