Getting skunked. It happens. But it’s not about catching fish, right? It’s about wading through a beautiful trout stream. The stillness of being alone with your own thoughts in nature. The rhythms of casting and mending line. Spending time with the people you care about. Are these not the special reasons we go fly fishing? Sure they are… but I still want to catch fish.
We went up the Stillwater River into the Beartooth Mountains. Past Sioux Charlie and Frenchy’s meadow. Beyond Cutoff Mountain. Further than I had ever gone. Until we reached the valley where Slough Creek flows down into Yellowstone Park. Vibrant green pine saplings blanketed the earth beneath tall grey sticks the fires left along the slopes until they reached the high edges of rockslides and steep granite. When the wind blew wildflowers in the grasses swayed and made fleeting purple waves in the pastures. We were alone. I was twenty years old, and thought I knew how special it was. Knew how small I was in the mountains. How precious that time was. Now I understand it was more than I could have known then.
Fishing was slow, but I was optimistic. The East Fork of the Sevier River is more of a small stream than a river. The water rarely widens more than a dirt road, but it is enough. High desert grasses and steep hills make for beautiful scenery and there is easy access along the highway. I had never been skunked in that section and it was rare to see other fishermen in the canyon. So far, I was alone. It was blue skies and when the wind stopped, the sun warmed me. A smile on my face. Why not be optimistic?
I knew in the time I walked the ten feet from my dorm room stairwell in Sijan Hall to his blue Land Rover that my day on the river would be cold.
Water flows from the mountains to the ocean and touches everything in between. As varied as the waters we fish are the people that fish them, and why. For me, part of the in between is a freestone mountain creek or meandering meadow stream. Here's why...
Starting out we don’t have much. Over time we figure out what we need and what we want to live our stories. What we need, and what we want. In fly fishing, if you are not careful, thinking you need things you don’t could keep you from enjoying some great days on the river and ultimately a nice fish here and there. Here’s what I learned starting out and why I believe, when it comes to becoming a fly fisherman or woman, you don’t need much.