Coy, this fishing experience was for you
My fishing background is pretty much like that of everyone in Southwest Oklahoma, either test out the old farm pond or head to one of the many area lakes.
And, I've enjoyed a good amount of success with that style of fishing, landing catfish, bass, crappie, sand bass and the like. But there was always something missing, another try at landing a trout.
My memory of fishing trout along the Big Thompson River that flows through Estes Park as a child is something I will always cherish. While I sat on the bank with my trusty Zebco and a hook baited with salmon eggs, brother Jon prowled up and down the waters, using grandpa Malone's fly rod to catch enough trout to provide dinner for the family.
Mom even made biscuits, although dad lost his eyebrows lighting that pesky old stove in that quaint cabin we had rented.
Since then my fishing has been very limited, but when I agreed to travel to Colorado with my son and his inlaws the Larry Logue family from Cache I was determined to go trout fishing and the place they picked Winter Park/Fraser area included some of the best trout waters in the state.
My appetite for trout fishing was compounded during many visits with the late Coy Watson, a former driver's license tester for the State of Oklahoma and a former football and basketball official. Coy was one of the first officials I met after taking this job and we were friends for more than 40 years. During the later years of his life, Watson became a big fan of Cameron sports, attending just about every game be it softball, baseball or basketball.
At one softball game we were discussing his cabin in the Rockies and his love of fly fishing. He was even known to give fly fishing lessons. Plus he was an expert at the fine art of fly tying.
Mid-way through the game he pulled a little round plastic jar out of his pocket and said, "here, try this out the next time you get to Colorado. It should produce good results."
Inside was a tiny hand-tied fly, complete with an eyelet that seemed so small that I would need a magnifying glass to rig it for action. That plastic jar sat on my desk for years, just waiting for the chance to do the work it was designed for; attracting trout.
But there was a problem, while I have numerous rod and reels sets, I didn't have anything that resembled a fly rod. That's where another good friend and neighbor, Les Lansford came into the picture.
When he found out we were planning a trip to Colorado, he hooked me up with everything I would need to make that fly do its magic. His well-worn fishing vest was packed with everything a trout fisherman would need, including a neat net that attached with a magnet on your back.
Anyone who has ever fished with Les knows that he's all business on the water, so before he would let me go pack my gear, I was given a 30-minute lesson in fly fishing.
I learned words I've never known like tippet, backing and others that like a bad student I failed to remember. My lesson included a few minutes in his front yard, whipping that line like I'd seen before but never done myself. After about 10 minutes I was doing good enough to pass his class.
But, he also told me to take along one of my spinning outfits because many a trout had been caught on those in lakes and reservoirs.
Now I was set for anything.
When we arrived in Winter Park we already had an advantage on other eager anglers; the property owner we rented a house from had provided us a 17-page booklet covering everything from where to take the trash, to where to find the best fishing.
His suggestion was the Fraser River that runs through Fraser and Winter Park and the Meadow Creek Reservoir high in the mountains north of Fraser.
Before we even hit the water we faced a challenge, finding a place to purchase a fishing license. We stopped by one of the many fly shops and no luck; they didn't sell them. One Texas family said they had gone to six fly and bait shops looking for a license before learning that the only outlet was the local Safeway store. Yes, it seems that the only place in Winter Park/Fraser that sold the state licenses was that Safeway. Heck, it even had hooks, salmon eggs and other trout fishing necessities.
For the record, my five-day license cost $31, while some of the crew paid $9 for a one-day license. If you dare test the waters of Colorado, my advice is to purchase a license because we saw several Rangers out trying to catch those who didn't follow their tough wildlife and fishing laws.
Now that everything was official it was time to hit the water. First, though, we thought it was best to test something a little easier, the kiddie pond in Fraser. That is a great project of the Kiwanis Club of Fraser/Winter Park, two small ponds that are regularly stocked. One is for kids and the physically challenged, complete with a gravel path around the entire circumference of the pond and also equipped with a couple of fishing docks.
With the wind whipping pretty good that day I decided that fly fishing just wouldn't be a good idea, so I pulled open one of the many pockets on the borrowed vests and went to work chunking and grinding the small spinners Les had in his vast arsenal.
Soon I was able to enjoy that ultimate thrill; a hard hit from a small trout. The little rainbow wasn't more than six inches long but he sure put up a good fight.
We tried our best to get grandson Jordy that same thrill but it just wasn't his day. However, his two cousins each managed to catch small trout and he got to enjoy seeing the beautiful fish before we released them to grow to the 14-inch size allowed by law.
After that we loaded up and went to popular Lake Granby on the west edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. The wind made fishing a real challenge and we failed to strike paydirt there.
Then we headed up to Meadow Creek Reservoir and if you ever want to see some great fishing water, this is the place. The road is a bit of a challenge, but even the rented mini-van in the group didn't have any problems traversing the winding dirt road.