This summer brought some fantastic fishing opportunities and I spent a lot of time on the water so I threw these two little short stories together based on a couple of the more memorable moments over break.
Have you ever been somewhere that you really didn’t want to be? Not a bad place like a wedding for your wife’s cousin bad or in a meeting that “we all know you shouldn’t be in” bad, but a place that after a while even feels a little dangerous. The kind of setting that makes your skin crawl. Fishing doesn’t typically get me into these situations. Sure there are bears, deadly snakes, or the stray moose around sometimes but I’m never on the wrong side of Chicago or anything.
That being said not every forgotten town in America turns out to be a quaint little community at the end of a long curvy road. I was fishing the front range of the Rockies this summer for high altitude brook and cutthroat trout and I found myself stuck in a town worth driving two hours to avoid. Ward, Colorado is situated nicely just outside the area I was fishing so when I found a Bed and Breakfast there, for a cheap price, online I booked it.
To paint a picture of Ward would be an insult to art but I’ll do my best. There is one main road with a small convenience store on one side and an abandoned art gallery on the other. Don’t confuse the store for a gas station, it isn’t, they sell beer, ice, and for the right price any of the junk out front. Lining the rest of the road are broken down cars from the 50’s all the way up to the early 2000’s. A couple cars appear to have been converted into housing with plywood and plastic tarps.
The rest of the town splits off on a variety of unmarked gravel and dirt roads that lead to shacks mostly made of plywood and chipboard. A few of the nicer ones boast metal sheeting and the occasional window. Each yard has a couple lawn chairs thrown in front along with any and all junk you can imagine. A small park, post office, and boarded off church comprise the bulk of “downtown”. On the east edge of town there is a water spigot, I assume to be public, where many of the residents fill their water jugs for the week. The end of town is marked with another row of junkyard cars and a fluorescent yellow sign with two kids and an alien on it, you read that right.
Just the scenery, if you can call it that, made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It certainly didn’t help that I rolled into Ward at nine thirty at night with no idea how to get to where I needed and desperately wanted to be. I spent almost an hour driving around in the dark looking for the B&B that I hoped didn’t look anything like the rest of the town. Thankfully tucked in a grove of aspens on one side of town was a nice little lodge complete with actual siding and paint that wasn’t mostly peeled off. I could spend another 500 words on the sights and sounds of Ward, although I don’t really want to. For the most part the B&B was nice, the fishing was good, but at night I took every bit of gear in with me.
I’d like to say it’s experiences like that which make trips memorable and special, which would be true I suppose, but some things are memorable and special for all the wrong reasons. There are a lot of beautiful places in Colorado, Ward is not one of them.
This summer wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable if not for the massive flooding that engulfed my home waters in late May and early June. I don’t like calling Truman Lake my home waters because it isn’t very fly fishing friendly, but I suppose that doesn’t have much to do with it. Besides I’ve found a bit of a niche there in the carp game and I actually had some pretty good days on Truman chasing hybrids this year.
The craziest day I had, or what I consider pretty crazy, was really only half a day because in the summer I tend to sleep til ten if I don’t have work and the humidity and heat was far to high for a mid afternoon excursion. I guess it was really more of a quarter day than anything, that’s not very fisherman like I suppose. Anyways I left my house and drove the super short five minutes to a favorite carping spot of mine I call “behind Walmart” because it’s nowhere near Walmart.
I slugged along the bank of a glorified muddy ditch and had shots at carp fairly consistently. I landed one and hooked a couple others but nothing to out of the ordinary. Well that’s not entirely true just hooking three carp is out of the ordinary but not dramatically so. I stomped my way through the thick mud to where the ditch started to enter the flooded lake. It was loaded with fish, fifty or more sucking pigs just gorging themselves on anything and everything. Naturally I couldn’t catch a single one.
I stood there for over an hour casting to every fish I could reach. It felt like they were just as likely to jump up on the bank next to me as they were to take my fly. After a while I started to take it a little personally so I decided I should probably leave, also not very fisherman like I guess. Quitting isn’t my style though, so I committed a fishing sin and left fish to find fish. It’s carp though and if they’re in one ugly flooded “creek” they’ll be in another.
My next stop was a spot I call “the other little creek” because it’s near a bigger creek I like to fish but I don’t actually know the name of it. Just like the previous spot it was loaded with fish. One of the little flooded side channels had at least fifteen tails tickling the surface. I waded up to my ankles in the bacteria soup that is Truman lake and shot a cast across the slew to the first tail I spotted.
My cast was a off to the right but to my dismay the carp rocketed over and sucked my little leach in. Naturally I set the hook. The fish turned then burst into a sporadic run straight at me. I shoveled line through the guides to keep up with the fish but before I knew it he’d found a flooded bush and wrapped himself and about twenty feet of my fly line in it like Christmas lights around a tree.
I waded in after the fish only to find myself in about two feet of water and a foot and a half of mud. I got stuck no more than three feet from the bush. In a last stitch effort I braced my rod on the outstretched branches of a nearby willow tree and leaned for the flooded bush, but I missed and fell face first into the muddy water. On the bright-side I was unstuck but on the dark-side I was covered in a nasty stew of decaying stuff and who knows what else.
The fish was still twisted up in the branches so I began to break them off one by one. It took almost ten minutes to free him but eventually I succeeded. It was a pretty averaged sized carp and quite frankly probably not worth all the effort. I figured he was however worth a picture and an eventual article (this one) given the circumstances. I flipped my camera on and went to snap a photo when NOT to my surprise I realized I’d left the camera card in my computer at home.
That’s how carp fishing is though, sometimes everything must go completely perfect to catch a fish and other times it must go completely wrong. I stood there sopping wet with a camera that didn’t work and a fish that had made a fool of me despite the fact that I’d caught him, but for some reason I was completely fine with it.