As I’ve aged, I’ve learned I seem to have a different tolerance to risk than most people. I wouldn’t say I ignore risk, because I don’t. I do try to minimize it when I can. But my strong tendency is to get so caught up in the potential awesomeness that can happen if you can avoid the potential dangers that I always seem to put the risk aside. Be that hiking, skiing, biking, fishing (which on the surface one wouldn’t think of as dangerous), or just living in general (by the way folks, our instant access to information has made the world seem a far more dangerous place than it actually is. You are living in the safest world there has ever been, at least in the western world, try to remember that). On balance, I think it has served me very well. And I think this comfort with risk has filtered down to my kids. They all seem to have the ability to put themselves out there, be it physically, musically, academically, or just in generally trying new things. It scares their mom sometimes, and sometimes it ends in stitches to the face or temporarily crushed by failure, but very often it leaves them (I hope) thinking “look at what I just did!” The problems can arise when ignoring the risk bites you in the ass or when your risk tolerance collides head on with someone else’s more healthy approach to risk. Both of which happened to me in the last couple of weeks.
Since I seem to have a bunch of extra time on my hands, what with the no job and all, I decided to do a 2 day scouting trip prior to my upcoming 4 day camping trip on my favorite river with my son Ben and fishing buddy Chris. Because obviously the 30 or so days I’ve spent on this river the last several years were not quite enough for me to really figure it out, I needed more intel! Like the majority of the summer, the weather was pretty much crap. We were lucky enough in that it did not rain quite as much as promised, but the single digit highs in September certainly didn’t do the fishing any favors, especially since it had been 25c the day before. It was as we expected, slow. We did fish a section that I had not fished much since the floods of 2013, and there were indications that this section of the river may be returning to former glory. One humorous event did happen though. When we were gearing up, my son pulls his boots out of the truck and they didn’t have any shoelaces in them. “Where did my shoelaces go?” “That’s your old backup pair” I say “I stole the laces from those last year. Why didn’t you grab your new boots?” “I didn’t really notice” he says. Seriously, how can you grab boots, put them in the truck, and not notice that they don’t have shoelaces? He’s my son alright! I offer to pull the laces from my shoes and let him use those. “Nah, I’ll be alright.”
Now, the area we fish has some very treacherous terrain around the river with tons of deadfall, hidden holes, old forest fire stumps, etc. We have said for years that someone one day is going to break a leg or fall and have a stick rammed into them (in the literary world, we call this foreshadowing. Not that this is in any way literature), so I had some concerns for him. But there was a river close by, and it was time to fish! And there is no way he will be more dangerous without laces than I am with, so off we go. And as I said above, pretty much nothing happens day 1 other than him getting boots stuck in mud and and trying to fanagle his way out. It was pretty humorous if you were there.
Day 2 fishing was better. An old favorite run has begun to fish like itself again and we found some fun little areas amidst all the deadfall. Named some new runs (kind of a family tradition). The old favorite is called “The Perfect Cutty Run” or “PCR”. Above it are the newly named “Perfect Plunge Pool”, followed by “Twin Towers” then “Seaworld” because Shamu, the biggest cutt we’ve ever seen on that river, lives there. To date, he is un-caught, but hooked once by Chris. We had meant to use our bikes to bike into a road blocked by an old mudslide, but decided not to fish something completely new after the day before had been so slow. It is about a 5 hour drive from home to where we fish, so to far to go and run the risk of getting skunked. In all, it was a really fun day. Here are a few pictures.
Me with a cutty from the newly named “Twin Towers” I am standing near tower 1.
The Perfect Plunge Pool.
Chris doing advertising for Coors at Triple P
My happy place
Quite possibly my new favorite fishing picture. Chris (who took all the photos above) calls it “No Laces, but a Lot of Soul.” Ben is looking at the Perfect Cutty Run late one afternoon watching a single fish rise. He had already rigged down for the day. I ask him where he sees the fish and he walks right up to the river and points his rod a couple of inches above the river and says “Right here.” “Don’t spook the fish” I admonish. “You can’t spook these fish.” He doesn’t want to rig up, Chris says “all yours” so I drift an ant through the run, and right on cue the cutty comes up and inhales it. We are all laughing. You really can’t spook those fish.
