By Eric Booton
Where does the river take you? Well, the obvious answer is downstream. But on the river, I find myself in a better place. I started at a rocky headwaters with a head full of doubt and little sense of direction. The river swept me downstream to a more pleasant place that I have found easier to navigate.
The overly active voice in my head that fosters doubt, and generally has nothing good to say, is silenced or productive for a change.
I’ve learned a lot on the river. And not just a thing or two about casting or reading the water. I’ve learned a lot about family. I’ve learned a lot about my friends. I’ve learned a lot about my fianceé. And I’ve learned a lot about myself. Sometimes I dig deep into my personal relationships while waiting for the next strike and sometimes I say, “To hell with it,” and let my casting do the thinking.
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The river has taken me to a place where I have made deeper connections to loved ones, loved ones both lost or living elsewhere. On a quiet day it’s tough not to think back on the men in my life that first put a rod in my hand and thank them, even if I may not have been as excited about fishing then as I am now. It sounds silly, but on those afternoons when the fish aren’t biting and it’s almost time to pack it in and head home, I send a plea to the heavens and ask my Grandpa Walt to help a grandson out and put a hungry fish on my line. Amazingly, it has worked more than once.
As you may have already guessed, I miss a lot of strikes while exploring the nooks and crannies of the right hemisphere of my brain, but that’s OK; this is one of the few times I find myself able to dig deep in my noodle, massage out the knots, reflect on this great life and I am thankful for that. Edward Abbey wrote that “wilderness is not a luxury but (a) necessity of the human spirit” and that statement holds true for this human’s wild spirit.
I like to catch fish, and I don’t particularly enjoy leaving the river skunked, but fish or no fish, I know I’m still headed home happy. I spent the day exploring the waters I moved 3,500 miles to enjoy, chasing the fish that frequent my dreams, and relaxed in the wilderness that I desperately crave—it makes me excited to wake up on Monday so that I can brew some coffee, open my laptop and find out what’s on tap for this weeks’ mission of fighting for the public lands I will no doubt be back at next weekend for more trout fishing and to see where the river takes me.
Eric Booton is the sportsmen’s outreach coordinator for TU’s Alaska Program.