A wonderful true story by Jason Tinling. Isn't it especially important to remember what is really important to us?

It was going to be a short lunch trip. A half hour playing with the sunfish down on the river, and then grab something to chew on at work. As I drove towards the river, I changed my mind a couple of times as to where I was going to fish. Finally decided to head down to a heavily used access spot, but one I'd never personally fished. A few people I know have fished it and had nothing good to say about it. Flat, featureless, slow, etc. I love a challenge.

When I got down to the water, it wasn't quite as bad as descriptions had made out, but it certainly wasn't awe inspiring. Flat, sandy bottom, a few patches of weed, lots of sunlight on the water. A few riffles where the river necked down, jumbles of rock piled out towards the center. Casts with the small Royal Trude went virtually unnoticed, save for this year's hatchling smallmouth, which assaulted the fly with unrestrained glee. Took a short walk up to the top of the riffles, seeing a few rises up above. A few casts with the fly showed more hatchling bass, same attitude. I cast a Marabou Miss, to a few interested looks by small red-breasted sunfish. Switched over to a small foam popper, got one splashy rise and a few follows. A quick glance at the watch showed the was enough time for a short look further upriver.

Up above me the majority of the bank is sheer and overgrown. I get up above the pool that's off to the side of the riffles. I see a large, familiar, dark shape hovering in the shade. Off comes the popper and I search for a nymph. A GRHE, but no beadheads with me. Tie on the GRHE, and flip it out on the water, where it drifts along merrily on top. I can't slap the nymph on the water to soak it, because I'll spook the carp. The carp is mudding heavily. I see the dark tails of a couple of decent sized bass patrolling around the carp, possibly looking for a missed morsel. By the time I get the nymph wet enough to sink, the carp has moved up river. I can see the dark shadow drifting up along the bank. If I write off lunch, I can fish for 5 or 10 more minutes. No-brainer decision.

I'm scrambling up the bank, to the next opening in the growth. The nymph just isn't getting down quick enough, so I clip it and tie on a crawdad pattern. A larger carp is rummaging in the roots of the bankside tree, which have grown into the water. I flip the fly out, and throw it behind him. There's barely enough room to throw a small roll cast, in among the weeds along the shore. I commit the cardinal sin, and put the weighted fly on the carp's head with a misplaced cast. In a surge of water and roiling mud, the carp disappears.

I clamber back up the bank, crashing down the path as cobwebs clutch at my face and spiked leaves grab at my clothes. Like an ancient sailor, drawn by siren's song, I plunge headlong into the unknown. A break in the shore grasses shows a couple of small carp, resting in the shade of an overhanging tree branch. Can't get to them from this angle. I loop around the tree, and stop, staring.

2...3...4, 6, 8, a dozen and more! Large carp cruise slowly and purposefully through this hole. Hiding under logs, tucked beneath tree branches, rooting around mid-river rocks. I'm on a sheer bank, 4 or 5 feet above the water's edge. Sloppy roll casts splash around the opening in the growth, to no avail. I manage to draw the interest of a smaller carp that takes a shot at the fly, but I miss. As I continue to cast, I realize that should I hook one of these big fish, or even the small ones, I have no way to follow them, no way to land them.

What am I doing? The power of these fish, the adrenaline of the run, is an obsession. And I stand on the shore, late for work, feeding the rush.

I head back to the truck and load up my gear. As I pull out into the road and round the curve headed back to work, I see an older man on the side of the road. A rod tip sticks out of the top of his backpack, and his baseball cap has his license pinned on it. He's patrolling the tree debris on the side of the road, collecting worms, crickets, something, in the Campbell's soup can he carries in his left hand.

I'm blessed with my health, my youth, a loving family, a home, and a good job. And as I head back to that job, knowing nothing of this man but the brief glimpse I see, I have a moment's jealousy for he is going fishing, and I have had to stop.