There is no turning back … Dan Molnar’s got a fishing problem. (Photo: Leonard)
There’s a bumper sticker somewhere out there which reads, “I’m a drinker with a fishing problem.” It’s obviously a play on words, a joke on oneself, an angler who admittedly drinks way too much, but isn’t quite at the stage of life to face the drinking problem head on. Unsurprisingly, there are a few in these parts. I used to be one myself.
In short, without going into any major personal detail and throwing all of the skeletons out of my closet, I can definitely say I have a “fishing problem.” Dang, I’m proud of it nonetheless. As for the coldies on or off the creek, I used to be a heavy drinker, somewhat of an understatement, but I wised up August 9, 2009, and came to my senses.
I realized I’d be better off if I rid myself forever of hangovers, risk of DUI, being 50 pounds overweight, and so on. Happily, I kicked the habit. I don’t miss it a bit.
But fishing? That’s different. Yes, folks, my name is Chris Leonard … and I have a fishing problem.
Other fisher folk: “Hi, Chris.”
With those cards thrown out on the table, I probably have the best career in town since there is no better way for an addicted angler to calm one’s obsession in the summer in the Eastern Sierra than to be a high school teacher with two months off to bang at some large bows and trophy browns. The beauty of it is, since I’m not waking up hungover anymore, I’ve got a lot of free time to clearly cast flies, which allows me to share this passion with a few good folks who come along with me.
Last winter, I developed a strong friendship with Denise Domaille Molnar. The two of us have known each other since I moved to town seven years ago, but we spent more time chatting and getting to know each other while coaching alpine athletes on the mountain.
Denise served in the Peace Corps, like I did, though she lived in a mud hut in Africa instead of a communist bloc building in Eastern Europe. Denise is also my competition this Saturday in the June Lake Triathlon; we ride a bit together. She also serves up the best fresh mango tacos in the world at the Whoa Nellie Deli. And she’s married to a really cool guy: Dan. Until this past Wednesday, I didn’t know Dan all that well, other than hearing some secondhand stories of backcountry skiing experiences all over the Sierra.
Next winter, I’m cutting down my Mighty Mites coaching commitment to every other weekend, namely so I can truly begin to explore the life of a backcountry ski bum. Trout bum? Ski bum? It’s really all one of the same. So, I have reason to get to know Dan as well as Denise.
Hence, when Dan sent me a random message on Facebook last Tuesday asking me if I’d take him fishing on Wednesday, there was only one obvious response. Here we are in a situation where a trout bum who wants to become a backcountry ski bum wants to make a backcountry ski bum into a trout bum, and a backcountry ski bum is well aware that the potential to become a summertime trout bum is all too possible. It’s poetic.
Wednesday, Dan and I headed down to Hot Creek. No surprise … the waters were flowing at around 200 cubic feet per second, and we were doing little more than practicing casting for an hour. Rivers are and will continue to be hard and heavy for a couple more weeks still. Joined by my good friend and very experienced fly angler Chris Meyers, none of us were catching a dang thing.
I told Dan we were off to another creek. Chris elected to pass and bail for home. I cannot mention the name of this creek in this publication, or the guides in town will run me out of here with hatchets and handguns, but I can say that it was a wise decision to make. What happened on this creek-that-has-no-name?
For three-and-a-half hours we caught fish. Just the two of us out there in the middle of the day in the middle
in the middle of a meadow with water and grasshoppers everywhere. Dan got on a few trout. I showed him a hole just stacked with fish. Man, did we have fun. The flies of choice were grasshopper patterns, but any big dry fly seemed to work fine, as trout found more off the beaten path are less selective.
Suffice to say we did well.
I didn’t need to ask Dan back at the truck after fishing if he is feeling the trout bum character creep on. He said to me, “I gotta be careful not to let this become addicting or I will rock climb less.”
I laughed, personally understanding the balance of addictions. I have wisely and craftily chosen which addictions will and will not control my life. All I asked Dan was, “What did you learn today about fly fishing?” Fumbling with his rod, he responded with frustration, “I learned that I can’t get my rod apart!”
The innocence of a learning fly angler is rich. I chimed quietly that the graphite rod heats up during the day and the connecting pieces expand, and simply rifling the rod apart will do the trick. It did. I also know that he learned more than he could answer in one sentence. It was a great day.
Dan is going to return the favor to me in mid-February while I’m lost in confusion in what is apparently obvious to everyone else while standing on a snow-covered alpine peak about to descend fresh powder above the rivers in which we fish.
It’s why we live here, how we operate in these parts, and why we fish; at least it’s why I fish. We have fun together.
Last week, in five hours, I made possible the potential of a trout bum addiction setting into yet another Mammoth local.
Dan, I’m sorry, you’re done and there is no turning back at this point. More so, ‘cause I know your wife is out to out-fish you, as well as she is out to beat me in the triathlon today. You will have that bumper sticker which reads, “I’m a backcountry ski bum with a fishing problem.”
Then again, better order two … one for my truck, also.
A more detailed report can be found at http://kittredgesports.com/fishing_report.php. Leonard guides for Kittredge Sports. Call 760.934.7566.