Page 1

Winter winter 20 20


LeoGomolchak: Remembering TU’s Pit Bull

There is Snow Place Like the River by Landon Mayer




Spend your time fiddling with flies, not with software.

We've been designing High Country Angler for over a decade. reimagine designs (816) 892-0810 Call or email us for a free estimate for all print and website design.





































High Country Angler • Winter 2020


J ac k Tallo n & Frank M ar tin

C O NTENT C ONSU LTANT L ando n M ayer


Frank M ar t i n, M anagi ng Editor f rank@ hc am agaz m Landon Mayer, Editorial Consultant Ruthie Mar tin, Editor


B r i an L a R ue, S ales & M a r keting b r ian@ hc am agaz i m D i rec t : ( 714) 944- 5676 M ar k Shulm an, Ad S ales Cell: ( 303) 668- 2591 m ar k@ hc am agaz i m


David M ar tin, Creative Direc tor & Graphic D esigner


Frank Martin, Landon Mayer, Brian LaRue, Angus Drummond


Frank Martin, Landon Mayer, Brian LaRue, Joel Evans, David Nickum, John Nickum, Peter Stitcher

Copyright 2017, High Country Angler, a division of High Country Publications, LLC. All rights reserved. Reprinting of any content or photos without expressed written consent of publisher is prohibited. Published four (4) times per year. To add your shop or business to our distribution list, contact Frank Martin at D i str i buted by H i gh Countr y Publi cati ons, L LC 730 Popes Valley D r i ve Colorad o Spr i ngs, Colorad o 809 1 9 FA X 719-593-0040 Published in cooperation with Colorado Trout Unlimited 1536 Wynkoop Street, Suite 320 Denver, CO 80202

ON THE COVER: Photo by Landon Mayer

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


There is Snow Pla


High Country Angler • Winter 2020

ace Like the River

by Landon Mayer


have always enjoyed the solitude that winter can offer the angler. Cold weather, low flows, minimal food supply, and at times not a soul in sight. It can also be the most frustrating—yet rewarding— adventure, because everything moves at a slow, lethargic pace. Watching a quality trout lift to sip an adult midge, or slowly drift to the side with a mouth

wide open to not miss a drifting midge, can leave you speechless with excitement. The following are some great frosty dry fly, nymph, and streamer tips that can hopefully bring more joy to the holiday season. A big advantage to the chilly months is not having to dissect a complex hatch to find what food supply the fish prefer. A majority of the trout’s diet will consist of Midges with a side order of Baetis if they are available. The first component to the Midge mystery is size and silhouette. You want to match the natural midge or downsize by one, followed by the proper silhouette, which for Midges means thinner is better. Most of the larvae, pupae, and adults are skinny. The second part of the equation is the color scheme—finding the right color for the job based on the trout’s reaction to your flies. I normally start with a confidence color like red, or a red ribbed midge (Tube Midge #18-20-22) as my main fly. Then with my second dropper fly, I start with a dark color (Dorsey’s Flash Back Black Beauty #18-22, Dye’s

Two Tone Larva#18-22) and use this as a changing The other factor to consider is the view a trout will station through the day. This makes it easy to retie and have in the deep water with an expanded viewing lane find what color the fish will prefer. to either side. This makes detecting something un-natural—split shot, tippet rings, monofilament, etc, in the slow-moving deep water—easier than it would be in a Depth Delivers shallow water setting with a narrow viewing lane. To overcome this, I recommend using weight in your flies Once you have made the decision on what fly sec- by way of beads, or synthetic materials so they achieve tion is best, start the hunt in deep runs with structure sink, and match the midge larvae or pupa silhouette. if possible. In the cold months with low water, lethar- It is surprising how small a 1.5mm Tungsten Bead can gic trout, and icy edges, fish cannot battle current, and be, and how fast it can sink. Double weighted midge honestly the best chance for food are in the food-filled rigs can get down in a hurry! runs. The two most common locations for producing target is the head of the run supplied with a drop line for safety and cover, or a riffled run that acts like a roof Tracking with Tension over the trout’s head, allowing them to hold and feed when a meal drifts into view. I am a big fan of using tension when I am presenting

ion! 2nd EoduriCt opy Today! Order Y

DEO!ay! I V W E N od r Copy T u

Order Yo


Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


my flies. The leader, tippet, and flies below the surface move with tension in the current. By using more swing-style drifts with tension and making less aggressive mends, you will see more takes through the indicator. Another way to catch more fish is by looking for the subtle movements of the indicator, not just an aggressive bump. I am a big fan of Thingamabobbers, because the indicator comes in various sizes and requires no maintenance. When using yarn or other standard indicators, you need to comb out and apply floatant throughout the day. When I am tracking a Thingamabobber, I look for a pause, bump, and a twist or slide of the indicator to let me know a trout has taken my flies below. You become a better sight-fisher by looking for every detail. It is not just about seeing the trout—it is about seeing the details in every aspect of fishing. Another advantage to drifting with tension or less mends is the straight line accuracy you get from the fly line through the leader and tippet. It builds confidence knowing that your rig is tracking in the same direction of the fish’s


High Country Angler • Winter 2020

viewing lane. You’ll lose this tension control with too much fly line and leader manipulation.

