Thursday , November 30, 2017 - 5:00 AM
"Fishing is rarely about the fish," writes columnist and angler Spencer Durrant. "It's about those long stretches of peace and quiet."
I don’t know how long you have to do something for it to be considered a tradition, but I’ve at least made a habit of avoiding family on Thanksgiving for a handful of reasons. Fly fishing is, of course, one of them.
For the past five years, without fail, the fishing on Thanksgiving Day has been nothing short of spectacular. In fact, it’s those days of fishing that have yielded the biggest rainbow trout I’ve caught to date in Utah.
Each year follows the same distinct pattern. I get up far earlier than the fish and stop by the nearest 7-Eleven for a drink — usually coffee, though last year I opted for hot apple cider and Mountain Dew instead.
I get to the river when it’s still dark. Last year my car thermometer said it was 14 degrees outside. I cracked a smile. No one else would be out. I’d have the river to myself.
I don’t even get out of my car or start fishing until 20 or so minutes before first light. Not sunrise, mind you, but just as the sun’s first rays peak through the gray winter clouds.
One year I planned ahead enough to order a Thanksgiving dinner from Cracker Barrel, but I usually don’t eat a big meal. I typically fish until 11:30 or noon, then head back home for a hot shower and a long nap.
This year I broke the tradition. Instead of staying in Utah to celebrate with two days of much-desired solitude, I drove to Denver with my best friend’s sister for a six-day trip — and only fished two of them.
I didn’t even get to fish Thanksgiving Day.
Instead, I fished on Friday and Saturday, fighting the crowds of other anglers seeking a break from family discussions of politics or religion, or extolling the virtues of being vegan on a holiday headlined by meat.
I found myself alone — my best friend had to work — on the Cache la Poudre River. It’s a gorgeous little body of water with some nice fish, if you know where to look. I’ve fished it a handful of times before then and had always done well.
That Friday, however, the Poudre kicked my ass.
I drove back to Denver in the dark with George Strait and Chris LeDoux as the soundtrack. I wondered if the break from tradition was the reason I’d had such a subpar day on the water.
Saturday brought with it new promise and optimism. My best friend had the day off and we drove out to Lyons. I’d read all about the St. Vrain Creek in John Gierach’s books and this was my first time seeing it in real life.
Its beauty didn’t disappoint, but the fishing left a bit to be desired. The day was much more productive than the previous session on the Poudre, though not by much.
I left for home Sunday morning. Somewhere between Fort Collins and Laramie, I thought ahead to next Thanksgiving. I’ll have to start my tradition over again, I suppose. But this break was worth it in the way only a fishing trip to new water can be.
Fishing is rarely about the fish for me. Rather, it’s about the long stretches of peace and quiet, when I can think deeply about life, wonder at the gorgeous country trout, call home or think about nothing at all.
I guess I didn’t completely break tradition this year. Standing in the Poudre and St. Vrain, I thought about absolutely nothing.
Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and novelist from Utah. His work has been featured in Field & Stream, TROUT Magazine, Hatch Magazine and various other national publications. Connect with him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.