Voices from the river

Voices from the River: Tube-spotting

By Eric Booton

I choose to wander through airports like a dazed drone, focusing on nothing but my destination and the gate that will get me there. I ignore most everyone. Not to be rude, I’m just not fully enthused to be killing time in such a mundane enclosure.

The rows of bench seating occupied by passengers, passing time by twiddling their thumbs or tapping away on iPads, are a perpetual bore. The boutiques featuring the same magazines, magnets and trinkets blend together and an encounter with the elusive sasquatch is more likely than finding a quality bite to eat at a reasonable price.

Willingly glossing over my surroundings is an admittedly poor practice. It is nowhere near my normal means of operation and is reserved for finding a place of peace in a setting that can otherwise be wrought with the impatience and anxiety that made me a terrible traveling companion in my younger years.

The past several eateries and items on display at the kiosks I am forced to circumnavigate go unregistered. However, these eyes, trained in the mountains of Colorado to spot rising trout, wildlife and dream worthy ski lines, simply cannot ignore the site of a single, specific carry-on item – a tube, made of aluminum or thick plastic, commonly covered in a tight fitting and earth toned fabric. The telltale sign of another traveling fly angler.

The glaring presence of a fellow fly caster sparks my interest and revives my focus. “Hey Brittney! Look, another fly rod.”

The following questions flow seamlessly and logically and are frequently parroted in mockery out of mild annoyance from my wife, which has become an admittedly welcomed addition to our routine airport entertainment. “Where are they headed? Check the destination at their gate!” “I wonder what species they are chasing… Or were chasing… are they headed to their destination or traveling home?” “Did they have luck? More luck than us?”

And of course, “I wonder what rod that is? Can you read anything on the rod tube?”

Sitting, stewing in my engrossment, I am curious if the feeling is reciprocated. Did they, or another traveler, notice my sweet rod tube and find themselves descending a similar spiral of inquiry? Or am I just a nosey character? I can only recall one instance in which my rod tube has drawn the attention of another passenger, also returning to Anchorage, and also traveling with their fly rods. (That time in a homemade PVC carrier capable of housing numerous rods without reels and covered in fishy stickers.)

Not surprisingly we had the same questions for each other and I felt a connection when I discovered that neither of us where overly fruitful in our fishing endeavors on this trip and was pleased to learn that he is also a Trout Unlimited member. Regardless of the originality of the tube, the make and model of the rod in it, the success of the fishing trip, or even the talkativeness of its owner, airport “tube spotting” is a bright spot in an otherwise soul-less environment.

I’ll take it.

Eric Booton is the sportsmen’s outreach coordinator for TU’s Alaska Program. He lives and works in Anchorage.

By Chris Hunt.