Respond to Head Shakes The first reaction of a fish after being hooked is a series of head shakes. This is the fish’s way of trying to reduce the pressure it feels, and dislodge the fly. These movements can be so powerful that the fish’s head will almost touch its tail. For anglers, knowing how to adjust during these violent movements will help prevent fish from spitting the fly or breaking it off. To perform this technique, you want to keep your elbow at your side and the rod positioned vertically in front of your body. Each time the fish moves, move your arm slightly down, then return it to the original position. In cold conditions trout are not as quick to run during the fight, like something cold in a microwave, it takes some time to heat up. In addition to keeping a low rod position, you also want to maintain a con-

vex, or rainbow arc, in the rod. Allow the trout to pull back a little to prevent the flies from pulling out of the mouth, and the light 6-7x tippet from breaking. When applied correctly and with the mindset of a smooth lift knowing the trout will set itself, you will land more trout in the brisk cold air.

I encourage you to try these tips the next time you are itching to get out and keep any cabin fever from setting in. Not only will you have shots at trout in clear water, you simply cannot go wrong by watching and gaining more winter wisdom. Happy Holidays to all!

About The Author Landon Mayer is a veteran Colorado guide and author of several books. His newest books, The Hunt for Giant Trout, and Sight Fishing for Trout (Second Edition) can be purchased on his website, at His newest video, Master the Short Game, by Headwater Media, can be purchased at You can follow Landon on Instagram at @landonmayerflyfishing.

The collar that gives back to native trout Get yours today for a $20 donation online! Click here.

Waterproof - Odor Proof - Non-metal safety clip - Made exclusively by Dublin Dog

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler





s we wind down our celebration of Colorado TU’s 50th anniversary this year, it seems fitting that our final High Country Angler theme for the anniversary is focused on the concept of legacy. We all aspire to make a mark on our communities and world in some way that will live beyond us, and Colorado TU has been blessed with many remarkable volunteers and leaders who have created a remarkable legacy in conservation and education. In this issue, you’ll have the chance to read some of their stories. Richard Va n G y t e n b e e k reflects on his father Pete (“Van”), Trout U n l i m i t e d ’s first executive director, and growing up in a household where fishing and conservation were woven into the family’s very fabric. Steve Craig shares his memories of Leo Gomolchak, known affectionately as TU’s “pit bull” for his tenacious advocacy on behalf of trout and conservation. You’ll hear about Taila Oulton and Ben Ward – two campers from Colorado TU’s annual youth camp who have returned year after year to pay it forward in sharing their passion for fishing and conservation with other young people. A special interview with former Colorado TU Presidents Sinjin Eberle and Rick Matsumoto highlights their friendship and teamwork in building a stronger TU. The special 50th anniversary film, Decades, shares more stories of TU leaders past and future and the conservation legacy they have created. We can’t do it alone, and partnerships have been a key part of the Colorado TU story as well. For 12

High Country Angler • Winter 2020

example, Denver Water is collaborating with TU and others on projects to improve riverine habitat and create a new stewardship legacy in the watersheds where they operate. Freeport McMoRan has joined TU and agency partners in tackling Colorado’s legacy of abandoned, polluting mines and restoring water quality and fisheries. One of the great things about Colorado TU is that it gives all of us the chance to leave our mark on the rivers and fisheries we love. Whether you are a donor who leaves a financial legacy of supporting conservation, an advocate who helps protect a treasured piece of public lands, a volunteer who rolls up your sleeves to help restore riparian habitat or native fish, or a mentor who helps encourage and inspire our youth to carry the conservation ethic forward into future generations – I can assure you that there is a place for you within Colorado Trout Unlimited. For all of you who have contributed in so many ways to our first 50 years – and who are helping us carry that legacy forward into the next 50 years – I give you a heartfelt “thank you.” Colorado’s rivers and trout are better off for your commitment.

Cam Chandler is the President of Colorado Trout Unlimited and a past president of the Cutthroat Chapter.

Carrying on the Legacy As we celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2019, we at Colorado Trout Unlimited had the opportunity to consider the impact of so many dedicated CTU members and supporters. Their legacy is in part what has made the past 50 years so remarkable for our rivers and trout! CTU supporters are a committed bunch – steadfast in their commitment to preserving and restoring Colorado’s watersheds, to bringing back native cutthroats to their homewaters, to teaching our youth to fish and instilling in them a conservation ethic, and so much more. This legacy is why we know in 2019, “we’re just getting started”. As we look forward to the next 50 years of river and fisheries conservation, we know that in addition to committed members, our success is dependent on committed donors – generous supporters who are willing to make a lasting contribution to Colorado Trout Unlimited. A legacy gift is one that provides for future programmatic and organizational security and can help to balance a donor’s financial and philanthropic goals. By making CTU a beneficiary of their estate, a donor is making one of the most sincere and lasting commitments to our conservation mission. With that comes the knowledge that you are securing a better future for Colorado’s rivers and wild places!

