Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mother Natures Wrath, Mother Natures Bounty

At one point during the day it was wishful thinking.  I’d hoped to depart in daylight for my weekend spring drive to the Green River.  With the weather forecast putting some of I-80 under me before darkness engulfed the landscape would have been sensible, but typical of most of my departures I hadn’t even breached my driveway before evenings last light began to fade in the west.  

After stopping for java and gas rocking the in the free world is a traveling necessity, especially at this hour. Randomly “It’s too dark to put my key in my ignition” overcame the sound of rubber on the road as one of Neil’s classics permeated a budding emptiness.  Although the morning’s sun was far from rising over my hood ornament, the song and opening line were more than appropriate.   Thankfully my travels were uneventful and void of ungulates and other four legged wanderers that find springs warm pavement an attraction or often deadly impediment to historical migrations.

Under a star studded sky I threw pad and bag on the ground; a place I’m most comfortable.  Sleep came quickly after a long day at the shop and the ensuing drive.  During the night the wind awoke me on a number of occasions.  At first light, the landscapes alluvial terraces rimmed the eastern horizon their silhouettes dark yet fluid, once shelter for some of the west’s most notable outlaws. Scrub oak, sage, and juniper strained against morning gusts.  While coffee was brewing pink and red hues painted the eastern sky. “Red sky in morning, sailors take warning”.  Note to self.

I met Emmett and our crew of guides along with Geoff, Kat, Jim, and several others on a piece of common ground that’s familiar to all who fish these waters. For those who fish seriously the formality of such gatherings along with the scrambled disconnect that is associated when marrying diverse agendas creates a certain level of anxiety.  It was evident this morning, yet the mood was still very light hearted.  For the first part of the day, we needed light and to sideline our efforts for some kodachrome moments.  After that, all any of us cared about was sticking a few fish.  Actually if the truth be known, that’s all any of us really cared about. 

Below the Bureaus mass of concrete the Green River emerges cool, crystal clear, rich and undeniably one of the west’s more prolific trout streams.  With varying agendas we scramble to launch with any kind of efficiency.  Being the only ones to do so our efforts were more humorous than a distraction the only urgency prompted by the oncoming storm and the loss of good light that was needed for some decent underwater footage we’d hope to get. For the moment the narrow canyon and river lay bathed in sunshine, yet to the west there was growing evidence that any morning pleasantries regarding the weather were eminently temporary.  Eventually anchors were lifted and we were free to pursue what the day would yield, any anxieties quickly washing away.

In the early part of the day dark eddies sheltered sporadic rises the approaching storms violent squalls rarely giving us an opportunity to present a fly. Overhead slivers of deep blue exposed above the narrow sandstone walls were slowly eclipsed as the storm continued to evolve. Later in the day eddies held pods of trout leisurely feeding between gusts on troughs of scum laden with spring’s mutilated midges. We took turns picking them off till our arms gave out from holding our boats against the relentless wind finally driven to move on.

For two days, other than a brief morning reprieve, Mother Nature punished us. At times every fiber from ones body fought to keep boats from being pile driven into the shore.  Columns of water ripped from the currents spiraled upward filling the canyon, On the edges still waters churned in chaos, dried grassed ripped from the surrounding landscape flew adrift in the air, yet it was Mother Nature’s wrath that compressed a sporadic afternoon hatch of Blue Wing Olives attracting the rivers residents to gorge unfettered.

Although we could have had success from the boat, we found opportunities best on foot. With heads bowed when gale force winds ripped through the narrow canyon and across the water one could stand their ground.  Off guard and remaining upright left one stumbling for balance.  Between the gusts left little time to find a target and cast before another rip would send any cast still airborne haplessly off target.  When casts were true and you could find your fly the game was pretty easy, in fact at times too easy.  After a short while rather than cast at random pods of feeding trout we took turns casting at bigger bulging backs and trout with their heads agape as they took in the struggling mayflies.

At the end of the last day as the wind and the storm intensified I left Geoff and Kat culling the herd.   After a spring drive home last year I was a little gun shy about staying longer.  By now rain pitted the surface of stillwaters, drenched our raincoats and pierced our souls when the wind tore into us. All the way down the bank trout continued to rise and temp me, yet acknowledging the intensity of spring storms made me come to the realization that one more trout wasn’t going to make my day.  Staying alive was; a decision that proved quite prudent in the end. 

For a brief moment just past the Clay Basin turnout a few column of sun broke through illuminating portions of expansive vista.  I barely had time to roll down the window for a photo before the moment was lost.  To the north a black wall engulfed the landscape awaiting a reluctant arrival. By the time I reach I-80 the freeway lay obscured under driving sheets of horizontal snow.  I talked to several others who made the same drive somewhat later.  At one point tractor trailers were sliding backwards on Seven Sisters.  It wasn’t quite that bad when I went through, but not much better.   By the time I reached Evanston the pavement was lost to ice and snow.  Although last years drive home from an early season visit to the Green River was far worse, this one definitely rated.

Rounding the corner to Park City the storm finally lay behind me and I could relax and reflect on the past two days. Looking back on the trips I’ve taken this time of year I‘ve had my share of nail biters, none worse than last year.  When snow plows can’t stay on the road you know that life’s going to get interesting.  There were many aspects of this trip that were just that.

To enjoy one of the west’s great rivers in relative solitude is rare these days.  A good storm will give you that most times.  Yet while Mother Nature is dishing out here worst she can simultaneously hand you and unexpected gift.  On this trip we saw her many sides.  By days end all things considered no one was complaining. 


The Complete Dangler said...

You really do have some beautiful rivers,great fishing and natural unspoilt countryside in the States, and like you say

"Yet while Mother Nature is dishing out here worst,she can simultaneously hand you an unexpected gift."

In England some might say
"You get nought for ought"

Yet another enjoyable read, from across the pond.
Your style of life and angling is just so different from mine in the South East of the UK.
Long may you continue your Walkabouts .

Steve Schmidt said...

Mr. Dangler-I appreciate the nice comments. I keep writing as I have time, which these days is lacking for such a luxury. We are fortunate here too have so many incredible waters, yet the roots of our sport run deep in the UK and still offer a sense of tradition that I wish we had a little more of here. Good fishing to you!