Ed Abbey says some writers become synonymous with their geography. Thoreau and the northeast. Muir and the Sierra. Ed Abbey and the desert.
We have the same with anglers, folks who focus decades on a region or a handful of rivers. Roderick Haig-Brown and the Pacific Northwest. Robert Voelker and swampy streams of the UP. Dave Whitlock and Arkansas’ White River. There’s a whole host of other writers, guides, shop owners who spend a lifetime learning a few streams intimately. Depth, not breadth.
The sport’s current inertia emphasizes Living One’s Best Life through jet-setting: Madison browns in the fall, speying the last few wild steelhead on the coast, roosters on a Baja beach to forestall the winter blues. This bucket list approach leaves anglers collecting destinations like flair, demonstrating dedication to the sport. Breadth, not depth.
I was meditating on what’s lost in the rush to fish as many streams as possible, the last time I was out here. It’s a little stream with wild fish, out of the way and largely ignored. I wanted to fish it as close as I could to the first of the month, every month, as long as I can, and maybe learn something in the process.
We got two and a half inches of rain the week before Labor Day.
Then, another inch and a half dropped that weekend.
Make myself go.
That’s sorta the point.
Someone dumped rainbows from a railroad trestle in the 1880’s; maybe an oversimplification, but probably not far off. They stocked everything- brookies, browns, rainbows, Atlantic Salmon from the east coast and grayling from Michigan. Only rainbows took, and they rarely exceeded twelve inches. Not enough for most folks to fuss with.
But mine’s the only car in the parking lot this morning, and that’s worth something. The State has thoughtfully mowed a path through head-high grasses, goldenrods, sunflowers, gaura, and other plant life to the field’s edge along the woods. There’s a riot of bugs- spicebush and zebra swallowtails along with a few monarchs drifting between flowers, amber colored soldier beetles eating pollen from goldenrods, dragonflies patrolling overhead.
The gravel’s clean and sorted, blue lobelia matted down along the bank, but the water’s clear and fishable. It’s late summer and we’re looking at the last push of wildflowers, rank stands of jewelweed and brown-eyed susan and pink phlox along the banks. I tie on a black ant I can hardly see in rough water, along the bank, under the brush, and I miss a good fish.
I switch to a little green Humpy and dap a rainbow out of a brush-lined run, admiring its fine scales and parr marks. They look eight or ten inches in the water, five or six in your hand.
Fish like the Adams better up until the scissorgrinders kick in around noon. The fishing turns off, I work upstream to the forks and have a sandwich at the base of a tall, gray, dolomite bluff. I don’t know how many I’ve caught, mostly under eight inches, a couple maybe ten. Good year for rainbows with the high water, hopefully they’ll last through the winter. I debate swinging wets back downstream to the car, leaving it for next time.