Remember that part above about my risk tolerance not necessarily being the same as others? On the way home I start getting blinked madly by a car behind me. I pull over and the car pulls aside and tells us that my tail lights are not working. At the time, we are about 45 minutes from Banff on the highway to Radium. She was right, tail lights totally not working. Brake lights worked, blinkers, emergency flashers all good. Just no tail lights. Maybe not the best in the dark rain soaked night. Since there wasn’t much we could do about it, we start driving and I would tap my brakes periodically if anyone was behind me to alert them to my presence, then realized I could just run with my flashers on. Problem solved in my mind, I’ll deal with the actual problem tomorrow at home. Ben is fine with this decision since he’s mostly asleep anyway. Chris? Yeah, maybe not so much. We stop in Canmore and he wants to check fuses. I’m reluctant, but do it anyway. There is a chance my reluctance was noticeable. Chris finds the fuse and spare, changes it, and it blows immediately. To me, it’s cinched. Just run the flashers, can’t fix it in the dark. Chris wants to buy more fuses and try again. Maybe take the tail lights apart. I disagree. It’s 10 PM, I’m exhausted, I want to get home and I don’t feel much at risk. Chris is exhausted, wants to get home, and is not at all comfortable with the emergency flasher decision, I’m sure like the majority of people wouldn’t be. Something about “not wanting to die.” I’m thinking “what are the odds of that?” So with very little grace, I try one store for fuses and they have none. I refuse to look for more or do anything else to try to fix (much to Chris’s disgust) and drive down Hwy 1 with the flashers on. It was really quiet in the car as two grown men have decided their buddy is being an unyielding asshole. And I was totally being an unyielding asshole. In our defence, we were both stupid tired. But in typical guy fashion, 1 week later and we are all good. I think. Actually, I’m pretty sure as many of the pictures are from him! And we lived, so I was right all along.
One week later, I was back in the same system with Davy, a very old friend from Ireland living in Texas, Ben, and another Chris. The new Chris and I had never actually met in person. We know each other from a fly fishing website and he has donated to several of my fundraisers over the years, so I invited him on this trip. This is actually the third time I’ve taken the risk of doing a multi day trip with someone I had never actually met in person. My wife calls it on line dating. In actuality, in all 3 cases it has worked out fantastically. All have been great guys and super fun to fish with. Two of them are actually fishing the same river during our trip and I was hoping to run into them.
Neither Davy or Chris had fished this river before, so Ben and I take them to our favorite section on the first afternoon. Again, the weather was pretty crappy. To me, the fishing was pretty slow but both Davy and Chris caught some nice trout and they were thrilled. Here are some shots from day 1:
Ben slogging it out in a driving hail storm
Chris with a nice fish
Chris’s truck in the clouds
The boys around the fire. As big as we could make it Randy!
