Tag Archives: fly fishing

There’s No Place Like Home

Home is a very multifarious word. In one way, it can simply mean the place where you sleep. In other, more complex terms, it has to do with a place to go for deep love and comfort. It is the type of place where you can take a deep breath and relax without thinking about anything in particular at all. Home is the place to reset and retrieve what you lost while you were away. Maybe it is the smell of fresh baked bread and cookies, or the “fresh baked bread and cookies” scented candle you lit before you left. When you do return home, those cookies are there, waiting. No matter how you look at the word, it usually suggests a sense of well-being and calm. At least, this is the way I am suggesting for the purpose of this post.

Vacation was coming. I was about to have five days to spend with family in a familiar locale. At work, my mind drifted off into the past adventures that my family took to New Mexico before we finally moved there in the summer of 1993. Those were long road trips that my brother and I somehow managed to not be killed by my parents for being outright annoying. Although, we were left alone in the desert on a dirt road somewhere in between Thoreau and Farmington. As my brother and I began contemplating survival in the Bisti, my parents hit the brakes and let us back into that red S-10. When I think about it, my brother and I almost had the survival thing figured out and we had only been there for ten seconds at the most. We didn’t know at the time, but almost twenty five-years later, we would be in the same place with a different directive. Fish.

Christmas traditions have only changed slightly in the Goodrich household over the years. My mother still bugs me to take a shower before opening presents, my brother still giddy at the sight of a well-lit Christmas Tree, my father floating around plotting nefarious Christmas antics and somehow hiding the largest gifts. In fact, only a few things have changed. The tree isn’t real anymore and the stockings are no longer filled to the brim with matchbox cars and candy (which I am surprised that my mother has not replaced with bananas and apples). The biggest change has been the characters. People have come and gone (mostly women [mostly mine]), but one new addition is due to stick around. She is my brother’s soon to be wife. I’m not sure about the official status, but she calls me “brother-in-law”. While smiles were created from tearing paper and the joy of being around family, I told my brother that I wanted to take him fishing. Without skipping a beat, Evangeline said, “Yes!”

I have never stood in a river with my brother. Our time is usually spent throwing leeches at smallmouth in the summer or fishing from the banks of lakes in search of carp. He can fly fish, and he does, it just isn’t his preference. Since his fiance has been wanting him to teach her how to fly fish and all the lakes were beginning to freeze over, I finally had the upper hand. I saw excitement in their eyes as they commenced floating around the fly shop while I purchased some last minute items and waders for them. An excitement that would bleed into the next day.

We were hoping to arrive at the river early, a departure time of 6am was set. In all actuality, when my brother and I set plans they are loose. We both knew that we didn’t want to be up there in the cold for too terribly long and we both know New Mexico mornings. Outside the apartment, the car warmed up for a solid hour before we actually left on the long, boring stretch of road between Thoreau and Farmington. It began to snow as we told stories of past fishing trips and built up the day of fishing to come. Evangeline loves stories, and most of the trip was about telling them. Nate (brother) goading me the whole way. If there was ever a moment of silence, he would say, “Hey Dave, tell her about that one time…”

After getting some cigars for Evangeline, it was time to fish. My brother and I expected the worst. Sometimes the San Juan is cruel. Not that the fishing is ever really bad, but between the temperamental weather in the winter and the biting insects in the summer, it makes fishing a bit difficult. Today, the high was 29 with a slight wind. It was something my brother and I are used to, but today we had a first timer with us. There is nothing worse than getting skunked in the cold with 2 people so drawn to fishing that they will stop at nothing to continue fishing throughout the day. After rigging both of the up with the “Hail Mary” and teaching Evangeline to cast, it was only a matter of minutes before they were catching fish.

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The snow began to fall as well as the peace that comes with it. That muffled tone made everything more silent, more alive. The water seemed to thicken with the chill. Our lines sliced flakes as they soared through the air, we continued on despite the cold, driven by fish and a mysterious addiction. There is a new fly fisherman in the making now. It is a long, long road of fulfillment. One that, before she met my brother, she swore that she would never.

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After my vacation was over, I drove back to Colorado. I thought about that day on the river and the joy it brought. I thought about how the river makes me feel wanted and comfortable. Although my family has their home, that home is my home away from home. It may seem odd for me to say this, but a tree along a riverbank  makes a good place to hang your hat. The river is my home, no matter where it runs. The next day at work, I found  myself clicking my heels together chanting. “There’s no place like home.”

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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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Duality and Dichotomy

Many lump the two words together. Replacing one with the other and vice versa. To me they are two very different words. Dichotomy is the simple division of a whole in two. As much as one can divide by two there are still extraordinary complex ways to cut a pie in half, evenly. Whereas, duality is the bridging together of seemingly opposing ideas through one commonality. Humans are dualistic in nature. One life leads one direction and another in the other, but coexist in a strange harmony as one. When we divide something entirely from its original by half to become its own entity and live in harmony with its divided half… What have we created?

Que reality. Something that we see on a daily basis. Streets, cars, rivers, and fish are completely tangible objects. Real objects. It’s our way of life and everything in it, it’s that guy that greets you at the gas station, It’s the traffic you fight everyday. Even when it comes down to something out of the ordinary, it is still reality.

