Yellow school buses have always made me nervous. For people that enjoyed and did well in school, i imagine they are symbols of field trips and freedom, but for folks like me that struggled with academics, they have a tendency to show up in the same nightmares where homework wasn’t done and surprise tests might as well have been turned in empty.
Crossing the parking lot towards one of these buses i couldn’t guess that it would take me on one of the best field trips i’ve had in a long time, if not ever. Two of these buses had been procured to transport the arrival of 50-60 members of the Guadalupe River Trout Unlimited from stocking site to stocking site where they would unleash trout in hopes of reconnecting with them via their fly rods at some over the next few months.
The day would have surely been enjoyable anyway, but it was a guaranteed good time when i saw that my good fishing friend Egan had shown up to help man the buckets. As a “high strung” individual it’s always calming (or as calming as it can be) to be surrounded by relaxed, happy people enjoying the moment, and if anyone fits that bill it’s definitely Egan.
The mornings ritual was established early on, as we’d pull up to a spot, the “fish truck” would fill fill the buckets partially with water, and the fun would commence. Buckets were quickly shuffled forward to be filled by a strong net holding anywhere between 8-12 healthy size trout. Volunteers stepped forward in unison to man the buckets (i say this because surprisingly there was only one female along, and she was the first in the water to survey our dumpings and make sure all went well, obviously a season pro) and carry the fish down wet steps, across lawns and down muddy banks only to dump the fish gingerly in the river.
It was odd to say the least, this sudden turn of events that found anglers bringing fish to the water, setting them free and actually shooing them away. Of course the hope was that soon the opposite ritual would be performed as fish were enticed to come close and be tricked into coming to hand.
While scuttling buckets down the banks provided one with a great sense of accomplishment, i’m guessing the highlight for most people (including me) was watching the trout being shot off the bridges and into some of the deeper pools. While these trout might indeed be farm raised and farm fed, there was an obvious internal instinct that kicked in once the drop chute was added and the water shot out of the side of the truck. Numerous fish being shot forth quickly adjusted themselves after exiting the chute and tried swimming UP the waters flow (below) as though they were attempting to migrate upstream to deeper and bluer pastures.
Later in the day, exiting the bus and walking back to our respective cars, there was an obvious nervous awkwardness filling the parking lot. There were a lot of happy people, rightfully proud of the work they’d done, but if Egan and i were any indication, there were also a lot of anglers heading back to their vehicles fighting the inescapable urge to wet a line and catch a few rookie fish immediately. I’m proud to say we didn’t do it, but it was a deep seeded desire that was hard to pass up. We both made our way out of there fast in effort to avoid the temptation.
Driving back to Austin there was an odd melancholy feeling that was hard for me to put me finger on until Egan shot me a text that said it all.
“It feels weird driving back having not fished. A weird neutral, not happy from catching, not sad from getting skunked.” -Egan
P.S. Yellow buses make me happy now.
Note: If you’re interested in getting more information about GRTU or possibly signing up for their lease access, and thereby getting more information on future stockings, please visit www.grtu.org.