If you are interested in learning more about making a legacy gift through the Stream Guardian Society, please contact Colorado TU at (303) 440-2937 or Winter 2020 • High Country Angler 13

Leo Gomolchak Warrior Advocate



High Country Angler • Winter 2020


first met Leo Gomolchak (19252007) in the mid-to-late 1980’s in Colorado Springs when I was not yet a TU member, and getting ready to retire from active duty with the U.S. Navy. At a regular monthly meeting of the Cheyenne Mountain Chapter (now the Pikes Peak Chapter), Leo welcomed me as a new chapter member and we exchanged pleasantries during the social hour. We discovered both of us liked to fish small trout streams in Colorado, and that we both had military backgrounds. During subsequent chapter meetings I watched Leo work the roomful of attendees, proselytizing where he could, but always informing others of current Colorado resource issues involving trout fisheries. I learned that he had been an infantryman in the South Pacific in World War II, following which he gained officer status and became a helicopter pilot. After retiring from the U.S. Army, he settled in Colorado Springs and as a second career, sold health insurance policies throughout rural Colorado, mainly in small communities while working out of a motel room. The challenges he faced and

the obstacles he overcame during those experiences ideally prepared him for taking on a resource advocacy role. He became known as CTU’s “pit bull” for his tenacious and dogged pursuit of success. Leo was Resource Director for Colorado Trout Unlimited (CTU) in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s timeframe. In that capacity his responsibilities included monitoring the activities and deliberations of the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Colorado Wildlife Commission with respect to the state’s coldwater (i.e., trout) fisheries, and then working up action plans for the council and chapters to build grassroots support or opposition. To effectively coordinate these campaigns, Leo spent a lot of time on the road meeting with state and federal biologists and managers, TU chapter leaders, and Wildlife Commission members. He attended numerous chapter meetings and was a “fixture” at Commission meetings and workshops. He studied the issues in depth, and developed friendships and working relationships with a network of key fisheries professionals and decision

makers throughout Colorado. Leo Gomolchak became the quintessential grassroots fisheries advocate for Trout Unlimited in Colorado. It’s hard to imagine a time when instant communication was not available to all the stakeholders on a resource issue being considered, but that’s pretty much the way it was before the mid-1990’s. For CTU and its chapters, that meant doing business making serious numbers of paper copies and using snail mail. Late-breaking information like agenda changes for commission meetings made it difficult, if not impossible, for chapters to react in time and get members to speak at the meetings. This is where Leo stepped up his game by making multiple phone calls alerting chapter presidents to do their best to have a showing. He would spend much time with chapter members coaching their testimony and comments to the commissioners, taking great care to ensure comments were not redundant and reflected the individual’s personal thoughts and ideas, not just TU “bullet points”…. and it usually paid off. Leo was not much with new-

“Gomo Grants”: A Continuing Legacy In addition to his tenacious advocacy for coldwater resources, Leo Gomolchak was a strong supporter of grassroots projects and partnerships that made a difference on-the-ground. In 2008, Colorado TU established the Leo Gomolchak Conservation Grant program to provide mini-grants to local TU chapters as seed money for community and conservation efforts, to carry forward Leo’s legacy of grassroots conservation. In the years since then, “Gomo Grants” have supported a diverse range of community, conservation, and education initiatives, including: • Greenback restoration on Rock Creek in partnership with a private landowner and the US Forest Service; • Stream Management Planning efforts to better conserve fisheries on the Blue River, South Platte River, and South Boulder Creek; • Multiple new Trout in the Classroom sites to engage youth with fish biology and water chemistry; • Providing angling access facilities for mobility-limited anglers on the Middle Fork South Platte and Big Thompson Rivers; • Facilitating stakeholder river conservation planning on the South Arkansas and in the San Juan/Animas basin; • Stream and riparian habitat improvement projects on Bear Creek, Boulder Creek, Clear Creek, the Conejos River, Culebra Creek, the Fraser River, the Gunnison River, the Purgatoire River, Trapper Creek, and the Yampa River.

fangled technology like PCs, which during his tenure as an advocate were just starting to get traction at the agencies, but he more than compensated by attention to detail in his written comments and presentations, often with a personal touch. One example I remember well was when the proposal to require barbless hooks on a particu-

lar stream was being debated and Leo sensed a lack of support by the commissioners. He showed up at the meeting with an information handout for each commissioner which included a rather dramatic close-up photo of a rainbow trout with severe lip damage and broken hooks hanging from its mouth. The measure passed.

