Tuesday , June 13, 2017 - 12:00 AM
Plenty of things can go wrong on a fishing trip. That’s not to say something will go wrong, but every angler is aware of the distinct possibility that every last thing can, and sometimes does, go straight to hell in a hand basket.
You can forget your waders (I’ve done that twice in the last month), leave your reel at home, or realize the box of flies you grabbed is full of saltwater streamers instead of dries. A hurricane can blow you off the salt flats in Florida and lightning kills a fun afternoon in the Rocky Mountain high country.
Controlling the weather is impossible, so you learn to work with it instead of against it and forgotten flies are easily replaced by the generosity of a fishing buddy or the trusty bins in a fly shop.
As I cruised along Interstate 80 last week, I realized I’d left my waders at home. Going back for them would add two hours to an already long drive, so I figured I’d just fish from shore. Aside from the waders, though, I’d remembered everything. Now I just had to catch some fish.
This trip was one of those last-minute things in which the invitation was too sweet to pass up — never mind the numerous writing projects demanding my attention. A friend of a friend called to invite me to a remote cabin in the middle of a mountain range I’d yet to visit and, according to everything I heard, the water we’d fish was a veritable fish factory.
I hesitated for a split second after the invite — I did have a lot of work to do and until the bills are paid I can’t fish — but I took the words of John Gierach to heart and decided that “the best time to fish is when I can,” so I went.
I didn’t know anyone going on the trip. I knew Matt, the friend of my buddy Ryan, from a few phone calls. The rest of the guys could’ve been axe murderers for all I knew, but as they were fly fishermen they got the benefit of doubt.
I drove for an hour on a dirt road before I ran into the first if our party. Eric’s dust-covered car had California plates so I rolled my window down, waved, and asked if he was Eric. We shook hands, drove to the cabin, then set about fishing.
And that’s when I realized there’s one thing you never can plan a solution for in fly fishing.
In a stroke of odd luck, another friend of mine was at the same water. He’d caught 40 fish so far, and with the last hours of daylight at my back I figured I’d at least snag two or three.
I didn’t catch a thing.
The next morning played out the same, casting to rising fish, good-looking holding spots and sight-fishing in gin-clear spring creek water only to watch massive trout cruise past my fly without a moment’s hesitation.
I drove back to the cabin for breakfast, Eric and I sitting in silence in his car. He’d caught two that morning, the only one in our group to get a fish to hand. I’d had one fish take my fly, only to break me off seconds later.
We sat on a deck overlooking an expansive, untouched, pristine valley, eating bacon while the smell of coffee hung in the air. The beauty of the area aside, I wondered if the trip wasn’t worth the time. I’d given up time working for this? A weekend in Nowhere, USA, and no fish?
I had half a mind to leave right then but Eric talked me off the edge, convincing me to give it one more try.
An hour later I landed a 22-inch rainbow trout and all thoughts of leaving disappeared.
Just one fish made the trip worthwhile.
Spencer is a fly fishing writer, outdoors columnist, and sports writer from Utah. He’s also the managing editor of The Modern Trout Bum. Find him on Twitter/Instagram, @Spencer_Durrant.
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