Tag Archives: Colorado

Accidents and Happenstance

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Sometimes when alone, we ask questions we can not answer to things that have no voice. The reasons why the question is announced is often more mysterious than the answer to the question at hand. It becomes philosophy, and more importantly, these philosophical questions lead us to answers that seem more like ambiguous rhetoric. Even the previous statement clearly defines the enigmatic nature of these questions. As complex as the explanation may be, the question is usually a simple one. A, “How did that happen,” or “Why am I here” seems an easy enough question to answer. Upon further examination, any inflection made could change the meaning completely, and becomes the first step down a rabbit hole that continues for a lifetime.
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Sitting upon a boulder that would be submerged when man forced springtime on the river, unknown bugs were tied to a leader that wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen. These bugs were born from a pile of feathers, copper, steel, and thread with an idea that they would mimic an insect. As they drifted through the gauntlet of multi-directional currents, thoughts drifted through the gauntlet of conflict and doubt in my mind. The world is no longer flat. We have, theoretically or otherwise, defined all that we see. We take this as pure knowledge, but not the existance of other possibilities. As humans we have closed our minds to the pathways that could lead us to new heights. What if we found anti-gravity before the wing or solar energy before coal? How would our world be today if we never split an atom? How did all of this happen? How did I come to be here fishing, seemingly for entertainment purposes that are a way of life? Even the act of fly fishing accidentally began somewhere and the possibilities of what it could have been are endless.
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We think that our actions are definitive. With the thought that there could be nothing more functional and utilitarian than the car or wheel, the wing and engine, coal and power, we are lost completely. Doomed to be repeating what has been done and perfecting an idea that may not be a perfect one. Fly fishing is efficient, using human energy to perform fluid mechanical function. Newtonian physics in the simplest form at all times only to be dropped into chaotic fluid and pressure dynamics. Utilizing the creativity of the human mind to replicate the action of an insect that clumsily survives through its ascent. Occam’s Razor at work. Yet, the variables are too great. To this day, something new is learned on the river each trip. Fly fishing carries a history of at least five hundred years and we still stumble upon new ideas each and every day.
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As my mystical fly was drifting through chaotic bliss, it was interrupted by a fish that had mistaken it for being real. As I fought the fish, I thought. Of all the bugs in this river, why this one? Did the fly happen to be drifting perfectly in the current? Was it the perfect color or action? Maybe it was an accident and happenstance. No matter the case, as a fly fishing community, we should look at the way we tie and the way fish see to ultimately determine why fish feed on the end of your line.
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Today, as I write, I have no idea as to the purpose of it, or why I choose to be sitting in this chair. I do know the events leading up to this simple action, but upon deeper inspection, every action in life lead me to this point. Even reading this, your whole life lead to this very moment. Every wrong turn and every delay in traffic brought you right here right now. The moments after are being shaped by the time it takes to read this. Call it fate or divine intervention. To me, even if the other two are involved, it seems like a heck of a lot of accidents and happenstance.
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A Letter to My Enemy

I’ve seen your face before. It shows scars from your past well. Well enough that I can see them from across the river. Upon that upper lip, a black scar from years ago, showed an age beyond your own. Possibly a scar that signified a wayward treble hook that dangled behind a flashing treat. Adolescent and naiive, you took the bait, was mistreated, and now you bear the scar for life. A scar of the wise.

