Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dude, shut the door!!!!

It's hard for a fisherman to imagine anyone enjoying a day on the river sans flycasting. After all, God created rivers in Colorado for one purpose and one purpose only. Flyfishing! My favorite spot on the Poudre River is a mere 20 minutes from home, a short drive up the canyon. It's a couple hundred yards of deep slicks interspersed with shallow, fast moving riffles. It's a rare day that I don't land at least a couple of trout from a deep run on the far bank. It's also a rare day when I don't encounter mountain jays and a deer or two as I wade the stream. Imagine my enlightenment last summer upon finding out that people actually do other things in the canyon.

I watched a huge RV pull into site #15 of the small campground that lines the river, despite the signs at the entrance that specifically prohibit RV’s or trailers. The monstrous gas-guzzler backed into the spot very carefully.

A couple of 20-somethings popped out the door and surveyed the campground. Being the friendly camper that I am, I approached one of the young guys. “Not that I care, but you guys may want to pay heed to the sign up at the entrance. I don’t think - technically - that you’re supposed to have an RV in here. It makes no difference to me, but I’d hate to have you get a ticket.” Secretly, I was hoping I could convince them to go elsewhere. I was hoping for solitude on this trip. As always, it's all about ME!

“It’s all good, dude. The website said it was OK to bring an RV in here.”

“Oh.” I replied with as much courtesy as I could muster. His partner already had the music cranked up as high as possible. I love music. When I write, I like to play Van Halen or AC/DC at high decibel levels. When I camp, I’d rather have peace and quiet.

I returned to my camp chair and my book. I watched as the side of the RV expanded slowly. Apparently this RV had a bedroom built into the driver’s side that would seep out with the touch of a button.

Part of me laughed, and part of me was disgusted. Why would anybody want to drive up the canyon in a mobile house and then sit inside of it all afternoon? The canyon is beautiful. “Get out and fish, or take a hike, or do something!!” I wondered why I hadn’t been more forceful in trying to get them to leave.

The thump, thump, thump of the RV’s stereo pounded in my head like the beating of the hideous heart in Edgar Allen Poe’s “Telltale Heart.” The more I tried to ignore it, the louder and more obnoxious it became. “Forget this,” I thought. “I’m going fishing.” I strapped on my waders, tied a Royal Humpy on my line, and headed for the river. On my way, I thought I’d have a little fun. The door to the RV was wide open. I poked my head inside. “Hey guys, I’ll be happy to sacrifice my luxurious little tent for your mansion on wheels!”

It was at this point that I both saw and smelled something distinctive through a haze of smoke. Marijuana smoke coming from a big, fat water-bong! It looked like a gigantic replica of the hookah pipe my ex-wife had brought back to me from her trip to Egypt. People in the Middle East smoke a certain type of tobacco with them. This clearly wasn't it!

“Dude, shut the door, shut the door!” The young guy’s voice was urgent, frantic. The entire interior of the RV was clouded in smoke, the smell intolerable. I’d inadvertently run into a couple of genuine hippie pot smokers! Some of my friends in college had toked up on a joint or two, but I never tried the stuff myself. First of all, it was illegal. I’m no saint, but I do try to obey the law. Second of all, my Dad would have beaten my ass if he’d ever caught me, especially on sacred ground like a flyfishing spot. Both were deterrent enough!

I shut the door. And then I walked down to the river and caught a couple of nice brown trout.

I never saw the Mary-J smokers again. The door to the RV remained shut until they left the next morning. God help me, I’ll never understand how anyone could visit my campsite (remember, it’s all about ME!) and then sit inside an RV for 24 hours. A beautiful river, gorgeous scenery, a bighorn ram staring down at you from the ridge…hardly the time to sit in an RV smoking weed! Unbelievable.

Different strokes, smokes, or tokes, for different folks, I guess.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lloyd's Big Haul

Sometimes when things just aren't going your way, an old memory sustains you. I thought of this one today and started laughing. I ran across "Lloyd" on the banks of the Poudre River on a more carefree day about a year ago. I hope it brings a smile to your face.

I finished what I can only call a functional lunch. Ham sandwich with a slice of Swiss cheese. I sat in my camp chair, tuned into some talk radio, opened a book, and promptly got lost in my own head.

“Hi!” A rotund, enthusiastic boy, probably 10 years old, approached my camp site and interrupted my thoughts with a very serious look on his face and a small fishing vest strapped over his shoulders. “What are they bitin’ on?”

I smiled. “They’re not bitin’ on anything, buddy! I’ve tried every fly in my box.”

The boy threw his hand out to me, still with a serious look on his face. “My name’s Lloyd. I’m goin’ fishing here. Dad told me to ask you what they’re bitin’ on. I caught a rainbow up at Kelly Flats.” We shook hands. Lloyd was taking all of this very seriously, so much so that I was having a hard time containing laughter. Lloyd shook hands like a man. Small little hand, but firm grip. He must have a dad who taught him how to shake hands.

I smiled even bigger this time. “Hi Lloyd, my name’s John. I wonder if I should try that spot?”

“Nah. I already caught everything up there.” Lloyd still hadn’t cracked a smile. He was all about business. “I caught them on a Panther Martin.”

I didn’t have the heart to tell Lloyd that he was using artificial lures on water that I’m fairly certain is restricted to flies.

“Well, let me know if you catch anything.” I secretly hoped that Lloyd would catch a huge trout. I was halfway tempted to get my waders on and go back out with him, but I was enjoying the sun and a good book. I decided that Lloyd should go it alone. He didn’t seem like the type of kid that wanted an adult hovering over him anyway.

I later returned to the river by myself, again trying every fly in my box. Nothing. I casted upstream, mended left, tended my line, mended right…nothing.

I decided it was time for a fire. I settled back into my camp chair, mesmerized by roaring flames and a brilliant sunset.

“Hey John!” The cry came out with the joy that only a 10 year-old could muster. “Check this out!”

I lifted my head up from my book. Lloyd had a gigantic grin on his face as he held up a tiny, six-inch rainbow.

“Way to go Lloyd! You’re a real fisherman! I didn‘t catch anything!”

Lloyd suddenly got serious again, and looked at me with empathy, apparently concerned about my self-esteem. “Keep trying, John. You’ll catch something soon.“ I wondered whether to be offended or to just laugh. I decided on the latter.
Lloyd swaggered back to his parents.

What a cool kid.