Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘fly fishing’

“All that is solid melts into air.”

In Adventure, Memoir, Nature on October 16, 2016 at 8:00 pm

Last Tuesday, three days after my 61st birthday, I was thigh-high in the Blue, just outside Silverthorne, Colorado. The water was cold, in the low fifties. The air was about the same. I had been fishing the bend in the river for an hour to no avail. I know there is a trough to the freestone bottom at this spot, holding nice trout. I worked it with a prince nymph. But nothing.

The wind picked up and I looked upriver, to the north, over the mountains. A front was moving in. Dark clouds were approaching. The air temperature dropped and the sky opened. Big juicy drops of rain began to fall, then snow, then sleet, roiling the river surface. Suddenly, around me in every direction trout began to rise. Big fish, thick as your forearm, rising to sip from the river’s surface insects, midges and such, that were being knocked out of the sky. Flashes of pink and red and steel grey, these fish. My heart raced.

I drew in my line and breathed into my cupped hands. My fingers were stiff and half-frozen. The fish continued to rise, in front, behind (I could hear them), up and down stream. I switched flies, struggled to tie on a dry fly. The river around me boiled with rising fish, rolling like porpoises against the surface. I flipped my fly upstream. Fish on! I pulled in a nice rainbow and released it. I tossed my fly into the river again. The sleet-rain continued to pock the river surface. Another fish. Then another. Then the rain stopped. The sky opened. The sun came out. The river grew quiet, the door closing. The fish disappeared, becoming liquid and melting into the invisible. I was, again, thigh-high in moving water, but everything, though the same, was now different.

Chile – A repost

In Adventure, Travel on May 4, 2012 at 6:00 am

Since I’m traveling, I thought it appropriate to drop in a little travel piece I wrote a few years ago. It was published in the travel section of the Baltimore Sun in March, 1999.

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It was January and I was thinking forward to spring and fishing my favorite trout stream. Winter for a fisherman is a time of anxious restlessness. But it was not winter everywhere and it occurred to me that the rivers in the Southern Hemisphere were running strong and fast and the trout were probably rising. Within 30 days I was on water in Southern Chile.

Roughly three hours south of Santiago by air, this western region of Patagonia has become a draw for fishermen the world over. I stayed at Isla Monita, on a trip arranged by Frontiers International. I was joined by five others, two from the states and three from Europe. The trip lasted ten days, however four days were spent in travel. The area was remote, requiring two flights after touching down in Santiago, a two-hour overland ride and a short boat trip to the lodge, where I was welcomed by Anne and Fanz, my hosts. There was no phone, fax or email at the lodge. The food was outstanding and meals were complimented by fine Chilean wine.

Trout live in beautiful undisturbed places and there are not many places more beautiful or remote than southern Chile. Though the fishing was the draw, the mountains and glaciers and night sky punctuated by the Southern Cross alone would have made the trip worthwhile. The wild geography of Chile consists of 4,300 miles of coastline, yet the country is, at its broadest, only 110 miles wide. Over 2000 volcanoes speckle the countryside.

The rivers flowing out of the Andes are fed by run-off and mountain glaciers. They are big deep rivers, rich in nutrients and aquatic life, supporting a trout population famous in fly-fishing circles. The native trout of these rivers grow large and jump high. Twenty-inch fish are the rule, not the exception. One member of our group landed a 31” brown trout. The rivers also are sport to kayakers, many of whom were headed to the region for an international competition the week following my departure. The mountain backdrop draws climbers and trekkers as well.

I don’t think Chile comes to mind as a travel destination for many. My experience was a surprising delight. I did not anticipate a country so diverse and appealing.

“…to adopt another life.”

In Dogs, Life, Memoir, Nature, Travel on March 4, 2012 at 6:42 am

The classroom did not particularly work for me. I found sitting in the lecture hall difficult; and reading the books I was told to read, rather than the ones I wanted to read, was annoying. I’m stubborn that way. So it was that an autodidact was born.

Books have been my ideal teachers, as has travel and nature. I’ve attended many classes by these professors and never grow weary of them. The last lecture is, I hope, many lessons away. My syllabus is inconclusive on this matter.

One of my past favorite classrooms found me standing in moving water, chasing trout. In his great poem, The Theory and Practice of Rivers, Jim Harrison writes, “to study rivers, including the postcard / waterfalls, is to adopt another life.” I love the phrase, “adopt another life,” as if there were lives awaiting us, looking at us through kennel wire–not rescue dogs, but rescue lives.

Trout live in beautiful places and that’s as good an excuse as any to pursue them. I don’t know if it was the fishing so much, or rather the opportunity to be outdoors that fueled my obsession; to study the water, to determine the correct fly and pay attention to the natural clues which make for good fishing–these are compelling motivations.

I had a tradition through this period of beginning the year–literally New Year’s Day–fishing. It was more symbolism than anything and made for a short day on the water. If you’re fishing for trout on New Year’s Day in North America you will be cold.

One New Year’s I fished the Youghiogheny River. The Yough (pronounced YOCK) winds north along the Appalachian plateau through West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. It is one of the nation’s first recognized “scenic wild rivers” and is protected. The Yough freezes in winter, except for a few spots where the water falls quickly through rapids. On this particular New Year’s Day, layered, bundled and protected, I entered the river where it turned fast on itself then broke over a boulder field. There was no ice at this spot and soon I caught a beautiful little brook trout. Brookies are exquisite fish, with speckles and subtile flashes of color. They are evidence of Thoreau’s remark that, “There are little strains of poetry in our animals.” The fish fought hard and when I brought it to hand I slipped the hook from it’s lip without removing it from the water. It remained suspended at my knees, it’s gills pumping like crimson bellows. I stared, observing. I instantaneously realized that the fish was doing everything in it’s nature to survive the winter. That it needed to conserve energy. That my fly had been interpreted as a rare meal. That our fight had exhausted it. That I had in some fashion, betrayed it. Slowly the fish recovered then drifted away.

My heart for fishing left me that day.

Over the years, as the passion for fishing waned, an interest in birding arose. Where one activity presents a classic battle with nature, the other is an invitation to lay aside weapons and peacefully observe. Such is the changing classroom.

Every morning, I pick up my field glasses and walk my dog, Lucy. Our routine consists of a one mile loop. The trail cuts though a woods and circles a small field. It is a beautiful walk and sometimes I look so forward to it that it is my last thought upon going to sleep.

Lucy relishes our walks and spends most of her time staring up trees. I carry my binoculars and stare up trees too, looking for birds. This morning, there being a lot of snow, we shared the loop with two gliding cross-country skiers. Another dog walker stopped momentarily, as our dogs made their introductions. “See any interesting birds?” he asked. I replied that yesterday I spotted the first red-winged black birds of the season. I told him that I’ve also seen cardinals and robins this week, a sign that winter is losing it’s grip. I made a sweeping motion and announced, “This is my classroom.” I lifted my binoculars, saying, “these are a reminder to pay attention.” He smiled and from the look in his eye I believe he understood. Or perhaps he just thought me daft.