Snow Rhapsody on the Stream

South Fork of the Rio Grande

The river was clear and smoothly fast in the early morning.
Down about two hundred yards were three logs all the way across the stream. They made the water smooth and deep above them. As Nick watched, a mink crossed the river on the logs and went into the swamp. Nick was excited. He was excited by the early morning and the river.

Ernest Hemingway, “The Big Two-Hearted River”

Riverbend Resort has been my favorite Colorado haunt since our friends the Darrs introduced us to this place twenty years ago. The South Fork of the Rio Grande cuts through the resort, and I decided to rent a tent spot for $30 so I could fish on this private stretch of water that I have come to know so well.

With temperatures hovering at 34 degrees and the one-foot snowfall thawing enough to make trudging through the meadows easier, I pulled on sufficient winter gear to enter the stream and not suffer chills with the icy winds coming down the gorge.

Rhapsody in the Stream

After working the waters for nearly two hours, I only encountered a small brown trout for five seconds before he shook free of the fly. Copper Johns have always been the trouts’ nymph of choice, and I was advised that they were still doing the trick this time of year in these parts. But I was having near-zero luck this time.

Nevertheless, the waters were beautiful as was the fallen snow all around, and I felt a serenity I always cherish when wading a mountain stream. The solitude was rich; I only enountered one other fly fisherman who hailed me from the shore as he was trudging back to his cabin, having caught only one small rainbow. Temperatures continued to hold steady in the mid-thirties, but I felt no discomfort. In the third hour, I finally reached my favorite hole–an enormous shelf of rock the size of a pickup truck slanting into the water, the darkness beneath making my pulse quicken.

My first cast into the shadow of the rock was greeted by a fourteen-inch rainbow whose aerobatics entertained me for about half a minute. By the time I had him within three feet of my net, he broke free and was gone. Still, watching his antics sent thrills throughout my being, and I knew there had to be more action where that originated.

After missing another trio of strikes near the rock, I finally hooked and netted a small brown and took a moment to admire the beautiful bronzes, golds and scarlets that played along his flank as he lay on the rocks. I wasn’t fishing for food today, and was glad to see him dart into the depths once I released him.

All at once the heavens opened and the air was filled with enormous snow flakes. This is the first time I ever stood in the midst of a mountain stream with a snow shower falling all over me and plopping all over the stream. I’ve been surprised before by sudden thunderstorms, always exiting the waters as quickly as possible, but this was different–the enormous flakes fell hard and thick all around me, and the sight was gorgeous. I wanted to take out my phone and shoot pictures, but the waters suddenly rippled in several areas at once as the trout were rising with a vengeance. Because I was using a nymph, I held little hope of landing any of these surface feeders, but I suddenly saw a good-sized brown rolling in the water just underneath the lip of that enormous rock outcropping. I dropped the nymph upstream and watched the grasshopper I used as a strike indicator drift along the shadow of the rock. Suddenly the hopper was gone and I saw the bright flash of gold beneath the surface. A minute later, he was in the net, all fourteen inches of him.

After a quick photo I lowered him back into the water and he was off like a shot. All I could think of was the Hemingway short story (a portion posted above) that I’ve loved since high school. And I laughed at recalling the prosaic line “Nick was happy.” That’s all I could say. Dave was happy. And exhausted. As I turned to leave the stream, grateful for such a day and thinking nothing better could possibly happen, a bird suddenly visited me. He landed on my fly rod and remained perched there. After a few frozen moments of our staring at one another, I reached into my pouch, fished out my phone, flipped to the camera mode, aimed, and caught his picture. He stayed another thirty seconds before deciding to move on. I couldn’t believe it: a bird suddenly perching on my flyrod as I waded toward shore. And staying awhile as I stood still, holding the rod as steady as possible.

Bird on the Flyrod

Two summers ago, while here at Riverbend Resort, I was watercoloring on the porch of my cabin and was visited by a bird who perched on the painting I was working on en plein air. He also remained to be photographed for warm memories. My friends laughed at the encounter, calling me Saint Francis.

Bird on the Painting

In the morning we continue our Odyssey as we venture into Utah. Thanks for reading. This has been a heart-warming day for me.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

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2 Responses to “Snow Rhapsody on the Stream”

  1. Cheryl Rose Says:

    It’s amazing to see your world through your eyes. As always, your writing holds me spellbound. I must admit that I said to myself that your toes had to be freezing out there fishing in the snowy weather. Who does that? My gifted friend David and he loves it.

    Like

    • davidtripp Says:

      Cheryl, you always post such kind words! Actually, I had the right gear for what I was doing, so I didn’t experience cold conditions at all (except getting my hands wet, pulling trout out of the water!).

      Like

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