In our "Country Adventures with Hardy" series, follow along asphotographer Hardy Wilson lights up with remarkable everyday people to explore the California wilderness.
The bright morning sun slicing through my tent crushed my hopes of sleeping off the whiskey from the night before. I peered up with one eye at this unforeseen annoyance but my mood soon softened, for I remembered that today my friend John was bringing me fly-fishing on the aptly-named Stony Creek. It would be our first time fly-fishing together, and trying out Country joints together.
John had spent the last 15 years swimming and fishing the confluence of three forks here and we were relishing escaping the predicted 98-degree heat by being partially submerged in this crystal clear, spring-fed perennial creek.
After eating a hearty breakfast of skillet hash and eggs and picking out flies for our rods, the next order of business was to light up our Country joints and begin our journey upstream with John's dog.
The first hole we came across glistened with varying shades of green like a roughly shaped emerald that changes with intensity when moved. A slight wind was causing the sun to shine through the moving branches above, varying the appearance of the depth of our hole and making it difficult to eyeball any trout lurking a close distance away.
With shades on and the smile of a man very self-aware of his escape from life’s stresses and troubles, John cast his line upstream, unaware if anything would bite. It is fair to say that he would not have minded either way; relishing being away from society was all that was on his mind. On around his 10th cast, John’s rod bowed and he knew he had a beauty on the other end. For the next couple of minutes the dance continued until the fish tired out, gently fluttering futilely a few inches below the surface. John removed the hook and we had a split second of admiration before the fish scurried away, this time even further into the depths.
We knew it was time to move on so we bush-whacked our way past poison oak, stinging nettle and willow trees. With nary a soul around, we felt like intrepid young adventurers as we arrived upon small rapids with boulders in between. It was noon now and the hot sun was beaming overhead. We knew one of us had to take the challenge of getting to those rocks and John took it head on, gingerly feeling for loose rocks and sternly explaining to his dog that he couldn’t join. He made his way to the middle, beer in one hand, pole in the other. It was the perfect place to multi-task and cool off from the midday sun.
A few more fish and beers later it was time to put our poles down and explore a nearby, steep tributary to the creek. We knew it was too small and narrow to have any substantial fish but it could also harbor new surprises. We lit up again, carried the dog up some steep rocks, and found ourselves at the base of a small waterfall and swimming hole.
The mental freedom of being alone on our own adventures, a mere 2.5 hours from home, felt a world away. “Hell yeah,” John exclaimed, Country joint between his lips, his last beer gliding halfway through that cold creek as he explored the depths. “This is what I live for.”
– Authored by Hardy Wilson, Country Partner and Lead Photographer