After fishing we get back to camp to set up. As it turns out, we all have engineering degrees. 3 Electrical Engineers and 1 Materials (Ben). While I set up the trailer, Ben and Davy set up the tarps, 1 over the fire and 1 where we can have a place to put stuff to stay dry in the intermittent rain. Here is the result. Not exactly an “elegant” solution. They never used 1 rope when 2 would do. And they took it as a challenge when I said “no way you can use all the bungees” as I have like 20 of them. The blue tarp on the left is put up using 100% bungees. Just to spite me they used every one of my bungees! Ladies and gentlemen, this is tarp town. Note the density of ropes. And my one chair (fortunately, Chis had extras!:
The next day, Davy and I took the bikes to explore a creek that I had been told of several years before by a conservation officer, but never fished. I had walked it during high water with Ben the year before, but it was high and dirty and unfishable. This time it was low and clear and spectacularly gorgeous. Would have been nice if the fish had cooperated. I think we got like 4 between 11 and 2. Ben and Chris fished it that afternoon and got 3, so fished honestly like crap. I’ll for sure give it another shot next year as we saw 0 human footprints, but did see the tracks of deer, elk, moose, bear, and a cougar. I did get one very nice fish when Davy called me over. He was fishing with nymphs (there were literally no fish rising, and on this river if they are not rising they typically will not come up for anything) and had finally seen a riser in this gorgeous little run. I told him to switch up to a dry, and he said “nah, you go ahead”. This is the fish that ate the green drake I was fishing on the first drift:
And some more fishing and scenery shots:
Davy from our bike trip
I like the “I have no front teeth” look of this
This shot I like to call “How can there be no fish here?” Honeymoon Creek (it’s not called that on any map)
Another fish from the Twin Towers
Davy with a big fish from the Aquarium
More ball than fish from Honeymoon Creek.
That afternoon we switched areas with Ben and Chris. Again, fishing to me was a bit slow, but we did get several fish and I got to show Davy some more great water. We finish the last run (seaworld) in that area at about 4:30 and decide to go back to PCR for one last fish for the day. As I’m stepping over a big log and I put weight my left foot stepping over, the ground I think I’m standing on turns out to be an old log. My foot slips and twists and I hear a snap and feel something give in my leg. Davy is just in front of me and I call, with maybe a trace of panic “I think I just broke my leg.” I actually felt all along my lower leg half expecting to feel the bone sticking out, and already thinking “how in the fuck am I going to get out of here?” It’s a decent hike through the shitty footing and a hill (there is ALWAYS a hill) back to the truck. Davy comes back and I sit there for a minute to get my wits about me. He helps me up, and starts supporting me on the way out. After a few steps I realize I can put some weight on it, so we decide he will stay directly in front of me so I can see my footing exactly and I’ll try to walk. After a couple of minutes of this, I decide that my leg can’t be broken and that it must have been a stick or something I heard crack, and decided to just ignore the fact I had felt something move in my leg. As we get close to PCR, I say “you go ahead and fish this and I’ll watch.” “Are you crazy, we need to get you out of here.” “Im fine Davy.” “Rick, we need to leave.” “Listen Davy, I’m going to be fine. I can walk as long as I don’t put any side load on it ( and putting any type of side load on hurt pretty good). There is no way I’m ending everyone’s trip for this.” I wear him down, and as it turns out we both fish the run, catch a couple, and work one last fish, unsuccessfully, for about an hour. The lower leg hurts some, but honestly not that bad as long as I kept it straight. We get back to camp about an hour later than usual, tried to pull a bad joke about how bad I was hurt (wasn’t funny apparently). Chris told me Ben was really worried because I’m never late and thought, correctly as it turned out, that one of us must have gotten hurt. He had been just about to leave and come look for us. After some discussion I decided that I would see how my leg was the next morning and decide what to do from there. Davy cautions me about drinking on advil. I advise him that it is advil, and I’m drinking. As we had 1 full day of fishing left, in my mind there were two possibilities: either my leg would hurt like hell and I would stay in camp while they fished the next day or it would be good enough to allow me to fish some of the areas with better footing. Leaving was out of the question for me. I couldn’t imaging cutting it short after people look forward to this trip for so long.
Luckily, I felt pretty good the next day. I had to watch how I walked, but it actually was a pretty good fishing day. An old run that has always been ok has become awesome and it was fun to rediscover it. It was the first run during the 5 days this year that showed what this river can be capable of during a good hatch. Just boiling with fish. I called it”Green Drake” since that seems to always be the best fly there. Later that day Davy mistakenly told the boys it was called “Yellow Drake.” I laughed and said “there is no such thing as a Yellow Drake, but from now on that is the name of the run.” I actually did some biking that day as well. I knew a place to stash the bikes to save us from a long walk back to the truck at the end of the day, and riding the bike was no prob. We also ran into my two friends whose camp we had seen when stashing the bikes, and they gave us two crappy beers. When I teased them about it later, they said they didn’t want to give sketchy, limping and bleeding guys (I had cut my ear on a tree) any of the good beer. If you ever see orange cream ale beer, skip it, trust me. Unless you like root beer. They said the fishing was slow, but the scotch was good!
