Fly Fishing In Iowa and His Story "Stream of Dreams"

This week we talk with Iowa farmer Holden Asmus about his story "Stream of Dreams." He was the second prize winner in our short story contest. He talks about his story, fly fishing in Iowa and what farmers are doing to protect our water! An excellent episode. Check him out on Instagram @flyowa_guy

 

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The Stream of Dreams
By: Holden Asmus

He shuts the door of his Silverado at the riverside on a beautiful summer day. He sighs a breath of relief as he sips his coffee and takes in the scenery. The babbling current is relaxing as it flows over sunken rocks. The clear day makes the water glisten like crystals. He sets down his gear and opens his fly box to find the perfect fly. He looks over the water and notices the fish are rising on what could be described as an unforgettable hatch. He looks back down into his fly box and picks out a mayfly pattern and ties it on his tippet. He looks over the rod and grins with excitement as he straightens his hat and steps into the stream. Everything seems to be as it should. Just as he preps for the first cast, he hears a noise.

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The alarm on his cell phone has been ringing for fifteen minutes at this point. As he rolls over to check the time, he sees that it is already 5:30 AM.

Great, another day with a late commute to work, as he shoots out of bed. He throws on the first t-shirt and jeans he grabs out of the dresser drawer, brushes his teeth, and runs out the door.

“I guess there isn’t time for breakfast again.” He mumbles while feeding the animals instead of himself. He throws a hay bale over the fence to the cows as quickly as he can and takes off. With an hour and a half commute in front of him, he checks the time on his dash. 5:45 AM. That makes for a 7:15 arrival at work, which means he’ll be late again…

It’s another day of the same hectic rush. The phones are ringing off the hook, delivery tickets are piling up for invoicing, tasks are starting to snowball, and he still has to fill in for the warehouse guy who is on vacation. As lunch rolls around, the other employees are laughing and talking about their upcoming fishing trips. A wave of jealousy rolls over him. He only wishes he had time to hit the water. As the 5 o’clock hour approaches, he fills his truck up with fuel and loads some product in the back for a couple farmers on the way home. When he arrives at home, he looks at the clock on the oven to discover it’s 8 PM. His wife has been waiting for him to come home so they can start prepping for dinner. He heads out to the pasture, feeds the animals again, takes out the trash, and goes in to wash up for dinner.

It’s already 9 PM as they finish up dinner, and there are still projects to finish in the house. As he’s bringing ceiling planks into the basement office, he glances over at the vise on his table. There is a half-finished streamer with the bobbin still hanging on the hook shank. He can’t remember the last time he sat and worked on that fly. It had to have been maybe two weeks. Or was it three? Either way, he was long overdue for another vise session.

He sits down and starts tying. It’s a rabbit strip streamer that he has been working on for the annual family vacation to Wisconsin. As he wraps some baitfish emulator, his worries seem to vanish and his mind wanders to being on the water. Waking from his daydreams, he hears his wife from upstairs.  “Are you coming to bed, honey? It’s getting late!”  He glances at his phone and sees that it is almost 11.

How can time pass so quickly? I just sat down, as he does a quick whip finish, and takes the fly off the vise. The image of pike striking his fly passes through his head. If only he could test it before the big trip. When he lies in bed, he sets his alarms for the next morning. After all, it was only Monday. Four more days to go.

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Slowly he starts to hear the stream again and the same crystal clear water emerges. The lyrics to his favorite Mangas Colorado song passes through his mind. “The cascading currents don’t remember the toils of men, or the reason for our sins. But I hope these lonesome waters take me in.”  

He steps into the stream and the current seems to wash away all his stresses. The cold water passes across his legs and brings peace to his mind as he evaluates the waters to find the perfect cast. He starts letting out the line as the stream carries it, dancing around his legs. Back and forth he whips the rod over his head as if he’s painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. He lets the fly soar and it lands just behind a large rock. He leans slightly forward and hardly blinks as he watches his mayfly drifts through the current. A small ripple overcomes his fly as it vanishes. His palms start sweating as he prepares to set his hook, when hears a familiar ringing tone in the distance.

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It’s that time again. He gets up early enough for a morning shower this time, but that is it. It’s another rushed morning of feeding animals and skipping breakfast. On his commute, he listens to his favorite fly fishing podcast and envies the stories of chasing big trout out west, steelhead in Michigan, and muskies in Illinois. As each episode plays, he lives vicariously through their stories. If only he could keep his truck heading North... away from work, away from all his anxiety, and right out to the water. Unfortunately, he has to take this exit back to the proverbial salt mines.

Another long work day drags on which means another commute back home, and another late meal with his wife. His dream hasn’t left his mind since he woke up. Did he finally get a fish, or was it just a snag? He gets ready for bed and rolls under the covers. Out of habit, he starts scrolling aimlessly through his social media accounts. The envy continues to build seeing endless pictures of beautiful trout and other species caught in his home state of Iowa.

If all these people have long jobs like him, how can they make time to fish? as he sets his alarms out of frustration for tomorrow and heads to bed.  His wife leans over and kisses him goodnight. “Maybe at the end of this week, we can go fishing. I know work has been tough.” His wife says.  He slowly drifts off to sleep.  

