Back in the mid “90s” I started a long standing tradition of heading west in the month of March. A very good friend of mine, John, invited me out for a week’s stay, all expenses paid, to his home over looking the Roaring Fork Valley; a week of trout fishing, two days of which included a guide. Far from being new to trout fishing and having fished the state of Colorado for ten years, as a resident back in the “70s” I was looking forward to two days with a guide. Up until this point I had never fished trout with a guide before, as I have always been one most content with solving fly fishing mysteries on my own, with out help from the sidelines. I admit that I had reached a point were I felt comfortable and content with my success so I wasn’t so much looking forward to what I might learn as I was to challenging myself against the guide.
John had set up a meeting at one of the local fly fishermen hangouts, to break the ice over a couple of beers, the night before the outing. Although John had fished with the guide, Andy, (I changed his name just in case he’s lurking and might want to post a rebuttal) before, I had not met him, and it was at Andy’s request that we meet and talk a little fly fishing before spending a day on the water together. I thought that a little strange, but what the heck could a few beers hurt? We met with the usual introductory hand shake and small talk, seated at a small table. With beers in hand and all the perfunctory BS dispensed with, Andy threw me a curve and the drilling started. He wanted to know all about my experience as a trout fisherman, and made it perfectly clear that he was not about to fish with somebody who thought they knew it all. Before I had a chance to finish my first beer he made his point: I was to forget everything I knew and was to follow his lead exactly. OH BOY!!! I couldn’t wait.
The next morning we picked up Andy and headed to the Roaring Fork, to, and I quote, “practice on catching some White Fish”. We headed to a long private stretch, thanks to John, a spot that Andy knew was full of White Fish. While getting set up at the truck Andy examined my equipment and found the rod, reel, and line, totally unacceptable. He then assembled an old beat up Sage (a model I can’t recall) of different length and action to mine and reel handle opposite to my preference, then handed it to me saying that if I broke it I was going to buy it. We then crossed the Roaring Fork at a spot from which I think the Roaring Fork got its name. It was a waist deep maelstrom in which the three of us crossed, locked arm in arm. I’m convinced it was a test to see if I could maintain my footing, and if not, could I swim. We did make it, but I had my doubts. Finally on spot I began to fish with Andy standing at my left shoulder. We were nymphing with a ton of weight in a deep pool, and he was convinced that casting lessons were in order. After he had destroyed a lifetime of not having to think about my casting stroke, I was flogging like a beginner. Thoroughly convinced he had me on the right track I was then allowed to start fishing. He instructed me on were to cast, how to mend and lead, how to hold the rod, what to watch for in the indicator, and when to pick-up and cast again. I might add that he did this all day, and I felt like a robot. The mantra was: cast, mend and lead with the rod tip, pick-up and cast again. OH, and I almost forgot, he also told me when to set the hook. I started snagging White Fish right off the bat every time he said set, but was told that until I caught them in the mouth we were not going to fish for trout. Finally I caught enough White Fish, in the mouth, that I was allowed to graduate to the trout, and so we moved on.
You’re moving too fast, you’re making too much noise, you’re disturbing the water, the fish can see you, on and on it went. I felt like I was standing on needles and pins, everything I did was wrong. The one positive thing I will say is we caught a lot of fish that day and some dandies. On the walk back I slipped on a damn rock, if you can imagine that, and fell on my ass, but I managed to hold his rod high and it came through unscathed. He took his rod away from me and carried it back.
The second day was a repeat of the first, sans the practice on the White Fish, with the constant mantra and critique filling my left ear. So ingrained it is in my memory that I often have to look to see if Andy is there. I did enjoy learning how to fish Andy’s way, but I have since reverted back to my bad habits and am doing quite well thank you.
Fast forward several years.
I had since past on John’s hospitality feeling guilty of taking advantage of my good friend because my stays were extending into four to six week excursions. I was booking myself into the Thunder River Lodge in Carbondale at the time. Unfortunately it has been sold to a ski resort for employee housing last I heard. The rates were very affordable and are sorely missed, which is one of the reasons I have since left the valley for more reasonably priced destinations. The Aspin area surely draws a crowd and offers some fantastic fishing water, but I have a limit to what I will spend on a name. Anyway I digress.
I was fishing the Frying Pan which is a blend of public water littered with vast stretches of private water, (I use the word “littered” tongue in cheek because I’m jealous) hop-scotching my way down pulling into the numerous pull-offs to fish. At the time I was driving a pickup truck where I keep my rod and vest in the bed, but I kept my waders on while I drove to spare myself the hassle of changing. I pulled off into one spot, shut off the motor, pulled the keys, opened the door, got out, locked and closed the door, and headed for the tailgate. From the opposite direction a car flew in and came to a screeching halt parking right in front of my truck. Three guys promptly exited with rods in hand (I sh!t you not) and sprinted to the water. I stood there dumbfounded in disbelief. The only thing that came to mind was my Wisconsin license plates. I sat on the tailgate to collect my composure and decided to mosey over and watch these guys tie into the fish I was sure were there. So I did, and I couldn’t believe my ears. Cast, mend and lead with the rod tip, pick-up and cast again. I stood there several minutes watching Andy ply his trade, but to my satisfaction not a fish was caught. I don’t think Andy recognized me; it had been quite a while, but there was no doubt in my mind that it was Andy.