Friday, March 9, 2012

The Warming House


A piercing wind cut down the exposed canyon, hitting my neck with an unbridled ferocity that quickly took the romance out of the task at hand. The unwelcomed gust pushed me back, forcing ten toes to clench numbingly to two frozen soles. I pulled the hood over my ears and hat, reminding myself that I used to live in North Dakota, and even though I was hit, I wasn’t soft. I refocused my eyes on the water, just in time to watch the two familiar nymphs skate across its surface. So much for line control I thought, as the faux bugs took flight behind me.  At least I wouldn’t have to worry about my backcast.

The next cast, I watched the wind push my line downstream, sending confirmation that my flies weren’t anywhere close to where the fish were feeding in the water column. What else was new? The cold started to set in as I checked my flies for imperfections and the leader for any knot I hadn’t tied. Snipping off the bottom fly, I traded it for something with a tungsten bead and a little more weight. Regardless, with the steady gale, the change was made for nothing more than peace of mind.

Jake and I had made plans to fish a few days earlier at a Trout Unlimited banquet, where he and a few of the other local tiers were showcasing their skills and raising money for the chapter. Jake was tying a few articulated streamers, demonstrating a particular pattern that had been wreaking havoc on the city trout of Fort Collins. While the other tiers, showed off flies that ranged from practical to artistic, but all could be fished if one chose to do so. Although visually, many of these flies have been tied for the fisherman's eye alone, they are touted as the must haves, that is, if you are a respectable fly fisherman. I’m not so sure, as my vise has the tendency to prove, ugly bugs can and will catch fish too. You just need to appreciate them for what they are, tools. How many times have you heard someone say, “Wow…that sure is a pretty looking hammer”?

Two weeks earlier, Jake and I had fished the same stretch of water with a certain degree of success. A day measured in inches rather than numbers. A day that gave my rod a stretch that it hadn’t felt in a long time, almost making me think that I actually knew what I was doing. This day, there would be three of us, Jake, his dad Scott, and myself. I was happy to be included for reasons I hadn’t explored, but have suspicions that it had something to do with the fact that I don’t get to spend enough time with my dad. I miss the days where we would play nine holes of golf after work or school, connecting more as friends, rather than just father and son. Now, there are too many miles between us to make it happen as often as I would like. But that might be a simplified excuse, as I surely took living so close to him for granted, and didn’t spend enough time with him when I had the chance. Either way, you live and learn on your own schedule. You gain perspective when you have the luxury to look back, finding now an appreciation for things that might have seemed insignificant at the time.

The line was blown into a deep bow floating downstream, the result of a poorly timed mend that had started the flies swinging early.  I dropped the tip of my rod low to the water, in a weak attempt to keep as much line out of the wind as possible. And as the flies swung perpendicular to where I was standing, a small flash straightened the lines bend. The hook had been set, the drag sang in approval. I took three steps downstream as the fish turned back towards me, and was greeted with the arrival of Jake, his dad, and a net.


We took turns fishing the run for the next hour or so. Scott landed a nice rainbow, Jake was content throwing streamers in vain, while I was happy to get my feet out of the water long enough to recognize the tingling of recovery. It was the same feeling I got as a kid, when we’d play hockey outside. We would skate until we couldn’t feel our fingers and feet, and then retreat to the warming house to appreciate the shelters comfort. Although, we never did quite warm ourselves properly, the windows were too revealing, while the ice was too inviting. Even after dark, if the lights were on, there was a game to be played. And as innocent as we were, we all knew that dinner would be waiting for us when we got home.

I worked the nymphs deep, trying to find the fish that had been rising a few minutes earlier. The wind seemed to be gaining in confidence, making the simple routine frustrating. I blew warm air into my left hand as I felt a merciless chill creep down my neck. My flies were drifting out of control, they had been lost to two currents, both air and water. My day was over.

