Sunday, August 12, 2012

Down Time

By the time we slowly rolled down the driveway evenings rush hour had subsided, the sun was low on the horizon and the days suffocating heat was seeping form summers parched landscape. Not that the timing of our departure was intended to create any convenience or comfort.  It's simply when we finished packing after a day at the shop and got underway for Western Rivers annual shop trip.

For the first time in decades we escaped Utah with out running into an obstacle course of orange barrels or delays prompted by endless construction that Utah freeways always seem to be hindered with. I shouldn't complain since the infrastructure of most of our major cities in this country is in utter collapse.  In the absence of construction our escape transpires seamlessly.
Our annual shop trip started over two decades ago.  We haven’t missed one since. It began in the corals that bordered the Nature Conservancy's Silver Creek Preserve were we set up that first camp.  We used the neighboring rancher’s cattle chute for a table.  That is when he didn't have a need for it.  It was a far cry from sanitary, but level and had character.  I don't know if our presence led to the current camping policy that is now enforced, but you can no longer camp at that convenient location.  As a result the Henry's Fork is now our base.  It's a step up from a camping perspective.  The cattle chutes been replaced with a fancy a roll up table. Although camp now is a little more civilized, the biggest difference is the presence of grizzlies.

Skyler and I got a jump on the group and after a short night of sleep we began our walk into the Ranch relatively early.  A light rain woke me and I could have easily dropped back to sleep, but knowing what an overcast day can lead to on a western spring creek and a strong cup of java was ample motivation to roll out of my tent.  Skyler needed a little more prompting, but for a young kid he holds his own.  

We spent a full day on the water.  For our efforts we endured a number of empty takes, a refusal or two and one nice fish before darkness forced us back to camp.  For the Henry’s Fork in late July the day could be regarded as respectable.  Here’s it all relative. Over the three decades of fishing these waters I’ve had better, and much worse.  If you are going to get your head handed to you this isn’t a bad place to simply watch the world by or take a nap.  Anymore on this river having seen it go through some pretty tough times I’m thankful to have an opportunity to cast a well tied fly to a rising trout. On some days that’s all one can ask for. 
Back at camp the long week, a short night and full day on the water all took a toll.  While Skyler stayed up till the rest of the crew arrived I called it a night.  I was so trashed I didn't even hear the rest of the crew arrive around midnight. Laughter, and they rhythm of a mellow guitar initially woke me and for a brief moment had me thinking of joining them.  A minor explosion quickly put any such notion to rest.  The deafening silence that followed the mishap while everyone took inventory had me little nervous. Luckily there were no serious injuries, but the incident put a quick end to the night. Since it was around 3, that was probably a good thing.
The next morning I was impressed by everyone’s effort to get up at a reasonable hour.  They may not have been in the best shape, but they were stoked to get on the water.  We scattered like broken glass throughout the Ranch once we set to motion seeking opportunities this place yields so infrequently; something we experienced first hand the day previously.  Some found success others put in a long morning before succumbing to the lure of a Grub Stake sandwich followed by a long afternoon nap. 

For three days that first day summed up our fishing experience.  Typical of this fishery when its temperamental its was about being in the right  place at the right time.  For the most part everyone enjoyed some decent success.  Given our chance I’d have to say we did pretty well.  Reflecting on previous Shop Trips, this one rates as one of the more successful ones.

Late on the last day we all eventually gathered to walk the well worn path back after our final day on the river. We paused momentarily to watch Sir Nicholas work a stubborn trout that several of us had taken shots at over the three days we were here. There isn’t a one of us who would pass up a rising trout without making a go of it regardless of the situation. After a lengthy iteration Nick whiffed when the trout rose and appeared to take his offering, his patient audience moaning in reaction to the lost opportunity.   To our dismay the trout continued to rise.  Finally Nick’s persistence paid off, the rainbow finally taking a beetle.  To an ovation he eventually hoisted the trophy mid current after digging it carefully from the weeds.  On the way out, we couldn’t think of a more fitting end to our stay, regardless of what had transpired previously. We were also thankful that the Ranch at this late juncture in the day was void of others. 

I’m fortunate to have such a talented crew on many fronts.  Not only are they dedicated to their work, but turn them loose on one of the worlds most challenging waters their passion and skill is even more impressive.  It’s a fishy crew, that is fun to spend time with on any river let alone one of our favorites the Henry’s Fork.