A couple more pictures:
Davy with a big guy from Yellow Drake. This run epitomized this river. About 20 fish working it. We caught 8 or so. The rest were impossible to either figure out or get a good drift on. Worked them for a long time. They never stopped eating. There were two really big fish in the run. One of them I must have brought up and been refused by a dozen times. Frustrating/exhilarating. I’ll be back.
Menu for the trip included chicken, steak, ribs, potatoes and taber corn in the fire, and BBQ peaches with ice cream.
The next morning we packed out to get Davy to the airport by 3. Was nice to not to have to do much due to the leg (still not that bad, just a sprain!), but I milked it a bit. After dropping off the trailer at home, Jackie convinces me to go to urgent care. Once she heard me say I heard a snap in my description to her, she says she knew what the final outcome would be. Waste of time I think. How urgent can it be if I’ve walked on it for two days? And as I thought, they give me stink eye when they ask when it happened and I tell them 2 days ago. Send me to x-ray, then back to x-ray (weird). Nurse comes in and I think she is going to tell me my ankle is sprained. Instead she asks me “how tall are you?” Uh oh. “what is your shoe size?” That can’t be good. Dr. comes in and says “you have at least one small fracture in your left ankle, lower left side. It is really low, that’s why you could walk. You might have something on the right side of that ankle also, so I want you to use crutches for 10 days. If that looks good next week, you can drop the crutches and use the air cast as a walking cast for 4 weeks.” 4 weeks? 4 freaking weeks in September? The best hiking, fishing, golfing of the year. With me being retired? And I have to have a cast on? “So I’m not going on that mountain bike trip next weekend?” I ask. “Uh, no.” is the Dr’s reply. That really, really sucks actually. I would be on that trip right now if this had not happened. Actually, I’d be on it now if I hadn’t gone to the stupid Dr!
I’d do exactly the same thing again in a second.
The cast comes off in 4 weeks, and weather permitting, I know exactly where I’ll be. Yellow Drake is calling my name already! As is Shamu. And a certain trout under a certain tree (that my son caught just to spite me). And Honeymoon Creek. I’ll just try to be more careful while walking around. I’m thinking hiking poles? Honestly, I’ve had two injuries this year already (the only times I’ve really hurt myself on rivers), so odds are I’m good, right? No risk, no reward. As I said in the last post, life don’t wait for you. You gotta go get that shit.
On a personal note: Both Chris’s, Davy and Ben-thanks for the past two weekends. I can’t imagine having a better time even with the crappy weather and for this river, sub par fishing, and fractured ankle! These trips have taught me that while the fishing plays a role in my enjoyment of these trips, that role is minor compared to the beauty of the area and the camaraderie of my friends and family. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a bunch of things already, because when you spend a weekend mostly laughing (when not swearing at fish), it all tends to blend. Can’t wait until next year! And if you guys any stories to add, use the comments!!
Oh, a PS story! On the first day i found myself having to use the facilities, which are big trees. Borrowed some toilet paper from Chris (second trip Chris). Remember how I just met him? Well, I had to take off my vest to get to my waders. As I walked back to the river, I realized I forgot my vest. Went back and could not find it. Looked and looked (I buried the evidence well apparently). As all of my gear is in my pack, I panic a bit and go get Chris. Remember the part how we just met? Well, he comes in to help me look for my pack in the woods, all the while REALLY watching where he steps. Fortunately we find the pack. Not before a bit of embarrassment. To his credit he did not take the opportunity to savage me back at camp. I would have if the tables had been turn. First trip Chris for sure would have!!