52 Days

A year zips by like a springtime river. The trick is to put on your waders and get in there to seize all the potential within those 365 days. I rarely indulge in setting lofty goals and clever resolutions–really, a headstand a day will either happen or not–but there has been a bare minimum desire for the past few years. I must find myself fishing fifty-two days. Theoretically that balances out to one day per week of stillness and soul refurbishing.

Our fishing year started slowly in 2017—we were obsessed with SkiPalooza and maximizing our Mountain Collective passes. Instead of fishing the Snake River we were cruising off the top of Rendezvous Bowl in a blizzard, or we were ignoring the Rio Grande and dropping in terrain at Taos Ski Valley that I thought I would never ski. Finally, we slowed down and January 29th found us at home in Montrose and the Uncompahgre River scored our first casts of the year. The same stretch of river just witnessed my last casts of the year—day 52. I will come back to that.

This year I did something selfish. I packed the fishing gear and drove east, leaving some food and clean clothes behind for Stephen. I slept in the back of the truck, pounded out miles, and settled in at Shenandoah National Park for a little trout chasing adventure. The emphasis on little reflects the size of the trout I caught. The adventure was grand, and I hope to repeat it. Those streams are meant for tenkara and I enjoyed the solo time in new places.

We turned a July ski trip to California, the grand finale of SkiPalooza, into one of the most profound fishing days either of have experienced. Two days of skiing Cali corn at Mammoth were fantastic, but taking our tenkara rods to Manzanar Relocation Camp National Historic Site to seek the freedom of escaping under barbed wire to fish in small desert streams at the feet of the Sierra was a highlight of our year. Note: that story will be told in the Winter Tenkara Angler coming out in early 2018.

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Day 52: A little ice in the fish ladder at Riverbottom Park, Uncompahgre River

This was the year we put a roof top tent on the Tacoma and discovered the bliss of camping next to fishing spots in the middle of nowhere. The two nights we spent beside the frolicking Upper Rio Grande River below Stony Pass were an awakening. We could come and go from the perfect bends of the river at will and no one was going to stomp into our fishing hole. You can make a very solid bet that we will be overlanding more fishing nights in 2018.

The backpack nights this summer were fishy. Alpine lakes are our feel-good fishing destinations and this year did not break that trend. Twenty trout adventures, all finned beings returned to their happy teal homes, were the interludes between other less productive fishing days. Missouri Lakes in the Mount Holy Cross Wilderness may become a new standard stop on our circuit. We had magical days of fishing and wonderful nights beside the lake watching glow tickle the peaks.

Many lessons are learned each year when fishing. We discovered that fishing with a German Shephard puppy is a challenge—she wanted to fetch the fly—fortunately, we were just dog-sitting. We found out that it can be detrimental to your tires to get so excited about the fishing hole that you stop paying attention to sharp rocks.  We experienced the bliss of fishing mixed with hot spring soaking, and even visited a few places we could have done them at the same time. We reconnected with friends over fishing. And one of us was a major player in opening a brand-new fishing destination near home. It was a good year at the water, and there were a few truly glorious fish.

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Favorite Cutthroat of the year–drawn by Anna between days 51 and 52

I went to the river today to snag day 52. Some charming boys wished me luck, but an adorable father and daughter pair seemed to hold the Uncompahgre’s trout in their hands this afternoon. He hooked them, and she leapt up with the net to bring them in. It was adorable. I was content to watch the clear water roll past my feet for another day and wonder about next year. Fishing has been a constant source of hope in 2017—there’s always something waiting in the next cast, either a trout or new experience.

Hope your year has been fantastic and that 2018 continues that trend.

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