Thursday, April 12, 2012

Opening Day


Opening day found me staring blankly into my fly box, trying to figure out how to get back into the game. Russ was already on the board, hooking three or four Arkansas River brown trout before I had fully comprehended that the game had begun. And, being a Cubs fan, I couldn’t help think of a certain goat, and a curse that seems to have some merit. However, like the start of each season, I reassure myself that this is my year. Well, it could be.

A curse?

I looked up from the box long enough to see a few skittering caddis recklessly tempting fate by playing their inherent game of “frogger” across the top of the off colored water. Unaware of what’s watching, it’s just a matter of time before one of the native brown trucks breaks from its foam feeding lane and puts an end to the fun. Unfortunately for this bug, there is no high score to beat, one more quarter does not bring new life, and there certainly is no bullshit as to what just happened. A hungry trout earns their meal, letting nature determine life and death in a split second.

Russ and I had made plans to fish the Arkansas a week earlier, both finding time in our schedules to slice some time away from the boxes of our moves and the daily routine of concrete, emails, conference calls, and some work that doesn’t seem to relent. The trip south would be a welcomed retreat, as reports were coming in that the river was fishing well, with healthy blue wing hatches coming off, and the first sightings of some of the more famous caddis in the west.

A healthy Arkansas brown

It had been awhile since I last had the chance to fish with Russ. Last July, Mike and I had found ourselves in Wyoming, chasing barren two lane roads north to Montana, where we’d be fishing for a few days in the Centennial Valley for Westslope Cutts. Russ had been kind enough to break the trip up for us, inviting us to fish a certain unnamed creek close to where he lived at the time. Allowing us a few hours on the water, and time for a few cold drinks and stories at the Lander Bar. He didn't have to ask twice. My only regret is squandering some good juju at the bar, guessing the bottle cap correctly from a much needed pre-fishing PBR. It was the five of clubs. Mike and Russ both caught fish, while I broke off my only chance to a poorly tied surgeon’s knot. I’ll blame the beer.

My flies stared back at me intently, probably taking a look around and wondering if they’d be coming back. It had been a few months since I’d taken the time to twist a few bugs, and the boxes were starting to show more vacancy than normal. Something I’d have to remedy, as I’m sure last year’s bugs are outdated. I picked out one of my prettier olives to match the landscape, a sparsely tied black and olive jujubaetis. A pattern designed and perfected by Charlie Craven, a pattern butchered and unrecognizable by me. I just hoped it would be serviceable. I wet the knot before pulling it tight, and I reached for some “Gink” to help float the pretty store bought dry that I had chosen for the surface.

Twenty yards downstream Russ methodically guided in another resident brown. Smiling, he took a quick shot and released the trout back into confusion and familiar water. Shit. How long had I been looking in my box?

“What did you get him on?”
“An olive soft hackle”, he grinned.
“Nice”, I envied.

The “Collegiate Peaks” cut the soft clouds in half, billowing in a not so subtle change from blue to gray. The change in weather funneled a different life down the canyon, quietly dropping the temperature, as the wind picked up from the north and west. And if on queue, the river awoke. Checking my flies, I watched the first dimpled rises of feeding fish to the olives that now dripped effortlessly from the moving canvas. Trout rose and disappeared to the easy rhythm of certain flies that weren’t quick enough to stretch their wings.  A subtle reminder that opportunity is meant to be taken advantage of, be it fly, trout, or fisherman.

I watched the trout roll on the outside seam of a boulder thirty five feet in front of me. It was a good fish from what I could tell, but I couldn’t be certain as the fish was riding low in the water column and coming up to feed in the heavier foam line just to the right of the rock. The first few casts missed their mark, and were instantly pulled away from the fish by conflicting currents. Trying not to slip, I worked my way into position directly downstream from where the fish was still actively working and ripped off some line. I waited for the next rise, then the next, and then, I cast.

Photo courtesy of Russ Schnitzer

Opening day found the Cubs losing at home to the Nationals 2-1. A not so great start to the year that they win the series. But hey, there are 161 games left to be played. That’s a lot of Old Style. I on the other hand, spent opening day on a river that cares nothing for score, throwing dry flies to wild trout with a good friend.

This will be my year.

The Arkansas


Go Cubs Go!



*Check out Russ's site at http://www.schnitzerphoto.com/ if you haven't already, be prepared for some world class photography and really good content. What's not to like?

41 comments:

  1. I on the other hand, spent opening day on a river that cares nothing for score, throwing dry flies to wild trout with a good friend.

    I couldn't think of a better way to start the season and look forward to joining you two on the water once again. Good company.

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    1. I'm bummed it didn't work for us to meet down in SPI, but we'll make it happen sometime later this year for sure!

      Opening day of baseball is kind of like new years...well at least the starting to something new.

      Have fun on the trip!

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  2. Sounds and looks like a great day on the water. I am more than a little jealous of your location in Colorado. Thanks for sharing.

