Yet I found myself still fishless a couple hours later and several river miles further upstream… … but definitely still fishless. Mother Nature especially in the fly fishing arena has a unique way of keeping your ego in check and about the time you start thinking you are a pretty dang good fisherman she will laugh and show you that you still have a lot to learn … …I truly think that is part of what keeps us coming back. But the strange thing was I that I felt as happy as I could be, the rhythm of the fly line rolling out in graceful curves and the warmth of the autumn afternoon and the dazzling scenery all around me was more than enough to make my heart rejoice and while the lack of fish was intellectually puzzling to me, it really didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the days fishing. Don’t get me wrong I would have loved to catch fish … … but if you asked me if I would hike 4 or 5 miles back into this same stream again knowing that the fish were “difficult” … … I would go in heart beat. But unfortunately “go” is what I had to do as I had many miles to walk back down stream to get back to my camp. I made myself and those hiding shy trout a promise that someday soon I would make a trek back in here and introduce myself to those fish the proper way … barbless hook to mouth … but until then I had enjoyed my fishless day immensely and silently laughed at the old saying about “that is why they call it fishing and not catching”.
The scenery on the way out was as gorgeous as on the way in and I didn’t believe that could happen but it did.
And I am betting that the scenery represented in those pictures would almost guarantee that very few of you readers out there would turn down a chance to fish that very same stream … … even if you didn’t catch a fish.
I finally got back close to the camp site and began to wade across the Rio Grande, not like the big river down at the cabin but a smaller thinner “high country” version of itself … … yes like I was a smaller thinner version of myself 30 years ago but you didn’t have to mention that did you. As I was splashing across the river muttering to myself about my lack of fishing skills I noticed a shadow lurking near the cutbank on the opposite side. I thought to myself man that is a pretty colored rock and isn’t it amazing how it keeps changing from black to that golden color in the sunlight, then it hit me… … you dumbass, that is a nice brown over there feeding on bottom. I idly wondered if I could catch it when I thought to myself … …your carrying a fly rod and at least a couple hundred flies… … duh, do ya think this might be a chance to redeem your fishing self??
Soon enough I had pretty cherry brown bugger tied tight and was wading silently into a casting position stripping line and false casting. My first cast was on the money but the fish refused and I tried a couple more with the same results. I was getting near the fish but not really getting into his feeding lane. So I took a time out and stopped and thought about my approach and how to catch this fish, something I don’t do nearly enough on a trout stream … strangely enough because I am too busy “fishing”. Anyway I realized that due to a current eddy I would actually have to move downstream and behind the fish and let the bugger tumble down stream like a drifting dry until I got in his line of site and could give a quick strip or two. So that was what I did. And believe it our not planning your approach and presentation can be pretty dang effective. Man, I love it when a plan comes together. The brown took the bugger with such a surge that he actually crested out of the water and lit out like a freight train headed down hill. Fortunately for me I had grabbed the Phillipson 7 ½ ft 5 wt this morning which had enough back bone to turn him slightly and keep him out of those low water gravel sections where my 6xtippet would get shattered like my fishless ego had been only moments ago. It worked and he turned back and sounded in a little deep pool and just hung there thrashing like a wildman but staying put. Eventually I was able to tire him out a little and glide him into the shallows where I talked him into posing with my Phillipson for a little picture memento before watching him swim off back to his cut bank. My fishing honor was restored and the skunk scent that had haunted me all day drifted away on the cool late afternoon mountain breeze.
I returned to camp a happy and contented man. I spent the last of the days light taking a few pictures while I strolled around my mountain paradise… … and yes you are right there was bourbon and a cigar involved, but even so I think the pictures turned out pretty good for once.