South Platte

February 5th, 2007

Tributary Ten
The Good, the Bad, and the Witless
By Carl Pudlo, Colorado

"The earth is the Lord's and everything in it..." Proverbs 24:1

The man of the South Platte regaled me with tale after tale. His stories included the excitement of the catch, the beauty and dangers of the area, and the techniques of fishing. His tales were long and short, sometimes he only had a once sentence comment on specific topics. He never spoke in anger or haste. It seems that everything he said had a purpose and always everything he said had meaning. He wasted no words. I would always wonder where he was going with the next story, and it always kept me on the edge...

Wherever I fished on the South Platte, invariably I would come upon other fishermen, and not just fishermen, but everyday users of the water resources of Colorado. The South Platte is a well known river with many sections of gold medal water. I have fished places where the recreational users would float upon an inner tube to relax in the cool water. I have seen where four wheel drive vehicles used shallow water as a place to cross the river. Everywhere I went on the South Platte, I would see signs of good, signs of bad, and signs of the witless.

Tributary 10

The Good

Many years ago, I was fishing outside of the little burg of Hartsel, Colorado. Hartsel lies on U. S. Highway 24 about sixty-five miles west of Colorado Springs. The quiet community is often a short haven for weary travelers as they use the small convenience stores to stock buy soda or any other snack available there. The South Platte crosses the highway just west of Hartsel.

The river was high this spring, and as I pulled into the turn around to park the truck I could see some other fishermen testing their trout patterns on the gold medal water. I was not different. I had just tied a nymph pattern that worked well on other sections of the river, and I wanted to see if the pattern would be as successful here. As I started fishing the upstream section, I noticed another truck pull into the turn around. The driver of the blue Chevy got out; he just stood there and observed the area and the fishermen on the river for some time. As I fished, I could not help but feel like the man at the blue Chevy was examining me. He watched me, watched the other fishermen, and watched the river; he slowly put together his fly rod. He was a young unassuming man, one you would not notice in a crowd. He patiently sat and meticulously watched with on occasional movement to prepare for fishing.

Curiosity overcame me. After I released another fish, I reeled in the line and sat at the bank. I copied the stoic man by sitting on a rock and observed the surrounding conditions of the river, the fishermen on the river, and the weather. I watched each fisherman as did the young man by the blue Chevy. I watched their casting technique. I watched as they changed flies. I watched how they waded the river. I watched as they caught no fishing and left quietly to go to their vehicles, and the young man watched the same scene as one by one each fisherman left until the only ones left were the two observers. My curiosity would be satisfied, the young man came directly to me without hesitation. I surmised he was not just here to fish.

He approached me and introduced himself. As we talked, he informed me he traveled from Bailey, CO. to find a place to fish. The river he fished and guided at Bailey was swelled by the spring thaw and fishing and guiding was near impossible. We talked about the difficulty and challenge of fishing high water. We talked about the types of hand tied flies we each used. We traded stories of success and near success, and most importantly, we noted the singular enjoyment of the fishing experience.

He questioned me about my knowledge of the South Platte, and where would be a good place to bring novices. He asked about the flow and the depth of the water. He asked about the accessibility during this time of high water. He asked about the best patterns and types of flies to use in these places. As we talked about patterns, I offered him some samples that have been excellent trout attractors. It was then that he told me he sensed I was different from the other anglers. He saw how I had been able to land fish while the others were just soaking feather and fur. He was amazed when I quit fishing to observe as he had been doing.

It is not often when one fisherman meets another fisherman cut from the same bolt of cloth. When it happens, it is as unforgettable as your name. As the dusk came upon us, he offered me two of his favorite dry flies, a Quill Gordon and a Blue Winged Olive. I spent little time during that fishing journey on fishing. I spent most of the time fellowshipping with another on the joys of fishing and the sharing of an exclusive respect.

I have had experiences that defy the laws of probability. One summer just after Father's day, I spent the afternoon fishing the South Platte in Deckers. The joy of the day was fishing with my new Father's day present from my children. I received for a present a cap that had a rainbow trout through it (cloth of course). The head of the trout protruded from above the bill of the cap, and the tail came out just above the size adjustor. It was a unique cap to say the least and it also won a prize at work for the ugliest cap. I, however, enjoyed the cap because it was from my children.

As usual, there were other fishermen around the South Platte that day. A particularly friendly gentleman started a conversation with me from the shore. I was busy nymphing, so I could not make any eye contact with the gentlemen. The conversation started with the weather, then the fishing, and finally Father's day. He asked if the cap I was wearing was a present. Between casts, I finally turned to the gentleman and responded the cap was a present from my children. It was then that I noticed, and he informed me, that he was wearing his Father's day present also, an exact duplicate of my hat! We both laughed heartily.

To be continued... ~ Carl Pudlo, Colorado

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