Thursday, January 10, 2013

"the dark haired maiden"

I had not been feeling well at all! Like many other people I knew over the Holiday season it was filled with runny noses, aches, coughs and other unpleasantries. As much as I hoped the bugs would pass me by, luck was not on my side this time. It came on fast like a speeding train in the night, starting with the fevers and cold chills, the runny nose and then I couldn't hear so well. Dammit my ears were plugged and they started to hurt, especially my right ear. I had this constant thumping in my right ear as I could hear every beat of my own heart due to the pressure in my own ear. The next day when I awoke my wife asked me to take her to Prime care because she had been sick herself and could barely talk. She had the cough and sore throat thing.

So this was my last day of 2012, New Year's Eve! As I pulled into the parking lot it was jam packed. It looked like a school bus had just left with all of the kids walking in through the door. I didn't dare touch anything for fear of catching more cooties from the multitude of germs sure to be covering everything. As we walked up to the door I used my elbow to hit the handicap automatic door opener. Walking into the Prime Care office I could hear the sounds of crying children, the constant sniffling sneezing and coughing you could only expect from an infirmary. The place was packed, standing room only! We wrote our names on the waiting list and waited patiently for eternity...

In a few short hours we left with a handful of prescriptions so we headed off to the Pharmacy to fill them and get some ear drops to help with the pain. We grabbed a couple sodas so we could take our pills as soon as we got back into the car.As soon as we arrived home my wife announced that she was going into a sleep coma and please don't wake her. I was a hot mess myself and the pain in my ear was unbearable. I was fed up with pain, the last two years I have dealt with pain in many forms. I was going to use my very last Vicodin and add a Valium so I could relax enough to sleep.

I decided to check my e-mail and Facebook before the meds kicked in. I checked my notifications and saw a page I liked added a new photo. I clicked on the photo which I noticed had only one comment so I added mine, which was "fish ninja!" because that's what I saw. The meds were making me groggy now, the bed in the spare bedroom is literally 2 feet behind my computer chair. I clicked a few other notifications from friends talking about new year's eve,then went back to the first one to see if there were other comments. I noticed the page admin said " Happiest girl in the world...

I grabbed my fleece blanket and covered myself. As I closed my eyes I could still hear my heartbeat in my right ear, but the pain was almost gone. In just a few brief seconds I could feel the comfort of the darkness overtake me as I drifted into oblivion....

The darkness faded quickly as the sun blinded me shining off of snow everywhere. The snow was so bright it was like crystallized glitter. I squinted my eyes as I patted myself down for my polarized Oakley's. They are my magic fish finders and I always take them when I'm hunting Salmon or Steelhead. I have had them for about 15 years and still wear them despite a small crack in the corner. I was wearing my old winter army jacket and found my familiar glasses in the top right pocket where always kept them. After putting on the glasses the bright glare from the snow became bearable.

I felt somewhat confused because I had no idea where I was. There was some sort of a trail heading on an upward incline. Just in front of me was a large clearing. There was an indistinguishable sound of rushing water, a river was somewhere ahead. I closed my eyes and could hear only the water and the occasional clacking of leave less branches hitting each other from the rush of air on a bitter winter breeze. I love that moment when you feel you might be the only person left alive on the planet, it's just you and nature and the feeling is unlike anything else. Words cannot explain the sensation, but all I can tell you if you have never experienced it is a sense of serenity and oneness with the earth. Each footstep makes you feel connected to her as if she is alive and keeping you safe somehow. With my eyes still closed a smile crept along my face while taking beep breaths of cold air into my lungs. Although my eyes were closed I was looking at myself as if  I were staring into a mirror. I was wearing my waders and my grey gloves with the fingers cut off. My son calls them my hobo gloves. Atop my head was my signature Under Armor hat and black earmuffs. My spey rod was broken down into two pieces leaning against a tree next to me.

As my eyes opened my hand drifted towards my spey rod. It was the deep metallic green Sage that was given to me as a gift by a dear friend. I could never justify spending that kind of cash on fish gear while I struggled with bills and had kids to take care of. It was a grand gift indeed! I was looking for my net and couldn't seem to find it. Shit! I always seem to forget something. I hope I could find a nice place to beach a fish if I was lucky enough to get into them. I looked through my pockets and found a fly box loaded with articulated bunny leech patterns with tons of tinsels and lead eyes. I had my nippers, hemos and camera. I was missing something else....I checked my left top pocket and found my leader wallet with my weighted tips and a small spool of 15lb maxima. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I had the bare essentials, but that was going to be good enough.

