Rod and Reel

Where the trout live: a close approach on Gore Creek

I cast again. This time, Alex's yellow-and-orange indicator just flickers on the surface of the run, and I lift with suddenness and what I'm hoping is subtlety.

And yes, the rainbow's there. She pirouettes all over the pool, I lead her gently, and finally she shimmers in to our waiting hands, fourteen inches of Colorado winter wildness. She's taken the tiny grey midge from the dropper, two feet behind the much larger beadhead pheasant tail nymph. These rainbow trout of the Eagle are famously fastidious, far more delicate than the opportunistic browns.

So, fishing carefully up the pool, I release three more fish, all beautiful brownies, all inching smaller by increments, and all on the larger, bearded nymph. Each time the indicator stops, a little electric jolt shocks through me into the icy water: surely this shouldn't be happening, deep in January, when wiser counsellors are throwing themselves off mountains on skis!

As we break trail for Sally and her camera, up to the next good run, Alex tells me more about the Eagle.

Dropping 6 thousand feet from the mighty peaks of the Sawatch range, the river was named by the local Ute tribe for the sheer number of its tributaries, as many as the 106 feathers in the tail of the eagle they revered. (106 really does seem to have a magic significance for this catchment: of all the hundreds of species of caddis flies, the Eagle is home to exactly 106 of them).

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