Fishing the "No Name" river in the Flat Tops Wilderness is always a special treat. This year river and weather conditions were absolutely perfect. I was eager to strap on my hiking boots and mount my backpack for a trip into some of the best dry-fly fishing anywhere. So it began as it always does with the hike. Hiking is part and parcel of fly-fishing. A fly-fisherman spends alot of time on his feet in order to gain access to nature's bounty of trout. I used to get anxious and try to rush a 3 or 6 mile hike. You can try in your mind to rush a hike, but the truth is a long hike simply cannot be rushed. It should be embraced and enjoyed. I have learned patience and also recently discovered the benefits of a bandana. Not sure what took me so long, but nothing can cool you off on a long hike like a bandana soaked in a cool river and wrapped around your neck. On the start of the hike the bandana was around my neck but still dry as the morning was quite cool. Leaving the campground, I made good time through the flat water area, through the aspen meadow, and up to the boulders where I jumped a big velvet buck. He was lapping up water pooled in natural bowl in the boulders after the previous days rain. I guess it was easier than going all the way down to the river or to the nearest creek. Anyhow, I scared hell outta the elk, and his eyes got even bigger as he tried to take off quickly and spun out on the smooth and slippery rock. Once off the boulders he bounded high and fast away from me. Before jumping the elk, I had to wait patiently on the trail for a Ptarmigan mother and her chicks to cross. She was all puffed out as I approached but relaxed somewhat after I spotted the chicks and realized she was making a trail crossing with her pride and joy. I saw two or three chicks cross and then was like, ok mom, I need to get going here...move on. She was obviously agitated and looked about nervously while keeping one eye on me. Finally she and I both spotted the struggling laggard chick which was fumbling helplessly through some think brush. The mother lost her temper and went over and gave the chick some much needed help while at the same time dressing down her slo-mo. I enjoyed the entire show but was glad to stride onward.
I did not take this picture but downloaded it from the web. These are summer colors as I saw the bird. Ptarmigans turn mostly white in the winter.
Once I climbed up and past the shoots I was in prime dry-fly territory. So I unloaded all my fishing gear from the backpack, changed from my hiking outfit into my fly-fishing garb, and stashed my un-needed gear in a safe spot. Wading into the No Name river with fly-rod in hand is a *great* feeling. It's very peacefull and relaxing yet at the same time can be a vigorous workout holding expectations for plenty of action. It didn't take long. A well presented dry fly floating naturally on top of the water soon produced dramatic takes by cut-bows averaging 14-18". Wham - let the air show begin! Ah, it's great to be alive.
Not sure why, or what it says about the health of a river, but this year I caught no smallish fish. Usually, I catch many 8-12" trout. This year, out of say 50 odd fish caught over 3 days, I caught only one fish under 10". I am not complaining of course, just curious is all.
Every year the river is very different yet every year it's the same. Fish are always found in the same places yet those places have new wrinkles. On No Name, there is a run where the river is very dull...flat and shallow with no outstanding features. However, on the opposite bank of the river near the start of this dull water, under a low hanging tree, there is always a pool about 2 feet deep downstream of a nice piece of rippling water which must churn out the nymphs from the rocks. There, in that hole, you will always find a nice fat fish. Every year. Without fail. The trick is to catch the biggest fish first before catching a smaller one that spooks him. On day one, I caught the smallest fish first - as I have done in years past. When this happens all you see is a big silver and red streak as the large fish swims for safer pastures. On day three, I went back, determined to put the fly such that the big fish would get the first shot at it. I succeeded and landed the bad-boy. Unfortunately, the picture doesn't do justice to either the fish or my 4 wt bamboo rod which made the cast. But here it is anyway.
Time to get out of the river and hike back to my backpack for lunch. I learned years ago not to bring my lunch, it being the reward and incentive to hike back (and find!) the hidden pack. Not to mention I have fallen in before and soaked my lunch. So I left the river for the trail and on the way back found a hunter's camp complete with mattress still laying under the lean-to. I pocketed a rather nice switchblade found stuck one of the trees the lean-to was built on. Anyone who can identify this knife will get it back, but you have to pay the postage. Otherwise, it will join the treasure trove of findings I have made over the years while hiking.
My refuge is a bit classier, but not much bigger. It was good to be "home" after a perfect day on a perfect river. Heaven on Earth it is for me. It's my church. It's my revival. To quote A River Runs Through It, "I am haunted by waters". And I am grateful for every day of my life I get to spend on them.