Hayden Mellsop - The Accidental Angler

“Do you want to go fishing today, Dad?”

Words I’d not heard come out of her mouth for years.

“Sure,” I replied, “but only on one condition.”

“We grill hot dogs for lunch,” she interrupted, guessing my stipulation.

In a valley blessed with an abundance of high lakes with stunning scenery, humble O’Haver holds its own. Normally well populated this time of the year with RVs and campers, this time we encountered a campground deserted, yet still a good number of fellow day trippers scattered the shoreline.

Nearby, a couple sat on a rug spread out on the sand, looking on attentively as geese watching over goslings while their two daughters waded the shallows searching for child’s treasure.

Further along two youths sat in camp chairs, an eclectic mix of bro-country and hip-hop wafting across the water from their boom box. Hook baited, one stood and cast his line far out into the lake then sat again.

Opposite us, a fly fisherman in a float tube played a fish while gently kicking his fins against a steady breeze that also pushed shower clouds across the ridge tops.

To the east sat the brooding presence of Ouray, the aspens draping its flanks clothed in the vibrant first green of summer, looking every bit a giant armchair awaiting the return of its deity.

We slipped on waders, then walked to the water’s edge and assembled our rods, hers a hot pink 4-weight I’d given her on the occasion of her eighth birthday.

“This rod hasn’t seen the light of day in a while,” I remarked as I checked her leader and selected a dry fly that would float high and visible. Several rise forms dotted the lake’s surface, and occasionally a fish would leap clear out of the water in enthusiastic pursuit of its prey.

A quick casting refresher ensued, then I turned my attention to rigging my own rod as, clumsily at first but then with increasing fluidity, she began to cast out toward a shallow drop-off where we’d observed a couple of fish feeding. A few minutes later and we both stood knee-deep in the lake’s waters, alternately staring at our respective flies on the water and taking in the scenery and activities of those around us.

There’s an underlying assumption with many anglers that the most likely place to catch a fish is somewhere “out there.” This leads to a mindset where the longer the cast the better. In doing so not only does an angler struggle for control over line and fly, they often overlook the opportunities that exist closer to home.

There was a certain symmetry therefore as she, casting barely half the distance of yours truly, set her hook into the day’s first fish, a lovely rainbow that leaped and splashed then lay quietly as she brought it close and I slid my fingers down the leader and slipped the hook from its mouth.

We began to fish once more. The wind had settled, the lake’s surface now reflecting the deep green of the surrounds and the mix of blue and dark gray overhead as clouds continued to roll in from the north.

We fished for another hour or more, each in our own world, each catching and missing several more fish until a gentle rain began to fall, pockmarking the water’s surface with dimples that resembled the rise forms of the occasional fish that still fed.

“What say you we fire up the grill while we see if this shower moves through?” I suggested.

She nodded and reeled in her line and we walked back to the truck. A few minutes later we sat at a picnic table, hot dogs in hand, as the rain continued to gently fall.

“Nothing tastes better than hot dogs grilled in the mountains,” she said. “I remember those ones you used to make for us when we went skiing.”

I thought back to those days, and sitting here with her now, agreed that nothing tastes quite as good.

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