A co-worker popped into my office a few weeks ago to let me know that my presence would be required at a meeting in Fountain Colorado sometime in late June and to ask me when he should schedule it for. I quickly replied that Thursday or Tuesdays would be best and the later in June the better. Now you smart fisherman in the audience have already figured out why but for the rest of you … this would allow me to fish the weekend before or the weekend after and the later in June the better the chance of the rivers being clear.
As luck would have it the client wanted their meeting on a Thursday which meant I could get a business trip to morph into a fishing trip and that is always one of life’s sweetest “shot and a goal” tricks. My Colorado expert sources said that most of the high country streams and the bigger rivers were still pretty blown out but that the Taylor River should be fishing okay, still high but fishable. Which means I was practically skipping as I made my way to the rental car Thursday afternoon, bolting from the warehouse and my meetings, ready to start a long weekend of fishing and relaxation. I was meeting Bernard and Sam at Harmel’s a Gunnison area Taylor river institution since when my 76 year old mother was a teenager and staying there with her parents… which even my limited Arkansas math tells me has been a long, long time… … although I better not let her hear me say that or she will take a switch to me.
The first look at the ranch made me laugh out loud as the small quaint cabins spread around the classic American “dude” ranch are a Colorado icon. My one bedroom cabin with a “kitchenette” was built long before I was born and would probably be there long after I was gone. But for what I wanted out of this weekend it was absolutely perfect. Quaint and charming and less than 30 feet from the river with a bench sitting at the river’s edge that was just made for cigar smoking and letting the world flow right on by, which was exactly what I had in mind.
Bernard and Sam weren’t arriving until the next evening so I had the remainder of the evening to myself so I spent it with my friends Townes Van Zandt, Billy Joe Shaver and Guy Clark and yes we visited Woodford Reserve and even had a side trip to Cuba where we visited with my other friend Monte #2.
I slept late the next morning, maybe due to the previous night’s prolonged visit with Woodford. But by the time I was up and around my fishing partners had arrived and we suited up and got ready to go fishing. Having friends that are good fishermen is a nice thing, having friends that are expert fisherman is even better but when you have friends that are expert fisherman and also experts on the intricacies of the water that you are fishing… … well that is just about as good as it gets. So I found myself tying on a fly so small I couldn’t even see it and hoping like **** that I didn’t break off too many times because I had forgotten my magnifying glasses. Bernard hustled us off to the water and even started me out on his “idiot” proof honey hole where he claimed even I could catch a fish and sure enough not only did I manage to catch a fish on the first few casts it was even so big that my arms weren’t long enough to get the whole fish in the picture …….. either that or I suck as a photographer.
I caught a lot of fish out of that same hole, and was feeling pretty good about my fishing skills until the sun got a little higher in the sky and I realized that there were literally hundreds of fish schooling in this back eddy and that indeed I had been given the “honey hole” to start with. So I moved on to give Sam and Bernard their shot with my cruising friends. The river was running very high but was mostly clear with just a slight coloration. As I fished I wondered if I could find the fish myself without Bernard pointing my way, in this high and fast water but my question was answered when I produced two fairly nice fish out of some white water seams that I had flipped a cast into almost out of instinct not as a particularly nice pool or hole. So by then, my fishing day was really starting to shift into high gear.
The rest of the day was spent in that frantic rush of fishing that comes when you have been too long off the water and are starved for fishing time. I caught fish all afternoon out of all the likely looking spots and enough out of those hard to find out of the way places to keep you casting at all the potentially likely looking spots you may be able to find. We were drifting a midge pattern 20 inches or so behind a big stone, picking some fish up on the stone and some on the midge, the strikes were soft and subtle so I was depending on my strike indicator, cause I cheat, while my fishing partners were good enough fishermen that they were picking up the strikes without an indicator. But we all caught fish consistently. We were even close enough to the cabin that we could from time to time, stop by for a cold porter or stout that I had brought in for just such an occasion. So all in all it was a wonderful afternoon of fishing.
The only thing that wasn’t wonderful was my friends decided to play a horrible trick on me. As many of you know I have a fairly extensive collection of Bamboo rods and I like to think that they are some of the most wonderful rods around. And indeed they are, which is what makes their trick so tough to take from people who I actually thought were friends. Well my so called friends asked me to fish the late afternoon with a prototype graphite rod that they were designing for a new rod company. It was a very sweet looking 9 ft 6 weight which would be a great match for the bb size shot and heavier weighted stones and dropper rig that I had been throwing all day. Little did I realize how devious these guys were as I started to cast this rod, even my crappy sloppy casts started to turn over like a pro. My usual side arm trash casts rolled out smoothly. The roll your elbow over and hook one around the side of the tree into that back eddy cast actually started to hit the target. I was amazed at the versatility and performance of this rod. Light in hand and a casting demon with enough power to turn twenty inch fish on a dime. So naturally when the afternoon fishing demo was over I asked them where I might be able to get one just like it… …. And they told me it wasn’t even on the market yet and I couldn’t get one. Now if that ain’t crappy friends I don’t know what is, making you realize all of the rods you have collected over the last twenty years, while still wonderful, could be shown up by the latest technical marvel of the graphite and engineering world… but I couldn’t get one yet. Oh well with ****ty friends like mine …. Who needs enemies?
Even though the guys had ruined my perception of rods, I did agree to cook them a steak and potatoes for dinner and even offered Woodford and cigars. So we spent a lovely evening sitting around listening to music and talking. I got to hopefully share a few new musicians with them that maybe would get into their heads as bad as that rod did to mine. We talked about the business of fly fishing which they are both deeply involved with which was a very interesting perspective for a business man who likes to fish … … but I had never really thought about the “business” side of fly fishing. And trust me when you get Sam and Bernard talking about building fly rods it was all way more complex and intricate than my barefoot Arkansas redneck self could understand.
We rose early the next morning and enjoyed a giant breakfast of biscuits and gravy and scrambled eggs with bacon. And I foolishly wonder why I had a heart attack some six months back. But the pace of the fishing day was slower for me. I had caught a lot of fish yesterday and so was able to focus more on the river and the scenery than the panic for tite lines and quantities of fish… … and in the end that always brings me more enjoyment than the struggle for sheer numbers and that first release of my fishing lust. I even stopped and took a few scenery shots.
Being a slow learner I had allowed Bernard to talk me into using one of the 8 ft 5 weight Eden Cane bamboo rods that he builds. And once again I was amazed by the beauty and quality of the rod but most importantly by how well it casts. So now there is another Bamboo rod maker that I just have to have one of his rods someday. You think I would have learned my lesson with the graphite rod but no … … I get sucked in again. At least this time, these rods are at least on the market already, just hard to come by. The water was a little higher and with a little more color due to the warmth of the day before and some additional snow melt but that actually seemed to make the fishing better.