Tag Archives: hail Mary

The Burning Cold

Beyond the window sill, stained dark from condensed water, lies a world picturesque and seemingly frozen by the chill of the winter air. Perched atop a stool, aswoon for the thought of a pleasurably warm fishing day, I spun cord to steel. Although thoughts of thawing ice stood toe-to-toe with wetting a line on the coldest days, my thoughts were directed to the future. Looking back through my personal patterns, the future is where my sights are usually set. It is always the next change of season. No matter the time of year, if you ask, I will tell you the same thing. “Oh, I can’t wait for winter” or “The best fishing is in the fall” or “The summer season kicks ass!” Even though I am looking forward to the next season, I will tell you that spring is by far the most exciting and most difficult to anticipate. To quell my thoughts of spring, I figure now would be a great time to follow through with the thoughts I had during the fall, to fish the winter. My timing of weather patterns was off. Way off.

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Driving north out of New Mexico was as it usually is this time of year, cold and pretty miserable. The San Luis valley is by far the coldest area in the southwest, and close to the coldest in the lower 48. I know this valley well, for the past five years my journeys have skirted this valley and it has served as access to my favorite fishing destinations. I continued on, not thinking anything was out of place as the temperature varied about thirty degrees from hilltop to valley. The sun was out and that was good enough for me. Unbeknownst to me, a monster was working it’s way south that promised an icy temperature drop. Like fog, humans piled themselves into valleys and scurried about searching for gifts to present to loving families. I decided to pay a visit to some very good friends. The only gift I had to give was the gift of gab (aka “Shut me up before I overstay my welcome”). As I completed my final goodbye, I heard news of the coming storm. “Extremely cold with a little snow. Be safe out there.” I had to push south before the road conditions decided to get out of hand. My stomach growled as I passed through Colorado Springs and I figured it was time to find a rest area, eat some ramen noodles, and slip into sleep as snow began to accumulate on the highway.

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I was twenty miles from my destination and as short as it seems, twenty miles can quickly turn into an eternity with icy roads and fishing on the brain. In the morning, my eyes peeled open, they were out of focus and white covered everything. I thought the worst and as I slowly regained consciousness, I realized that my jeep had been idling for the past four hours. It was warm and the blurry white turned out to be only a couple of inches of snow. Alas! I could travel! The cold wasn’t an element for me to think about just yet. My mind was solely focused on fishing and driving. At least it looked warm enough. I pulled into my favorite little parking spot and sighed. “Finally.”

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I knew it was cold, after all, there was snow on the ground. Regardless, I stepped out to retrieve my waders from the back of the truck. It only took seconds before the cold seeped in through my jacket quickly enough for me to let out a “holy crap” and scurry back into the jeep. I sat there with my waders in the floorboards. With my hands on the steering wheel, I convinced myself it wasn’t that cold so long as I did not look at the thermometer on the dash. Curiosity killed the cat and it was 14. Fourteen! I have fished the Taylor in early February, the Pan in late December, the Blue in January, I know this game. By noon it would be 30 and everything would be fine. I’m fine with the cold, but here, it isn’t supposed to be this cold. I briskly hiked to my favorite spot and fog rolled off of the water, it was warm and loaded with actively feeding fish. Standing in the water to stay warm, my facial hair began to freeze with aid from my breath. The snow rolled in and as impossible as it sounds, it became colder than anticipated. It was time to eat something warm and warm myself in the process. The thermometer now read 15. It was noon. When my fingertips came to temperature, they started to itch, a sure sign of frostbite. I am rarely ever done until the day itself is. Returning back to the water, my thoughts drifted back into spring.

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Thinking about spring didn’t keep me warm. Inward, the coming year had a warming sensation. A warming of the heart. The future is always at hand. Like the cold, the fear is nearly crippling. As much as I would hate to admit it, the anticipation of spring scares me as much as publishing this. The fear of rejection in both cases makes it difficult to move forward, yet excitement of the anticipated end product pushes me to keep going. The burning sensation wasn’t just the cold air and frostbitten fingertips, it was the warming feeling of the coming future.

P.S. Here are some more pictures from the trip!