Our next performer on stage is art. There are many classifications of art and unless you want to pause here and read a million page book, I will focus on one simple term. Surreal. No matter the art, it is a portrayal of actual events. From music to architecture, there is something surreal about art. Even realism has, to some degree, surrealism. In some cases there are circumstances that cause events of reality to be surreal, dichotomy. These circumstances also require you to enjoy duality of your surreal reality, the high country.

This photo credit belongs to DiBiasio Photography and was a blast on the weekend trip. If you ever find yourself on an outing with the man, ask him about the “Dog about town”. You will never regret it. Joe is a remarkable photographer with a keen eye for his end product and a few of his prints are available for sale. If you see his union station photo and think it is neat, you should see the real print. Silly data, photos are for frames!


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.


Epiphany (Conquering Cheesman)

The day after a 12 mile hike and a 12 hour sleep, the mind has time to rest. A time to reset and rethink. Even more accurately, rethinking how to unthink. To process the past and look to the future. The unplanned, immovable, unpredictable, uncontrollable, unfathomable, resistant, persistent, beautifully chaotic, future. This day I learned, progressed…image

I hiked down the canyon in the rain, keeping light on my toes. Maybe it was the excitement of the challenge, maybe it was the new pants. I really couldn’t tell. There was a fire in my step, fueled by a need. This desire came from somewhere beyond, I needed this. After life had chewed me up, I needed the fish to do the same. image

When I finally arrived, the water showed its ugly head. Gin clear and spooky fish. I saw massive mayflies hatching and rises were few and far between. I cast to seams in riffles, knowing the feeding fish were hanging there. It’s normal this time of year. The first few casts came up with nothing. I had to sift through my boxes. And then…image

I enjoy tying by the river, it gives me a sense of solitude. Knowing what is going on at any given moment and playing to that tune while also playing in tune. I had developed a fly for the Frying Pan River that has now been adapted to Cheesman. You never know the consequences to actions. Predict as you will, but we never find out until the end. I layed there on the old picnic table contemplating the thought, watching clouds dissipate, listening to the sounds of the canyon.image

Something went right that day, something that changed me on the inside. I needed the challenge. In life, I need the challenge. Something my teachers always said as I was growing up, “we aren’t challenging him enough”. So, sometimes I create a challenge. Sometimes, I do something to make life more difficult only for the purpose to overcome. This aspect of my life, fishing, can never be conquered, never perfected. After almost 20 years, I’m still on the water, still fly fishing, still learning.image


The War

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Upon our distant perspective it all seems normal and calm. The cool breeze flipping leaves of trees and swaying grass to an unknown symphony. The river, the illustrious conductor to the life around and inside of it. However, upon closer inspection, a war tears at its very delicate fabric. A war keeps it alive.

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The walls of an unknown city rise from the ground, holding soldiers within. Millions of warriors who are controlled in numbers by unknown gods as they are forced down a road to the east, to a coast they have seen before. They are carried here on the wind, but today, the wind brings a new army.

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The war drums sound across the horizon, moved forward by chariots with legs of light that scorch the earth beneath their powerful foot falls. Their legs literally ripping the air apart as they move and the size of the army behind them moves so swiftly that they move the air around them.

Peacefully, the walled city rests. Praying for the destruction of the walls. One day they will fall. One by one, line after line they are released upon the road that they once knew so well. The road giving up its treasure as I am the only stranger who walks it. The only stranger that knows its secrets. I stayed for the spoils of war.

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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: 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.


Lost and Found Pt: 1 (The Journey of “Annette”)

There are so many metaphors between life and fishing that in this particular instance, they all apply and may remain unnamed. Even as I write, I know that some will shine through. If you know me very personally, you know what I have been going through as of late and again references to my life will be found in this post. Which is why the words will come first. Parts 2 and 3 will contain the trip (and the fish).

Lonely, drifting there in a back eddy, swept down the river by unnamed circumstance, she waited. Before I met her, Annette knew it was time to travel. She waited in a place she new I would find her. Maybe this was her freedom, maybe she needed to drift this this river to begin a new life. Trying to run from things that never happened as she chased down a dream. Stuck somewhere between both on a journey that only understands how to move forward. I removed her from her river, saved her, controlled her environment, and respected her. What more could she need? The same question that i have asked for years. What more is there that I couldn’t give, and why wouldn’t you say so if there were? Annette needed something new, I only know this after she left and would only ever truly understand and grasp the idea after she was gone. Hindsight is always 20/20 and one can’t be mad for things that have happened in the past because this is today and what we have to deal with is what we have right now. Annette was gone and I didn’t even realize that she had left. She didn’t slam the door or scream, just quietly moved along into another river, maybe to the ocean with calm waters where life would be simple, maybe onto that dream she had, maybe back home where I had saved her. The answer may never be found. Does it really matter? We know the case and the possible future, but Annette knew the future and that is good enough for me. On my way further down the same river, I accepted it somehow. This had nothing to do with me at all, it was the Journey of Annette. I walked further and ran into a group of fisherman, after hello’s one asked, “Did one of you lose a net?”
I said, “Yes, she is yours now. She is on a journey.”