In my life I have come across thousands of your kind, thousands that only carry a handful of dispositions. There are the shakers that slosh the surface spitting water every which direction but never really go far. There are the runners that swim upstream at a breakneck pace, frustrating the fisherman with break-offs. Then there are the acrobats, who are tricky at times with their high flying antics, but easily manipulated to net. The stones, who find the deepest current and rest, which cause fisherman to second guess. The flailers, who like getting hooks wrapped around rocks and in weeds while vigorously trying to shake out the hook. With all these, there can be mixtures of sorts, and some more unique than others. Then there is you. In my years, I have never met a fish like you. You showed your power, your arrogance. You knew, and this is the third time we have met. I know that scar, and each time it feels like you want me to see it. Like you want me to know it is you.
I know where you reside, and with your size and stature, you can be dominant over your territory without an issue. You live on the fast side of 20 rock. A rock so-called because of your brutish friends that live in the current break. Not choosing that as your feeding ground, you took to the point side, the first to the conveyor belt of food that deposits behind 20 rock. Safe from fisherman. An impossible drift to achieve naturally. I found a way with a quick double mend and you have found my fly for the third time. I am a glutton for punishment.

The first time, you swam upstream with all of the power of your predecessor, the salmon. You raised your head across the shallows before you found a way to shake my fly. I saw the scar then, as I did today. The second time, I almost had you, ten feet away, you layed on your side in defeat as I pulled you in. I got a closer look at the scar before you shot down into the deep and off with my fly. It was that day I saw your size, an astonishing double digit weight and nearly 25 inches, even that may be an understatement. The third time, we knew each other, we knew our history.

The battle was not epic. It was not one that got my heart racing. I knew it was you when I set the hook. A firm set into a heavyweight, in an instant you maneuvered yourself downstream. Close enough to the surface that my line whistled as it split the air. Enough energy to confuse the novice and buy you time to dislodge the hook. I kept tension against you as you dove to the bottom. Your easiest way out, a place where you knew well that you could apply weight to tire me out. We sat for a minute in a stalemate while I put a near breaking tension upon you. You waited in your comfort zone. Out of nowhere, I felt you begin to rise, out of your own admission, out of free-will. I was confused. Your shape began to take form in the more shallow water, but you swam steadfast, without a stressor, as though my hook were not even there. Your fins cut the surface of the water and I was in awe. You lifted your massive head out of the water like a silent submarine. That eye, that deep, aged, sunken eye looked at me. Like you committed me to memory and marked me as your enemy. A conscious effort was put forth on your part, you knew who I was and wanted me to know. It was that moment of realization when you turned your head to dive back into the abyss, that you showed me again, the scar. Purposefully and dutifully extracting the hook from your disfigured jaw.

One of these days we will meet again.


Legendary…

This is one of those times as a fisherman, you may feel as though I am bending the truth. I can assure you that I am not… Or am I? These past few weeks have brought me some great fish and I really can’t believe my luck as of late. I’m ready for my brutal skunking.

In the night, I hiked down to the river. It hadn’t quite turned to the inky black that is fuel for my greatest fear. I squinted to see the bottom of the river. Small shadows lined the earth beneath the river. “Nothing but ten to twelve inch fish,” I said to John as we set up the tent. We both shrugged it off. Any fishing was good. When we finally hit the river, I caught my first surprise. A yellowstone cutthroat, at least 18″. I figured it was a fluke. When I met up with John upriver, another larger than the last. John scowled, I scouted higher. John fished a hole full of the monsters. He hooked into a small rainbow. Ten inches at best. I looked away and heard a loud “holy $%!#, look at this!!!” A fish was aggressively chasing his rainbow. Not just any fish, the legend. I couldn’t really tell its size, but I would guess around 26″ or so. After releasing the rainbow, he recast and looked at me and said, “that would be crazy if…” I saw it roll over on the Hail Mary. John turned ghost white and we both knew what just happened. That inhale… Preparing for something in silence. It rolled, I jumped in, it ran, swam under the bank, under my feet, ran again, I missed with the net, it went over the waterfall and found a massive hole beneath the waterfall, I reached in to grab its tail. This moment felt like I was saving a man, like I had him by the arm. At one point I thought I grabbed a tree. A shake, a slip, and gone. My heart sank. It was my fault. I had lost the largest fish of John’s life. Heck, the largest cutthroat I have ever seen. The legend lives. Feeding on small rainbows… Waiting below the falls.

