Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A Cycler's Day Off

Before I was a cycler, I was an avid--OK, addicted--flyfisherman. For me, there is nothing quite like hiking up a small stream in search of trout. I used to worry that bicycling and trout pursuing would be competing interests, but I quickly learned that the two go well together. Like so many things, it turns out that bicycling enriches my days fishing.

Yesterday, I pedaled to Rock Creek--a stream that is deservedly famous--and enjoyed a long afternoon on the stream. When I first started riding to streams, I had the same two thoughts that everyone else does: Wouldn't it take a long time? Wouldn't I be too tired to fish? As with most things living carfree, we tend to think of things in the wrong terms. We worry about loss and are completely oblivious to gain. Pedaling to a stream is not just a slower, more tiring way to get there anymore than bicycle commuting is a just a slower, more tiring way to get to work. It is an entirely different experience.

What I notice on the bike is not that my speed is slow but that my time outside is long. The transitions from travel to stream become seamless in a way opening and shutting a car door can never be. Sitting on a padded seat in a sealed chamber, doing no work while moving 75 miles-per-hour, and then stepping out into quiet woods is jarring to say the least. It lacks something real, like watching television, and our minds only follow easily after acclimation.

It took two hours to reach Rock Creek yesterday. Two hours of wind rushing past. Of sun warming my face. Of clouds moving up valleys. Of spring scents. Of impossible rock formations. Of winding rivers. Of ups and downs that registered in my lungs and legs. Of memories that will bring smiles next year. Of course, it would have only taken thirty minutes by interstate.

As I stood in the sun by the stream, my bicycle leaning up against a tree and a soft breeze drying my brow, a game warden leaned out the window of his truck. "That's a neat way to fish. You from up the creek?" "Nope, up from Missoula." "Missoula? That must take a long time." I decided to keep my little secret this time and gave him the short version. With a big smile, I said, "Yeah, it sure does."

We humans are masters at valuing potential loss. But we are rank amateurs when it comes to valuing potential gain.

Riding off to fish. Waders, boots, rod and extra layers are in the big saddlebag (a Rivendell Baggins "Hoss"). Food and other essentials are in the lumbar pack which sits in the front basket. The ride is a little over 50 miles, round trip. To answer another common question, I've only had someone mess with my stuff while fishing once. The thief carefully removed and took a $25 headlamp from my $50 helmet. I'm not too worried.


Blogger Jon said...

I am REALLY digging that Hoss bag. But it appears to hanging out in space, that is, not supported by the rack. So does that interfere with the brake cable?

Oh yeah, ever try to lug a laptop in that Hoss, hoss?

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Andrew said...

I'm a fly angler and I also ride a Cantirom - strange coincidence?

Sadly, my 'home' stream is approximately 75km away, and I think this is a little too far to cycle to and back with my current fitness level. On the other hand, I could always make a weekend out of it...

Our trout season does not open until the last saturday in April, so now I've got some planning to do!

Do you lug a 2pc or 4pc rod in your Hoss?

8:32 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

Jon, the front of the Hoss rests against the seat binder and the rear brake cable stop braze-on. I've found it handles better up high and close, so that it's right under the saddle. With a big load or rough roads, I either lower it down to the rack or else stuff my sleeping pad underneath to support the bag.

On a smaller frame (or with a higher rack) you could rest it on the frame all the time. I have carried our small iBook in it, but I don't regularly. The estimable Sheldon Brown has said a saddlebag is a great way to schlep a laptop.

7:24 PM  
Blogger Joe said...


That's a 5 piece rod on the Hoss. To carry a 2 piece rod, I have a PVC endcap bolted to the fender eyelet. This supports the bottom of the tube, and then I use a toe strap to secure the rod tube to the rack. It sort of sticks up like a flag pole. I've found this method very secure. People will ask you what the heck that endcap is for all the time, though.

I'm planning some overnight bikefishing trips this year. Stay tuned, and let me know how it goes if you give it a shot.

Weird about the canti-roms. Maybe we should start a club. Even weirder, I just checked your blog; I was one of the first two Bicycling Ambassadors here in Missoula a few years ago. Our program was modeled after Toronto's and Chicago's. Great job. Keep in touch.

7:30 PM  

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