I woke up this morning at 5am with a little extra bounce in my stride. That is, while still nestled warmly beneath a mound of blankets. This past week was pretty rough on my emotions, feeling small and pretty much worthless. I chalked that up to added stressors of the coming winter. I had to push myself to get up, get moving and move forward. Moving forward and getting over the cruddy mindset was the easy part. Just beyond the veil of a warm and comfortable bed was the impending doom of cold.
I hear it a lot as a guide, “I came to New Mexico to warm up a little.” Or, “I thought it was going to be warm.” Both of these things said as a jacket goes over their shoulders in mid June. The common perception of New Mexico is we are in the desert, it is warm. To some degree, they are correct. From 2-3pm it is generally warm, so long as the sun is shining. During the fall, it could go any direction. Last year, there was a day that started at 17 degrees in the morning and the mercury smashed 70 degrees by the afternoon. Count yourself lucky to have humidity.
Last night, Matt Pelletier sent a video of the time we chased grass carp. Well, seeing yourself hooked up into a fish is unreal. It keys your memory into what it feels like, and you itch down deep to feel it again. The true sign of an addict. With that thought, I sprang from bed. When you get in the pool, you don’t put your toes in first.
Feeling motivated inside did not prepare me for what awaited just beyond the door. The sun had yet to rise, and the cold wind hit me like a semi. To add insult to injury, I had to walk the entire quarter of a mile to the lake. Confidence was pouring from me like the fountain of youth, I was paying my dues.
I have yet to completely acclimate to the fall. After I reached my destination, the cold began to sink in and I had forgotten gloves. No matter, still paying dues and shivering, lots of shivering. For the first twenty minutes, I swore that if I could keep my stripping hand out of my pockets, I would catch a fish. The icy line froze my hands and began to creep up to my elbows. It slowed reflexes that were on high alert from caffeine. If a fish took the fly, I wondered if I could even set. In my head, I figured if a fish rolled on my fly beyond twenty feet, I’m good. A hard strip set would get the job done. However, my fly lingered five feet from my toes which were, strangely enough, warm. When, from the left, a darting shadow appeared in musky form. It was a bad time. My muscles were not going to react in time to sweep the rod into a hook set (you can’t strip set when the end of your fly line is at the tip of your rod). The fear alone, the startling jolt, forced me to set the hook. It worked by nothing short of a miracle. In the very tip of his lower jaw, from the outside in, my hook had found home.
The water and fish were practically liquid nitrogen, but felt warm when compared to the now 25 degree air. After his release, my hands were covered in slime and I was able to make two casts before my fingers started to turn purple. I was done, I had paid my dues. That half hour and half mile hike seemed like an eternity, slowed significantly by the air itself.
Lesson #22: Buy new gloves. You have to wear them before they start working.