A couple of days ago I found myself in an outfitter’s canoe transport van, eavesdropping for just a moment on the bearded outdoorsmen in the seats behind me. Like myself, they were on the way upriver for a day of floating and fishing the Conemaugh River – a new place for me. At the moment though, they weren’t conferring on favorite baits or prospective water conditions, they were talking about some of the trail foot races they’d competed in so far this year.
It got me thinking about the joys of variation and diversity in the great out-of-doors. I was perhaps excessively focused on the pursuit of fish as a child but as I grew up, I realized that I just wanted to try it all, in every place possible; straining my muscles, casting to fish-filled rivers, and breathing fresh air if nothing else. Like the gentlemen mentioned above, I didn’t want to be pigeon-holed among the good-old-boy fishermen, nor among the lazer-focused long-distance runners. Maybe my attention span is just too short but I’ll risk becoming the wild jack-of-all-trades and master of none. I’ve just always been fascinated most by the generalists, the people of insatiable curiosity for all things and those who know that their minds are best built by encounters with new and sometimes unexpected things. Purpose has to come first in life but perhaps Nirvana is to combine one’s purpose with far-flung outdoor experience.
I’ve harvested mushrooms lately which have added something wild to the plate and next week it will be time to dig the horseradish found in the lowlands all along so many trails. I broke in a new bike trail a few days ago with Susan while scouting the adjacent stream for next spring’s fishing. I paddled miles of the Conemaugh River two days ago, brushing up on my boatsmanship. I fished all along the way too and took smallmouth, largemouth and sauger from this new water, simply by applying the generalities learned elsewhere. That evening I fished in the city of Pittsburgh with a friend, casting flies out across the slow waters of the Monongahela till after dark. Coffee cooked on the zip stove and shoals of minnows crashed the shoreline to escape the pursuers below.
As we stripped bright streamers in the twilight, Nigel remarked how much he enjoyed finding a new fishing place full of new fishes to be taken with yet unlearned tactics a mere two miles from home. Some of the aforementioned diversity can be had in the darkest recesses of the forest, far off the beaten track, but much can be had at your doorstep, given a fit body and open mind.
Special thanks to Saltsburg Kayak and Canoe for a great trip! After just one outing, I highly recommend this trip for any outdoors person in western Pennsylvania.