Doug called on a Friday afternoon to propose a three-day trip to The Creek. "I realize it's short notice," he said, "but I was sure I was going to have to work this weekend, and then all of a sudden things cleared up. Pete's welcome, too. We could pack in tomorrow afternoon and come back out Monday."
I thought about it and about the various good reasons there were for not going. My wife and I were expected at a dinner party Saturday evening. My son, Pete, 19, was getting ready to leave in a few days for his sophomore year at college, and I had obligations all my own—something to read, something to write, a couple of months of accumulated yard-work, a leaky roof that needed patching before it rained. "Sure," I said. "We can do it."
There were at least two good reasons for agreeing to the trip. In my experience, well-planned outdoor excursions are seldom the most productive or enjoyable ones. In fact, it seems that the more time you spend preparing for something, the more likely you are to have it ruined by flood or blizzard, a mass migration of game or a hunger strike by fish. When you simply pack up and go on short notice, things have a way of working out beautifully, even though there's at least an even chance you'll forget a sleeping bag or a can opener, matches or a change of underwear.
But the best reason for going on this particular outing was that The Creek offers what could very well be, when all aspects are carefully considered, the best trout fishing in America.
Late the next afternoon Doug, Pete and I were grinding and bouncing along an extremely rough, barely discernible trail in a 30-year-old Jeep. All of us sat in front, our backpacks and fly rods wedged into the seat behind us. With each mile Doug drove eastward the hills were steeper, the draws rockier, the dust thicker.
"At least the old thing's still running, even if it doesn't have springs," I said after bouncing three feet into the air when we hit a large rock.
"Just so the engine doesn't die," Doug said, almost screaming to be heard above its whine. "If it does, we probably won't get it started again for an hour. Sometimes the brakes go out, too. And gas leaks onto the manifold these days. I don't know that much about it, but it seems possible the engine could catch fire that way. See the deer?"
I saw them—four does beneath an oak on a hillside—and I was willing to change the subject, too. "They're almost tame," I said. "They don't see many people out there."
"None at all," Pete said. "They really don't see any, do they?"
We took the Jeep as far as it would go and then carried our packs and fishing rods another 30 minutes down a steep canyon wall. We could hear the sound of moving water, that lovely, muted roar, long before we reached The Creek. When you have fishing on your mind, there is no finer sound than that.