That dreaded, annoying sound started pinging at 4:30 in the morning. That awful repetitive sound that wakes you from your sleep, getting you on your way. I hate that sound. It was 4:30 in the morning when Jacob and I crowded into our little Subaru and headed west.
We didn't know what to expect, we didn't understand what we were in for. More than anything we didn't know the impact this trip would have. All we knew was that it was 4:30 in the morning and we were headed to Durango for the next two weeks.
We've always been "backcountry" fishermen. Sure the big trout are exciting, but I'd rather catch the little guys any day of the week. And so, we sought them out in Colorado, just as we do at home. One of these smaller, wild streams we were able to fish was Lime Creek.
It's not a particularly "special" section of water. It's not one of those sacred "no name" creeks that we all have. People spoke openly about it at the fly shops and we saw a few people out and about during our days spent there. So, I don't think I'm breaking any code by talking about it.
You can read my full post on Lime Creek, here.
In the weeks and months that followed I was convinced that this little body of water had changed me. I was more sure of that than anything. This creek was the catalyst to a total and complete life change.
I quit my job, because it was no longer enhancing me, but rather making me worse.
I gave away, threw away, donated anything that I didn't feel served me anymore.
I began to spend more time worried about everything and less time worried about myself.
I've recently discovered that Lime Creek didn't change me, who I am, but it did change my perception, of everything.
On our way back east we stopped in Lexington, Kentucky to visit Jacob's mentor. He gifted us a book, Lime Creek Odyssey, by Steven J Meyers.
(you can read more about Steven Meyers, here)
In a way, that book impacted me just as much as the actual place. To say it has become one of my favorite books is an understatement. I've read the book about six times by now, sometimes reading from cover to cover other times jumping chapters, reading my favorites first.
There are two reasons I've latched on to this book the way I have. One, it reminds me of that creek any time it starts to get foggy. Two, it reminds me that my odyssey on this creek is not unique, nor is it necessary to revisit this place to have another one, perhaps life itself is an extended odyssey. And more importantly, life in your own backyard.
Oddly enough, my favorite part of the book is the Introduction, what I found to be the intention for the rest of the book. It's an intention that I now try to set for myself daily, almost a mantra if you will. It begins by questioning The Odyssey, the differences and parallels between Homer and Penelope, while also introducing the geography and history of this sublime little creek.
"It seems appropriate for me to wander this little valley while others, more heroic, journey to Nepal, the Arctic, the tropical rain forest. This personal odyssey of place, this exploration of a mountain stream, is also a journey in the discovery of self, and a search for an appropriate definitions of man's place in the broader reality of nature. I stay at home, like Penelope, believing that ones home is the proper place for such an odyssey."
- Lime Creek Odyssey
The book moves beautifully from hiking Engineer Mountain to fishing the creek itself, moving through life, being human, and even death.
If you've never been to this special place, that's ok, the book is still very much worth the read and should be found on any fly angler's bookshelf.
I'm glad that a vacation landed me and my fly rod in Lime Creek.
I'm glad that a copy of Lime Creek Odyssey fell into my lap.
And, I'm glad to have gone on my own odyssey, small and unheroic as it may be.
"I have been in Lime Creek long enough now to have seen a child born while I hiked it's woods, to have seen a loved one die while I fished its waters. I have seen a generation pass and another begin to flower. I know the creek will outlast me and my memory. I know further that there will come a time when all human impact on the creek will be gone. For now, however, we share a place in nature. And I have named that place with my names."
- Lime Creek Odyssey
Here's a recent essay written by the author, highlighting Lime Creek Odyssey, conservation, and the responsibility we have to our home.
It started Saturday night and it hasn't stopped.
Thunderstorms and planing.
That's right, the weather has prevented us from fishing and so, Jacob started planing a bamboo rod.
I haven't seen him very much the past few days and I don't expect to for a while. The obsession has begun and it won't end until the rod is completed.
I'm going to hear endless rants about node spacing, angles, silk, and possibly shimmers.
Oh, the dreaded shimmers. But, that's ok.