The “laundry list” of resource concerns and initiatives affecting Colorado’s trout fisheries during the 1980s and 1990s is extensive, and Leo Gomolchak was actively and decisively involved in all of them: catch and release and barbless hook regulations, terminal tackle restrictions, whirling disease, recreational flow increases on

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


the Arkansas River, the proposed Two Forks Dam, native trout restoration, and the stocking of “catchable” hatcheryraised trout over wild fish in streams where reproduction was selfsustaining. These were hard fought battles which reflected a generational shift not only within the state’s fisheries management but also showing up in rigid positions taken by traditional anglers. Leo listened to the younger agency managers and biologists and formed his recommendations and strategies for the council’s use to very great effect. I’ve met few advocates who were as focused as Leo was when

pursuing an objective. He loved the scrapping involved when new ideas backed by science came up against entrenched bureaucrats. His dedication to conservation and his passion for trout and their habitat made him one of the most effective resource advocates for TU in the first 50 years of Colorado Trout Unlimited.

About The Author. Steve Craig is a former chair and Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited.


50 Years

of Colorado Trout Unlimited

by Colorado TU Staff


s part of Colorado TU’s 50th anniversary celebration, Greenbacks volunteers George Bryant and Emma Brown set out to capture stories of some of the people behind Trout Unlimited’s work on conservation over the past 50 years. Visiting the annual youth conservation camp with Barbara Luneau and other camp volunteers, spawning greenback cutthroat trout with native trout advocate John Trammell, fishing the Fraser River with hero of conservation Kirk Klancke, and visiting the would-have-been site of Two Forks Dam on the South Platte with Dave Taylor, Emma and George spent part of the summer collecting stories and assembling footage for the new Colorado TU film “Decades.” TU volunteers are at the heart of the movie. As Emma said, “You know as a volunteer organization, that there’s always projects going on and there’s always people who are putting in a lot of time and work, but they don’t get recognized. So a big part of this film for me at least was shedding light on the people who have PLAY made Trout Unlimited so successful here in Colorado.” The film checks in at just under 20 minutes, and you can view it here: 20

High Country Angler • Winter 2020


Help us make the next 50 years even better for our rivers and trout!

What a year it’s been! In 2019, we celebrated Colorado Trout Unlimited’s 50 years conserving, protecting and restoring Colorado rivers. Our accomplishments and the stories and people that made such accomplishments possible are pretty remarkable! We have the opportunity to expand our influence in the ongoing effort to conserve, protect and restore rivers and fisheries in Colorado over the next 50 years – but we need your help! Envision the impact we can make going forward knowing that your support is multiplied more than 7 times through grants and leveraged funds and by the sweat equity of our volunteer members who contribute more than 45,000 hours of service every year!

Make your year-end contribution to Colorado TU today AND get one (or more) of our awesome premium gifts!

Click here!

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


Head to South Fork:

Tackle the Rio Grande

by Brian La Rue


here’s never enough time! There are so many amazing waters in our state, but never enough time to fish them all! One destination I’ve been through—driven by a dozen times at least—but where I’ve never taken the time to wet a line, is around the cozy town of South Fork and its centerpiece, the Rio Grande. My friend, local Denver Metro Colorado realtor, Dan Pass, has talked it up so much I’ve gotta go soon! I figured I’d kill two birds with one stone (can we still say that?) and do my research, but also help you understand an approach, access points, and what might help us all on your next ride on the Rio Grande. I’m going to break this beautiful piece of water down with four main sections: 22

High Country Angler • Winter 2020

For starters, I always like getting back to nature and escaping reality with a tent and some lightweight hiking boots, so a couple nights in the upper reaches are always in order for my fishing buddy and me. Crashing at a campground for a couple of nights comes highly recommended by shops and locals alike. There is some amazing solitude and a great population of trout in these reaches in the north, but the Rio Grande flows at high elevation and produced fish throughout its entirety in this region! “The kind of water you’ll find up above Wagon Wheel is your fun, quick action, dry, terrestrial, hopper kind of stuff,” said Pass. “You can always use dry droppers, with stimulators, royal Wulffs and Adams to attract grabs. Smaller nymphs fished under smaller

hoppers will also be a good recipe with the typical season really turning on from the end of runoff to the freeze in late fall.” This water is best explored with a walk-and-wade approach, but if you prefer to sit in a drift boat or inflatable raft, then Pass says there are equally fun stretches including the popular Wagon Wheel to Palisade Camp float. “Float from Wagon and enjoy the views,” says Pass. “Time it right and fish will be rising against a backdrop that soars over 11,000 feet. You’ll find a mix of public and private water so this stretch might be best floated. It’s a bit tricky, but scout it out, or ask a local fly shop for advice if this is your first time on the Rio Grande. “There are also rapids to deal with, so better yet, maybe hire a local guide here,” adds Pass. “There is an area called the Rock Garden and as you might imagine—it can be great for quick streamer and dry presentations depending on the season. Don’t count out a heavy point fly here and a little high sticking.” Anglers will find plenty of public water from about the stretch below the Rock Garden after a couple FULL COLOR

