I’m Hooked

Timmy, a co-worker (and excellent fisherman), organized a fly fishing trip at our all company meetup in Utah last week. I had never been fly fishing. I like rivers. I like fish. I signed up.

The Trout Tales guides picked us up at the hotel on Friday morning. We climbed into their rugged vehicles, ready for adventure. Timmy, who I just met that morning, and I were with our guide Walter. We stopped at a dusty parking lot, donned waders (basically a waterproof overalls/rain boots contraption), and were on our way to another parking lot, even further out. We parked, grabbed our rods, and walked into the brush along the river for about 10 – 15 minutes. We were headed towards a favorite spot of Walter’s. When we got there, we heard him groan. Between the time we parked, and the time we arrived, someone had claimed the spot we were eying. “Wait here,” and he ran ahead.

He came back. “It’s all good. He’s fine with us fishing next to him.”

And with that we waded into the water. I paused. I felt the sensation of the very cold, not quite icy, water rushing around my ankles, my knees, my thighs, as I waded deeper and deeper into the water. I felt my legs cooling down, even though they continued to stay dry. That surprising feeling of reality not matching expectations. I loved it. To our left were mountains covered with trees just starting to turn color, blotches of red scattered amongst the green and yellow. The sky was a baby blue, with perfect fluffy white clouds. I thought to myself, “Even if we don’t catch any fish, it’s already a perfect day.”

Hills Along the River, photo by Jeff Golenski
Hills Along the River, photo by Jeff Golenski

Walter showed me how to cast, let me try, and gave me pointers – not so much wrist, keep my arm straight, aim for a particular spot in the water. He showed me how to watch the little white bobble that would indicate when a fish was nibbling. And how to hook it. Then reel it in.

He turned to talk to Timmy. I saw the bobble dip below the water. I jerked the line and started reeling it in. When I was sure it was a fish and not the current, I hollered, “I think I have a fish.” He came over and coached me on how to reel it in. Elbows up. Let the fish swim and run the line, then reel it in when it’s not struggling. Be patient. Work with the fish.

When the fish was close to us, he scooped it up in a net and gently removed the ittiest, bittiest, tiniest hook from its lip. It was beautiful. A beautiful brown, coppery color, with red dots along its side. I whispered, “Hi, Oscar. Thank you.” Then Walter released it back into the water.

This basically continued the whole day. A few fish got away. Several were large, a few were babies, many were medium sized. All were beautiful. Mostly brown trout, but one glistening whitefish, and one multi-colored, shimmering rainbow trout. Each glimmered in the sun, and stopped struggling as soon as our hands were on them. The goodbyes were my favorite part – putting them back in the river and watching them strongly swim away.

The day ended much too early. I could have stayed out in the river all day, just casting and staring at the mountains, listening to the rush of the water around me. Would I go again? Why, yes. I’m hooked.

The Fog of Sadness

I know the fog of sadness will come. The knowing doesn’t make it any easier when it arrives.

It’s happened every year for the past five years. Sometimes it sets in the afternoon I arrive home, like today. Sometimes it sets in after I wake up from the post trip nap (last year’s “nap” was 18 hours long, due to sheer exhaustion from too much fun).

This year our annual all company meetup was held in Park City, Utah, and more than 250 people attended. This is a highlight of the year, because it’s often the only time that I’ll see many of my co-workers. We’re a distributed company, and everyone’s primary workspace is their home office. Oh, did I mention we have folks in thirty-five countries around the world? We’re really spread out. It’s a whirlwind of a week – learning at internally led code academy classes; project teams launching new features or improving on existing ones; dinners with colleagues you haven’t met; catching up with your mentor/mentee; attending (or leading) workshops on design, diversity, and leadership; and, of course, a healthy dose of fun.

I love this week of the year because of the camaraderie and bonding that occurs. I love listening to the discussions among colleagues, and hearing ideas, concerns, and solutions in their own voices. I love discovering who can sing 90’s karaoke without the words on a screen. Or who has a special interest in biology. Or who has a special talent for creating their own personalized lyrics to popular songs. Or what past companies (many outside of technology) my colleagues have worked at. Or who was a former competitive food eater. The variety of my colleague’s experiences and backgrounds awe me.

My favorite memories are the meals, and the moments. Dinners were generally groups of 4 – 6 people. The perfect size for intimate conversation. For learning who someone’s favorite author is, and why. For getting book recommendations. For hearing about people’s travel. For sharing stories from childhood. For hearing about someone’s first trip to Burning Man. For learning what excites them about their job, and what frustrates them.

This morning was filled with so many hugs (and maybe a tear or two). I told myself that I was looking forward to returning home. To my own bed (although the sleep I got in the silence of the Park City night was the best I may have ever experienced). To regular exercise and home cooking. To the routine of my everyday life. And I was looking forward to that. And even though I knew I would miss my colleagues (it’s happened every time I return from a trip), the weight of the fog of sadness still surprises me when it descends.

I read their blogs. I like their Facebook posts. I retweet their Tweets. And I miss them.