Before you think I am the biggest wuss that ever walked in a river, let me preface the remarks you are about to read. I am unapologetically, Midwestern old school. You hand the ball to the referee after you score a touchdown. You don’t steal second base when you are up by double digits. There’s a pretty simple set of rules for me. I was told by my Dad years ago that you were born with only two things in this world, your good last name and your word. If you lose either one of those, you have nothing. I try to remember that every day.
I try to apply these principles to my fishing life as well. To me, it has truly never been about the fish, it’s about the experience with my sons. I freely admit that I am not the world’s greatest fly fisherman and likely won’t ever be, but there is no one that enjoys the experience as much as me. One of the other things I love about fly fishing is I have never met someone on the water that is a d-bag. I have fished in Saratoga, Wyoming, Melrose, Montana, Dutch John, Utah and plenty of the rivers in our home state of Colorado. Honestly, I can’t recall running into anyone that I would not otherwise want to spend the day throwing a line in the water with.
The other day though, that changed. Got up real early on New Year’s Day with my sons and headed out to one of the boys’ favorite honey holes. I shall change the name of the location to protect the innocent, so let’s just call it Reckers. Personally, I am 0 for Reckers. Never actually caught a fish there. Plenty of LDR’s, plenty of close calls, but no color in the net. Funny side note, I did catch my own net one time after it slipped out of my belt and I found it a mile down the river, but I digress.
My kids fished at Reckers the day before, and were struggling. A saint, sent down by the fishing gods, who apparently was a former guide in Alaska, took pity on them and offered some key advice. In fact, our hero changed their rig entirely, switched up their bugs and gave up the secret spot on the river to my kids. The boys were flabbergasted at this fishing saint’s generosity. They had met Mother Theresa, and they knew it. Almost immediately, they began the steady climb towards a slay-fest. They got home and could not stop talking about what Mother Theresa had done for them. I just loved the fact that Mother Theresa had taken time out from slaying trout to help my boys. They talked this up all night and convinced me to hit Reckers with them the next morning, with assurances that they had been taught the recipe to success at Reckers. I needed those assurances, because as stated above, Reckers blows in my eyes.
We got up at 6 a.m. and began the trek to Reckers. We were the second car in the lot, good sign for the day ahead. We started through the brush and headed in the direction of the boys’ newly christened honey hole. But unfortunately, there at the spot, was an interloper. No big deal though, he got there first. As he took a drag on his cancer stick and cast his line, we tried to make casual conversation. “Any luck”, I said. “Already caught 4”, said the Marlboro man. “Wow, that’s awesome, I have never caught a fish at Reckers”, I said. “Well, maybe today is your day,” said Smoking the Bear as he returned to slaying.
The time of our initial conversation was roughly, 8 a.m. No big deal. We did not want to be dicks and fish right next to the Smoking Bandit so we moved down the river, figuring, we’ll come back when Tobacco Tim moved on. I could see him as the hours passed, while I fished down river, and he just sat there and snagged bows, one after another. No pictures. No celebrations. No shouting. No yuks. He caught every fish, scooped it up in his net, lit another cig and unceremoniously tossed the unappreciated fish back in the clear river. This guy was a chain-smoking, fish-snagging machine. I was jealous and pissed, all at the same time.
Me and my boys continued on down the river for the next 4 hours. It was a pretty typical Reckers outing for me. Got one on the line, lost it. Got too far out on a rock in the river, and fell in the icy water. I watched with pride as my sons’ caught several fish. The excitement of watching them and trying to help net the big browns was awesome. You cannot replace watching your boys reeling in a hammer. We took some great pictures (my only real contribution) and laughed our asses off. But one of my kids had just had arm surgery (he was nicknamed Lefty for the outing) so we were going to cut our outing off at around 5 hours. As we headed back to our car, who did we walk by, but Mr. Menthol himself. Still in the same exact damn spot he was at day break. There he was, in all his smoky glory, in the honey hole we came for and that he had squatted in, and never relinquished. Let me reiterate, he never moved. Same exact spot. Over 5 hours, like a frickin statue, equipped with a chimney. Pulling fish out by the bushel full.
I was fuming. I get it buddy, it’s a good spot. But in the name of RL Winston, share the river. Share the good fortune. Not just with me and my boys, but with anyone. Is my opinion slanted by jealousy? Damn right. But you know what, the cool thing about fly fishing is the people. At my local fly shop, the guides I have met, fellow anglers I have just sat and bullshitted with, I have never met someone I wouldn’t otherwise want to have a beer with.
But this time, on this New Year’s Day, I did a slow burn, not unlike the nicotine stick dangling from this tool’s pie hole. Dude, you had a ten run lead on the river in the 8th inning and you just stole second on it. That was bush league. How about calling off the dogs. You catching your 20th fish of the day in the same god damn spot is like calling an onside kick when you are up by 30. Call me a wuss, call me a spoil sport. But there is a comradery amongst anglers who share the passion and addiction that is a tight line. I love sitting and talking with other fishermen who have been everywhere and seen everything. They love sharing their experience and expertise. What’s the first thing you ask someone when you get on the river, “any luck?” Second question, “what are you using?” Real anglers answer those questions readily, almost as if they are whispering the password to their brethren. My guess is that if I had asked the Marlboro Man what he was using on this day, his response would have been muffled by a puff of smoke and the splashing of his 30th fish of the day.
I guess the moral of the story is that the river needs more Mother Theresas’ and less Marlboro men. To the Sel-Fish Bastard that caught the Yeti full of fish on New Year’s Day, good for you bro. Just remember, the fishing gods don’t like running up the score on the river. Toke on that for a while.