Monday, September 3, 2012

Earth, Wind, and Fireball

Sunlight filtered through nylon and turned to musky, sweaty heat. The brisk air of a cloudless night was long gone. I wiped my brow, pushing my sleeping bag off of me so I could sprawl my arms. A mixed bag of house flies and mosquitoes were doing laps around the tent, trying to determine the source of that oh-so-tasty scent. Most of them landed on John.

Having handled my morning bidniss' and with a pot of coffee brewing on the Coleman, we convened around the picnic table to map out our day. Spreading the Wyoming gazetteer across the table felt like mounting a blank canvas on an easel. We'd reached the middle leg of the trip, and that often-elusive feeling of true freedom was finally taking hold. Living like sardines out of a truck was starting to feel comfortable and routine. The most troubling decisions we'd encounter that day were 1) Which color dry fly to fish, 2) 4-weight or 5-weight? And 3) 2X or 3X? That we intended to drive some 8 hours didn't strike any of us as a burden because we understood that we could abandon our charted path on a whim without derailing our plans, which were simply A) to catch trout and B) to have a party in the process. With blue lines in every direction and a (two) cooler(s) full of beer, we seemed to be on the right track.

Naturally there were a few pit stops along the way to soak up the tastes, smells and sounds of Wyoming.

I'm not sure what the exact mileage is, but I believe that a dedicated angler can only drive along a trout stream for so long without making a cast, before it becomes a sin. For fear of bad fish karma, we made sure to wash ourselves clean in the waters of The Wind.

It's hard to do poetic justice to a mountain range as magnificent as the Tetons. There's not much to say about them that hasn't already been said. It's more about seeing them, smelling them, feeling them, and fishing them.

It's also about trying not to get frustrated by the 34 Asian tourists and the ever-predictable goateed Harley rider and his fat girlfriend pulled over to take disposable pictures of a [1] white tailed deer. Of course, who am I kidding? There's a little tourist in all of us...

After putting the boys through the who's-who tour of Jackson and replenishing supplies, we were back on a dirt road in search of our new home. But with the sun approaching the pines and the days final rays glistening off glorious turquoise water, the urge struck again. Momentary chaos ensued as we all dashed for entangled rods. When the smoke cleared, the temperature was already on the drop, but I was pining for that cutthroat take and dashed for the heart of the run. 

On the third cast it came; Slow, casual, committed...and I whiffed, badly.  I did the same on my next two opportunities. Out of pity the fourth fish slashed at the fly with uncharacteristic vigor and more or less hung himself on a size 6 chubby. I thanked him for his cooperation, took a swill, and retreated.

20 minutes further up the road,we took squatter's rights on a piece of ground that boasted riverside mezzanine seating and a bona fide shithouse.

Just in time, too. The mobile living conditions were approaching slum status, so we gutted the truck and started from scratch. For some reason, though,  we couldn't quite air out that smell.

We rose the next morning with cutthroat on the brain and camp duties were conducted post-haste. With a bacon and eggs day-starter in our bellies and fresh foam in the fly box, we hit the water.

We had intended to stay together, but it didn't take long before there was a bend or two separating each of us. With so much tantalizing water to fish, none of us could bear to keep a fly dry for very long. Fishing ranged from good to excellent, with average fish size in the 12-14 inch range and plenty of shots at better fish. The takes, the fish, and the scenery were nothing short of perfect.

We fished hard, hotspotting our way along some 15 miles of river and catching our share of fat, hungry cutthroat. Back at camp (or was it before then?) somebody broke out the Fireball cinnamon whiskey, and that was all she wrote. At least one of us (no names please) enjoyed an exceptionally sound sleep that night.

The next morning, we woke up and did it all over again.

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