Essay by: Dennis Vander Houwen
Whole wheat bread with a glob of peanut butter on one side and a wash of jelly on the other. PBJ’s never let you down. Adding a banana from the bunch, I grab my water bottle, and load my lunch into my small backpack along with my simple tackle and my Tenkara USA Sato rod and I am out the door. Gone fishing. In about 40 minutes I will see an old friend.
In the car I tap on Colorado Public Radio. Ironically, they are talking about the increase in people taking up fly-fishing in Colorado. It is an interview with a familiar voice, John Gierach. The topic is about the effect of more people taking up fly-fishing than ever before. I have my fingers crossed John will mention tenkara or talk briefly about stream etiquette, but my hopes are dashed. It is still a good interview and he has a new book out that I have now added to my reading list. I shut off the radio. Silence gives me room to think.
Its mid-week so the Interstate highway traffic is moving smoothly. I am only 15 minutes from the exit for the pull off. My mind starts to drift a bit, and I begin the process of second guessing my decision for where I am going fishing. Spontaneity can add a certain amount of whim to the adventure, but I quickly talk myself back into sticking to the original plan. The place I have chosen has been faithful to me and I am going to be faithful too.
Turning into pull-off I notice immediately that there is a fisherman right below. I shout down to him to see if he is fishing upstream or downstream (there is that etiquette I spoke of before). We use a weird fisherman’s sign language that tells me he is moving downstream. I point to myself and then upstream. He gives a thumbs up and a smile.
On further thought, I decide not to fish immediately upstream from him. I get back in the car with dry waders and drive 200 yards upstream. I make my way down the rocky bank with my Sato in hand, I see the watery stair steps of the stream coming down to me off the mountain. This creek drops deep on both sides and is flanked by the highway, whose traffic sounds slowly disappear and become nothing in my head as I descend to its banks. I extend my rod and pause to look at the water.
I keep visiting this place, and each time I learn a little more about this stream. We have built a relationship of sorts as I’ve observed the changes that happen over the seasons and have become acquainted with the special places it offers. Each visit I find something new. Heavy run-off was abusive, but then the water levels slowly receded into summer. Now the stream lies ready and opens its pockets holding fish.
With the water low enough in places to cross, I fish just ahead of a path that I have traced through the shallows and make my way across. This becomes my approach for the rest of the day. I learn quickly that I can get into pockets that I could not reach before today. I work both sides of the stream and take care not miss a single pocket or run. Zig-zagging my way upstream, the water narrows further and becomes deep in places. A surprise? I change my approach and see that now I can stand on one side of the stream and fish across to the opposite bank.
Sadly, the time to go home rolled around. This old friend has shared another great day with me. I gently collapse my rod that has served me well again today. I have a few pictures of fish, but many I just sent quickly on their way. Others jumped off before they could reach me. I slip off my leaky waders, finally eat my PBJ, peel the banana and take a good swig of water. Today was as perfect a day as I could ask for. Sometimes sticking to the familiar is all we really need.