The Greatest Compliment

the greatest compliment 8Throughout my life the words of many have influenced me. From family, coaches, friends and peers my support group has never failed to be honest with encouragement or criticism. However, it was one October day when I received the greatest compliment of my life. I stumbled into work the usual thirty minutes to an hour late following a day off. As I walked into the office to greet my team one of my employees was waiting at my desk. I wasn’t welcomed with a typical “Welcome back” or “Hey Boss.” Instead the words of choice were, “Tanner you look like shit!” I looked up and smiled, there wasn’t anything to say because it wasn’t a lie. Coming back to work looking worse than when you leave can only mean one of two things; you’re sick or you made the day off worth it. Thankfully, I wasn’t sick.

It all started that Friday when I talked to my little brother Zeb. He gave me a fishing report on a special piece of water we refer to as “The Ranch.” It usually doesn’t take much to get me on the water, but being six hours West of Colorado Springs the trek for a day trip needs to be worth it. Let’s just say the pictures did the talking. I gave my buddy Derek a shout and told him Grandma would have Roast Beef sandwiches and a cooler full of Bud Light on ice waiting for us when we got there. With Derek sold on the idea the plan was set, we would be there by 7 AM Sunday morning at the latest. Work on Saturday dragged on, but when the clock finally hit 10 PM excitement for the following day began to take over. Derek was waiting at my apartment with a Tall Boy and a Colorado cigarette. We got the truck packed and decided to try to get an hour or two of sleep before hitting the road. If you are passionate about Fly Fishing then you understand how pointless it was trying to sleep.

The alarm clock sounded at 12:30 AM I woke Derek up with the typical, “You up?”

He replied laughing, “I was just dozing off.”

We stopped by 7/11 and stocked up on energy drinks and smokes for Derek. If you have ever road tripped with Derek then you know the guy is a machine. I swear he runs on Amp and Turkish Royals. The miles flew by during the next five hours on the road. Considering I was asleep the majority of the time that might be easier for me to say than Derek.  We pulled into the driveway about 6:30 AM and that’s when we ran into our first and only obstacle of the day.

The ranchers had turned up the release into the river overnight so the river was running high and muddy. I cussed for a bit while we contemplated our best option. We decided to go hit a few secret ponds up the road to chase some big bows while it warmed up and go from there. We pulled up and saw a few rises from the road. I set up my classic still water rig, a hares ear trailed by an olive scud. I’m sure the sexier rig would have been a streamer the size of a small trout or trying to match the size 24 midges they were rising to. We walked the bank and saw fish cruising the edge of the overgrown moss. I tossed a cast 10-15 feet in front of a cruiser and as my flies sunk gave them a little twitch. A battle with a football rainbow ensued. Quickly the anger of the muddy river was starting to fade. We stuck a good number of fish over the next two hours. With so many other options of water to fish nearby and the Sun beginning to warm everything up Zeb proposed the next idea. His idea was to basically just drive until we saw a stretch of water worth fishing. Lucky for him the idea turned out to be a brilliant one.

We began to reach the upper stretch of the big river. I looked across a meadow full of fallen timber from a fire that once devastated the land. We knew over the ridge a creek ran, of all the years spent fishing this area this was one stretch we never made time to fish. It was going to be a bitch hiking down into that canyon. We also knew not many flies have touched that water over the years and that Sunday was as good a time as any to give it a shot. After about an hour of hiking down and over fallen timber we finally hit the creek. We assumed the creek was going to be packed with fish, we didn’t know exactly what. Zeb crossed to the other side so we could work it the old fashioned way, tossing big Stimis fishing up the creek not missing a single pocket. As Zeb crossed I threw a cast about a leader in length over a rock, an eager Brookie shot out after my fly like he hadn’t eaten anything the past year. My immediate thought was “Yes Brookies.”

Zeb began to work a run on his half of the creek it didn’t take very long before another eager trout thought the Stimi was something it couldn’t resist. As if finding a Brookie creek wasn’t good enough, Zeb held up a perfect native small creek cutbow. We fished the shit out of that creek for the next five to six hours of the day. We caught some of the prettiest brookies, cutthroats and cutbows I have ever seen in my life. As we worked ourselves to a fork in the creek we began to consider finding a way out of this canyon and making our way back to that cooler full of Bud Light. All I will say about the hike out of that canyon is that it wasn’t enjoyable.

We finally made it back to the truck all of our legs were bleeding from tearing them across boulders or fallen timber. We got back to the cabin and enjoyed one of the best lunches I have ever had. It was simple lunch; those previously mention Roast beef sandwiches and Bud Light. I’m not usually high on Bud Light, but I could have sat on that patio and drank them until the cooler was empty that afternoon. With a solid buzz and only a few hours of day light remaining. We had two options, hit the road and get back at a decent hour or go toss streamers in muddy water until it was dark. Since Derek was driving it was his call. He tossed me another beer and said we better rig up. We followed Zeb’s lead across the meadow to hit all his money runs. As if the day couldn’t have gotten any better the streamer bite was on. Zeb tagged a tank of a Brown almost immediately. I followed suit with a nice Brown myself. I hate to admit it, but the afternoon belonged to Zeb. He put a hurting on some really nice fish and enjoyed letting me hear about it as he did so. It was about 7:30 PM when we finally got back to the trucks to derig. We all laughed and discussed how special of the day we just had was. Derek and I said our goodbyes. I promised him I’d stay awake for the entire ride back home. The next thing I knew I woke up on I25 in Castle Rock. The clock read 3:45 AM Monday morning as we finally pulled up to my apartment.

It’s easy to see how, “Tanner you look like shit.” Was the first thing anyone said to me the following morning at work. Since that day, my team at work makes sure there are a Red Bull and a bottled water waiting at my desk anytime I come in following a day off. I appreciate it more than they will ever know, because although I may not have the resources or funds to fish all the exotic places you read about in magazines I will continue to make it a point to live a life worth living at the expense of getting a little sleep.

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