There are many reasons that I enjoy fly fishing. Sometimes it is to try a new rod that I made, other times to try some flies that I tied. Or even a combination of the two!
But let's not forget the fish. What fly will turn them on? Will they go for the same fly like they did the day before? Just how many fish can I entice to my net? These are some of the questions that I reflect upon while making the drive up to Riverton and my favorite section on the Farmington River. Now, I can't say as I really come to any definite answers to any of these questions. They are just something to mull over during the drive while listening to some Stevie Ray Vaughan or perhaps Dire Straits. I guess some would call it my pre-fishing ritual.
So as I recall, this one particular trip happened three, oh maybe four years ago, the time isn’t really important. I had been fishing for the better part of the day when I decided to climb up on a boulder to see if I could actually see any trout. So there I was, somewhat precariously perched, rod in hand looking for fish. As I stood there taking a look around I heard a rustling from the woods on the other side of the river.
Just as quickly as I was able to turn my head to see what it was, the noise stopped. It happened so fast that I couldn’t really distinguish the location. Hum, interesting. I scouted the far bank as best as I could but my attention quickly went back to the rainbow that I happened to spot. Once again I focused on that fish and just as I made my cast I heard it again. The rustling lasted a bit longer and this time I was able to locate the commotion.
It looked as if a couple of rocks or perhaps a part of a tree was rolling down the hill. That seemed odd though as there weren’t too many loose rocks on that side of the river. For a quick second I thought, “bear?” because the guys are always telling me that there are bears up there. Well, it wasn’t. Whew! Otherwise I might be writing a totally different story!!
Whatever “it” was “it” was rolling down the hill, through the bushes and heading right to the river. As this tumbling mass of sticks and leaves picked up momentum I could also hear a noise coming from it. And then it made a splash.
Shortly after the splash two chocolate brown heads bobbed to the surface. They were very intent on each other and did not give me a second look. What at first appeared as a bundle of sticks and leaves turned out to be two minks that were in a fight. And the fight, which had started up on the hillside had now moved to the river. Wow. How cool is that?
These two guys were really scrapping. It didn’t take too long for me to figure out that one of them was getting his ass whupped! This poor guy would try to stay underwater but his buddy was always looking for him, and when he came up for air he was under attack again. It didn’t matter how long he stayed under or how far away he got, the other mink was right there and ready to pounce. They would fight while floating on the current, fight going down under the water and then back up again.
The fight progressed out to the middle of the river with one of the minks definitely on the run. I could see the look of desperation on his face as he made up his mind to swim to the side of the river that I was on. And as fast as he could swim, the other mink was right behind him, chewing on his tail.
Neither one of them was aware that I had been watching their fight from the top of the boulder. The underdog was swimming his little heart out when he spied his haven of relief. I could tell he had made his decision as he quickly changed direction and with his adversary still gnawing on his tail he began to head for safety.
I was too fascinated to move off the boulder because I wanted to see how things were going to turn out. I had never seen anything like this before and probably never will again. Which is pretty cool, because at that moment I realized where they were headed. You guessed it. The poor little guy was making for the boulder and I would guess it was his intent to crawl up on it and hopefully put an end to his torment.
And just as he got close enough to jump out of the water and onto the rock he looked up and saw me, rod in hand, fly line dangling in the water, looking down at him. I swear, if a mink could speak he would have said, “Oh, no! What the ….?”
At the same time his tormentor also looked up. When he saw me he let go of the tail he had been so preoccupied with.
What happened next was with the same precision as the Blue Angels use when they are in flight. The first mink quickly took advantage of the situation and broke right around the boulder, went around and scrambled up the bank behind me. The second mink dove deep into the water where he executed a split second u-turn because he eventually surfaced on the other side of the river where the fight originated. As he pulled himself out onto the bank and shook the water off he cast one last look back in my direction before he headed back up the hill.
And that was that.
Now I don’t recall how many fish I got that day, but I sure do remember those two mink and can picture this episode as if it happened last weekend.
And if it weren’t for being out on the river at that particular moment I would have missed the entire show.
So while fishing is something that I truly do love to do, there are other reasons why I enjoy heading up to the river. You just never know what you are going to see.