Ed Colby: Of carp, trout and pushy fish guides
July 2, 2002
One minute my boss Paul was talking about unmarked police cars. The next he suddenly pulled off to the side of the road. My head snapped around. “What’s up?” I asked.
“I gotta stop here for 15 minutes and see if I can catch a big carp,” he said. “I don’t have an extra rod,” he added apologetically.
“That’s OK,” I said. “I don’t have a license. But I can get one, if that’s what kind of job this is.”
“You probably ought to,” Paul said.
Something about Paul makes you believe that if he stops for 15 minutes to catch a fish, he’ll get one. A half-hour later his fly rod bent double, and ten minutes after that, he gently released what he called “an eight-pounder” and what I call a “big slug.”
When I told this story to my trout-fisherman friend Bill, he looked like he didn’t quite believe me. “Why would your boss want to catch a carp?” he asked. I found that to be an interesting question, coming from an angler. Think about it. Which would you rather have pulling on your fly line – a lead-bellied, crafty, nasty, bad-breath carp, or a silly little trout?
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Paul is a carp aficionado. He drives all over the state to catch carp. He loves carp. I told him what Bill said, and he gave me a wry grin. “Carp aren’t easy. You have to put your fly right on a carp or he won’t take,” he said. Then he went for the jugular. “Carp are a lot harder to catch than trout.”
As for me, it came to pass that I did buy a license, and after years of not going, I began to fish again.
When we lived in Carbondale, I fished a lot. At first, nobody fished the Roaring Fork. It didn’t much matter whether I fished on public land or at Granny’s. I liked Granny’s, though, because she’d always send me home with something from the garden, and we’d catch up on old times. Granny usually has company, so sometimes I got leftovers. I’d bring her old ski poles for garden fencing.
Then anglers found the lower Roaring Fork. Some got downright pushy.
The landowner agreement was if you had permission to fish at Granny’s, you could fish at the neighbors’, too. One neighbor owned the land under a very nice whitefish hole. On a golden autumn afternoon, as I gathered a mess of whitefish for my smoker, a “guide” and his client appeared across the channel. The guide shouted at me, then walked right through my riffle to warn me off his turf.
There was a place below town, by an old bridge, where people fished and where you could launch a boat. One day somebody put up a “no trespassing” sign and a couple of strands of barbed wire. Except it wasn’t the property owner. When I called her in Denver, she said, “We’ve always welcomed fishermen and boaters on our property.”
Life’s too short for this, and it’s not why I fish.
This evening Linda drove up to Harvey Gap to watch the Spring Creek fire, but I decided I’d rather fish.
A hot, smoky breeze wafts over the water. As I step into the cool river, the hill casts no shadow from a setting blood-red sun. The stinking mud sucks at my shoes, and the river emanates water smells of fecundity and death and life. A trout takes my fly, runs hard, then breaks off. Voices carry across the water as a boat drifts past in the twilight. I stumble through the willows back to the road. I can almost see the light in Linda’s kitchen window.
Each day should end like this one – trout fishing into the night.
OK, maybe trout fishing into the night isn’t as great as carp fishing into the night, but at least trout are easier to catch.
[ Beekeeper and ski patroller Ed Colby’s column runs on Tuesdays. His e-mail address is email@example.com.]