We’re wrapping up another year and as 2012 comes to a close, it’s natural that we look back though the year to smile at some of the memories as well as shake our heads in dismay at some of the sadder days of the year past. So here are one person’s rankings of the top six fly-fishing stories of 2012. Why six? That’s just the way it is …
#6: “Over the River” Project
Cristo’s “Over the River” project, in which fabric was to be suspended over six miles of the Arkansas River, was delayed after a series of decisions and court rulings dogged the artist’s efforts and impacted his timeline. In late July, the BLM approved the project. Three days later, on July 31, The Denver Post reported that Cristo was delaying the project citing the impact of the on-going litigations as reasons for a revised timeline. On September 14, 2012, The Huffington Post reported that Judge Kane has delayed the project until lawsuits seeking to block its construction are settled. Of course, the “Over the River” project is all tangled up in controversy – tangled up like the fabric might be with one gust of wind and for sure how the traffic would be on Highway 50 as drivers gawk at what I call “Tarp On the Ark.” You can read Colorado Trout Unlimited’s letter to the BLM here expressing TU’s concerns with the project.
#5: Amy’s Ant was hot
Ok, this may not be a typical “top story” kind of item, but c’mon! This little red fly was killing it all summer long. From Elevenmile Canyon to the Arkansas near Salida – and small streams in between – Amy’s Ant was the “go-to” fly for the year. Lesson learned: tie on the terrestrial! They’re a fun fly to use. They can be productive in place of dry flies when you don’t want to nymph, and fish either hit the Ant hard or they play with them, batting them with their tail, nudging them with their nose or back, making you crazy each time.
#4: People catching fish
I think two guys who posted on our Facebook page express the sentiments that make this the #4 top story of our region. Zann wrote “despite the learning curve, I’ve enjoyed every minute!” A little later, Nathan added “I learn something new every time out. … I have caught a few fish, so I must be doing something right.” Now, a sport that grows in popularity is a double-edged sword. Of course, when we are on the river, we like some elbow room – well, to be honest, we want long stretches of river to ourselves, maybe a half-mile worth of elbow room. But there is something, too, about sharing this adventure. Nathan’s post went on to say that “I have met some extremely nice people that are always willing to teach you something!” And to be honest, speaking of learning curves, it’s great when your girlfriend catches more fish this summer than she did last summer. As long as she doesn’t catch more than you on that certain stretch of the Platte at Deckers. On three consecutive casts with a streamer. The one you encouraged her to use. I’m just sayin’. In September, The Denver Post published “Women taking up fly-fishing in greater numbers.” That article captures some of the essence of the sport: “It has a meditative quality,” Erica Stock of Trout Unlimited says. And how bad can that be – that more of us would take up a sport that offers a kind of relaxation, a reconnection with nature, a meditation? And the meditation helps you get over the streamer thing at Deckers, the one that involves one of the women taking up the sport.
#3: Community Involvement
Fly fishing provides opportunities for folks to not just take up a great sport, but local groups come together to encourage healthy fisheries and, in the case of Project Healing Waters, to support healthy living for our returning veterans.
Angler’s Covey teamed up with the Cheyenne Mountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited throughout the year. The Pint Night in December and the TU day at the Covey both supported Trout Unlimited’s new program "Trout in the Community.” CMCTU has sponsored a similar program, Trout in the Classroom, for the past three years. In that program, CMCTU raises rainbow trout from eggs to fingerlings in a classroom at Woodland Park High School. After testing for disease and pathogens the trout are released into local waters. Building on that concept, “Trout in the Community” is a first in the nation program where CMCTU will be raising rainbows from eggs to fingerlings in a community setting: the lobby of Angler’s Covey. This will provide the entire community, including over 100,000 k-12 students in El Paso County, to see and learn about the trout lifecycle. This program also includes Catamount Institute as a program partner. Catamount provides environmental education programs throughout the area.
Project Healing Waters continues to provide support to our returning veterans in ways that only fly fishing can. Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc. is dedicated to the physical and emotional rehabilitation of disabled active military service personnel and veterans through fly fishing and fly tying education and outings. In PHWFF's five year history, 2012 turned out to be its most successful year yet. They conducted over 42 weeks of basic and intermediate fly-tying classes. In the fly rod building classes, one of the participant veterans took First Place at Project Healing Water's national rod building contest and was awarded a week of fishing in Alaska. Finally, they conducted a total of 10 one-day trips and 17 multi-day trips due to the work of their trip hosts.
One of the key events that supports Project Healing waters is the Fly Fishing Film Tour. Angler’s Covey and Royal Gorge Anglers team up to bring this event to Colorado Springs. The FlyFishing Film Tour proved to be a successful fund raiser for PHWFF in 2012 with donations totaling $11,000. Thanks PHWFF for the work you do and thank you to the community that helps support their work! For more information on the 2013 Fly Fishing Film Tour and to see a list of corporate sponsors of the event see the link here. The Fly Fishing Film Tour is on Friday, February 1, 2013.
#2 The Drought of 2012 and Its Effects
The severe drought that we experienced throughout the state in 2012 had its share of stories associated with the parched conditions. Of course, locally we experienced the horrific fire along our Rampart Range. A week prior to the Waldo Fire, we had a scare with the Springer Fire that threatened Elevenmile Canyon. Jannetta and I were actually fishing in the Canyon when she saw the smoke rising above the Canyon wall downstream from us. 20 minutes later, we were being told to evacuate and joined the steady of stream of vehicles -- including school buses to evacuate the Boy Scout camp -- exiting the Canyon. The fire burned a few days and then, the next week, access to the Canyon was cut off up Highway 24 due to the Waldo Fire. Fires blazed through the state, from west of Fort Collins at the beginning of the summer to the Fern Lake fire in Rocky Mountain National Park later in the season.
Beyond creating conditions that produced the fires, though, the drought impacted fishing throughout the state. At the Yampa River, the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife encouraged fishers to impose a voluntary fishing ban on that river to reduce the stressful impact on fish. Guides around the state were shortening trips and encouraging other anglers to avoid fishing in the middle of the day when water temperatures were reaching the low 70’s in the afternoon. Throughout this drought, we have learned more than we may have wanted to about fires and the impact of low flows in our waterways. The summer reminded me us that we are the best stewards of our planet, our forests, and our fish.
#1 Greenback Cutthroat Trout
For our local area, if not for the entire state, the top fly-fishing story was the discovery that the pure Greenback Cutthroat Trout is only found in one location in the state: a four-mile stretch of Bear Creek in North Cheyenne Canyon. Extensive DNA research conducted by Jessica Metcalf at the University of Colorado – Boulder revealed that species of cutthroat trout in Colorado have to be renamed and recategorized. The Greenback Cutthroat story is way more than a fish story. It has local history dating back to the 1880’s. It has Colorado history for fish stocking practices over the past 100 years. It has a whole scientific story to it – with the DNA research performed in local waters as well as in fish specimens preserved in museums and labs in the western part of the United States. And, I am guessing, it has some individual history out there for any person who has a picture captioned “My First Greenback.” It just ain’t so! Two stories will be worth following in 2013: the whole story of cutthroat trout in Colorado, and the conservation efforts in Bear Creek – which already has a history of conservation efforts to prevent erosion from heavy dirt bike traffic in the multi-use area called Jones Park. We have condensed some of the 2012 coverage of the Greenback Cutthroat on our blog.
So, in a nutshell, those are the stories from 2012. Tight lines and best wishes for a prosperous 2013.
Orvis 101 Introduction to Fly Fishing
Orvis 201 Streamside