In 1981, my friend Rich Long and I descended into a deep canyon of the Rio Grande near Cuesta, New Mexico.
Long, a 1982 graduate of Little Rock Central, lives in western Maryland. We used to visit northern New Mexico, specifically Cuesta and Taos, every spring. Trout water flows through this valley. I resolved to bring him back and hunt him, as well as some distant beaver ponds high in the mountains, but I never did.
However, I made new memories last week while fishing with Greg Graham of Little Rock near Lake City, Colo.
Arkansas has massive trout fishing in the backwaters of some large reservoirs, but these waters are a universe away from the free-flowing streams of the west. The harsh landscapes make life-giving waters seem all the more valuable. Trout is wild, and the state doesn’t stock the water that Graham and I fish.
The water temperature was also evident. It appears that Arkansas trout need water in the 50-degree range.
The water in Colorado was warm enough to wade in my shorts. The trout looked comfortable, but by August, the warm weather pressured them.
“When the water gets warm and low, the state tells fishermen not to fish to avoid excessive stress on the fish,” said Graham, an avid fly fisherman.
A foothold is left in the streams of Arkansas. It’s the most treacherous of southern Colorado, the most unstable landscape I’ve seen. Every rock in the stream is loose. Every half step threatens to leave you sprawled. They’re slick in a way that defies felt shoe soles.
You really need a wading crew. I’ve always resisted using crew, but Colorado convinced me. I bought a foldable crew at Dan’s Fly Shop in Lake City, Colo.
The Sportsman Fly Shop is another Lake City Fly Shop. Graham has hats from both, but he avoids wearing them in town. It wouldn’t help in such a small society to wear the wrong cap in the wrong store. In town, he wore a hat bearing the name and logo of flying rods RL Winston.
The foldable wading crew was a smart purchase. It is thick and very durable, with a serrated tip. It also comes with all the hardware needed to attach it to the flight jacket.
I regret buying a pair of socks going into the new Frogg Toggs. The seams of the sock were hacked after one outing. I’m also a little disappointed with the Korkers wading shoe. I’ve only had them for a year, but the upper toe is already starting to peel away from the sole. This should not happen with expensive shoes like those.
In case of failure, I purchased a pair of Chota wading shoes, which Dan sold at clearance.
I can’t say enough good things about Reilly’s Rod Crafters’ 4-Weight Kildare fly rod. Mated with a Sage 2230 reel, it’s perfect for trout and bass anywhere in the lower 48 class.
The mountains are notorious for violent storms that blew me and Graham after an exceptional Sunday fishing trip. A dark cloud unleashed a torrential rain that turned into hail the size of a pinball. Fortunately, the hail was wet enough that it splashed all over the windshield and didn’t affect Graham’s immaculately restored 1972 car.
The hail accumulated 2-3 inches deep on the road and his shoulders. We made a turn and faced the first five mudslides.
The mountains descend about 75 degrees and end at the shoulder of the road. Imagine a large part of a mountain slope collapsing directly onto your car, a river of mud covered in a thick layer of hail.
Fortunately, Graham’s Bronco was large enough and strong enough to plow the swamp. We were among the last to succeed. The highway was closed for about five hours. Road crews were still clearing mud on Tuesday.
Mule deer are ubiquitous in Lake City. Dollars in velvet now. A 4×4 roving city looked huge.
You’ve always wanted a mule deer rack, but catching mule deer is expensive. While fishing with Graham on Sunday, I spied on a skeleton on the riverbank. That was from a small deer with a 2×2 shelf. Graham called it a European prefabricated mountain.
I took it and crossed out another item from my bucket list.