After a fun and rewarding season of fishing from the posh and luxurious controls of the SeaSprite, I wanted to broaden my fishing horizons. The opportunity came from some buddies at work who are seriously into fly-fishing. They generously offered to supply me with all the necessary gear I needed, all I was required to bring was some clothes, a sleeping bag, and food for 2 dinners for 5 guys! Due to my lack of knowledge and equipment I was reluctant to take them up on the offer of a weekend on private water in the Rockies, using up their fishing time helping me. But with such a great offer how could I say no?
Let me state up front that I am truly thankful for the experience and knowledge I gained from this trip. However, to accurately tell the story I must recap events that occurred, so to protect the guilty I will use nicknames from here on out
Oak and I made the 2-hour drive to the mountains after a painfully slow day at the office. We arrived at the cabin about 30 minutes before sundown, and prepared to fish. Keep in mind; my fly-fishing experience was limited to watching A River Runs Through It 10 years ago. Oak handed me a float tube and instructed me to inflate it. What? I thought, we are not going to fish in a rushing river with water up to our armpits? Oak assured me that float fishing was very relaxing, safe and enjoyable. After nearly passing out from trying to blow up the float tube, Oak handed me an air pump. Much easier!
Next, I was handed a set of waders. For the undereducated, let me explain. Waders provide a barrier between you and the water you are fishing in. They are designed so you can fish in the water without getting wet (in theory). You can wear them over your clothes, so you can stay warm as well as dry (in theory). So I pulled on the waders, threw the inflated float-tube in the bed of the truck and we headed to the nearest lake. We laced up our boots, grabbed the tubes and gear, and headed for the water. As we got to the shore, Oak was giving me all kinds of tips how to cast, maneuvering the float-tube, stripping line, and a bunch of other stuff I was certain I would not remember. Before putting on our kick fins and vests, we dragged the float tubes to the waters edge. Oak then showed me how to get in the float-tube.
First you walk to the float-tube carrying your 9-foot long rod and reel, with fins on. Challenging convention wisdom as to what might be considered safest to most, walking backwards is indeed the safest way to maneuver with fins on, especially down a slope. Once you have arrived at your float-tube, you need to step into it, pick it up single handedly and move it up to about your waist and walk (backwards) away from shore until you are in deep enough water to sit in. This sounds easy enough, but can be a bit tricky. Muddy lake bottom, rocks, branches, and fins do not mix!!!
I cannot express how strange it was to be sitting in the water not getting wet! We kicked out about 150 yards and started drift fishing. It was not too long until I felt a cold spot on my lower back, I thought I had tucked my shirt in but perhaps not, maybe my shirt had ridden up, exposing my skin to the wader material. As it got dark, we decided to head in. While we did not catch any fish that evening, the sunset was incredible. The sound of coyotes, elk, and birds in the distance, made this a completely different fishing experience than I have ever had!
When we arrived at the cabin, we found the other guys (Kunk, Shootz, and TimT) unloading their truck after a full day of fishing. They all had a productive day and were telling some great stories. After unloading and eating some of my wifes famous lasagna, we sat around the table telling lies. You know the ones they dont call them fishing stories for nothing!
Oak was setting up the thumbing through a book, Shootz was tending to his dry hands, and TimT was tying flies like there was no tomorrow. Kunk was telling us about a fly that the guy at the fly shop said would just kill! He proceeded to pull out his fly box and showed me the Pigs Fly. It was about 1 ½ inches long, had a bright pink body with huge eyes, and red streamers flying out the back. Kunk said if I wanted to he would let me fish with it for a while tomorrow. What great friends I have!! (I will look back on this later and regret my naiveté.) I was a bit suspicious of the name, but remembered seeing Woolly Boogers in the fly shop on the way up here. Besides, it looked like a bass would devour this thing, why wouldn’t a trout??? After some cold beers and a few hands of hold em we headed to bed.
Since we wanted to be in the water at sun-up, we got up at 5 am – I had no idea there was a five in the morning! After TimT fixed breakfast, multiple wagers were placed for largest, first, and last fish (in each species) for the day. We got to the first lake 10 minutes before the sun broke over the horizon. As Oak set up my rod for the conditions, I went through the float-tube boarding process in my head again. I did not want to fall in with my buddies watching! Rod set up, I headed toward the water, walking backwards, and stepped in the tube. Once in the water things went well. We were fishing wet flies with sinking line, just gently kicking around the lake. It was very similar to slow trolling. I had the opportunity to relax a bit and enjoy the incredible scenery. We could hear deer and elk crashing though the woods to get their morning drink. Just as I was getting lost in the moment, my rod jerked in my hands. FISH ON!!
