Thursday, July 30, 2009

July on the Fryingpan River - Part Two

Thursday July 23, 2009 : Adversity Strikes Again

For whatever reason I awoke before sunrise and big fish fever dragged me out of bed to boil water for coffee. Very chilly with some breeze, but the coffee was enough to motivate me to roll down the road to the upper Pan. On the river before 7am with dreams of grandeur. Not a strike, not a whirl - except for the wind which was blowing hard and constant down the canyon. It was not long before I could not feel my toes or my fingers - I was cold! Stuck it out for another half hour before I finally realized I was getting no action and freezing. So, went back to the truck with my tail between my legs and hit the thermos of coffee I brewed up earlier. While talking to new arrival, I tried to take my 5 piece Winston rod down but couldn't separate the pieces..any of them. This has happened before and all that is needed is some cold water on the ferrels which the man offered. I said, naw, that's ok, I'm gonna have a hot breakfast back at camp and fish the rod later downstream. So, I broke my RULE and put the rod in the truck sticking out the back window. You can guess what happened...on my way back to the camp, still cold as hell, I decided the cold breeze through the windows was too much and rolled the window up - breaking the tip on my Winston rod. What a friggin drag. First busted rod in over 10 years. I kinda got over it, figuring that's a long time without breaking a rod - especially considering the amount of fishing I do and my bushwhacking style. Oh well, at least I have 3 more rods in the truck to use. Get over it. Once back at the camp, I decided I needed a pick-me-up and figured I'd go back to the lower Pan and attempt to catch the large fish I missed back on Monday (see July 20 post). Worked my way up the same run just as before, catching nice bows and browns along the way. But I was always looking upstream toward the rock and wondering if the big fish was still hanging there.

When I finally got to "the rock", I checked my knots, my tippet, and tied on a new fly. "The rock" was a perfect place for a big fish to hang out. Fast and deep water on the right side with shallow and smooth water on the left to which many flies were landing and falling out of the willow bushes that also kept things a bit shady and cool. The hole behind the rock was about 4 feet deep. Perfect setup. When I hooked the fish on Monday, I made a nice cast to the hole, sweeping my line to the slow water on the left side in order to get a nice drift. The plan was the same, and though still a bit breezy, I was able to make a decent cast. Wham! Damn...a brown came up and agressively took the fly. I worked him downstream but was worried the action spooked the big bow if indeed he was still hanging out there. Released the brown, dried off the fly, and worked my way back up to the rock. Made a nice cast, the fly drifted perfectly over the hole...but no take yet..not yet...not yet..oooohhhh....I was just about to lose the drift when Wham! the big bow hit it. I was ready, got a solid hook set, and anticipated the jump I knew was coming. The fish did not dissapoint, and he jumped just as before. Somehow, I kept the line tight without snapping it and held the fish. He then headed straight for the fast water but I was ready for this too and I followed him downstream about 20 yards, falling over boulders and making a helluva racket. He was still on. He headed downstream another 20 or so yards, and I followed with my rod tip high. He finally stopped in a hole and just sat there. I was out of breath, and figured maybe he was tired after the big jump and the fast water fight. I know I was exhausted! I reeled in my line and got up next to the fish. He just sat there not moving an inch. I finally got an idea of the size of this fish because I could see where my line went into the water, and I could see his tail downstream. This guy was big, just as big as he looked when he jumped. I have learned in the past that fish always seem to look bigger when they jump - their gills are flared, mouth usually open and shaking, colors bright, and I dont know - in the past I have sometimes been surprised how much smaller the fish are once landed than I originally thought. Not this guy, he was as big as he looked. Released my net's clasp and I tentatively bent down in an attempt to net the fish. It finally dawned on me that this fish was roughly twice as long as the opening in my net, or somewhere in the 30" range. And this on the lower Pan! A shiver of excitement went through me, but suddenly I had a negative thought: is this monster really going to let me net him? Just as this thought sped through my synapses, the fish took off like a raped ape toward the fast water again. Having the rod in my left hand and the net in my right, I had to rely on my drag which had worked well up to that point. Anyhow, the fish hit the fast water, sped upstream and suddenly the line went slack as he switched directions and went downstream. At this point, with about a foot of slack in my line, the fish jumped completely out of the water, about two feet (not an exaggeration) and shook his head viciously. My fly came out, landed close to my knees, and assumed a perfect drift downstream. I was heartbroken. I still am.

