There is a place in Colorado, Nunya River, where canyon walls extend thousands of feet and river flows hardly ever go lower than 1000 CFS. The river is big and so are the trout. You go here in hopes of landing a trophy. Worst-case scenario, you feel insignificant in the massive canyon walls…in a good way.
I love this River. It has everything I love about fly-fishing; however, there is one problem. The canyon walls make it hard to fish a decent portion of the river without access to a boat. A big problem for someone who abides by the “300 Pound Man Rule.”
The rule is simple: do not fish where a 300-pound man could fish.
Is it ridiculous to need solitude and untouched water? Probably, but it is beside the point. My rule has helped me escape crowds and find GPS coordinates that I will only give to my unborn son. This particular trip the “300 Pound Man Rule” got me into trouble.
With the excitement of a child on Christmas day, @fishingjosh and I reminded each other that we needed to focus on our job that Saturday night and not get too distracted by our upcoming trip. We play professional soccer for a living and our current lifestyle is dependent on our success on the pitch. Despite our mind being elsewhere that night, we got a W and jumped in our truck to make the 5-hour drive to Nunya, fantasizing of rising browns.
Surely and clearly, we drove to the roads end only to know for sure that we made it by hearing the sound of the raging river. As we were greeted by the milky way, we were also greeted by a full campsite. We sunk back to reality when we realized that most of these parties were fisherman who had the same idea as us. As we negotiated to share a camping spot with a nice young couple who needed our camp stove, we pitched our tent with the game plan of making a big hike at daybreak to escape the 15 other campers who where also dreaming of trout sipping mayflies.
We woke early, skipping coffee and oats to make a trek downstream. Only a quarter mile downstream, we realize that the easy path down the river is over. “What do you think? Want to give this trail a go? Maybe we can get around this bend.” In all honesty, it really was just a rhetorical question because @fishingjosh knows my rule and would honor it despite coming off a broken collarbone only two weeks earlier.
Unsure, @fishingjosh agrees and we start a trek upward. All was good until we started to make the decent.
As we get to the top of the canyon, we started to descend to the river with hesitation and anxiety due to the fact that we could not see our route down. A grade so steep it is not even worth mentioning because it would be labeled as a fish story to most. On top of that, it started to rain. Was this foreshadowing one of us tumbling out of the heavens to an all too rocky river bottom?
Step by step, it got more slippery. Step by step, it got more technical. Step by step, we began to curse at the next step down.
Soon our steps turned to climbing. Wadding boots and all, each of us carrying two rods and Josh nursing his busted collarbone. Here, no 300 pound man could survive let alone get out of this without a broken leg. Going back up was not an option as the rain made everything slippy and climbing up would have been impossible. In any case, we came to a point where we had to hang off one boulder and hope that we would land on the narrow ledge below. Shaking out of fear, we dropped.
We both made it. From my perspective, I was stoked. I know we would be fishing water untouched! From @fishingjosh’s perspective, he was pissed. Blaming all of this on me and my dumb rule!
As he simmered off, he got his line wet with a small size 18 yellow dun to a back eddy and was accompanied by a 19 inch brown with the girth of a baseball bat. The anger soon turned to joy and we hit one of the most prolific hatches I have ever seen. Big fish rising to small flies.
As we got lost in joy of these fish and this river, we later realized…. we needed to get back! No way would we go back the way we came, the up and over was way too dangerous. Our only option… to swim. As we stripped to the nude and held our gear above our heads we picked a spot up stream where we estimated that we could get across fast enough despite the fast current. If we didn’t make it across in time, we would be met by a fast riffle full of rocks and deep pools. Although our body was in shock from the cold mountain water, our adrenaline allowed us to make it across despite loosing a single wading boot.
Our time back at the campfire was very quite. We need to warm up. We also needed to reflect on the risk we took. Were the risks we took worth it? You be the judge. (picture)