As the saying goes, “It’s not about the fish”. Well, I’m not sure if I believe that sometimes. It doesn’t always quell the feelings of failure when you battle a fish for five minutes only to end up losing it. This was the case Sunday on the Arkansas River, a place I’ve lost too many large fish this year. You’d think I would somehow figure out to be extremely careful with some of these fish.
It’s still a bit cold in the mornings in southern Colorado. It’s been nice to have the extra two hours of sleep before packing up the car and heading out. That will soon end as we move into the next weekend of 70 degree highs in Colorado Springs. I use the temperatures here to approximate what they may be in the mountains and down on the Arkansas River. Generally the rule of thumb is ten degrees colder west on the South Platte River and ten degrees warmer south on the Arkansas River. Of course, you can’t always count on the weather in the Rocky Mountains. Heck, we’ve got snow forecasted this evening into tomorrow, then right back in the high sixties.
Now to get to the point of this post. I had flashbacks to the Frostbite Fish Off earlier this year, where I had lost five fish in a row that were all 18″ and larger. A few never surfaced, but the fights were borderline epic. I’ve gotten better on the Arkansas River in a few holes that I know are tricky when the fish like to run around rocks and branches… That leads to a whole lot of proverbial heartburn. It’s one of the difficult mental things in fly fishing to deal with in my own opinion. A few minutes to a full ten minutes of an fish violently shaking its head and a constant dive and surface routine. What can make it worse is when you can get the fish up in the water column and see its size. This is exactly what I dealt with yesterday while fishing the Arkansas River with Charlotte.
Mid-afternoon. Six rainbows to net (six suckers as well, which I never count). I’ll interject that Charlotte did beat me again by netting seven total. I’d rather not touch that point right now. Total heartbreak at the end of our time fishing.
After fishing a deep pool for an hour and breaking off a few fish and managing to get some 10″ to 12″ fish, I saw a large rainbow hanging in the shallows just before the steep drop off to the hole I was in. Knowing that we were packing it in soon, I adjusted my weight on my three fly rig. I had an assortment of split shot to get it deep down in the hole, which wasn’t conducive to the 6″ deep water leading to the large bounds before the drop off. Sneaking up from behind, I put out five or six casts with no strike. I paused, flicked out the midges, and BOOM! That fish headed right where I didn’t want. Right back down the boulders into the deep pool. The fight went on for five minutes. The monster rainbow did quite a few dives deeper to the bottom. I’ll admit, I played him all wrong. In the interest of not wanting to lose this fish, I was pulling way too hard. I got him to the surface a few times, the last being eight feet in front of me. He was huge. Twenty-four plus inches. A “fish of the month” candidate, front row parking spot and everything. Heart racing, wrist under duress. All it took was a second for the hook to slip out of his jaw. Curse words ensued.
I sat on one of the boulders towards shore to reflect, in anger, that I had essentially screwed myself by being too aggressive. Right there! Right in front of me! Charlotte sat near me and reminded me what I always tell her when she has a rough go of it, “it’s not about the fish, look around, it’s beautiful here”. Good to know I have instilled that mantra in her, otherwise I may have cried at the fish I had just lost.