private holdings, but from here to the campground, there are more walk and wade options to enjoy. Take a few days and chase the river’s numerous strains of cutthroat as well as rainbows and browns. “A good time to target this area is June when there are opportunities to capitalize on the stonefly hatch,” said Pass. “Pick your favorite monster dry imitations and you’ll have a blast. Depending on the season like any year, this hatch can move depending on the flows, and of course the snowpack, but know that it exists and it’s well worth a trip!” After Palisade, the river begins to offer a chance at larger fish. A popular float is from here to Coller. This is one of the most popular “after work” floats, as it is short and fishes particularly well in the evening. Here the river widens and offers many options near the bridges for somebody that wants to stop the boat and wade or simply fish on foot. “The river here offers some obstacles that boaters must pay attention to,” added Pass. “There is a tricky spot with a rapid and a few hazards, but again, do your homework if you would rather float than walk and wade. The stretch below the trouble can yield some Save 10% - Use Promo Code HCA1703 Offer Expires 3/31/2020

DVD Included!

$27.95 ISBN 978-1-892469-29-8

Step-by-step fly pattern tutorials develop your tying skills one pattern at a time. After completing all seven patterns you will have the skills to tie most of the flies you will ever need. Available from your favorite retailer or give us a call.


Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


photo fish on well placed nymphs including princes and pheasant tails.” By now you are wondering about any designations or fish counts right? Well, the “longest stretch of gold medal water in the entire state” is said to begin here at the Highway 149 Bridge and run towards Del Norte. Loaded with big rainbows and browns, I imagine you are already getting cabin fever, and this sounds very doable in the spring, right? “If you’ve never fished the Rio Grande you have to try this stretch,” said Pass. “From Lower Coller, or the put in by Masonic Park, anglers will enjoy quick action while surrounded by all kinds of wildlife. Throw streamers and larger nymphs on this amazing water as runoff subsides. A little off-color water is a good thing here. Throw dark and light streamers, or even try realistic patterns, they aren’t picky. This stretch remains hot for floating well into the season, whereas, other stretches begin to get to low for boats. The amazing part about this river is that it remains so wild despite ranches and flowing through South Fork. You might hear a train or see one other boat. Go enjoy it!” Yes, Dan mentioned big fish! This stretch from

RODEWAY INN GUNNISON 37760 West Us Highway 50 Gunnison, CO, 81230

here through town and past the golf course is home to some slow-moving pools where massive browns and rainbows alike wait for your bug. Some fish deep with shot and beadheads, and others tug sink-tips with streamers; for the few who try an early morning or late evening dry, don’t be too quick to set the hook on that light tippet or you might never know what hit. “Overall, the best times to fish the South Fork area is in the spring before runoff, right after runoff and in the fall,” added Pass. “Fishing it in the fall right before things start to freeze at night can be amazing. It can also be fun to go all the way north to Creede, but you’ll have to navigate the rocky banks for the fun up there. “Lastly, I love the lack of crowds for this classic trout stream where are you can fish dries, nymphs, and tug streamers, all in the same day,” added Pass. “Throw in the clean mountain air and that feeling like you really did get away from it all, and you have the total package.” Sounds good to me. I told Dan I never have enough time, so he tried to sell me a lot for a home on the golf course just a stone’s throw from the river. Maybe someday? Click https://bit. ly/2KDlEbp to see his offerings. Keep me in mind if you build a CLICK HERE TO home. Thanks for reading! As BOOK YOUR always—share your photos and ROOM TODAY! comments with us on Facebook and Instagram.

(970) 641-0500

About The Author

• 38 Clean, Comfortable Rooms • Friendly Staff • Walk to Premier Fishing Waters


High Country Angler • Winter 2020

• Hot Tub • Fly Fisherman/Family Owned • Pet Friendly

High Country Angler contributor Brian La Rue enjoys giving fly fishers ideas of where to go for an adventure. Feel free to reach out to Brian at Brian@ if you want your lodge or guide service featured in an upcoming promotional marketing plan.

Behind the Fin with Sinjin and Rick

EDITOR’S NOTE: Somewhat embarrassingly, we’ve managed to produce over 30 BTF posts without interviewing Sinjin Eberle or Rick Matsumoto. They were back-to-back Presidents of Colorado TU from 2010 to 2015. The organization was highly effective during this timespan in part because they led Colorado TU as a team. We’re making it up to Sinjin and Rick with this special edition of Behind The Fin in which we talk to both at the same time and learn about what made them such a good team. Excerpts are included here, and you can read our full interview with them at

Rick Matsumoto and Sinjin Eberle. This was taken at Rendezvous 2013 when Sinjin officially turned over the presidency to Rick.

