In the mind of every flyfisher resides a little camera filled with the sights, sounds and pleasures gleaned from years of dabbling in favorite trout streams.
The aperture opens to unveil a myriad of perfect days and peerless moments of summers past. A quintessential mountain stream with 30 miles of prime fishing waters, the Big Wood is home water for valley flyfishers. Its large, feisty rainbow trout gorge on a smorgasbord of aquatic and terrestrial insects. Following spring runoff, the river comes into its prime in late June as a premier dry fly stream, and it rarely loses its shine through late fall. Here, an angler can find solitude and shed the clutter and cacophony of the outside world.
Its proximity has preserved the sanity of many working stiffs. The river can be fished over a lunch hour. At the close of business, the most prophetic decision of the day may be choosing a right or left turn on Main Street to reach a favorite fishing pool at the magic hour. That’s when the sun dips behind the mountains and a hushed calm settles over the valley as the sky gleams with a salmon-orange glow and the soft shadows of twilight envelope the stream.
One August evening, flights of adult mayflies rode a soft breeze upstream to dance and mate over a riffle, deposit their eggs, fall spent-winged onto the rumpled current and float downstream to lurking trout. There were pink Alberts (Epeorus albertae), dainty yellow stone flies and tiny black and tan-gray caddis flies that bobbed and bounced up and down the stream. A few blue-winged olives (Baetis) flitted in and out of hovering clouds of midges.
Peering intently into the far bank’s shadowy pockets, I searched for the concentric rise-forms of feeding trout. A large bank-hugging rainbow ignored the rusty No. 18 spinner I cast first. But an 18 black CDC caddis fulfilled its role. The fly floated into the glide and with the faint take an instinctive, soft-handed rise of the rod set the hook. The rainbow swirled violently, raced downstream and launched twice into head-shaking leaps. He raced back to his protected lie under the tree, where a tug-of-war pulled him into the net: 16 inches of sleek muscle, crimson bands running down its flanks, black freckles sprinkled over its broad back.
And so it ensued for another hour and a half: An 18 yellow sally scored two small rainbows, and then the biggest trout of the evening took the fly, racing away, the reel screaming. And it was too dark to tie on another fly.
"On the Big Wood, the big guys come out to play at night," I whispered.