A Salute To 2009

As the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder, a fisherman’s mind turns from the river to contemplating a crackling hearth, family time and the anticipation of two feet of fresh powder at Monarch. To be sure, there is still some great fishing to be had before we usher in 2010, but fall is the season to reflect both on the immediate past, and also the great circle of time that rolls on, ultimately impervious to our tales ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’, if I may paraphrase the Great Bard.

For this fisherman, the past year has been a banner one on the Arkansas and surrounding waters. Many are the highlights. Easily topping the list was watching my elder daughter land her first river fish from the boat as we floated through town on her tenth birthday. Following close behind is getting snowed and hailed on as I managed to land my first fish on a particular high lake after three years of trying – I say this even though it was tail hooked. I am not a purist, I’ll take ’em any way I can get ’em. The there was the perfect day spent on Antero Reservoir in South Park, catching big fish with nary a breath of wind to ruffle the feathers all day. [How many times can you say that happens in South Park? ]. And so this video is largely a salute to the best of the year.

Against this backdrop has been the Arkansas itself, confirming its status as one of the West’s finest dry fly rivers. Things got off to a great start this spring, where a closer to average snowpack meant there was no nervous desk jockey at the Bureau of Reclamation messing with the water levels. The resulting steady flows and water temperatures meant a great caddis hatch, unlike last year, when wild fluctuations prevented the bugs from hatching consistently.

After runoff, the summertime dry fly action was excellent. Hoppers, caddis, pale morning duns and stoneflies were all prolific, and the fish made pigs of themselves as they should. The yellow sallies and pmds in particular seem to get more and more numerous as the years roll by. Mayflies such as pmds and blue winged olives are the canaries in the coal mine as far as water quality is concerned, so this bodes well for the future of the fishery.

But of all the seasons, fall is my favorite. Fall is the time of the year when we come face to face with our own mortality, and realize that time is inexorably advancing. Much like the days of youth, spring and summer have slipped by at an unbelievable pace. It seems only yesterday buds were blooming, birds were chirping and the grass was greening. Fall completes the cycle, and reminds us that despite our over inflated sense of self importance, we are really still a part of the great cycle of life, death and rebirth.

Far from being depressing, this I find comforting. Fall is a yearly reminder of life’s ephemeral nature, a reminder to not take any time for granted. With the onset of the cooler weather, and the knowledge that cold and snow are on their way, comes gratitude for a warm safe house and a well stocked larder to see it through- not to mention the prospect of those vintage powder days at Monarch where you collect a covering of snow riding the lift to the top of the run and the trees materialize from the mist as you drop in and ride the clouds back to the bottom.

A few days ago, I was fishing a beautiful stream far up in the La Garita Wilderness area. Already, with the sun arcing lower in the sky, ice had formed along the northern banks of the stream in places. Here and there the odd aspen was clinging to the remnants of its foliage and the fish were feeding hard, sensing the limited time available to them to fatten up before winter’s enforced slumber. Two emotions were foremost – a certain melancholy, and also a sense of privilege at being witness to it all.

And so, as another year hastens to its close, there are many reasons to be thankful for the change of season. Just as without pain in life we have no measure for joy, so too does the cold winter give extra reason to value the balmy days of spring and summer. A special thanks to all those who have expressed words of support, encouragement and appreciation for these reports. I for one am looking forward to many more.