The crunch of snow filled my ears while walking to the ridge line of the hill and immediately noticed the down slop was much steeper. The short walk in the cold air made my chest tighten and breathing became difficult. If precautions are not taken the cold air triggers my asthma. Instinctively my hand drifted towards the pocket where my inhaler normally. It wasn't there! Neither were my keys or iPhone! How did I get here and where the hell was it that I was. I wondered what time it was, damn I didn't have my iPhone either. I'm never this forgetful...

Forcing myself to breath slower and deeper helped me relax . There was a roaring in my ears as the river called to me again.  There she was in all her majesty, I saw a large sparkling clear river strewn with large boulders and gravelly banks. Pine trees white with snow were mixed with leafless trees along her winding shores. Standing above a large bend in the river. I stood for several minutes staring into the deep clear water directly below me as I noticed several torpedo shapes holding behind a partially submerged pine tree. Smart bastards!!! Any cast in there would be sure to foul up in the branches. Best to move on!
Anything Can Happen
When I turned to look downstream it was then I noticed I wasn't alone. The sun was brightly shining on the river and it was hard to make out any great detail from this distance. I could see a  lone figure with a wild mane of black hair in a deep blue jacket and waders standing almost waist deep in the rushing currents casting a spey rod. The soft breeze was in my face and I could hear a distinct female voice singing. The song sounded familiar and I realized it was a song I had downloaded for my daughter recently. The song was 'Anything Could Happen' by Ellie Goulding. Funny song to be in a dream where I realized I was dreaming from the moment I saw myself.
The dark haired maiden...
I decided to watch the singing woman because I am a little embarrassed by my lack of fly fishing ability, especially when handling a spey rod. Maybe by watching her I could learn something. I could see the water spray up as she loaded the rod then slung her rod forward. The tight loop made it almost to the opposite bank. I watcher her make several T snap casts with ease and precision moving slightly farther away with each cast. She held her rod almost parallel to the water following the path of the fly. She stripped the line in took another step forward and cast again, just as wondrous as the first I watched. I felt a small degree if jealousy as I watched her. She surely knew what she was doing and I really wished I could do that well someday. Then I heard a loud "WOOHOO" and I watched her lift her rod as it bent into a large C. I could see a large steelhead jumping several times while heading downstream. She put the butt of the rod into her hip and worked the fish back towards the bank several times.  I could hear a dog barking and I saw a large brown beast running towards her along the shoreline. She kept walking backwards towards the gravel bank behind her as the fish lost more and more ground. As she reeled the thrashing steelhead in closer to the shore the dog became more excited, wagging his tail furiously and barking several times as she finally beached the fish. The dog walked up and sniffed the fish as she was trying to dislodge the hook from it's jaw. She patted the dog on the head several times and he seemed to relax as he gave him some attention. The fish was resting in the shallow water after it's valiant fight. She took of her gloves then gently handled the steelhead as she maneuvered it into deeper water holding it in the current until it had recovered from the fight. It slowly swam away back into the darker water. This was someone who was in complete command of her abilities with little care for the elements. The wind or cold never seemed to faze her and she almost seemed in control of her surrounding, using them to her advantage.

She walked back to the bank where her canine companion patiently waited for her. She pet him for a few minutes and turned to sit down on the ground along the bank of the river on a fallen tree trunk. I couldn't make out any features except her long black tresses. She wore sunglasses and a buff covered her face to protect it from the cold. She grabbed a thermos that may have had some hot liquid in it or something to warm the belly. It was then that she looked in my direction. I felt that uncomfortable feeling you get when someone notices you watching them. I could not gauge her reaction because her face was covered and it was too far away anyhow. With her free hand she waved to me in greeting. I decided to walk down hill and cross to ask her where I was.

I walked about fifty yards down stream until I reached the bank of the river. The water was gin clear and it was shallow here. Easy crossing! I looked to the far bank searching for the mysterious woman. She was standing now with her dog at her side still wagging his tail. 

I yelled across the river "Mind if I cross here?"

She yelled back "Not at all!" waving me across.

The river here was shallow and the gravel was easy to see all the way across. The water was freezing cold, but still warmer than the air as the hazy steam made the surroundings seem surreal As I neared her I took off the glove on my right hand and offered it to her. There are many things you can tell about a person by a hand shake. She pulled her hand from being stuffed into the top of her waders then took my hand. I immediately noticed and it was still cold from having it in the water when she released her catch. Her grip was firm yet delicate and I noticed her nails were long and polished the same color as her blue Patagonia jacket. 

