I had an evening to kill and I wanted to go check on one of my favorite areas in Durango. I didn’t even bring my rod whereas, when living here, it was in the vehicle at all times. My how times have changed. Domestication.... maybe.
While heading out I realized I had a grin on my face, as if going to see an old friend. I was in a way. I’ve spent a lot of time out there, year round. My dog got her nickname out there while chasing geese in the dead of winter. Knee deep snow gave way to an ice shelf, and then to frigid water. Taunting geese lured her out into the water where she swam for quite a long time before she shrugged them off and came back to shore. She loved it and the chilly air and water temp never affected her for the rest of the day.
As I made it to the tailwater, I held my breath. Who knows why... maybe just excited. The aspens were completely gold. The ridgeline had the familiar look I remember – spruce, fir and aspen scattered about while cottonwood lined the headwater to the north. It felt good to be back here. Sometimes there are places that galvanize their way into my mind. This is one of them.
Driving the entire stretch up to the headwater, I noticed how low the water really was. It inspired me to go find the Kokanee that were going up river. It was mid October and they’d be nice and red.
As soon as I got out of the truck I inhaled through my nose and got that familiar mountain smell. The air had that slight nip that is a reminder of altitude and of being remote. It was quiet and still with a distant raven cawing intermittently. While wandering down to the meadow I found the range cattle’s trail that leads through the cotton woods and the river willows. I smiled. It’s been four years since being here last and it feels good to be back. Wow, how the river has changed. The evidence of the heavy winter in 2019 is clear. That’s what I love about a river or a creek – constantly changing. I had to walk downstream a distance to find the first pod of Kokanee. I was starting to lose light so I relied on the glare to spot dimples in the surface. Traveling further down, I found more and larger pods. I think it’s a good sign...healthy abundance. While fighting off reminiscent thoughts, trying to be present and observant, it hit me. Mid-October, low water and Kokanee running...
I’ve heard stories about the big browns that live in the depths of this place but never experienced it first hand. I’ve caught a mix of bows and browns from here but nothing really above 15 inches.
Think about it: Kokanee are coming from the depths to go up river that is currently really low this year to spawn. They are probably not going to go too far up and what an opportunistic time for the browns and bows to follow for the food source. If that’s the case, the larger cannibalistic predator browns are definitely trying to fatten up before winter and what a cheap plentiful buffet... and it is going on right now. After this sobering epiphany I made my way back to the truck. Under the rising full moon and the shift from cool air to now night time brisk mountain air, I had a plan. My hands numb as I fumbled for my keys and cranking the heater, I sat in the truck and decided to hit the river mouth before sunrise tomorrow.
It was on.