December 31st, 2007

The Premiere OnLine Magazine for the Fly Fishing Enthusiast.
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The Holy Day of Fishing
By Ryan Mills, (Wild One)

My first real summer job, when I was 16, (like many) was flipping burgers. The nice part about my job was that those burgers were being flipped at the Snack Stand/Gift Shop at Timpanogos Cave National Monument in American Fork Canyon, Utah. My brother worked there too, and we spent most of our time before or after our shifts climbing and hiking around the canyon. He wasn't a fisherman, but I surely was and knew that there would be several opportunities to wet my line working up AF Canyon. One such opportunity presented itself on this "Holy Day of Fishing," a day that will never again see me wet a line! And this is why.

Tibble Fork Reservoir sits about seven miles up canyon from Timpanogos Cave and the American Fork river flows into and out of the reservoir. I learned to cast and caught my very first fish on a fly (a 8 inch rainbow) just above Tibble Fork on the stream. That was two years before this experience and I had fished that same area almost once a week in the Summer and Fall since that time. I felt extremely confident in this water, which was a classic Rocky Mountain stream being fed by high alpine lakes and runoff. I knew where every hole, riffle and eddy was for about a three mile stretch of this river and knew exactly what flies to cast at what time of day on any given day (except Sundays...)

My brother was responsible for opening the gift shop at the cave one Sunday morning and had to be there at 7:00 am and I was scheduled to come in at 10:00. Now, I must interject some explanation here. We come from a religious home and I felt strongly that Sunday was a special day. Fly fishing did not qualify for an accepted activity on Sunday in my home or my head and you'll soon find out why. Work was also not an acceptable activity on Sunday, but we either worked on Sundays or found new jobs and we weren't prepared for that. I felt justified that because I was already working on Sunday, what harm could be done if I fished on Sunday too!

So we left the house at 6:45 to be up the canyon by 7:00. I dropped my brother off at the cave and continued up canyon to a pull off just above Tibble Fork, right beside the river where a little spring cascades down the moss-covered rocks into the river. This pool typically held more trout than the others, so I felt it was a good place to start. I quickly donned the waders and tied on an Adams (the dry-style tied "new school," sorry JC!) and a GRHE dropper. After casting to every lie and possible location and not seeing a single rise or flash I was disgruntled, but still determined. I moved upstream about a 1/4 mile to another pull out and fished upstream for about 200 yards, again seeing notta. I tried every Mayfly pattern in the box and several caddis patterns as well, to no avail. Even the hallowed Yellow Humpy did not yield a single strike! Now I was worried. What had happened to my stream? Where were all the fish?

I decided, since I now only had about one hour left before work, that the reservoir may be the key to catching that day. By the time I got back down to the parking lot, it was crawling with bait and spin-fisherman. I knew a trick though to keeping kids and angry parents out of my back cast. The Northwestern edge of the lake, where the river comes in, has a shelf that juts out about 150 yards, and then drops off drastically. This is caused by deposits left over from spring run-off and creates a perfect shelf for the stocked rainbows. There are a few hold-overs and I've seen rainbows up to 16" here, but most are cookie cutters at 12." Not big, but fun anyway.

As I made my way out onto the shelf I noticed a small family drowning worms alongside the inlet stream. Mom sat in a lawn chair drinking a Budweiser while Dad, who probably weighed in at 305, had clearly had a few already himself (it is only 9:00 am mind you!) was screaming at the kids to get out of the water, because they were "scaring the $!*$ fish!" There were three poles on sticks, line headed out my way onto the shelf. I gave them a wide berth, figuring they had as much right to drown worms as I had to cast flies there. Suddenly the Dad got up out his chair, mouth running every cuss word I'd ever heard at the kids. I laughed to myself because at the same time, his rod tip started going crazy. He was getting hit and didn't notice because he was too busy yelling at the kids!

I turned and began to cast at the shelf's drop off. After two casts my ears perk at the mention of a "stupid @#^)%*$ fly fisherman." I listened as he told the entire canyon that I had crossed his line, and broke him off. I chuckled to myself, knowing that there was no way this guy had cast out this far. I continued fishing (not getting a single strike!) and then heard him indicate that he was going to "drive into town and get his ugly stick, so he could make that guy look a little prettier." I knew he was talking about me and I ignored it. Then I heard him mention a gun. I thought "Yep, you're gonna shoot me cause you missed a fish, in front of 100 other people, ha!"

Then, I heard a big splash behind me. Finally, the fish were starting to take something on top. This was the time, now it was gonna pay off. I heard another one behind me, a little closer. "Wow, that sounded like a HUGE fish!" It was then that I noticed that there were no fish coming up anywhere else. I turned around in time to see a fist-sized rock splash down, close enough to get me wet. Sign from heaven? Not quite. This guy was throwing rocks at me because he was drunk and missed a fish and thought it was my fault! I quickly reeled in and went as fast as I possibly could to shore. Once out, I all but ran to my car to get outta there! As I tossed my rod in the car and thought about taking my muddy boots off I looked down to my left boot where a Canadian Night Crawler was wriggling on a hook with about a mile of line trailing me! Ears and cheeks burning and scared for my life, I looked down the hill to make sure Tubby wasn't following and then jumped in the car. Boots, waders and vest (not to mention worm) still on, I spun the tires leaving and pulled into a spot a mile or so down from the lake to take the hook out of my laces and change.

I spent the rest of the day looking over my shoulder until I got home that afternoon. Holy Day of fishing? I think not. I can risk my life in other ways. Not only did I not catch fish, where I always catch fish, I almost died!

I've heard several fishermen indicate that "Church is for people who don't know how to fish," or something along of the lines of "Why go to church and think about fishing, when you can go fishing and think about God?" Some people call Sundays the "Holy Day of Fishing." I'll agree with the Holy Day part, but for'll find me fishing any day except Sundays. ~ Ryan Mills

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