I desperately want the South Platte River, through its urban corridor of Denver, to be a consistent, high quality fishery. I want to have the best of both worlds – the concerts, museums, sporting events, and culture of a city like Denver, with a trout river that flows through it. But in this instance, what I want and reality are still a ways off.
I’ve lived a few years in Arizona and New Mexico, and in the southwest there are mountain chains that rise to over 9,000 and 10,000 feet, commonly referred to as sky islands. They contain vastly different terrain than the surrounding desert, and above a certain elevation the desert flora and fauna are replaced by pine trees and mountain mammals. These mountains are pockets of uniquely different habitat surrounded by a vast, arid desert.
Fishing the urban South Platte in Denver is a lot like traveling between the sky islands of the desert southwest. In other words, there are some incredibly beautiful, high quality rapids, riffles, and runs, but they’re all at least a quarter mile apart. These little pockets of high quality water look as good as anywhere I’ve fished. I’ve seen caddis, tricos, and PMD’s in great numbers in these stretches. Take this one, for instance:
Family… like the parents and siblings kind of family. It’s our origin, our nature and our nurture; the emotions and actions of our loved ones help form us, and are forever etched on our souls and in our brains, whether or not we want to admit it. Each other’s champions or sometime foils, our familial relationships ebb and flow and are at least, if nothing else, constant. And, hopefully, if we’re lucky, we actually want to spend some time with our families.
Our good friend, Frank, had his brother and father in town for the weekend, and these three guys clearly enjoy being around each other – I’ve never heard the phrase “Shut the f#ck up!” uttered with such obvious love and affection. I’m completely serious here.
Frank is based in Denver, Tom is a medical student in Virginia, and Frank Senior is a contented retiree in his home city of Philadelphia. Frank booked a nice house on the banks of the Big Thompson, and generously invited a few of his Denver friends up for a Saturday night of steaks, drinks, good conversation, throwing bags, and poker. A guy’s night away from obligations. But before all that, we went fishing.
It was one of those days where, in the end, not a whole lot really needs to be said about it; especially when the accompanying pictures (see slideshow below) so adequately showcase the beauty of our surroundings and the fact that, this time, there was a lot more catching going on.
Tim and I had Sunday morning for fishing and we started early, on the water before 7:30.
The low morning sun was honey colored and perfect, and hit the water in that angled way that a lot of us don’t often get to see (usually because we’re not out fishing early enough). We started at a bend west of town, a good 300 yard stretch that is away from the road, has no buildings on it, and gives the illusion of being a lot more isolated than it is.
It’s just that sometimes it looks a lot different.
I fished the Yampa tailwater below Stagecoach reservoir this weekend without Tim, just south of Steamboat Springs, and it was the biggest I’ve ever seen it. The water below the dam averages 80-100 cfs most of the year except for a brief period every spring where they let it loose so that the reservoir doesn’t overflow. In the above picture, not only is the bottom release CRANKING out water at a scary rate, that’s also more water coming over the spillway than I’ve ever seen. I’d guess the flows were at least 600 cfs, but there’s no way to know for sure since the measuring station has been down for weeks.
This year is the biggest runoff year in the ten years I’ve lived in Colorado. Rivers are still hundreds to thousands of cubic feet per second above averages, and while they remain playgrounds for rafters and kayakers, fishermen stare wistfully from their cars and continue to tell themselves things like “Well, at least it’s good for the health of the river.” Throw in a wet start to the summer, with torrential afternoon rains at least once or twice a week, and rivers likely won’t be down to average flows until August.
But, I digress, as that’s not really what this post is about. This post is about home waters.
The day started fuzzy, thanks to two too many drinks the night before and the umpteenth viewing of “The Movie” that lasted well past midnight. To be honest, I hadn’t watched it in years, not since I really started to fish obsessively, and I found myself surprised at how poorly Craig Sheffer and Tom Skerritt actually cast a fly rod. Brad Pitt seemed to know what he was doing, but it was still obvious when they were using footage of Brad versus when they were using cleverly disguised footage of his stand-in.
Anyway, I had spent the night at Tim & Stacy’s because Tim and I both had Friday off and we wanted to get an early start. My wife, Jenn, and I are juggling careers while raising our two and a half year old son, so a night spent at a friend’s house, with a day of fishing starting the next morning, feels damn near like a vacation. (The challenge, of course, is making sure these getaways even out over time for both husbands and wives.)
After loading our gear and a quick stop for a drive-thru breakfast that probably met our recommended sodium intake for the whole day, we were on the road by 7:15. I was about to remark that in our younger days we could’ve made an even earlier start, but, actually, that’s probably not true at all. With jobs that wake us up early, aches and pains that do the same, and toddlers and infants that don’t let us sleep past 7:30 even if we could, I think most of us in our late thirties probably, on average, get up a hell of a lot earlier than we did in our twenties.
They tell you in college to refrain from beginning a paper with a quote, but we’re going to do it anyway. Here’s John Gierach, famed fly-fishing writer, on whether he used outdoor writing from other authors as a guide early in his career:
“Only to the extent that I needed to know what magazines wanted. Most of it is not very good, and new outdoor writers base their expectations and model their work after other outdoor writing, and since it isn’t very good it tends to keep the standard low. The quality of the writing tends not to be particularly good because it doesn’t have to be. It has to be clear and succinct and relatively precise, but basically it’s technical writing: you go here and do this, and you’ll catch some fish. It’s really more a matter of degree.”
This undertaking, a collective endeavor between two longtime friends, will strive to use the above quote as a creative touchstone. Sure, there may be a little technical information about what flies were fished on what waters and how, but most of what we cover here will be about how lives, fishing, and natural environments intertwine. We may write about beauty, or we may not, and we’ll certainly be posting beautiful pictures, but we’ll do our damnedest to come up with a unique perspective other than just exclaiming “Dang, ain’t that pretty!”
And now, to end this first post with another quote, you can also be confident that we sure as hell won’t take ourselves too seriously, either, because as Patrick F. McManus once said:
“Scholars have long known that fishing eventually turns men into philosophers. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to buy decent tackle on a philosopher’s salary.”