My Dad and I took last Sunday off. It was the first time since the middle of the summer that neither of us had anything pressing to take care of, so we seized the opportunity to spend some time together. We stayed up late on Saturday packing, and we loaded into the truck before sunrise on Sunday and were heading down the Roaring Fork Valley before either of us had actually woken up. In Glenwood Springs we turned onto I-70 West, and in about an hour and a half later we were far, far away. I had gotten some criptic directions over the phone from our friend Chris Dobbins, including one snippet of instruction to “…go until the pavement ends and then turn right…” When it is an adventure getting there, you know that your destination is going to be interesting. My Dad’s truck was completely full; two pointers, two shotguns, two flyrods, and a heap and pile of all the accessories that make such trips work. Extra clothes, lots of ammo and flies, and a couple of ugly straw hats to ensure that the pictures are memorable. The weather had been bad, drizzling and foggy for the entire drive, but we remained optimistic. We listened to some good fishing tunes to keep our mind free as the scenery went by. The drive was mainly silent, with the highlights provided by the intermittent Lyle Lovett tunes from several of my friend Cody’s unbeatable country mixes. There is something that songs about cowboy bars, women and regrets does for an expectant outdoorsman. By the time we had made it to the South Fork of the White, we were ready for some walking. The first order of business was a Blue Grouse hunt. Although no one had hunted Blue’s there, we had heard from our host that they were pleantiful. So many Blue Grouse hunts start in that very way, “…well, we see ‘um all over the place when we are on our bike (or our horse, etc.)…” We hunted hard for two hours. Mac and Mitzi, the pair of Shorthairs, left no stone unturned. Unfortunately, due in our minds to the preceeding rain, the birds were not feeding in the pleantiful Choke Cherries and Service Berries, and we didn’t see a feather. It is a distinct possibility that the birds were in the coniferous trees, sitting on branches close to the trunk in order to avoid the mositure (see pic below).
When we got back from the hunt we put the dogs in the kennels, and went into the main house for lunch with Chris and his family. The building is log, and the interior is beautifully decorated with artifacts from days gone by. We ate in the warm and inviting kitchen, at a large round table, and after the fruitless morning hunt, it was nice to relax and chat in such a welcoming atmosphere.
When the dishes were done, I headed out to the truck and rigged my flyrod. The sun was starting to poke through the clouds, but it was still quite chilly, so I dressed warm. I put on the aforementioned ugly fishing hat, and looked around. Apparently I was missing something, because my dad was nowhere in sight. I finished getting geared-up (boots and waders) and went to see what was taking him so long. I found him still in the kitchen eating home-made apple pie. What a jerk! Julie, Chris’ sister, kindly offered me a slice as well. My mind however, was now on the beautiful White River that I could hear through the screened porch, so I politely declined and snuck back outside.
The South Fork of the White River is a fantastic piece of water. The vast majority of the access is private, and some of this has unfortunately been ‘troutscaped’ for the benefit of the evil fishing ranches. Two of the most untouched and productive miles however run right through Chris’ property, and as I walked out behind the main house, I could tell that I was in for a treat. The level was high for October, with a strong current running to the the very top of high water mark. The streambed was mainly free stones, but there was also a component of grayish sand, which made for the odd false hole.
I started by fishing a small streamer, but I quickly changed to a bead-head dropper trailing a large attractor nymph. The river was the perfect size that you could wade carefully to the middle, and then comfortably fish either side. It didn’t take too long for me to find my comfort zone, and I casted contentedly for several minutes. Nothing doing. I looked back up the trail on the bank towards the house to see if my dad was done with dessert yet, and noticed that I had attracted an audience on the porch. With everyone just sitting there watching me fish, I had to catch something. I needed to make a change. Turning over some rocks though, I was at a loss as to what change to make. With no other options presenting themselves, I put on more weight. I was starting to sweat.
The first cast landed a little closer to the bank than I had wanted, and I felt my rig grind on the shallow rocks. I picked up my flys so as not to get hung up, and let them fall downstream behind me. The second cast was dead-on, and I lifted my rod tip in anticipation. About half-way through the drift, my line paused. I rolled my arm to the side, and gave a quick set. Half a moment of complete silence, and then the trout made itself apparent.
It ran upstream, directly into the fastest current, and then quickly changing direction shot back downstream to my right. I fought as well as I could, angling the beast back and forth, frantically searching for an eddy or some slow water. Eventually I realized that I would have to move with the current into some of the pocket water below. I needed to get it on the surface if I was ever going to get the fish close enough to use my net.
I started moving downstream, my mind split between keeping pressure on the fish and keeping my balance in the rapid current. Initially there had been shouts of encouragement from the porch audience, but now they were quiet and watching. It took some doing, but I finally got the fish to the surface. I didn’t net on my first attempt, so I cranked a couple more times on my reel and reached again. My rod was bent almost in half, and I was intensely worried about my knot. Everything held, and as you can see, I netted a nice Rainbow.
It only looks like I am standing in really deep water, in all actuality, I am kneeling. I didn’t have a tape, but after doing some calculations upon return to the shop, we guessed that this fish is somewhere around 18″. Now, after looking at the pictures and thinking back, I gotta say that the fish seemed much bigger than that during our fight. I guess thats how it goes…
We kept fishing into the late afternoon, and it ended up being a wonderful day. On our way home, dad told me that when they were watching me and my fish, Chris told him that there had been a 24″ Brown caught by his brother-in-law just a week or so before. I think that like me, Chris thought my respectable 18″ Bow was something bigger too. I can’t wait to go back!