By Dennis Smith

I’ve never really given it much thought, but I guess I’ve always known that fly-fishing is a
game you usually play alone — even when you’re doing it with a couple of like-minded
friends. At least that’s how I see it. You might travel to the river together, string up your
rods and pull your waders on in the parking spot, but once you’re on the water, you’re on
your own.

Trying to figure out what the bugs and the fish are doing at any given moment in a body
of water, what fly to use, where to cast and how to retrieve it are generally things you like
to puzzle out for yourself, although you’re probably not immune to a little friendly advice
if one of your buddies is catching fish and you’re not. You want to catch fish, after all, but
it’s much more gratifying to solve those mysteries yourself rather than have somebody else
do it for you.

It’s also occurred to me that, over time, and perhaps without even realizing it, some of
us become pretty selective about who we fish with. It just seems to work out that way. For
example: The only people I’ve fly fished with regularly for the last two decades have been
my two sons, my daughter-in-law and my grandkids. Oh, and Doc Sheets. For a couple of
seasons before he passed away, Doc and I would meet every Thursday afternoon near a long,
dark pool on the Big Thompson just upstream from the Narrows. We’d sit on the trunk of
a fallen cottonwood tree at the edge of the bank to watch the river and shoot the breeze for
a while before he’d take up his spot at the tail of the pool to fish dry flies and I wandered
upstream to swing wet flies through the pocket water below the bridge.

And now that I think about it, I did drive up the Poudre Canyon with Loveland bamboo
rod maker Fred San Martin about three years ago to try some of his new rods out on the river.
And I remember fishing on the Big Thompson one warm spring day in 2011 with Dustin
Krause when he caught a huge, gorgeously colored rainbow on one of his glitzy little midge
patterns. I was about 50–60 yards upstream when I heard him yell.

Early last spring, the boys called to suggest we meet at a nearby lake to cast a few flies.
We suited up in the parking lot, then split up and stationed ourselves at random places
around the shore. We were together, but alone.

Dennis Smith is a freelance outdoors writer and photographer whose work appears nationally. He lives in Loveland. To read more of Smith’s Outdoors articles, click here.