I offered my name as we shook hands briefly "Hi, my name is Mike. You seem familiar, do we know each other?"

Her reply was "Nice to meet you Mike, mine is April! you might have before, but you surely do know now. I'm the happiest girl in the world!"

I thought that seemed to make sense when I felt a nudge on my thigh and noticed her furry companion had nudged me. I let him sniff the back of my hand before petting him behind the ears. He seemed to really like that so I took a knee and gave him some more attention by rubbing the sides of his face in a sort of doggy facial. He responded by a big wet slurp on my cheek which caused me to laugh.

She said " He likes you! He is a good judge of character."

I asked "What's his name?"

"Collby" was her response.

I said back "This may seem odd, but do you know where I am? I seem to be lost and without my phone."

Her glasses were gone and she looked back at me with dark brown eyes and long lashes. I like to make eye contact when I talk to people. Honest folk are not afraid to look you in the eye when they speak. So, I took off my own glasses and put them on my hat.

She replied to my question "You are wherever you want to be, this is my home! How long were you watching me?"

Her question made me feel like I was spying on her. I answered "just for a few minutes. I was watching you cast and then you landed that nice steelhead. I am not very good with this" as I held up my rod "I was just hoping to learn something from you by watching, sorry I didn't mean to intrude."

She had pulled her buff down around her neck and she had a familiar face, I couldn't place it though. She was was smiling and it was one of those smiles that light up a persons whole face. In my own opinion I found her to be attractive. She had a great smile with straight teeth and beautiful dark eyes. The rest of her face was proportionate. I also noticed some freckles on her nose, barely noticeable. Her smile was comforting so I smiled back as we looked at each other in a few moments of silence as I tried to place where I may know her from. Still nothing. Maybe it was her singing? She held a tune and had a good sound to her voice, cheerful and happy. Her voice still sounded melodic when she wasn't singing as well, there was a nice tone to it that seemed familiar as well.

She broke the silence by asking me "How about you let me see you cast and maybe I can help you out, I have done this for a long while now."

I laughed at the futility of it, I was going to be embarrassed no matter what it seemed. I assembled my rod to it's full 13'6" pulled my line through the guides then reached into my pocket for my fly box and tied a black and red articulated bunny leech. I started to walk out into the current up to my thighs stripping out my line until my running line was just a few inches past the tip of my rod. I stripped  some line back in trying to remember the process of the snap T cast. Lift, Snap, Sweep, Deliver. It sounds easier said than done and to me it is. I went over the cast in my mind several times the lifted the line off the water then threw if forward upstream. once the line was down I started to lift the rod again ripping the line off the water, loading the rod. When the rip stopped I applied the the power on the forward delivery. Everything seemed to go well until the end and my cast when about halfway out. I let my fly drift anyways then stripped it back in. It was a frustrating, but expected start. I had hoped to practice more and more, but being sick can cut into fishing time.

I tried to cast a second time with the results nearly the same as the first cast if not worse. By the time I stripped the line back in I felt a gentle touch on my shoulder and turned to see April. 

She smiled at me and said "You're trying to muscle it. Let the rod do the work for you. Your mechanics aren't horrible, but you just need practice." The way she said it reminded me of the scene in the Matrix when Morpheus and Neo fought in the imaginary dojo. She held out her hand and asked " May I?" I handed over my rod to her and she told me to just watch as she makes a few casts. She didn't say anything while she made a cast with my rod that put mine to shame. She then said "I will go slower try to watch closely." Each cast was executed beautifully. Maybe if I spent years on the river I could do this. After the third cast she turned around and smiled at me again, she really did have a genuinely nice smile.

I smiled back and said "I see I need quite a bit of practice. I have all day to work on it though."

"Would you like to go on an adventure?" She asked me, with that smile still on her face. I really wasn't quite sure what to say when she added "My boat is up around the corner, we could ride down and I can show you a few things."

I really did need a LOT of work on my casting and I had never even been in a drift boat. Fishing alone was better than not fishing at all, but when you have a someone else with you it is often better in a way because the experience is shared. I responded "Yeah, would really be nice of you."

