Reading the West 12-31-12 |

Reading the West 12-31-12

I don’t have a clue what a No. 18 BWO-Wulff is, nor a No. 14 Light Cahill is, but I do recognize a good “me and Joe” tale when I read one, and that is what “Jack’s Drift” by J. Wilfred Cahill is. In his case, the stories are “me and Jack” in recognition of his father, who taught him how to fly fish. Who was with him on many an adventure where they let BWO-Wulffs, or Light Cahills, or A.P.M.s drift along the waters of a river trying to entice a trout or salmon to “take the hook.”

If you are a fly fisherman (or woman), you may understand the fishing-related terminology. If, like me, you are not, you can still enjoy the stories Cahill shares of his fishing trips with his father Jack, and other friends — folks he identifies as Mudge, Spoons and Bubba.

These stories take you across Colorado from the Roaring Fork to the Rio Grande, in Mackenzie boats and belly boats, and along rivers filled with fish, or even those where the fish numbers are down because of whirling disease. There are streams with bald eagles or osprey also look for a fish dinner, and those where rattlesnakes or bears can give a fisherman quite a fright.

There are streams where the danger comes from the need to cross a rancher’s barbed wire fence by wiggling between two cottonwood trees, only to find one a little unstable and tumbling down in a way that caused one of Cahill’s fishing buddy’s doing a face plant.

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Mostly though this is a collection of fishing stories, some may be a bit windy, but most are just about the joy of casting a fly, landing a fish and then releasing it. Many encounters with other anglers were friendly and an opportunity to share information about what type of fly was most effective on a given day in a given place, but some were a bit more confrontational.

On one trip Cahill and Jack were with Joufisch on New Mexico’s San Juan River. They had Teeny Weenies, Chamois Leeches, San Juan Worms and Spaghetti and Meat Balls, but Cahill had forgotten his hat and needed to borrow one from Joufisch. It was a ball cap with the logo of a Sheriff’s Department; Joufisch wore one just like it since he worked for the department.

They put their boat into the river where a couple dozen other fishing parties had already begun launching boats. The vessels circled a pool and one-by-one departed the eddy and started the journey downstream. There was order to the movement, a bit of river etiquette not to be breached. But then Jack and Joufich and Cahill became impatient, and “cut the line” swinging their own boat out of the orderly line and shooting down the river.

Through the day they jockeyed and angled for good fishing waters with those other anglers, eventually pushing out ahead of the pack. Late in the day as they fished without interference from the flotilla of other boater/fishermen, they were summoned to the shore by a State Park Ranger. The Ranger grilled them about permits, and licenses, and the fact that Joufisch did not have his life vest on. But he let them go with a final admonishment, “You guys should know better, being on the job.” Sometimes it’s the hat that really matters.

If you fly fish, or know someone who does, this is a book that they can enjoy … and it might lead to some new fish tales of their own. ❖

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A real body of work


I’ve presided over a riot only once in my life. It was years ago at our annual branding which would eventually turn into an all out war.

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