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Death Between Lives

The thermometer in my car read -3 degrees. The snow fell relentlessly as I curled up in my driver seat, praying that my heater would miraculously spring back to life to warm bones that reflected the outside temperature. I shivered knowing that I shouldn’t, my body had no sugars to process for heat. Hours ago, the sun had already made its way over the pass with ease. Something that, in the moment preceding hypothermia, my car and I envied. If I could just make it over the pass and get moving, heat would slowly pour through the vents and save my life. That was only a wish. I covered myself with a slew of winter gear and waited for the sun to make its way over the pass yet again to warm not only the road, but my slowly fading body heat.Vailsnow1

Years ago, while running a guitar shop in Las Cruces, a very warm day brought on a cold revelation. Sitting outside I watched a truck barreling down the road driving at a speed around 70mph in a 35mph zone. Before I could contemplate what a terrible and careless driver this man was, I heard something that sounded like an explosion. I ran to the sound and aid of someone that I had never known. When I had arrived, it was too late and the speeding driver opened his door to find the man who I never knew lying in his own back seat, passing into another world. The man was probably on his way somewhere, never thinking the place he was headed would no longer involve a car. The driver sat on a curb waiting for judgement to be passed upon him as well. I turned and walked away after a short statement. It was in that moment I realized no matter how safe you think you are, your card can be pulled in an instant at any given time.Pansnow1

The thermometer read -12 and inside my car was not much warmer. I rubbed my hands together to generate heat for my slowly numbing fingertips. Out of nowhere, I felt an audible chuckle become an uproar of laughter. The movement helped and the laugh originated from the thought of the previous day. The thought of laughter with my friend on the Frying Pan River and my freezing fingertips that day. In fact, the whole trip and the reason I was stranded here in the snow was due to wanting to test a new fly on a river filled with extremely picky fish. John suggested that we fish the Colorado that morning because he had left his waders in another state, in another car. I somehow talked him into fishing the Pan without the use of waders. While we stood on the banks of the river, fish flew out of the water and we cursed each fish for the taunting. It took a while for us to get into the swing of the river again. For John, it had been three months since he wet his line. For me, I had been fishing the Arkansas tailwater too much. As we changed flies, we picked up the occasional fish, but nothing seemed to work until John switched to a dry, and I to a streamer. The two dumbest flies we could have ever chosen. A “Chewbacca Bugger” and a Parachute Adams were our flies of choice and neither of us expected what was about to happen. Laughter exploded from the walls of the canyon as we began catching fish that we never thought we would catch on flies we never thought would work, on a snowy February afternoon.IMGP0542

That night, John and I ate dinner joking about the waitress the evening before and “Seasoned Fries” that were ordinary fries coated in black pepper.When John asked, she called them “Regular Seasoned Fries” and our confusion as to whether or not they were seasoned or regular was quelled. The food packed my stomach full. As John and I departed, I sat in my car. The last thing I wanted was to drive home in the snow. I threw on my winter gear and drove away unknowingly into a storm. By the time I had pulled out of Glenwood Canyon, I was already worried and running low on gasoline as well as funds in my bank account. The snow began to collect on the road and my car slid aimlessly down the highway, in chaotic control with a white-knuckled driver behind the wheel. Through the town of Eagle, the snow began worsen. My foggy headlights barely piercing the veil of white that fell before me. Vail pass was next, but before I reached the city of Vail, my car nearly spun out of control. Driving time was over and the only thing possible for me to do was wait in a Safeway (ironic, right?) parking lot. As the hours ticked away and my body temperature dropped, the thought of the previous day eventually put me to sleep.fryingpan1

4:00am -17 degrees… I woke up from the cold with a gasp and subsequent cough. Unable to feel my lips and finding it difficult to move, I got out of my car and walked a lap. With feeling once again in my extremities, I had to move. I had to drive. Leaving the Safeway parking lot was difficult, knowing that I might be stranded on the side of the road rather than a parking lot where I could call for help. Even the snow on the road made it tough. With only a couple of hours of sleep, I found myself spinning my tires up the onramp. Inching closer and closer to my destination, I rocked back and forth trying to push my car up the hill. Movement meant heat. As my car skittered onto the icy highway, I heard a familiar sound. A sound I had not heard in over a month. My heater had kicked on! I turned all of the dials to the hottest possible settings. Slowly, the cab warmed to a temperature capable of baking bread. I basked in its heat and breathed a sigh of relief. It was not my time… yet. With a little bit of determination and a lot of luck, I made it over the pass and down into the town of Silverthorne. At 5am, I knew of a place to sleep until it was warm enough to fish. I did just that.IMGP0554oldbuddy2

This new day was never supposed to happen. I should have been dead, or at the very least, at work. This day was a new one, the day after I didn’t die. As I cleaned my waders, I thought about the man I had never known. I wondered if he had passed on a day that he truly enjoyed, that was full of love and fulfillment. While fishing that day, I asked the same to myself. The answer was a resounding, “No”. My love is the river, and my heart belongs there, I was born to die on it. With the fresh thought of death in my mind, I realized that the only value of life is to find your fulfillment. The only way to accomplish fulfillment is to chase your dreams. The following day at work, I wrote a letter of resignation.IMGP0548


