May 10th, 2005 Rio Cebolla
Time: 6:00pm - 7:30pm
A family emergency had me in New Mexico this week and with the early resolution of that emergency, I had time to fish.
Unfortunately, I didn't have any fishing gear. I keep a pair of waders, boots and a rod at my parents but that is all. If I was going to fish, I needed a reel, line, leader and flies- minimum. I went on a pilgrimage of sorts. First I searched my favorite local fly shop. I picked up a bunch of gear, including a new Black Ant pattern, but couldn't find a suitable reel. At the next shop I picked up some more stuff but no reel.
I frankly didn't want or have time to search every possible fly shop and outdoor store in town looking for a decent quality inexpensive reel. If I couldn't find one, I simply wouldn't fish and would leave one of my Martin reels the next time I was in town. Then I wandered into a place called the Sportsman's Warehouse.
The Sportsman's Warehouse is a "big box" store, sort of like a Walmart or Home Depot and is thus, in some circles, Satan. People moan that the "big box" store is killing small business and even go so far as complain that they are killing small town America. I don't subscribe to that view, it's too simplistic. Sportsman's Warehouse had all sorts of interesting gear. It was a miniature Cabelas store and for about $50 bucks I was able to pick up a decent reel, name brand fly line, leader system, tippet, fly box and a dozen flies. All of which I would have no problem leaving in New Mexico, awaiting my next tip.
Once back at my parents, I gathered my gear and headed to the Jemez Mountains. The normally two hour trip took 3 due to road construction. It seems that not even middle-of-no-where New Mexico is spared from the frantic over development that has gripped California and apparently other western states. When I asked a local from the foot hills what the draw was, he was as puzzled as me. Perhaps it's baby boomers retiring and wanting a little solitude, nice view and good fishing.
Finally on stream, I tied on a Rio Grande King, hoping against hope that I could convince a fish to surface through the chocolate ooze. When this didn't work. I tied on a large Black Copper John and bead head PT dropper. I don't generally fish the Copper John. I think it's overrated. In my opinion, all those folks who are seemingly catching more fish on the Copper John than they had without it, where probably not fishing deep enough to begin with. Of course, this is simply my opinion with little basis in fact. I've found the Copper John no more effective than any other of my weighted patterns, but then again, I fish deep and heavy. The Copper John is a very heavy fly but not quite as heavy as the Tungsten Bead Prince I like to fish. Since I didn't have any shot and the water was high, the Copper John is just what I needed, a standard bead head would be too light.
The portion of the Cebolla that I was fishing has both Browns and Rainbows. The Rainbows are planted and the Browns are wild and can grow very large in this stream. I made my way up the bank of the somewhat brushy stream, casting and trying to keep out of the way of tree branches that were waiting to relieve me of my 6 or so nymphs. My first fish was a small brown, glimmering with silver in the glare of the failing light. The inexpensive line I purchased at Sportsman's Warehouse was performing fine. As was the leader system.
The leader system was Scientific Anglers latest knotless leader and line connector. It works by threading your fly line through a small cone. A knot is tied in the end of the line and pulled tight within the cone. The cone makes up half of the connection. The other half is attached to a proprietary leader. The leader cone is pushed into the line cone to form a small egg like connector. The connector is bright orange and can be used as an indicator. The system worked well, but not any better than any other knotless or slim knot line and leader system I've tried. The connector hung up in the guides just as much as my current mini loop system and had I been fishing a bamboo rod, which typically sport smaller guides than graphite...forget about it.
The reel I fished was an Okuma. A name I'd seen before but never paid much attention to. For the price, it was a nice little real, with replaceable parts if needed. This is an important feature in a reel because if it should become damaged in anyway, you can simply replaced the damaged part. Most inexpensive reels do not have replaceable parts, thus necessitating the replacement of the entire reel. The Okuma had one disarming feature. There was no click as you reel in. The drag engages as you pull line out but it's silent going onto the reel. This was disarming because with my current reels, this usually means that the drag system is disengaged and I'm about to get a nasty birds nest.
The fishing was slower than I first imagined it would be. I lost the big fish of the day on a bad knot, that I knew was bad when I tied it but fished anyway. The word knucklehead comes to mind. Still, the fishing was fun. The fish were hot, even the planters. I caught my last fish following in the foot steps of a spin fisher. He'd been fishing a hole I knew was good and had picked up about 5 fish. I'd done similarly well at this hole in the past and fished upstream while he fished. On my way back down stream I decided to throw in a cast or two on principle. On the 3rd cast I was into a hot little rainbow. My first rainbow that day and my last fish of the evening.
It was getting late so I decided to pack it in an head out of the mountains before it got too dark. Back at the car, the spin fisher and I chatted a while. After he left, I found myself in a bit of a situation. I turned the ignition over on the car and the car wouldn't start. Try as I might, it wouldn't start. My cell phone was out of range. For the first time in my life, I would be stuck in the mountains. The worst of it was that I was ill prepared to spend the night a night in the mountains. I had some water but no cloths for warmth, no way to build a fire and no knife to make a shelter.
I was feeling a bit stupid but not in any way panic stricken. I thought that the headlights on my mother's car automatically turned themselves off. It seemed I was wrong and I'd better figure something out, fast. At first I thought about hiking out but, my parents knew where I was going and if I didn't return, they'd probably come looking. That would be in 5 hours and I'd be better off staying put, so someone could find me. I walked the 50 meters to the road and leaned against a fence post, hoping someone would drive by and be able to give me a jump. If no one drove by in about 30 min. I resolved to run the short distance to Fenton Lake to see if there where any campers or rangers about. If not, I'd simply head back to the car and wait.
It was starting to get cold. As I stood there, I reached my hand into my pants pocket for warmth. There my hand brushed up against the car keys. The main ignition key has a hard plastic body and it then dawned me why I couldn't start the car. My mom's Subaru has an ignition kill chip, with a hard plasitic body. This chip has to be installed before the car can start. Usually, the keys and the chip are on the same key ring, attached by a plastic cord. The plastic cord had broke and I had placed the chip in the trunk to prevent falling in the stream with it in my pocket. The word knucklehead comes to mind again. I ran down to the car, plugged the chip in and the engine turned over, no problem. I was right, the lights do turn themselves off. I'd simply never had to remember the chip. It was always there, swinging from the other end of the key chain.