The brookies come first. Proud, native and prized east of the Mississippi, brook trout teem in many Rocky Mountain watersheds to the point of infestation. What they lack in status, stature or exclusivity though, they make up for in volume and accessibility. You don’t have to blister your feet or wrack your brain to catch brookies. And they sure are pretty. So we stop for the night and fuel our egos for the journey ahead.
Come morning we’re strivers again, bent on better things. We shoulder our packs and head uphill, our jaws set and our sites fixed on deep Wilderness, lair of the cutthroat. Cutts are native (though not technically to this drainage), and rare(ish) and better. We make camp footsore and weary, and find them waiting, wily and elusive – worthy prey. We solve their riddles though and are taking hero-shots by supper.
Now we’re ready for the test. Looking to the high country we resume our climb at first light. One foot after the next we plod onward undeterred, higher, beyond the trees, beyond the trails, beyond the clamoring commoners, until finally we’ve found it, home of the golden trout! Rare, precious, hard to find, harder still to bring to hand – the name says it all – gold.
Releasing one last fish I see with new-found clarity the beautiful allegory that lies in our journey. Here, on the mountaintop, I must reveal its wisdom to my son.
“To find something special” I tell him, “you have to aim high, sacrifice, work hard, keep pushing and outpace the crowd”.
“I like brook trout” he says matter-of-factly. “I caught a big fighter! He cooperated. Can we go back?”