The build-up was almost too much for us.
For months, my friend Jae and I have been talking the talk, comparing notes and fly boxes, and spinning yarns about our previous angling conquests. Between work schedules and family obligations, we found it difficult to walk the walk. On a cool day in early September, just on the cusp of fall, we finally found a day to put up or shut up, and wandered up the canyon to see if we could cash the checks our mouths had been writing.
Jae strikes me as the classic outdoorsman. Despite my years of fishing the canyon, I have an appalling lack of useful knowledge about the miles upon miles of public access on the Poudre, a river literally in my backyard. My method of planning for a day on the Poudre typically consists of driving the winding road until I see a stretch of river that looks interesting. Jae, on the other hand, knows the canyon. He's actually capable of formulating a plan for the day, and brings along neat things - like maps - to aid in getting to a predetermined location. With Jae along, I felt strangely prepared.
It was almost over before it began.
As we slipped - or in my case, struggled - into waders and boots, I noticed a quizzical look on Jae's face, followed by an increasingly blank expression that was rapidly turning into that "oh, crap" look.
"You didn't see my reel, did ya John?" Uh-oh. "No, Jae, I sure didn't." I started sifting through gear in the trunk while the wheels in Jae's head started turning, a clear indication that he was already thinking of ways to turn his nine-foot into a makeshift Tenkara rod. In a rare moment of either clarity or good fortune, I'd tossed in an extra reel that would save Jae the indignity of turning his rod into the world's longest cane pole. I'm sure the line weight didn't precisely match the rod, but we were adapting.
Having solved the reel "issue," I unzipped my tubular fly rod case and turned it upside down. The bottom half of a fly rod fell out, and then...nothing. "Uh, you didn't see the other half of my rod, did ya Jae?" Double uh-oh. "No, John, I sure didn't." I knew darn well that I hadn't thrown in another fly rod. So much for clarity and good fortune. With a sinking feeling in my gut, I turned the case over again and shook it violently. To my utter relief, the top half of the fly rod fell on the ground. So, no nine-foot Tenkara rod/cane pole for Jae and no four-foot Tenkara rod/cane pole for me. A hearty round of laughs and a hodgepodge of rods and reels later, we were off to see if we could muster up anything beyond a continued comedy of errors.
The good news is that things fell into place and we enjoyed a good day of fishing. We hit a stretch of the Poudre that I'd never fished before, probably because it flows away from the main road and out of my normal field of vision driving up the canyon. After a short, easy walk, we were on some great water that was marred only by some sort of invasive, prolific, bright green algae that had grown on the riverbed. The algae did very little, in my view, to hinder the fishing, although I did have to periodically clean off the nymphs I was drifting for much of the day. It also made wading a little more precarious than usual, although the riverbed up the canyon is somewhat difficult to wade to begin with, being full of big rocks as opposed to the sand and gravel I'm used to in the stretches of the lower Poudre.
After a period of adjustment, trial, and error, we started tying into some small but healthy trout. Despite being handicapped with an unfamiliar reel of lesser quality, Jae proved himself to be a skilled fisherman with a keen eye for reading a stream.
After hooking up with a couple of trout and struggling with nymphs and algae-covered rocks for the remainder of the morning, I found a little bit of a groove in the afternoon session and managed to save a little bit of face. My recent obsession with hoppers and big stimulators paid off with several pretty little rainbows. Some decent afternoon surface action went a long way toward helping me to forget about my less-than-graceful tumble into a whopping five inches of water earlier in the day.
One final but not insignificant highlight of the day: In addition to being a skilled angler, a calm and serene presence, and an adaptable fishing companion, Jae has the additional gift of picking high-quality, choice produce. At lunchtime, he offered me a gigantic peach that was just about the best thing I've ever eaten! No bruises or blemishes, perfectly ripe but not mushy. A nugget of heaven in every bite. As I frantically wiped away the juice that was streaming down into my goatee, I took a mental note that I was just where God wanted me to be on that day. No ruminating over the past. No fear of the future. Just living in the moment right there in front of me. Good place to be.
Shampooing the nectar out of my beard....