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This little guy was so confused after trying to eat the heck out of a comet. He really wanted to be a Chinook.

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That’s the Taylor River in southwest Colorado up there. The little figure in the white hat on the left side of the frame high-sticking a 4-wt fly rod is me. The sky is that color because a thunderstorm has just passed through the valley, and while the noise and lightning are over, the clouds are still thinning causing refractions in the sun’s setting rays. Moments earlier a double rainbow filled the sky, but a unicorn never came. Only trout after trout after trout. Feasting on mayflies tied with feathers and string. It was full dark before we thought to wade back across, and then still it was one more cast. Just one more. The bats swooped around our shoulders as we slipped and slid on hidden river rocks back to the side where we’d left the keys, the car, the phones, the day behind.

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.

Off the beaten path, Wallowa County, Oregon

Yesterday, my work plans were cancelled and I ended up with most of a day to kill. The weather was threatening a spring blizzard, low 40s and dropping with winds gusting at about 20-25mph. The Eagle Cap was already turning white under new snow. The only reasonable thing to do – go fishing. The north east corner of the state is filthy with trout streams, and though it was a holiday weekend, it seemed like getting out on the river could still be awesome. It was!

Unfortunately, today, in a sad turn of events on a different river, I broke my first-ever fly rod, then realized I had a massive leak in the wheel cylinder of back rear brake on the truck. With it being Sunday and Memorial Day tomorrow, there aren’t any auto part stores or mechanics available until Tuesday. No transportation, no fly rod, but plenty of fish. I guess it’s time to lace up running shoes, then do some work.