Well, we're back from Colorado and I must say, while fishing in those cold streams was an absolute ball, I haven't decided to give up bass fishing. Once you're a bass fisherman, nothing else ever seems to stack up. If you gave me a choice of a trip to Falcon or to the San Juan River, I'd have to take Falcon just because I love bass fishing so much.
The first thing that hit me about that area of the world was the temperature. The first morning when we woke up to go fishing it was 12 degrees. While I'm somewhat used to fishing in cold conditions, this was really chilly. It reminded me of practice for the 2010 Classic on Lay Lake when there was a big snowstorm. The bright side was that it was a dry cold, and you don't have to endure the 70-mile-per hour boat ride like when you're bass fishing. And rather than being a windshield, you get to be behind one as you ride in the car or truck to the stream. Then, you're out in a canyon where you're out of the wind, so it wasn't that bad.
The water temperature in the San Juan is constant year-round because the water comes out of the tailrace of the dam of Navajo Lake. The cold didn't affect the fish. I'll say this; trout fishing is a lot of work. First, there's a quarter-mile walk from the parking lot through some pretty steep drains and switchbacks. Then, once you get down to river level, there is a lot of swamp to get through yet. Then, once you're in the river, you have a 2-mile wade through the current. Though I'm used to it, the altitude affects a lot of folks as well. At the end of the day, you know you've been fishing.
The thing that was frustrating to me originally was that I expected to be an instant expert with a fly rod since I'm pretty good with a bass rod. Absolutely not. It's a totally different motion. Casting a rod for bass is all about the wrist, where casting a fly rod is all about the arm. I actually got to where I could throw the bait pretty far in about 30 minutes. But trying to be accurate with a fly took me into the second day on the river. I must say, though, I improved markedly as the trip wore on.
I think during the whole trip we caught about 10 trout per day per fisherman. Most of them were in the 18- to 21-inch range. Little Alton caught the biggest one; it was just over 24 inches. Of course, that's the one we didn't get a picture of. However, size isn't necessarily a good indicator of how hard a trout will fight. Half of them will pull really hard, and the rest will just roll over pretty quickly. It's a heavily pressured fishery, and my guess is that the ones that give up have been caught recently and don't have much fight in them.
The fresh ones are a lot tougher. I did have a big fish on, though. When I set the hook, he went downstream and spooled me. This was on day two. On day one, he would've broken me off because I was pressuring them way too much. We were using 3-pound-test leaders, and it's surprising how little pressure you can put on a leader before it breaks. There was no way I was going to be able to turn this fish around.
Something else that I learned is that when you go fly fishing, your vocabulary has to be a little bit more refined. We have a lot of the same gear in bass fishing as fly-fishing, but they're not called the same thing. For example, when fly-fishing, you have a strike indicator. We call it a bobber in the South. They have a thing called a tippet; we call it a leader. They don't get bites from fish; they get takes. So, I had to learn a little of the new terminology, and I don't think I'm refined enough to refer to anything as a strike indicator. I think my guides were a little annoyed with me by the end of the second day because I kept saying that my cork went under. They kind of looked at me like I shouldn't say that outside of Texas.
All in all, though, I would encourage you all to go out there and give fly fishing a shot. Our guides did a fantastic job with Little Alton and me since we were new to the fly-fishing world. We would not have had the success we had without them. If anyone wants to use them, call Mark Wethington at 505-330-7263.
When Mark's not guiding, he works as a biologist for the state of New Mexico, so he's very knowledgeable not only about the river, but about the fish as well. I mentioned that I walked about 2 miles around the river each day, but I couldn't get the run-and-gun out of my fishing style. It was hard for me to stay in one spot on the trout stream when the action slowed down a little bit. I wanted to know what was around the next corner, bend or island. Since I didn't have a Yamaha to crank up, I had to crank up the old legs and hike. Surprisingly, I managed to not fall the whole time across those slippery rocks and in that stiff current.
Since we've been home, we've been going to some Baylor basketball games, both men's and women's. Our No. 2 ranked Lady Bears lost by one point to the No. 1 team, UConn, the other night in Connecticut. They really put on a good showing and, hopefully, that loss early in the season will really motivate them to push and discover what it takes to be the best team in the nation. I think by year's end, they're really going to have a shot at a title.
Now, since we'll be taking a break next Friday, a Thanksgiving blog:
After celebrating my father's 80th birthday last week, it made me especially grateful to the Lord for my family and the health of my family on all sides. We've been very blessed in that regard. It also made me consider some of the other things that I'm thankful for. I'm thankful to the Lord for all of my sponsors and business partners who make it possible for me to fish and pursue this dream, and I'm so grateful to live in this great country where brave men and women have fought for the freedoms that we enjoy. I want to wish everyone a sincere, heart-felt happy Thanksgiving and encourage each and every one of you to dig deep and think of the things and people you are truly thankful for and make sure they know it. For the holiday, we're going out to Coleman, Texas, with extended family to watch some football and shoot some deer. The only foreseeable downside is that I'm going to gain at least 5 pounds. We have way too many good cooks in the family. See you all soon, and happy Thanksgiving!