This article was originally published in August 2012.
by Susan Crudgington
Before I went on my summer vacation this year, I had to go to school. And practice for hundreds of hours. I couldn’t go and embarrass the man I’d been waiting to fish with for decades.
My uncle, Rupert, will be 90 in November. He’s been fly fishing since he was a little boy, and he’s fished in every fabulous spot you could name. I’ve wanted to fish with him since the first time I heard him tell about flying into some gorgeous wilderness, standing in a clear stream and hearing nothing but birds and rushing water.
It took me until two years ago to clear the decks and decide to take up this difficult sport. I went to an Orvis fly fishing school for two days. That was fun, but there was so much more I needed to learn, as you can see in this video:
So last summer, my daughter and I went to a women’s fly fishing school for five days. We were the only two women and had a super time. And we caught fish! Let me just say that it is, indeed, delightful to stand in a crystal clear stream, hearing the sound of rushing water. Casting for 8 hours and not catching anything does wear thin. BUT, to catch a fish! Wow! That fuels one for days.
I continued to hone my skills. I’ve practiced casting in the front yard, the back yard, the neighborhood parks, swimming pools and ponds. We fished locally this spring. Finally I figured I was as ready as I’d likely be in this lifetime.
So this July, Rupert, our cousin Joan (aged 83), her son Mike and I all arrived at a ranch that sits on the border of Colorado and Wyoming to go fishing. Rupert and Joan have fished every summer for 40 years. Mike and I were the newcomers.
This ranch is 200,000 acres, and three tributaries of the Little Snake River flow through it. It’s as beautiful a spot as any in “A River Runs Through It.” On my first day out, I saw a pair of Sandhill cranes, a fox and three elk. Every morning, very early, the elk come down from the hills to feed and bellow. Being on an East Coast time table, I was always up to hear them sounding like a berserk orchestra. Beyond the few ranch buildings, there is not one man-made mark on the land for as far as the eye can see.
The streams last year were so high that entire areas of the ranch were flooded. This year, with so little winter snowfall and record temperatures this spring and summer, the water is very low. Because of the drought, we were only able to fish until 1pm every day (my arm was grateful), to allow the fish respite in the heat of the day. We had to drag Joan off the water every day.
We’d arrive back at the lodge in time for lunch and tons of fishing tales. I could have spent the rest of the day, listening to Rupert and Joan tell their stories. But, there was more to do! We went mountain biking and horseback riding (the first time in 25 years; VERY sore the next day). My fishing guide took me on a three-hour wildlife tour one day. We drove all over the ranch, never seeing another soul, but lots of elk, deer, hawks, gorgeous wild flowers and butterflies – and a big lumbering badger. We stopped to inspect the abandoned cabins of homesteaders from the 1880s, whose modern-day families still lived just 20 miles away.
And the fish! Even a fisherman such as I could catch fish. I caught rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout. Tons of them. Of course, they all went back to be caught another day. I surely hope it’s by me!