Why do I fly fish? This question is something every angler tries to answer. The answer that follows is generally some poetic bullshit about some deep life lesson. When I think about what fly fishing means to me and why I do it, my answer is a little more Forrest Gump. Fly fishing means cold beer and good company. It also means I’ll be yelling at Gus for ruining a good run at least a few times a day. Fly fishing most importantly means an opportunity to feel free. In an ever closing world, fly fishing is an escape, where terrible songs on the radio aren’t as bad because you know searching for a better station isn’t an option. Plus, whatever is playing beats listening to Ivan’s music through a phone speaker. I do it because getting trout rise to Stimis is the coolest shit ever. I fish because open roads don’t talk back. Finally, I fish because I can’t tell you what I would do if I didn’t. This past week my brother and I loaded up the Tacoma, hit the road in search of any trout looking up.
My brother, Cody, pulled up bright and early Wednesday morning. Cody is newly engaged, I wouldn’t support this if I didn’t think it was a good thing. I am very happy for him and Brittany, plus their wedding is going to be a damn good party. As we packed the truck we discussed possible options to fish that morning that wouldn’t leave us too far from where we planned on meeting the Old Man and Bruce Thursday. I had been eager to hit a little tributary where getting a fly on the water is the only obstacle an angler faces. As we arrived at the pull off we were discouraged to see a car already pulled in. I have never seen another angler on this stretch of water, let alone on a Wednesday morning following a heavy thunderstorm. We decided to crack another beer and scan the meadow to look for rods above the willows. No signs of life were spotted so we assumed the pickup probably belonged to a rancher and began to rig up. When rigging up on small streams full of cooperative fish, there isn’t much contemplation of what fly I will be using. I am blessed to have a father who ties quite possibly the best looking Stimulators ever seen. If you don’t believe me that’s too bad but, know instead of gas money I barter them as currency amongst my fishing buddies. With a size 10 yellow Stimi ginked up we made our way down stream and decide on a good looking bend to start. Cody and I stood looking for risers only to see that the rain from Tuesday still had the creek a little high and off color.
The next hour was full of empty runs and growing impatience. Could we have put nymph rigs on and probably caught fish? Yes, but that would have defeated the whole purpose of coming to this spot. We stayed persistent and shortly after I found a willing brownie hiding against the bank under a willow. With the skunk off and the creek clearing fishing picked up. I enjoyed watching Cody lose a few flies and was quick to remind him, every time he snagged, that there was a willow behind him. If you have a brother you can understand the harmless shit talking banter that takes place when we are fishing together. For the next few hours we worked our way through willows and trout until we reached upper reaches of fishable water. Without anything else to fish it was easy to decide to head for the road and begin the trek back to the truck. Along the way we plotted our next move. Since our beer supply was running low heading into town for a late lunch seemed like the right thing to do.
As we got back to the Highway and headed up the canyon we admired how high the big river still was. This is when I decided to challenge my brother with a proposition. Seeing how off color and high the water was flowing I decided to open my mouth. I told my brother I’d give him twenty casts, if he landed a fish I’d buy another case for camp but, if he didn’t touch a fish he’d buy another pitcher at dinner. Cody eagerly accepted the challenge and told me to pull over wherever I wanted. I thought I would give him a chance so I pulled over in one of our spring honey holes. As he rigged up I sat there watching, confident I would catch a buzz on my brother’s tab. He stepped out into the run and threw two casts without any luck. I felt pretty good about my odds given the chocolate tint of the water. As his third cast drifted I watched his dry fly shoot under the water. A hook set followed and of course a foot long brown trout came flying into the air. He didn’t stop at one but, landed a handful more before he had proved his point. I probably shouldn’t have doubted him considering he spent years living on this river. I still think I would have won the bet if I made it with any other person I fish with. There is nothing worse than losing to your brother but, at least this loss came with a benefit of having beer that evening. We stopped by the Boathouse Cantina for burgers then headed for camp.
As the sun came over the hills early Thursday morning Cody and I knew it wouldn’t be long before the old fellas arrived. When fishing with them being late is never an option. If Bruce or my dad says they will be there by 7:00 it actually means 6:30 so I’ve learned to adapt. It’s always better to be up and ready to go or else I’ll be rigging up under the pressure of constant heckling that we are burning day light. The four of us began to hike up the meadow a ways to leave plenty of space between ourselves and any other anglers who made the stop. We came to a flat and spotted a few early risers. Cody and Bruce crossed to the other side. From that point on the day was all about business. We fish this water with old school patience, alternating runs hitting every possible pocket with a set of bugs. I was rigged with double dries, ignoring the fact of how cold the water was on my legs. Waiting for the water to warm and fish to be more active up top was the biggest challenge of the day. Cody fished droppers and did what he does on that river from the first pool on.
A great variety of bugs were popping off all day and as the water warmed fish were more than willing to fight the high water to hit a puffy dry fly. As fishing picks up the chatter amongst us dies. While fishing a run or watching my old man toss line there are only three things that are said, “Gus Get Back,” “That should have been one” or “Got his ass.” The day flew by as good fishing days tend to do. The day wound down so I sat with my dad on our bank, cracked a warm beer and watched Bruce and Cody work the last run. With a healthy hike back to the trucks it was easy to relax eat a snack, review the day and put off the walk for just a little bit longer. Cody and Bruce crossed, I shared the last beer with my brother and we hit the trail out. The cooler full of ham sandwiches along with a cold Gatorade was the driving force on the trek back. From the tailgate we admired the day’s success recounting the memorable fish, the ones that got away and the beauty of the spot we fished. As the daylight faded we said our goodbyes and made a soft commitment to do it again next week. The drive home was the same as it always is, Cody sleeping like a baby, while I try to make record time. As we came over the hill and got back into town the thought of when could I fish again dominated my thoughts. Trips like these are the real answer to the question of why I go, there is simply nothing else that compares so come Wednesday morning I will wake early.