Archive for the Fishing Category

Untold Tales at the Tailwaters

Posted in Fishing, Observations, People, Places on January 20, 2013 by Vince.Puzick

Five of us headed to the Arkansas River, to the tailwaters below the dam on Lake Pueblo.  Usually we head toward the Nature Center or Valco Ponds.  This day, we went further downstream instead, more into the city of Pueblo.  Fishing in an urban setting is a different experience than being in the Canyon, or wading at Deckers, or stalking brookies in a small stream.

Oh the people we met.

As we were getting ourselves ready, a Hispanic man pulled into the dirt parking lot in a dark red sedan and began to get ready.  He said hello as he began to get his waders on and get his rod set up.  In a few minutes, he was offering some recommendations.  Obviously a local, he certainly knew the river.  If we were heading upstream, he said, pointing with his rod, fish at a hole just a little ways up. Another hole is by the rocks, further, just around the bend.  He offered the suggestions freely, as if he were talking to a couple of long-time friends.  We thanked him as we headed upstream where we fished for the next couple of hours.

Back at the car having lunch, an old Chevy blazer pulled in: grey, dark windows, hip hop pouring out of the open windows.  Another older model SUV pulled in next to them.  Both cars were packed with Latino and Latina teens and young adults in their early 20s.  Each one had a bottle of beer.  A few got out of the cars and passed around the joint somebody offered.

Before long, one by one they each had put on a light blue t-shirt.  Some of the guys had draped the shirt over their shoulder as they laughed, drank, smoked.

It was amazing how many young people were there so quickly.  One guy came over toward my car where I was sitting.  He had a beer in one hand and cradled a Crown Royal purple box in the other.

“You had any luck?” he asked, his baseball cap pulled down to eyebrow level.

”Caught two,” I said.

”I usually come down for night fishing.  I work ‘til 7, come down at 9 and fish under that bridge until about 11.  I’ve just been having this craving for trout…you know how that goes?  But I haven’t had much luck since Christmas!”

I wondered why he was down there now, with his group of friends.  I don’t know if I asked what was happening or not.  Somehow he told me:  they were there honoring a friend, 19, who had died in the last week.  Had left a party drunk to go get a deck of playing cards.  Took a corner over by Irving School, “you know where that’s at” he asked, pointing east.  I shrugged.  ”Not really.”  ”Yeah, he took a corner down there.  At about 90.  Rolled it.  Killed himself.”  I wondered to myself if he saw the sad irony happening in that dirt parking lot.  ”These are his friends.  So we came down to honor him.”  Now I could see that the blue shirts were a tribute with images of their deceased friend silk-screened on them.

Maybe his need to tell somebody was relieved.  Maybe it was just time to go back to his friends at the grey Blazer.  We shook hands.  I told him to be careful today.  He nodded.  ”We will.”

A few minutes later, my nephew and I were heading upstream again.  An older married couple was behind us, out walking their two dogs.  The man called out “where are you guys going to fish?”  We told him we didn’t know, we’d just pick a spot.  He was a local, too, having moved there from “the Midwest” five years prior.  He told us of some holes and stretches, under the railroad bridge, or down by the culvert feeding the river, and then further up by the spillway.  Conor asked what had brought them to Pueblo.  ”That’s a good question,” the man said. His wife offered, “we visited some friends here and decided to move. Like anyplace, it has its pros and cons.”  We turned off the path and headed down to the river with a “thanks for talking” and a return “good luck.”

I think of the mix here along the banks of the Arkansas.  The friendliness of the locals sharing fishing information.  A steady stream of folks walking and biking along the trails that parallel the river. An incredibly large group of teens — tattooed, stoned, drunk and getting more loaded — sharing their loss, their pain.  A married couple, retired, enjoying their walk along a river bank in a town which somehow became part of their destiny.

At the end of the day, the five of us stripped off our waders, each with our own story, each with our own path that somehow got us here today, our stories converging once again and yet still, here at the Tailwaters.

Lip Lancing: one fish’s metaphor for living

Posted in Fishing, Observations on April 23, 2012 by Vince.Puzick

I like the hole just downstream from the rock at the curve in the river. Next to that submerged log on the bank.  Near the cattails jutting up in the air like sentinels.  They weren’t acting like sentinels this day , though.  More like spectators.  That part of the river, at this time of the year, with the early spring bugs just hatching, is a tasty place to spend the day.

I usually start the day down low.  Watch for any new bugs emerging from the rock and pebbly floor of the river.  As the day progresses, I move up and down the column.  That way, I can feed in either the slow or the fast water, next to the rock or closer in by the bank.  It’s my favorite feeding hole.  If it is a cloudier day, those Blue Winged Ones start hitting the water and I can get a pretty good meal in just a few rises.

Well, you know, they say fly fishing — or what we call “lip lancing” —  is a metaphor for life.  I guess that’s true for me, too. You jockey for position. Up and down the column.  Close to and further from the rock, maybe move over closer to the bank.  I’d use those cattails to help me position safely against the bank of the river.  It’s a fact of life is, though: you’re facing upstream, tail-fin constantly moving to steady yourself, keeping a wary eye out for anything from above.  I mean, the Rainbow downstream in the riffles is no threat, right?  Always from above.  They come from above.

You’re in the flow of the stream.  A steady rhythm of the water rushing through your gills.  Rising and eating, dropping back down, re-entering the rhythm of the river.  The Blue Winged One hits the water just upstream from the rock.  I watch it as it dips in the current.  I rise, taking the meal off the surface of the water.

The lancing in my lip stings for just a flicker of fin.  I dive back toward the rock.  An incredible force turns me.  I thrash. Rise and break through the water.  Try to dive again.  Get turned sideways against the current of the river.  Disoriented.  Where am I?  Rise again.  I swim in the direction of the pulling force.  Less resistance. I think I am free.  I get turned again.  I turn to swim downstream, toward the ripples with the Rainbow.  I see them scatter.  I’m feeling tired.  I get turned again. Pulled upstream.

They come from above.  I get scooped up in some contraption that lifts me out of the river and into the way-too-dry, way-too-bright air.  I’m suspended above the river.  My lip is throbbing.  My gills heave.  Then I am out of “the net,” suspended upside down in the hand of the one from above.  I twitch.  I flail.  To no avail.  The lancing in my lip stings again.  More pressure on my lip.  Then nothing.  No stinging.

I’m right-side up again.  Then I feel the cool rush of the water on me.  Water flows through my gills.  I can’t move though.  Still held.  I feel alive again.  Strong.  Then the release.  I take off.  Dive.  Swim along the river bottom to the safety of the bank.

Life is like that. Enjoying the steady rhythmic river when, without warning, so suddenly snatched from the comfort of your life.   When the trout-eat-trout competition that is basic survival turns into the fight for your life.  Some say it makes you appreciate what you have — when you come face to face with your own mortality, you live more fully each moment of the day.

That’s a bunch of crap.  I huddle under the bank, under the watchful eye of the cattail sentinels, wondering what the hell just happened.  I only have a memory of about seven seconds.  After I catch my breath, I’ll be right back out there. In the unpredictable seam of fast and slow water.  Suspended in the water column.   Rising for a meal.

Learned my lesson: net ’em then film ’em

Posted in Fishing on April 10, 2011 by Vince.Puzick
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