NEXT YEAR'S RIVER
Originally Published in The Flyfish Journal - Spring 2016
"I’m sitting on top of a 15-foot snowpack, and I can only think of one thing. Flyfishing."
I’m 10,000 feet above sea level, 20 miles from my truck and the rising wind has brought the temps down to almost zero, and its only getting colder. Our crew is well equipped, but we aren’t exactly fishing. 2 feet of new snow fell last night and one more is expected tonight. We’re here in advance, breaking trail with the snowmobiles and building jumps in preparation for the high pressure, and blue skies that follow these storms. We have an assembly line set up, two guys cutting blocks, two guys passing em down the line, and two guys reassembling the blocks, igloo style, to create the foundation for our jump. The guys cutting blocks set the rhythm, and when they start moving fast we follow suit, and when they go too fast, we start sweating. NO GOOD. The sweat soaks your socks, base layers, and beanie, and then once you stop moving you start freezing.
The boss man calls a break, he can see the guys down the line starting to sweat, and he wants to let us cool off. Thank god. A beer is cracked and a cigarette is lit. Our tiny boom box is audible now that the noise of our labor has momentarily subsided, and conversation drifts from favorite forms of hot foods to favorite summer time activities. The beach, motorcycles, camping, girls, and bbq techniques are all discussed in depth, but I’m sitting on top of a 15-foot snowpack, and I can only think of one thing. Flyfishing.
It would be useless to try to explain to these guys the real reasons why I’m addicted to fishing, but beneath us, past the trail head, and beyond the first set of immediate ridgelines, I can see the headwaters of one of my favorite rivers. Even at this distance I can see that all of the trees at the rivers source are caked in fresh snow, and downstream, where the river bursts out of the mountains for the first time, the cow pastures are a smooth canvas, interrupted by the occasional farm or road. You wouldn’t even know there was a river down there if it wasn’t for the cottonwood tree’s outlining its path. Each stand of trees gives away an oxbow, or a long riffled run, but the ice has the river in a chokehold, and the snow blankets most of it. Occasionally the snow and ice lets the river breath, revealing dark patches in a sea of white, it’s the river, still flowing, alive and well.
From my perch on this mountaintop, it all seems a million miles away. Trees and houses look like ants from this distance, and the wind driven snow only accentuate space and time when the flakes blow past my face.
The boss wants us to get back to work, and I step off my snowmobile and sink waist deep into the cold stuff. I clumsily fight my way through the snow and back onto our packed trail, and then it hits me, I’m wading through next year’s river, and suddenly the summer isn’t so far away.