South Platte

October 16th, 2006

"Prologue" - South Platte Chronicles
By Carl Pudlo, Colorado

"Fly fishing, like Mathematics, should be pursued and studied solely for its intrinsic beauty." - The Gentleman of the South Platte
Historic Photo of South Platte

He appeared from nowhere and slowly walked to the bank of the South Platte River. For several minutes, he calmly surveyed the water both upstream and downstream. When he finally crossed the river, I could see the water never went above the knee of his brown neoprene waders. There seemed to be an air of nobility about the man as he quietly moved downstream and stopped across from a backwash behind some large rocks, and beached trees. I carefully watched as he stripped out fly-line from what appeared to be a nine-foot graphite rod. I was too far away to identify the fly he was using. With the dexterity of a world-class gymnast, he dropped the first cast in a pool just behind a large granite rock. His casts were smooth and accurate. I could see he worked every inch of backwash behind the rock with each cast. After five minutes, he hooked a trout and artfully played the fish. He cautiously knelt on one knee in ten inches of water and delicately unhooked the trout, returning it to the water, never once allowing the fish to be completely out of the water. I watched for the next fifteen minutes as he thoroughly fished the backwash. Each time he caught a trout, he released the played-out fish as methodically as the first time, slowly bending to one knee, and painstakingly removing the hook with minimum disturbance to the fish. I surmised the man I watched was someone with a singular expertise of fly-fishing, acquired through years of experiences. I wondered to myself about his curious mannerisms and definitive actions. Were they just a quirk of his character, or was there a reason for every movement? Did he have a knowledge and perception of this river that eluded the most experienced fly-fishing enthusiast? Was there a divine providence directing this South Platte angler in every undertaking? I soon would find out. The mysterious man motioned for me to join him!

I was surprised that he even knew I was there. With the excitement of a child at Christmas, I jumped from my perch and scrambled to the opposite bank from the gentleman. He started a conversation about how the weather was ideal for fishing today, not rainy, but cloudy, to block the intense sunlight. As he talked, I tried to discern the fly he was using with such success. He wore an old brown fedora, much like that of the Indiana Jones character. There were no flies cluttering the band of the fedora. His brown waders covered a flannel shirt, and an old tan fishing vest, not the cut-off, store-bought vest, with pockets everywhere, but a simple one of a fabric that I could not recognize. He had an unlit, half-smoked, cigar clenched between his teeth and occasionally he would remove the cigar, hold it between his index and middle fingers, to spit accumulated saliva. Brown boots and gravel guards covered the stocking feet of the brown waders. Hundreds of questions crossed my mind about the man who stood across the stream from me. Finally, I got the nerve to interrupt the man and ask, "Why have you motioned for me to join you?"

"I watched you fish the South Platte for some time before you sat down for a rest. Would you like to learn the inner secrets of the river?" In my wildest dreams, I could not resist this ingratiating offer from the gentleman. My experiences on the South Platte were mostly unsuccessful, yet in thirty minutes of fishing, this man caught and released more trout from one hole than I had been able to catch in twenty days of fishing. For the next hour, the gentleman spun tales of fishing experiences as I absorbed his every word, tales not just of fishing, but also of companionship and amusement. So it was that I first met this gentleman of the South Platte River, the man who taught me fishing is more than catching fish. So I began to chronicle fishing the South Platte River of Colorado.

Photo of South Platte

To be continued. ~ Carl Pudlo, Colorado

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