Thursday, September 29, 2011

Leg-fulls of Bruises.

"Why did I wear white....what the hell was I thinking?" Jay scolded himself.

"Don't know...but you hadn't had coffee yet."

"True. But I've got to get over this, I'm not in the military anymore. There aren't going to be snipers at the top of the canyon...I'll live."

"Yeah…I hope we both will."

Because really, we didn't know what was going to happen that day. There could be snipers at the top of the canyon. There could be. Was it a probability? No. But a possibility? Of course. All things are possibilities. Especially, when in unknown territory – which we were. 

The plan had been incubating for several weeks, and now it was time, it’s fall -- caddis are hatching. Both Jay and I had fished the river from the North and from the South before. But there was this section in the middle that we hadn't been able to get to. Yet. Because of The Narrows, as they'd come to be called. Impassible except for during low water flows (although, we didn’t know this before setting out, and hadn’t checked the flows that day. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. For, had we gone one day earlier, we wouldn’t have made it through. But then again, there’s always that possibility that we might have…). 

Thus, there was this one stretch we'd never fished and which, we postulated, few others had. It was nearing Eden-like fantasies in my imagination by the time we started out that morning. It would be perfect. Untouched water, and trout that hadn’t seen a fly in perhaps, their whole life. They’d have little suspicion that what they were being fed were lies.

And so we schemed -- we’d drop off a car at one end, and drive to the other. Like a reverse float, except we’d be wading. So really it wasn’t like it at all, I guess. But that’s how I thought about it at the time.

What started as small rainbows – small enough to catch on a back-cast, and throw at your fishing partner’s head, all before you knew what was happening (and yes, this did happen) – turned into better and better fish around each bend. The pools got bigger and deeper, and their holdings grew along with them. Here, you could actually feel when you had a fish on. And soon, Jay pulled out a brown -- I knew he’d be there, he said.  

I stepped out onto a small ledge on a large square boulder which probably broke off the canyon’s wall eons ago. Who knows for how long it has been hiding trout here in secret. I like thinking about these things – about rocks as protectors – and that not only do you have to outwit the fish, but you have to get past the rock too. Jay said that the pool looked juicy, “you just know there are big fish in there.” I did, but also hoped -- against a fisherman’s nature -- that the trout not be too big. I was standing on the definition of precarious.

But I threw out a few casts anyway – tired, and sloppy – and in what looked like slow motion, my dry fly sank. Huh, must need more floatant. Or, a snag on my dropper? Or maybe…..just the trout I’d been hoping against.

I don’t remember what I said that alerted Jay to my situation at hand. But from behind my shoulder I heard, “A double header!” He had a big fish on too, “Damn…now this is when a net would be nice.”

“Yeah, maybe we should start bringing one?” I questioned.

“Nah, this is more adventurous.”

He’s right, of course.

“Just……hold on to him. I’ve got to get mine off first.” Jay yelled.

So I let my trout swim, tire, get angry, and fight -- and in his fighting, I saw him – it is in these situations that you really see people (and fish for that matter), as they truly are – in fighting, in anger, and in sorrow. A lot can be hid under a smile. It’s an amazing thing, the first time a trout breaks the surface. Before that, it’s like fighting someone in the dark. And sometimes when the light is turned on, you find that their fight was larger than their size. But in this instance, that wasn’t the case. This trout matched his fight.

“Okay…off! Now swing yours back behind you here….there’s a shallow pool, we’ll land him there.”

How exactly I swung around, I don’t remember. But I managed to.

“Don’t let him go down those rapids, Erin! You’ll lose him…..”

Yet even had I lost, fighting him would have been enough. In fact, that might have been a more fitting end. But I didn’t let him go down the rapids. I won. And by luck, my 6x tippet didn’t break.

“Well played, Erin….well played.”

My hands were still shaking. “Now you try a cast in that pool.”

So Jay climbed onto that same precarious ledge, made a cast, and I saw the familiar bend in the rod.

Now autumn light was urging us to pick up speed towards home – urging, that is, once we noticed her; like geese, finally heeding migration, and even when they don’t want to leave just yet, they must. Plus, we didn’t know how far we had to go yet. Foolishly, even though I know that the distance between two points on a map can be deceiving and is seldom ever short, I hadn’t checked the mileage. It looked walkable, and that was good enough. At least, that morning it had been good enough. Now, I wished I knew if it really was walkable.

