The Year in and of Water

Yep, still autumn, despite snow building in the mountains.

2011 has for me been defined by water.  Snow travel, packrafting, and fly fishing have been just about all I’ve done, other stuff like biking and climbing mountains didn’t make the selection very often.

Skiing was a mixed bag, mainly in that by winter’s end I had progressed enough to know how much I don’t yet know, and how much I still have to learn and grow.  Driving out to Glacier this afternoon I was impressed with how low the snow line has crept, and how dense the snowfall looks up high.  For me, winter is still a time of truncated possibilities, with avalanche hazard being the chief limiter.  But that is a problem for the future.

The Middle Fork of the Flathead, today.

The recent past has been all about rivers, about traveling through the land on their terms.  Packrafting had me seeing waterways as I never had before, but fly fishing really got me paying attention.  Many of my most satisfying days out this year have been, by my usual standards, shockingly low mileage.  Fishing has me going slow in the woods like nothing else ever has, and that alone has given me a more detailed experience.  But there’s a lot more.

As this episode of The Season says, “…some idea of how the whole shiteroo [sic?] is bound together; that’s what I get from being on a river.”  There’s a reason so many people freak out about fishing, and fly fishing in particular, and I’m starting to get it.  I’m also beginning to think that the popularity and elitism which goes along with fly fishing isn’t just about the more engaging way of fishing, but the places you get to fish in.

Also the Middle Fork, today.

Not only have a taken a good step on the road to enlightenment, I’ve gotten a lot better at catching fish.  I no longer just tap a fuzzy thing into a calm patch of water and hope circumstance favors me, and as a result of some sophistication I’ve caught Rainbow, Brown, Brook, Cutthroat and Bull Trout in all manner of places this summer.  I’m still not sure I’ll fly fish into winter, but the lines of fish I could see in the tails of deep pools today were awfully tempting, and the lone trout I saw actually feeding on the surface made it hard to not regret having passed on reloading on flies and bringing the Tenkara today.  Even though I caught a bunch of fish in the same pool seven weeks ago.

Lots of fish live here.

But today was just about floating along, looking at the world as seems only possible from a packraft.  The brilliant thing was that at the end, I was able to fold things up and saunter back, not subject to the whims of shuttles and the labor of packing a big boat.  I’ve written enough lately about the virtues of packrafting that I don’t feet the need to say more.

Compare with the same place in May.

I’m looking forward to a winter of learning, and then another summer of clear rivers.

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One thought on “The Year in and of Water

  1. “I’m looking forward to a winter of learning, and then another summer of clear rivers.” I couldn’t agree more. I haven’t been able to packraft as much as I would have wished at the autumn but the rivers will be running wild again the next spring. And in between, there is the winter!

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