The drive to the middle portion of the Provo River where I would be meeting my guide Jerry was 45 minutes from the Hotel. My alarm went off at 4:00 am and my immediate thought was, “what have I gotten myself into?” I brewed coffee in the hotel room while I packed my things. I filled my thermos, slung my pack over my shoulders, and was off with an armload of jackets, a vest, and anything that looked the least bit warm from my suitcase.
The drive over the Lincoln Highway was beautiful in the moonlight. I was met by a quick snowstorm as I crested the peak of the pass. The thermometer read 1 degree, and I really started to question my life decisions. Thankfully, the thermometer rose to a balmy 14 degrees by the time I turned south and made it to where I was meeting Jerry.
A white 4-runner pulled into the parking lot with a fly rod case on top. Out stepped Jerry, exactly as I would expect a fly fishing guide to look. Jerry and I made small talk and got to know each other as we started applying the layers. Layers and layers of clothes, all three quarters covered by a set of waders. We scooped up our rods and made our way down the snowy path in the moonlight.
My first casting lessons from Jerry were by moonlight as he showed me techniques to roll, flip, mend, and present my fly line. Jerry looked to be about my age and had been fishing since he was 4. He was a fountain of knowledge...I was just trying to not fall in the river and freeze to death. I had a solid ½ hour of practice and instruction in the mastery of Jerry-Style fly fishing before daylight peaked over the Wasatch Range.
Just as daylight broke the action started. Jerry was giving me instruction as the first fish hit downstream. The instruction set changed from how best to present the fly to the fish, to fighting and landing techniques. Rod angles, tension, finesse, and a whole lot of luck was used as I fought the fish to tire him. I worked the fish in the calm water across the river while Jerry worked downstream with the net. When the fish felt tired (let's be honest my arm was tired) I worked him up stream a bit, then across the fast water in the middle, to where Jerry was waiting with the net.
Jerry's facial expression changed instantly as he looked into the net to reveal what we had landed. A large male rainbow trout in full color, he told me 98% of the fish in that part of the river were browns. I was just happy I caught a fish, it could have been a goldfish and I would have been happy. Off came the gloves for a picture, wow it was cold, but we weren’t going to miss documenting this. Some quick pictures, a successful release, and we decided to run back to the car to warm our hands.
I enjoyed my time warming my hands and learning about Jerry, his family, and his history of fly fishing, as much as I enjoyed fishing. You could tell he lived to chase fish. The headliner of his 4-Runner doubled as a flybox! He had done 3 years of fly fishing South America during the US winter in a scheme he called ‘endless summer.’ The stories and lessons went on, I could have listened for days.
When we could feel our hands again we went back to the river. The process started again and the next fish was a brown trout. We would fish, catch, photo, run back and warm up, share laughs, and repeat. Each time we went back to the river Jerry would teach me a new technique.
The final fish of the day was a brown caught on the first cast back in the water. The fight was a bit quicker than the rest. I got lucky as I crossed the fish to the nearside river bank he shook and spit the egg at the last moment. Jerry happened to be right there with the net to back me up. The whole day was made of Jerrys skill as a guide, and a whole lot of luck out of myself.
The thought crossed my mind as I drove back over the mountain that I never regret any time I spend in the outdoors. As long as I am breathing fresh air I deem it successful. Sometimes you catch, sometimes you don’t. Today we did, thanks Jerry.
Jerry Romney, www.utahproflyfishing.com