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I’m about as old as you can be and still be young. I’m still gold, but it’s fading. Sorry Johnny. This apparently happens in the upper middle 30s.
Touring the memory bank 051017 AE 1 For the Capital City Weekly I’m about as old as you can be and still be young. I’m still gold, but it’s fading. Sorry Johnny. This apparently happens in the upper middle 30s.

This is a memorable steelhead, but is it worthy of a top spot on the author's all-time list? Photo courtesy of Jeff Lund.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Story last updated at 5/9/2017 - 5:03 pm

Touring the memory bank

I’m about as old as you can be and still be young. I’m still gold, but it’s fading. Sorry Johnny. This apparently happens in the upper middle 30s.

It’s a ritual for most people, I’m sure, to look back at the fish you’ve caught, the animals you’ve taken, the people you’ve met, and the microbrews you’ve tasted. Here’s the thing: if you can’t remember it, it’s like it never happened. Like you didn’t ever do it. That’s one of the dangers in living off old memories. It’s stuff you did, and if there has been enough time between those moments, that’s not you anymore. That’s someone else.

The morning of my 36th birthday I woke up at 4:30 a.m., made breakfast, and headed to a river on the way to work. I fished for just long enough to lose feeling in my toes. The water was low and cold. A few steelhead rolled but none were interested in the buffet of flies I sent in their direction.

I arrived at work just as feeling returned to my toes. My bank of memories slowly oozed a highlight reel of days outside. I say oozed, because they lingered and kind of ran together, and because when you wake up at 4:30 a.m. in the morning to fish then teach high school kids, the edge wears off the day quicker and it’s easy to become sluggish once the coffee is gone.

During lunch I thought about a top five all-time outdoor moments.

Do you choose the first steelhead or the biggest? Or the best fight? Or the best day? Yeah the poetic thing to do is say something like, “each one is precious” and “it’s not about the fish, it’s about renewing my soul.” Okay, but I’ll be honest, no day in which I was skunked is in my top five for obvious reasons. But maybe that’s how you really get an accurate assessment. How was I when I was at my worst?

I remember the lost brown trout in the Smoky Mountains. It wasn’t a huge fish, but I was stealthy and perfect in everything except landing it. The fish was big enough to haunt me since I have no idea if or when I’ll ever be in the Smokies again.

Same thing goes for a brown trout that fought like a steelhead in Cotter, Arkansas. I only ended up there because my brother and I were driving his cars from North Carolina to California when he moved. It was a huge fish and a net-wielding local was charging down the beach with me.

“Some people fish this river all their lives without hooking a fish like that,” he said when the line broke.

I didn’t feel better. So is that a top moment? That I almost had a fish I was going to release anyway? I had zero success ranking moments or fish or deer, but it was fun filing through the memories.

I won’t be young forever. There will be a day I can’t fish, hike or hunt like I currently do and that scares me to action. I don’t want to long for wasted days.

It’s normal to reflect when you get older, but I think it will always be better to look at what you did, not what you didn’t.