There was an inordinate amount of chatter last week about the subject of “winning,” at the Adrift™ worldwide headquarters. To most practitioners of the angling arts, winning is measured in inches and pounds. To the youngest inhabitants of my domicile, winning was measured in red, white and blue. It’s the time of year that we look  for macroinvertebrates to pop like a hot batch of kettle corn, but more importantly, it’s track and field day at elementary schools far and wide. My clan has a spotty track record in this event at best. If memory serves I pocketed a coveted third place ribbon one or two times, but little more. For the record,  I am a sports fan, but like most of us I’ve been blessed with an average athletic skill set. I was an okay soccer player in my day, dabbled as a point guard, and still trudge around the ice touting my corn-powered hockey game from time to time. I had the misfortune of being born 3 months premature. From an efficiency standpoint, I like to say, what took you 9 months I managed in 6. Unfortunately this meant I started out as a beefy 3 pound baby boy and never really caught up until I was 17 years old, topping out at 6’1″ and being tabbed a “late bloomer.” While my dreams of quarterbacking the Dallas Cowboys may have been dashed early in my flag football career, the truth of the matter is that I’ve always been drawn to more individual pursuits. Skateboards, bikes, skis, snowboards, and the fishing rod has always been my vice. I put ten times more effort into my design work and things like “bump skiing” than I ever did at team sports. For people like me, the insurance policy for track and field day is the infamous green “participation” ribbon. It insures that every kid can leave with his or her coddled ego in tact. There was a handful of preparatory conversations with my kids that generally revolved around the concept of, “win or lose, it’s okay, let’s just have fun.” You know a canned “Olympic Spirit” sort of speech.

 

 

What the hell does all this “dear diary” have to do with fishing anyway? We’ll get to that soon enough since I’ve found some time to fling the feathers over the last few weeks. I must confess that after I racked up a good “numbers day” chasing Brookies I figured I’d tempt fate and poke around on some lower numbers turf. I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d find on this stream, since I don’t recall fishing it in late May, but I assumed there may be some level of caddis activity. The minute I dipped my toes into the drink, the caddis were readily available, but there was no evidence of rising trout. I strung up a Shirley Temple with the notion that I’d dupe a wily Brook Trout into my clutches. I casually flipped it into the first good set of logjams and was met with a solid take. To my dismay, it wasn’t a stout Brook Trout at all, but a garden variety Brown that was doing the damage. Not what I was after, but it felt good to be on the board. I worked my way up to the first deep corner bend, practically drooling over the promise of this pool. I fired off a few casts with nothing to show for my effort. A quick sidearm cast to the heart of the run did the trick, as another fish had taken the bait. After a brief tussle I scooped up my second respectable, but still not photo worthy Brown. I was in search of Brookies, but clearly a trend had begun. Over the next hour I managed a few more Browns, and only had one good looking Brookie take a swing and miss. My self-diagnosed A.D.D. kicked into high gear, as I mentally prepared for the switch to Plan B.

 

 

I made the drive to my second destination with the Lewis and Clark factor in full effect. While Plan A hadn’t gone to plan at all, I didn’t let that rain on my parade. Visions of sugar plum fairies still danced in my head, and I was dead set on righting the ship. What transpired next was somewhat unexpected. It was one of the most grueling treks in recent memory. Apparently the massive snowstorm that blasted the region earlier this month downed many new trees into the stream. The exploration of this creek was borderline insanity, though I found that I couldn’t turn back. There were just too many brushy deep pools that I knew must hold bruisers, but there was a catch. I’d only seen a few smaller fish with only one bite, to show for my efforts. Did this creek hold the holy grail? Who knows? About an mile into the journey I finally had a good take by stripping a Strawberry Twizzlers downstream. Not a classic presentation to say the least, but the fish missed the fly anyway. I took a few steps upstream so I could get a better angle and put my offering back into the run. Like a dog in heat, a second and much more sizable fish stepped into the batter’s box, only to miss my fly as well. Fuck. Third time’s a charm, right? Wrong. On my third cast, the smaller fish grabbed hold and didn’t let go. A shabby-looking little char with a mysterious injury wasn’t much of a consolation prize considering what had just transpired. At this point in the season I feel like a broken record, words like “viscosity” or phrases like, “the big one that got away” just don’t cut it in the excuse department. After another hour of exploration I came to grips with my failure. This creek is a really low numbers affair. I can personally attest to only about 10 trout per mile, but no more. I didn’t even bother photographing much of the day to this point. Most of my time is spent in fishing cruise control, with little mental capacity for things like good blog content. A few blurry shots from a wet lens must serve to tell the tale of what could have been.

