After fishing the "No Name2" river for somewhere close to 15 years now, I flatter myself by thinking I know the river. When the flow on the Arkansas River dropped dramatically, it was a signal for me to head over to "No Name2" which should have been just about right. The water level on the lower stretches of the river appeared to be middle of the range or slightly lower than normal. I figured the upper reaches of the river would be perfect. I drove the long dirt road, got the Teardrop all set up at the campground, and hurridly and excitedly set out to fish one of my favorite stretches of water before the afternoon storm came. When I hiked down to the river, I was shocked and puzzled to find high flows and white water! Unwadable. I found one little stretch of calm water (in the picture) and my fly was quickly engulfed by a large brown trout which immediately headed for the fast current and it was an "LDR". I overheard this term "LDR" being used by a guy on the Fryingpan River. It's short for "long distance release" and sound much better than "he got off". In my case, it was an "LDRLF" - long distance release/lost fly. That is, the fish popped off my tippet and stole my fly. I had no chance. Crap. I hiked back to the truck with a melancholy feeling that I would not experience the magic of the green drake hatch I was lucky enough to catch the year before on this stretch of river. Also, the Pinnacles was definitely out of the question.
Why was so much water being released from the reservoir and why, if flow were this high on the upper stretches of the river, was the lower river average or even a bit lower than average? Where was the water going? I am still perplexed about this. One thing is for sure - I surely don't know this river as well as I thought. Nothing felt "right" for me this year on NoName2.
Oh well, my favorite spots on NoName2 were all unfishable so I was forced upstream to fish in the meadows. Never liked the meadows before because the fish were so spooky, you needed perfect casts with long leaders and small tippets, and once spooked, you had to travel a bit before another attempt. But this year the water was higher and faster and I thought I'd be able to catch one or two - but it was a challenge. Normally quite placid and shallow, the water was high and fast and I, being a right handed caster, needed to cross the river for an enjoyable day of dry flying. So cross I did - the sight of fish rising near the opposite bank was all the motivation I needed. I crossed right about the middle of the river in picture below.
The crossing wasn't too bad despite the lack of trees in the meadow (i.e. I had no wading staff for support). I began fishing with a dry/dropper combo and, as usual, even though there was absolutely nothing rising remotely resembling an adams wulff on the surface of the water, I began catching a trout or two on a #14 and took off the dropper. Here are some of those trout.
I came to one nice bend in the river that held some trout in a deep pool. They were rising steadily to a fly I could not identify (nor match) and I quickly put them all down with my first cast with the adams wulff. What a screw up. So, I sat on the bank, ate a power bar, relaxed, viewed the elk feeding up by the tree line, and tied a few more inches of flurocarbon tippet and a #20 BWO. Once the trout started rising again, I laid it out there and snagged a couple nice ones. It was waaaay cool to watch these guys rise out of that pool and slurp my fly. Soon they were down again, so I took some time to tie on a small yellow humpy. I didn't stand up but just flicked it out there thinking my chances were slim. Low and behold a big bow rose up and engulfed it not 5 feet from me. I got a decent hook set but was slow to climb the bank and run downsteam with him. Soon my line was horizontal to the river, he made one nice leap about 30 yards downstream and the was the last this fisherman ever saw of that fish.
Soon I was suffering from river anxiety. This happens sometimes when I have crossed a river (that maybe I shouldn't have crossed in the first place), have finished my fishing, and need to re-cross to get back home (the truck). What made it worse this time was the glare on the water - I couldn't see the rocks I was walking over. Plus, I had no wading staff and sure didn't want to hike all the way up to the tree line to find one. So, I zipped-up and heading out with confidence (you've done it a million times laddy!) but also a bit of trepidation. Things were going pretty good til I got about midway across and the water was up to mid-thigh and moving pretty rapidly. Whooops, one bad step and church was out. Down I went and the only thing out of the water was my fly-rod and my right hand. The water wasn't that deep, so there was no danger of drowning or anything (less my head strike a boulder or something), but I tell ya...it's hard to stand back up when you are moving along with the current and all the rocks you are trying to stand up on are meadow rocks with alot of green algae over the top of them. Let's just say any observer would not have witnessed a very graceful recovery....but gawd knows I did not want to head down into that canyon. I crawled up onto the bank like a wharf rat. However, I must admit it was a very refreshing dip. However, one thing is for sure: it is bad for a dry-fly fisherman to get all his shit WET. The only thing dry was my left sock. So, I went back to the truck and stripped down...much to the delight of passing fisherman who had, I am sure, been there and done that. Luckily the sun was out and all my flies that did get wet were soon acceptably dry once again.
It was then back to the camp to consult the doctor: Doctor Al K. Hall.
Ahhh...nothing like a lil nip of Jamie's to warm a person from the inside out.
A wise old man in one of the black-n-white Gunsmoke episodes (which I am becoming very fond of...anyone see the episode where Chester wins a level in a poker game?) was sitting around a campfire and after listening to all the young whipper-snappers said "Boys, I'll tell ya - a man finds one of three things in his life: love, money, or a bottle." I heard this saying again up at a Flat Tops campfire. Hell, that was good enough truth for me...certainly better than any "facts" you can get from the bubble headed bleached blondes on the TV "news". This being the case, I went out and bought myself a bottle.