It’s just that sometimes it looks a lot different.
I fished the Yampa tailwater below Stagecoach reservoir this weekend without Tim, just south of Steamboat Springs, and it was the biggest I’ve ever seen it. The water below the dam averages 80-100 cfs most of the year except for a brief period every spring where they let it loose so that the reservoir doesn’t overflow. In the above picture, not only is the bottom release CRANKING out water at a scary rate, that’s also more water coming over the spillway than I’ve ever seen. I’d guess the flows were at least 600 cfs, but there’s no way to know for sure since the measuring station has been down for weeks.
This year is the biggest runoff year in the ten years I’ve lived in Colorado. Rivers are still hundreds to thousands of cubic feet per second above averages, and while they remain playgrounds for rafters and kayakers, fishermen stare wistfully from their cars and continue to tell themselves things like “Well, at least it’s good for the health of the river.” Throw in a wet start to the summer, with torrential afternoon rains at least once or twice a week, and rivers likely won’t be down to average flows until August.
But, I digress, as that’s not really what this post is about. This post is about home waters.
My wife and I lived in Steamboat from 2004 until October of last year. In July of 2005, my new friend, Bruce, a passionate and accomplished fly fisher, took me to the Fish Creek hole in town, put me right in the middle of it, had me tie on a #12 orange stimulator, and offered tips as I began casting. I had dabbled a little for several years, so my line management wasn’t terrible – in other words, I could get a dry fly out there and get a decent dead drift through an uncomplicated current. Half an hour into our outing, an 18 inch brown ate my fly at the top of the run (where I’ve since only ever caught whitefish), and Bruce netted the fish for me.
And that was it – I was a goner.
From that point on, fly fishing has been my singular greatest personal passion. Sometimes all it takes is a big eat from a big fish on a big dry fly, and your life is never the same again.
So the Yampa is my home water, and that is certainly a pleasing phrase that I love to utter.
While our home waters may not always be where we learned to fly fish, or where we fly fished first, our home waters are always where we became most intimate with this pursuit and all its varied nuances. Our home waters are imprinted in our brain the same way most of us could probably trace the lines on our palms without looking at our hands; the same way you know the laugh lines around your wife’s mouth, or the bemused wrinkles on your husband’s forehead. I know that might strike some as overly sentimental, but, really, shouldn’t we take every opportunity to romanticize rivers? If everyone did more of it, not just fly fishermen, would things like the Yellowstone oil spill happen with such disturbing frequency?
While fishing new water is challenging, and, in me at least, produces a giddy anticipation in the days leading up to it, nothing really beats sliding into the current of your favorite trout stream…
tying on a fly…
and, with a little luck and just enough skill…
bringing a fish to hand.
(Sincere apologies for the images – Tim is our photographer, a fine one at that, and all I had was my iPhone)