It’s called fishing, not catching

Janet UrquhartAspen, CO Colorado

The trill of the red-wing blackbirds in the rushes, the tumble of cold, clear water over sand and rock, the breeze rustling the dormant remains of last year’s reeds along the riverbank and a warm sun beckon. The skis stay in the corner as I retrieve my flyrod from its dusty perch.Yeah, there’s nothing like a couple of early spring days on the river to make skiing through slush look all the more inviting. Let’s just say things are off to a slow start, giving me plenty of time to ponder the unlikely pursuit that is flyfishing.Think about it: I venture into public wearing chest waders that make me look like a bloated version of the Michelin Man, accessorized with boots from the Frankenstein collection and an array of unsightly bulges that are the pockets in my overstuffed vest. A net, carried mostly for decoration, dangles from the back of my collar and swings around to smack me in the face each time I bend over, which is often. I lose flies, at two bucks a pop, faster than a tourist can drop dollars on an Aspen vacation, and prick my flesh often enough to open a blood bank. All this on the off chance that I will catch a fish that I’m not allowed to keep.It makes golf sound like fun.Nonetheless, on my first fishing outing of the season, I found myself telling a companion that I’d like to fish more this year than I’ve managed for the past summer or two. She set an even loftier goal – to lose fewer flies. Neither of us set the bar at actually catching fish.I lost my first fly of the season before I set foot on the riverbank after getting caught up in the trees and losing the one I still had rigged up from last season, when I paid the Roaring Fork one final visit last fall. As I recall, I caught no fish that day. I returned to the scene of the crime this week to repeat the performance.It’s a nice stretch of water, far enough from the road to let me pretend I’m not a stone’s throw from suburbia, made accessible to the public only after a team of experts confirmed there was nothing in the way of trout there to impede the water’s flow.Blue wing olives or maybe midges danced on the surface with impunity, the way insects do when there’s no danger of trout in the vicinity. I tied on an artificial variation of the insect, letting my fly join the real thing in not getting eaten.I tried a few nymphs, using a dropper – that’s one fly tied a length behind a lead fly – theoretically doubling my chances of attracting a fish. In reality, I doubled my chances of losing two flies instead of just one, but just to make sure I’d snag something on the river bottom, I added some extra weight to the line, a common practice when fishing below the surface.I debated but ultimately skipped trying a San Juan worm – essentially about an inch of material that resembles a worm, with a fish hook sticking out of its midsection. Since a worm isn’t a fly, this sounds like cheating, but it’s not, presuming the worm is employed under the proper circumstances – mainly, when no one else is watching.With little action to speak of, unless you count the impromptu game of back-wrenching Twister I played on the moss-slickened rocks, I embraced on the solitude of the moment, the chirping birds and the breeze caressing my face. A lot of anglers don’t care for wind, but I welcomed the stiff breeze that suddenly materialized, if only to break up the monotony of tangle-free back casts.At one point, I simply settled into the brittle grass on the bank and examined the earthy loam at my feet, mostly because I’d just dumped about a dozen microscopic flies there from one of those flimsy plastic containers that I’d stuffed into a pocket instead of transferring them to a flybox.Yes, the season is off to an auspicious start. I can hardly wait to try again.Next week, Janet stuffs the winter’s blubber into biking shorts. Send your advice to