Standing waist deep in the water, with the rain coming down and the freezing wind seeming to find a way to blow every direction at once, while i shook from the cold that somehow worked it’s way though two base layers, a down coat and a Gore-Tex rain shell, a thought occurred to me…
“Hey Winston, guess how long it’s been since i’ve been this miserably cold?”
“How long?” he responded.
“The last time i was fishing with you.”
It had been two weeks since i was Winston’s test dummy on his maiden voyage down the Guadalupe to learn the in’s and out’s of the river with his instructor (and part time boss) Alvin Dedeaux of All Water Guides, and once again when we paired up the weather seemed to be punishing us jointly for past sins (maybe we were both poachers in past lives).
In addition to the cold, the day was also similar in that the fishing was excruciatingly slow. After an hour or so we stumbled onto a small hole near the Hideout that seemed to be filled to the gills with small but picky Texas Park stocked trout. A few nibbles were shared by both of us, but only Winston managed to land a couple of the young, small Pelletheads.
After beating the water mercilessly for an hour after his catches, and without a trout to show for it, i felt the need to suggest a change of scenery in hopes that i could manage to shake the funk that was slowly starting to cloud my vision.
After regrouping and graciously being allowed to park Winston’s car at Action Angler (thank you Dave!) we headed to the lease access spot known as Barking Dog and worked our way down stream as the rain began, the temperature plummeted like a tungsten beaded nymph, and the wind stirred from it’s slumber.
Eventually spirits were lightened as Winston’s rod tip bounced and his line went tight. After a good battle, the fish was netted and the smile on Winston’s face spoke before he did, i had obviously just witnessed a personal best on this water. (Above photo: Winston and the fish that was definitely way larger than it looks in the photo. I need to show Winston how to cheat and get the crazy hero shots by holding the fish out at the camera, i.e. below photo of exaggerator and his quarry).
While i was definitely happy for Winston (after all, i’m not desensitized replicant, á la “Blade Runner”) it was still a little hard to believe that we had been fishing for hours and i had yet to catch a single fish of any size. As the day progressed and the mounting frustration grew i tried every new combination of flies i could find in my box until i broke down, snipped my tippet bare, and looked at Winston and said with as much gravity as i could muster through my blue lips, “That’s it, i’m putting on my confidence flies.”
I’m not sure if it’s just my romantic memory or not but i recall that the first cast with my San Juan and it’s partner in crime, the Crimson King nymph trailing behind caught the immediate attention of the fish below (it’s possible it was the second cast, but the first is so much more poetic).
photo by Winston Cundiff
As the tip bobbled up and down, and the trout made run after run, i couldn’t help but laugh at the textbook method woking so perfectly, “Go with what you know!” In fly fishing, much of what seems to make someone more productive on the water is usually that they simply have confidence in what they’re doing. For me it’s the double red nymphing rig. For another good fishing friend it’s white wooly buggers in size 12. For yet another it’s the VIP popper. It doesn’t really seem to matter what the fly is if you truly believe in it. This thought bubbled in my head along with the thought that you could apply this (as you can with most things in fly fishing) to the bigger world, but i stopped the thought dead in it’s tracks and tried to not over think the experience and simply enjoy it for what it was.
Walking back to the car a short while later, defeated by the fact that we both had lost feeling over 90% of our bodies from the cold and rain, as well as the looming clock of responsibility creeping up on both of us, i had another realization that tied our random days over the years together.
“You know Winston, we both catch a lot of fish separately, yet almost nothing when we’re together.”
It was hard to hear over the sloshing of booted waders making quick progress upstream but i’m pretty sure i heard a typical Winston line, something to the affect of ”Yeah, we need to work on that.”
Any time amigo. Any time.