So as I’m walking up the steel grate steps of Kittredge Sports a week ago Friday, I joke with kindred shop employee Brian Anderson, “I have the most important fly fishing guide trip ever right now.” “With who?” he inquires back. Half serious, half joking, I reply, “My brother.”
Yep, I was picking up a few Size-18 Black Parachute Ants, ‘cause I was to meet my one and only sibling with our mutual friend Mike Wade at Mosquito Flats. Continuing on with Brian, “My brother Scott has about 90 total minutes of fly fishing in his life of which I am aware of, and he is up here this entire weekend solely to cast flies with me and our friend Mike. Now is the time to put him on trout if there is any hope of injecting the love of fly fishing into the kid. The stakes are high.”
Scott Leonard and I go a ways back. Over 36 years. Separated by about 20 months. We played tee ball and soccer as youngsters, went to countless UCLA football games, threw pebbles at cars and ran, shot paintballs at each other. Typical brotherly love. The college years possess some equally enjoyable memories. I remember my third year at Chico State when Scott crashed on the couch of the house I was living in at the time. He spent about a month there, waiting for his classes to start at UCSB, earning cash as a pedi-cab driver, and partaking in the regular keg parties we hosted in the heart of town.
Scott and I spent two weeks traveling with our now late father throughout the Holy Land in 1996. We spent three weeks with our Pop in Turkey during the summer of 2000. We’ve been to a Phish show in Amsterdam, Paris, and Brussels. We’ve hiked mountains in Morocco. We’ve skied off piste throughout the Swiss Alps. We had to bury our father six years back as a consequence of a severe and rare case of bacterial meningitis. We’ve done a lot together in this lifetime, and though he lives in North County San Diego with his fantastic wife and two adorable boys, and I don’t see him as much as I should, that’s more to my fault than his.
There is a saying that family members should not teach fellow family members anything. I particularly remember the adage from the two winters I worked part time at Mammoth Mountain Sports School, and I remember one spouse gladly dropping off the other with ski instructors to teach the dirty work of wedge kristies and parallel turns for the day. I completely understand the logic to it. My brother and I are very competitive. Teaching him to fly fish is not going to be easy. The fundamental problem: that my ego will only ricochet off of his sense of pride. We are brothers, after all.
At Rock Creek, a truck pulls up as we’re standing in the parking lot, and the anglers inside ask Scott which flies are working on the trout. He relays the question to me. I can already sense the defeat in his answer to unknown anglers, as he probably wants to know, but hands me the question to field. I jump on the opportunity to publicly declare my knowledge to this group, being sure my brother knows that I know. He shrugs it off, grabs a fly rod when I give it to him, and heads to the creek to start casting flies at small brook trout. I’m watching these “A River Runs Through It” 25 foot casts, to trout which can be hooked with a six foot casting range. I tell him to get in the water, to get closer to the fish, so he doesn’t have to cast so far. He hears me. He ignores me, just as I predicted. He catches trout anyways. Bastard. He is proud. He is doing it on his own. I’m proud, for him a bit as well, admittedly. Of course, through my eyes as a guide, his casting arm is up too high over his waistline, with elbow too far out. He casts without any recognizable finesse or cadence. It doesn’t look right to me. Yet, when I point this out to him, he simply responds, “I’m catching trout. Aren’t I?”
We worked the waters a bit higher up from the parking lot, in a beautiful meadow, for a good 90 minutes, until the mosquitoes moved in, and he caught eight trout. He counted catches. I didn’t. When he asked me how many I caught, I replied, “Somewhere around 20 to 30.” Not believing it, or more so, wanting to believe it, Mike confirmed for Scott the numbers. Competitive? I probably caught closer to 30 than 20.
The next morning we hit the San Joaquin River, which is running quite hard and fast with early season snowmelt runoff. We spent three hours down there. I got skunked. Mike got skunked. Scott Leonard landed two trout. Skunked by the same kid who used to beat me in peeing contests when we were seven and nine years old. Crushed ego. Stoked for my brother. He landed them with a Size-16 Copper John, running the goods off the river bottom. That evening we float tubed Lake Mary, sinking line and Woolly Buggers. As far as numbers go, Mike and I got even with him. Why? We are brothers, through and through.
Sunday morning. Five hours of midge fishing on Crowley. Scott dials onto the first trout of the morning. I want him to land this trout so badly, that I’m yelling, and I mean “yelling” at him, “Get your rod tip UP! Get your rod tip UP!” Confused, he yells back in the chaos, “It is UP!!! What do you mean?!?” This is when Mike steps in, knowing that I’m gonna get killed if he doesn’t land that trout, for giving advice which Scott would think invalid. Mike more calmly tells him, “Up towards the sky.” I watch this trout fight and tug and pull. I tell Scott to let line out when it runs, and strip like hell when slack shows in line. Scott was textbook perfect for the fight. Of all of the trout caught that weekend, this was undoubtedly the most important. It was the first action of the morning on Crowley Lake, where the big trout live. And, lo and behold, land it he did. I couldn’t have been happier.
We passed a bit more time at Leighton Springs where the fun began, moved to Sandy Point, and eventually anchored up in Crooked Creek where we got into some small brown trout which were recently planted.
Scott didn’t land any more trout that day. The fact that I didn’t have a fish finder wasn’t helping our cause much. But, I know we had fun. Thanks for the visit, Scott Leonard. I love you, bro’. As for me, last Sunday on Crowley, I landed two. But, who’s counting?
A more detailed report can be found at http://kittredgesports.com/fishing_report.php. Leonard guides for Kittredge Sports. Call 760.934.7566.