Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Southwest Whirlwind: Leg Numero Uno

Brad and I grew up in what they call the Driftless-Area of Wisconsin. An untouched fisherman’s Mecca for both cold and warm-water species. To this day, I truly think that it is the number one undiscovered location on the planet for anglers. The water in the Midwest is vastly different from down in the desert and my goal for the next four days was to immerse my friend from back home in all the southwest had to offer. Day one was travel broken up by a quick stop to the stream mentioned above. Day two would take us to Northern Arizona and the famed Lee’s Ferry. Day three, would find us in and around the Four-Corners on the New Mexico side, fishing the San Juan. The Day four plan was to see Durango Colorado and fish in-town on the Animas. Closing off the trip on the drive home by a short visit to Apache Water in the White Mountains. If we stuck to plan, we would cover over 2200 miles, three states, five rivers, and hopefully a number of fish.

Day One: The Bell Trail
Walking in the footsteps of ancient warriors, our first stop was a small, brushy stream following alongside the old Bell Trail. Petra glyphs lined our path as we hiked upstream. The hum of history hung low in the air and became more apparent with every step further away from the road. Doing my best to fill Brad in on local fauna and history of the area as we pressed up river. The sky was starting to darken and the distant crack of lightening brought life to our pace.

Brad is a Musky guide, part fish himself, he spends his life chasing the warm-water wolf. So hiking into a destination with him that holds eight to fourteen-inch fish is a risk. Something else that you should know about Brad is he’s a free-spirit. Our common ground, outside of fish, is loving the journey. I think it’s fair to say, we both find complete enjoyment in getting sidetracked. That is what this stream is for us, a sidetrack framing up the start of our picture yet to be made. This frame is gnarled in old wood, burnt with cattle brands and cliff paintings from civilizations long since past. So the risk of a man used to throwing ten weights at the Apex is hedged against prickly pear cactus and the footsteps of Apache Warriors. Capped-off with an ought-weight and willing smallmouth, we start our journey.

Thirty minutes into our hike and we turn off trial to creep towards water’s edge. Winter fish are easily spooked in skinny water hides and Brad at six four makes his presence as small as he can, crouching behind a rare deciduous tree.

Rewarded with a small but tenacious Smallie, the weather closes in around us. Our foot prints leading in, already blown away and covered with new sand as we hike out. I catch myself pondering on how the desert is a mysterious and unforgiving place to inhabit. Conversing back and forth Brad and I trade philosophy for fish and back again. Wondering Anglers, don’t need topics to carry them through, and our banter flows easily changing pace with terrain. The wind is whispering through the canyon to us as we make our way back to the Rover. This trail has seen many faces, from warriors to stage coaches and cattle rustlers to cattle-thieves, and now ours. A couple boys from Wisconsin, stepping in and out of its history, just thankful for the journey.

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