Both of our phones were dead, but here is the bigfoot type shot of the next fish.
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Lost and Found Pt: 4 (Redemption)

They were ghosts of past fish, protecting the lives of the future. Legends, protectors, guardians. Through the gin clear water I spotted the residents feeding in the seam. Their red flashing sides a remnent of stocking in the early 20th century. They were legendary in their own right, carrying genetic code from both steelhead and redband. Like messengers to the future about what not to do and the ghosts protected it, kept it sacred. I knew they were there, just beyond the seam, either out of sight or invisible. The only evidence of their existence was a hookset, a screaming reel, then nothing. For two days I tried to land one, the third day brought a new feel for the fish. When I connected with the fish, I felt the movements. Dancing against one another. Playing the game of attrition. Watching the head shake and dive as my rod pointed left and right. Then it ran. I could feel the strain in my line. I had a ghost. Down the chute it went. I ran along the shore, through bushes and over rocks keeping tension against the ghost. In the slow water I felt it growing weaker and the power it still had. I worked it in close and saw Hail Mary sunk just above the maxillary. The ghost was real. image

Sorry about not wearing a shirt… It was hot. Here are a couple more fish for ya…
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Lost and Found Pt: 2 (The River)

The River is code named “Lost and Found” after Annette and the fact that this river is so overlooked. The day started early after an all night snoring competition between John and I. If there was a ranking system for snoring, I’m sure I know the top 10 competitors in the world and he and I would rank in the top 5. As it stands, the winner is still yet to be determined as there was no “official” judge.

Without a hitch we were off to fish while other campers dreamed of home after a long weekend that seemed a great idea at the time, but after a few days in the forest with family, things get rough. We looked over the river with great anticipation saw fish from the road as we geared up. They were feeding. They were massive. They were ripe for the picking and it wasn’t long before John’s resident skills paid off.image

The fish here surprised me everytime, like hooking into a freight train moving solidly up a hill. Not only that, but these fish were brilliant swimmers to the extreme and put a wicked bend in the Sage One that it has never seen. The rod did play the larger fish better than I thought it would. Still, even with its superb construction, I lost fish and flies by the dozens. Some fish would strike so hard and so fast that they would break the 6x tippet before I even realized a fish had taken the fly. Frustrating. After some time, I did begin to find the groove and landed some of my own.image

Days 1 and 2 on “Lost and Found” drained the life from me. Between the sun, extremely difficult terrain, fighting fish, and casting, everything hurt. I even felt as though my rod was starting to feel lethargic, on the last limb, ready to throw in the towel, or die trying. Every step worth every cast worth every fish.image

Toward the end of the second day, I found the hole of holes on the river. I deemed it “The Chute”. It was the last pocket of water twenty feet from some wicked whitewater. Let me give you a quick rundown of fish before I explain the difficulty here. The fish in the river were averaging 16-19″ and a 12-14″ fish was around one in ten. 20″+ fish were about one in three and nearly impossible to land. For the days we were here, I needed to land a 20. So many times I set the hook into them. So many times I caught a glimpse of the fish before it was gone forever into the depths of Lost and Found. I cast into The Chute and pulled out a few fish (most importantly one containing 2 of John’s flies from the previous day), but there was one I that nearly gave me a heart attack. I saw a flash and set, solid hook set, no movement. I thought I had been snagged on a rock until I moved forward and saw its back vaguely beneath the current. It was a fish and it had the Hail Mary locked in its jaw. I pulled harder lifting the fishes head into the current. It did not like that at all. Off it went. It is said that a rainbow trout can accelerate to 23mph in one second. This fish easily broke that record and flew through the air like a salmon trying to get to his headwaters to spawn. My reel screamed in pain as the fish swam full speed down The Chute and into the deep run 50 yards downstream as I gave chase on land at a much slower pace. I made it to a slow pool along the run to work the fish. As I was settling in, the fish violently shook its head and both my flies and fish were gone. It was time to go. We moved on, to higher country.