Running late, I reach the trailhead at about 8AM under overcast skies. Grabbed the gear and started making my way up the trail heading straight for the sweet section. Now I had a visual layout of the area with casting experience for most of the stretch. An adequate game plan was formed to maximize the quality sections first and then work my way back down.
Early into the trek I run into a couple and two pack goats. More on these ornery pack goats hopefully in a subsequent post. For now suffice to say these critters made me abandon my game plan for a minute and look for a spot to cast. Reaching the cliff edge I look down at the water and see an angler already working things. The grizzled beard and round specs looked very familiar. A few shouts confirmed it was indeed the legend…Mountain Goat Keith. Somehow by pure luck I managed to trade two ornery pack goats for the one and only MKG (I know the initials don’t exactly match…kind of a long story). But make no mistake that this guy eats 14’er mountain hikes for breakfast in search of high mountain cutts that he handles gently and releases for another day. Darn near killed Don and me on one run a few years back…yet another story. Salutations were exchanged and we decided to work the water in tandem.
Step into the first spot and MKG is hooked up with a small brown. A few steps more and he hooks up with another. Then a decent bow around the next bend. Me? I’m getting a few flashes, bumps and mostly the no-go. The minnow pattern was getting bumped, almost cradled by fish but nothing would commit. The ant got even less. Flip, flip, roll cast, roll cast, cast…nothing.
“This was money just a few weeks ago…I swear.” My case was pleaded to the water and more importantly to Mountain Goat Keith. His looks of skepticism suggested that he was not all that convinced.
“…Dropper setup.” He suggested after a few more riffles and bends in the stream. “I’ve got extra if you need anything.” Then moves across the rocks over to the next small pool and goes to work once again. By now he was way up in the fish count and I hadn’t even gotten my hands wet.
Luckily we reach a sweet spot midway up the stretch and a small rainbow takes pity on the minnow setup. Funny how one fish can build confidence and remove a lot of pressure. For me this fish was like breaking through a barrier of confusion and reaching clarity on the other side.
A good healthy cast follows landing the lure on top of the riffle and flutters effortlessly to the bottom. A lift, a bump and a miss. Another lift, a bump and a miss. Suddenly, just as before an idea pops into my brain scattering the two tiny marbles inside in all directions. It gives me the second part to the equation. Found the trick and wham! Splake on!
Once again I have to battle these extremely antisocial fish in an attempt to photograph them. The first one was extremely difficult and seemed to have a shortened outer gill plates for some reason. A quick photo and release. Re-set and then cast for more.
At the end of the stretch MKG owns the fish count with a mix of bows and browns, a few of which are very respectable. The only thing saving my pride and shameless bragging at this point are the splake. I’m more than happy with that and even Keith gave a resounding “Hmmm” when I showed him the fourth and largest specimen. He may have lifted half an eyebrow slightly as well but his sturdy grimace remained cold like steel.
On the way back we hit this and that pool along with many more bends in the stream. I started falling into a groove and managed to pick up a small but beauty brown along with a few others to close out a hat trick of sorts.
“Oh this? I use it to battle off ornery goats. Did you see the two big ones on the trail earlier today? ”
Special thanks to Keith for putting up with me for a few hours on the stretch.
My name is Matt and I’m a fishaholic.