Tag Archives: tailwater


cbwThey say the eyes are the window to the soul. When, if ever do we see our own? Throughout life, our shortcomings and judgment from others shapes our self image. Those things that we may think we really are. Who are we?

Staring down at the cold, moving water of the river, it began with a simple question. The journey to this water was difficult. As all “uncharted” sections of river are. I asked, “Why?”. Why did I drive for three hours to get to a place that required over an hour worth of hiking to get to? There was not a person to be seen in the canyon, not a single car in the parking lot. Emptiness. The river rushed through a place untrodden while a similar river rushed through my heart. I was here not because it was exciting, but because I needed to connect with something so similar to who I am. Searching for fish is only an excuse to search for something within myself. For the first time this year, I was able to think.

My fingers dipped into the river, the cold water like refreshing air, a gasping inhale after holding your breath too long. It brings to mind those visionaries whose psychic abilities only function upon touch of an old item to see if it has spirits attached to it. That water moving against skin flashed visions of those spirits. Among all of this, this canyon, the coyotes, the eagles, the heron, there is a river that represents life. More importantly, it bore my own reflection. Looking upstream to waters I have seen before, this day I had to move beyond my comfort zone. Downstream, to the future, to the heart of the river, to the heart of me.

I hiked down in an attempt to wear myself out, to get the feeling that I would never make it out. I needed to feel like I was alive and that life is fragile. Continuing on, I passed beautiful sections of water that held fish, passing bend and pool, log jams and riffles for no reason but to get to a destination that I never knew existed. To see if the river stopped where no one was looking, to see if it ever gives up or gets tired. What I found is that the river is absolute, it is relentless, it shapes the world around it yet allows the world to direct it.

Even though I was not aware, I had stumbled upon what I was looking for. It was a hole containing an abundance of fish. With every few casts, the river began to yield the treasure it held beneath that magical separation of water and air. As good as it seemed, above and below this hole seemed to be dead and void of fish. Even hiking out from the canyon I fished to no avail. Looking back at the path I had taken, I realized what the river was trying to say. I had taken this path that lead to a place. That path is where I stand now and looking upstream at the sunset, that path is directing me to a new horizon. To a sunrise that never seems to lose her grandeur. Reflecting upon the looking glass, I saw my reflection conjured by the river. Maybe I had found what I had been searching for all along.cbrowncbow


Accidents and Happenstance


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Great Chill

It was a hot summer. I say “was” because now, as I sit in my room contemplating, summer is over. The trip I am writing about was that very last day… Or so I thought.

The Taylor River is probably the most awkward and unseasonably cold river on earth, no matter what the season. I forget this every time I make the journey, but being a good little prepared back country guy, I’m always prepared for snow. Even in July. As I waited in construction traffic, I took a nap, well deserved after a 3am rise. My mind began to wander off with the river that flowed next to me, a vision of things to come and things that were. The power of the river, limitless. Something more than the fish and technical prowess of the river drew me here. Much like the Arkansas, when you step into the river, you feel the power of a glacier fed creek that drains into the vast expanse of ocean to be lifted and frozen and deposited back to the glacier from where it began. It floors me every single time, the power and majesty of the water. I look at what we have become, the destructive force of humanity, that no longer allows this river to flow into the ocean by means of a delta but rather sewage and human waste. Something that brings us so much life, a thing from which we were born, is also something we take for granted. No matter its fate, she is still here. For now.

A quick pointed rapping on my window woke me up as a pilot car and flag man anxiously awaited my journey up the canyon now warmed by the sun. I was not in such a hurry. I knew she waited patiently for me, as I, for her. The power of the river was subdued by her own exhalation. She had spent her energy breathing life to the world below. A world now in slow decay who also awaited patiently for her exhale again, in spring. Yet we still fight over how much we can use. How much we can take away for our own personal gain. For our crops, for our yards, for our showers, toilets, carwashes, electricity, tv, makeup, and clothes. For our energy drinks, diet pills, Starbucks coffee, oil refining, recycling processing, and every little thing that makes our existance. I had to stop myself there.

Anyway, I geared up. Not with waders, but with my cold weather gear. Twenty-eight degrees will make you rethink the process. I wasn’t ready for it yet. I left colorado springs at well over sixty, even at three am. A brief acclimation time took place as I walked down to the river, but once I was there, I would forget completely. The river had decided to give up her treasure to me.

The day wore on, fisherman expecting “hawgs” and “pigs” came and went with empty nets. Not willing to brave the cold long enough to entice the unwilling meatheads below. Many times I was approached and asked what I was using. I’ve learned my lesson after being called a “smartass” (yelled at me 3 times) on the Frying Pan for using a caddis. Most times in tailwater, I keep my headphones on and eyes to the water. This time I proclaimed “wooly bugger” which was the gods honest truth. However, it was shrugged off by most fisherman. After my stint in the Taylor, I moved on to camp. The next day brought excitement.

The next morning, the sun hid behind the canyon walls. I froze. Fishing the Taylor in the wee hours before getting a foothold into higher ground. She gave me small gifts, but I had to move on.

To explore. Then, I found it. Untouched, unexplored, unblemished, unnamed, and far away from man. What exactly happened there shall forever remain a mystery to the readers of this, but there were fish, and there is still hope after all. Maybe that is why the Taylor River is so cold. Maybe she is just sad and alone, like the ones who appreciate her the most, the ones who feed her.

A Weekend With the Boss Pt:2 Tailwater Madness

In the hotel, we had access to a coffee machine. John’s plans had nothing to do with one. They did have to do with a french press and some freshly ground Hawaiian coffee beans. Nothing shy of brilliant if you ask me.  What, no access to heat either? Covered, thanks to a pack stove. To be honest it could have been the microwave, but the stove was used for dinner the night before. John likes his coffee strong, this was a matter of observation more than a stated question. The coffee did it’s thing in the bloodstream and the truck was packed before I even realized that I was awake. Where to now?

Destination 11 Mile: 

A couple of stops were made at certain secret locations to get our waders wet and fish some interesting water. As odd as it may sound, catching fish was not as high of a priority as fishing. To me, this does make sense in the way that John fishes. See, John doesn’t fish. He catches. Because of his catching ability, he reminded me of some things that I had forgotten over the past couple years and maybe taught me a few things as well. After going for a swim early in the day, Steven was repaid 2 fish for his karmic balance and a proud father stood close by cheering his son on. The kid is persistent and takes after his father. He out fished me during the morning session at 11 mile and I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t happy about it.

The day wore on with some of the most angry fish I had ever been up against. Wading in stiff current, you find yourself playing goal tender to incoming freight trains and if you are slow with a net, say goodbye to your fly and fish. 

As the evening settled in, John showed his skill with the big fish of the day.

We fished until we couldn’t see and the evening turned into night. A cigar, beer and recent memories played in our heads on the somewhat silent trip home and I had forgotten that all of this time I had been out fishing with my boss. It has been a long time since I had a weekend like that, maybe even a lifetime.

Lesson #14: Ants are harder to remove from waders than they are from pants. Be careful where you sit.