Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflections from a year on my home waters

I've learned a lot about myself throughout 2010.  The lessons were revealed to me in a number of different contexts.  A lot of people stood by me when they really had no reason to do so.  God carried me through some things that I couldn't manage on my own.  I alternated between useful and useless; good and not so good; and turmoil and contentment.  I'm sure it must just sound like life to most "normal" people, but for someone like me it's been a year of enlightenment.

In any event, one thing is certain:  my moments of sanity and serenity more often than not came from being knee-deep in water; specifically, the Cache La Poudre River.

I don't keep a detailed count of my days flinging flies into the current in search of rainbows and browns, but it's safe to say that I spent more time wading the stream than a crazy man should!  As a result, I learned a lot about fly fishing this year as well:  sometimes through trial and error; sometimes through intuition; sometimes through remembering something I'd studied or read; and quite often simply because of dumb luck.

Some of the more memorable reflections from 2010:

1)  I learned how to tie a decent caddis, and that's something absolutely critical to fishing the lower Poudre during the summer months.  My journal notes - as well as some earlier posts to this blog - lead me to believe that having an entire box full of caddis flies, ranging from sizes 16-22, will draw the attention of most rainbows and cutthroats in the lower Poudre.  The browns didn't seem nearly so inclined to go after them, and while I have several theories as to why, I'm not confident enough in those theories to actually put them in writing.

2)  I picked up a handy tip about "streamside surgery" from a fellow angler who runs a great blog.  Buried hooks, and day-ending trips to the doctor, can be remedied by carrying some wire cutters, disinfectant wipes, and super glue in your vest or chest pack.

3)  I learned that sometimes size matters, and sometimes it doesn't.  And before I go any further, let me offer the caveat that I'm referring entirely to fishing in making that assertion (I'll leave it to Cosmopolitan or Maxim to answer that eternal question in its more commonly-referenced context).  In fly fishing, I'm convinced that the size of a bug can make a world of difference between getting skunked and landing big numbers.  In that sense, size indeed matters.  Having said that, one of the most enjoyable days of fishing I've ever had was on the South Fork of the Poudre.  I was fishing a small stream catching little brook trout, none of which exceeded 10-11 inches.  Maybe it was the company, maybe it was the scenery...who knows?  But it was a blast, and size didn't matter.     

4)  I used to be convinced that trout tend to generally stay in certain areas.  I can't say that anymore.  In fact, I'm now fairly certain that they move as the landscape of a river changes.  In late March and early April, I caught dozens of really nice trout in a deep pool during a time when the water level on most of the river was very low.  After the spring runoff, the hole became unfishable, as I knew it would.  In October and November, the water in the same spot dropped back down to a level comparable to that from March and April, and I started salivating at the prospect of once again nailing some big fish.  In several late season sessions, however, I failed to land a single trout in that stretch of water.  The lesson for me here is that fly fishing requires a constant study and re-evaluation of the water (and the insect life, I'm sure).

5)  Finally, I learned some valuable lessons about what one wise fly fisherman refers to as "streamcraft," including river etiquette and careful handling of fish.  On the former, I've always made an effort to be a gentleman on the river, trying to share a valuable resource with others while respecting their desire for solitude and enjoyment.  On the latter, I learned - simply by reading the insights of more experienced fisherman - that I've likely done some unnecessary damage to fish by handling them way too much, often due to an unintended vanity that comes with holding a fish for a picture.  I still take pictures of a lot of the trout I catch, but I generally try to simply snap a quick shot while they're still in the net or water, and I do my best to let them pop the fly out on their own.

So there you have it.  Mundane observations, I suppose, but part of my journey.  I won't bother making any fishing resolutions for the coming year.  I have no idea where life will take me this year.  The only resolution I can make is the one that's already a given:  the Poudre's in my backyard, and I'll be knee-deep in its waters again as soon as possible.

Happy New Year!


Jim said...

Happy New Year 2011 to you too, Taco! May the coming year provide you with many more hours of serenity-laden wading!

JEG said...

Thanks, Jimmy! Wish you were here in the Fort. Hope all is well out there!