It Ain't Prettyrising_fish

I sat on the rock edge of a small lake just west of the spine of the continental divide and waited. I knew what was coming. I just didn’t know when—or how long it would last.

The cirque hung above my head like a granite crown. It wrapped halfway around the valley floor and stood straight up almost 2,000 vertical feet. I sat crouched eagerly awaiting, and watching. After a five-mile hike almost straight up, it felt like I was standing in a cathedral. 

I’d seen a few risers and cruising fish in the late afternoon, but their activity was sporadic. 


Big fish didn’t bring me to this place, it was something else. I was waiting for the witching hour blitz at 11,500 ft. I had fished this hallowed spot a few years ago and had a good sense of what was to come—a lightning round of brookies, rainbows, and cutthroat hammering bugs on the surface.

There is something appealing about a brook trout taking a bug on the surface. It is the reckless abandon and gluttony at which they charge what they desire. They might not be the sharpest knives in the drawer, but I’m sure it is tough to talk them out of something they have their mind set on.


We had covered 1,700 vertical feet in the hike from the trailhead, or what passed as the trailhead. This year’s heavy runoff in Colorado crippled the access road and added almost a mile to the approach. It was my first backpacking trip of the season, and my feet were killing me. 


Preparing for what I believed to be the inevitable, I studied the water during the downtime. Caddis were coming off—but so were BWOs. There were small drake-like bugs hatching and I’m pretty sure I saw PMDs… or yellow sallys… or both.  Maybe. I also found high-alpine grasshoppers, which are pretty similar to normal grasshoppers, just smaller. Whatever.

So here’s how it goes down:

The fish begin rising.


I start casting. The maelstrom intensifies. 

My wife says something like “What do think they’re eating?” from a rock overlooking the water not far from our campsite.

I cast three times. Change bugs. Repeat. Cast. Change bugs. Fish rise. Eat. I cast again.  My wife says something like “God… that must be frustrating.” 

I grit my teeth, squint at the waters surface. Change bugs again. 

The blitz ends as quickly as it started. About six minutes, total.

Cue high-alpine-happy-hour.


The end. La fine.

Will Rice
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