By Bill DeWitt, Colorado, USA
I was recently fishing on my home water when I laid into a huge Rainbow. The
beast shook his head briefly then raced to the other side of the river, exposing
line that had never seen the light of day. After giving me an extensive personal
tour of his section of the river he reluctantly conceded the conflict and swam into
my net. I watched the hook jawed creature swim away and looked up to find
myself in complete solitude. "Isn't that typical," I thought. A fight to the death
and not a soul saw it. There was no lack of onlookers the day I took a Buster
Keaton dive in deep water. And should I manage to hook the back of my shirt
and wrap the line around my neck, there would likely be a film crew on hand.
Oh well. I sighed as my adrenaline returned to normal, waded back to the pocket
and continued fishing. At least I had the river to myself for awhile.
I can't say that I always find solitude. Sometimes it's elbow to elbow. But I do
generally go fishing alone. It's not that I'm reclusive or anti-social, I just don't have
a fishing buddy as such. I'm a bit leery of the idea. Those people who I have taken
fishing . . . well . . . most of them should have stayed home.
First there was my brother. In his case I wasn't looking for a fishing buddy so much
as he just needed to be taken fishing. Let me explain. I went to visit him one day
having just returned from the Frying Pan River. I was new to fly fishing and was
going on about how great it was. He listened quietly as I regaled him with tale after
tale interlaced with the reasons as to why fly fishing was superior to any other form
of angling. At a lull in my babbling he sat up straight with a deadly serious look on
his face and said, "there's no such thing as fish."
"Huh?" He repeated his assertion. I insisted he explain. He told me that in all the times
he had gone fishing he had not so much as seen a fish let alone caught one, ergo, fish
don't exist. He continued by insisting there was a world wide conspiracy to dupe the
public. What we've been led to believe are fish, is actually chicken. It was apparent
to me he needed to be shown the proper way to fish. His views would certainly change
if he could feel a fish on the end of his line. I challenged him to go to the Frying Pan with
me and as it turned out, he would be able take some time off in a couple of days.
Knowing that I couldn't turn a rookie loose on the Frying Pan, I took him to a
nearby creek the next evening for basic training. As we arrived nothing was hatching
so I placed the emphasis on nymphing. After explaining the concept to my disbelieving
audience I continued the lesson by fishing below the spillover of a beaver dam. Within
minutes a 10 inch Rainbow picked up the nymph and raced around the creek. I removed
the hook and held up the shiny trout for my brothers examination. He insisted that it was
a genetic mutation of a chicken. This wasn't going to be easy.
The next day we were off. The Pan is a three and a half hour drive through the
mountains and we had ample time to chat and marvel at the scenery. He continued
steadfast in his theory on the non-existence of fish. We'll see. Arriving at the river
I set up his rod with a dropper of nymphs and coached him for awhile. "Let it drift
down, watch the strike indicator, flip it back up." He quickly had the hang of it and
I was able to fish myself.
I was just about finished setting up my own rod when I heard him shriek, "I got one!
I got one!" Sure enough, his rod was bent over and the line was darting back and
forth. It was a big one. As I waded in with net in hand I reminded him not to horse it.
We were using 7X. His next proclamation was a beauty. The guy who didn't believe
in fish shouted out for everyone in the pool to hear, "This is better than sex!" Uh huh.
As we eyed the enormous brown in the net I broached the subject of chicken. He
reluctantly admitted that fish might actually exist. I considered this most generous
given our previous discussions and without telling him as much, declared myself the
winner of the running debate. Later that summer I took him to the South Platte where
we ran into a PMD hatch. Upon catching some nice specimens with dry flies, he revised
his hypothesis to allow for the partial existence of some fish. He has not fished since.
The next person I took fishing, a few years later, was my ex-wife's live-in. Yes, we're
still on good terms and I actually took my relief fishing. For his basic training I opted
for a city lake where we caught panfish on dry flies. He commented that it was too
easy. Right. Let's see what happens when you run into some snotty trout that have
gone selective. Aside from his over-simplification of an otherwise complicated sport,
I found it easier to teach a cat nuclear physics. Ultimately, his greatest fly fishing
accomplishment would be to slam the car door on my favorite rod, breaking the tip
off. That was the last time I took him fishing.
