About a month ago I was selected by the Colorado Parks & Wildlife to participate on the Colorado Sportsman’s Roundtable, something that I am very honored to be a part of since they only accept 20 people from the entire state. After an application process, a phone interview, and an in-person interview, CP&W chose me to be a part of this group. The intent of the group is to meet quarterly with the highest people in the CP&W organization to present my voice as a sportsman, and to also represent CP&W at various events. I was very excited to be selected to that elite group of people. The first meeting I would attend would be in Poncha Springs, CO on August 6th, so I decided to go down there a couple of days early and do some fly fishing on the Arkansas River near Salida.
I made the three hour drive to Salida, CO on August 4th, it was a rainy day on the drive there, and as I made my way up the curvy and steep Highway 285 I saw a police car with its flashers on blocking the left hand lane just before Aspen Park. I thought there was an accident, but as I drove by it was actually some people driving a white wooden cross into the ground in the meridian of the highway to commemorate the death of a loved one, that was sad. It made me think about how valuable life is, and how easily it can be taken away.
When I made it to Salida I checked into my motel, I stopped by Arkanglers to arrange for a float trip the next day, and then I fished the river for about four hours. The Arkansas River is a fast, wide, and deep river, and is actually the most-rafted river in the US, and also the river that has the most deaths every year. It’s a tough river to fish if you aren’t familiar with it, which I was not. I found a few public areas to fish a few miles from town, and I was able to catch several nice brown trout on dry flies; a grasshopper pattern and an atomic ant. I had to stay close to the shore because the river was very high from the rain, but I was just casting along the shoreline and bringing the flies toward me by stripping my fly line. It was a fun afternoon and evening of fishing in the cold rain, and I was pleased with how many fish I caught.
The next day I took a float trip down the river with Jera, a guide from Arkanglers. It was a rainy day for most of the time, with a stiff wind blowing upstream. I had a hard time casting against the wind with the two massive dry flies that Jera tied on for me, and I missed several fish. But I caught several nice browns that day, had a few fun runs through some rough rapids, and had a good time with Jera. You can see some videos of the rapids by clicking here, and here. Despite the rain and my poor fishing, it was a great experience. The Arkansas River valley is beautiful, and even though the river is pretty intense, it is a place that I want to get to know better, I’m actually thinking of moving down to that area after this trip.
On Saturday I went to the Colorado Sportsman’s Roundtable meeting with Colorado Parks & Wildlife. I met a ton of new people who have the same interests as me, even in the gravel parking lot before the meeting there was a guy who wanted to take pictures of my truck because he liked how I had modified it. I met an outfitter from the Flattops Wilderness Area who we have common connections with, and we had a lot to talk about. I was surprised at the number of women at this meeting, which is very encouraging. In the meeting we talked about a lot of interesting things, mostly the shortfall of the CP&W budget and what we can do about that. I will write more about that in a later post. But buy a fishing license, even if you don’t fish, that is the easiest way to contribute to the preservation of our wildlife.
We talked a lot about conservation issues, like the situation with declining mule deer in certain areas of the state, and what CP&W is going to do to address that situation. This particular topic was interesting because CP&W is going to perform a nine year study to assess the impacts of mountain lions and bears on mule deer fawns, and it is going to cause a public uproar because CP&W is going to have to kill a certain amount of lions and bears that are not being harvested in certain areas of the state. Sadly, what is happening is that there are too many predators, and the new-born fawns are being eaten as soon as they hit the ground. It’s a larger issue about predator management, but it was a very interesting conversation, and I encourage anyone who reads this to educate yourself about wildlife conservation. I will write more about this later, and I am happy to respond to any questions or comments you have about this topic.
Another topic we discussed was the impact of the Gold King Mine leak that happened last year and the effects on the Animas River in Colorado. What was interesting about this discussion is how the media made this seem like such a disaster, when in actuality there was no impact on the wildlife or fish in the river. While this was not a defensive statement by CP&W, it was proof of how they react to a crisis like this, it was impressive.
I’ll just say that I was a bit humbled, and very honored to be sitting at the table that day. To be a part of what is driving future decisions and directions of what this state is doing with our wildlife and wilderness is a remarkable opportunity. To meet the people that I met, to share our ideas, and to talk about the future; it was just amazing. The challenges that we face to preserve our wildlife and wild places are immense, but it feels really good to be part of a group that might be able to make a difference.