In an hour or so I will head to the Uncompahgre River for what is likely the last chance I’ll get to catch a fish in 2016. The water will be cold and riverbanks icy but the sun-warmed air will feel good. The tally of fishing days in 2016 is a smaller number than I might have hoped for, but there are quality days in those numbers. And there is always next year.
I sat in a dimly lit room last Friday night across from fellow fishing enthusiasts. A perk of office holiday parties in Colorado is that conversations can usually be based around fishing, skiing, or other outdoor adventures. This makes the small talk flow easily. The gentleman across the table asked me what had been my favorite fishing experience of 2016 and without hesitation I told him of a long weekend in the Tetons.
“Can you BELIEVE she picked that as her favorite fishing experience of the year?” I hear him exclaim to my husband a few moments later when my attention has turned to ice climbing with the woman to my right. It seems the tale I told lacked a component generally believed essential to the big fishing moments of your life—catching. It wasn’t even the story of the one that got away. It was just a weekend of total and complete nothing on my line, but surrounded by a landscape that I adore. It was the pursuit of Snake River Cutthroat that grew more mythical with each bend of the Snake we tried. It was an afternoon casting into Phelps Lake while plotting a backpacking trip for next summer. It was chasing down to some pools on Cottonwood Creek after the storm peeled away from the Grand and Teewinot. And, it was stalking the edges of Flat Creek with one eye as the other stares at the entire Teton Range in late afternoon light. As I told the partygoer, catching would have been nice and it was a tad humiliating to leave without a nibble. Yet the days were bliss and they are my favorite fishing days of the year.
“Sure, I believe it. That’s my Mel.” Stephen assured him that I love to catch trout, but I also love the Tetons. And his favorite fishing day more than balanced out our fish tally for the year. His story, of a local backcountry stream full of eager brook trout that took our flies like candy to a toddler, was more along the lines of the expected answer. We stopped fishing that day after catching and releasing twenty little beauties in the tiny valley stream lined with lush wildflowers. We told ourselves we would come back with the camping gear later in the year, but it never happened. There is next year.
I will admit the close runner up to the best day was landing a gem of a trout on opening day at East Portal in Black Canyon this spring. I do like catching. And I can’t wait to see what I end with up in my net in 2017. But first I’m going to go freeze my fingers next to the Uncompahgre one more time in 2016.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!