Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Just a Few Friends...

"I have been drunk now for over two weeks,
I passed out and I rallied and I sprung a few leaks,
But I've got to stop wishin',
Got to go fishin', I'm down to rock bottom again.
Just a few friends, just a few friends."   -Jimmy Buffett, "A Pirate Looks at Forty"

The entrance back to reality was the uneven line where the gravel meets pavement, located somewhere between Island Park and West Yellowstone. So as the rented car’s tires felt the transition, we were thrown back into a world filled with stop signs and sub shops. And yes, even in West Yellowstone, you can find a Conoco station with a Subway restaurant attached to it. I guess this hardly qualifies as news, but a fact that is hard to overlook after spending five days with no such convenience. But in all honesty, we did have a bar, internet connection, electricity, showers, and a grill-in-a-box. So to tell you that we were roughing it would be less than truthful.

The grill-in-a-box also served as a makeshift meeting place when the fishing was in recess, or we had finished up for the day. I’m still not sure if it had to do with food, or the fact that the grill was strategically placed within an arm’s reach of the well-appointed cooler. Regardless, the meeting place was set, and for one reason or another, the spot seemed to make sense to us all. Even the camp dog Red got into the action, arriving shortly after hearing the start of our conversations, jokes, and laughter filling the quiet Montana air. Although, Red was less interested in what was in the cooler, and more interested in the smell of sausage, burgers, chicken, and pork chops.

A camp’s dynamic is something never to be overlooked. In most cases when traveling, you are surrounded by people that you have met before, most likely family or friends. So learning everyone’s unique individuality isn’t something you are processing for the first time. On this trip however, most of us were meeting for the first time. And as we all tried to figure out who each player in this cast of characters was, interesting conversations took place. It was a fun game, played over a few cocktails and burgers.  And as our own styles and eccentricities were discovered, a friendly camp was made in short order.

As the week went on, we became more comfortable with each other. The jokes got better. The nights went longer. The laughing got louder. And the stories became more believable. So this is my tribute to them, my new friends.

I wasn’t supposed to pick Mike up until eight in the morning. He had flown into Denver the night before from North Carolina, and had spent the night at his friend’s house. Time he spent catching up with people I suspect he doesn’t get to see often enough. Our meeting was a leap of faith on his part, as I’m sure there is a closer airport to our final destination than DIA. But with a hearty handshake and a smile that rarely leaves his face, we met for the first time.  And half way to Fort Collins, we sent our wives a quick message to put their suspicions at ease. We were both okay.

The plan was to leave Friday morning from Denver, fish that afternoon with a friend in Wyoming, and find our way to Elk Lake Resort by 4pm on Saturday.  We made quick work out of the drive from Denver to Lander, where we met up with Russ (schnitzerPhoto), who had made arrangements to show us some of his local water. While the only request Russ would make, was that we not disclose the name of the creek we were to be fishing. It was a very small price to pay, and something I will happily keep close to the chest.

We arrived on the water around five, expecting a nice evening hatch of PMDs and Drakes. The water was running clear and seemed to be holding working fish in its pocket water and runs. We worked the first section of water diligently, hoping to exploit one of its rising browns. It didn’t take long before Mike was tight to a fish. Looking up from what I was doing, I could see his face while he played the confused trout. And it was in that moment that I realized why Mike had wanted to make the drive with me. He wanted to see something he hadn’t seen before, he wanted to go fishing…again.

When Owl first found out about his opportunity to travel to Montana, I think he set a record for most emails sent in a three minute span. Not to mention that he made and changed travel arrangements more times in two weeks than any travel agent makes in a fiscal year. His camera was packed, his computer was ready, his truck was packed and repacked a few times, and the trip was still three weeks away. He was ready, and in mid-July, Owl set out from Georgia on his cross country adventure. An adventure, only rivaled by Lewis and Clark themselves.

I didn’t know what to expect when meeting Owl for the first time. Up until this point my only interaction with Owl had been a few emails, and trying to keep up with the blog postings he puts out at a feverish pace. But upon shaking hands with him for the first time, I was happy to meet a genuine, nice, thoughtful guy. So it was with great pleasure, that I accepted the opportunity to fish in the same boat as him on the second day.

“Do you want me to row?” I asked.
“No buddy, I got this. I would actually prefer to row.” He replied. Smiling through the bug net he seldom went without.
“You sure?”
“Yep, I like watching other people catch fish. It makes me happy. Sometimes my wife tells me that I am more content to see others have success than myself. Sanders,  you know, I thought you’d be a lot older than you are? I don’t know why, I just did.”

So with Owl on the sticks, we made our way to the far side of the lake. Owl was the guide, and I was the fisherman. The black and olive bugger struck quickly, as the first of many rainbows came to the net. Owl patiently waited for me to unhook the fish, hold her up for a picture, and release her unharmed back into the crystalline water. I couldn’t tell you who was more excited at that moment, the guide or the fisherman.

Two more fish came to net, and I finally got the guide off the oars. It was Owl’s turn.

We walked down to the creek through the sagebrush, hoping for the same thing, cutthroat. This particular river was full of the native trout, slicing its way through a valley that can only be described as unburdened.  It was a far cry from the rivers I have fished in Colorado, and the steelhead waters Travis prefers. But on this day, we were fishing this creek together, throwing attractors to willing fish.

Being spritzer season in the valley, Travis and I had a chance to get to know each other over a few beverages. His laid back personality and attitude are something I miss from days I remember upon often. There is something comforting about knowing someone who reminds you of yourself, and in some weird way, it makes you feel like you have somehow passed the proverbial torch.

We spent the afternoon leapfrogging each other up and down the river. Finding holes and pockets of these native cutthroat trout, fish willing to put a bend in our rods. And on the flies we exchanged with each other, the trout obliged in a show of solidarity and innocence.