Formal Introductions

I hate writing, there is so much I have to learn. Does a semi-colon go here? Is semi-colon hyphenated? Did I spell hyphen correctly? Is hyphenated a word!? Do not ask me what I think a preposition is. If you have ever fished with me, you know how I feel about rules. You know, matching hatches and whatnot. I feel the same about writing. With that being said, there is something about writing. It is not a passion, it is not a love nor vanity, you are just drawn to it. Sometimes it feels like you have to. With that feeling, I think the next phase of writing in my life has begun. Focus. Great writers have something that you just can not explain. I am not saying that I am, I have a very long way to go and picking up a third grade english book would be a great start. No matter the skill of writing (I think I was supposed to capitalize “English”), writing is about telling a story and conveying that story in such a manner that it is gripping. My family and others know me for being the most anti-climactic storyteller alive. It is true, and embarrassing. I can not end a story with power unless I am writing. Even then, I read the draft and think, “Wow, this sucks.”

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Prepare your brain to change pace, I hope the picture helped. Habits are hard to break. When you finally notice that you are developing a habit it is too late. Commas are my Achilles Heal as well as boulders that I can sit on in the river. Who would think that commas could be a habit?  Recently, I realized that there is a certain rock on the Arkansas that I sit and think on. Every single time I fish this river, I head directly to this rock and sit. I sit for a period of time watching fish feed near the surface. Waiting for the long black shadows streak across the seams as I pick feeding lanes and flies. Recently, the Arkansas has been releasing its treasure.

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On the thinking rock, the past and this page began to flash before me. Two years have gone by and I have sat in this room telling stories to passers-by. Random people who deem my writing good enough to read. Some say that I am a good writer, but at times I do not feel that way. The same feeling came along at times when I was a musician. I didn’t feel as though I was good enough. I heard other guitarists that would blow me away. Ultimately, it lead to the demise of my rock stardom. I felt like I was at the apex of my ability (not the apex of playing guitar). In writing and fly fishing, people blow me away on a daily basis. There are better fly fisherman, better writers, but mostly people better at marketing than I. People that know an industry that I have excluded myself from for years. Upon this thinking rock, a chain of thought and the surface was broken by a fish and a big smile across my face.IMGP0056

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Last year on the Arkansas I have been using different colors of the same pattern. Quite frankly, I have been using that pattern everywhere to some success. The bug today, a cream/brown Hail Mary, a new addition to the color scheme. After catching a few fish out of one hole, it was time to move on down the river to a different thinking rock. A rock that faced me a tad bit northward and on an odd side of a run that nobody really fishes. Watching countless fish rise, my thoughts came back to this page.

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Thoughts to this page reflected my attitude about the guitar. I didn’t really want to be known. I wanted to be in the background, to be invisible. I wanted the right people to find me. People who would go out of their way to support my… Well, for lack of a better term, addiction to writing. These people found me. Every comment you see down there are people that have stumbled across this page and deserve that same support from you who read this. We aren’t searching for popularity, it is something else entirely. Maybe we just want to spread our enjoyment to other readers. There is a fine line between people who “write” for popularity and we who just write. The more I thought about it, the more I felt like I was being egocentric and vain. Inner turmoil was overflowing and for a time I just sat on the rock, thinking about things that shouldn’t matter.

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What does matter is that I fish, take pictures, and write. The only reason, “because”. For those who may have never known, my name is David Goodrich and I am a fly fisherman. I hope the people who have been reading for the past couple years stick around for a few more. You might get some special surprises. To the people who have promoted and read this page, I can not thank you as much as you deserve. I am ready for this next year.


There’s No Place Like Home

Home is a very multifarious word. In one way, it can simply mean the place where you sleep. In other, more complex terms, it has to do with a place to go for deep love and comfort. It is the type of place where you can take a deep breath and relax without thinking about anything in particular at all. Home is the place to reset and retrieve what you lost while you were away. Maybe it is the smell of fresh baked bread and cookies, or the “fresh baked bread and cookies” scented candle you lit before you left. When you do return home, those cookies are there, waiting. No matter how you look at the word, it usually suggests a sense of well-being and calm. At least, this is the way I am suggesting for the purpose of this post.

Vacation was coming. I was about to have five days to spend with family in a familiar locale. At work, my mind drifted off into the past adventures that my family took to New Mexico before we finally moved there in the summer of 1993. Those were long road trips that my brother and I somehow managed to not be killed by my parents for being outright annoying. Although, we were left alone in the desert on a dirt road somewhere in between Thoreau and Farmington. As my brother and I began contemplating survival in the Bisti, my parents hit the brakes and let us back into that red S-10. When I think about it, my brother and I almost had the survival thing figured out and we had only been there for ten seconds at the most. We didn’t know at the time, but almost twenty five-years later, we would be in the same place with a different directive. Fish.

