November 2010 Article
"The Fall Harvest"
One Saturday morning earlier this fall, everyone in the house headed out by 8:00. I, without restrictions or requirements to society, suddenly found the door swung wide open for me to take an unplanned fishing trip! The opportunity to fish was at hand...and it was a hand that needed to be firmly grasped.
I anticipated a crowded day on the banks of the river. Still there was no need to rush. I was open to fishing whatever stretch of river that provided some solitude, willing to take the moments that would be defined on the water. I bumped into my first crowd at the local Starbucks. Not usually part of my pre-fish routine, but today seemed to call for something extra along the way. The wait wasn’t long and soon I headed west toward the canyon that holds so many of my dreams.
The sun was already above the canyon walls, shining brightly on several fellow anglers working the lower reaches of the canyon. I had no need to worry. The morning waited for me. Shadows danced in and out of the sun roof as the temperature continued to climb with the altitude. Passing a pullout off of the highway, there were more cars and anglers gearing up. It was a good sign of more friends that I had yet to meet.
Driving through Drake and rounding the bend in the road, I smiled at the sight of an empty gravel turnout. The temperature had risen to 74 degrees. Upon exiting my car, I detected only a light breeze. Taking a quick moment to greet the river, I anticipated it would offer several moments of joy, along with a few of frustration. There is balance in everything. The warm temperatures had prompted me to stay out of my waders. I looked forward to the cold water on my legs. Tying up was easy--- a chartreuse stimulator followed by my favorite red ant pattern with a small copper john trailing behind. Nothing fancy today. I kept things simple without realizing I may be counteracting the complexities of nature. More balance in life.
I decided to walk downstream before entering the river. Along the one-third mile trek, I happened upon a single feather lying on the trail. It was perfectly formed, not a tear or missing vane to be found. Feathers mean birds, birds mean flight, and flight means freedom! My soul became a bit lighter, a bit freer. At the end of the guardrail, I turned down toward the river. A large boulder had been perfectly placed, creating a nice back eddy pool. There had to be a fish just waiting to ambush an unsuspecting bug. My first cast was met with an aggressive strike! It had chosen the dry, and I missed the chance. I tried a few more casts to entice the fish back, but failed to draw its attention.
Two quick steps upstream and a soft cast into another small pool, I hooked my first fish. It was a nice rainbow that put up a decent fight. Guiding the fish into my net, I drew a deep breath and gave thanks. It was a great start to the day. I spent the next 90 minutes working my way upstream, landing several fish along the way. The ninth fish of the day looked like the fish of the day! Measured out a full 15 inches, the rainbow was a stunning sight. This ‘guy’ was one big fish! My thought was confirmed as the next three fish laid end to end failed to match the length of the previous rainbow. Reaching the location where I parked the car, I took a break and realized I’d already landed over twenty fish.
After a quick snack, I spent a few minutes sitting in the sun along the river’s edge absorbing its warmth and the energy of the flowing water as well. So far no one else had decided to join our dance. I was left to enjoy nature’s beauty in spiraling solitude.
Making my way toward midstream, I fished again. It didn’t take long to draw another strike, this time from a large brown trout. It headed straight downstream, running through the riffles along the far bank. The line screamed as it exited my reel! I followed as rapidly as possible, focusing hard not to lose my footing on the wet rocks. Another burst of energy came from the fish---its spirit being transmitted through line and rod into my soul. Finally netting the big brown, its length is fourteen inches, but it was much fatter than the large rainbow caught earlier.
Over the next hour, I worked my way up-stream, steadily taking (and missing) fish of all sizes. All three flies were inducing fish to strike, in nearly equal quantities. I had only had to re-tie once---losing the ant and the trailing copper john on a submerged limb. Eyeing another enticing pool, I laid the flies gently into the top of the pool. Quickly another strike! It was on one of the lower flies as the dry stimulator was visible just above the water’s surface. Without warning, a large brown attacked the dry and snapped off the unseen fish on the lower fly. One fish was free, but the other one was still in battle! It aggressively swam right at me. I got my net in hand just in time and guided the fish in and then quickly set it free. A flick of the fish’s tail splashed water on my sunglasses and I laughed at the fish’s parting shot.
Taking just a few minutes, I re-tied with another ant and small copper john. There was certainly no need to change what had been working so well. I was just below Waltonia Road Bridge as I returned to the river. There were two large pools that were calling for my attention. The first cast produced a large splash and a take on the dry. The fish immediately turned downstream. I reached my rod as far across the river as possible, hoping to avoid breaking the fish off behind the large rock where it had taken refuge. The fish took a break and I was able to maneuver myself below him. A three-minute fight ended with an incredible brown breathing hard in my net. It lay heavy in the water. A full 19 inches long, it was the second largest fish I’d caught in The Big Thompson. Unbelievably this was the forty-fifth fish I’d landed that day! I fathomed the possibility of reaching the fifty fish mark and decided to stretch the day a bit longer.
Back below the bridge, I made my second cast, this time into the nearer of the two pools. The dry fly moved slowly in the current and suddenly disappeared below the surface. I set the hook and a large rainbow leapt out of the water shaking its head violently! This one had taken the ant pattern. We thrust and parried our way to the shoreline where I was able to lead it up on the sandy bank. It’s another beautiful specimen, laying out at 17 inches. Its colors were dazzling in the early afternoon sun. I was amazed at the incredible luck I’d experienced!
The last battle had tangled the copper john in the tippet. I decided to cut off the nymph to save time. Upstream from the bridge, I missed two browns rising to the stimulator. Finally I hooked a rainbow and netted fish number forty-seven. As I walked along the large rocks on the bank, I continued to “ply my trade.” Another miss---but in ten minutes I landed three more fish, each one taking the dry. It was done. I’d landed my 50th of the day!
I took a moment to sit on a rock before heading back to my car. It had been an incredible day, netting fifty fish in four hours. I never had to change the patterns to entice fish to strike, and I never fell into the river! I finished the day happy and dry!
It was an easy stroll back to the car. The warm sun worked out my fatigue, the hunger in my belly letting me know that it was tired of waiting any longer. Reaching my car, I found a fellow angler working the river just below. I allowed him to maintain his focus on his fly as I slipped by unnoticed. Within a minute, there was a hook set and a netting of a fish just a few hurried paces downstream. I smiled at his accomplishment and assumed he is smiling, too. I wondered if he is aware of how many fish are waiting for him.
© Dean Miller 2010
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