It was a day like many before.
Sunny — idyllic even, if your temperament flows that way.
We were used to both on this famous Western river – the “we” being my longtime fly-fishing compadre and friend, Brett Smith, and I.
The incident I’m recounting happens occasionally to pretty much all fly fishers, and Brett and I were much younger at the time.
Both of us tied our own flies, and Brett tied flies at his house as he waited for me to pick him up and drive to our fly-fishing outing.
He tied about a half-dozen flies: a Brassie-looking fly with a Partridge hackle throat, a bit of antron for a “bubble” and your basic Hare’s Ear dubbing for the thorax – about a size 14.
Nothing too fancy, but his hunches for tying, well, they are usually spot-on. Do you know anybody like that?
He shared a few of these flies with me, and they worked well. (The fly would be named the “Envious Crowder” for events that unfolded later in the day.)
At that time in our lives, we espoused thoughts on fly-fishing with a youthful passion fueled by fly-fishing adventures squeezed into our “regular lives” – you know, when you work full time and are starting and raising a family.
Those were times when going fly-fishing meant leaving at 5 a.m. and getting home at 9 or 10 at night – on a weekend, of course.
Fly-fishing then was an obsession, and I don’t think it’s changed much over the years.
But back to the sun, warmth and a crowded river.
We hiked down the river (owning or renting a boat was beyond our means then).
We found a place that was not the best for fish-catching, but we had about a quarter-mile of the river to ourselves.
Numerous boats with fly anglers floated by through the day, and happily no one stopped to fish near us.
In its essence, fly-fishing is a personal pursuit. Isn’t it?
Well, it just happened that Brett and I (we were at least 100 yards from each other) caught a trout at the same time.
You fly anglers know, “a double.”
Just as we did, a raft with three older gents floated by, and upon seeing us with bent rods and fighting fish, it back-rowed and beached between us.
I was stunned.
Brett was down river from me, but these three gents split us – one above me, one in the middle of us, and one below Brett.
We were, to say the least, amazed by this.
“Those guys should know river etiquette,” we later said to each other
Well, we didn’t say anything at the time – at least out loud — but inside we were heatedly discussing our new fishing friends.
The arrival of the raft just intensified our efforts to catch fish, which we did, much to the seeming dismay of our recent river mates, who were not catching fish.
I looked down the river as Brett was reeling in a jumping trout. He let the fish pull out enough line and lifted his rod just as the trout cleared the water’s surface a foot or so from the elderly gent who was fishing below him.
I yelled to Brett, “What are you using?”
“The Envious Crowder,” was his response.
In just a few minutes, the three gents reeled up, got back in their raft, and floated away.