The fall season is when the giant brown trout spawn and run from their lakes back into the nearby streams. Xan and I had not fished in years, and he happened to be in town. I was pretty excited to spend some time with him and hopefully catch some beautiful Colorado trout.
We took off west to a small section of water called the Dream Stream. The name automatically sets your expectations high. When we arrived, the parking lot was already full—anglers everywhere. Everyone was trying to find a spot to catch fish. We tried a couple of spots with no luck—too much pressure for the fish.
We took off down stream and ended up right at the inlet of the reservoir. About ten years ago when Xan and I had just started fishing together, this was a spot. When we got down to the lot this time, only two cars were there. We were relieved. As we were getting our gear together, it made me think of the first time we had been there fishing. That first time we went, there were two older men with us showing us the way. We were quite clueless. We didn’t know our knots, or flies, or our gear. Those older men were so gracious, and Xan and I soaked it up like dry sponges. They were eager to bestow the wisdom of their trade onto some younger guys. So much of the teaching we received happened streamside, and we learned by watching their every move. It was amazing to watch them read the water and see them approach it with advanced technique. As Xan and I were about to head to the water, I felt extremely grateful for all we had learned in the last ten years.
We had about a 400-yard walk to the water. Picture in your mind open fields with no trees surrounded by mountains. One of the difficulties of fishing this stream is that the fish can easily detect you due to the lack of cover. They know shadows well and spook easily.
While we were still about 200 yards from the stream, we saw two other anglers on the other part of the stream to our right. Stream etiquette can be tricky, so we steered to our left, heading toward unoccupied water. As we continued walking, we noticed the two anglers talking quickly then heading off at a quick pace toward the water we wanted to fish. Xan and I stopped in our tracks, “You just don’t do that,” we said to each other. We knew we had been taught differently than these guys.
As we looked closer at the two anglers, we noticed they were both young guys. They had all the latest gear and looked pretty driven for fish. We knew that posture well; we had been those guys ten years ago before spending time with older, seasoned anglers. Xan wanted to ask them if they had ever fished with an older man, a sage that could show them the way. We wanted to tell them that it’s not just about getting your picture with a fish to post on Instagram, but there are deeper truths that the sport can teach you about life and God. In one instant, we were offended. In the next moment, we were grateful for the hundreds of opportunities to fish with older men in the craft of fly-fishing.
The funny end of the story is that just up the stream, after the two younger anglers took off to their cars, I had a chance to hook into a nice twenty-inch Cuttbow. Even in that moment, it was fun to not be so driven to prove myself with my catch but to almost let it come to me. To be present in the moment, to enjoy my good friend Xan, the beautiful weather, and the quietness of the Colorado wilderness were the true gifts.