I had already experienced a wonderful Colorado trip early in the summer, but when I heard about a hot young guide out Cody WY way, it really got me thinking about yet another fishing trip. This guy seemed to be catching tons of big fish in absolutely gorgeous places, based on the steady stream of advertising level pictures that rolled almost daily into my work email in-basket. These weren’t just your normal grip and grin pictures but truly “fish of a lifetime” kind of photos and to be honest, the regularity of their appearance was beginning to get on my nerves. So almost in self-defense, I phoned this supposed hot shot guide and made arrangements to spend a week out there in early October sampling this spectacular location and the obviously spectacular fish it seemed to hold. My friend Bernard who is a “supposed” hot shot fisherman himself decided he wanted to go with me just to check and see if this guy could fish as well as he claimed. And just as these things usually go … … two weeks before my scheduled arrival the reports were of giant fish practically lining up to take a fly, one week before my scheduled arrival a cold front came through and fishing was becoming much tougher and as I flew out the weather report called for temps near zero and constant snow and my guide was beginning to back up on some of his claims… … oh well “if it weren’t for bad luck I would have no luck at all”.
Bernard and I had met up in Salt Lake City so when we landed in Cody we grabbed our bags and waited in the airport lobby. I was wondering if I would recognize this hot shot guide when he arrived out of this extreme crowd … … 8 or 9 other people. But recognizing him, proved pretty easy and I must admit I was beyond glad to see him as this was the longest I had ever gone without seeing … … what to me will always be my oldest baby boy, even if he does introduce himself now as Rick Davis, Cody WY fishing guide. But none the less giving him a giant bear hug felt d**n good, all the way to marrow of this old father’s bones. Well after the reunion we headed to Buffalo Bill’s Irma hotel and a surprising comfortable and quaint room in the old section of the hotel and at a pretty reasonable rate as well. But we didn’t spend too long unpacking, pausing just long enough to grab rods, reels, waders and rain jackets … … because yes as Davis family luck always dictates, the bad weather had arrived and we had a steady rain mixed with snow falling for the 45 minute ride to the river… … but I didn’t really care because I was with my baby boy and I was going fishing and the scenery was d**n pretty, one way or the other … … so no fish had as of yet been caught and already I was one happy camper.
Bernard and Rick headed in one direction to show off their graceful and highly annoying long pretty casts to each other and to compare their “A Game” fishing skills and I headed off in the other direction. I always tell them that I like to fish alone, which is true in and of itself, but the real reason is I am ashamed to have these two fishing phenoms see my degrading and disgusting casting or realize how truly pitiful my lack of proper fishing skills really are. Those of us who only possess a “C minus Game” never try to fish within sight of the “A Gamers”. I asked the great fishing guide to toss his old dad a few helpful tips and a handful of those old faithful “can’t miss” flies that he had been tying up lately, and he was kind enough to comply. So off I went wandering slowly downstream. Before I even started fishing I had to stop and take a few pictures. This part of Wyoming is unlike anything I have ever fished before, part arid high country desert and part gorgeous tumbling rivers, lush grassland and scenic mountain vistas with brilliant paint splashes of yellow and gold where the trees were in full autumn color. But instead of me typing another half page trying to describe that scene … … how about I just show you a few pictures.
As pretty as those pictures were when I rounded the next bend and saw this guy standing there staring at me it made me truly feel like I was in Wyoming and nearly at the East gate of Yellowstone. He is a walking Yellowstone post card, even if his actual genetic roots are probably Canadian these days, never the less he is still a symbol of the classic American west.
He just stared at me a moment and went right back grazing so I ended up fishing with him in the background and with a **** of a wide smile on this flatlander Georgia boy’s face. Well whenever I find myself on new water that I haven’t fished before I always get this irrational anxiety that I won’t be able to figure it out and won’t be able to catch a fish, and this usually lasts until I can chase the skunk spray away with the smell of a fresh caught fish on my hands, which sometimes takes much longer than I might like. So I was pleasantly pleased when after a few dozen casts, I came up taut to a struggling weight and knew that I had a fish on, but my smile froze on my face as the struggling form began to strip line off the reel at an alarming pace and I had to charge off downstream to try and keep up. I got the fish turned into a back water eddy that was relatively calm where I could re-gain the upper hand. Based on the golden flashes I had seen earlier and the obvious weight I could feel, visions of a Brown of nearly biblical proportions were dancing in my head… … so you can imagine my disappointment when I found this poor ugly old soul, belly hooked no less … … at the end of my line.
But the skunk smell was gone one way or another and I will take any fish I can catch no matter how ugly they may be, after all this fisherman has more than once been called a poor ugly old soul himself. The fishing for most of the afternoon was acceptable but not great, fish were caught but not in prodigious numbers (there goes that readers digest vocabulary practice again). But as the afternoon wore on the sun poked its bright face through the haze of clouds and we were treated to about an hour of “catching” at rate that rivaled the cocky young guide’s claims.
These fish were a mix of rainbow and cutthroats and the cutthroats were gorgeous enough to make me stop and marvel.
Stumbling off the stream happily satiated in our fishing craze we wrapped up the day with a perfectly cooked steak, a pleasantly full stomach, a cigar in hand and a nip of Mr. Woodford’s best sliding warm and smooth down my throat. I heard myself ask my fishing guide what he had scheduled for tomorrow, as he responded by questioning me carefully about what I could do without over taxing my out of shape physique and reminding me that I needed to be careful about what fishing adventures I undertook, it suddenly dawned on me how the world had flipped and flopped… … I was asking my son about where he wanted to take me fishing, he was telling me what to fish with and how … … and he was lecturing me about being more careful and not taking any stupid risks. Indeed the world had taken a strange “flip flop”, but it didn’t feel wrong or even that out of place just a conscious awareness of the changing of the guard as it relates to fishing … … probably a precursor to many more such changes that I will experience over my time with my boys … … but unsettling yet the same. Fortunately as many of you know I do love flip flops and was even wearing a fuzzy pair even on this cold night. So I just smiled a wry smile to myself, laughing silently and realizing that even with that “flip flop” revelation, it was still a spectacular beginning to what was shaping up to be yet another epic fishing week.