BTF: Let’s start by getting some of the basics out of the way. You guys were good friends before you became involved with TU, but bonded over river conservation, right? Tell me about how you first got involved with Colorado TU. SINJIN: That’s right, we met playing volleyball at the Denver Athletic Club and got to be good friends playing local tournaments. But I had been on CTU’s board at least a few years before that. I was recruited by Sharon Lance at a Denver TU meeting. I think she was the council VP at the time. RICK: We bonded more because of our competitive spirit than river conservation. I’m probably not supposed to say that in an interview for CTU, but it’s true. We pushed each other to compete, and had a great time doing it. River conservation came later. I think I was just coming off a long volunteer stint with the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan. I was looking for another volunteer opportunity. It just happened to be right about the time Sinjin was getting started with the Buffalo Peaks project.

had ever done. How did you decide to take on such a large project? SINJIN: Certainly, the bigger the project the greater the risk. But the board is pretty good about evaluating projects, both in terms of conservation value and financial risk. As I recall, our confidence was high because of the parties involved - the Colorado Division of Wildlife, City of Aurora, Park County, and a private landowner. And I wanted to take it on because it was ambitious. If I’m going to volunteer my time, pull in others like Rick to volunteer their time, then let’s make sure it’s for a good reason. Let’s work on the things that are the most impactful. RICK: There’s that competitive spirit I was talking about. As a first-time volunteer, I really appreciated that I was working on something that made a tangible difference. Too often, volunteers are tasked with bringing food or producing a newsletter or washing cars. Don’t get me wrong, it all has to be done, but I really enjoyed being outdoors, busting my ass, working with others who felt the same way, on a section of river I could visit for years to come. BTF: So that’s what prompted you to join the CTU board? RICK: Not exactly. I think I could have worked on CTU projects without joining the board and been content. The late Charlie Meyers, whom I first met at Buffalo Peaks, inspired me to make a difference. But Sinjin gets most of the credit, or blame depending on who you ask. I still remember a night at Sinjin’s house with Tom Jones…

Sinjin led the Buffalo Peaks Ranch Restoration Project, restoring a key section of the Middle Fork of the South Platte River in 2008. This picture, taken in August 2019, shows how beautifully the area has matured since the restoration. It provides some of the best publicly-accessible fishing in South Park.

SINJIN: Tom was the National Leadership Council Rep at the time, and a board member that I viewed as a trusted mentor. Many think of these years as the “Sinjin and Rick” years, but Tom was the NLC Rep for both of us. He was really the voice of reason that kept us in line.

RICK: We were sitting at Sinjin’s dining table. I think Tom was drinking whiskey and I was drinking scotch. I’m not sure what Sinjin had, a Moscow BTF: At the time, the Buffalo Peaks Ranch Restora- Mule? tion Project was the largest restoration project CTU

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


SINJIN: Sounds about right.

but we had several milestone victories in between because of CTU’s strong and consistent RICK: We talked for hours about Sinjin’s upcoming voice during both our terms. term as President. It was generally about how Sinjin felt we could bring a different approach with a dif- RICK: Absolutely. The other project that comes to ferent energy. I remember leaving his house think- mind for me is the Protect Our Rivers license plate. ing about his vision, how I as VP was going to help, The board didn’t even want to take it on because it how great it was to be able to had been tried before and failed. I thought, “fine, lean on Tom for advice. Honestly, I didn’t know much about David Nickum or the other board Helping You Keep Your members or the history of the Eyes on the Big Ones organization, but I was pretty sure we were going to kick ass! SINJIN: That was really the starting point of our next five years. Nobody explicitly said “this is our five year plan,” but we were all on the same page about how we wanted to operate and so we never thought twice about projects that might take several years to complete.

Full Service Fly Fishing Pro Shop & Guide Service Schedule a Trip Today! 970-944-2526 Lake City, Colorado

The Sportsman Outdoors & Fly Shop


BTF: Give me an example of one of those longer projects. SINJIN: The Roan Plateau is what first comes to mind. I only had a small part in getting it done, Nickum and Ken Neubecker deserve most of the credit, but our persistence in protecting the Roan Plateau is the thing I think about with the most pride. Especially now, when oil and gas issues are overwhelming our public lands, our work to protect that little slice of wildness is really satisfying. It took nearly a decade for all of the litigation to play out. Grand Valley Anglers was fighting oil and gas leases on the Roan before I became President and the final settlement happened after Rick was done being President, 28

High Country Angler • Winter 2020

then you can watch while I do it.” SINJIN: I had your back. RICK: Totally. And so I did the research, got Nick at Sage Lion Media to design the plate, created the petition, got the signatures, we drafted the bill. I remember Jen [Boulton, Legislative Liaison for CTU] saying it was looking good, and then it just blew up in our faces. For some reason, the chair of the House Ag Committee shot the bill down. That was the legislative session of 2011.

Rick and Sinjin working the Gunnison River in the 2010 Superfly tournament.

