Mishaps and days where you think nothing else can go wrong…. These are the days that we call paying dues and this trip just happened to be one of those trips, one of those days. Dues that were paid in full, dues that make you want to yell at the top of your lungs and curse fishing yet keep you coming back all at the same time. I sit back and sigh as I write this, yet with a smile because all is well that ends well! It seems that days like that make for the best fishing stories anyway!
This fishing story starts a few years ago when a close friend had got the word from an old timer about an untouched lake system. He explained that the lakes once had a trail that was marked on maps that led right to them but had later been removed because the end of the trail was no more than a goat trail that had withered over the years. People no longer used the trail because it was too dangerous. It had since been forgotten and didn’t appear on any present day maps. Our little group of friends talked it over and decided to go fish the area for 3 days. This is where the toll began.
As we headed to our destination I thought, I should have my camera out just in case. Laziness got the better of me – not wanting to unpack my camera from the bottom of a pile of packs and gear. “Slow down!” I yelled. Our driver applied brake pressure as a grizzly casually stepped on to the road, it looked at us and strolled off the side of the road. I began frantically ripping through the mound of packs and bags to find my camera and scrambling to get a picture of an amazing creature. Just as I stepped out of the car, camera in hand, the grizzly disappeared in the bushes. Ahhh crap!!!We arrived at the “trail head” and grabbed our bags, in my excitement to start our adventure I forgot to double check my bag and ended up leaving all my fly boxes in the car! Bumming flies off friends all day gets annoying, trust me, I know! So is trudging through mud, crossing sketchy goat trails that are the width of your shoe with 300 foot cliffs below and hiking for miles, worth it for a few fish??? We thought so. After a scenic and sweaty hike with a bunch of gear on our backs we arrived at “the cliff”. This is probably the sketchiest trails I’d ever seen. The trail extends out along a ledge of an exposed face and along most places, a fall would mean certain death. Ted and I decided we would go first and bring the gear across and scope out the trail. The ledge extended about 250 feet and we wandered out on the ledge to make sure it would be ok for the others to cross. We made it to the end and headed back explaining that there were a few small gaps in the ledge were the rock had withered away completely and you had to step over for safe(r) footing. We talked it over and the other 2 people in our group didn’t feel comfortable crossing once they saw how narrow the ledge was (most of the 250 feet the trail was little more than 6 inches wide), so we turned back. We would have to settle for Plan B.
We all felt frustrated but didn’t want to push anyone into something they were not a 100% comfortable doing. Playing it safe was the only real option although we were only moments away from an untouched fishing utopia. This was just one of the dues to be payed. More dues? On top of everything that had already happened, you know you’re having a good day when after landing a good fish you pull your line out to start casting again only to your my 5wt snap in half. Haha, at least you had a spare right?! Too bad you forgot to bring the reel to match the 6wt you’d be relying on as a spare! So you re-rig and continue fishing borrowed flies only to hook a stray log. And instead of your tippet breaking – your fly line snaps! Double the points on that one. Realizing your jacked-up taper on your 5wt line doesn’t cast so well on a stiff 6wt in the wind that just picked up continues to make your day interesting. Could it get any worse? Yep. Next highlight was snagging bottom and watching a TANK brookie circle your fly and literally chew on yet being unable to set the hook. You also saw another bear posing perfectly broadside while having its picture taken only to later find out they all turned out blurry! Yeah these are the dues that I spoke of that make you laugh because if you don’t you might throw your gear into the lake! I laugh now because I am not in the middle of a mud field sunk to my knees with a few hundred feet in front of me. Happy because if it were always easy, always good, it would be boring. Paying the dues are what makes catching a big fish rewarding. Paying the dues are what keeps you coming back because you have something vested in your pursuit. Something that builds passion and makes it an adventure. I guess the dues are one of the reasons I fly fish! After all, these are some of the fishing stories I’ll enjoy looking back on the most!