If you were to give me the option between fishing a large, glorious river filled with honey holes and packed with giant, hungry brown trout or a small backcountry creek, I'd probably pick the creek. I'm not opposed to the first, in fact, brown trout may arguably be my favorite. But, there's a different kind of magic found back in the mountains amongst tiny, blue ridge beauties.
For many months now, if not years, Jacob and I have been discouraged by both the population and size of the wild water trout. Most of the time you're going to catch a tiny rainbow, if you're having an exceptional day you'll get to meet an even smaller brook trout, but probably only one or two.
We make it a point to try and fish known brook trout streams, making sure to climb high enough to reach them. We leave these streams having caught fish, but not as many, not the right species. The rivers are warmer, the bug life is not as plentiful. While there's still fish, it is discouraging to recognize that it has changed, that it's not what it once was.
We headed out this weekend with a friend in hopes of finding the elusive Southern Brook Trout. The filled parking lot in the wee hours of the morning was not an encouraging sight. Being good anglers, we scoured the cars for evidence of the tell-tale fishing stickers. None were found and we determined it was in our best interest to brave the hikers and campers for the fish.
And, fish we did find!
Pools, runs, slicks, filled to the brim with large beautiful brook trout, not one rainbow or brown was even sighted. The bright orange fins with stark white borders were noticeable a mile away.
Plenty of time was spent "resting" a pool, but really we were just admiring something that's so scarce.
I spend a lot of time on a healthy brook trout stream just savoring the artistry of it because around here, it's a rare thing.
I hope that maybe one day this will become the norm.
I hope that perhaps our past efforts and future efforts will pay off.
I hope that we will learn to conserve, to keep clean, and to treasure all of our streams.
But really, I hope that we, as anglers, will be better than we were before.
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.
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.
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.
Is it warm enough to wet wade?
Do you think it's going to rain or not?
Where's the trail?
No seriously, where the hell is the trail?
Hey Wild Water, nice to see you again, it's been too long!
This past weekend I lucked out and got to go fishing when I didn't think I'd be able to. This week, was another story.
I've been confined to the house thanks to Winter apocalypse storm Stella. Not that we received any horrific snow down in these here parts, but we did get frigid temperatures and extreme wind.
So, I spent my days dreaming and looking through photos of warmer days.
Believe it or not, this wet wading, after work, fishing expedition was exactly one year ago to the week.
I'm over waders and multiple layers.
My fingers are over being cold and fumbling when tying on a fly.
I'm ready for spring.
“I fish because I love to . . . because I love the environs where trout are found . . . because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don’t want to waste the trip . . . and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant––and not nearly so much fun.”
― Robert Traver
I feel like a great many people have been concerned this week, primarily about the future. I'm one of those people.
The concerns of men often get in the way of living, have a way of creeping up and consuming our minds, therefore consuming our lives.
I can't be sure if fear is justified or not. I can't conclude that my concerns are great ones. I can't know anything for certain, as none of us can.
I can know that tomorrow I will go fishing, simply because I love it.
This week, despite the greatest of efforts by so many, congress voted to "recalculate" the way in which they can sell off Federal Lands to either the states or private entities.
It was a truly horrific event.
You can read about what the Washington Post had to say on the specifics of the vote here.
When Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt became president in 1901 one of his main goals was conservation and therefore created the United States Forest Service. By doing this, Teddy erected 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, 4 national game preserves, 5 national parks, and 18 national monuments. By the end of his presidency, he had protected over 230 million acres of Public Land. These are 230 acres our deeply conservative president set aside so that all of us would have to opportunity and ability to enjoy them without the threat of industrialization and greed.
Today, those lands are not nearly as safe as they once were.
You can read more about the history of protected lands and President Teddy here.
I don't spend a lot of time writing about specifics and facts and "how-to's," mostly because I don't feel I'm very good at it. However, today it felt warranted.
A few months ago I published a post about Public Lands and how much they mean to me. I'm not sure if it impacted anyone, caused them to do some research, infuriated them, but I hope that it did, just as I hope this post does.
NPR did a wonderful story concerning the issue on Tuesday, you can listen to it here.
Yesterday, Chris Wood, of Trout Unlimited wrote an excellent piece on the peril that we're now facing. Please take the time to read it, found here.
Today I don't have any fun, heartfelt fishing stories. Nor do I have a plethora of beautiful trout pictures and bendy bamboo.
Today I only have words, words that I hope will have some impact.
However, I will leave you with one photo, of the tiniest of trouts, possibly insignificant to most, caught on Public Lands. I hope that you will find a fire inside of you to protect it just as I have.
"Sometimes all it takes is a tiny shift of perspecitive to see something familiar in a totally new light."
There’s a brief moment in angling when everything comes together. It’s the moment where you meet the fish you’ve been dancing with for seconds or hours and then let him slip away. Truly, it is the briefest of encounters, but it is the most magical of the whole event.
I get a lot of flack from those around me who aren’t fly anglers about my stance on catch and release. To them, the trout is meat, a trophy, possibly both. The trout serves a “purpose” in life, nothing more, nothing less. This is ok, I suppose. I just like to think of myself as slightly more saintly than those others.
To me it’s that instant when you let him swim out of your hand, slap the water explicitly with his tail, possibly never to see him again, that is the defining moment. Because you see, it defines you as an angler in that flash. If you really think about it, it causes you to question why. Why wouldn’t you eat something you worked so hard for? You do have to eat. Why wouldn’t you want the fish hanging on your wall? You may never catch one this size again. Do you simply release the fish because that’s what the culture, the regulations tell you to do? Why?
You do it because that moment may happen again. And again.
It may happen in the same pool or possibly a completely different river. You may be able to meet this same fish in a different season of his life. In a different scenario where you’ve both grown. You may meet again on a number 14 dry fly, rather than a squirmy worm, both older and wiser, but still coming together.
And so, one day, this compassionate culture of pinching barbs, wetting hands, defiantly making sure that this paraphyletic creature with a brain the size of a pea is perfectly unharmed becomes who you are, totally and completely. There’s no questioning why or even considering another alternative, and that’s ok, that’s just who you’ve become. Because of those brief moments that changed everything, redefined life and generally made you a much more saintly person.
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.