Rhythm of the River
I have a confession: I have lived in Durango for 14 years and have never casted into the Quality and Gold Medal waters that abound in the southwest. My friend Kate is an accomplished fly fisherman—her Facebook page is loaded with smiling faces on family angling trips and beautiful fish images. Her latest post of a Rainbow Trout caught my eye; I “liked” her picture as usual, however the snapshot floated in and out of my mind the entire day. The shiny scales and promise of adventure where so intriguing they prompted me to wander into one of Durango’s many fly-fishing shops and book a trip. While my vision was a peaceful float on the Animas River, my timing was late in the season so we were set to cast on the San Juan. I didn’t think I was a fisherman-type so I brought a book along for the outing, just in case. When the day of the trip arrived, our San Juan Angler guides, “Wyley” and Orion, met us at the put-in with the boats rigged, reels ready, sun screen in hand and everything we would need for a day on the river. My boat mate was experienced…and the guide quickly figured me out; my Oprah book and gourmet picnic basket revealed my true intentions. In keeping with my author of choice, my first “Ah Ha” moment on the river was the product of the amazing scenery. I looked down and saw beautiful fish: colorful Rainbow Trout glistening in the clear water, elusive Brown Trout elegantly swimming upstream and some oddly colored fish whose identities I never did find out. I was floating through a fresh water aquarium. Add the backdrop of red cliffs, an abundance of birds, peaceful sounds of running water and it was serene nature sensory overload!
Our guide taught us the basic skills of fly-fishing—casting, mending, tending, drifting, and watching the indicator…. I never succeeded at the latter. I found myself happily distracted by sights, sounds and simply enjoying the entire river experience; I even bribed Wyley to let me try rowing the boat! While my fishing partner and the other boat caught and released a very large number of fish and fine-tuned their angling skills (including my son landing 2 impressive Rainbow Trout), I paused my day dreaming and reading to appreciate the enjoyment of fly-fishing. After a delicious lunch eaten on the water, I picked up my reel, took instruction from my guide and found the rhythm of the river. I fished the entire afternoon and was disappointed when the guide announced that it was time to take my last cast. The pinnacle of my “catching” skills was an amusing Rainbow Trout about the size of my hand. My boat-mates claimed I purchased it at the market and had it hidden in my cooler all day. That was the only fish I landed and yes, the pocket edition book I had unnecessarily brought along dwarfed it. However, I now can tell “fish stories” from my very own time spent on the water, interlaced with the joy of experiencing a day on the river.