We saw their tails first, walking up the river with hands on boulders, and watching the water with each careful step a little further ahead. They swayed in the current. The river bottom was gold pebbles. At first squinting helped pick out the black spots on their backs. A touch of blue swirling in the seam just behind the eyes and then long red that waved like flags planted in the stones. I cast to them while my friend watched. Beautiful rainbows in a beautiful canyon. He moved back to the sand along the bank and watched while I made my casts. Standing there, he waited, then moved upstream around the bend.
“There’s four nice fish in this hole.” He said it as we pulled over along the side of a narrow dirt road. I did not ask how he knew. I am a bit envious of the fly fisher who knows a stream inside and out. Those that have re-caught fish. That know all their spots. Where they tuck in behind rocks or sway downstream from dead drifts. That name the trout they catch. Each day on the river is still discovery for me. Maybe someday I will know a stream that well.
I had two goals on the river that day. First, catch trout. Nothing new there. Second, scout a place to take my five year old son fly fishing. My first objective influenced the second. Thus, I drove the shortest distance possible to a Colorado trout stream and sought a shallow stretch of water that would be close to the truck and fish well.
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.
When I pulled off the road and parked next to the South Platte River, I knew I was returning to a special place.