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There’s more to fly fishing than catching

Just getting out can be rewarding


“What do you think?”

“It’s pouring rain at my house.”

“Should we still go?”

“I’ve looked at the radar map and the rain stops when we turn south at Chimney Rock. It will be cloudy and the water will be way-off color, but I don’t think it will rain on us. Let’s give it a shot. Don’t forget your waders and rain jacket.”

“I’m already on the way over and forgot my waders.“

“Don’t worry, I know it’s hard to believe, but I have extra waders.”

Such was the conversation my Friday fishing partner, Kim, and I had last Friday. It was raining for the drive to the Piedra River on the Southern Ute Reservation. But my interpretation of the radar was correct, and my thoughts on muddy water were also correct. I was feeling pretty smug and believed I was on a roll and could figure out how to catch trout in these conditions. I guess two out of three isn’t too bad.

We booted and suited at Fossett Gulch No. 4, waded downstream, positioned ourselves at the bottom of a great looking riffle, and started to cast. I tied on my usual dry fly, while Kim went straight to a nymph setup. Neither worked. Kim changed flies, I added a dropper to my dry; nada. I moved further into the riffle, tied on the gaudiest Woolly Bugger I had, then let it drift downstream. Even though it was straight below me, given the water conditions, I would not call it “fishing the shuffle.” I did get a strike, and missed it. Kim was now on her third change of flies. With this rate of success, we decided to drive to another location. We went north up the road to Fosset Gulch No. 3. The reason we chose this location is that there are multiple deep pools created after the Southern Utes placed large boulders in the bends of the river. Our theory was that fish would be holding in these deep pools since there was not any bug activity going on. It was a good theory.

I know many fly fishers, mostly new to the sport and maybe a few old curmudgeons, that would have looked at this day as a bust. In mine and Kim’s opinion, it was a great day on the water. I loved the day because I was forced to get out of my comfort zone and actually cast flies that sank. Kim remarked that her skill level at tying flies to her leader improved because she did it so often, looking for the just the right fly. As I was mumbling to myself about nothing biting, I found I was slowing down and working on better drifts. As I practiced mending, Kim practiced getting flies out of bushes and trees. This was a day of learning. It was also a great day to joke with my fishing partner, and her with me, about nothing in particular. Just being out was great. I think days similar to last Friday are a necessary part of fly fishing. Laughing at your casts, moving very slowly because you can’t see the bottom of the river, just sitting on a log and pretending you know which fly to pluck from your box when in reality you have no clue, adds to the great experience of fly fishing.

It is a skill that comes from spending many, many days fly fishing. If you haven’t yet developed the pure enjoyment skill there is a way to get it. Go fly fishing more. It will work, I promise. It worked for me.

Reach Don Oliver at durango.fishing@gmail.com.