"...but humility comes before honor." Proverbs 18:12b
By Carl Pudlo, Colorado
Listening to the man with the tan vest had been
so interesting and insightful. The time passed quickly
as he recounted tale after tale. The more I listened,
the more I thought of fishing as a time for relaxing
rather than one of obtaining trophies or meals. The
more I listened, the more I thought of fishing as a
time of companionship and traditions. The more I listened,
the more I wished time would stop. I wanted to hear the
tales of experiences long past, tales of experiences of
friendship and camaraderie, tales of experiences of...
"Dusk arrived. I had time to fish one more short section
of the South Platte before complete darkness descended.
A group of boulders fractured the steady current in
midstream, creating washes on both sides of the boulder
and a deep backwash behind it. From fifteen feet away,
I made a cast upstream into the backwash behind the boulder.
The pull of the current on the fly line created a drag on
the streamer. I lifted the rod tip to pull the fly line
out of the main current, allowing the streamer to drift
naturally a bit longer in the backwash. I thought the
longer I could keep the streamer in the backwash, the
better my chances would be for attracting a solid fish.
I gave the rod a small tug to accentuate the movement
of the white marabou of the streamer in the wash area
behind the rock. WHAM! A good fish slammed the streamer.
After a short fight, I landed a sturdy sixteen-inch brown
trout. The trout was big enough to beat out the two
fourteen-inch brown trout my son had caught earlier and
earn the 'honors' for the best fish of the evening.
Sometime during the summer of 1999, we started a new
tradition. When we would go fishing, at least a group
of us, we would always confer the title of 'honors' to
the fisherman with the best fish of the evening. The
best fish of the evening was the one of greatest length.
The award itself was only an honorary award, but within
our little circle of fishermen, it made us feel like we
were world-class fishermen.
Most of our honors fishing occurred along a stretch of
the South Platte River adjacent to Happy Meadows Campground.
Happy Meadows Campground lies along a three-mile stretch of
the South Platte River running between the Tarryall Road and
private land. The campground itself is very unassuming.
It is a pay-by-the-night campground administered by the
Colorado Department of Wildlife. It has only ten campsites,
but those sites are seldom empty from Memorial Day through
Labor Day. The three miles of public water contain a diverse
set of fishing terrain. The underwater terrain forms deep
holes, slow backwashes, and boulder-filled rapids, all with
bottoms of gravel or mud. Occasionally a small island will
divide the water leaving a greater amount of grassy shoreline
for trout cover.
One warm spring evening in 2001, the fishing started with
my son Alex at the lower stretches of the river, about one
mile downstream from the campground. The lower stretch
starts with a section of rapid water in a boulder-infested
area. The rapids spill into a wider section of deep water
with submerged rocks. There is a long stretch of wide, slow
moving water, ending with the river trisected by two football
shaped islands. The water at the ends of the islands is deeper
and frequently holds some good fish. After the island, the
river widens with a gentle inside curve to the downstream side.
The bank is grassy and contains undercut banks, with an occasional
rock to break the meandering current. During times of high
water, wading is difficult because of the soft sand bottom.
As I fished a half-mile above the lower stretch, Alex enjoyed
the evening by fishing a large streamer along the shores of
the wider, deeper stretch below the islands. Occasionally
I would land a small trout, usually ten to twelve inches.
I fished the rapid water just above the lower stretch.
Without question, we would always use a streamer. We have
always had excellent response from the fish with streamers.
As it began to get dark, I thought I would hustle down to
where Alex was fishing to see how he was doing. I hurried
down to the island and fished the far right side. When I
got to the end of the islands, I sat down, rested, and
waited for Alex to fish his way back up to me.
As he got near me, I called out and questioned Alex on the
luck he was having. Since we couldn't hear each other over
the rippling of the water, I just waited for Alex to work
his way back to me. When he got to me, we sat and discussed
our fishing fortunes of the evening. I caught and released
several ten to twelve inch brown trout. Alex informed me
he already gained the honors with a couple of fourteen-inch
trout. We rested for a little longer, and waited for more
darkness to cover the serene setting of the river.
I moved upstream to fish above the islands and Alex just
stayed at the end of the islands and fished the far bank.
I had barely traversed half the island, when I heard a
loud splash and a yell from Alex, 'Hey Dad! I think I
have a wall trout on the line!' I rushed back down to
the end of the island staying far enough away so as not
to interfere with the play of the fish. The darkness
made it difficult to see the fish, but I knew it was a
good fish since it stayed deep for a long time. As the
fish weakened, we could see it was definitely the fish
of the evening. The fish more often broke surface and
revealed itself as a brown trout. Alex got it near shore,
and as he touched it ever so slightly to pull it in, the
fish rushed into another run at freedom. After several
attempts to land the honor fish, it finally succumbed to
our grasp. Upon inspection, we found it to be a
twenty-inch brown with a substantial girth. It is always
fun to earn the honors, but it is more fun to see the
satisfaction of my children when they delight in the
battle and victory of an honorary trout. This was a
most pleasurable experience for me because I witnessed
the struggle and triumph on this special evening.
To be continued... ~ Carl Pudlo, Colorado
The South Platte Chronicles Archive