I was driving home from elk hunting the other day and I heard a song on the radio that beamed me (Scotty) into the past. In 1970, I was driving with a friend south from Seattle to fish for three days. That day we were headed for the Toutle River. About halfway to the river, I heard a new version of a song I knew very well. This version was 11 minutes long, though, and sung by Credence Clearwater Revival. It was “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. I was blown away by it at the time. It stayed in my head all day. Arriving at the Toutle, we strung up our fly rods and I knotted a nymph (I don’t remember which one) to my leader and we started fishing for trout. I wasn’t into steelheading, yet. We fished for several hours hooking the odd trout or two. I was fishing a very rocky, shallow run (it was low-water, late-August) putting the fly in front of, beside and behind every stone in the run. Then it happened. A strike from a big (BIG) fish. The next thing I knew, a steelhead crashed through the surface, hell-bent on destroying my modest trout outfit. My leader separated from the fly and my first hooked steelhead. I can’t remember being in such awe of a fish. How can a FISH make me feel this way? I am listening to the song now so I can recall the full experience. Hearing that song a few days ago brought it all back to me; it is all back to me now: My friend in the truck with me (who passed away last year); his unbelievably infectious laugh, the bright warm sunny day; having the clear river to ourselves and, of course, that beautiful slice of chrome rocketing out of the water. Hearing that song got me to thinking about how certain songs, can immediately conjure up very specific fishing moments, days or trips. One thought leads to another and another and another.
Thankfully, there are several songs that return me to pleasant memories of saltwater, river and lake fishing times of my past. Another song or I should say songs (album or CD) that brings up a week in Isla Holbox, Mexico in the late 90’s, is Talking Heads’ “Stop Making Sense”. Any cut on that CD puts me with my brother for a week of tarpon fishing and fun on the beach. I don’t remember the fishing as much as the fun we had. We had not spent any time together for years and this week gave us time to get to know each other again. We laughed, fished and drank beer to “Stop Making Sense”. “Burning Down The House”, “Psycho Killer”, “Take Me To The River” – any cut from that CD. It was actually recorded from a video of the same name as the CD. The Video was (and still is) awesome. That week at Isla Holbox stands out as one of the best trips I ever had there (and I made numerous trips there for tarpon and fun). When I hear any cut from that CD, I can smell the saltwater, hear the waves lapping on the beach on a moonlit night, see giant tarpon sailing over the ocean surface, hear my brother cranking up the volume of the CD and playing it over and over again. What a good time we had.
I have two other pieces of music to tell you about. We were in Tierra del Fuego, at Despedida Lodge fishing for Sea Run Browns. I was chatting with my friend, Irv Conner, about music we liked and discovered we had both been at a concert in Seattle in the 60’s with Dave Brubeck and Peter, Paul and Mary. While talking we both came up with a little known piece by Brubeck we both liked called “Unsquare Dance”. It was around 1:00 AM and we were both enjoying a single malt and talking about other Brubeck recordings, when on the stereo system in the lodge, “Unsquare Dance” flowed through both of us like visiting with an old friend. We were mesmerized by the recording, tapping out the unusual beat with our fingers, unable to say a thing until it was over. Unbeknownst to us, Ozzy, one of the owners of the lodge, used to be, in a past life, a DJ for one of radio stations in TDF. In his massive trove of recordings, he knew what we were discussing and queued up the recording. I can’t describe how it felt to both of us. If you have never heard “Unsquare Dance”, fire it up and give a listen. A fun piece of jazz not heard often enough. That cut brings up memories of sunrises and sunsets that cannot be described; 20 plus pound sea-run Browns; laughter around the dinners at midnight, winds that howled with hurricane force that one would think too strong to make a cast (but you can) and the perfect schedule – eat, sleep, fish, eat, sleep, fish. But mostly, being with my friend Irv (he passed away three years ago from a brain cancer that took his life way too early), I miss him terribly. Sometimes, it is a real bitch getting older.
The last piece of music that I will tell you about is Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon”. When I hear it, I transcend to a floating, surreal reality that came to me one night in August while driving south from my home in Wenatchee, Wa, at 1:00 AM to night fish at Lenice Lake. I was alone and popped this CD into the receiver. A little into the drive, I noticed a strange lighting in my mirror (it showed me the northern skies). I pulled over to the side of the highway, out in sagebrush country, thinking UFO or some such thing. To my pleasant surprise, it was the northern lights flashing, flowing and waving across the sky in pinks, violets, purples, whites and blues. I wanted to be on the lake while this was happening, so I jumped back into my truck and tore off. Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side Of The Moon” was at an ear shattering level inside the cab. I got to the parking area and the Aurora Borealis was still in full display. I had seen it a few times before, briefly, but never accompanied by Pink Floyd. I and my float tube got to the lake and we were all alone. Perfect, floating in the dark with the music still in my head, but I do wish I could have shared this night of fishing with my wife. It is one of the single most perfect experiences of my life. The light show went on all through the night and into predawn. I was just beside myself; not believing what I was witnessing. What a show!!!! Then it was accompanied by howling and yipping coyotes. In the darkness, they sounded like they were on my shoulder. I know some of you won’t believe this, but the fishing was awesome. Large fish were taking my night buggers like candy. This lasted all night long. I am alone on the lake and giggling like a little boy. I have never been on a high like that night. If there is possibly anyone out there who hasn’t heard this album before, do yourself a favor and go to You Tube and play it. All the way through. Picture a Northern Light show across the sky in the sagebrush desert of Eastern Washington, coyotes making themselves heard and big rainbows at the end of your fly line. I am listening to “Dark Side” right now and that night is all coming back to me. It was warm, the water was warm to the touch, the sky was changing colors and traveling in waves across the sky in the north from west to east, the coyotes letting everyone know who ruled the desert night, the feeling of a big trout attacking my fly with a resolve to break me off. But I learned long ago to use 15# test tippet (when fishing by the dark side of the moon). Every once in a while, I would just stop casting to fully enjoy the night. Even when dawn started to brighten the sky, the show continued. It was probably an eye shadow just playing tricks on me, but I didn’t care. It was real to me. I am listening to “Money” right now and there is no amount of it that could take me away from that night on the lake.
Start thinking of a few songs or albums or CDs and see where it takes you. Hopefully, there is a selection that takes you back to an overwhelming number of fishing experiences. Take the time to play them and remember the friends, fish, oceans, rivers and lakes that share these tunes.