It's always an interesting process to watch, seeing pieces of bamboo go from seemingly mismatches pieces of sticks to a completed work of art.
It's going to thunderstorm again today, so there won't be any fishing. The sky has changed from a muted sunrise to dark and menacing in just a few short hours.
I hear that the planing should be completed today.
Next up, gluing.
Man, Oh man is it getting hot in these here hills.
It's swept over us with such a heavy, humid force that it's hard to escape.
I hate to think what July and August will be like.
Yesterday, Jacob and I decided to let out beloved wild streams go until the weekend and try some bigger water with big ole hoppers.
To say that I'm stubborn is the understatement of the century and I'm mostly ok with it. Very soon into the trip I determined that if a larger hopper could catch fish then so could a very large Royal Wulff.
I mean who doesn't like strawberry shortcake, am I right?
Possibly not right...
But, I was determined and I had confidence in this fly and I was sure that it was going to attract something.
Thank god for brook trout, even stocked ones.
Every year a certain ritual takes place, where we return back to the wild.
The larger, more accessible bodies of water turn into swimming holes and tubing streams, rather than the glorious rivers that house 30-inch brown trout. Those cold winter days of peace and solitude are over.
And so, you search it out.
You wash out your waders, hang them in storage for the next few months.
You dig out your wading socks and booties.
You accept the fact that your car now always smells of wet feet.
The 9' 5 weights have been safely tucked away and the 7' 3 weights take their place. Your fly boxes go from housing large nymphs and streamers to the smallest of dry flies, in every color and pattern imaginable.
You don't need to tote around three, four or even 5x anymore, so the spools are stacked neatly in a soft sided tackle box, probably in your garage or basement.
The reel you carry with you, only one, is needed just to hold the line, the drag system is not a concern anymore.
Trophy fish go from being in the high 20's to maybe eight or ten inches.
It's time to hike into the great beyond. Find streams where you make or may not be able to even cast. Get used to laurels and rhododendrons eating more of your flies than the trout.
Hey summer, nice to see you again.
I can't wait to see what adventures you have planned for me this year!
I began being vocal about Public Lands a few months ago in this post. I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to bring up "political ideas" in such a heated environment. People feels very strongly these days about their opinions and aren't afraid to voice them.
I didn't want to bring negativity into this space. My wish was for it to be a light hearted, inspired blog focused around fishing.
But here's the thing, if we don't have any more rivers there won't be any more fishing.
My hope is that people of all persuasions realize how special these lands are, how truly unique and American. I hope that more people will speak up. I hope that I will be able to live out my days on Public Lands and so will many generations to come.
As of yesterday, the Department of the Interior began accepting and considering comments regarding the size and impact of national monuments and the effects of the Antiquities Act. President Trump and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke have both said that local input is essential to land management. Let our government know that these lands are important to you and to future generations. Go HERE and entering “DOI-2017-0002.
I can't remember the last time I was able to say that. Sure, we've had occasional rain bursts that caused the rivers to run high for a few hours, but we've had high water consistently for some time now.
I've been able to breathe a sigh of relief. Now I just hope it sticks around this summer and we aren't in the same mess we were last fall.
I'm looking out the window in my studio and I can see the sky getting darker.
The weather channel says to expect thunderstorms.
It's going to be a good day.
I "caught" this yesterday.
FYI this is not a fly, I don't care if you "tied" sparkly stuff to it, still not a fly.
Also, snagging is not cool.
Sight Line Provisions produces some of the most unique and and finely crafted outdoor accessories available today, cuffs that fit on your wrists and your Yeti. The products are true artistry, ranging from just about any fish species you could imagine to "Land and Air" and other "Outdoor Elements."
I first found out about this company while scrolling through Instagram when we were driving back from Colorado, probably through Kansas, and I was bored out of my mind. Soon after, probably by the time we reached Missouri, I had come to the conclusion that I simply could not live without The Dry Fly cuff and ordered it.
I'm certain that the excitement of knowing that cuff would be in my mailbox on Monday was one of the few things that kept me from turning the car around and returning to Durango.
