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Finding the Familiar

This isn’t a story about sibling rivalry (although that sounds like a good idea for down the road).  This isn’t even a story about fly fishing. This is a story for appreciating what we have, not taking things for granted.

My brother, Phil, is older than me by six years.  When we were kids, we were spinning anglers, headed to the mountains with our dad to Rainbow Falls, Wright’s Reservoir, Elevenmile Reservoir, Tarryall Creek, and along the banks of Deckers and the South Platte.  He could always out-fish me when we were kids.  He followed up just about every cast with his catch phrase: “now, that looks like a fish catching cast.”  I’d get mad, while he got another fish on.

We were both born and raised  Colorado Springs, but as our paths have stretched out over the years, his journey took him to chase small-mouth bass in Virginia and mine circled back to Colorado. His visit to attend his 50th high school reunion gave us the opportunity to go fly fish.  Elevenmile Canyon called our name on Friday the 13th, so our paths came together for a few miles of the South Platte River winding through one of the most beautiful places to fish.

phil and marsha
Phil and his partner, Marsha, pulled on fleece jackets to check the late-summer morning chill.

How many times have I driven the road that parallels the South Platte as it spills out of Elevenmile Reservoir?  I never forget how beautiful it is, yet I am always reminded of just how beautiful it is each and every time I travel it.  Elevenmile Canyon is, as it is for a lot of us, the first classroom where I began to learn the art and science of fly fishing

I’ve had good mentors – Steve Gossage, Jon Easdon, Greg Blessing – and the whole crew at Angler’s Covey.  Their voices swirled in my mind as my brother, his partner, and I stretched out along the run. Greg’s funny comment:  “A lot of beginners stand where they should be fishin’, and fish where they should be standin’.”  Jon’s guidance that it’s better to change up depth and weight before pattern.

I directed Phil to a hole and on his third or fourth cast, he hooked up a nice Rainbow on a Rainbow Warrior. I’ll tell ya – there’s nothing like high-fiving your big brother after the release and the fish darts upstream.

Steve Gossage guided me during the first Trico hatch I experienced several year ago.  Handing me a #22 Trico, he said, “here, tie this on.” Two minutes later, a Trico hatch created a grey cloud above the river.

On this day, as the day warmed, my brother and I were given a few clouds of Trico hatches. I tied a #22 on Phil’s tippet to present to a fish feeding aggressively, rising and falling in almost predictable rhythm next to a large rock submerged about ten feet in front of us.

“You want to get the fly out in front of the line, a fly-first drift, so you have to mend the line. Give the tip of your rod a quick flick upstream just when the fly hits the water.”  Gossage’s words flowed out of my mouth. The fish rose and dropped in a steady rhythm.

Phil got a nice drift (“now, that’s a fish-catching cast”), but the fish rose in the opposite direction, feeding in two different little seams.  Then we got the right drift at the right time.  The fish rose and took the Trico.  Phil set, the fish leaped, shook his head, and was off.

“Oooohhhhhhhhh, damn.”

Can you high-five after a missed strike?  For sure.  We did everything right – fly selection, great drift, good hookset.  He just got himself off the line.

Sometimes we get a fresh look at familiar things: the day we see Elevenmile Canyon through a different lens, and the morning we see our big brother light up with the sight of a rising fish.

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