Story last updated at 4/9/2014 - 3:52 pm
I had a bad dream the other night.
It happens once in a while, but most of the time mine are so nonsensical I either forget or dismiss them. As much as I'd like to dream about epic specifics - a 70-pound king salmon, Bill Heavey writing the foreword for the book I have yet to write, John Gierach taking me to his secret spot - it never works.
In David James Duncan's, "The River Why," the protagonists' younger brother, Bill Bob, surrounds himself with "relics from the day's adventures" in an attempt to feed his dreams. He calls them "Dreefee."
Unlike Bill Bob, I don't place parts of my day next to my bed. I've tried, but it made no difference. My REM cycle is filled with the day's detritus, haphazardly assembled in fragmented pieces like a pre-schooler's art project. It almost never makes any sort of sense.
The other day, I had a discussion with a person who had a bad trip to Disneyland which is ironic because Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth - to those who have never been to Alaska with a fly rod when the salmon are running.
That night, my brain decided to take the Disney misery, pair it with fishing and create a rare vivid nightmare in which I both was both fishing with malevolent strangers and acting like one myself. Of everything that's out there, all the fishing, all the people, all the great outdoor memories at my brain's disposal - it chose the terrifying notion that there is such a thing as a miserable fishing trip. I awoke sweating.
I decided to make the most of the situation since I couldn't (or dared not) go back to sleep and wrote a tongue-in-cheek instructional on how to have a terrible time while angling:
The first ingredient in being the lone dissident in Jovial-ville is to find an antagonist. Better yet, have one show up without invitation. This guarantees a chaos factor that will divert your attention from things like fun, which everyone else is having.
Example - A non-fisherman who thinks the scenery would be pretty if you replaced all the stupid trees, bald eagles, peacefulness and serenity with a TV screen showing paid programing that mines people for cash to save owls.
The next thing to keep in mind when trying to have a bad time is to feel sorry for yourself. This can be difficult to do, because at some point you'll probably catch a fish. Do not lose hope. Avoid feelings of joy by comparing everything you do catch to everyone else. If your fish is smaller, whine. If it's bigger, find it uglier. Or, if the risk of catching is too great, ignore what your friends or the guide tells you so you can be the lone skunked angler. You can't mess with that.
Accomplish this and you're home free, but it might be a good idea to take the Debbie Downer attitude to the "Saturday Night Live" skit level.
Expect the unattainable. This will really allow you to entrench yourself in self-made misery. Don't look at the tote filled with fish or the limit of silvers on the bank.
Think of black and white photos in the early 1900s of men killing fish before limits and the c-word (conservation) ruined everything. Remember also that in "The River Why," the protagonist not only caught fish, but he met the girl of his dreams at the river while fishing for steelhead.
Finally, relish the fact that you have managed to turn the capital of Funland a desolate wasteland of personal anguish. In the future, continue to search for all that is negative and never forget - If at first you don't succeed, quit, complain, and get out of the fresh air.