On the Fly: Fishing with “The Heng”
I was nervous and jittery from a cup of super-strength coffee while driving to Silt, Colorado at 7:15 a.m. Jake Muse, a friend and fly shop rat from Mississippi, was riding shotgun with me on our way to meet our guide for the day, Tim Heng, who would be floating us down the Colorado River. Tim is famous around these parts for being the best oarsman in the Valley.
You see, Tim and I have worked at the fly shop together for over the past decade. We always had different days off or family obligations that would get in way of us fishing together, and really only knew of each others fishing abilities by reputation. I’m a middle-aged fishing bum with a preference for dry flies and a penchant for the weird. Tim is a legendary guide, river steward, icon and father figure to Roaring Fork Valley fishing guides, clients and fly shop customers since the 1980s.
Word on the street was that the stonefly bite was hot a week ago and that fishing had since slowed. It didn’t really matter to me. I was finally getting to fish with “The Heng.” Tim, always the professional guide, wanted the fishing to be good.
Even though guides hate it when clients bring their own rods, I had no choice but to bring two since I reel in with my right hand, Tim his left. Days before, Tim had told me that I’d have to nymph fish if he was to row me down the river. I agreed and listened to my guide as any good client should. I arrived pre-rigged with a brace of large rubber-legged stoneflies. A large white streamer was tied to the end of my other rod, a hefty six weight.
We spent our morning throwing the stoneflies, known locally as cat-pooh, in shallow to mid-depth pockets and riffles. There we plucked several fat rainbow and brown trout from the green-stained water. Jake, a first-timer on the river, was unprepared for the size and strength of the river’s trout. He got beat down and lost several large fish before settling into his groove as his caffeine high slowly dissipated. We swapped high-fives and laughs as we drifted past bald eagles, big cottonwoods, herds of cattle and a variety of waterfowl while catching, missing and jumping several nice fish.
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Tim, knowing my love of rising fish and dry flies, eased into a large flat below a back-eddy and told me to look for risers below us as clouds and a light breeze began to appear. Sure enough, Tim spotted a large rainbow trout slowly cruising a foot or two off the bank.
He grabbed his spare rod out of the dory’s rod holster, handed it to me and told me to make a cast at him. My first cast failed and my flies, a size-10 tan Convertible with a size-16 yellow Wulff, landed two feet behind the trout. My second cast landed on the proverbial dinner-plate where the fish slowly and gracefully sipped the dainty Wulff.
I was elated. It was nice fish and all, but my fishing partners were what really made the day memorable. It was an experience Jake and I will never forget; a day where lots of big fish were taking on nymphs, streamers and dries.
Jake, in three weeks’ time, will be headed back to Ole’ Miss for his senior year of college, where he will spend the next nine months thinking of his float trip down the Colorado River with Tim and Kirk.
As for me, I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that I finally got to have my mentor float me down the river where he let me in on a little bit of its magic. It just goes to show you that patience is the ultimate virtue in fly fishing, and that if you wait long enough, good things will always happen.
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