Saturday, May 3, 2014

Leroy's Army and the Carolina Four

Fresh snow on two fourteeners.  Shavano to the left and Antero to the right.

If anyone looked in my car on Sunday, April 25 they would have found a slim suit, a box of My Little Ponies, two whips, notes for a wedding ceremony, a few copies of The Drake, Old Testament commentaries, overalls, and a small arsenal of fly fishing gear. I even think I'm weird with that laundry list of randomness. "My life be like ewww-ahhh." When they weighed my bag at the ticket counter of the airport, it was three pounds overweight. I stuffed my waders in my computer bag and carried my wading boots by hand through the airport and connecting flights.  As I walked amongst the kaleidoscope of humanity that noisley fills the terminals of our nations airports, I could still hear bad, bad, Leroy Brown softly beckoning me 1600 miles away.

A continuing education class on the Old Testament lead me to the banks of the Arkansas near Buena Vista, Colorado. It was in this very class that I learned the true nature of the Song of Songs. It turns out it's not about fishing.  The Hebrew poetry is actually about intimate human love.  Who knew? All this time I thought it was scripture concerning the Beloved trout and the ever pursuant Lover, A.K.A. the fly angler. As I was educated throughout the week, my fishing hopes rested in a class-free Wednesday afternoon we had been afforded off.

Braden works at ArkAnglers in BV. He's a heck of a guy. He helped me understand the bi-polar formula of the Arkansas river in Spring through my countless pre-trip phone calls to the shop.  It's a formula of run-off, plus snowpack, minus sunlight, divided by fly choice, multiplied by the square root of caddis larva, over fluorocarbon tippet squared.  Pretty straight forward stuff really.  After we arrived, Braden proved to be even more flippin' awesome than previously expected. He pointed us 1,000 vertical feet down stream for our Wednesday afternoon assault, hoping for warmer water and blue winged olives to boot.

As we pulled off the highway and parked riverside, we looked fiercely intimidating. If birds could talk, and fish spoke fowl, the ravens would have cried out to the trout "Swim, swim for your lives!," as soon as our tires touched stream side gravel. Nothing is more intimidating than four men ridin' dirty in a mini-van and a Hyundai Senata.  That's Mad Max kind of scary.  A modern day cast of the 3 Amigos scrambled down the bank of the river with a firm grip on the cork, and the realization that this version of the 3 Amigo's had a fourth.  Eric, Matt, Brian, and myself. The Carolina 4. Famous no where. Feared by rental cars everywhere.

The water was up three times what is desired and a little stained. The plan was to focus on the seams of the soft water and stay close to the banks with a cocktail of golden stones and mayfly nymphs to start. Lines hit water, indicators bounced, and soon the turbulent Ark rendered up some of the wild browns she is infamous for.  The fishing was never lights out, but it felt like fishing. Real fishing.  Not the repeatedly-casting-over-educated-tail-water-trout, or the trying-to-figure-out-where-they-put-the-last-truck-load-of-stockers, kind of fishing. Rather, it was the working-fishy-looking-water-and-feeding-wild-trout-imitations-of-not-so-tiny-aquatic-bugs kind of fishing. Every cast felt as if it could produce a fish, and the anticipation of an over 20 inch brown never seemed far from the realm of possibility. Real. Wild. Trout. All of this in a setting fit for epic adventure and beauty...or the set of the 4 Amigos. The two settings are synonymous really.

Leroy has saucers for pec fins
The fishing didn't come easy, and that was part of what made it feel so right.  The BWO's never blanketed the water, and I nary saw a rise all afternoon.  The stomachs I pumped showed a small variety of midges, caddis, and mayfly nymphs, and confirmed that fish weren't gorging themselves on BWO emergers. Or gorging on anything for that matter. Sadly, we did have to call in a search party after fishing. The search party was for my phone. Found it. #merica

A short drive to K's produced a greasy burger to-go before another class on the Kitubim wisdom literature. My belly was full on burger, and my mind was content knowing we could have filled our bellies on trout that night if we needed the sustenance. The 4 Amigo's practice catch-and -release... for the most part.  Ole!

hashtag no filter
A free stone stream, a nymph box, and a little Blue Winged Olive


Sunrise over an elk herd

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