Hayden Mellsop - The Accidental Angler

We drove slowly up the road, dodging the potholes and skirting a couple of mud pits, past an old cemetery set at the edge of an aspen grove, until we came to a place where a stream, charging down from one of the surrounding peaks, had carved a deep channel across the road.

Discretion being the better part of valor, I decided to park off to the side rather than attempt a crossing.

We sat on the tailgate and ate a lunch of trail mix, summer sausage, crackers and apples while I rigged our rods, hers a Wright-MacGill Flygirl 3-weight, pretty much the only rod she’ll fish with since I gave it to her for her 8th birthday.

It is the perfect rod for the high country, where mountain streams, beaver ponds and granite peaks coalesce to form the perfect backdrop for memories of a lifetime.

As we ate, clouds darkened across the divide, thunder rumbled, and rain began to spatter in heavy droplets upon the ground.

“Let’s ride this one out in the truck,” I suggested.

Front seats reclined, we both soon fell asleep to the sound of rain on the roof and the occasional peel of distant thunder. We woke some time later to blue sky and, grabbing rods, made our way downhill to where we could make out a small beaver pond, reflecting gray among the green of a surrounding tangle of willows.

“That was a little more comfortable than that time on the Rio Grande,” she said, referring to a past trip where we’d sheltered from the heart of a thunderstorm beneath the marginal lee of a small overhang, high up a granite cliff face.

The current storm cell now past, the air was perfectly still, and the surface of the beaver pond became like a mirror, the crystal-clear water revealing every nuance and contour of the bed, a mix of silt, sunken logs and decaying vegetation.

We stood and watched. Intermittent bubbles of gas escaped from the bed, dimpling the surface with rings that radiated from their source, similar to those made by a rising fish. Patiently we waited and watched until we discerned the difference between these and a genuine rise, the latter more pronounced and sporadic.

She cast out toward one of these and let her fly sit, then picked up and cast to another rise. This time the fish obliged, and she stripped to the shore a tiny brook trout that we gently released without touching it.

I left her to the pond and moved ahead to another, where I’d seen a couple of fish leap from the water in pursuit of airborne quarry. Yet, after 20 minutes and several fly changes, not so much as a missed strike could I claim.

In this way, we made our way up the valley, taking to the road where the charging course of the stream took precedence, then dropping back down to fish wherever the activity of the beaver had diverted and slowed its flow.

While fish rose steadily in these ponds, for the most part they refused our offerings, and our shadows cast long across the road as we returned to the truck.

“I love camping,” she said as we walked.

“What is it you like the most?” I asked

She thought for a few moments before responding.

“It’s just so … peaceful.”

I thought of her life – college, grades, the pressure and unknown of the future – and nodded agreement.

“That’s the point of places like this. They put everything else in perspective.”

Hayden Mellsop is a Realtor with Pinon Real Estate Group and a former fishing guide.