Mike and Van were visiting the San Juan River as part of a group from Far Bank Enterprises. Far Bank is the company that owns Sage, Redington, Rio, and C&F Designs. The first part of their trip was eaten up with sales meetings and new gear demos. Finally on Thursday afternoon, all of the team was able to escape to the river for a much needed break. Mike and I were to fish together, and Van was paired with Cindy, a Soaring Eagle guide. We were going to spend the afternoon wading the private water of Soaring Eagle Lodge, on the lower San Juan River. How sweet to have all that water to just the four of us. I knew this was a different trip when the guys told Cindy and I that they would like to fish together, and wanted us to fish with them as well. Most anglers would have jumped at the chance to have a one on one session with a guide, and all the shots to themselves. To Mike and Van, being with each other was more important than probably catching more fish and fishing alone.
As soon as I had the hopper tied on Mike’s leader it was apparent that this guy knew what he was doing. He cast well and covered the water expertly with the big foam hopper. Not having to coach left me able to talk with Mike and get to know him. We covered the top end of Hopper Alley while Van and Cindy worked the bottom with a nymph rig. After tossing a cast that ended up with the fly floating upside down, Mike saw a fish come up and refuse it. (I never saw the fish the first time!) He put the bug back in the lane, floating right side up this time. As it passed over the spot, a beautiful 19 inch brown rose to the fly and Mike was tight to him! It was the kind of slow, deliberate dry fly hook set that I dream about, and after a good battle we had him to hand. I snapped a couple of pics and released the trout.
We waded down to Van and Cindy to share our accomplishment. This was when the special relationship between Van and Mike became very obvious to me. Mike and I could have continued fishing, or moved to some fresh water, but what Mike wanted to do was hang out there with Van and watch him fish and talk. We watched Van land several nice fish over thirty or forty minutes, never once getting the rod off the bank. This pace, unhurried and focusing more on the experience than the fish count, came to signify the day.
Mike and Van have been friends for 23 years, and I was lucky enough to hear their stories of some of the legendary guides and waters of the west. The fishing was awesome, we were able to enjoy a prolific pale morning dun hatch on the lower end of the property. We had a few dry fly doubles, and Van introduced me to the no-hackle, a pattern I’d never tried before.
Mike and I finished the day with a couple of Coronas under the cottonwood trees looking out over a riffle dotted with rising trout. We had spent a great day on the water, fishing and sharing stories. We talked about the things in life that get us down, women, health, money, etc. and how they shouldn’t dominate our everyday lives. Life’s too short to dwell on these types of things. Instead, our focus should be on what makes us smile, makes us happy. For that day I focused on the great company, expert angling, amazing dry fly takes, and the friendship that Mike and Van share. I feel very lucky to have been a part of the day, and it will take its place as one of my most memorable and rewarding days of guiding.