Last week, I had the good fortune to spend five consecutive days wading, wandering and wondering. Fly fishing is a profound passion for me. As I have written before, "I can't help myself. I love to fish. If I could, I would spend all day, every day fishing." When I am on a river, hours and hours go by where all I think about is catching a fish. Where are they? What are they feeding on? When will they be feeding? Have I got the right fly? Am I presenting it the right way? Hours can go by where I think of nothing but the last fish I caught and they next fish I would like to catch.
However, this post is not about the act of fishing, it is about the places I love to fish. It is a reflection on very special places. Places I love. I have fished throughout Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan. I have wet a line in Idaho, Montana, Washington and Wyoming. . In many of these places, I feel very spiritual. Often, I am awestruck and wide-eyed. I am always deeply respectful and thankful for the opportunity to spend my time in these places. No matter where I fish, the places I love have several things in common.
The first common denominator is the fish. The fish are why I drive, hike, scramble, swim, bum slide, or fly to a body of water. Usually, the places I love to fish are home to trout. Trout and fly fishing go hand in hand. I have caught pike, grayling, whitefish and even suckers on my fly rod. However, it is trout that I love more than anything else. Brookies, browns, cutties, goldens, lakers, rainbows. Each of the these species of trout can be caught on a fly rod and I have wonderful memories that involve each of these fish. They the "raison d'etre" of fishing. A common fisherman's cliche is "It's called fishing, not catching." This is often the mantra of an unsuccessful fisherman, but it does allow me to focus on the act of going fishing.
The second thing these places have in common is geography. Most of these places are surrounded by hills, foothills and mountains. These places are enclosed by forest, usually a mixture of aspen, poplar, spruce, pine, larch, cottonwood and willow. The banks of these creeks, lakes, rivers and streams are strewn with boulders, gravel, pebbles, rocks, sand and silt. The water is cold and usually clear. Every year, these places change. Snowfall, runoff, fire, flooding and storms can all dramatically change them. Things are rarely a carbon copy and every chance I get to visit them brings something new and interesting.
The final attraction is solitude. I don't like to fish alone, but I do like to have my own stretch of river. I don't mind sharing a fishing hole with wildlife. Birds like dippers, loons, mergansers, grebes, geese, pelicans, herons, ducks, plovers, kildeer and sandpipers are common companions. I come across frogs, toads and snakes on a regular basis. Often, I share a large pool with a muskrat, otter or beaver. It is not unusual to spot larger mammals like deer, elk, moose, goats or sheep. I have not come face to face with large carnivores like cougars and bears, but I know that I share these places with them. It is the cougars and bears that make me prefer fishing with a partner.
Most of the water I like to fish is not easy to get to. True, some places are clearly visible from the busiest highways. Some places are within major urban centres. Some places are littered with evidence of mining, exploration and human habitation. In general, though, it takes knowledge, effort and time to get to the places I like to fish. You need to drive gravel roads, hike paths, bushwhack, climb, slide, and follow unmarked intersections to find these places.
These are special places that I share with my family, friends and pets. Many of my very best memories are the result of fishing trips with my kids, my dad and my best friends. I love extolling their virtues. Sorry, but I cannot release names. I will not publicly share directions and locations. I have been shown many special spots and have shared many of my special spots, but I simply can't publish any more information. I won't tell you how to get there, but I'd be more than happy to take you there!