The November wind pushed hard as we drove down the long drive, baiting us back to the comfort of warm beds and a well-appointed fridge filled with the previous days’ trimmings. And looking down over the lake, Nederland slept, in what could be described as a comfortable protest to the “Black Friday” gluttony that was taking place twenty miles down the canyon. Local shops were happy for the rest, and the villagers seemed unconcerned with the rest of the world. And to those unwilling to understand the quiet and the comfort of a place like this, the town might reject your presence on principal alone.
Turning away from the lake, we started the winding decent down the canyon between Nederland and Boulder. Pushing ourselves out into a world that on this day, would be filled with crazy eyed shoppers and lattes. Anxious people forgetful of yesterday’s thanks, stampeding well stocked holiday aisles, with pepper spray in tow. What’s an Xbox? But fortunately for us, the brown and rainbow trout lay safely west of Wal-Mart. Safely west of madness.
It has been awhile since I have fished with Jamie, the last time being for walleye in Minnesota sometime last year. Or was it for trout in western Wisconsin, I can’t remember? Not a good sign for my memory, as we have only fished together a handful of times in the twelve years he’s been married to my sister. The most memorable of our trips found Jamie’s newly acquired fishing rod in the lake while he was lighting a cigar. In his defense, it was a very good cigar. And being the concerned brother in-law that I am, I kept fishing, and hooked into something at approximately the same time his birthday present jumped out of the boat. It’s funny how a lifeless spinning rig can feel like a fish. Needless to say, Jamie was relieved to see the rod reappear, if for no other reason, than he could enjoy his cigar in good conscious.
The only other time Jamie and I had fly fished together, came on a hot summer day in the “Driftless”, where not a single trout was landed between us. It was his first experience with a fly rod, and he could have used a better guide. While I was relatively new to the sport at the time, I didn’t do him any favors, he even bought the beer. But as I’ve put some miles on my well-worn boots, I was hoping that this time would be different.
Ice could be seen clinging to the cobbled edges of the rivers bank, leaving the majority of the water fishable. Unseasonably warm weather had left the lower reaches of the canyon open and fishing well, something that will undoubtedly change with each passing night. And as we wound our way past “Picnic Rock”, the raging river of this summer had all but faded into something else. The Poudre had accepted its winter.
“One time back, and lay the line down,” I found myself coaching from three feet to Jamie’s left.
An interesting position, considering I don’t have the best reputation as a guide, let alone someone capable of teaching someone the finer points of casting a fly rod. Good thing the student doesn’t know any better. But as a quick study, Jamie found a groove, and my instruction became more habit than necessity.
“Back and down,” I repeated.
“Go rig up your rod,” Jamie exhaled. The hint was unmistakable.
The one fish we caught in the morning came on a quick demonstration for Jamie on where to toss his bugs. It was a shiny, foot long rainbow, which put up a cold fight before being released. I had stolen his fish I thought, handing the rod back to him. It was a selfish gesture that only the brother of a husband’s wife could get away with. But after all, I was only trying to show him where to cast, and I couldn’t be expected to know that the fish would bite on that particular drift. Could I?
Jamie worked the inside seam that defined a nondescript run midway between where we were standing and the far bank. Repeating the advice from the morning, his casting confidence grew, and he was able to hit his mark more often than not. And as I turned my head to check my flies, I saw his line twitch from the corner of my eye.
And as the rod bent over under the pressure of the fish, Jamie was tight to a healthy brown, his first trout on a fly.
Climbing out of the river, two fishermen walked satisfied, one for having caught a couple of trout for the first time, the other for not letting him down. This “Black Friday” would not be remembered for the purchase of a flat screen TV, but rather the day spent in avoidance. A day where the best deal to be had was miles up a canyon road, on a river that flows oblivious to the lights of a city and a “buy one get one free” special.
“Do we have time for a beer?” Jamie asked, “I’m buying”.
…Maybe it’s two for one’s?
Author - Sean Sanders lives and fishes in the Front Range of Colorado, trying to find balance between life as a husband, caregiver to two crazy bulldogs, and the daily grind of selling copiers. And while not on the water, he is busy trying to justify his fly fishing obsession on his blog Up the Poudre (www.upthepoudre.com).