Since I am left handed and Oaks rod was set up for a right handed angler, I needed to switch hands to feel comfortable landing this fish. Easier said than done especially considering if I drop the rod in the exchange it is going to be gone forever!! After making a very sloppy switch, I was able to put some gentle pressure on the fish. While this was no Hoss, it was by far the largest trout I had ever hooked onto. She tired after a few minutes and I finally was able to see her. Looking at a 16-inch trout might not sound like a startling experience, until you do it from 2 feet above the waterline, with most of your body still in the water. She looked HUGE from my perspective. Now all I had to do was net her. As instructed, I held the rod high in my right hand and reached out with the net in my left. As I leaned forward to get the net under her, the rod tip went away from me as well, pulling the fish just out of my reach. After doing this comedy routine 3 times I finally realized that if I turned my shoulders it would work much better. Got her!! I gently removed the fly, measured her (for betting purposes only!) and revived her a bit before letting her go. I was getting things ready to go again when I happened to look at the water between my legs when HOLY MOTHER OF GOD (Deep breath ok relax) the fish I had just caught was cruising right at my feet.
I was so flustered I did not even notice the cold spot in the small of my back had returned. Kunk had kicked his way over to me and we talked about how we were doing. He causally asked if I had fished the Pigs Fly yet. I told him I had not, but promised I would soon.
We all decided it was time to load out and head to another lake in the area. After successfully exiting the float tube we moved on to the second lake. Some casting tips from Shootz kept the fly from hitting me in the back of my head. After catching a couple of fish, I was getting pretty hungry and headed in for some lunch. En-route to the trucks, I saw a small snake swimming toward shore, with me directly in its path. Had I been in the SeaSprite this would have been a great chance to view this animal in its natural environment, taking in the scene and pondering lifes existence. In a float tube, it became a life and death race to get the hell out of the way of this creature of the Devil himself!!!
Lunch was devoured and I took a quick nap in a lawn chair along the shore. As we headed back into the water, the guys all asked how I had done with the Pigs Fly. I sheepishly said that I had not used it yet. Kunk said, in a rather forceful tone and looking me straight in the eye, if I was not going to use it to give it to him. He stated he did not want such a great fly to go to waste! Right then and there I tied it on. I did not get so much as a snag with this fly for about 30 minutes, but kept it on based on the sales job that the guys had given me. After another 30 minutes I switched back to a Woolly Booger and started catching fish again. An hour later Kunk asked if I was done using the fly, and if he could have it back. I reluctantly agreed and handed it to him.
All too soon, our day of fishing came to a close. I was exhausted from kicking what felt like 15 miles. My shoulder was sore from casting. The cold spot on my back had grown (remember that cold feeling) my backside was wet from my shoulder blades to my knees. Offsetting those complaints, I had seen some amazing scenery, watched Oak fall in the water while exiting his tube, cursing the entire way, and seven of the fish I caught were all bigger than any trout I had caught before. As we headed back to Shootz cabin I couldn’t help but think what a great day it was, and what good friends I am fortunate to have.
As we sat down for a great chili dinner (courtesy of my wife again – as she says, I really should give her a raise) I was re-thinking that last thought about how fortunate I am to have such good buddies. I was asked about 15 times how I had done with the Pigs Fly. Nobody could believe I had not caught a thing with it. What was my presentation, how deep, how long, did I really give it a chance? That is when the serious looks turned to fits of laughter. It had taken all day, but I finally saw I was the butt of a fairly elaborate joke. I had been set up, and taken the bait – hook, line and sinker! My face turned red with embarrassment. They said this gag would catch fish When Pigs Fly! I was the laughing stock of the guys I had trusted! I threw out a few unconvincing idle threats. I pretended to be raging mad! They saw right through it how could I be mad at them? I was at Shootzs cabin, using Oak’s equipment, throwing TimTs fly and taking a sales pitch from Kunk. This was clearly my fault!
I had forgotten about the Pig Fly until a week before Christmas. I was summoned to Kunks office where I found him, TimT, Oak, and Shootz waiting for me with Cheshire cat grins on their faces. After exchanging pleasantries, I was handed a plaque with a small branch mounted to it. Sitting prominently on the top was the Pigs Fly, in all its pink glory. (Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson or one of those other bubble gum pop princesses would be proud.) It sits on my desk at work and has turned into a great conversation piece.
My trip was much more than I had anticipated. I learned a bunch from these guys and am now hooked for good. Thanks Oak for letting me use all you gear, Shootz for the great cabin and tips, TimT for the flies (even for tying the Pig Fly) and tips, and Kunk for selling me a line! I am looking forward to fishing with this you guys again soon. I should have all my own equipment next time, and hopefully you will have invited another newbie so I can be in on the prank instead of being the butt of it!!