The smell of brewing coffee filtered through my nose as I stirred under the sleeping bag. Still dead-tired from the night's long drive from the big city to the remote campsite after leaving late from work, I was beginning to reconcile the fact that just 4 hours of sleep on this Saturday morning would have to make due. Drifting back into a dreamy blissful snooze, I rode the last waves of the interrupted REM sleep cycle when the smell of sizzling bacon wafted through the sleeping bag and into my fish infused-visions. That was my breaking point.
Suddenly, I was awake.
Breakfast was eaten with haste as we inhaled the bacon and fried eggs and downed the lava-hot mugs of coffee. Afterwards, the hiss from the lantern announced its presence loudly on the camp table as the utensils, plates, and mugs finally rested silently after the meal. A couple minutes of calm enveloped us as the anticipation of a day spent fly fishing - the anxious feeling of not knowing how many we would catch or how big they would be, or if any of us would land the fabled 'big one' - was heightened by the beautiful early morning high-country sunrise, as it began to creep inside through the dewy windows of the camper.
It was time to go.
The mountainous valley surrounding the Hallmark camper and Forest Service campground was surreal to say the least. The distant roar of the River overlaid with the rhythmic melodies of the Song Sparrow perched high above in the riparian Cotton Wood trees created a sudden feeling of timelessness. I felt intimations of transcendence when the smell of a nearby early-morning campfire struck my nose at precisely the same moment.
Gold, orange, and red Aspens signaled from high-up in the jagged valley, with their speckled distribution amongst the green Pines. They faded in and out of sight with the morning fog, that was rolling-about in the southwestern Colorado valley. With each changing thermal, the valley was painted anew. For a fleeting instant, I thought to myself that this is what true inner-peace was.
I live for this.
Waders on, fly rod in hand, double nymph rig all set to go, vest and boots tight, I began the giddy-swift walk to the river's edge from camp. The distant roar of the river became a menacing beast up close. Bubbling rapids and foaming whitewater crashed over the quartz, granite, and feldspar boulders. Scanning the twisting and turning course of the river, I saw my best-bet was to head downstream and throw some drifts into the deep pool at the bottom of this ultra-loud and fast riffle. Picking out the exact spot where the crashing ferocious water smoothly emptied into a deep, dark, and slow-moving pool had my fish-senses humming.
The anticipation of what could be lurking in that pool was intolerable.
With first light in the valley having just barely arrived, I was flush with excitement knowing I would be the first to hit this hole today. Paralleling the river through the thick and lush riparian thickets of Willows and over deadfall, I had to pay extra attention not to stab my flyrod into any trees or catch my vest on any snags, as I hurried towards the promised-end.
As I approached the shadowy pool, the sound of the river had died-down significantly. Abruptly, I slowed my pace and glided behind a tree. From there, I just watched. I began focusing and concentrating on the shadows deep within the river. I must have spent 10 minutes just watching and focusing on the current; on the different ebbs and flows; the movements. I began to see deeper and deeper into the river. Fighting every urge to throw caution to the wind and just make a cast, I stayed silent and kept watching.
Suddenly rising, quickly flashing, then returning to the depths, a massive golden-brown outline emerged from the darkest section of the water column. My heart raced. Adrenaline shot through my system. Could I be sure it wasn't just a rock or the bottom? Was I seeing things? I kept watching.
Suddenly, the figure rose again and hung suspended near the surface. This time I was certain. Its kype jaw protruded far out from its head. Its golden-brown sides flashed with drabs of dark olive. Immense nickel-sized red spots ran the length of this massive Brown Trout. Slowly and confidently, it emerged and broke the surface - methodically swallowing a raft of floating midges with one sip. Then, just as quickly, it dove back down and disappeared.
I watched in amazement as it started flashing again and again, shifting from one side of the pool to another. Violently thrashing and aggressively bumping the other smaller fish - it feverishly battled to impose its will and keep its feeding lane open.
Witnessing this storied ritual from a mere 10 feet away, I calmly assessed the situation; unhooked my fly from its hook keeper; added 2 giant split shots and adjusted my indicator. I had enough leader and tippet for the job.
It was up to me now.
As I stood silently behind that tree, preparing to make that fateful cast on that cold and crisp fall day in the Colorado mountains, I couldn't help but realize that this is what life was all about.
It's not about the past or the future. It's about the here and now. The present.
The hook set.
Mike is a Colorado native and grew up fishing for all species, during all seasons, with all methods.
Although not the same river & situation as mentioned in Fish On, it still is a great photo of my brother stalking a monstrous Trout in the Colorado high country.