As the end of the year draws close, it’s time to take a look back at this year’s fishing experiences. Note that fishing doesn’t always include catching. The catching is nice when it happens, but it’[s not always the real reason for going fishing. Sometimes fishing is just the opportunity to get away for a while, to unwind, or even rewind a little. Sometimes the main focus isn’t the fish, but the people you are fishing with. And for me, when I’m traveling and don’t have a lot of time to really fish, it’s the opportunity to scout a new area, to get some information about it, and to line up some contacts so that I can plan a more serious outing the next time I’m in the region.
For me, the past year has included all of these in my fishing adventures. Some of my outings included fish – sometimes a lot of fish – while other outings were void of any catch. But looking back over the year, I wouldn’t have skipped any of them.
Fishing on “home waters” was a little limited due to the traveling that my wife and I did this year. And the local weather sometimes messed things up – too hot to pressure the fish, or too much rain that messed up the streams. Still, I had some good times on the water, especially when fishing with other locals. If the fish were hitting, we would be throwing advice and encouragement back and forth. If they weren’t hitting for us, we would share stories about “the last time . . .”
Travels for my wife and I started last Easter, with a trip to Bennett Springs State Park in Missouri. I was going to spend the weekend fishing, while she hiked the trails, red her book, and practiced her watercolor painting. Unfortunately, a couple of days before we arrived, a major storm system dumped a pile of rain on the area. The river was completely blown out. I got in a lot of casting practice, we both hiked the trails, enjoyed some really great meals at the lodge, and just plain relaxed. From there we planned on heading to the White River in Arkansas for a little tailwater fishing, but found out that wad fishing was out of the question because of the storms. Instead, we headed to Branson, Missouri, and enjoyed three nights of superb entertainment in the theaters, and some relaxing sightseeing. Not the trip we planned, but it still turned out to be fun.
In late June, we headed north for an Alaskan land-and-sea tour, something we have talked about for years. In the time we were there, we rode on planes, trains, buses, boats, and a ship. We experienced the most spectacular scenery and wildlife we have ever seen. I’d have to say, it was the type of once-in-a-lifetime trip that everyone dreams of. While we were in Denali National Park, I had the chance to do a guided fly fishing trip for grayling one morning. I was one of five clients working with two guides, and was the only client in the group that had ever fly fished. I wasn’t sure how that was going to work out, but I had nothing to worry about. When we got to the water, my guide pointed to a nice pool on a bend in the river, and told me to give it a try while he got another client started. In the first 6 casts that I made, I landed two beautiful little grayling. The entire morning was like that. The guide would check on me, give me a couple of hints, point me to another honey hole, and go back to the other client. In the course of the morning, I released about two dozen grayling, ranging from 9 to 14 inches. To say the least, I had a blast.
August took us on a trip to Colorado to visit our second son and his wife for a few days. On the way, we stopped to check out the South Platte River for a day. While no fish were caught, I discovered a great fly shop and some nice cabins right along the river. Next time we head there, I’ll schedule some time with a local guide, and spend a few days exploring the waters more thoroughly.
After spending time with the kids, we took a day to visit the Poudre River Canyon, again exploring for a future fishing time. There were some nice campgrounds that we plan to use next time through there. We also found another great fly shop, a comfortable little inn, and a really good restaurant in a near-by town that we would be very happy to visit again.
In September, we headed east to visit our youngest son and his wife in Maine. For weeks before the trip, I tried to find a guide in the Rangeley Lakes region, where we all planned to spend a few days of hiking and fishing. Everyone that I talked to was booked while we were there. We found out that this time of year is normally when the landlocked salmon start their run, and all the regulars had scheduled their guided trips. Several of the guides that I talked to were nice enough to give me lots of information that would help us to be successful on our own. Weather threw us a curve, though. The waters were lower and warmer than needed, and the fish were not moving. I was hoping that my son would be able to land his first fish on a fly rod while we were there, but no such luck. Still I was able to spend time fishing with my son on some unbelievable pretty water while we were there. That’s always hard to beat.
The highlight of the year, though, was the birth of our first grandchild. Our son and daughter-in-law in Colorado had a beautiful baby boy just a week before Thanksgiving. It was an unbelievable feeling to be able to hold him when he was just a few hours old. And what can I say. They live in Colorado. We will be making regular trips there to see them. Of course, I’ll always be sure to find some time to fish the waters while we are there. After all, I need to figure out the perfect place to take my grandson for his first fly fishing trip.