Somehow my answer seemed to energize her as she moved quickly towards the shore than started to run upriver to get her boat. Her dog shared her excitement and bound after her as well. I walked to the bank and sat on the moss covered log she was sitting at a few minutes before and patiently waited while taking my surroundings just listening to the sound of the river. Then I heard the song bird singing the 'Just around the Riverbend' from the movie Pocahontas. I gave her a quizzical look as she she sang the chorus as the hull of her boats ground along the gravel shore. 

"Great song" I said as she jumped from the boat to gather her gear, "but I like 'Colors of the Wind' better."

She spun around with her rod in hand and said "Oh!, I know that one too!" As she started to sing loudly spinning around as if she were Pocahontas herself. When she abruptly finished, she bowed as if she was a stage performer.
 Not only did I clap for her, I said in a deep voice "Bravo!, Bravo!"

We both laughed out loud as she got behind the oars and I sat in the fore seat so I could over look the water and watch her at the same time.

Note: I would like to interject here by stating that I was quite aware that I was having a lucid dream, which the dreamer can change details which up until this point I have not changed anything except to add detail to the story.

As she rowed us downstream for awhile we sat in silence and observed the beauty of this natural river around us. The day was perfect and the fine company made the chill in the air seem not quite so cold. I could still feel a dull ache in my ear as we came around a horseshoe bend with a hole, deep and black. She rowed us left towards a sandy beach and ran the boat aground. Dropping the anchor for good measure.

"We will leave the boat here and walk upstream a bit, this is an excellent spot to land a fish if you get a big one" she said as we were exiting the boat. She stared at the water vigilantly scanning the surface for any rises or ripples.
We fished for almost a half hour and she gave me tips from time to time. She showed me when to stop the rip at the best spot which is where I seemed to have the most difficulty and my casts did slowly improve. She told me a spot to cast because she saw a swirl in the current and swore there was a fish down there somewhere. I cast in the exact spot she pointed to, my best cast by far of the day. I could see the bend in the river where her boat was parked and we left Colby sleeping to keep guard although we never saw another soul when I felt a gentle tug as my fly swung just out of the edge of the current. I relaxed my finger ever so slightly on the rod that held the loop of line before my reel and then my drag started to go out. I waited for just another second or two before gently lifting my rod skyward as it bent and bobbed as the steelhead was hood and it thrashed its head from side to side. I felt my adrenaline rush through me as my drag started to scream bloody murder. April was yelling to me to work it towards the hole as the large steelhead made three consecutive acrobatic cartwheels through the air as it swam farther away. The cold I had felt working into me from the frigid water was washed away from the excitement of the ensuing battle. 

By the time I reached the bend with the sandy beach I had started to gain some line on the beast as I was no longer into my backing. April and Colby were ready with me on shore to help me land the fish. April did not have a net neither and I almost hoped she had one as this was surely my biggest steelhead. I started to gain the upper hand. Each run was just a bit short, there were less jumps and each one took a significant amount of energy out of this amazing fish. Finally I was able to keep the fish in the slower and clear water of the pool. This steelhead was an amazing specimen of it's species. Finally I turned the fish towards the beach and it almost swam itself onto the shallow water were it sat still it's mouth opening and closing, gasping for breath in the shallow water. This fish had been in the water for a few months, it's gill plate and flank were vibrant pink. It was a male with the obvious kipe on the bottom jaw.

Me and April stood and stared at this monster steelhead. I asked "how much do you think it weighs?"

April replied "25 pounds easily, probably more?" then she walked towards the fish with hemostats in her hand to dislodge the hook from its upper jaw. She knelt down next to the fish and gently removed the hook. She then told me "Get you camera out."
 I asked her to hold it up I wanted a picture of her with the fish as well, I took 4 or 5 quick photos with my little Sony cybersot. We switched places and she took maybe a half dozen pictures of the fish. I was sure to handle the fish gently and held it in a slow current between photos. I could fish the fish starting to revive as I let go of it . It swam just a few feet ahead of me and held there in the water as it rested.

I turned to the bank exhausted, my right arm and shoulder burning from the long fight. 

April asked me "getting hungry yet?

I just nodded in response. I looked back to where the fish had held in the water and noticed it was gone. It must have drifted into the deep pool to regain its strength.
The battleground for the future starts here!

