The Stories We Do Not Write . . .

The Things We Do Not Write About….

It has become clear that there are three topics I am uncomfortable writing about:  1) certain – let’s call them magical – days on the river; 2) stories that reveal the deeply human side of my friends; 3) stories that reveal the deeply human side of my life.

This realization slapped me square in the nose when I realized that I had not, could not, didn’t-want-to write about a particular day last Salmon Season.  I hooked a Chinook salmon, a huge, chrome, perfect fish; and I realized oh my god this is wonderful and beautiful and funny and sweet beyond comprehension.”

I shared a dream with Salmon that day, in a great, snag filled pool.  We wrestled.  We played games.  We made love.  At dusk, we each slipped away to our own worlds.

When I got home, I wrote about a different day.  I wrote about a day when I sat in the boat, watching ice crystals grow on my rods, casting my eyeballs out-of-their-sockets to no avail, with not a single grab or pull or tug or line-rub to show for my effort.


Most fishing days are beautiful.  Most fishing days involve our quest to learn about the fish, their habits, and how to place ourselves where and when we are more likely to actually catch a fish.  These days involve refining our skills at wading, casting, fly tying, line mending; fly presentation; reading the water; observing wildlife; observing people; our fly rods, lines, leaders, nippers, and lunch; peeing in our waders; numb fingers; good or bad sportsmanship; knowledge or ignorance; and the like.  All of these elements are fair game for a fishing journal, even our feelings of surprise, joy, frustration, revelation, and the like.

Some moments on the river, though, transcend all of this. These moments occur in a heartbeat, an hour or a day; some stir such deep passion that writing about it risks killing the magic. These moments have nothing whatsoever to do with our skill, knowledge, tackle, flies, lines, boats, anchor points, retrieves, strategies, patience, or water conditions.   These moments, these perfect days, are about the Salmon, and us – period.  Nothing but us and the salmon, embraced by the life energy of universe.

People who write novels have it good. They can write about anything and pretend that they aren’t writing about themselves, their friends, their feelings, or any thing that they ever thought about doing, or did, or almost did, or wished they had or had not done.

Novelists can write about the most intimate aspects of being men and women within the safety of creating fiction.  Give-your-life-up courage.  Sacrifice-everything for love.  Poop-your-pants terror.  Blow-your brains-out-despair.  Black depression.  Drunken elation.  Screw-the-consequences rage.   God-what was-I-thinking shame.

Near the conclusion of Blade Runner, the character played by Rutger Hauer laments that the things he has seen in his life, all of his memories, will be lost forever when he dies.

This thought haunts me.

I want to write about deeply personal things, I really do.  But I haven’t.  Not so far anyway, maybe never.

Meanwhile, there are flies, and casting, and cool tackle, and good times fishing with friends.  Meanwhile, there is plenty to be grateful for that is wonderful and not so deeply personal that it is off-limits.  Meanwhile, there is plenty to write about, photos to share, sketches to sketch, and stories to tell.


6 thoughts on “The Stories We Do Not Write . . .

  1. Jay,

    having been published in a handful of magazines, and currently preparing to land a novel online, would like to send you a story about Those Moments I think you would enjoy, as it is one of the primary things I like about your work/musings/thoughts…..if you can provide me with an email address, will do so. The story was going to drop in California Fly Fisher ten years ago and then Richard decided it didn’t have enough Cali specific content.



    1. Lance. I would love to read your story. I can well imagine an editor axing a story because it “didn’t have enough California content,” given that most of the really good stories are timeless and placeless — they are about our humanness. Here ya go. And thank you for sharing, i look forward to a good read. JN

    1. Lance, thank you so much for sending your story. I loved it. Vivid images of people, places, and emotions. Our futures will certainly include time on the *ladjlfajsdlfja estuary, hopefully this fall. Say hi to Jack for me. JN

  2. Hey Jay,

    That seemed to be a pretty personal little piece you just wrote. I enjoy reading your blog and just recently discovered it. You have good voice in your stories. I hope to some day be able to write like you. Keep it up.

    1. Josh. Yeah, that was indeed personal. I wrote and wrote and then gave up, cut out 90%, and just posted it. I am really glad that you find enjoyment in these rambling efforts to communicate the mess of thoughts and feelings that are scrambled up in my head. If you want to write, or paint, or whatever, just start. Be true to the voice in your head and it will flow, and set you free.

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