|DREAMING BIG IN COLORADO
By Dave Robinson
I’m going fishing!!! Ok, the Boss thinks I'm in Colorado on business...Pfffft!
After a flight to Denver and an hour drive to Colorado Springs, I settle in for a
restless sleep. The alarm catapults me from my bed and even though it’s still
dark, I’m wide awake and eager as a puppy.
The two hour drive passes quickly and I arrive at Spinney Mountain State
Wildlife Area. I meet my Guide, Tad Howard, owner of Colorado Trout Hunters
- Guide Service, at the diner in the tiny hamlet of Hartsel, Co. A place where
everyone knows everyone and I’m welcomed like family with the kindness and
hospitality afforded to all in small towns across America.
We stop our truck atop the dam of Spinney Reservoir and look out in the early
morning light over the 3.8 mile tail water. It meanders lazily in an S pattern into
the distance, like the trail of a giant Anaconda slithering through the treeless grassy plain.
The Dream Stream. The name alone makes my ears perk up and my head
swivel like a compass pointing north towards the sound. After years of hearing of this hallowed place, I’m finally here.
This section of the South Platte River, between the Spinney and 11 Mile
Reservoirs, is infamous for being crowded and windy. But on this spring day in
May, we’re sharing the river with only a few Prong Horned Antelopes grazing
nearby and just a whispered breath of a breeze.
We gear up and Tad explains we’re inbetween the raging spawns of cutthroats
in February, the March run of giant rainbows and the fall spawn of the big
Browns. Today, we'll be stalking the resident population. We talk about local
flies, hatches and our strategy for the day. He sets me up at the end of a delicate
riffle leading to a deep cut bank on the turn. I cast into the shallows and allow
the midge nymph to fall into the abyss. Bang! First cast, a 16” Brownie! I pull a
few smaller rainbows from the same pool and we move on.
We set up in a slot and he tells me there’s a big brown between the rocks,
pointing where he wants me to land the fly. I stare at the spot where the fish is
allegedly holding. Even with my Polarized Sunglasses, the moving water dances
and the shadows and reflection obscure any forms below. I look over my
shoulder suspiciously, trying to see if he’s just messing with me. He smiles that
Guide smile. “Trust me.”
The first couple drifts get nothing. Before my strike indicator can pause, “Here
he comes…Set!” I lift my rod and the tip bends like a divining rod to water. After
a reel screaming fight, we land the big Brown and get a picture.
As we celebrate with thecustomary high five, I realize this
guy is special. I’ve only seen it a few times before. I call it X-Ray Fishion. The ability to see fish
through the multi layered kaleidoscope of moving water and
ever changing reflections. I certainly don’t possess this superpower. If
the sun is just right and the water isn’t too broken, I do get a glimpse every once in a while.
As the day unfolds, there’s no hint of a hatch and no fish are rising. We’re
sight nymph fishing and Tad continues to point out fish, announcing in advance if
it’s a Brown or Bow, in water up to five feet deep! I stare and squint while
cocking my head back and forth, trying to see what he does. It’s no use. I’m a
blind man and he’s my Seeing Eye Dog. I’m not sure if it’s a gift or just a learned
skill from years of fishing the same waters. Weather its magic or slight of hand, I
don’t care, I’m having a blast!! (In my defense, these are areas I would fish
anyway, but it’s nice to know where the big fish are!)
Born and raised in Upstate New York, fishing all the great waters of the
northeast provides an excellent early pedigree for his chosen profession.
He meets his wife while attending Law School in Denver and spends the
summers guiding. After graduating, he makes the monumental decision to stay
in Colorado and not sit at a desk everyday for the rest of his life. A choice he’s
never regretted. ( I wonder in amusement if his wife feels the same way?)
Now in his mid 30’s and a father of two, he’s passionate about his craft, yet
calm, relaxed, affable and patient. Qualities I admire in a Guide but I’m not sure
I’d want him defending me on murder charges!
The afternoon is cool and clear. I finish the big four slam, (Brown, Cutthroat,
Rainbow and Cutbow ) with a hefty pure Cutthroat. While catching fish in the 20”
range today, the spring and fall runs from 11 Mile routinely produce monsters in double
digits. He relates stories of past clients and the freakishly giant fish caught during the
migrations in this relatively small water. In my head, I’m already planning my next trip
here for the big Browns in the fall… I finally talk him into taking a few casts.
Guides are notoriously rod shy while working. I convince him only after
confessing I'm going to steal his moves. It's like getting to play golf with Tiger
Woods only to find out he's just your caddy! Guides are some of the best fly
casters in the world and I always pick up little nuances and techniques I try later.
He’s quickly hooked up and lands the Brown.
We spend the last few hours in relaxed conversation, sharing the rod and
working on my fish sighting prowess. He cracks up more than once when I point
out a rock for him to cast to.
While I may not be blessed with X-Ray Fishion, I know a good time when I see
it, and today The Dream Stream lived up to it’s name. Any day spent connecting
with a new friend, talking, laughing and catching a bunch of big fish, is the stuff dreams are made of.
So, get off the couch. Take a plane, train or automobile to Colorado and fish
The Dream Stream. This is a for sure, no excuse, must go, make the call and
pack a bag, Bucket List destination for anyone who’s ever held a fly rod. I can
best describe it as Disneyland for people who wear waders.
If you want to take to the next level and catch more and bigger fish, call my
friend, Tad. He'll point you in the right direction. Check out his website for plenty
of pictures and information on all the great fishing and hunting in Colorado. Tell
him that blind guy from California sent you...
Questions or comments on this article?