Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mile High-Jinks

I was proud to be an infantry soldier, a grunt serving in the Army's, First Infantry Division ... as the saying goes, "If you have to be one, be a Big Red One."

When I wore the uniform, the 1st I.D. was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. I wish I could say that all your assumptions about fly fishing in Kansas are patently untrue. Unfortunately, most of what you might assume is correct. The eastern half of the state is as flat as a French fashion model. The landscape lacks a trout stream, but is dotted with lakes - just not the kind a 19 year-old bug chucker who was raised on the Battenkill might appreciate. If only I had known then, all that I know now ...

But being a trout bum at Fort Riley wasn't all bad. To the west, within a weekend's pass and a day's drive, were the Colorado Rockies and the type of fishing that made me think of home. Of the places I visited during my tenure as a soldier, my favorite may have been Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes, Colorado. RMNP is an amazing place - perhaps the only national park I've visited that rivals Yellowstone for its beauty.

Recently, my good friend and fishing partner, Ben Jose - proprietor of Benjamin Bronze Studios - had the opportunity to fish a day in the area just outside RMNP. Hearing the excitement in his voice in the days before his trip reminded me of how I felt the first time I made the drive from the flatlands of Kansas to the mountains of Colorado. What follows are Ben's recollections of his all-too-short time in the Centennial State.

As an avid reader (and bug chuckin’ partner) of The Rusty Spinner, it has been a joy of mine to fish the tributaries to the Great Lakes, The Battenkill, The River That Shall Not Be Named, and other water filled ditches, and then open up this blog a few days later to read the Spinner's interpretation of our outing. So … When Rusty asked if I would share with his audience, a few of my recent experiences, I was all too happy to oblige.

During a business trip in March of this year, I was given the opportunity to throw my line over some of the most beautiful water I've ever seen. At the direction of Jeanne Toussaint - Colorado resident and sister of the angle - I fished the Big Thompson River just downstream of Rocky Mountain National Park. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the canyons and the water.

But this blog is not entirely about rivers, the rocks, or the fishing in between … this blog is about the kindness, camaraderie and pity we bug chuckers sometimes extend to each other.

I locked up the brakes in front of the Elkhorn Fly Rod and Reel in Loveland, CO, and barely negotiated the the parking space at the building's front. I was hoping that when I walked through the door, I would be met by the friendly face of fellow bug chucker who willingly would share some information about local fishing. I wasn't particularly optimistic as my travels have taught me that all too often the folks working behind the counter at the fly shop are tight lipped and reluctant to give up the goods. I suppose these folks probably have their reasons, although I've never fully understood them.

As I entered the shop, I was greeted by a friendly “Hello,” from Casey, the employee working that day. I returned the greeting, and tentatively, I laid my boxes - and my pride - down on the counter, and asked if my eclectic assembly of small nymphs would be suitable for the Big Thompson, a little stream flowing just west of town. 

In the kindest way possible, Casey let me know that even the smallest of my bugs might be, “a little too big.” I am not sure whether it was Casey’s good nature, his amusement at having had a look inside my boxes, or just the fact that he wanted to see a chucklehead from New York hook up with a Colorado fish, but he gave me solid advice and good directions to a few of the better spots on the stream.
For this I am genuinely grateful.

A sincere “Thank You” goes out to Casey and to Brian Chavet, the owner of Elkhorn Fly Rod and Reel. They should know that I was able to land a couple eager fish on their flies, and that I better enjoyed my time in Colorado as a result. If you are ever in Loveland, be sure to stop in to Elkhorn … you’ll be happy you did.

I should note that one day before I fished the Big Thompson, I was wading the trophy section of the Battenkill in New York, and that I caught the first fish I've hooked there in nearly 15 years. Altogether, it was quite a way to spend a weekend.

- Ben Jose

1 comment:

Francois said...

"The eastern half of the state is as flat as a French fashion model."

Are French women known for being flat or something?