Dealing With Fly Fishing Expectations: Sometimes The Treasure Is Not Where You Think.
On the way home from the Grand Canyon, we made a southerly loop back home passing through Farmington New Mexico to the San Juan River below Navajo. This trip, and this stop on the Juan particularly was a gracious retirement gift from my wife. My wife was nice enough to stay at Abe’s and not complain. She did her art work while I searched for treasure in the San Juan Navajo Dam tailwater. I fished an evening and a morning and actually caught a fair number of fish.
But it did not live up to my expectations. It had been almost 20 years since I fished the San Juan. I had great memories of this place. Perhaps that was the problem. Maybe past memories of wonderful trout streams will always be distorted and let us down as we try to relive them.
But even allowing for this unfair distortion there were a few glaring problems. Crowds. The crowds spread out quickly and cover these waters. I could not get in the type of water I wanted to be in and then when I wanted to move I couldn’t because there was no where to go that was not already occupied. I could not move about and stalk fish. I had to stay in one place and keep casting over the same fish. Not fun for me. Not my game.
And the fish seemed tame. The fish seemed tired. It was not that the fish were so ultra selective and ‘smart’ from being fished over (fly fishermen are fond of bragging about how smart their fish are) as much as they just seemed harassed and stressed from being hooked time and time again.
The treasure I was hoping to find on the Juan eluded me. I left feeling kind of flat about the whole experience.
So, we left the San Juan and headed to Pagosa Springs to soak in the springs. We had done a quite a bit of running in the Grand Canyon so our aching legs would find the hot waters to be comforting.
I was vaguely aware of a lake just outside of Pagosa called Hatcher. But fishing Hatcher was mainly an after thought. A long shot. To fish the lake, I had to buy a day permit. There was some confusion (and in my frustration I almost gave up), on where to get this permit but after some running around town, a wild goose chase, I finally obtained the permit. Repairs to the main road to the lake resulted in a detour and more driving around. There was that feeling of being lost. Once again there was the feeling of wanting to give up and the feeling of “Why bother”? But we finally found the lake.
It was a beautiful lake. No one was fishing it. I walked up to the edge not knowing what to expect and immediately sighted a 22 inch rainbow cruising along a weed bed. Wow! I quickly and clumsily tried to rig my rod to make a cast but of course I could not get ready in time. It didn’t matter. There would be others.
And there were. Big fat rainbows. I casted an Amy’s Ant to these fish as I walked the shore line. I was doing what I loved best. Stalking fish. Peering into clear water. Moving along the edge of the shore line all alone like a solitary hunter. And then I climbed a small ridge to get a better view of feeding fish that might be in my casting range.
I had to make long casts to reach the fish. And when I put the fly in front of them, they were eager to take the fly and leaped wildly pealing off line as they headed across the lake. Anything, but tame.
I had found the treasure I was looking for and it was not where I had expected it to be.