I climbed onto the bank and took a seat. Wedging my boots between the uneven rock, I anchored myself to the ground. It was a half-hearted attempt to stay out of the wind, but an attempt none-the-less. I wiggled my toes and rubbed my hands together for warmth, trying to coax fingers and feet back to life. But as the day’s light started to fade, I watched Jake come tight to a fish, letting me know that it was my turn on the net. And as the familiar scene revealed itself before me, I stood up. 

Dinner could wait. The game was too good to be missed.

28 comments:

  1. I'm cold and wind-chapped just from reading your recollection of the day in which you fished with tools. I'm still not convinced that a hammer can't be pretty.

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    1. I think that maybe I need to buy a new hammer...it seems that one persons garbage is another persons treasure. or something like that...

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  2. OH how cruel the Wind Mistress can be. Kind of like the cop standing right next to your favorite skate spot :) Many a time it has tried to defeat us fisherman and many a time we end up winning the fine fight :) Great post and nice fish too. Stay warm my friend. Stay warm :) Suppose to be in the 60's tomorrow, you better plan a roadtrip :) Tight Lines.

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    1. Thanks! I hear ya on the cop thing...they always had a way of showing up about five minutes after you started. Never fun.

      I think that before we venture out on our little adventure's, that we rarely think of less than perfect weather (ie; rain, wind, snow, lightning, etc...) I think that's why we write about it so much, for some reason, we are always surprised by it....

      A road trip sounds good.

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  3. Reeeeally good. So many great lines in there. Makes me want to fish...and send you photos of my hammers. Good stuff Sean.

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    1. Thanks! Makes me want to fish too...pass those photos along...nothing better than looking at another fisherman's hammers. Wait? What?

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  4. I have a hammer that is freaking sexy, spent the night with me on the first date too.

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  5. That was a fun day for sure.... I just hate the wind! We'll have to fish the Thompson more now that you're relocated... can't wait 'till next time! Oh, and awesome write-up, by the way!

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    1. Thanks! I'm up for anything...wind or not. It was a fun day for sure, can't wait to do it again.

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  6. Very nice write up Sanders. We'll do it one of these days in much nicer weather.

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    1. Looking forward to it Howard! Glad I got to see you this weekend, and that at least one of us got on the water...

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  7. Nice read...any day spent on the water with good friends is a great day , regardless of weather or success.
    With the trees budding and the grass starting to turn greener daily it won't be long , let's hope you don't have to write too many more cold finger posts!

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    1. Spring is definitely in the air...the days are getting longer, and pretty soon it will be hopper season, and all will be right in the world.

      It was a great day with some good people, what else could a guy ask for...

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  8. There is that point when reality sets in. A cold wind is a feature few of us endure for very long.
    You made the good effort. And a rainbow to hand, not bad.

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    1. A couple fish were caught, some laughs were shared, and some frozen smiles were etched on our faces...I'll take it!

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  9. Sanders
    A great post I felt I was there with you. That is one nice bow. Glad you was able to connect. Thanks for sharing

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    1. Thanks! The bow was a beauty...glad I got the chance to get on the water. It had been awhile...

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  10. Good Stuff. Spring is on the way, The cold will fade into memories and new challenges will become our realites. Shared with good friends and family... it's all good stuff!

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    1. No doubt! Looking forward to the new challenges the warmer seasons will bring. Can't beat spending time with friends on the water...nothing better!

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  11. Trout love "ugly bugs"!

    Nice job on the braving the wind and getting some fish.

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    1. I'm not sure if they actually like ugly bugs, but I sure like to think that they do...I'll brave the wind for fish anytime, although I might complain about it later...ha

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  12. Boy...can I relate to windy stories! I have had the wind against my cast the last few times out. Sounded like a great time for all!

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    1. It was a great wind-filled day for sure...hope the wind for you has started to die down. Looks like you've been having some good fishing as of late...i'm very jealous :-)

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  13. I know what you mean about ugly flies. I'm way behind you in the tying game, and my ugly stuff catches fish. Good read.

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    1. As long as the fly is affective, I could care less what it looks like...my bugs aren't very handsome, but they seem to catch fish (sometimes...ha)

      hope all is well! I've been a little behind since the move.

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