I can't describe the depression that set in after missing this fish after breaking my Winston earlier in the day. I just couldn't shake these events, and like a life threatening accident, the fish scenario kept playing through my mind over-n-over in slow motion. It was agonizing. The only thing that made me feel better (for a short time) was calling my friend MikeK and learning that his wife "caught" him emailing a woman named Victoria (of all names...) in which he was found to say marriage was like "jail" to which his wife wanted a full explanation. Well, that got me to laughing but as soon as we hung up..well, my mind went back to the fish. I headed to the Roaring Fork around Woody Creek thinking new water would get my mind off my troubles. Caught 3 nice browns on a stonefly nymph, but couldn't shake my depression. I gave into the urge and pulled over at the Woody Creek Tavern and started drinking. The bartender there got another smile out of me when I could see he delighted in asking his female customers if they'd like a "doggy-style", which was a beer they were serving on tap. The look on the women's faces was priceless, but after once or twice even that novelty wore off and I was back to thinking about the fish. Jeez - will I *ever* friggin land one of these large fish that I seem to be able to hook on a fairly regular basis?? What good is a fisherman if he can't land big fish once he hooks them? Not much I guess.

Friday July 24, 2009

Skunked on the upper Pan, and decided to stop fishing and go to Central Market in El Jabel to get groceries and have some of their awesome sushi (no kidding, in El Jebel of all places). Sat under a tree next to the parking lot drinking a Guinness stout and eating sushi with chopsticks. People were looking at me, but all I could think about was that friggin fish. Drove back to the lower Pan and decided to take a hand bath in the river. The water felt great, and boy did I need to wash the ole bod, but I couldn't wash the fish off my mind. It was about that time I met "the sisters" two beautiful and very friendly girls from Ft. Collins 25 and 23 yrs old. One was fly-fishing, and showed good form but was fishing in a quite technical run with a dry. I suggested she come downstream to some smooth water where I noticed trout rising. Long story short, I got out in the water with her, she caught her first fish on a fly-rod (8" bow) and was totally stoked about it. She kept yelling at her sis, are you getting pictures? You better be getting pictures! It was great fun and took my mind off my troubles until I realized that I really wanted to take both of them to Woody Creek Tavern but was definitely old enough to be their dad. I didn't even ask, and went about my business after thoroughly enjoying my first good conversation with females in weeks. I definitely need to get out more. Anyhow, i got enthusiastic about fishing again after hanging with Britney for awhile, and decided to try dries on the upper Pan. Had no luck at all til just about sunset when I remembered the #20 PMD I had found in a tree limb a few days earlier. Tied that fly on and immediately caught two fish, both browns, right at last light. I set the hook on sound and the swirl as I could no longer see the fly. I love the way this brown is glaring at the camera.

Saturday July 25, 2009

Snapped off three flies on the upper Pan all on really nice fish. Sound familiar? Caught one fish this day, and if I come back next year he might be 8". Stupid man. Stupid stupid stupid little man.

Sunday July 26, 2009

After 6 weeks, the cooler's a mess, my body is tired and sore, and I am still not over the fish or the broken Winston. Also ran out of white gas for my Coleman stove. All signs are to go home. Decided to pack up, drive the Teardrop down the river road to "the rock" and try the big bastard one more time. Caught fish all along the way, just like the previous two times with my eye on "the rock". About 50 yards from the rock I got a big surprise when the big bastard stayed right where I left him last time, hit my fly, and caught me unprepared with slack in my line. Terrible hook set that did not survive the jump I knew was coming and that he made. That was it, I was done for 2009. I headed off the river and decided I didn't want it to end like that, and decided to catch one last fish. Fittingly, it was a cute little brown (last picture below). That was it. My Colorado 2009 trip was over. I'll never forget the big fish I missed, or how much fun I had this summer in my search for trout. Good luck in your searches - whatever they may be for. Cya, Fitzman.


Anonymous said...

Hey cousin Mike, loved the Colorado trip report! You're sure hard-core about your fishing. Around here we just whip a big gnarly fly out on an 8 wt rod and the salmon nail it. Nothing to sophisticated! Take care, Dana

the_fitzman said...

hey cuz! yup - you alaskans have it made. how can you beat wild caught salmon for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? besides, they are so large up dere you could probably use my trout as bait!