In addition to individually hand crafting these leatherwear's, in Texas, the company also caught my eye because of their outreach within the fly fishing community.
They've produced a one of a kind pink dry fly cuff for Casting for Recovery.
An awesome set of Grayling Cuffs made the journey to the Arctic with the Soul River Runs Deep participants.
SLP has also been a voice for the environment, speaking out and asking people to join in this years People's Climate March.
So, if you've never heard of SLP or been to their site, I urge you to do so.
A really cool company making some really cool stuff.
And watch their video...
This industry has grown fast, remarkably fast. When I first dipped my toes in the water of this sport there were far fewer anglers then there is today.
I'm selfish with my river time, I admit it. I'm a creative and my soul is filled with hours and days spent on the water. I'm left with words and images that pour out of me and keep me up nights. The solitude of the sport is my favorite thing about it. There's a quiet, peacefulness that resonates within you and you're left with a soul that's filled up. But, it's hard to find solitude on the river now. Some days you go out and are left with all the holes occupied, squeezing in where you can when you meet a gracious angler. You drive for miles to get to your favorite backcountry stream only to be greeted by four other cars sporting the dreaded fly fishing sticker collection stamped on the rear window.
I keep trying to remind myself that this is actually a good thing. The more people participating in the sport means more people advocating for clean water, public lands, etc... But more often than not, that's not actually the case.
In the past month, I've witnessed angler neglect that is heartbreaking.
I've caught fish that bore the scathing dry handprint.
I've found dead trout with barbed squirmy worms hooked down deep in their gill plates.
There've been wads of leader and tippet, paired with wounded flies laying on stream banks.
I've seen anglers and guides alike purposefully snagging fish, just to say they "caught" something.
Not to mention the ridiculous amount of trash found not only on the banks but floating downstream.
None of these occurrences have been a one-time thing, in fact, it's become more the rule than the exception.
I'd like to hope that this is ignorance and not purposeful, but either way, it's harmful.
After a few weeks of being pent up, I'm ready to spend some quality time on the river.
I hope to walk away full and not heartbroken.
There are three major indulgences I permit in my life: fly fishing, excellent beverages, and books.
I've refused for many years now to permit television in my home. Other than the occasional Netflix series (full disclosure, I binge watch) there is no form of television. In fact, I don't even own one.
I'd rather spend my nights decompressing over a good drink and a great book.
One of the first things Jacob did to get me really excited about fly fishing all those years ago, was to buy me all of John Gierach's books.
I poured over every one of them, again and again.
Last month I received a copy of A Fly Rod of Your Own. It happens to be autographed and Jacob happened to speak with Mike Clark, win, win.
I binged this book as bad as any Netflix series, the book was devoured within a day. A full, rich day of sitting in the sunshine and reading a book; nothing more, nothing less.
It's typical Gierach. There are stories you laugh out loud at, stories you shake your head about, but most of all they're all stories that you identify with. I'd be willing to bet that besides being wildly entertaining, Gierach's finest quality is relatability. We've all been on that trip. Maybe we haven't fished in Alaska, Labrador or the notorious St. Vrain, but we've all been on those fishing trips.
And, you can't help but feel a sense of comradery when you read about his "bad days."
This isn't a review, I have no business to review a John Gierach book any more than Jacob can comment on a Mike Clark rod, but I will tell you to buy it. And, I will tell you to read it, because as always it won't disappoint.
"I went down to the river myself and stood there wondering how I could so dearly love something that's really just an example of water obeying the laws of physics. But a river running too high muddy to catch trout on dry flies isn't the worst that can happen, and, like everyone else I know, I had plenty of things to do besides go fishing I just couldn't think of any of them at the moment."
-John Gierach, A Fly Rod of Your Own
Jacob is a fly fishing guide with a passion for conservation and brook trout. He is an accomplished rod builder and restorationist.
Jillian is an outdoor photographer and blogger, using her voice for Public Lands and Cold Water Conservation. She specializes in trying to out fish jacob whenever she puts the camera down.