By Ken Giesser

The American Heritage Dictionary has defined the word anticipate to mean: to feel or realize beforehand, to look forward to (often with the implication of foretasting pleasure). As a fly fishing angler, this describes to me that old familiar feeling of looking forward to an upcoming fishing trip. A case could be made that fly fishing, as a sport, is primarily based on anticipation. We can hardly wait to go fishing and we often find ourselves visualizing the cast, the drift, the take and so on…fly fishing seems to bring out the day dreamer in us.

Photo by Derrick’s Tsiu River Lodge

In some ways it’s an escape, but in more real terms it’s a need to reconnect with the environment and our ancestral roots as hunters and fishers. Fly fishing is an outdoor activity that (at least to some degree) requires us to be in tune with nature, yet doesn’t require tremendous physical conditioning the way hunting might. It’s a sport we can participate in for a very long time, well into our later years.

I’m now 70 years of age and while that in itself doesn’t define me as “old,” it is an age that allows me an occasional quick glimpse of the finish line up ahead. It’s often said “life is a marathon,” and I get it, but the problem for me has always been I’m not a natural distance runner. I was a sprinter on my high school track team and a go-getter in the workforce. The concept of pacing myself wasn’t part of my makeup when I was younger. Fortunately though, time has been on my side here and I’m finally warming to the idea. When I first retired, I figured I’d be fishing all the time, but for some dumb reason, just knowing I could was enough for me. I hope that makes sense? I fished a lot while I was still working and even though I fish less often these days, I now go for longer periods of time when I do go. I can schedule around weekends and such. Retirement is wonderful that way and what I enjoy most about fly fishing these days is the anticipation of my next fishing trip. That’s right! I enjoy preparing for a trip as much as the actual fishing, because that’s when and where my imagination kicks in.

Don’t get me wrong. I still very much enjoy fly fishing, but it’s only part of what defines me as a person. Fly fishing is not religion, rocket science, or a cure for some disease. What it is though (at least for me anyway) is a lifelong pastime that brings me closer to the natural order of things and, in the process, keeps reminding me of my sacred duty to protect and share this resource with others, both for now and the future. It’s also been a wonderful counterbalance to my competitive side. Nothing against competition in general, but fly fishing (because it’s harder) has kept me in a better balance than other types of fishing would have. If you need to fish a lot and catch a lot of fish, then by all means that’s what you should be doing, whatever your age! But, if you find yourself at a point where anticipating the “sum of the parts” is just as satisfying, that’s okay too. I’m with you.

All “catching aside” it really is the anticipation and planning of a fishing trip that keeps me going. I feel engaged all the way up to and after the adventure. Sometimes it’s imagining a new experience or reliving a previous one that plays over and over in my mind. The places I’ve gone and the people I fished with stand out to me and when everything is right, the world seems perfect!

For the last few years I’ve been meeting up with the May brothers several times a year over at Pyramid Lake, Nevada. We also join up at Eagle Lake, Baum Lake and other stillwaters in northeastern California. Bucky drives out from Susanville (where I once lived years ago) and Dennis comes up from Jackson. Having fishing buddies who also enjoy tailgating a shoreside lunch really kicks it up a notch for me. We kind of get carried away at times. Dennis and I like the shoreside meals almost as much as the fishing. One time at Pyramid, Dennis brought his newly adopted dog Ginger along when she wasn’t yet completely trained. He let her out on the beach and we spent quite a frustrating long while attempting to get her back in the truck. Exciting times! Ask Bucky.

Russ Heckley and I always get excited planning our next “Hex Hatch” at Lake Almanor. The fish are big and hit like a freight train. It’s T-shirt weather and fishing till dark, with swarms of Hexagenias and bats flying around. Exciting business! By the way, Russ had his arms wrapped around a 28” plus, maybe 10 lb. or better Brown last summer. A leviathan for sure! We raced over, trying to surround his float tube (with cameras at the ready) but alas, the fish slipped away, back into the inky depths without a photo. Russ wept! We all wept! If it’s any consolation, I’ll testify on his behalf in court if it comes to that. Exciting stuff!

September in Alaska! Eating Halibut burgers on the wharf in Juneau is almost impossible to top! The 100 mile plane flight from Yakutat to the Tsiu River in a DeHavilland Otter is totally worth every cent you spend on the entire trip. If it’s cloudy you get gypped a little, but that in itself gives you an automatic excuse to come back. The Silver fishing can be off the charts. Last September I took my lifelong best friend Bob Ross up for his first trip to the Tsiu. We had a blast! Each day, they would shuttle us back and forth from the lodge to the river by quad, towing specially designed aluminum trailers capable of hauling up to 6 anglers and all their gear. We’d “ferry” across a sand flat airstrip which is often times under water that time of year. It’s a strange, surreal feeling you’d almost have to experience to understand. In the evenings after dinner, our time would be limited, so we’d usually only go as far as the airstrip to fish. Can you even imagine catching chrome bright Silver Salmon from the same shallow water spilling onto a runway that lands DC-3 cargo planes at other times of the year! Sum of the parts, man!

As fly fishers, we’re all participating in a sport we love and each time out builds anticipation for the next time out. We love to plan for an adventure with all it’s details: weather conditions, water levels, hatches, travel considerations, meals, etc.… and while we’re there, we can’t help but to anticipate the next cast, the next strip, the next grab, the next hookup, the next “hero shot,“ but what I normally find myself anticipating most on the tail end of a good trip is…

When are we coming back here?
Where are we going to next?