Our Man In Canada
May 1, 1998

Chasing Rainbows
Finding new places and naming "your" runs is part of the sport
Adapted from The Essential Guide to Fly-Fishing
by Clive Schaupmeyer

According to the dictionary "chasing rainbows" means the pursuit of dreams that are not possible to catch, like the pot of gold. Reminds me a lot of fly-fishing for trout.

But unlike the mythical pot of gold at the end of rainbows, we find and catch our share of fish, and we are content in our sport because of that. Or at least content in a strange sort of way, for it seems we are never totally satisfied. There's always a trickier trout to catch and a different fly to tie and try. And always another stream to explore. Chasing rainbows.

On of the true joys of fly-fishing is finding your own places to fish. The ones that aren't in the fishing guides or posted on the Internet. The pleasure in seeking out these places is rooted in the old work ethic that we appreciate things better when we have to work for them. I don't mean to imply there are a whole lot of never-fished-before places left. But there are places that perhaps aren't quite as publicized, and a little effort will help you find them, away from the maddening crowds.

My neighbor and fishing partner, John Tunstall, and I have found our share of "exclusive" waters, and finding them is every bit as good as catching fish. Not better, but the fish we catch in the places we've found are always sweeter for it.

For years friends and I fished one of Alberta's well-known rivers, a river popular with anglers throughout the world. But we fished where others didn't fish, away from the crowds. (I'm speaking in past tense, because this vast 75-mile stretch of river runs through an Indian Reserve and we are now denied access. But it's a great personal experience of Chasing Rainbows.) To find these special places I bought some high-scale maps and scouted around. The first year I explored this "inner earth" I burned lots of gas and hiked a lot. I found plenty of places where not to fish and a couple of superb spots that are perhaps among the best dry-fly stretches in Alberta. And in that finding there was as much self-satisfaction as catching the fish that reside there.

John and I fished one of these stretches together for a year, and we were delighted with the results. Not a lot of fish, but they were big, hard-running rainbows. There were a few browns. There were no other fisherman. And I mean no other fisherman. For a while we were content and sought no other places. Why should we?

Finally, it occured to us to search further astream. I don't recall any specific discussion, but I am certain of our reasoning. If this one particular stretch was good, there have to be more runs just as good or better than the ones we'd been fishing. Right? And if we couldn't chase down some hot new places we could always return to the old ones, everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Maps were located, and we looked for river and land patterns similar to those that had already produced well for in that river system. We were rewarded when we ground-proofed a new stretch of river on a warm September weekend. As John is my witness, (and I his,) the first rainbow to come out of the new place was a whopping 22 inches. It was taken on an Antron Adams on the third cast. From about 25 feet away. Went to the backing. And nowhere along this stretch was there a hint that other anglers had ever been there.

That weekend we caught and released over two dozen big, silvery rainbows. And we felt downright saintly because we had hunted out the place with no directions or hints from anyone. This was our stretch of river.

Although we are no longer able to fish this specific stretch of river, there are always places to search out that are unfamiliar to many anglers. And tracking down new fishing spots adds another dimension and enjoyment to fishing.

Still, we can't forget actually catching fish is the reason we do it in the first place. Driving, searching, walking and looking without catching fish is called "hiking" or "golf." And if we couldn't catch fish, there would be no point to it all. Right?

Finding new places. Naming your stretch. Catching trout. Once in a while catching a really big rainbow, brown or cutt. Tying and trying a new fly that works. These fishing experiences are the stuff of streams, but unlike chasing rainbows in the sky, sometimes they come true down on the water. Chasing Rainbows - and catching them.

This week's appropriate closing thought was stolen from Milton Berle, "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door."

Clive Shaupmeyer Return to Index

Copyright ©1998 Clive Schaupmeyer

Clive Schaupmeyer is an outdoor writer and photographer. He is the author of The Essential Guide to Fly-Fishing, a 288-page book for novice and intermediate fly anglers. His photo of a boy fishing was judged the best outdoor picture of 1996 published by a member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada. He fly-fishes for trout in Alberta's foothill and mountain streams and for pike near his home in Brooks, Alberta.
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