ARC Fishing

Alone in the Woods

As a principal of a school, I'm given many gifts.  I'm able to support teachers in growing their skills, connect with kids, and build a feeling of community at our school.  It's truly rewarding work and I love it.  However, it's a lot of long hours saturated with stress.  Fortunately, I get a good deal of time off to rest and reconnect with nature.  Over winter break I took some time out from family obligations and went north on my own.  Over the course of two days, I explored some of my favorite rivers and to my delight, they allowed me complete solitude. On one of those rivers, I spent the day being rained on while gliding nymphs through off colored pocket water.  The cold weather and damp conditions kept everyone near the fire while I was waist deep, balancing on submerged boulders. 

As anticipated, there were plenty of fish to be had.  I've fished this particular river for about four years now, mostly solo.  There are a few spots that consistently produce fish and they're always rainbows, sometimes big ones.  However, this time, I was able to hook up with a nice 19-20" brown that caught me by surprise.  Once I landed that big girl, the rest of the day was icing on the cake.  I fished slowly, reflecting on the beauty of the river, and took every opportunity to soak in the solitude.  Towards the end of the day I explored some new water that had piqued my interest on my last trip. The new water greeted me with good success.  I'm not sure about you, but when I'm on my own, I tend to fish the places I know well.  The places I know produce fish and that I know few people will be.  Sometimes getting away from that routine can be just as, if not more, rewarding. As the sun began to dip behind the pines, I took my last few casts and walked back up the steep dirt trial to my car.  With a deep breath and an even deeper sense of contentment, I packed up my fly boxes, broke down my rod, and drove back to the quiet hum of a small mountain town for the evening.  

Why I Fish...

We all search for fish for different reasons.  Personally, each trip has a slightly different purpose for me.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, fishing provides a great opportunity to forget about the stresses of the day-to-day work I do.  It gives me time to intently focus on reading water, thinking about fish, and presenting flies in the most natural possible way.  

Stress relief is only one of the reasons chasing wild fish matters to me.  I was drawn to fishing as a child because of the beautiful, wild places that fish (particularly salmonids) tend to live.  These wild places make you feel truly small.  Whether you're in the High Sierra, Patagonia, or the massive landscapes of Montana, the search for wild trout will make you feel small.  

Earlier this fall a buddy of mine and I met up on one of my favorite Northern California trout rivers.  This place is truly wild!  Very few people come to fish here.  The access is tough, the wading is next to impossible, and the river flows are higher than most feel comfortable with.  However, this makes for happy, healthy fish!  Over the course of the weekend we spent nearly every sun soaked hour waist deep in the river's cold, nutrient rich waters.  The banks of this river are literally choked with vegetation.  Once you step foot in the river, you're almost instantly three feet deep, stumbling over bowling ball sized rocks covered in what amounts to grease.  Its a challenging river to wade that I don't recommend fishing alone.  

While we were there, we stayed in an old abandoned camp ground on the opposite side of the river from the main access road.  This led to a weekend without seeing a soul.  We had the river to ourselves and it was amazing.  The quiet, solitude of the river.  The deep, persuasive waters.  The strong, healthy wild fish, all made for a weekend where we felt truly immersed in the wild places we love.  It's a humbling experience to know the river you're in has the upper hand and that you've got to think about every step you make to avoid serious consequences.  It's humbling to be in a river completely surrounded by mountains, trees, osprey, and king fishers.  It's fishing in places like this that make me feel truly small.  This humbling experience brings perspective to my place on planet earth.  We're part of a system that is much, much bigger than we are.  It's important for us to recognize that from time to time.  We have the potential to have an impact on the resources we use, lets make sure our role has a net positive impact on the wild places we love to fly fish.