Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Solo mission to my favorite river... what could ever beat that?!
Loading my truck, I was happy about this trip: no hurried plans; no deviation from the set course; no last minute 20 guys showing up; no one asking me to tie their flies on their line for them... total bliss.
Let me backtrack a second. If it's the right guys, and everyone is on the same page, it can be a lot of fun. Shit-talkin', swappin' flies and lies... just so that you know I'm not a total loner. But this time it was just me. I was getting into my own head. Not enough sleep + not enough food = perfect recipe for fish brain.
I stashed enough PB&J's, granola bars, and water in the truck, and I knew it'd be totally fine. I looked at it like this: if I was tired or hungry, I could just take a nap in the truck and have a bar. Even better... make a killer cup of coffee.
So, the drive was great. The new-to-me truck drove like it should- great. Although, I do miss my Tacoma sometimes. But this was comfortable and my gear was stashed comfortably. On the drive there, I debated if I should fish a certain lake that's about an hour's walk in when I showed up or not. It all depended on when I got there. The lake is a commitment. Yes, there's a creek on the way, but it's a creek. Yes, it has fish, but... I have spent hours chasing fish on creeks. Seriously, hours. So either commit to the lake, or save it for the next day.
What if the lake is off? It's a long walk for that to be a reality and disappointment.
I unloaded the truck, got my stuff in order, and organized dinner so that when I got back, I'd actually have adulted and would have food ready to go, as opposed to walking back in the dark starving and wolfing down a whole bag of trail mix for dinner.
I got to my place around 3 pm and it wouldn't get dark until 9ish. So, I made some coffee, grabbed my gear, and set out to do the lake. It was totally just first day jitters, I guess.
I've had such a good time at this lake for years and the hike there is great. Tons of chippies, birds, and whatever other kind of critters I didn't know about were watching me as I did my fishing stroll to nirvana. Just as always, no one around. Maybe a few fresh tracks from people, but nothing big. I came to a clearing where it opens up to a wide valley. Usually this is where I see elk or an occasional 'yote trotting by, but not this time.
I spotted a man sitting along the trail. I approached him and we talked for a bit. He was putting his rod back in its tube and packing his waders. We talked long enough to trust each other, or size each other up, to divulge spots that we both loved and exchanged coordinates. My spot was a bit of a ball-buster to get to, but if he was all the way out here, he deserved to explore it. I pondered his spot, as I got my stride going again.
Funny as I reflected back on our conversation, I realized we had something in common. He currently lived in Durango, Colorado and I did at one time, so we had a connection.
Along the trail, I spotted the creek. Tempting to chase fish, but I was bent on getting to my favorite lake. Besides, I had an eye on the sun.
My motivation got me up the hill to my favorite tree on the trail. It's a tree that stands by itself in the open valley. I jokingly call it the Tree of Woe. If you're old enough to remember Conan the Barbarian, you'll get that.
My heart raced as I got within eyeshot of the treetops that surround the lake. I've been here enough times to give myself landmarks to keep up my motivation. I came to the gate... a new wire on it. Last year, I helped a real cowboy fix the fence and chase his cattle back through the gate. Really, I was just impressed with his .357 on his hip. Dirty Harry style.
I made it to the lake. I exhaled in grinned as if welcoming myself back. I miss this lake. I didn't know you could miss a lake, but I did. The familiar trees were still there and all the memories of different things happening came right back to me.
Rigging up, I twisted up an elk hair caddis for a good starter fly and walked to a familiar spot. No wind, sun at my face, some dimples on the water. First cast, short, over by the log, nice soft landing, now a little twitch "God save the queen", set the hook, fish on! Nice colorful cutthroat. It made me smile- I was happy to be back.