- The annual trip is one of the great traditions of an
outdoorsman's life. Unlike mountain bike riders, hikers and
backpackers who can "go" when it suits them or when the weather is
most suitable, an outdoorsman's trips are most often governed by
the cycles of the nature world.
There's no use in showing up for the Blue-winged
Olive hatch on the Frying Pan River in July. If you want to fish
the "olives," you show up on the Pan in September. That's why a
group of us have rendezvoused at Roy Palm's place around the
middle of September for more than a decade.
Roy lets us camp under the canopy of about a
dozen cottonwoods at the far end of his place. Every year we drive
back to the trees, get out of our trucks, look up to check for any
new "widow makers," and then set up our tents. After that we tie
the tarp up to the same three trees we've tied it up to every
John Gierach and A. K. Best then knot their camp
kitchens to two of the trees with heavy hemp rope. Once secured,
the camp kitchens, which look like big wood boxes, can be opened
on one side to create a work area where the stove is placed. The
camp kitchens are replete with pots, pans, matches, spices,
plates, silverware, cans of Dinty Moore stew, a lantern and dish
soap. When the camp table is finally located under the tarp we are
There is a fire ring out in the open away from
the cottonwoods. It's the same fire ring we use every year and
there is usually some stacked firewood left from the year before.
It's the fire ring where we warm up after fishing and where Mike
Clark sets up his folding grill and cooks rib-eye steaks for all
of us. That's been the deal for the past 10 years.
This year the fire ring is still there and the
wood is stacked up as usual, but open fires are not permitted
because of fire danger. We end up circling our lawn chairs around
a Coleman lantern that's sitting in the middle of the camp table.
Once camp is made we walk to the river just to
watch. We're looking for the telltale rings of trout rising to the
diminutive olives whose abdomens tend to be more on the brown side
than the olive side in the autumn. As luck would have it the river
is running at 150 cubic feet per second (cfs), which is down from
the 300 cfs that the river had been running at for the past
several weeks. The reduced flows will make it easier to get
All of us know where to look for rises. There is
a pool with a seam two-thirds of the way across it. The trout like
to rise in the seam, along the opposite bank, in the quiet water
below the seam and at tail of the pool where the water bulges up
in standing waves against some large rocks.
The first rise disrupts the seam with a petite
splash. We all regard it as the mark of a "little fish," but the
discussion quickly turns to how even if it is a little fish, trout
that make this kind of rise are often very difficult to catch.
There is not a fisher among our group who will not try to catch
whatever it is that has made this rise form because all of us are
intrigued by difficult fish.
Along the opposite bank a rising trout makes a
subtle dimple on the water's surface. We exclaim in unison, "Did
you see that?" and everyone nods in agreement. A dimple like this
one might very well be the signature of a large fish.
A moment later several perfectly circular rises
spread serenely over the flat, glassy surface of the pool. We look
at each other and nod. None of us has to talk about how difficult
catching these trout on a fly will be. There isn't room for even
the thought of angling errors on them.
A. K. is always the first to get itchy. He turns
back toward the trucks and says, "That's it!" We all turn and
follow him like ducks in a row. In the whirlwind of activity that
follows we suit up in waders, assemble fly rods, attach reels,
thread fly lines through guides, grab our vests and examine the
Blue-winged Olive imitations in our fly boxes, pick one and tie it
to the tippet.
We are here on the river just like we were last
year and the year before that and all of the other years. We are
here like the trout, and the olives and the season.
It's then that we spread ourselves out up and
down the river. Each of us looking for rising fish like so many