Many years ago, before I was enlightened, I fished with bait. Early on in those dark
times, I established a rule that came to be known as Rule Number One. "Never take
a woman fishing." Icky commodities such as bait will bring forth whining and
complaining the likes of which will take the edge off of any fishing trip. Not only
did I strenuously adhere to Rule Number One but I preached it far and wide. I
would occasionally allow special dispensation for those ladies I ran into while fishing
but regarded all other females as non-candidates. I'm older and wiser now, and
Rule Number One, like my hair, has faded away. I love the fact so many women
have taken up fly fishing. I say all this as a segue to my most recent fishing companion,
Ol' Red, my girl friend.
When we met she knew I was involved in fly fishing but didn't know much about
the sport. One evening at the video store, I suggested she watch A River Runs
Through It. Only after assuring her that it wasn't all fishing did she agree.
Being a classy lady who appreciates good writing she really liked the story but when
it came to the scene of Paul shadow casting she was thoroughly impressed. "It's
so graceful. I want to do that."
"OK," I said, "we'll go fishing." Not only had I found a fishing buddy, but a fine
looking one at that.
Several nights later when she got home from work, I was in the front yard practicing
my casting. Without even going into the house, she took the rod and began to learn
how to cast. Unlike the long line of dolts I had previously coached, she learned very
quickly. She was anxious to go fishing and that evening I enjoyed something new for
our household. Fishing talk. The big day came and we went to a nearby mountain
stream where she clearly showed she was a natural. She can read the water like
Shakespeare and ties her own knots. And aside from occasional threats to jump
in and knife the little bastards (as a girl, she fished in Trinidad sans rod and reel),
she loves to fish. Every weekend we journey to nearby creeks and rivers where
we catch fish and have fun.
Ol' Red has a style all her own and being a good fishing buddy I don't question it.
For example, she invested in a very good pair of wading boots but wears tattered
jeans circa 1970 in lieu of waders. And rather than don a vest she dangles a fly
box from her belt loop. Who am I to say? Where she shines is her persistence.
She'll work a pocket until she catches something or is certain nobody's home.
Then it beckoned. The Frying Pan. I hadn't been there in a year and it called to me
like a sirens aire. After considerable discussion (this is where you get a visual of me
on my knees) we set the date for the weekend after Labor Day. We were going to
camp out and spend two days fishing. The next week was spent tying flies and
leaders and making all sorts of preparations. I was pumped.
The drive to the Pan took us through the most horrific thunder storm of the decade.
It finally broke when we arrived in the town of Basalt as the sun was setting.
We had just enough time to pitch the tent and cook supper before it started up
again. Oh . . . and it was cold. I know this because my fishing buddy told me so.
Often. Repeatedly. All through the night and into the next morning. (Did I say
we were in Colorado?) Being a gentleman, I got up early the next morning and
made her coffee. We then to drove to the Two Rivers Cafe for a hearty breakfast
then pressed on to the river. As you can tell, there are few things I love more than
the Frying Pan and here I was . . . on the Pan with my new fishing buddy. Then it
started to unravel. The Green Drake hatch had petered out, she didn't catch anything
and two of my rods and my left thumb ended up broken. The only positive event
during the trip was running into a very brief BWO hatch that netted three browns.
Pretty dismal you say? The worst was yet to come.
Seeing that her fun meter was registering zero, I suggested we go back early. She
agreed and we loaded up and drove down the canyon. So as not to make the trip
a complete loss I decided, without consulting her, to return by way of Independence
Pass. If you can't remember ever being over Independence Pass, you've never been
there. It sticks in your mind. I'm not alluding to the breathtaking scenery but the
breathtaking road. It's not so bad if you're driving but passengers exhibit various
reactions ranging from mild panic to attempts to crawl under the dashboard. Picture,
if you will, sheer drops of several thousand feet viewed from a two lane road with no
guard rails. Well, guess what. Ol' Red has an acute fear of heights, the onset of which
occurred just past the point of no return. She held together though and I felt bad.
Somewhere down the other slope I was advised that any other vistas I might have
in mind would bring about my death. She's still my fishing buddy . . . I think. Camping
out in the cold however, has been permanently banned and two lane mountain roads
must be preapproved.
Well there you go. Chicken fish, broken rods and acrophobia. Now you see why I
like to fish alone. Hmmmm . . . and what about Rule Number One?
~ Bill DeWitt
Lighter Side Archive