SINJIN: You’re just pointing out it failed during my presidency. SINJIN: Rick was so mad one year he didn’t say a word to me the entire drive back! RICK: Well, it did! It was really disappointing, but then the political landscape changed and we did it RICK: That was the day I decided to dramatically all over again with SB13-224. I still remember the raise my fishing game. And I did get a lot better, and bill number! It succeeded, during my presidency of it showed in the next Superfly. course, but only because Sinjin had my back two years earlier. The plate went into production in 2014 BTF: But you didn’t win? and we just recently passed 3,000 plates sold. My wife and I still point out the plates and smile when SINJIN: Nope, I think I was the weak link that year, we see them on the road. but Superfly is mostly about drawing the right beats. Skill plays a role too, but there was one year where everybody on the Taylor River did dramatically better than everyone else. RICK: Speaking of the Taylor…

Rick led the initiative to establish the Protect Our Rivers license plate. Over 3,000 have been purchased since the plate first went into production in 2014, making it a permanent offering in Colorado.

SINJIN: Oh yeah. We stopped at the “Hog Farm” one time, that stretch of the Taylor just below the dam. Rick hooked the hog of all hogs, got it to shore, but … it made a last ditch run and got away before I could net it.

RICK: He’s leaving out the part where he snapped my tippet with his net. It looked like he was trying to club the fish rather than land it. Complete spaz, I BTF: Since this is a Behind the Fin interview, I’d be will never forgive him for that one. remiss if I didn’t ask for a fishing story or two. BTF: One of the questions we like to ask, and this SINJIN: Superfly! really is the last question for each of you, what advice would you have for current TU members? RICK: Yeah, we competed in a few Superfly tournaments. SINJIN: My advice is to go all in, and commit to something bigger than yourself. What do you have

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


BTF: That’s tough to follow, but same question for you Rick.

Rick and Sinjin, attending the Silver Trout Award presentation at Rendezvous 2017. This distinguished award is given to individuals whose conservation work for Colorado Rivers has made a significant and lasting impact. Both are Silver Trout Award Winners.

RICK: Ha, it’s okay, those are the same inspiring words that brought me to Colorado TU a decade ago. Like Sinjin, I believe in “committing and going all in,” but there’s a big difference between joining the board of Colorado TU and going to a river clean-up event. I would tell members to take the initiative to be responsible for their own level of involvement. Don’t wait for someone to give you a menu of volunteer options. Go talk to other members, reach out to staff, ask chapter or council officers what they need help with. Find what’s right for you. Then commit and go all in! That’s how you control your effort, make sure you have a rewarding experience. I think Sinjin and I did an honest job of that when we first got involved. It really helped us get the most out of our time on the board, and give our best to the organization.

to lose? It’s so easy to be complacent about and in- BTF: Great answers guys, and it’s been really fun timidated by the giant array of challenges facing our talking with you. Thank you for taking the time to environment, to just throw up your hands in defeat. make this a truly special edition of Behind the Fin! But the joy and inspiration the outdoors provides is worth putting forth our best efforts. Even with a small commitment of effort, we can have a real impact. Money and fame and more fly rods are all nice, but the satisfaction of knowing that you were part of protecting a place, or even better, inspiring others to give back to the landscapes we care about is like a multiplier effect for the world. Activism doesn’t have to be some dopey, granola-crunching, tree-hugger aspiration – our rivers and streams, and by extension our public lands, need our voices or they are going to be gone. What better place to spend your hardearned time and efforts than that? Do something. Write your representative. Lean in to make change happen.





Reach Fly-Fishing community




Jim's Breakfast


ou pulling out this morning?” My new acquaintance Bob’s accent was unmistakably Minnesotan. “Yeah,” I replied. “I’ve paid for one more night, but with this weather, I figured I’d call it early. I don’t fancy fishing in this.” Snow had been falling since before dawn—heavy, wet flakes that lay several inches deep on the ground, with no sign of let up. Clothes and coolers loaded in the truck, I now just needed to break down the camper before hitting the road. One of the benefits of living in the mountains is not feeling the pressure to have to fish any opportunity you get. Some days are made for being inside, out of the weather. “Have you had breakfast yet?” 32

High Country Angler • Winter 2020

he asked, sounding concerned. I shook my head. “I figured I’d stop in Meeker, grab something there.” “You’ll do no such thing,” he said. “You’ve not ate one of Jim’s breakfasts, have you?” He nodded toward a large hunting tent fifty yards away. “Come by in ten or fifteen minutes. Don’t bother knocking, just come on in.” I thanked him and continued my labors, hooked up the camper to the towing hitch, then at the allotted time I stepped into the tent. “Take a seat,” said Bob, introducing me to his three hunting buddies and Buster, their elderly dachshund, complete with camouflaged vest of his own. “Watch out for Buster,” he continued. “First, he’ll try to tell you the snow’s actually chest deep, then

he’ll talk you out of a piece of your bacon.” Buster eyed me speculatively. An open partition divided the tent in half. In one, cots piled with sleeping bags and a wood stove that blazed and crackled, the other set up as a camp kitchen and dining area. A pile of golden hash browns already awaited on a plate. Jim was busy cracking eggs into a pan sizzling with bacon grease. “That stove sure puts the heat out,” I remarked, removing my jacket and feeling the pinch of cold leaving my extremities. “The first time we came here, we about froze our butts off,” said the third, Dave, until now silent. Like Buster, he was clothed in camo and had that look in his eyes of wisdom that hopefully comes with age. “We flatlanders

