July had been a whirlwind of travel that started with family obligation in Denver but quickly ratcheted in to high gear with retail shows in Orlando, Dallas, and eventually back in Denver to neatly bring things full circle. It was a cyclonic tour of long days in convention centers and late nights in hotel rooms camped out with to-go containers, red wine and endless work orders to place until I eventually drifted off to sleep in the early morning hours just to wake and do it all again. It was a ton of fun, and thoroughly enjoyable, but also exhausting as hell. So much so that it barely registered on my last trip that I was walking down another jet bridge to another location until I was suddenly enveloped by a menagerie of slot machines, every single one flashing brightly and screaming for my attention, my pocket book and probably a little bit of my soul.

“God damn.” I thought. Finally I was here in Reno, making my way between slot machines and empty gazes with just a single waterproof pack weighted down with nothing more than a change of clothes, a rod, reel and a few basic fly fishing tools and the obligatory Gierach book to while away the time and help me enter a zen state should any unforeseen hiccups occur. Meeting my wife and son at the bottom of the steps for some tender hugs and kisses (they’d gotten there a few days ahead of me to spend time with her incredibly supportive aunt, uncle and sister) I was able to stroll casually by the baggage claim with my loved, my bag and a smile. Simplicity.

Driving into Lake Tahoe proper and getting the first view of Lake Tahoe I was floored by its (literal) awesomeness, something I’ve only felt at very particular places like Crater Lake, the Black Canyon, and Arches National Park. Though this astounding body of water is the largest high alpine lake in this country, and only second in size (for lakes) to the Great Lakes it was strangely enough denied National Park status in the very early 1900’s. In the 60’s the area hosted the Olympic winter games which brought a lot of attention and development that continued until the 80’s, with lakeshore development exploding as well as casinos, hotels and theaters especially along the 1/3 of the lake that Nevada has claimed stake to. For a romantic / naturalist like me it seems like a tragedy that this unique, translucent jewel was never afforded the title and protection that it should have received long ago, but things are what they are and I was determined to make the best of the crowds (or at least avoid them as much as possible) while also trying to find a special moment in time and space to escape them completely.

The time with family was incredible and I loved every minute of it for sure, but the nagging cry of the flowing waters and local trout were calling ceaselessly from somewhere just beyond. It was while waiting in cue at the ABSOLUTELY AMAZING local breakfast haven The Red Hut Cafe that I got my first cell phone signal in the area and realized that the one fly shop in the area, Tahoe Fly Fishing Outfitters,  laid a mere few hundred feet up the road while simultaneously hearing it would be a 45 minute wait before a table would be available. Perfect.

Strolling in to the well filled shop to inquire about the fishing a thick map was slid onto the counter and a finger placed to where I should go for summer trout fishing. Without my glasses I was at first confused by the location the finger fell on the map as it seemed to be a three dimensional crater on a two dimensional map. After a few minutes of confusion it became clear to me that the “crater” I had seen was really just a spot on a thick map that had been recommended so many times over so many years that an actual welt had slowly ground around this suggestion. The shop employee (whose card I lost…Rob?) was incredibly helpful in helping me figure out possibilities even though transportation to and from said spots was still an issue since we had no rental. Still, the information had been gathered along with the suggested flies and some floating

Making my way back to the Red Hut for our breakfast, armed with local knowledge and a selections of dry flies I was hopeful to somehow get my ass transported twenty miles away to fish for these trout that had obviously provided enough good days that they had worn a thumb print into the depths of a local map. Fortunately in an unforseen twist of events my sister-in-law offered to lend me her new, very much loved and cared for Volvo with which I was not only able to ascend one thousand feet into the ether, but to do it in class.

Landing in the valley I exited the mothership and fished for a good mile plus up the stretch of the Carson river that is known as Hope Valley before it dawned on me that there was no way that this shallow, almost non-flowing stretch of river with nothing more than two inch fingerlings was the well worn spot on the map that I had expected. The loss of direction, both geographically but especially fishing wise seemed trivial until I realized there was zero signal in these mountains. As a child of the 80’s I still have the where with all to find my way around without technology, but that’s not to say that I don’t occasionally shit my pants when the signal goes blank and the tank reads empty.

Driving downstream I was excited to find myself on a wildly rapid descent through a valley that seemed to swallow not just me and the car, but the entire sky and earth into a tightly focused piece of scenery framed in a giant “V” by towering mountains that almost seemed to fall in on themselves. The road, and water found me at 7,000 feet but peaks at 9,000 to 10,000 (Hawkins Peak) loomed large above and provided a sort of gravitas as I hung out in their shadows.

Leaving the car and making my way down the bank I immediately felt myself feeling like I was waltzing through some sort of hybrid of Eleven Mile and the Cimmaron River. Initially the trout seemed to be eager to inhale the larger attractors I had tied on but couldn’t seem to wrap their mouths  around the meaty cocktail I was throwing at them. Eventually after seeing to many strikes with nothing to show I switched up the attractors for size 20 Elk Hair Caddis and immediately hooked into the beautiful specimen above (which I am pretty sure is a Lohantan Cuttthroat Trout, but please correct me if I’m wrong).

Working my way downstream it was an unending cavalcade of medium size waterfalls, plunge pools and white water that tumbled over and over on itself, dropping 1,o00 feet over a four mile stretch which in case your wondering is a seriously freakin’ steep descent. Still the trout didn’t seem to mind inhabiting this aquatic staircase, and really I didn’t mind them catching them either. It was in fact a transcendent experience, small technical water with tight casts, quick drifts with fasts mends and faster strikes, all experienced without encountering another bi-ped that might unintentionally destroy the fragile illusion of solitude that this canyon and its supporting cast provided in abundance.

Eventually, as it always does, the time ran out and I hopped into the rocket ship to head back to family, friends and the crowds of Lake Tahoe having a strange sense that I left something back in the canyon…the cell phone…the hemostats…something. It wasn’t until I was working on my second glass of wine at the Blue Angel (sooooo good) that it dawned on me. I love nature, and when I experience a place like Arches NP, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, or possibly the Carson River I am so overcome with a sense of rapture, that I think a small part of me (a carbon copy, a series of atoms,  a shadow, fill in the blank) remains. Regardless, a part of me is there.

Yes, it could be utter bullshit. If however, you visit the Carson (which you should), and run into an angler about 6′ tall, wearing a guayabera, a fedora and fishing a 7’6″ 3WT just shoot me a text. Doesn’t hurt to be cautious.