Friday Classic | The Rubes

They are the gullible rubes of the trout family; the hayseeds, hicks, hillbillies, yokels, rustics, provincials, buffoons, bumpkins, country cousins and clodhoppers. Mountain cutthroat, convention holds, are so unsophisticated that even novice anglers had better brace for action. Why then were they giving four capable fishermen fits?

“Riser. Four o’clock. About 10 feet further,” came direction from the ledge above. On arrival at the rushing little inlet from points uphill, we were grateful for the windbreak, warm afternoon sun and chance to rest our legs. The wolf pack of cutties patrolling the intersection of stream and lake was a nice bonus. We’d each take turns at the bank, we figured, hooking the best of the bunch while our compatriots enjoyed the show from a natural granite balcony. Maybe we’d even invite a couple back to camp for an appetizer. In any case, it would make for a satisfying capper to a day spent chasing more glamorous fish in the rugged country above treeline, a relaxing idyll before supper, camp chores and sleeping bags.

That was the plan.

“That’s the spot. Now give it a little action,” offered the increasingly perplexed gallery. After fifteen minutes, three fly changes and a complete rotation of casters the plan was looking dubious. Bold strides to the willows were replaced by belly crawls and furtive roll casts. Flies and leaders were worried over and muttered at. It was obvious from the cheap seats that the fish hadn’t spooked. They still cruised unperturbed, poking their noses through the film and flashing white mouths in the current below. But they weren’t the least bit impressed by our offerings.

“Hasn’t anyone told these fish that they’re cutthroat?” asked Scott, exasperated.

“In the mountains?” added Steven.

Mayfly dries, caddis dries, terrestrials, attractors, nymphs, streamers, soft hackles, wooly buggers, big bugs, little bugs, dead drifts, twitches, swings, drags, retrieves each new idea elicited bountiful advice and confident speculation from the panel of experts, but little notice from the locals. We’d already climbed to and from the crest of the continent and landed notoriously elusive goldens in the teeth of a squall. How were we so confounded by cruising cuts on a gentle lake?

It took me a while, but as a small town Wyoming resident, the poetic justice finally sunk in. We’d arrived at their habitat erudite and experienced men of the world, on our way to and from bigger and better things, pausing just long enough to express our incredulity and disappointment at their backwardness, and to let them know how they ought to be behaving. They in turn politely ignored us and went about living their unassuming high-country lives.

Sometimes the neighbors drive me crazy, but I sure do admire their style.

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