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Michael Gracie

Fishes and fires

Crouched in the grass by the upper reaches of the South Fork of the Rio Grande, I glanced over my right shoulder at the smoke billowing miles away.

“If we start feeling serious heat on the backs of our necks we will have to high-tail it out of there,” I thought. “If it gets hairy, fast, we might even have to swim.” But the fire was distant, and my inclination was to catch that which is wild, not allow my imagination to run the uncivilized route.

The trouts were the spookiest I’d seen in a long, long while; staying low was a necessity. Combined with wind charging down the right ear, it seemed a most excellent problem to solve.

fish and fire

The skittish rainbow ate the fly, I snapped the pic, and the fish darted away. A simplistic scenario, and yet now morphing surreal as the very spot where the event took place could very well end up engulfed in flames.

In retrospect, I internally debate whether the fish I stalked that afternoon knew something ominous was headed their direction, hence their hyper-tentativeness. I’d like to think nature works that way, providing fair warning that can be interpreted by those in its realm. At minimum I hope those fish are intelligent, prepared, enlightened, conscious adversaries, or the angling puzzle is just not as challenging as I aspire it to be.

MG signing off (because life finds a way, that much is certain)

The Solitary Adams

It was a fitting conclusion to a mind bending three days of floating the Rio Grande with the Duranglers / Trout’s crew. Salmonflies, browns and goldens, caddis, BWOs, and even a few grey drakes were true to form, fluttering with reckless abandon and then crashing to the water’s surface. Pteronarcys californica in particular flew high and mighty, and in numbers the guide staff said they hadn’t seen in a decade. Propagation of the species.

YOURS TRULY: John, what’s your thought on a fly for me today?

JOHN FLICK: Parachute Adams

YOURS TRULY: Size 10?

JOHN FLICK: Don’t be silly Michael. Everyone knows these fish will only eat a 12. I’ll forgive you this once because I know how many bourbons you had last night.

size12parachuteadams

Paired with a bonafide stick in Mark Zandell, proprietor of Tilden On Speer, I kicked my feet up and put the solitary adams to work. It skittered and skated, and moved too many fishes to bother keeping count. I put a new one on after the previous went Titanic, opening and closing the day with nary a smidgen of second guessing the choice. At the take-out one of the compadres asked me if I found using that one fly all day long boring. A short of it flying sixty feet, landing directly in front of a feeding brown, and getting pummeled flashed before my eyes. Anything but.

The Rio Grande system near its headwaters teems with an astounding variety of life. And with exception for the trouts that make it though the winter months’ low, icy flows, it is entirely short-lived; the bugs hatch, spawn, then die, and the river is only row-able for a couple of months a year. To the contrary, the parachute adams is deceptively simple.

And yet eternal. Much like memories of the days just past.

MG signing off (because not all good things must come to an end)