On the Trail: Grant me the strength to forgive the fish I didn’t catch

 

By IKE FREDREGILL

The warm afternoon sunlight flickered through the trees as I assembled my fly rod and reflected on the lessons of my youth.
“The sport of fishing is all about patience, son,” my father often told me.
About 30 miles west of Laramie at the Vee Bar Guest Ranch, the recollection brought a smile to my face. Laramie Area Visitor Center Assistant Director Mike Gray and I were setting up for the perfect Tuesday afternoon — fishing the Little Laramie River while everyone else we knew counted down the hours until quitting time.
“Are you ready, yet?” Mike asked with only the slightest hint of annoyance in his voice.
“I think so,” I replied, checking my gear again. “Shoot, never mind. I put my reel on backwards. I’ll have to tear it all down and flip it around.”
Mike shook his head and stomped off toward the river while I untied my fly, tippet and leader.
Chuckling, I called after him, “Don’t you know fishing is all about patience.”
“Not if you don’t get your line wet,” Mike replied over his shoulder.
True, the day might have started slow, mostly on account of forgetting my waders and how to tie on a fly — and maybe, the fact I kept pausing to relight my tobacco pipe.
But, as the first fishing trip of the season, I felt it my duty to knock off the cobwebs and enjoy the journey, rather than hopping in the river and pretending I knew how to catch fish.

Nest of knots

No more than a hundred yards from the main lodge, a rustic cabin weathered by age, but well maintained, I cast my line into a swirling riffle hoping for a fat trout.
About my third cast in, I caught my first knot. I don’t know much about locating fish in a stream, but without fail, I can always find a nest of knots.
“It’d be rough to live there,” Mike said from the bank, pointing at a rental cabin opposite the lodge.
“Absolutely,” I mumbled around a mouthful of fishing line as I pulled my fly through the final loop of the knot. “Can you imagine having to fish from your deck every evening? The humanity!”
Having not seen even a nibble, I waded back to shore, puffing on my pipe like an old coal-fed locomotive.
“You got anything other than woolly buggers in that fly can of yours?” I asked.
“I don’t think the fly is the problem,” Mike replied, eyeing my tangled line. “Let’s head on down the way. I heard there might be some rainbows biting near the owner’s house.”

Skunked

Fish or no, it was a good day to be in the river.
The water was relatively clear and cool. The slightly overcast sky kept the sun off our necks and hid our shadows. A breeze swayed the treetops, but we didn’t have to fight the wind on the ground.
“Catch anything yet?” I asked as Mike drove across a wooden beam bridge.
“I had a couple bites — nothing more,” he replied, keeping an eye on the ranch dog running alongside our truck. “You know what they say, though. A bad day fishing…”
“…is better than a good day working?” I finished. “What do they say about a bad day fishing at work?”
Mike shrugged, “It’s better than the office, I suppose.”
Down the river didn’t yield anymore fish, despite switching my woolly bugger for a scud, emerger and finally, a yellow sally.
When it comes to nymphing, or wet-fly fishing, I’ve never had much luck. I would’ve liked to switch to dry flies, but on this leg of the Little Laramie, the good hatches are a few weeks out.
By the end of the day, our count was one, or rather, Mike’s count was one. Given during our last fishing trip, Mike got skunked, I figured we were even — for now.
“It was just a baby brown (trout) — maybe 9 inches,” he said, sounding defeated.
“Still better than the office though, right?” I offered, elbowing him in the side and grinning.
“I’ll take this over an office any day,” he quipped without rising to the bait.
Located off Wyoming Highway 130, the Vee Bar was indeed the ideal retreat to hone our virtues — patience and humility to be specific.
Open year round, the dude ranch is far removed from the fast-paced day-to-day of life in the 21st century. The ranch has an on-site guiding service for those with a desire to catch more than Mike and I, and they supply rods and waders as well, which was lucky for me.
Next time you’re passing through Albany County, stop in and tell the owners Mike and Ike sent you. They don’t sell our candy, but you might still get yourself a sweet deal.