Small mountain trout streams are perfect for the solitary fly fisherman on a week day off of work. The remoteness...the peace and solitude. Nothing but miles of mysterious pocket water and plunge pools to pick and work over until the sun sets or it gets late enough in the day to warrant thoughts of dinner and home. Rarely are creeks or small streams a family affair--lakes and ponds are far better suited for such things. Everyone can stay together along the banks and talk and laugh and share in each-others stumbles and hook-ups. Group photos can be taken and the dog never gets lost. Good times. Trout streams, on the other hand, can be difficult enough with two people. But it can be done well...as long as the fishermen involved are familiar with each other and are not greedy. They can fish together, taking turns at each pool, or switching out after every fish. Or, the two anglers can continually leap-frog each other, being sure to stay within sight and give the other several untouched pools or good runs to fish. Add a third angler and all plans fall apart, like having your girl and your dumb roommate in the car at the drive-in movie.
All that advice is good and all, but what to do when the family comes? The whole fishing family. As it was this past week...for me. Erin and I had both our families in town at the same time for a day or two (to compare notes, I suppose) so we did the wise thing and took them all out to a favorite bass and carp lake where, as I outlined earlier, we could have a grand ol' time and not loose the dog. But, my own family was in town for a longer period of time and there was no avoiding the inevitable ventures to the favored and more remote trout streams. It was just gonna happen....and there was going to be more that two people fishing. Way more. My dad was chomping at the bit. My sister was mad keen. Banjo (the dog) was spinning in circles. And Erin and I have our own fish addictions needing constant tending to. Luckily my mother was content to leave the fly rod and carry only pencil and paper, being an artist first fisherman second. So it came to pass. Four rods and one crazy dog all on one tiny mountain stream
I had been eyeballing this particular stretch of creek for years without actually fishing it. One of those slim bands of water you catch glimpses of as you are hiking up to one of several high alpine lakes and always threaten to sample...you know, on the way back down. Just has to be some decent trout in there! Finally Erin fished it and brought back a glowing report. You thought it might be good? Well, it was! So the family fishing party assaulted it with gusto. And, believe it or not, the day worked out smashingly. Everyone did their best to spread out, but maintain a line of sight with at least someone up or down stream. And we took turns leap frogging as we ventured farther up. The last person in line would get out of the water and hike up past the other three letting the last in line know they were the "last man"...like an airborne jump command. And it worked. Sometimes I had to pass up the best looking pools and settle with an eight-inch brookie from a pocket the size of a dinner plate, other times I got the honey hole. But, regardless, I knew someone was going to find the prize 16-inch wild cutthroat and I would have to be content to drop my rig and rush down to get the photo.
At the end of the day Banjo, being part herding dog, was thoroughly exhausted. Mom was eventually found hunkering next to some wildflowers back where we had started. And the four of us excitedly compared the detailed notes of our success. It reminded me of one of the final happy scenes in A River Runs Though It when Paul and Norman are laughing and comparing creels with their father along the Big Blackfoot. Of course, it is only one of us who gets the parting shot..."It's just that He has been particularly good to me!"