UpFront Notes

UpFront Notes

  • By: Greg Thomas

I’ve always gone for the glory fish, mostly wild trout and steelhead, but tarpon, bonefish and salmon, too.

However, during the past few years I’ve paid more attention to the less-loved fishes, meaning pike, bass, perch and even rockfish. If Humboldt squid ate flies I’d probably huck for those, too. These days I’m wondering what I really missed by mostly focusing on glory species for so many years.

I can’t be sure why my attitude changed, but it may have had something to do with a 12-hour road trip from Montana to Colorado that I took with another writer, a senior voice in fly-fishing and an admitted trash-fish connoisseur. He was a guy who loathed my trout and once told me to look him up when I decided to catch “real fish.”

We were somewhere in northern Colorado when he spotted an impoundment adjacent to the interstate, conveniently located next to a rest area. He said, feigning urgency, “I gotta go.”

I don’t remember that he used the facilities, but I do recall his walking to a closed gate, where a No Trespassing sign promised prosecution to the full extent of the law. It fell short of threatening use of deadly force, but this was a place someone didn’t want us to fish.

My accomplice ran a hand through his wildly long and ponytailed salt-and-pepper hair before saying with a nervous chuckle—as if humored by the possible results—“You know we have to fish it, right?”

I said, “No, we don’t have to fish it,” but he was already looking past the gate, to the reservoir and even beyond it, into the foothills, where he probably envisioned some clandestine nuclear plant where wild experiments were going haywire, all supported by his taxpayer dollars. Below it, in the outflow pond, he probably imagined a calamity, spawned like Godzilla, some huge mutant fish there for the taking. In his mind—and he said this—someone was hiding something and that’s the only reason perfectly good water would be off-limits to anglers. The Nuclear Energy Agency was probably behind this, he said, but that was only a guess. Being a former investigative reporter who seemed to thrive on people chasing him, he had to find out what swam in that lake, even if it only turned out to be Colorado’s largest and most heavily guarded pumpkinseed.

“What do you think is out there?” he asked.

“Nothing. It’s a cesspool. Maybe sewer trout. That’s it,” I replied.

“Oh no,” he said. “Anything could be in there. Fifty-inch pike. Thirty-pound carp. Maybe a world-record bass. Who knows when the last time this thing was fished? Do you know how much money we’d get for catching the world-record bass?”

“Yeah, I do,” I said. “Two hundred bucks from Reuters for the photo and a thousand-dollar fine from Colorado’s wildlife enforcement division.”

“You’re not a very curious guy are you?” he asked, with a noticeable tone of regret.

“Curious enough,” I answered.

When we reached my truck he turned his palms up to me, raised his eyebrows and said, “You’re really not going to fish here?”

I always wondered what the big deal was, why he needed to fish that lake so badly, why he seemed so perplexed that I wouldn’t and was so disgusted when I told him if he didn’t get in the rig he’d be walking to Denver. Ten years and a variety of species later, I now know why. But I’m still wondering whether he cancelled a flight home from Denver to Seattle and instead decided to rent a car and drive on his own, something he threatened to do. Maybe it’s time for me to look him up.

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