Walking a River

Me and two buddies were looking at the calendar in October and realized the fishing season was about over.  We were brainstorming on what we could do to get one more outing in before the holidays hit and the weather would likely put us out of commission until March.  You could say we were a bit desperate.

Well, it looked like the week of Thanksgiving was shaping up as window of opportunity.  All 3 of us had dead weeks at work and decided to head to the San Juan River in northern New Mexico the three days before Thanksgiving.

Now, you are probably thinking that sounds like a horrible idea by some die hard fisherman.  It is going to be cold, the fish will be lethargic and we had never fished the San Juan.  On the other hand, we were going to fish a new river, known for large trout on very small bugs with a good chance we might be the only ones on the river.

Sounded perfect.

The San Juan is a tail-water below Navajo Reservoir and about an 8 hour drive from where we lived.  We set out on a Sunday afternoon, with the intention of fishing for two days and coming home.  The drive there was not without some adventure as we spent two hours going 10 miles an hour thru a snowstorm over a mountain pass.  Maybe this was not a good idea after all, but we made it there fine and the excitement started to build that evening.

I may get a bit technical here for you non-fly fishing folks, but bear with me. The San Juan is a trout factory famous for the San Juan worm, but during the winter months the only food available are small bugs and I mean small.  Size 26 to Size 28 bugs, where you could put 10 of them on the surface the size of a dime.  6X tippet is mandatory.  (6X is very light line, about as thin as a piece of hair and delicate).  This can be challenging fishing for 18-22 inch trout.

It was cold, about 20 to 23 degrees, but the sun was out and we had brought the right clothing.  Needless to say it was challenging tying small bugs to an even smaller line with cold hands, but we eventually got the hang of it and started fishing.  It was beautiful out and as we guessed, maybe one or two other fisherman on the water.

I could go on to tell you we caught a few trout, which we did, but all we really wanted to do was go outside, cast a fly rod and walk a river.

Yes, we probably could have done it closer to home and maybe picked a place that was not technically challenging from a fishing perspective.  We could have gone for a walk along a river 5 minutes from our house and that would have been good as well.

So what is it about being outside, with a rod in your hand, standing in a river in 20 degree weather and having to clean the ice off your guides every 10 minutes?

I bet to most of you that does not sound like a good time.

Because being outside makes me feel alive and gets me out of the sterile cubicle dwellings a lot of us live in for way too many hours a week.

You may not fish, but when was the last time you were outside doing something, moving, taking a walk, camping or hiking?

My experience is that it beats anything indoors, clears your head and provides a great environment to deal with our overscheduled lives.  It gives us an opportunity to get some fresh oxygen to our brain and provides space for creativity and clear thinking.

I bet we all know the benefits of getting outside, but in case you didn’t here are five:

  1. Rest – Increase the quality of your sleep. Natural sunlight help sets your internal clock, which tells your body when to eat and sleep.  (I can’t believe I just wrote that)
  2. Health – Increase your intake of vitamin D with natural sunlight.
  3. Air quality – indoor air quality is known to be extremely worse than anything outside.  Go outside and get some fresh air.
  4. Exercise – Even consistent short walks outside have proven health benefits.
  5. Mental well-being – Being outside has been linked to improved attention spans and increase serotonin.  (Look it up if you do not know what serotonin is)

I was standing in the river at the end of our second day, the sun was setting and my buddies were heading to the car.  As I stood there I looked down into the river and 3 trout were finning about two feet from where I was standing.  I mean you could reach down and pick them up.  See, the San Juan is famous for the fish following the fisherman because as you walk food gets kicked up and they know where to get a meal.  I stood there and watched them for 10 minutes with not a worry in the world and marveled at the beautiful fish below.

What have you been doing outside?  I would love to hear about it, shoot me a note in the comments below.

If you want an opportunity to spend some time outdoors, I would love to host you on a trip to the Big Horn River in Ft. Smith Montana.   Go to the April Retreat page for more details.

Tight Lines,
Tim

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