Fishing with Granddad |

Fishing with Granddad

It’s a new season and thoughts turn to activities other than skiing. Unmined for years, memories of my grandfather and fishing are strong on my mind this spring. Growing up in a ranching family as I did, we never took the time (at least not officially) to pursue things like catching fish, so we always did it in the evening, after work. Saturdays were out because Grandpa (a widower) was in a hurry to get to town and hook up with his girlfriend, Jennie, and Sunday was a day of recovery and rest, although Sunday evenings sometimes had promise. Out in Woody Creek, the gods seemed to be on our side as the creek was about a hundred yards from the house, which meant wetting a line could be done almost on the spur of the moment, and we never visited the rippling waters without some success. The first time he asked, I wasn’t sure I wanted Granddad to initiate me into the sport, simply because he never did anything halfway and the thought of trying to keep up with him at something else besides riding horses wasn’t exactly appealing. But, alongside the banks of the little stream, Gramps was about like me, just a kid having fun.He’d drop me off at my house on the way by, to put my horse away and have a snack. He’d do the same at his place, and without spelling it out, we’d know where to meet in the cow pasture – the spot where the worms were the fattest. Whoever got there first gathered in a few (worms) and we’d be off, yakking about where we ought to start, mostly based on the luck we’d had the last time out.Catch and release wasn’t a concept back in those days, and it didn’t really matter ’cause we never wasted anything we caught. If we’d had good luck in a particular fishing hole more than once, we would avoid it for a long time, letting it recover. Fly fishing was big over on the Roaring Fork, but Woody Creek wasn’t quite built for casting. Occasionally, some outsider would ask if he could try his luck, and unless mother cows were in the area, we always said OK. A city slicker from my mom’s side of the family conned me into taking him down to Woody Creek for an afternoon one fine summer day, and it was a miserable experience for both of us. Now, this guy could tie technically correct flies with his eyes closed, could cast to within a quarter-inch of where he wanted his line and, even though he was from Denver, was a well-respected fisherman on the Fork. But he couldn’t cast through willows so thick as what I led him to. He thought my choice of fishing holes to be deficient, and when he did manage to get his line in the water, it usually got snagged on something. I tried to give him some advice, but he thought me and Gramps were barbarians when it came to fishing, so he ended up getting skunked. He never mentioned coming back for another try. My grandfather died in March, the year I was 11, an event which forever changed my life in ways impossible to anticipate. On a warm summer’s evening, one of the hired hands who had known Gramps came up to the house and asked if maybe I’d like to go fishing. “No thanks,” I replied. “I just don’t feel like it.”There have been excursions to Lake Powell and maybe a couple of trips to mountain brooks here and there, but I’m no fisherman, and the last time I threw a line into Woody Creek, it was with Gramps. Tony Vagneur says he can tell a million (at least) stories about his granddad. Read Tony here on Saturdays and send comments to

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