July 20th, 2002

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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Junk Water
By Paul Dieter (pdieter)

Two weeks on the road with the family livin' large and flinging the occasional fly. Several days of famous waterways and highways, doing fly-bys on rivers whose names are all I know of them. Glancing up watersheds thinking "someday I'll go up there and search for grace." While keeping a steady existence in chaos at 80 mph and dreaming of riffles and runs I hear from the back seat, "Daddy, there's a good spot to find a fish, right there in those rocks!" That's my girl, she's pointing out junk water at interstate speeds.

All these flawless numinous moments in intervals within my memory lie at my feet like stripped line, stored in anticipation of the next big take. My brother in-law standing on the side of Rapid Creek beaming like the Cheshire Cat and saying "big fish; big food" while my arms still tingle from landing and releasing a 20" rainbow. I caught the fish in two casts. The first one stopped on the final back cast in a shrub 15 feet off the bank, and Jon kindly unhooked it for me. The second cast was a 35' cross over the body reach cast, right up the far side of a downed tree that stopped on the second strip. It wasn't a limb it was a fish with shoulders. A gaudy flashabugger tied with all the weight my 4wt can toss...big fish; big food.

Tail water fishing in the glory of Cheesman canyon I cast over a rising fish to run my weighted nymph rig down the seam of the pool. Too lazy to change over to a dry and too confident that I'm just as likely to hook into a better fish under the surface. Climbing through the boulders on the far side fishing junk water and already an hour beyond when I said I'd be back at the cabin. I've hooked and been played by many fish and even gotten one or two to my net. This place has a personality that demands to be reckoned with; on it's terms. It's only consolation to my own personal style is to reward me for fishing the scrambling junk water with plenty of action. Some pockets and seams are overlooked by the masses as being too small, too fast, too hard to wade or to cast too; just plain junk water.

Two hours of grace on the upper Arkansas while the women explore the shops of Leadville. Some fine rancher has onsented to access and the Government is attempting to restore the habitat giving us family men the chance to get some fishing in right off the road. The place might be the twin brother of the warm springs area of the Clark Fork. Yellowest browns I've ever seen; no idea why.

Down on the lower S. Platte I've come to settle into a stretch of heavy pockets which is constantly ignored. People seem to hit the areas on either end and sometimes dabble in a pocket next to shore but I took one look at this water a few years ago and couldn't resist wading into the middle of the river and work drops and pockets for hundreds of yards. Learning new waters can be so much like the story of the six blind men from Indostan trying to decide what an elephant is. It's very easy to get trapped by taking little snippets of information and extrapolating it into a grand description of "the way it is." Everything about fishing denies this narrow definition but we need so desperately for things to be definite we often ignore the most obvious lessons in nature.

The best blind date of my life ended up being set up on-line with a guy called Maverick. He was every bit the gentleman. He brought me to a grand ball and let me dance with all the fishies, then kindly brought me home tired and worn out but unmolested. Fishing shoulder to shoulder wading up the Platte with the water divided down the middle; not the sort of fishing you can do with just anybody...especially the first time.

It has taken me several decades to understand a gift of seeing things differently. To see beauty, opportunity, and joy where so many others see chaos, turmoil and desolation. Every time I pick up a fly rod and wade into the waters I know class is in session and if I don't fall asleep or daydream with a cluttered mind there will be wonderful lessons to be learned. Preconceptions can only get me so far and then I need to open my mind to the paradoxes and parables of the natural realm in order to cross its thresholds. ~ Paul Dieter


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