Like most other things I was looking forward to this year, my first at college was upended by COVID-19. That upheaval has caused a myriad of stresses and the lack of a stable location from which to continue my online education from. As I have moved around the great American West, I have been privileged enough to fish countless rivers, streams, and lakes.
After being on campus for under two weeks, I was sent home due to COVID outbreaks. Scrambling to find lodging to continue online school from, I was able to land a rental-home in Twisp, Washington, on the gorgeous Methow River. The Methow, along with its plentiful cutthroats (and seemingly more plentiful whitefish), was my playground for over a month. I would do online school, do some homework, then fish. I would normally fish for two hours, and I ended up averaging seven fish per trip. The beauty of the Methow (besides the actual physical beauty) is that it offers anglers the opportunity to catch fish on a variety of bugs. From euro nymphs to massive chubbies to tiny emergers, I was able to land fish of all sizes no matter what flies I was using; as long as I made sure my bugs went by fish, I was in luck.
Unfortunately, my lease ran out and I had to find other living arrangements. In all honesty, that was fine by me; the Methow season had closed and I was stuck gear fishing lakes for small, stocked trout (may not be as fun, but sure tastes good). A couple buddies contacted me saying they needed another roommate for a month in Park City, Utah and I agreed immediately. From Park City, I had direct and easy access to the Provo River. As I soon realized, the Provo has a steep learning curve. Gone were the days of fishing size 8 chubbies and various euro nymphs. Instead, I had to dial it in using size 22 midges and 6x tippet. Generally, I despise light tippet and tiny flies-- I stick with 4x and size 16 or bigger whenever I can-- but I recognized my time on the Provo as an opportunity to get better. And get better I did, each outing seemed more fruitful than the one before, and with the addition of the Provo Bounce Rig to my nymphing repertoire, I started landing fish left and right. The culmination of my time in Utah was a 16-inch brown trout I caught in falling snow on my birthday (with a size 22 purple baetis). The feeling was spectacular.
However, again, my lease was up, and it was time to move. I embarked to Montrose, Colorado to a quaint Airbnb for a few days. From Montrose, I had access to the famed Gunnison River. As soon as class for the day ended, I took off for the river. Despite the success of numerous anglers around me, I found that the fishing was slow, and I was growing frustrated. However, as the sun (along with my hope) faded, I decided to try a ‘hail Mary.’ I lengthened my leader as deep as I could and added a balanced leech to my indicator rig. On the first cast I saw my indicator drop, and I felt that feeling that only fellow anglers know-- the relief and joy of finally hooking into a good fish, followed suddenly by the fear of losing the fish and going deeper into fishing depression. Thankfully, I was able to successfully fight the fish into my net, and a thick 17-inch rainbow was my reward. With gorgeous colors that reflected that of the setting sun around me, the fish validated the previous four fishless hours.
I have had countless other adventures in the past few months, from streamer fishing on the Animas River in Durango to nymphing in Cheeseman Canyon on the South Platte. Practically every place I have gone to do virtual class from, I’ve been able to fish at. Fishing, and fly-fishing in particular for me, offers me a constant source of adventure and exploration, no matter where I go in the country. Even more than that, it allows me a reprieve from the stresses of online school. I have, like many other anglers, always found fly-fishing to be extremely cathartic. Throughout high school, if a week had been particularly rocky or I felt overwhelmed by the concrete jungle and bustling traffic of city life, I knew where I could go, water. Standing knee deep in a river-- no cars in sight, nothing but the sound of flowing water and chirping birds-- is enough to calm the nerves of even the most agitated souls. Recently, I have felt like one of those souls. With papers to write, three-hour lectures to listen to, and discussion boards to post on, I have begun to suffer from a new phenomenon I am calling ‘Zoom Fatigue Syndrome.’ Thankfully, I have been able to find a cure for my ZFS-- fly-fishing. So, if you or a loved one is suffering from ZFS (as many of us are) I encourage you to pick up a rod, grab a few flies at your local fly shop (or from Total Outfitters), and get knee-deep in a river.