Feed Your Soul, Not Your Ego

brotherhood fishing shared experience

I’m convinced that a “lucky gene” exists that predisposes certain people to fortunate experiences. I’m equally convinced that said gene exists nowhere in my genetic profile. My brother on the other hand routinely wins radio call-in contests for concert tickets and won a drawing for a brand new car. 

That said, you can imagine my surprise when I found out the Restoration Project Canoe Trip I was leading was on the Green River. The Green is a world class river that many believe has the best dry fly fishing anywhere in the country. I quickly understood what the fuss was all about five minutes into the trip. We paddled over trout the size of french-bread loaves. I couldn’t believe my newfound luck.

The Green was an introduction to a new kind of river. It didn’t have the bustling and impatient pace I was used to. It ran mostly unhindered and had fewer pockets and texture that I’d come to rely on when looking for fish. Yet it’s depth and volume commanded my respect and deepened my attention.

I fished the second afternoon of the trip and eventually came to a promising stretch of river. I switched out my dry fly for a double nymph rig and prayed there might be a hungry trout prowling the deep run that sat below 12 foot overhanging cliffs. Each cast I made was shot - 10 or 12 feet upstream. I craned my right arm above me trying to lift any extra line out of the water to veil the fraudulence of my flies drifting below the surface.

Part way through my drifty I saw my indicator (snoody fly fisherman lingo for a bobber) sink. I snapped my rod back, expecting the unwavering tug of my hook snagging on a rock below. Instead I saw a yellow flash in the water and heard my reel sing the glorious song of spitting out line. 

Fish on. 

I wish the next 10 minutes could be likened to a classical musician reeling in the moment as they played their favorite song. It was more like handing a gas powered remote controlled car to six year old on roller skates. 

The trout freight lined out of the slower run in the quicker current and arced my rod tip back towards me. I tried to guide him back towards the shallows but each time he’d see me and power back 20 yards into the current. I was wearing tennis shoes, so every fourth step left me slipping on a rock and waist deep in water. Each time my rod would bow I envisioned the inevitable defeat of my line snapping under the pressure.

Somehow luck bested physics, biology, and my inexperience, as my right arm reached straight up to guide the fish closer and my left hand scooped my net beneath him. A Brown Trout just under two feet engulfed my net. It was the biggest trout I ever landed. 

One would think would be my favorite story and most meaningful fish caught from the Green - after all it was easily the biggest. That memory of that fish feeds my ego, but not my soul. (hat tip to Buck Brannaman for coining the wonderful contrast between feeding your soul or ego

My favorite fish caught from the Green are those that I caught alongside my deep friends...

The evening where my friend Jamie and I fished the evening hatch backdropped by vertical red rock canyon walls in layered light found only at the thresholds of daylight. I saw him hook into a gorgeous brown and as I giddily walked upstream to net his fish, I felt my bend with life and turned to watch a trout jump clear out of the water with my fly in his mouth. We both laughed in disbelief as we took turns netting each other’s fish, then stood in quiet reverence at the Grace we found ourselves caught in. 

I think of the afternoon last week on the Green. Where I fished alongside my friends Justin and Bart. We were the perfect distance from each other - close enough not to be alone and far enough for self awareness to fade. In 30 minutes each of us hooked into gorgeous fish. Our whoops of delight for one another broke every unwritten fly fishing etiquette rule. And we couldn’t have been more proud. 

Christopher McCandless wisely wrote that “happiness is only real when shared.” My time on the Green affirms this. I’d rather have one shared experience with a good friend than 10 legendary stories of how I hooked Hog Johnson. 

When did you last share happiness with another?

Jesse French
Restoration Project Chief of Next Steps

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