an end-of-summer reflection
Driving home late on Wednesday evening, it occurred to me that I use to fish the last few hours of a day way more often than I do now. Hitting those evening hatches. Tying on one last Parachute Adams or Stubby Chubby in the near-dark. Watching fish rise in front of me as the sun sets to my back. As I drove the winding road home, I wondered why I had stopped. Jesse and I only fished for a couple of hours, but the evening was both a connection and a reconnection as summer draws to an end.
Fishing the familiar
Earlier in the summer, in another reconnection, my wife and I ventured to one of our favorite small streams for a day of fishing. We hadn’t been there for awhile, either. Walking those banks, getting small browns to rise as we followed the meandering stream, is always good. We leap-frogged our way for the three miles or so. She’s a great fishing partner, saving my favorite holes for me to make a cast, outfishing me for most of the miles, laughing at what we call “taunting trout” that seem more interested in just nosing the Amy’s Ant or swatting it with its tail. Lunch at the mid-way point because we know the stream so well that we don’t even need to ask if we’re ready to eat.
One thing about fly fishing is you can fish long stretches of a familiar river, hit some runs that you know hold fish and maybe take for granted, and then you can discover new holes that you may have walked past a half-dozen times. For some reason, this time you decide to make a cast and see if you can get a fish to rise to your PMD or eat Juan’s Slim Shady fished deeper in that hole.
Of your party
In his short story, “Big Two-Hearted River,” Hemingway writes, “Nick did not like to fish with other men on the river. Unless they were of your party, they spoiled it.” I fish alone a lot of the time, but more people are coming to know the beauty of fly fishing. It’s difficult to find stretches of river where there are not other anglers. We find the beauty anyway. Maybe this summer we learned to share the river more. We have to.
My wife and I fished the Gunnison in late June. We fished in the evening there, too, to beautiful Browns and Rainbow trout hitting the caddis hard as the sun cast beautiful orange streaks across the sky. It was the first time I had used a new rod, even though I bought the Helios 3F weeks before. I was saving it for this trip, for this time: evening on one of my favorite runs on the Gunni.
We reconnected the next day with our friend and guide at Willowfly Anglers, Eric Grand, who knows the Gunnison as well as anybody, I suspect. At each bend in the river, he knew which eddy to hit, which run to work. Every angler needs a guy like Eric in their life. Somebody who just shakes his head at some of your bad casts, offers a bit of a correction, talks about the “quality fish” you’ve hooked up with as he readies the net.
On this most recent evening, while I fished dries, Jesse worked his way upstream to me fishing different holes and different runs with his nymph rig. I’d look downstream and watch him net another nice fish, a quality fish as Eric would say. Maybe they are all quality fish, if you think about it. Jesse and I met in April at the Guide Academy and became friends over the summer. This was our first time fishing together, a new connection over a great stretch of water.
When Jesse worked the last run and caught up to me, I asked him if he was done for the evening. He said, “I think I’ll hit this run” and pointed to the bend in the river with his rod, “and then call it good.” Just one more run. A couple more casts. As Hemingway would say, Jesse was “of my party.” My people.
Coming off of the intensity of the pandemic year of 2020, this summer gave me a renewed appreciation for what fly fishing brings into my life. It’s as if fly fishing itself is both the goal and it opens up the door to another experience. What I mean is this: fly fishing is an experience in and of itself AND it serves as the entry into something bigger than catching fish. It is “the thing” that opens the door to nature and to experiencing the outdoors.
Reconnections and connections. Remembering favorites and connecting with new adventures. Maybe that is part of what fly fishing offers.
I like this picture of the bent rod. The fish is not seen in the photo. But you know, from that bend, that you are connected.