SI Vault
Denis O'Neill
September 24, 1984
Jim and I are afflicted from time to time with the need to stand next to a body of fast-moving fresh water and remove trout from the stream. When we're in fishing stores checking out hardware that might abet the removal, we have a shared and glaring weakness for any contraption that claims to drive fish crazy. Anything that says that drives us crazy: We rip it from the display rack, whoop it up and then race to the cash register to make it ours. Of course, nothing we've ever placed in any stream has driven a trout crazy. But anticipation is the siren song at the headwater of any decent pool or riffle, and we dream that one day we'll turn the tables and drive the fish crazy. With our track record, what else could keep us going?
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September 24, 1984

You Want Fair Weather And A Full Creel, Stay Away From These Guys

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"Yeah, I guess. Think we ought to try the Rio Grande this afternoon?"

"Couldn't do much worse," Jim said, as he winged the trout guts into the bushes.

I was looking past him to where the rivers disappeared around the bend. It was bitter cold. Then the snow turned the corner of the gorge and rushed at us like a white freight train. In one looping arc an air mattress levitated and wafted slowly toward the river. Jim laughed a gallows laugh as I took off after it, sliding down the steep embankment to the Grande, hopping into the stream and over the rocks to fetch it.

"Don't tell me," I shouted to Jim. "It never snows in New Mexico in early October."

Jim had lost it. He was skipping around the scattered coals of our cedar-wood fire, singing, "The weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...."

Our retreat wasn't the orderly light-pack ascent we'd counted on. We hadn't had time to eat anything, and we agreed not to leave any rib-eye steaks for our four-legged friends. The potatoes we parted with—but only after pulling imaginary pins and hurling them into the Rio Grande. On the way out of the gorge, snow dusted the gravel trail, creating good slash and bash conditions—just how we like it. The second time he fell, Jim looked at me, brushed the slush from his eyebrows and said, "At least we won't have to worry about the fly rods for another year."

I'll say this about Jim and me. We can take a joke. (This is another fishing tip: No sense in going for trout if you can't take a joke.) The way we figured it, the Rio Grande gorge owed us. But we were smart enough to admit that there are some debts you'll grow old trying to collect. That's just the way it is.

When it came time to plan our next trip, I baited Jim with this old expression about the weather in New England: If you don't like it, just wait a minute.

"Look," I said, "with that kind of adage on our side, the most we'll get is bad weather half the time, and that'll be 50 percent better than what we usually get."

He fell for it, and I got us a farmhouse in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont for some fall fishing. "With any luck," I told him, "we'll get a crack at some Indian summer, and maybe some spawning browns. I hear they run big up there in the fall—two, three pounds."

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