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The fan buzzing in the room turns into the breeze blowing the trees, and he hears the sound of the water flowing down the stream. The same focus overcomes him and the ripple intensifies as his mayfly is swallowed in the current. The tip of his rod bends as it loads the weight of what could only be a fish. “Please be a fish. Please be a fish,” he whispers to himself.  Finally, he feels the pull. Oh how therapeutic the feeling of a hooked fish can be! He sets the hook, and the fish pulls the loose fly line out until the drag from the reel stops his run.  A rush of happiness sweeps his cares away as the fight begins. Just as he begins to reel in his line, he is interrupted by a faint sound in the distance and feels a whack on his arm.

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“Honey, either shut off your alarm or get up,” his wife says as she rolls over in bed.

He shuts off his alarm and rubs his eyes to get them to focus. Wednesday. So close to Friday, yet still so far. Same stuff, different day. This time he at least has time to grab a quick granola bar for breakfast before heading out the door. He manages to make it to work right at 7 am, which was right on time. He smiles as he walks to the office from the parking lot as he appreciates the small victory. This brought a much needed second wind to a hectic work week. This boost in morale carried him through the rest of the day and made his long commute seem quicker than normal.

Tonight, his wife was craving a nice Wisconsin fish fry for dinner from where she grew up. Since he hasn’t been fishing in quite a while, he digs into their freezer to find some frozen fillets from the last trip. It becomes pretty apparent that he needs to catch some fish soon as he finds the last frozen packs of fillets at the bottom. As they sit down for dinner, he tells his wife all about the new ideas and mentors and how they have everything set for the Mayfly Project launch in Iowa. Not one minute of their conversation involves his day at work. Scarfing down the last piece of fish, he quickly cleans up the dishes and tries to get to bed early.  After all, there is a full day of meetings tomorrow which he needs to actually focus on. He sets his alarms, and drifts off while starting to flinch in his sleep.

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The fight begins to intensify as the fish makes a strong run and pulls the line back out of his reel. He begins to wonder what he could have possibly hooked. Was it one of the brown trout that were recently stocked from the DNR? Or maybe it was a rainbow. Either way, he watches the rod bend under the pressure of the fish. As the fight progresses, the fish continued to be a worthy adversary. He finally gets the fish close enough to stretch out his net. With a quick scoop of his net and an outstretched arm, the fish is cradled in the net just as his hook comes free. He begins to bring the net back to see his catch, and a clear ringing tone breaks through the air.

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Thursday morning came way too quickly. As he makes his commute once more, he wonders what the fish in his dreams could possibly be. His first meeting of the day arrived earlier than scheduled, so he rushed into the office to meet with his client. As each meeting passes, all he can think about is the possibility of heading to the stream this weekend. Before he knew it, 5 o’clock came around, and the work day was over. As he arrives at home, his wife is finalizing a girl’s weekend with her friends. This is weekend his chance to finally head out to the stream. With high anticipation, he checks the weather near his favorite spot, and falls asleep.

 

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He pulls the net to him to find the most beautiful surprise. It wasn’t a brown or rainbow trout. It wasn’t even the occasional smallmouth found in these waters. To his surprise, he finds a large, aggressive brook trout. This fish surpassed all expectations of the fisherman. It was a true specimen of beauty. The orange belly flared as if it were an open flame. Its red spots had the most perfect blue rim. The lower jaw of the fish had the slightest upward hook. The distinct white lines on its fins flashed like lightning as it attempts to swim from the net. It relaxes for a brief moment to allow him to pick the fish up gently. As he takes in the beauty of his catch, he is interrupted with the familiar ringing tone.

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The alarm snaps him quickly out of his dream. Thank God it’s Friday. The busy week is just about over, and luckily he is not on the list of employees to come into the office that Saturday. He arrives at his desk determined to get through the pile of invoices and call it a week. Some of the other employees requested the day off for fishing trips, so he was alone at the office today. The day seemed to drag on for ages, and all he could think about was his trip to the stream. He keeps checking the weather to make sure it would be clear. He rushes home and throws everything in the truck. With a long drive ahead of him tomorrow morning, he set his alarm for 4 am and drifts off to sleep.

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After getting the perfect photo, he held the brook trout in total wonder. A sense of excitement filled his heart as he examined his trophy.  This fish would look amazing on my wall! he thought as he internally debated keeping or releasing the fish. Another fisherman on the stream caught a nice trout as well. He watched as the angler ripped the hook out of the fish and tossed it to the river bank. Seeing the poor treatment of that trout broke his heart. He looked back at the trout in his hand and placed it gently back into the water. Surely this fish was a true trophy, but there will be plenty more fish to catch. He watched as the brook trout darted from his hand and vanished back into the stream. A sense of peace filled his heart as he clipped his net back to his pack. He dried off his fly and cast back into the stream.

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This morning, he wakes before his alarm. He kisses his wife on the forehead and sneaks out to his truck. As he backs out of the driveway, he notices rain drops hitting the windshield. Although it saddens him to see the unexpected rain storm, he doesn’t let it stop him. After all, the stream was quite a distance from home. Just as he arrives, the clouds seemed to break, and a sense of joy filled his heart. He shuts the door of his Silverado at the riverside on a beautiful summer day. The fish are rising on what could be described as a perfect hatch. He ties on a mayfly pattern and steps into the stream. Everything seems to be as it should.