Sorry I haven’t written in a while let’s just say my heart wasn’t in it. It has been a … shall we say … interesting … year, the painful end of a 25 year marriage, the end of my career at a company I thought I would retire from, a couple of minor heart attacks and another pair of stents to go with the pair I already own … … less than 18 months after the first ones and to cap it all off a 50th birthday, but actually I view that as a positive not a negative as I was here to have the 50th birthday. The pure good news however is that I am alive and kicking and have fishing experiences to share … … so life can’t really be too bad, can it.
I had stopped on the way to the Nantahala to pick up some flies the other day and to check out the new fly shop and Bamboo rod building facilities of my friend Bill Oyster and believe me when I say they were first class and way too cool for a guy like Bill, when the young man at the fly shop asked me when I was going to write something again, well honestly I was surprised that anyone would even much notice that I hadn’t written anything lately and it startled me into thinking how long it had been and how much I enjoy writing these long winded fishing narratives…… so here goes one more just for the hell of it.
We reach a point in our lives when we begin to accept the fact that we are getting older and that our physical capabilities are beginning to diminish and that we will simply have to accept a life where we can’t do some of the things that we might want to. I had settled into that role and was feeling way older than my 50 years. I saw a post on the internet early in the summer about one of my favorite streams of all time and it was by a man who had found the stream after identifying one of the photographs in my own story and searching it out for himself. I loved reading his great story but it made me sad to think I would never be able to hike into this difficult valley ever again and after that it made me mad. I spent some time thinking through the difficulties that I was having catching my breath and the fact that my chest hurt with minimal exertion and I decided to challenge my doctors and ask that they take a second look at my arteries and blood flow. Well that led to a trip to the hospital, another intimate close shave, cameras up the groin and 2 new stents. But as I woke up after the surgery and went through basic recovery, I realized that I felt wonderful and that my blood flow had never felt so good. So I spent 4 days a week walking in Georgia dreaming of the days when I could give myself a real hiking test in Colorado. I knew I really shouldn’t ever try the valley of my dreams again but at least I felt confident that I could handle the easy stuff at 10,000 feet once more.
Cool colorful Colorado as their tags used to say, is still the place of my dreams. The place I wake up from heart surgery wondering if I will still be able to make this year’s trip... and no I didn’t exactly ask……… after all forgiveness is much better than permission isn’t it. Every adult in my family was against me going to Colorado and pushing too hard… and everyone who knows me knows … pushing less than too hard isn’t exactly an option …….. and all of my nearly adult kids (read that as the ones with my same emotionally maturity) were saying hell if you are going to go why don’t you take me with you. So sure enough I took two wonderful trips to Colorado this summer and fall one with each of my two boys. They were both very different trips but they were both a pure slice of heaven for me … … the place I love best, the boys I love the most: one at a time, and a little fly fishing to pass the time of day.
The “Double D” adventure took place in the late part of July with Dick Davis and Drew Davis spending a week at the cabin in Creede. My heart stent surgery and the last heart attacks were less than a month old and I wasn’t sure what to expect so I was a little slow and shaky trying to figure out what the heck would happen. In hind sight I am pretty sure the first sets of stents collapsed pretty quickly after they went in as I never felt blood flow like this time. I just didn’t know what I was supposed to feel like and had no idea how good this whole blood flow concept should be……… but I was also a little scared that if I over did it then I would end up gasping for breath when climbing the stairs again. So naturally I did what all normal dis-functional macho *******s do……….. I ignored my fear and decided to just go for it.
My first view of the river from the porch of the family cabin is still as magical as the first time I ever stood on that deck and looked at the mighty Rio Grande rolling by like a silver thread a hundred feet below. That was many years ago and no matter how times I see it, my breathing slows and my pulse just stops and slides into a rhythm that matches the water below and I feel like I am truly and completely at home.
Spending time with my mother and my baby boy Drew (who is about to turn 21) was magical for me. Drew is struggling to find where and what he wants to make out of his life… … and at 50 I am still struggling with some of those same questions. So we got to spend time together and help each other work on our perspective and clarity while watching the sun set and the river roll. And if that setting won’t help you find your heart and soul then nothing will.
We headed down to the river early the next day as the excitement wouldn’t let me sleep any more than a six year old boy on Christmas morning. Expectations were high but there is always a nagging concern that somehow the fish will be gone or that I will have somehow forgotten how to catch them. Which is why I whooped in delight as I saw the indicator dip and set the hook in that combination of instinctive hand slide tightening the line and full blown rod tip hook set … both arms moving opposite like a fist pump in reverse, a celebration of the moment. I looked up to catch Drew’s eye as he was fishing just across the current from me, but my moment of superiority was shattered by the sound of that wonderful top forty sensation: the hardy reel drag “rag”……. Drew was hooked up as well and it appeared his was bigger than mine. Not fifteen minutes into the first morning and the pair of double d’s were into a double.
With a start like that you know the rest of the trip was bound to be a ringing success. We managed to catch fish out of all of the places you should and a few you shouldn’t. We fished the river behind the house most days. And with scenery like this why wouldn’t you.
We did venture out to fish a pair of my favorite local small streams, one that is well known and one that is much more unknown but both fished like a dream. Browns dominated the popular one but it was a gorgeous place and a must fish location for me even though it is well known. It is a short half mile walk and is a flat trail so I wasn’t a heart risk.
I bounced happily along catching more fish than I deserved and not really even paying that much attention to the fishing but simply enjoying the day and letting my mind run free on the current and sunlight in a pleasurable trance…… that is until I ran into this beaver damn which naturally got me pretty excited.
I saw a sipper right under the tree line as I set up and for once I was able to put my dry dropper rig right up under that same tree line on the first cast. I was rewarded with a soft rise and managed a hook up, but as soon as the fish rolled back into the faster current I saw a second flash and felt another hard jolt of a hook set. I must admit I was somewhat confused until I clearly saw two fish trying to fight off the drag of the line. They both went in different directions but the tippet held. From there they tried to move more or less in the same direction and I soon had landed yet another type “double d” double for this trip. The dry fly fish taped at a shade under 15 inches and the smaller dropper fish at about 12. So I am claiming a 27inch fish on this one….. whadaya think.
My son has been in a hunting trapping and fishing for food kick here lately and he wanted a fish dinner. I hadn’t kept many trout in the last 15 years or so but clearly we were in area that had a surplus of trout and the eco system actually would probably benefit from a couple less in the water, so we each kept a couple and Mom fixed a fish dinner just the way I remembered them from when I was a young boy. And damn it was good. Some of you more die hard catch and releasers may want to shield your eyes from these next to pictures but they are priceless to me as my family has many, many such shots from my 50 years of Colorado memories and I am betting many of you do as well.
The other stream we fished isn’t exactly hidden but it gets virtually no true fishing pressure and I pray nearly every night that it stays that way. It isn’t an easy hike, it does raise the blood pressure and leave you heaving for oxygen in a few places, not like my magical valley but still a pretty tough short hike. But I had felt better than I had in years so damn the torpedoes full speed ahead. Even the hike in is beautiful for this little stream.