I can hear snores coming from the bedroom set along the back wall of what serves as the cabin’s kitchen, dining and living room. My head aches and my mouth feels like I ate a fistful of cotton candy minus the candy. After drawing the short straw, or in my case, a short hackle feather, I spent the last couple of hours tossing and turning on a lumpy couch that smelled of mothballs and mouse urine.
The ride up to camp was uneventful. Jake had stopped outside my apartment sometime around seven the previous evening. Frank had given me a thumbs-up from the front seat. Sam was in the back going through a fly box stuffed with streamers. Six hours later we pulled onto a logging road. Forty-five minutes after that, Frank pointed to the two-track, Jake turning in and stopping at the metal gate that barred our entry. The lock’s combination is his ex’s birthday. On the way there, Sam had joked how Jake would have to buy a new one now that she dumped his sorry ass.
The first to awake, I stoop down to check out the nearly empty bottle of bourbon that fell beside the couch when we stumbled to bed sometime before dawn. The fly boxes remain on the table flanked by a dozen empty longnecks. Trudging down the steps of the cabin, I’m greeted by a sea of clouds that rolled in sometime during the night.
Jake’s Isuzu Trooper looks her age. The right headlight hasn’t worked since the accident, the bumper on that side crumbling like tin foil as it slammed into a spruce tree. We’d been driving back to camp after a long day on the water when a moose wandered out onto the logging road. The big old thing looked surprised to see the Isuzu rumbling toward him before Jake turned the wheel.
The vehicle’s dark blue paint has faded over the years. in some places it has flecked off, leaving white patches that make it look like it has a bad case of psoriasis. Even so, the old girl gets us where we want to go, whether that be down a muddy two-track or over a logging road pock-marked with holes that could devour a smaller vehicle or over one of those wooden bridges meant to hold the weight of a snow-machine rather than a rusty old SUV.
A slight breeze carries with it a faint odor. I pop open the vehicle’s hood. Grabbing a stick, I brush off a nest the mice built on the metal housing around the air filter. This is not the first time they have done this. In past seasons, red squirrels have stored nuts in the exhaust pipe. One year, Frank began singing Nat King Cole’s Christmas classic as the smell wafted through the car.
On a good day, the inside smells like a high school gym and on a bad, like Sam’s lucky socks, the ones he won’t change for the two weeks we spend at camp. McDonald wrappers and Dunkin’ coffee cups litter the floor. Frank’s streamer patterns hang from the visors. The glove compartment contains a Thompson vice and is stuffed with feathers and fur he uses to tie flies when we’re streamside.
I light a cigarette and blow a plume of smoke toward the clouds. After a long pee, I open the back of the Isuzu. Each of us carries two rods. One is a five weight used on smaller water, the other a six for the rivers that hold brook trout as large as you’ll find south of Labrador. Our chest waders are stuffed in the back beside four pairs of boots.
After taking our vests into the cabin, we spent the better part of the night checking the pockets to be sure the various tools with which every fly fisher is familiar were where we could find them. Sam tied up a number of patterns, replacing whatever was missing from the fly boxes strewn across the table.
Frank is into wet flies while Jack prefers nymphs. Sam and I cast streamers, especially when the big fish are chasing smelt, western Maine’s principal bait-fish that have their spawning run as soon as the ice leaves the lake. It was sometime after midnight when I opened the bottle of bourbon. That’s when the stories of women, mostly false, and fish, sometimes true, began. The smell of bacon wafts down from the cabin. A few drops of rain spit down from the darkened sky. It should be a good day to be on the water.
For more about Bob Romano see: http://www.forgottentrout.com/