 

 

 

The backup plan if things were to go awry was to make a play for some sizable Browns on the way home. A quickie dusk tour of bigger water proved to heal my wounds in short order. Dead drifting Twizzler rigs and a new prototype streamer served to move some good fish, though my batting average/hooking percentage was still consistent with typical slump levels. The flows were heavy from recent rains, though this stream still had good clarity. As I worked my way upstream through some ultra shallow riffles I haphazardly cast my fly while looking upstream to the next good pool, in typical multi-functioning fashion . I was stopped in my tracks by what I can only describe as someone throwing a big chunk of concrete into the water. Only it wasn’t concrete, it was a big dude beginning his evening prowl for a late night snack, and he chose my streamer for his first assault. This riffle had a whitewater vibe to it and looked to be 6-18″ deep. The fish darted to the side then began sort of a dashing, death roll type maneuver that caught me completely off guard and allowed the fish to come unbuttoned about 10 feet away. Let’s just call a spade a spade in this instance and state that the big one did get away. My opinion (however clouded by eager angler embellishments) is that this fish was north of what I call the “Mason Dixon Line.”

Like I said in the beginning of this post, many anglers attribute success of an outing to the exact size of the fish caught, and I am certainly not immune to this disease. I just don’t get hung up on the details with any regularity. For a number of years I didn’t carry a camera or tape measure, and I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t even know what my “personal best” fish exactly was for a number of species. I could make an educated guess, but I didn’t know the answer in microns. Furthermore, I rarely count exactly how many fish I catch. Sure if I only catch single digits of fish I can easily recount the tally, but if I get to ten fish  there’s a good chance I may quit paying attention. This somewhat explains why I rarely recall my experiences in terms of mathematics. I know many use the mythical standard for a big Brown Trout at 20″. Don’t expect me to always produce a statistically accurate report, but I’m trying to get better at reporting results, I get asked size questions all the time. As a means of convenience to the readership I’ll occasionally use the Mason Dixon Line to designate a 20 incher. Heck, I might even set the standard Mason Dixon line of Brook Trout to be 14″.

Back to the task at hand. This shallow riffle assassin straight up rolled me, and was in my opinion, well north of the Mason Dixon Line. I caught some other decent fish, but all were unfortunately south of the Mason Dixon line. Complicated? Perhaps, and thus concludes today’s math assignment.

 

 

My misery continues as I mourn the loss of the latest big one that got away. It almost feels like one big excuse, but the truth is what it is. I don’t really care about the numbers, I just find that big fish are often more exciting than little ones. Why do we think in these terms anyway? I’ve been in a rut lately and I’m solidly bringing home the fateful green “participation” ribbon. Yep that’s right, I’m simply participating, and that’s all that really matters. We can’t all stand at the top of the podium. My children on the other hand, showed me up by bring home a cache of multi-colored track day booty (there’s a joke in there somewhere).

Mrs. Adrift was insistent that we do some spring cleaning this weekend, and I found this vintage picture of my mom cira 198o. It got me thinking about Memorial Day and doing my part to honor those who have served. I’m dutifully awarding my red, white and blue ribbons to those who have lost their lives in service, but I’m reserving the green ones for my mom and dad. I remember fishing this Colorado stream, but my mom wasn’t an angler by any stretch of the imagination. She would drive me anywhere to fish when I was a kid, and usually just sat and read a book. If you look closely she’s holding her new “Sage ONE” upside down on a not-so prime looking run. The shot was clearly was staged by my parents. You wouldn’t be reading this post right now if it wasn’t for their endless support and commitment to showing me the value of truly being outdoors. Take pride in your green ribbons mom and dad, you are my honorable mention.