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ImageYesterday we floated down the river in a rubber raft. One of us rowed, one of us supervised, and two of us cast nine-foot long graphite fly rods for Rocky Mountain trout. A fierce headwind tried to steal our hats, crumple our lines and prohibit forward motion despite a steady current. Low water levels left the channel thin, filled with shallow riffles and small pockets. It was both awesome and a struggle.

With a dry fly and two droppers spaced almost two feet below, I tangled on my first cast. My third, my fourth, eighth, ninth. Unlike in Oregon, out here you can’t really drop an anchor and get sorted. Private property,  private water. There’s the chance for one, maybe two casts, then you’re sliding by onto the next stretch, the opportunity gone.

Unsnarling tippet and flies for minutes at a time I missed a lot of fishy water. I felt bad. Like I was letting the boat down. I felt an unsaid expectation that I should be fishing. A successful float was a float where fish were caught. Results driven. Not process.

There were offers to help straighten my rig, of different rods, other flies. I didn’t want them. I wanted to work it out on my own, to figure out what was going on, to look at the steep walls of The Palisade rock formations as we slid by them on river right. But there goes another fishy-looking seam, and there’s no back-up button. I wanted the whole float experience rather than the fishing experience, but under the presumed pressure I felt it wasn’t happening.

We pulled over on a small stretch of public land. I clipped my droppers. Tried to change my attitude. Let go of the pride and self consciousness. Embraced the learning curve, the wind, the commentary, and suggestions. Back in the boat, the wind kept pushing, but the tangles became a little less frequent. I looked up and around, noticed the swallows dive-bombing the water surface. It got better. It good good.

At the takeout, in the truck on the drive home, we talked about the float. About how frustrating those first few trips can be, and how it’s the same for nearly everyone. It’s a process, and at the end there are results.

Right now, I’m declaring this the summer of embracing the learning curve.