This birthday was not a landmark one like 40 or 50 but I try to celebrate one way or another. I of course decided to go fishing and check out how bad the water really was. Colorado is in major blow out. The water levels are at record flows. Finding good water is like finding a “noodle in a haystack.” Yeah, you read that right...
I had to check out a creek I had fished before to see if it had any life in it worth casting to. Instead I found a pasture of winding creek with banks overflowing and running from one to another part of the same creek. The current was still there where the channels were but there was water across the banks connecting one part to another. Bummer.
This creek flows into a reservoir that has a dam and tail water. I decided to go check out the tail waters. I got there to find a fly fishermen and his pal who was holding a net. Just as I walked up they brought one in. I chatted with them at this point feigning admiration for the fish and waiting for him to release it. But, he grabbed up a strainer in the water by the bank to show me the others he had caught… sigh.
Once they left, I rigged up and started playing the edges. I ended my day hooking four and landing two trout. The reservoir had spit them out hard into the rocks and they looked beat to hell.
As I released them I told them to get the hell out of there before that guy and his buddy came back.
The week alone ended and my wife and son returned on the Friday. I fared well enough that week. I spent my spare time talking to the dogs and prepping for a long overdue backpacking trip. My son was glad to see me and I was heartbroken a little that I was going to be leaving the next morning. I would be gone for father’s day too. DAMN!
I drove for quite a few hours to reach this place that I had been told of only in whispers and only as a pseudonym at first. It is one of those secret places that if you give the location in an article could cost you your reputation or worse. (I’ll let you imagine what is worse.) Those that know the secret know to keep it. As a professional magician I have a very deep appreciation for secrets, and believe me when I say I know how to keep a secret. It is my livelihood.
As I pulled into the trailhead with my old Subaru Legacy, I notice about five trucks of super-duty size had almost taken up all the available parking. This “secret” place was a little crowded? This fear was relieved slowly as I hiked in for about an hour passing people coming out. I encountered day hikers and families with baby carrier type back packs. I greeted each with a smile. I met a couple who were just hiking about … But no fishermen to be seen. The couple volunteered that they had seen only two other anglers that day. I would later see them too on their way out.
For the rest of my way in I watched the water and could see fish dashing and darting about. I had to delay the gratification and did just fine at that.
I found my camp and set up my one and half person tent. The sizes on tents are inherently deceiving. Tent makers must base the sizing of a person on anorexic bikini models. So my two man tent is really a one and a half. Once the camp was set, I organized my small sling pack with lunch and water I headed into a true fishing bliss.
I made some backpack dinner of instant split pea soup and opened a packet of this awesome bison jerky. I filtered and refilled my water supply from a nearby spring. Walked up a hill and put my food up in a tree like you are supposed to do in bear country. You won’t have issues with it until that one time you don’t. As the sun set I curled up in my bag and listened to the silence. I found myself in that deep place that I had probably been avoiding all day. You find yourself aware of being alone. Being alone in the wild is much different than being alone at home. Not a single dog to talk to.
It is just your own thoughts and the weird fears that creep up on you. Being in the wild alone is an exercise in abandon and vulnerability. There is nothing stopping the wilderness from finishing you off. Those patches on the nylon tent might keep the rain out but they won’t stand a second against a curious bear. Yeah, I have a healthy and unreasonable fear of bears. When you know that if something would happen to you that people you love would have to piece together the story and take solace that you went out doing what you love to do.
I still appreciate being alone because it can really take you where you need it most. It can create an appreciation for what really matters. While being alone is good for you in small doses, it eventually becomes unbearable. I had not been in this deep place of solitude in over a decade I am sure. It was a good reminder of what I already knew, but now I knew it in a way that hit me to my core.
I decided to just put in a half day more of fishing “if I woke up alive” which I did. I continued to catch fish after fish and was lost in that other kind of being alone. Where you are content by yourself doing something that feels like being alive. In addition to a bunch of good size browns I also landed a rare rainbow trout that day. I ended in that blissful place, packed up my stuff and hiked out to surprise my wife and son by coming home early enough time to go out for a father’s day dinner.