“The friends I can count on, I can count on one hand”.
I have a fishing buddy who’s fond of sayings and that particular one has resonated with me. He’s always been one of the guys I have counted on. Not sure he can say the same thing about m
We are an odd couple. He’s an experienced hunter—waterfowl, upland birds, whitetails and mulies, varmints, etc.—while I don’t have much interest (I’ve only once, accidentally, shot and killed a chipmunk with my Crosman pump-action BB rifle when I was twelve. I fired casually from my waist as it ran across the driveway, launching it two feet straight up, the poor creature dead before it landed). He’s talkative and funny, a purveyor of groan-inducing corn humor while I’m reflective and moody. He’s built an arsenal of firearms, knives and outdoor gear and gadgets while I remain satisfied with a single decent fishing knife and a pair of rugged shoes. He expresses uncertainty both in the moments that have passed and the moments yet to come while I trust that the process unfolds as it should. And I have my fishing preferences and favorite patterns while he has his own.
I’m an average fly-fisherman mostly because I stick to my home river, and beyond a handful of standard and dependable western flies that seem to work, I don’t vary my routine. The dry patterns include the Elk Hair Caddis and Parachute Adams, the nymphs—Copper John, Bead Head Prince and Pheasant Tail. I do keep a local favorite in my box I call the Poudre River Special that mostly resembles a spinner. On occasion, I will work terrestrials, midges or streamers but they’re mostly in my box for the slack times that I want to experiment and learn. When I happen to venture outside my comfort zone to new waters I simply hit up the local fly shops or guys on the river as to what pattern’s working.
My fishing buddy uses his favorite pattern, the BFW, almost exclusively and he consistently catches nice trout with it. There have been plenty of times I’ve hassled him for this choice thereby creating another subtle obstacle, another difference in perspective between us. Admittedly, there are occasions I envy his productivity when we fish the same water and I happen to be getting skunked trying to match the hatch. And there are times I cringe when he lands a nice trout that has nearly swallowed his BFW whole rather than being lip-hooked. However, we both stand in the river as conservationists and the best of his compassion is on display as he retrieves the BFW as gently as possible with forceps.
With positive intent he tried to supplement his fishing with a new habit, joining me at Angler’s Covey to take advantage of a discount on a new Sage 9-foot, 4-weight rod. He later bought a pair of high-end Simms chest waders and boots plus a really nice wader bag, all of which probably set him back a grand or so. He learned how to rig his line and leader and mastered an adequate cast. I can’t remember if he caught any fish on that rod, but I think he probably did. However, it wasn’t long before that equipment remained in the closet and he returned to a sure thing, returned to his preferential methods and patterns.
To be fair I used the BFW in my youth prior to honing my fly-fishing technique and it’s surely reliable at certain times of year on certain waters when my go-to flies aren’t producing. One such time is the spring run-off when the river tears through the canyon carrying high country silt and eleven months worth of debris splintered from the bank’s edges. The volume of water bullies through the middle of the channel, thrusting its chest out with a primal roar. The grasses and stands of willow at the edges act as if caught off guard by the onslaught, wildly dancing back and forth while their feet catch snags of driftwood for the few weeks they are inundated by the annual deluge.
So as late May turns into early June and the river crashes through to rearrange the landscape and carve new channels, I’ll resort to the BFW pattern. While a bit tough to admit because of the nuanced guilt, I can’t go too many outings without the adrenaline hit of a trout on the line reverberating up through my hands and arms, radiating electric surges and other stimulants, fueling a visceral urge.
Friendships are fluctuating things and he and I have gotten sideways for a couple of years. I believe he was pulled too fast and too deep into a series of life-changing events, and for my part I committed too many sins with my lack of support. We’ve been drifting apart, losing our devotion as friends somewhere along in the evolving bitterness.
I hope that fishing will be the thing that brings us back into the fold. I’ll continue to ask him to join me every time I make a trip up the canyon. And I hope one day he’ll accept, move past our differences, help rub salve on our wounds, and forgive past transgressions. And I’ll make it clear there’s no criticism waiting if he pulls the BFW pattern out. I just want my friend back.
Dave Ammons is a TU volunteer and a member of the Zane Grey Chapter in Arizona.