Wednesday, February 22, 2012


red sky in morning, angler take warning
Yep, schooled on the Red. 


Last year was heartbreaking, a singular Defeat snatched from the very jaws of Victory.  

winter's grip
Sunday proved similarly brutal in that regard.  Not so much in the sting of a solitary loss.  No, Sunday's pain was multiplied threefold to ensure the lesson was ingrained all the more in the repetition.

This year I found my adversaries a stone's throw from La Junta.  

Act One
Shadows flitting in and out of the darkest recesses of the sapphire pool.   Stage is set, our intrepid hero diligently checks the knots securing flies to tippet, unlimbering the net at his hip.  Warily gauging depth + current, he weighs rig heft in his free hand.  Cagily he adds just one more split shot, nodding in satisfaction. Eyes narrowing in grim determination, line is fed thru the guides, the first false cast lines out the distance.  The second, money. 

Game on.

The alpha is pricked immediately.  A brief bulldog into the depths of the pool, then thrashing, tail smashing at the water's surface- ping!  Our hero ducks as the cranefly doppelganger is spit back in contempt.

Well played sir, well played.


Act Two
The alpha sulking in the depths, another submarine takes up station on the far side of the pool.  A few casts to work out the drift, suddenly the Quarry leaves station, turning.  On the hunt.  Fish on!  A quicksilver bolt of raw, undistilled Rio Grande Cuttbow hurtles down river, leader ripping the water's surface in a fine spray.  The next pool is achieved in a wink, leaving our hero stumbling in his wake.  Crashing over boulders, rod high, desperately freeing line from streamside brambles, for a moment the battle teeters on the brink.  But wait!  The Quarry has gone to ground, tucked securely under a streamside boulder, out of sight, out of mind.  Only a steady thrumming of line tells the tale this battle is not yet lost.  Nor won!  

The five weight and 4x prove no match for the new revetment.  Carefully our angler tucks rod, handlines the leader to it's breaking point.  The thrumming steadily intensifies as inch by inch, our hero slowly gains ground.  The Adversary, sensing the balance of the fight shifting out of favor, craftily bolts before our hero leverages the rod once more.  Another pool gained in an instant, angler in hot pursuit, yet another boulder revetment.  Stealthy approach, thrumming line, the stark duel continues in the unseen depths.  Then suddenly...nothingness.  

The battle is lost.

liquid snow
Act Three
The Pool has reconstituted in the hero's absence.  Yet another stalwart cuttbow has taken up station in the prime lie, a twin to his victorious brother.  Fresh tippet is tied, a new rig fashioned.  Copper John, #18, set on point to lead the charge.  In an instant, the fight is on!  Like the brother, the twin immediately bolts downstream to freedom.  But where the brother employed Craft to defeat his opponent, the twin employs Speed.  And Power.  The second pool is achieved in a blur, and blown through without hesitation.  However, the third pool gives pause, its downstream lip crowded with deadfall and snags.  

For a brief moment, hope shines, our hero gains quick line while the twin hesitates- pool or plunge?    Sensing balance tipping in his favor, the angler scales the upstream lip of the third pool, rod bowed, line tight.  Though body battered, bruised from the downstream scramble, he still remains in this fight. 

But for just a moment.  
With one more harried circle to gauge his pending entrapment, the Quarry bolts once more downstream,  to home and safety.  For our hero, what hope had risen is rudely extinguished with the sight of leader and line dragged irresistibly under and through the pool deadfall,  around the boulder, down into the fourth pool.  Just as quickly, the revelation of Defeat dawns, the slack line merely confirming the finality of the Moment.  Knees buckling with the surge of adrenaline, hands trembling with newfound palsy, our hero can only shake his head in rueful acknowledgement of battles lost to a superior foe.  

Yep, schooled on the Red.


el rio grande del norte

I'll be back.
storm's comin


  1. I enjoyed this. Beautiful looking water. I gotta get back over to New Mexico...


    1. ah, thx Ben! You plan another trip out this way, drop me a line allright? mjh

  2. Replies
    1. Hey Jay! It was a fun trip, tho losing the big ones is getting a bit old. Next time, huh? mjh

  3. Beautiful pictures, mike. Damn that's some good looking water.

    1. thx Ivan, credit mostly goes to the Gorge. It is indeed a wild and special place. mike

  4. Mike, my experiences on the Red have been similar. Despite it's small size, I found it to be the most physically demanding river to fish in the state and I've seen plenty of broken rods being carried out of the canyon, which is why I always take an old, beat up 3 weight down there. The only big cutbows I've actually landed were on the mainstem of the Rio, but that doesn't stop one from trying, now, does it :) Great post BTW, and it reminds me of some of the stories Taylor Streit tells of the Red's glory days before the Moly Corp mine disaster.

    1. Hey Chris- thought that might sound familiar to some out there. As you know, just about the only thing guaranTEED on the Red: you're gonna take a beating. By fish, or rocks, or cholla, or climb. Most times it's all four, amirite?!

      Oh I'll be back down there, fo sho. The imagery of those blistering runs, reel spooling, is seared into my frontal lobe, on a playback loop no less. Like tying into a freight train! mike