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When the fish are biting

click to enlarge The rare and elusive Tosches Wifecicle.
  • The rare and elusive Tosches Wifecicle.

I am, today, awash in a sense of peace, love and wonder for Earth and all the people who inhabit it. A day of fly-fishing does that to a person, bathing him in a gentleness and filling the soul with a feeling of kindness, tolerance and compassion.

That said, you might be interested to know that fly-fishing is the fastest-growing sport in America -- if you don't count soccer, which I don't because it's a stupid game favored by foreigners and kids who can't hit a baseball.

Anyway, my lovely wife, Susie, and I decided last week that Sunday would be a day for ourselves, a day to break free from the daily grind of caring for kids and being the mature, responsible adults that we are.

As added incentive, I told her that if we didn't go fishing I was going to spend Sunday the same way I spent Saturday -- lying on the couch, watching The Simpsons marathon on TV and rising occasionally to lurch into the backyard to blow up soda cans with big firecrackers.

So we awoke early for our big day, the anticipation of an adventure into the mountains in pursuit of the wily trout clearly reflected in Susie's face as she lifted her head from the pillow and said, in a soft voice filled with joy, "It's 6 o'clock in the morning on a Sunday, you thoughtless bastard!!!"

Soon, after I had successfully ducked three shoes, a book and our heavy alarm clock that Susie had jokingly whipped toward my head with all her might, we were in the SUV heading into the mountains. We blasted through Woodland Park (town motto: "Coming Soon -- Wal-Mart!") and the town of Divide ("Coming Soon -- Plumbing").

Howling with joy

Adding to the excitement was a late-season snowstorm, which covered Highway 24 in ice and made driving quite exciting. I skidded into a guardrail 14 times, each incident funnier than the one before as Susie howled with what I assume was joy.

In a little less than two hours we reached Spinney Mountain Reservoir, a breathtaking place near the town of Hartsel ("Gateway to Frostbite"). The reservoir serves as the drinking water supply for the city of Aurora via a complex 90-mile pipeline system -- a thought that made me marvel at man's ingenuity as I returned to the truck from the water's edge and zipped my fly back up.

Moments later we were rigging up our fly-fishing rods and stepping into the rubber waders that would allow us to stand in frigid water up to our behinds hour after hour as the fierce wind drove the snow up our noses.

"God, it's great to be alive!" Susie bellowed, although the wind was really howling and it's possible what she said was, "I'd like to hold your head under the water until you go limp."

A park ranger stopped by just then, rolled down her window and -- I am not kidding -- said this: "Are you really going out there? Be careful. The wind-chill factor is eight below zero!"

Susie had ducked back inside our vehicle to warm up as the ranger had approached, then stepped back out as the park official drove off.

"What'd she say?" Susie asked.

"She said the trout are really biting," I replied, paraphrasing the ranger's words.

The size of a pea

Dressed in heavy jackets, wool hats and gloves, we waded out into the water and began casting. The fly of choice this day would be a brown streamer tied with rabbit fur and peacock feathers, a fly that, when bumped slowly along the bottom, resembles rabbit fur and peacock feathers with a hook in them.

Trout, however, have brains roughly the size of a pea and believe these flies are crayfish and try to eat them. This tells you that creating artificial fishing flies is a real art form -- and also tells you that the average trout could easily serve as a Colorado Springs City Council member.

I taught Susie how to fly-fish a few years ago, hoping she'd embrace the sport as I have since my childhood and that we could share those magical moments when City Councilman Larry Small rises to the fly, opens his mouth, feels the tug of the line and tries to escape by running out into traffic.

Soon a big rainbow trout inhaled Susie's fly and she brought it expertly to the net -- a fat, 18-inch trout that fought valiantly but eventually succumbed to the pressure of the fly rod. I helped her unhook the magnificent creature and then, as we do with all of the fish we catch from a river or lake, we carefully released it. We watched in contentment then as it swam back into the depths, a majestic creature now with a sore lip and psychological scars that would haunt it for the rest of its life.

We caught about a dozen big trout on that blustery day, and with the release of each of them I felt a bit of sadness for the fish.

But then, amid the swirling snow and the beauty of the Rocky Mountains, I'd smile and remember the one, single truth that permeates this sport called fly-fishing: Their lips might hurt for a while, but at least the poor dumb fish don't have to play soccer like those odd English kids.

-- richt@csindy.com

Listen to Rich Tosches Thursday mornings on the "Coffee and Alisha Show" on KVUU-FM, 99.9.

  • When the fish are biting

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