Christmas traditions have only changed slightly in the Goodrich household over the years. My mother still bugs me to take a shower before opening presents, my brother still giddy at the sight of a well-lit Christmas Tree, my father floating around plotting nefarious Christmas antics and somehow hiding the largest gifts. In fact, only a few things have changed. The tree isn’t real anymore and the stockings are no longer filled to the brim with matchbox cars and candy (which I am surprised that my mother has not replaced with bananas and apples). The biggest change has been the characters. People have come and gone (mostly women [mostly mine]), but one new addition is due to stick around. She is my brother’s soon to be wife. I’m not sure about the official status, but she calls me “brother-in-law”. While smiles were created from tearing paper and the joy of being around family, I told my brother that I wanted to take him fishing. Without skipping a beat, Evangeline said, “Yes!”

I have never stood in a river with my brother. Our time is usually spent throwing leeches at smallmouth in the summer or fishing from the banks of lakes in search of carp. He can fly fish, and he does, it just isn’t his preference. Since his fiance has been wanting him to teach her how to fly fish and all the lakes were beginning to freeze over, I finally had the upper hand. I saw excitement in their eyes as they commenced floating around the fly shop while I purchased some last minute items and waders for them. An excitement that would bleed into the next day.

We were hoping to arrive at the river early, a departure time of 6am was set. In all actuality, when my brother and I set plans they are loose. We both knew that we didn’t want to be up there in the cold for too terribly long and we both know New Mexico mornings. Outside the apartment, the car warmed up for a solid hour before we actually left on the long, boring stretch of road between Thoreau and Farmington. It began to snow as we told stories of past fishing trips and built up the day of fishing to come. Evangeline loves stories, and most of the trip was about telling them. Nate (brother) goading me the whole way. If there was ever a moment of silence, he would say, “Hey Dave, tell her about that one time…”

After getting some cigars for Evangeline, it was time to fish. My brother and I expected the worst. Sometimes the San Juan is cruel. Not that the fishing is ever really bad, but between the temperamental weather in the winter and the biting insects in the summer, it makes fishing a bit difficult. Today, the high was 29 with a slight wind. It was something my brother and I are used to, but today we had a first timer with us. There is nothing worse than getting skunked in the cold with 2 people so drawn to fishing that they will stop at nothing to continue fishing throughout the day. After rigging both of the up with the “Hail Mary” and teaching Evangeline to cast, it was only a matter of minutes before they were catching fish.

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The snow began to fall as well as the peace that comes with it. That muffled tone made everything more silent, more alive. The water seemed to thicken with the chill. Our lines sliced flakes as they soared through the air, we continued on despite the cold, driven by fish and a mysterious addiction. There is a new fly fisherman in the making now. It is a long, long road of fulfillment. One that, before she met my brother, she swore that she would never.

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After my vacation was over, I drove back to Colorado. I thought about that day on the river and the joy it brought. I thought about how the river makes me feel wanted and comfortable. Although my family has their home, that home is my home away from home. It may seem odd for me to say this, but a tree along a riverbank  makes a good place to hang your hat. The river is my home, no matter where it runs. The next day at work, I found  myself clicking my heels together chanting. “There’s no place like home.”

