Editor’s Note: This is the first of hopefully several Trail Talk entries on Jim DuFresne’s search of the world-class fly fishing in Argentina.
My right knee aches.
Yesterday I ran six miles, pushing it at the end, knowing that my right knee would throb that night and I would be sore today. I am but there is no denying it and nothing I can do to prevent it.
I’m getting older.
Day by day, year by year, I get a little older, a little stiffer. I lose a little more flexibility along with little more hair. I have a little bit less energy at night, my pace is a little more slower when I hike. I no longer spring out of bed in the morning. I crawl out and then spend the first moments of every day rubbing my shoulders, stretching my neck, cracking my knuckles.
When asked my age I say mid-50s but the reality is I’m marching towards 60 and to emphasize that point my eye doctor recently told me I needed cataract surgery.
I’m trying to slow the aging process or at least ease into it. I work out six days a week, religiously, more so then when I was younger when skipping a few days or even a week or two was no big deal. Now it is.
Once while in the stream bath at my gym a pair of butt-naked 70ers sitting next to me said “boy, you better start lifting weights. At our age it’s the only way to slow down muscle loss.” I looked at them, I looked at what naturally happens when you’re closer to 100 than 50, and began a weight-lifting program the next day.
Two years ago I enrolled in a yoga class after my daughter urged me to take up the exercise as a way to improve my flexibility and balance. I walked in and it was 30 women and me. Most of them older and all of them far more flexible.
I unrolled my matt in the rear cornered of the studio and while they moved fluidly from one position to the other, I grunted and struggled with my warrior one and downward-facing dogs. I’m barrel chested, a former high school heavyweight wrestler, so my happy baby pose looks like anything but a gleeful infant in a crib. But I show up twice a week, like I do for my six-month cleaning at the dentist. It’s not something I particularly look forward to, it’s something I need to do.
I’m not trying to turn back the clock or even prevent the inevitable. Someday I’ll be sitting in lounge chair, maybe on the edge of a pool in a warm weather state like Florida, reminiscing with somebody about where I’ve been and what I did.
It will come soon enough. Until then I want to squeeze in a few more adventures.
A month after my daughter left for Argentina to take a job in Buenos Aires, I read a magazine article about the fabulous fly fishing in the Patagonia region of the country. Then I met somebody at a Trout Unlimited meeting who was going down there to fish and at that point it became something I needed to do because, at this point of my life, I can.
I still have enough energy to fish for long hours and enough strength in my legs to stand in a strong current and cast towards raising trout on the other side of the river. I can still tie on a No. 18 fly, threading a 6X tippet through the small eye of the hook. Okay, I need reading glasses but I can still do it.
I still have the stamina to fly halfway around the world and the patience to endure airport security. I still have a daughter, fluent in Spanish, living in Buenos Aires who could help me arrange transportation across this incredible long country and book me a bed in a fishing lodge for when I get there. Who knows how long she’ll be there.
Most of all, I still have the desire to do it. The fact that I’ll be traveling alone with a very limited use of the language I view as a challenge, not an ordeal. The thought of watching a 22-inch brown trout rise to my fly and then run hard with it, still excites me.
I’ve yet to begin the first leg of this journey and already I’ve learned a powerful lesson; my sense adventure is far more enduring than my physical abilities.
Long after that right knee is shot, I’ll still want to climb a mountain.