In Montana, as the weather warms, it is our unspoken obligation to visit water. We sit on lakeshores, jump off bridges into deep river pools, throw funny little things with hooks at fish, hop in our favorite watercraft and, of course, dive right in. Obviously, rivers in the area aren’t suitable for swimming until levels drop, but when they do, we’ll be there. For now, all I can do is stand on the banks and stare at the muddy waters with a deep sense of longing for clarity – without clearer water, there is no fishing.
I am genuinely and completely enamored with water. I’ll stare at it until my eyes hurt. But despite this love, I’m not much of a swimmer. I’m fully capable, just not enthusiastic, even though I’ve always been surrounded by swimmers. My mom excels at it, my dad thinks he does and a few of my friends are ex-competitive swimmers with the slightest trace of gills forming under their jaws. One of my friends was a top-ranked diver in Florida in high school, so when he completes a jump off of a bridge or cliff, it looks graceful. When I jump, it looks painful, which is usually an apt reflection of how it feels. If he is a swan, I am a ruffled merganser. If he is a rainbow trout, I am a catfish.
I prefer a watercraft to do the swimming for me. I’m fine with paddling, as long as the craft keeps me afloat: kayaking, canoeing, rafting, inner tubing – you name it, I like it. Cruising along the surface can be an ultimate leisure activity or a white-knuckle adventure ride, but more often than not, for me, it’s a way to get around when I’m fly-fishing, which is my preferred water activity.
Having been around rivers my whole life, I know of no other water-born hobby, pastime or obsession that forces one to so closely analyze and understand water: the cadence of riffles, the size and shape of rocks under the surface, the type of vegetation, the temperature, the clarity, the bugs and their entire life cycles unfolding in front of you, and every other detail capable of being observed with the human eye. Some details are only heard or felt. Each time I fish, it reinforces my love of water.
But no matter what your preferred water activity is, if you’re like me you’re getting giddy with each day of summer-like weather. The lakes are looking more enticing by the day and eventually the rivers will drop and clear, though that timeline is unclear. Even now, however, we see people visiting rivers, lining up on the banks and marveling at the heavy waters. Even now, as summer teases us, we are drawn to water.
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