First date flop…kind of

Forgetting the flies in Colorado’s high country

Two years later I proposed on a deer hunt in southeast Alaska.

It wasn’t the first time that I’d forgotten a key element for fishing, but this time I was six miles back in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness — three and a half hours west of Denver, CO — on a date. I was responsible for the fly fishing portion of the Labor Day weekend trip and left the flies in the car. When she lives in Laramie, WY, and you flew down for the weekend from Ketchikan, Alaska, this is no ordinary goof. I’d spent $30 on flies at a shop in Steamboat Springs and they sat safe in the car while trout rose without hesitation.

She has caught trout before on her 5-weight, but is pretty new to the whole program and was looking forward to the all-important trip that solidifies fly fishing as thing in a life. That trip for me was on the Upper Sacramento River when I caught big browns and rainbows. I took what I knew intellectually and developed some intuition. Achieving self-sufficiency in the sport is key to future growth.

Anyway, I met Abby during the summer after she and some friends kayaked Glacier Bay and hiked the Chilkoot trail. Her final stop was Prince of Wales Island, where I grew up and where she and some friends stopped to visit another friend. We stayed in touch and I broke through her wall of resistance with clumsy compliments and unfiltered conversations about family, life, grief and fly fishing. We watched The River Why together. Why? Because I had to prove to her that Bill Bob really was reduced to almost nothing, a testament to how bad the movie was compared to the book we both love. When I say “together” I mean it was a simultaneous viewing on our respective Amazon accounts, 2,000 miles apart while we talked on the phone. A date 95% cheesy and ridiculous, 5% well, I don’t know, something else. But it worked. I drifted her the idea of me visiting for Labor Day. She took and chose a place. I researched the fly fishing and couldn’t help but wonder what she would look like holding a brookie or cutthroat.

I’ve never claimed to be an expert or even have anything more than a basic level of proficiency at life, same goes for fishing, but I do fish a lot. Steelhead are available, but not always in big numbers, every month of the year, so between them and salmon there is never a day I don’t have an angling option.

So yeah, how do you forget the flies? If that is essentially my one responsibility — outside of making my flights and not passing out on the hike thanks to the elevation — it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect me to come through.
This isn’t a little mistake that could work in my favor. It’s not cute. It’s not endearing. It’s a colossal failure.

But I guess I can’t beat myself up too much, because Abby didn’t. There was, and will be, a few reminders of how great the trip was and how much better it could have been had we caught some trout.

At this point it would be tempting to tie in a Gus and Eddy comparison, or expand this into a metaphor but I’ve resisted. It just was what it was.

So, Abby and I sat on the side of the lake watching trout rise and ate freeze dried meals — sharing a spoon because I forgot that too.

Raised in rural Alaska, now a teacher and freelance writer in Ketchikan, Alaska.

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