Saturday, August 15, 2009

Father's Day Goodness

I think my darling wife is just a bit piqued she didn’t think of it first......

Always one to look a gift horse in the mouth, in responding to the family's queries, I innocently offered how I wouldn’t mind a bit of fishing for Father’s Day. Thinking more on it later, I offered it might be even better if we could camp, whaddaya think kids? Maybe get a little biking in one day, fishing the next? Heck, might as well make an extended weekend out of it all, what say? Yayyyyyy Dad! Alright then kids, as you wish. ;-)

So we loaded up the son of Big Red, Clampet style, figuring to pull into the Chama Grill parking lot Friday around 3 to replenish our ice cream supplies. The road gods had us arriving near dinner time, don’t ask (all you Dad’s can figure this one out: Napoleon Bonaparte had nothing on today’s Dads when it comes to staging an army of kids, dogs, gear.) Trujillo Meadows Campground near Cumbres Pass, CO turned out to be the prettiest little find, sitting near 10K in elevation, surrounded by receding snow fields, green parks, dense green-black forests. The CDT runs right past camp, the numerous connecting trails had me dreaming of ridge riding the high country all that night.

Saturday dawns to rain, not so much a downpour as that solid grey overcast and steady, measured rainfall that says you better have a good tent this weekend, buddy. So Plan B was put into effect immediately after French toast breakfast. The ...let’s head into Chama for forgotten supplies… morphed quickly into:

Chat with all the train buffs and photographers milling around Cumbres station, just down from the campground. Seems the Cumbres and Toltec narrow gauge train takes on water at the pass, before heading back into the mountains on her way to Osier. Cool vibe ripe with anticipation, as everyone stands around in driving rain, waiting for The Arrival.

Chase the Cumbres & Toltec up and down the pass: I defy anyone’s ability to keep driving in the sight of that engine churning up the mountain, her st
ack belching smoke, the engineer blasting her steam whistle Here She Comes! So we screech to a halt at a convenient overlook, wave the train on by, soaking up the sight and my lord the sounds of The Passing. Left behind, we just stare at each other, silly grins on our faces. Hey, you kids wanna chase it back up to Cumbres? Yaaaaay, Dad! As you wish…

Flattening coins on the tracks: we arrive breathless back at Cumbres Pass, catch sight of grown men placing their offerings down for the train gods. Hey you kids want to place some coins on the rails? Now they have no idea what will happen: W thinks the coins will shatter, C thinks they’ll get spit out like watermelon seeds. Let’s see, here she comes! Ground rumbling, stack spewing, wheels churning, whistle blowing, all combined in bass resonating deep in your chest, wow!

Nothing like a hot lunch on a rainy day: Hey you guys want to treat ourselves to some lunch? As you wish….rubbed ribs at funky local café in Chama.

Lazy tent time: games, reading, napping while it continued to drizzle until early afternoon.

Waterfall frolicking: small stream adj to camp cascades abruptly over a 50’ cliff, beautiful. Hey you kids wanna head down to the bottom of the falls? Yaaaay, Dad! As you wish…

Dinner proves wonderful in its simplicity: chili dogs roasted over the campfire, smothered one of L’s favorite chili finds. Yum!

Sunday dawned all ragged. The remnants of last night’s storm continued to skim the high ridges around camp, threatening more rain only to clear then threaten again. I love mountain weather! Looks like biking just isn’t in the cards today kids, you wanna try a hand at fishing? Yaaay, Dad! As you wish…

But first we just have to chase the train again: we hear it whistle its way into Cumbres station just as we finish packing. We shoot on over just in time to see her off. Away she goes, and away we go, racing up to the first overlook, to pile out, and greet her again. And again.... and again. Those poor tourists must’ve been thinking the shops of Chama are selling-out of all their ugly chartreuse fleece shirts and funny cowboy hats, the rate they were seeing them up in the hills. But those Chama kids sure were cute! L caught them laughing along with us on the caboose as we scrambled to pick up our flattened coins.

So we finally head down on over to the river valley, a prettier venue for family fly fishing I have yet to see. We find that small public water stretch bracketed by private ranches, decide today is the day to finally sample that green meadow, after passing it by every summer for 12 years. Always seemed too small to warrant the trouble to scramble down there, but should be perfect for a picnic alright.

So we plunk ourselves down on this seemingly private reach, grassy meadows upstream and down, perfect for kid casting. W finds the first stonefly, hmmm, smaller than I remembered, then quickly finds a bigger cousin. That’s it my boy, that right there is a giant stone, see how much bigger he is than the other? Turns out, we were still upstream of the main body of giant stones, but evidence of the river's smorgasbord was all around: golden stone adults #8, giant stones #6, dense grey caddis hatch #18, smattering of grey drakes #12, all caught and examined by C, W that afternoon.

Grey Drake, #12

Giant Stone, #6(look at that tiny red mite on his side!)

I set C to fishing downstream while W naps away some tummy troubles. We watch a smattering of adult stones skim the water, but no risers are evident, hmmmm. C wonders at the sight of a cliff swallow diving in to snatch an adult stone mid-air. I hear that familiar plash, and turn back to see rings disappearing from midstream. Alllrighty then, but darnitall, I just switched to nymph rig. I watch the second rise, and send my tandem rig down the same line. Up comes the fish and he gently inhales my shockingly-pink indicator! I pull tight, momentarily have him on as I pull the trailing fly thru his teeth. Woooo, that was fun, didya see that?! He proves too far for C’s casting, so I shoot a coupla casts out there for her, while she anticipates the strike. Yep, he come up again, now he’s on tight! Go C go! Nice 16” bow is shooting this way and that while C works to get him under her reign. Up to the bank he comes, oooooh, he’s off! But as good as caught he was, yaaay C!

A nap later, the caddis are really crowding the bank, despite the growing breeze. Not another fish in sight, despite (result of?) our collective pounding. Finally, one spunky little brown begins taunting first C, then L, out at midstream. I happily watch my girls’ growing intensity, as they slowly ratchet up their game in the face of repeated heckling. Finally C calls in the big guns: hey Dad, can you help us catch this fish? As you wish Sweet Pea….sigh, I guess a father’s work is never done!

I patiently wait for this fish to reveal himself, begin to turn away even, but upon seeing that, apparently he just couldn’t resist one more little dig of a rise. OK brother, I have you now. Cast, drift, cast drift, now I have him! Yaaay Dad!

Perfect day, with finishing touch of ice cream at our favorite burger shack down in town. All told, a perfect weekend, gifted by my favorite people on the planet.

lil Buddy

sweet pea


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