Five of us headed to the Arkansas River, to the tailwaters below the dam on Lake Pueblo. Usually we head toward the Nature Center or Valco Ponds. This day, we went further downstream instead, more into the city of Pueblo. Fishing in an urban setting is a different experience than being in the Canyon, or wading at Deckers, or stalking brookies in a small stream.
Oh the people we met.
As we were getting ourselves ready, a Hispanic man pulled into the dirt parking lot in a dark red sedan and began to get ready. He said hello as he began to get his waders on and get his rod set up. In a few minutes, he was offering some recommendations. Obviously a local, hecertainly knew the river. If we were heading upstream, he said, pointing with his rod, fish at a hole just a little ways up. Another hole is by the rocks, further, just around the bend. He offered the suggestions freely, as if he were talking to a couple of long-time friends. We thanked him as we headed upstream where we fished for the next couple of hours.
Back at the car having lunch, an old Chevy blazer pulled in: grey, dark windows, hip hop pouring out of the open windows. Another older model SUV pulled in next to them. Both cars were packed teens and young adults in their early 20s. Evidently, they were there to party. One young man approached me as I sat in my car.
“You had any luck?” he asked, his baseball cap pulled down to eyebrow level.
”Caught two,” I said.
”I usually come down for night fishing. I work ‘til 7, come down at 9 and fish under that bridge until about 11. I’ve just been having this craving for trout…you know how that goes? But I haven’t had much luck since Christmas!”
I wondered why he was down there now, with his group of friends. They were there honoring a friend, 19, who had died in the last week. Had left a party, drunk, to go get a deck of playing cards. Took a corner over by Irving School, “you know where that’s at” he asked, pointing east. I shrugged. ”Not really.” ”Yeah, he took a corner down there. At about 90. Rolled it. Killed himself.” I wondered to myself if he saw the sad irony happening in that dirt parking lot. ”These are his friends. So we came down to honor him.”
Maybe his need to tell somebody was relieved. Maybe it was just time to go back to his friends at the grey Blazer. I told him to be careful today. He nodded. ”We will.” We shook hands.
A few minutes later, my nephew and I were heading upstream again. An older married couple was behind us, out walking their two dogs. The man called out “where are you guys going to fish?” We told him we didn’t know, we’d just pick a spot. He was a local, too, having moved there from “the Midwest” five years prior. He told us of some holes and stretches, under the railroad bridge, or down by the culvert feeding the river, and then further up by the spillway. Conor asked what had brought them to Pueblo. ”That’s a good question,” the man said. His wife offered, “we visited some friends here and decided to move. Like anyplace, it has its pros and cons.” We turned off the path and headed down to the river with a “thanks for talking” and a return “good luck.”
I think of the mix here along the banks of the Arkansas. The friendliness of the locals sharing fishing information. A steady stream of folks walking and biking along the trails that parallel the river. An incredibly large group of teens — tattooed, stoned, drunk — sharing their loss, their pain. A married couple, retired, enjoying their walk along a river bank in a town which somehow became part of their destiny.
At the end of the day, the five of us stripped off our waders, each of us with our own story, each with our own path that somehow got us here today, our stories converging one again, here at the Tailwaters.
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