I must have appeared worried because Jay looked back over his shoulder and winked. “Remember, we’re on an adventure.” I smiled. That’s right. We were. Whenever we go out together, for some reason we never go fishing -- we go adventuring. “Want to go adventuring tomorrow?” I know he means fishing, and my answer is always yes. It’s that mindset of come what may, you keep on keepin’ on. Even, through The Narrows. When you’re in doubt, Jay tells me, the best thing to do more often than not, is charge ahead. When your mind tells you that you can’t make it up that boulder or across that river; that your grip won’t hold, or that all of your 120 lbs. isn’t any match for the current --- really, you can do it. Your mind lies, showing you something that is false. Just like a fisherman to a fish. So I kept on, and took Jay’s offered hand… just in case I couldn’t, in fact, do it. I didn't entirely believe his optimism, but I trusted him. These can be two completely different things, believing and trusting.

And as the sun was setting, silhouetting pines against a grey-blue-sea sky, we finally got back to the car dropped off that morning. A full circle. We’d made it, white t-shirt and all. There were no snipers, or men with shotguns protecting their makeshift panning operation -- but there was evidence of such.

The car ride was silent. My mother always says that this is evidence of a good day -- when everyone is either too tired, or too deep in thought to talk. We got home after nightfall with legs full of a day's bruises. And here I’ll add that’s evidence of a good day too, leg-fulls of bruises.

“Had to work hard for those fish today…had to work for them.” Jay said.

“Yep…and it was an adventure…it always is…”


  1. I'm actually speechless and tired after reading this. Mother is right.

  2. Erin
    Having a fishing partner with that sense of adventure is a very special thing. Sharing it is even more rare. No shins were bruised in the reading of this post.

  3. those are big ones! not minnows!

  4. Cofisher - I am still tired from that day...and she always is...

    John - It may be the most important thing! And indeed, finding someone to share it with is very rare...and I'm glad your shins are ok!

    Anonymous - *insert thumb-smush here. ;-)

  5. Sounds like a great adventure and nice bow! I like how you call it adventuring not fly fishing. Very cool. Nice post as usual

  6. Very nice journal entry.
    That bow, very nice.
    I agree, leave the net home.
    The fly in the brown, the name, please.

    Well done anglers

  7. G Lech - Thanks! And as soon as it becomes "fly fishing" to me, I'll know I'm losing my edge....and I can't stand for that happening!

    Brk Trt - Thank you, sir! I'm glad to hear you agree about the net. The fly in the brown's mouth is Jay's Clown Shoe Caddis. Here's a link to his tying instructions, and a better photo of the fly:

  8. Looks to me Erin as if you getting to be some thing of a fly tyer. What with those flies and that smile how could any trout say no!!

    Nice piece, well done, Richard.

  9. Beautiful fish and water. "We don't go fishing anymore , we go adventuring".... I really like that!!

  10. Flyfishermanrichard - Oh, but they do say no sometimes...they do. Many thanks for the good words, Richard!

    HighPlains - Thanks...and I really like it too!

  11. "Do you want to go adventuring today?"....what else needs to be said. And in my experience, it's always better to trust than believe.

    Those "bruises" seem like they were well worth the journey.


  12. Adventures................. its the child in all of us that make fishing 'adventures', i hope i never grow up :):)

    Lovely post as always Erin.

  13. Sanders - It was all well worth it...and I'm always up for an adventure. I think I probably learned that from my dog. Want to go? Always yes. :)

  14. Erin - Amazing imagery, beautiful writing - I love reading your posts.

  15. Sounds like an awesome day and congrats on the big bow!

  16. It's awesome that you are supportive of the government-issued idiosyncrasy. Most partners would just make fun.

    Congrats on the fish, and the good time!

    Thanks for sharing the brain candy, it's was read and re-read to the point of satiety.

  17. Jen - Thanks! I'm glad of it...and looking forward to meeting you Saturday!

    Richard - It was a day from which I am still recovering. :) Many thanks for stopping by!

    OneBugIsFake - I know your alias now! ;) And you know, Jay has told me that before...that most make fun. But something inside me has always wanted to join, but by the time I actually had a mind to, I had been diagnosed with Celiac disease, and they wouldn't take me. Brain candy....I like that. A lot. Much better than being Eye candy!

  18. Erin – I loved the line "They’d have little suspicion that what they were being fed were lies."

  19. John - Thanks for stopping by, and for the good word on that line!

  20. Beautiful healthy fish-- gotta love it. Also I'm partial to the reverse float myself, they're usually worth the bruised legs...

  21. Great adventure. I can't help but think of this video.

    Also, very nice bow!

  22. Erin..Very cool report. To tired or too deep in thought to talk. The sign of a good day out.

  23. Thanks for sharing your adventure. Nice fish! I always remember the circumstances of a good catch as much as the fish. Also loved the image of your grandmother in the last post as she watched the Sandhills take off, "as though she were being raptured up with them." That has stayed with me; I think about it when I hear and see the Sandhills passing high over our valley.

  24. Excellent adventure, Erin. If you wouldn't mind, please post the GPS coordinates for that large, square boulder upon which you stood.