    Ben

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    1. Thanks Ben! Yeah...we live in a pretty good spot. Can't complain...ha!

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  3. That's a great start. I'm pulling for your Cubs.
    But Go Red Sox.

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    1. The Cubbies can use all the good vibes anyone is willing to give them...hopefully both our squads get it together soon. (Although the Cubs have looked pretty good the last two days, but I'm not holding my breath)

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  4. ahh, I recognize that last location, thx for the stoke! My time arrives next week, I'm bringing my boy for his first trip up to the Ark. Cya on the river~ mike

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    1. Sounds like you are going to have a pretty good time...thinking of heading down sometime next week myself. Such a good place to fish. It was my first time on the Ark...pumped to go back!

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    2. You make it onto the Ark Th- Sun lemme know! The boy & I will be hanging with grandad but it'd be fun to compare notes, swap a few lies. Mike

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    3. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make it down...my wife's birthday this weekend, so I was busy being a good husband. Next time!

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  5. Going to be a good year. No doubt. Although, that bighorn sheep does through a dark harbinger over the whole thing. ;)

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    1. It is most definitely going to be a good year...dark harbinger and all....ha!

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  6. I contend Opening Day is the 1st best day of the year. So many possibilities...in trout and baseball.

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    1. My fishing season aligns itself to coincide with the boys of summer...I however have a longer spring training. Love opening day!

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  7. Really jealous of the those trout and the place you are fishing. I don't do enough trout fishing because of my location--but I surely love it. Thanks for sharing

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    1. I am lucky enough to live in such a good place to fish for trout...and luckier when they decide to show up.

      looks like you've been having fun with those gills...the goal is in sight!

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  8. No doubt my favorite place to go. I've spent a lot of time over the years standing where you were. Nice post Sanders and I hope I see you up there soon.

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    1. I can see why everyone loves that river...I haven't stopped thinking about it for over a week now. Let's find some time to get together soon...the move has started to slow down.

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  9. Great post , wild fish on dry flies to start off the season...that's pretty hard to beat for a lead off bat.

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    1. My bats have had some time to warm up this winter, but dries in early April? doesn't get much better than that

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  10. Ah, the opening of skunk season–I can almost smell it in the air. Although you've insured that's not going to be your fate this year. Things are going your way.

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    1. The skunk was shed early, thankfully. now I suppose I'll have to find something else to complain about.

      This is my year...Summer of Sean!

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  11. Great post Sanders. Glad to see you caught a beauty of a fish. Excellent way to spend opening day. THanks for sharing. Tight Lines.

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    1. Thanks! It was a great day indeed...looks like you've been doing some damage on the local water up in your neck of the woods! Love the shots from your last post

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  12. Opening day...opening the box...opening to life. Nicely done!

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  13. By the way, are you wearing your Redington Wading Pant in the photo? How did they...er, it work out?

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    1. I'm glad someone noticed! The pant has been working well...a lot more comfortable than my chesties.

      I highly recommend the pant...although, looking at their zip waders, I wonder why the wader pant didn't get some zipper love. next years model perhaps.

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  14. Nice way to spend the opener! Don't feel too bad about your Cubs as things could be worse. You could be a Pirate fan. lol

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    1. I think that we're both screwed...ha!

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  15. Even I'm from Chicago and sorry to hear your a cubs fan, but excellent trout Sanders!

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    1. Thanks, it was a good fish for sure.

      I blame WGN...

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  16. It looks like you got off to a great start Sand-man. Like you, I wasted most of the winter months and my fly boxes are looking sparse. We both moved, so I guess we can blame that. Next time I come out, corner Russ and make sure he fishes with us.

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    1. I had a long spring training to get ready...I'll be blaming the move for many things for a long time to come...ha!

      Next time you're out, we'll make it happen.

      Cheers!

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  17. Opening day for us is this weekend. I'll be fishing in Massachusetts to avoid the crowds but there is something about that opening day fish.

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    1. Have fun! Hopefully your opening day treats you well...glad you're able to get away from the crowds.

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  18. Being a Cyclones fan as I am, expectations of victory are usually not worth the energy... some would agree the same goes for cubs fans execrations. At least drinking beer at Wrigly is legal. Looks like a good day, and nice fish brought to hand. Written well as usual.

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    1. Darn autocorrect.... I meant expectations. Now I'll have to look up execrations :)

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    2. It was a great day on the water...and like baseball (being a Cubs fan), it's easy to have a great time with lowered expectations and really good company.

      ...although, the Arkansas is a hard river to beat.

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  19. My dad has been a Cubs fan for a very, very long time... Good luck. = ) GO ANGELS! Sorry... Now about that fishing trip, always remember to bring soft hackles. They will work when nothing else will or you don't have a hatch going. I never leave home without em'.

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    1. Being a Cubs fan isn't about luck, it's about properly managing your expectations :-)

      It looks like the soft hackles have been good to you lately, they are certainly a lot of fun to fish.

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