Urban Escape

Urban EscapeGuest Blogger: Chuck Holmes

In the daily drone of making a living, it’s easy to lose ourselves. I spend five days each week grinding out dry technical manuals on a computer. My co-workers eat lunch at their desks, surfing the internet or playing video games. Instead, I go fishing.

A one-hour fishing trip might not seem like much of an escape, but that time away is renewing. A river flows through the town in which I work. The escape I find on the banks of the river energizes me. I can drive from work to one of my fishing spots and have a fly in the water in eight minutes.

My river is not large, but some spots would rival a Rocky Mountain stream for beauty. These scenic stretches make me forget I am one tree row away from a busy street. In places, the water gushes over and around algae-slick rocks, fighting to tackle me as I struggle to plant one foot firmly before moving the other. The grip of the water invigorates me. I think of a quote I read once that said, if not for the rocks in its bed, the stream would have no voice. Here, its voice roars. I welcome the rush of the water as it drowns out the cacophony of the city. Rapids widen into shallow ripples with flat rocky bottoms. The walking is easier, but the current still flows fast. Here, the more energetic fish dart to grab a morsel of food as it hastily passes through their fast-paced environment. Farther along, the water discharges as if exhausted into a deeper, quiet pool with a sand and rock bottom. Here is where my target, the smallmouth, lives. The changing topography from year to year, season to season, even week to week, serves as a reminder of man’s inability to control nature. I marvel at a four feet high sand bar where last fall a low rocky beach lay. The stream gouges a new channel with every summer storm.

I come to observe the creatures who call this constantly changing environment their home. The river offers a glimpse of the wild seldom viewed by unobservant city-dwellers. Be quiet and unobtrusive, and nature will come to you. Fly fishing, by its character, is quiet and unobtrusive. Melding into my surroundings, I watch a woodchuck foraging unconcerned on the bank as my fly lands on the water a few feet from it. This season, I shared the river with a pair of Canada geese that set up housekeeping there. I shared their neighborhood as they built their nest, laid their eggs, and the young hatched. The once downy goslings, having now fledged, are nearly indistinguishable from their parents. They swim by me unafraid as if I am a natural part of their habitat.

Occasionally, I am rewarded as a hefty smallmouth streaks out of the shadowy depths and snatches my fly. For the next few minutes I play a game of give-and-take. My rod tip jerks and I feel the power of the fish telegraphed to my hand. Abruptly, my opponent shoots from the water. I keep the line tight, knowing if I allow it any slack it could shake the hook free and escape. Finally, its efforts grow weaker, and I guide the spent fish to the shallows near the bank. I admire the efficiency of its shape as I unhook my fly and gently ease it back into the water. It lies quietly in the shallows for a while, recovering from its battle. Then, with a flip of its tail, it disappears. A shadowy movement catches my eye, and I look up to see a great blue heron glide to a landing downstream. Standing on stilt-like legs, it looks down its dart-like beak at me as if asking permission to share my fishing spot.

It’s all yours.” I say, smiling at the bird. It is time to go back to work. The heron didn’t say anything. It, like me, was not seeking conversation.


  1. Chuck, nice story. I have always been envious of those who can slip away to angling opportunities close at hand. Whenever I’ve been in those circumstances it almost seems like moving through a magic mirror into another dimension.
    Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

  2. I echo that envy Chuck. I’ve been considering my life charmed by virtue of having a decent stream within a 100-mile drive…but to be mending line at the 8-minute mark is something else again. Great article. Cubicle life has most of us taking boring walks around parking lots to catch air, and here you are catching fish. I suspect a lot of us are living vicariously through you when lunchtime arrives now. 🙂

    – Mike

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