  25. Brian J. - They are always worth, you get really pretty colors on your legs. ;)

    Rhythm Rider - That's awesome. I'll be Ernie!

    Todd - was a great, and exhausting day!

    Jim - Thank you for telling about you watching the cranes. It means a lot to me. Enjoy their migration for me...I'm missing them this year.

    Kirk - Ah...I would if I could, but I can't so I won't. ;)

  26. But who got smacked by the backcast trout? bhive

  27. Well written! Great post makes me want to be right there watching it all transpire.

  28. you know that distant, cheering-crowd noise a person makes by cupping their hands around their mouth and exhaling? making it right now :) Might as well be the husker's stadium, packed to the brim. Cheers.

  29. Nice photo of you and the rainbow. A quite respectable fish, if I may say. Fishing new water is always fun, yes? Promise and expectation in every step and cast.
    I'll check in at your site as often as I can,I'm off tomorrow on my own 'adventure', the truck and I are off to see new waters, and whatever else comes.

  30. Action, adventure, a trusty companion, beautiful fish..." all things are possibilities...." Great story

  31. bhive - Jay threw it at ME!

    Ryan - Thanks...and I hope you got, at least, a small view of the transpiration!

    d.nash - Man, that's a compliment! From one ex-Nebraskan to another! Go Huskers :)

    Should Fish More - Thank you, sir! And I hope you have a grand adventure of your own. I'll make sure to check in on your site for updates on your progress. Cheers to 'whatever else comes'...

    Herringbone - Thanks, as always!

  32. "Yet even had I lost, fighting him would have been enough. In fact, that might have been a more fitting end." I have thought that many times. Great post Erin. I always think of fishing trips as adventures too.

  33. "and in his fighting, I saw him – it is in these situations that you really see people (and fish for that matter), as they truly are – in fighting, in anger, and in sorrow."

    Now that is a great observation Erin. An exhausting tale about an epic trip, loved it.

  34. Kev - It is sort of a strange thing, to wish and hope and work so hard to get a fish hooked, and then want it to get off. :) But so we go. And thanks, Kevin, as always!

    Dave - I think I still have yet to recover from it! ;)

  35. Thanks, Mags...glad you enjoyed it...

  36. Awesome recap, and I'm glad that I'm not the only one whose trips turn into adventures most every time. That's one reason my kids turn and try to hide when I ask if anyone wants to head out with me!

    Nice fish, too! And scenery. And...I could go on and on...

  37. Hello Erin (I’m leaving the same comment on both your blogs because this is definitely a thing that concerns you both).
    First of all, I have to admit that I envy you both for the possibility of being able to do such a thing. When you start hiking for a day here in Belgium for example (and I’m pretty sure that counts for most of the central European countries), you won’t get very far without crossing another road again. But second and most important, is the fact that you do such a thing with total trust, devotion and protection for each other, to put it in other words,… with Love. And next to the wonderful fishing and nature, that is the first thing that I read in both your posts of this event!
    I don’t want to get sentimental here, so I’ll just say to both of you,… Keep on Rocking (and write about it, because it’s daily, good food for the soul!).

  38. Casey - Kids not wanting to adventure!? What in the world. :) Many thanks for stopping by!

    the lonesome piker - I'm always in awe of this place...that really, I could probably easily disappear into wilderness, and not be found. Although, I would love to fish in Belgium someday! Thank you for your kind words, and don't worry, I'll keep on rocking. :)

  39. Erin, masz super zdjęcia !!! Pozdrowienia z Polski ! :)

  40. Wielkie dzięki, Tomek!Tutaj w Colorado są łatwe do wykonania piękne! :)

  41. Great story, great fish, great pictures. I really enjoyed this one. It's always worth it when we push it, find those special places, and find that extra reserve in ourselves. Excellent.

  42. The fact that Colorado is a beautiful place it is certain. Although I was never there, and certainly I'm not sure. However, to perform a beautiful picture is not enough beautiful surroundings. There must be something .... yet again I greet!

  43. This post is AWESOME, as are you after finally meeting you yesterday. John's comment on your mention of "feeding them lies" reminds me of my definition... "Perpetrating the Fraud".
    Well done, Erin... you give fly fishing a new and refreshing reputation. You are not only a great fisher, writer and person, you are a true diplomat for our addiction.

  44. FR - Thanks...and you're is always worth it, and is most often surprising.

    Tomek - Oh shall I respond in English, or Polish!? ;-) Thank you, as always...and someday perhaps you shall see Colorado!

    FlyFishingCrazy - It was a delight to finally meet you as well! Many thanks for the kind words here...hope you check back in often!

  45. e.m.b. : I wanted to let you know you were chosen at random for my giveaway, and are the winner of my canvas print! Head over there for more details. You have a great blog here by the way.

  46. Luke - No way! Very cool. I'll head over and shoot you a line. Thanks!