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Accidents and Happenstance

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Sometimes when alone, we ask questions we can not answer to things that have no voice. The reasons why the question is announced is often more mysterious than the answer to the question at hand. It becomes philosophy, and more importantly, these philosophical questions lead us to answers that seem more like ambiguous rhetoric. Even the previous statement clearly defines the enigmatic nature of these questions. As complex as the explanation may be, the question is usually a simple one. A, “How did that happen,” or “Why am I here” seems an easy enough question to answer. Upon further examination, any inflection made could change the meaning completely, and becomes the first step down a rabbit hole that continues for a lifetime.
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Sitting upon a boulder that would be submerged when man forced springtime on the river, unknown bugs were tied to a leader that wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen. These bugs were born from a pile of feathers, copper, steel, and thread with an idea that they would mimic an insect. As they drifted through the gauntlet of multi-directional currents, thoughts drifted through the gauntlet of conflict and doubt in my mind. The world is no longer flat. We have, theoretically or otherwise, defined all that we see. We take this as pure knowledge, but not the existance of other possibilities. As humans we have closed our minds to the pathways that could lead us to new heights. What if we found anti-gravity before the wing or solar energy before coal? How would our world be today if we never split an atom? How did all of this happen? How did I come to be here fishing, seemingly for entertainment purposes that are a way of life? Even the act of fly fishing accidentally began somewhere and the possibilities of what it could have been are endless.
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We think that our actions are definitive. With the thought that there could be nothing more functional and utilitarian than the car or wheel, the wing and engine, coal and power, we are lost completely. Doomed to be repeating what has been done and perfecting an idea that may not be a perfect one. Fly fishing is efficient, using human energy to perform fluid mechanical function. Newtonian physics in the simplest form at all times only to be dropped into chaotic fluid and pressure dynamics. Utilizing the creativity of the human mind to replicate the action of an insect that clumsily survives through its ascent. Occam’s Razor at work. Yet, the variables are too great. To this day, something new is learned on the river each trip. Fly fishing carries a history of at least five hundred years and we still stumble upon new ideas each and every day.
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As my mystical fly was drifting through chaotic bliss, it was interrupted by a fish that had mistaken it for being real. As I fought the fish, I thought. Of all the bugs in this river, why this one? Did the fly happen to be drifting perfectly in the current? Was it the perfect color or action? Maybe it was an accident and happenstance. No matter the case, as a fly fishing community, we should look at the way we tie and the way fish see to ultimately determine why fish feed on the end of your line.
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Today, as I write, I have no idea as to the purpose of it, or why I choose to be sitting in this chair. I do know the events leading up to this simple action, but upon deeper inspection, every action in life lead me to this point. Even reading this, your whole life lead to this very moment. Every wrong turn and every delay in traffic brought you right here right now. The moments after are being shaped by the time it takes to read this. Call it fate or divine intervention. To me, even if the other two are involved, it seems like a heck of a lot of accidents and happenstance.
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Legendary…

This is one of those times as a fisherman, you may feel as though I am bending the truth. I can assure you that I am not… Or am I? These past few weeks have brought me some great fish and I really can’t believe my luck as of late. I’m ready for my brutal skunking.

In the night, I hiked down to the river. It hadn’t quite turned to the inky black that is fuel for my greatest fear. I squinted to see the bottom of the river. Small shadows lined the earth beneath the river. “Nothing but ten to twelve inch fish,” I said to John as we set up the tent. We both shrugged it off. Any fishing was good. When we finally hit the river, I caught my first surprise. A yellowstone cutthroat, at least 18″. I figured it was a fluke. When I met up with John upriver, another larger than the last. John scowled, I scouted higher. John fished a hole full of the monsters. He hooked into a small rainbow. Ten inches at best. I looked away and heard a loud “holy $%!#, look at this!!!” A fish was aggressively chasing his rainbow. Not just any fish, the legend. I couldn’t really tell its size, but I would guess around 26″ or so. After releasing the rainbow, he recast and looked at me and said, “that would be crazy if…” I saw it roll over on the Hail Mary. John turned ghost white and we both knew what just happened. That inhale… Preparing for something in silence. It rolled, I jumped in, it ran, swam under the bank, under my feet, ran again, I missed with the net, it went over the waterfall and found a massive hole beneath the waterfall, I reached in to grab its tail. This moment felt like I was saving a man, like I had him by the arm. At one point I thought I grabbed a tree. A shake, a slip, and gone. My heart sank. It was my fault. I had lost the largest fish of John’s life. Heck, the largest cutthroat I have ever seen. The legend lives. Feeding on small rainbows… Waiting below the falls.

Both of our phones were dead, but here is the bigfoot type shot of the next fish.
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Lost and Found Pt: 4 (Redemption)

They were ghosts of past fish, protecting the lives of the future. Legends, protectors, guardians. Through the gin clear water I spotted the residents feeding in the seam. Their red flashing sides a remnent of stocking in the early 20th century. They were legendary in their own right, carrying genetic code from both steelhead and redband. Like messengers to the future about what not to do and the ghosts protected it, kept it sacred. I knew they were there, just beyond the seam, either out of sight or invisible. The only evidence of their existence was a hookset, a screaming reel, then nothing. For two days I tried to land one, the third day brought a new feel for the fish. When I connected with the fish, I felt the movements. Dancing against one another. Playing the game of attrition. Watching the head shake and dive as my rod pointed left and right. Then it ran. I could feel the strain in my line. I had a ghost. Down the chute it went. I ran along the shore, through bushes and over rocks keeping tension against the ghost. In the slow water I felt it growing weaker and the power it still had. I worked it in close and saw Hail Mary sunk just above the maxillary. The ghost was real. image

Sorry about not wearing a shirt… It was hot. Here are a couple more fish for ya…
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