We ate some sandwiches and fresh fruit on the bank and talked like we were old friends. We talked about past adventures and the great fish we had caught. She had some amazing stories as she had traveled to distant locations to catch fish all over the world. We talked about our passions for the fisheries and wildlife. We both hated the corporate greed of companies willing to destroy precious waterways just to make their pockets fatter. We talked about the Bristol Bay issue and how it was something that should never happen. Then we discussed Enbridge and how they had polluted waters in my state and their continued neglect is unforgivable. We talked about her company and her success, she was a blog writer and wrote for several magazines as well. She did charity work and all the while she was able to do what she loved, to fish!
The Kalamazoo River in Michigan where Enbridge spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil

I was jealous of her, but I felt a great deal of respect for her as well. She was personable and kind, one of those people that are easy to like...

She looked to the darkening sky and said "We should get going if we want to make the launch by dark."

I grabbed my gear and put it in the boat. Colby was fast asleep. I took my seat again and she pushed to boat into the slow current before taking the oars. with her rowing and the current we reached the launch in no time. I saw a couple Shelties running around by the launch before I realized they were mine. Cody and Kirrah started wagging their tails and barking as soon as they saw me. They were always so excited to see me. Colby woke up and barked back a few times.
Amy with Kirrah(left) and Cody(right)
I saw my wife waiting on the shore and was worried I would have to explain myself. She was walking to the shore as April oared us in by the launch that was just out of the current. 

Amy, my wife, said "you really had me worried this time. I took a nap and when I woke up you were gone. Don't scare me like that again you big dummy!" (That's a term of endearment she uses for me)

I introduced Amy to April. then April responded by introducing herself to Amy and all was well. Cody and Kirrah were running around with Colby who was much larger all were in a happy mood barking and playing in the snow. Amy hugged April and thanked her for returning me safely and then I hugged April and thanked her for a wonderful adventure.
April with her warm smile wishing us safe travels as we were about to leave

I woke to hear Cody barking at me to wake up, it was time for his dinner. The dream was fading fast so I grabbed my pen and wrote as fast as I could any little detail and had a good 6 pages of notes causing me to think about writing this piece. Of course I couldn't remember everything so I added details to fill in the holes and a touch of my own personal observations. I very rarely dream of people I know or recognize and when I do they are usually the really odd ones. April along with Jason Tucker of Fontinalis Rising (will be doing an interview with him next) are greatly responsible for my blog and resurgence in fishing. I am an avid reader of both of their well written blogs as well as some YouTube videos and Podcasts by April. The communications I have had with both of them have been a good experience hence my fondness for them both. 

Links to both Flygal and Flies4Fins are in the right border as well as a link to Fontinalis Rising.


  1. what a journey~ vivid, lucid and surreal all rolled into one major dream enchilada. Great work putting it all down and sharing with the rest of us Mike! Tight Lines,

    1. It was a great dream, one of my best :) Thanks Koz for reading.

      Mike Nedza

  2. Hey Mike, I gotta get me some of those flu meds you took. Sounds like good stuff! :)

    1. Those were not my flu meds. Unfortunately I have some pain issues and sometimes sleeping issues. You should hear about my dreams when I take NyQuil!! Just plain weird!!! Thanks for reading!

      Mike Nedza

  3. Lucid dreams are natures finest forms of intoxication. Thank you. My flu only gives me a day off work that I can't spend fishing. I had a lucid dream once where I was sitting in a bar in downtown Grand Rapids and a wise man suggested I put the spinning gear down and try fly fishing. Or was it real? Koz?

    1. Matt, Thanks for doing a proof read and offering some editorial advice. Sometimes when you get excited about a project you write and write then miss something! We have to get on the water soon! May the fishing Gods always bless your every cast my friend :)

      Mike Nedza

  4. Well, your dream turned out a lot better than I thought it was going to. I was afraid the beautiful maiden would turn out to be the angel coming to retrieve you from a near death experience! I love reading about your fishing experiences-real, imagined, or otherwise!

    1. Terri, What can I say, without you I do not think I would have been encouraged to write. Your perseverance and dedication have inspired me to not only write, but to explore different ideas. I WILL finish my book one day!!! Thanks for being such a true friend! <3

      Mike Nedza

  5. Keep up the great posts.I will be looking for your next post.Thanks

    1. Dean, Glad you enjoyed this and for always asking me when my next post is coming. Thanks for being and for sharing you passion for our fishery!

      Mike Nedza

  6. Bravo! Bravo! A wonderful piece! I just may have to sing for you in person when I see you next!

    1. April, Thank you for letting me borrow a few pictures and for being on board with this post. It was unexpected and very exciting to write. I enjoyed our correspondence during the project although you are very busy. It is greatly appreciated!!! Any ideas on what song you would sing? :)

      Mike Nedza