As the day came to a close, we hiked back out of the same sagebrush we had entered. A day of fishing that I'll not soon forget. I had fished with a new friend, who like me, was more impressed by the experience than the result.

We all have different memories from this trip, and what we take away from this experience is unique in our own way. The individuality that is expressed in each of our blogs is just that, individual. It isn't often that I get to fish with others, but when I do, it always seems a little better.

Russ tight to a fiery brown in "unknown" waters. Thanks Russ!


  1. Character development...of people we all "know" but you've met. Thanks for this!

  2. Erin- It was fun to getting to know everyone. Character development that didn't disappoint :-)

  3. Sanders
    I have never met a fishing individual I didn't like and you have done the same here. We all have one super thing in common, we all love the outdoors. Great Post.

  4. this trip has sounded horrible. thanks for the depressing updates anyways.

  5. Great summary piece, Sanders. I owe you a better evening on the water soon - maybe this time on that side of the border. Starting September 1, I'll begin spending a lot more time in CO...

  6. A great time in a beautiful state. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about each blogger that went. Yes, we all have a fishing thread in common...but, sometimes we find out that is the least of the similarities when you actually meet!!

  7. I've said it before (I think) and I'll say it again, You guys are all class guys I'd love to share the water with. Good Job Sean!

  8. I have to apologize for sitting on the hill taking pictures while you hiked down and fished that run. it was never my intention to follow you down that slope ;)

  9. Talk about something you will remember for the rest of your life. Those chaps all sound like some good company on the water. It's crazy how fisherman just seem to get along. I have asked people if they fish, and sometimes they say no. When they say no, I kind of just stare at them dumbfounded. The worst is when they say they don't like it at all. I usually turn and walk the other way ;) With out fisherman in this world, it really would quit turning!! Tight Lines.

  10. Jimmy saying volumes in a few words.

    Well done Sanders

  11. Reading that post makes me wanna call up a few fishing buddies and plan a road trip. It doesn't get any better than that...newfound friends , fish and beautiful country to lay your head down in at night. Good Stuff!

  12. Sounds like a trip you will never forget. New friends, waters,and fish!

    nice post

  13. Awesome, Awesome, Awesome!!! Did I say awesome? Great post and what a great trip. You couldn't of picked a better group of bloggers to hang and fish together.

    Thanks for sharing, Sean, and giving us all a look at the personalities as well as the experience.

  14. Nicely done, Sanders. A perfect snapshot of a great group of guys. Leap of faith or not, spending a week with great new friends enhances the adventure.

    I had a fantastic time and appreciate your willingness to drag me along. Get your butt east and we'll put the shoe on the other foot.

  15. Bill- Thanks! I would agree. It seems that there is a unique bond between fisherman. It's always fun to meet and fish with new people (friends).

  16. Ivan- You're welcome. Anything I can do to make others feel better...ha!

  17. Russ- The night on the water was perfect. As you know, my fate was sealed leaving the Lander Bar...

    Looking forward to seeing you on this side of the border. Can't wait to get out there and do it again.

  18. RD- It was very cool that fishing, blogging, and conservation were our common thread, but learning about people "off" the water/off-line was a really cool experience. I had a ton of fun with great people.

  19. Howard- Thanks. I feel the same way, it was a rare opportunity to share the water with these guys, that didn't disappoint.

    Looking forward to next week, when I can get a chance to toss a fly with you!

  20. Enjoyed the journey with you guys. Just enough of a taste of the good life to know it's still out there. Keeping your secret spots is okay with me, as long as you keep sharing the tales after you get there.


  21. Travis- I figured...but the spot looked too good for me to pass up. should've known the outcome...ha!

  22. Trout- It will definitely be something I won't forget. Fishing is a great bond between people, and for us fisherman, it's sometimes hard to understand others that don't fish. Like you, the first thing that I usually ask people out here is, "do you fish?" I always hope they say yes...

    Tight Lines!

  23. Brk Trt- Thanks!

    Jimmy has a way of summing things up that are to the point, and more importantly relatable :-)

  24. Jeff- Call them up! There is nothing better than time on the water with friends.

  25. George- It was something special for sure, and you're right, nothing better than friends and fish!

  26. Deanwo- Thanks! It was a trip that will always stick with me. The guys I had the opportunity to get to know are all fantastic people, and it was really fun to be able to share the experience with them.

  27. Mike- I had a ton of fun traveling through some of that uncharted territory with you, it is something I will never forget.

    I can't wait to get out east and chase some fish around in your neck of the woods...cheers!

  28. Dean- Thanks! I agree on the secret spots, just make sure to tell the story :-)

    The good life is alive and well, you might just have to try a little harder to find it.

  29. Hey boss. Just wanted to drop a note of thanks for such a great series of posts. This last one was just plain solid. I envy the time you four had to experience country like that, and camaraderie like that as well.

    Keep on keeping on bro.

  30. Poet- Thanks for stopping by! Glad you enjoyed the Montana posts. I had a lot of fun writing them...some more than others. I think that this last one was my favorite for sure.

    It was a great trip, filled with great people...the fishing and scenery weren't too bad either.

  31. Were those sheep? OMG. I was in a dehydrated stupor and I thought I was herding steelhead!? Holy crap. Someone get me a Lifewater. ;)

    PS - I had to use RUFUS T.'s creds because you have the URL/NAME thing locked you grayling master you.

  32. Rufus- Thanks for checking in...we were getting worried about you...ha!

    It was the great Montana Sheep Round-up 2011...

  33. What? No love for the .org? Or the EMBT? By the way... how do you stop a dog from humping your leg?

  34. Ha! I told that joke last killed :-)

    be patient my friend...I'm not done with Montana yet.