By Sam Larson
Writer’s block is bullshit. So is getting skunked. But when I’ve been trying to sit down and write one pathetic 600 word article for two weeks, and I’ve been skunked the last four times I’ve gone out fishing, it’s time to reassess. Take a big step back and ask the big questions, ponder the imponderables. Kick the can a bit further down the road, but look intellectual and capable while I’m doing it. Like this was something I was prepared for and no big deal, not a philosophical or personal question that has shaken me to my core and made me question just what the hell, if anything, I’m doing.
“That dude’s fly fishing the Platte.” the guy said to his friends. I parked down by the skate park in Denver. That area has some of the easiest access to the town stretch of the Platte. The skate park itself was full. When I pulled into the parking space directly alongside the back of a quarter pipe I had a vision of a skateboard flying over the coping and into my passenger side window. So be it, I thought as I manhandled my person into my waders and boots. A broken window may be the price I pay on the warmest day in a week to land a DSP carp on the final day of 2018. The above quote wasn’t even whispered as I walked by, it just wasn’t directed at me. Yes, dear stranger. I am fly fishing the Platte. There are some deep seams below Confluence Park and I figured that there, if anywhere, I might find a few pods of carp, huddled down deep, that would perhaps sip an unassuming nymph pattern that drifted slowly past.
There were so many things wrong with this plan. Yes, this was the warmest day of the last week or so, but it was preceded by overnight lows in the single digits, and a series of days with highs in the 20s. No matter what the thermometer said right at the moment, the river couldn’t have warmed up that much. But I went anyway and, aside from some much needed practice at both honing my cross-body cast and fending off conversational openers from idle teens and homeless riverbank wanderers, I accomplished nothing on the Platte that day.
Of late writing has felt the same. The words are out there, just like there are certainly carp on the Platte at this very moment, but they are not playing along with my schemes. What separates me from talented writers is not only the generalized lack of the requisite talent, but the sheer bloody mindedness to suffer out the hours spent staring at a computer screen or pad of paper and waiting for the words to come. Offered that opportunity I’ll pack up the ‘ol word processor and go tie flies or read. So perhaps this is my fault for not powering through.
What ties all this together in a neat allegorical bow is the notion of hope. I continue fishing through a slump relying on the hope that there is a trout somewhere in the future. In the midst of my ten thousand casts into the murky lower levels of a river or lake I hope that there is a fish nearby who likes what my fly is offering and takes a nibble. Each time I sit down at a computer and start hammering away at the keys (I was always an indelicate typist) I hope that something worthwhile will come out the far end of it. Hope is endemic to both angling and writing because, time and again, I am confronted with the bald fact that I am not so skilled in either arena that success is ever a given. So I hope, and continue to hope, and I continue to cast, and type, and perhaps someday there will be another trout in the net, or another article shipped out the door. Someday.