On the river: A lonely stretch
August 20, 2005
It’s oddly quiet, and a little bit lonely this year along the stretch of the Roaring Fork River where my dog and I share a swimming hole.There hasn’t been a single instance when we’ve walked the mile or so along the banks to our hole and found it occupied by a fly fisherman. I can think of a half-dozen such disappointments that occurred by this time last summer. Usually, Zack and I are entirely ready for a dip in the cool, clear gold-medal waters of the Fork by the time we get to our hole, sometimes after a long day at work, other times after a lazy weekend morning. There’s no bigger disappointment than just missing our goal to cool off.Not that Zack or I are opposed to fly-fishing. I discovered the magic of rivers in the Rockies as a boy, fly-fishing with dad on the Fork, the Fryingpan, the Snake, the Madison, the Henry’s For, the Yellowstone and a handful of spring-fed creeks between Aspen and Livingston, Mont. There’s nothing quite like that first rush that comes by hooking a brown or rainbow, or the second rush that comes when you realize that there’s something big on the end of the line.Zack, an 11-year-old pit bull, has never been fishing. But he learned to love the water in Seattle, a city built on a narrow stretch of land between Lake Washington and Puget Sound. He’s dodged giant freighters moving through Seattle’s ship canal, shared the icy waters of the Pacific with sea lions in the San Juan Islands of Washington state, and learned to navigate the currents of the Roaring Fork. He understands the rewards, the personal relationship, a man or a pit bull enjoys with water in its wild and natural state.The fact that we’ve been splashing around since the middle of July and have only seen a dozen fishers on that long walk from the road to our swimming hole is striking. And odd. It seems that every year since Norman Maclean’s book “A River Runs Through It” was made into a blockbuster movie starring Robert Redford, there have been more and more fishermen and -women plying the holes and eddies and banks of the Fork and every other stream in the American West.But that was 13 years ago. It’s hard to imagine a movie that old, about a book set in the early 20th century, could possibly be motivating the youth of today to pick up an 8-foot rod and don a pair of waders. Perhaps the fad has faded. Perhaps a river ran through it.