This post is part of our Throwback Thursday series and originally appeared on the now deceased blog “Voluntary Beatdown.” Author Jason Koertge can be found on Instagram at @bacon_to_fry. Thanks to Jason for letting WSU revive your epic work as one of the best fishing experience writers we’ve had the pleasure of reading. RIP VB.
take any dirtball expedition and properly done, there will be a point enroute where this unreal feeling takes the wheel, the shittaree of life breaks loose and you’re 17 again.
pretty sure we live for that moment.
doesn’t happen on a day trip much these days, those are more like maintenance. usually on an early spring weekend, Washington coast-bound. had this habit last year of disappearing every friday evening, truck packed, dog loaded, boat hitched, curiosity up and a sixer behind the seat. hatchery steelhead were long gone and spring salmon had most folks’ attention, so you knew it was going to be a lonely weekend of fishing to a few wild, ball-busting egg wagons. sometime it’d hit on I-5 North or 12 west, but more often than not, the deal would go down without me knowing it on some winding little road in the middle of a heaven that smelled like wet cow shit. you’ve been there before. no one around, headlights pointed toward camp and in the midst of it all, you’re back to someone who makes sense to yourself.
can’t say exactly when or why exactly, ‘cept i know it has something to do with a combo of bad gas-station caffeine, Rainier number two, hope, promise and whatever i’m listening to, which is typically loud by then. you’re amped, rocking out like an idiot with no one to call you on it ’cause you’re halfway there and it’s not raining nearly as hard as you’d expected.
remember knowing i was in it heavy on one particular trip back in march. south turn on a long, switchback coast-range highway straightening the curves. a city boy who can’t shake a rural upbringing, murdering Steve Earle’s Exit 0 record like a Yankee, proper:
“I told mama the day that I ran/This ain’t no place for an angry young man”
sweet smell of Doug Fir coming through a cracked window, and you can hear truck tires on the wet asphalt between songs.
that’s transcendence, it’s the closest we get to real magic and it’s not available for purchase.
stop for a piss and you realize your music’s way too loud, but it doesn’t matter. it’s just you, the trees and the feeder creeks on their way to the big river’s tide.
the woods open up into the finest forgotten valley on the coast and you finally turn upriver. you try to get a look at the water, but never do. it’s just there in the blackness where the trees end, on your left, 100 feet below. matters not anyway, you’ll fish tomorrow regardless and adapt as necessary hoping it’s not completely out. asphalt fades to pothole gravel, then a two-track, then the mud skid into camp.
sometimes one of your boys has the fire going and whiskey ready for a longer night than you oughta, but more often than not, it’s just you, the dog, the riffle out front of camp and white noise you haven’t heard since the week prior.
transcendence can be anticlimactic, see, and that’s the beauty. once you’re in camp, set up and a rod rigged, it’s just time for tomorrow. you end up awake in the back of the truck, on the warm side of cold, dog at your feet, wondering why sleep’s not coming as easy.
“Got a lot of memories tied up in this place.”
indeed, Mr. Earle.