didn’t realize propane don’t work too good at this altitude. For two weeks, we had wet clothes and no way to properly dry them.� “You guys here for two weeks again this time?� I asked, as Bob handed me a paper plate buckling under the weight of the food. He nodded. “I gather this weather should be good for you, right? Drive the critters down from the high country, make them easier to track?� “You’re welcome to join us,� he said. “Let me call your wife. I’ll explain to her why you won’t be home for another couple of weeks.� “That’s a conversation I’d like to listen in on,� I replied. “Besides, I’m not really a hunter. Fishing is more my thing.� I tucked into my breakfast, wondering if anything tastes better than eggs fried in bacon grease, eaten in a warm tent, while outside wet snow falls.

“It’s our eighth year here,� continued Bob. “Last year, we got skunked. Didn’t even see an elk. Jim got lost. Had to call the sheriff and everything. They had a helicopter on standby for the morning, but he walked out onto the road a few miles from here around midnight.� Jim nodded ruefully. “I didn’t know I was lost until I was. Up to then, I thought I knew exactly where I was, until what should have been a road according to my map turned out to be some horse trail instead.� “You said you were a guide once, right?� asked Bob. “Maybe you should stick around, look after Jim.� “I’m not sure I’d be much use out here. You don’t need much in the way of navigation skills as a

fishing guide. The river only flows one way—pretty hard to get lost.� The conversation moved on to fishing, of spin versus fly, northern pike, Alaskan salmon and Kiwi browns. Finally, after a second helping of bacon, the road called, and I stood to leave. “Well gents, I’ve got a six hour drive or so ahead of me, weather cooperating, so I’d better hit the road.� I thanked them each for their hospitality, wished them well for their hunt and, belly full, stepped from their warmth back into falling snow. Breakfasts don’t taste any better than that. Maybe someday I’ll be able to return the favor to Bob, Jim, Dave, and Buster.

Hayden Mellsop Fly ďŹ shing guide. Real Estate guide.

About The Author Hayden Mellsop is an expat New Zealander living in the mountain town of Salida, Colorado, on the banks of the Arkansas River. As well as being a semiretired fly fishing guide, he juggles helping his wife raise two teenage daughters, along with a career in real estate.


Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


How to Tie & Fish a H e a d s - U p ( E y e - t o - E y e )  Fly Fishing Rig


still remember the first time I saw someone tie on a dry fly with a nymph dropper hanging off the curve of the hook, and I thought my head was going to explode! I was struck by the brilliance of being able to cover and fish multiple layers of the water column simultaneously with one multi-fly rig, or to even cover multiple stages of a hatch all on one line (using an adult-dry fly on top, a wet emerger fished pattern fished mid column, and a nymph pattern fished deep off the end of the line).  For many, this is the pinnacle of complex fishing rigs, but I suggest that we can do better, and with one slight alteration and going "heads up" (or tying on

our droppers eye-to-eye) we can make our dropper rigs exponentially more deadly and vastly improve our catch rate. The benefits of attaching the tippet for dropper flies to the eye of the previous hook instead of the back of the hook are two-fold:

1. Our flies gain a more realistic profile in the water column, and 2. Hooks remain more deeply set, regardless of fight and snagged droppers, allowing the angler to bring more fish to hand.

Adult aquatic insects sit high on top of the water held ed vertically in the water column as they frantically aloft by their legs, and emerging insects are orient- swim towards the surface in their effort to hatch. No rig better matches these natural orientations than the Heads-Up or Eye-to-eye rig.  Tying droppers off of the eye of a dry fly will create a longer, higher floating dry fly, and a more realistic and tantalizing emerger trailing beneath it.  

About The Author Peter Stitcher is an Aquatic Biologist and owner of Ascent Fly Fishing. Originator of the Biologist Crafted Fly Selection, Peter and his team build their clients’ fly selections specific to the bugs in the waters they fish, when they fish them. You can contact Peter or restock your fly box at: 34

High Country Angler • Winter 2020

The chief benefit of the Heads-Up  or  Eye-toeye  rig is its sticking power and ability to hold onto fish until they are safely secured in your net.  When droppers are tied in line, eye to hook bend, each subsequent fly has the ability to snag on the bottom of the river or a stick, and apply a direct and perfectly angled pressure to dislodge the upstream hook from the mouth of the trout.  Identical to the pressure applied to the curve of the hook with one's forceps when releasing a fish, any pressure applied along a line of flies rigged eye to hook bend will work to pull the upstream flies from the mouth of the trout.  When rigging flies eye to eye, EVERY PRESSURE, whether from the bend of our rods or from a momentary snag along the bed of the river, will work to more deeply set and secure the hook into the lip of the trout. The next time you are tying up your Dry-Dropper or Nymphing Rig, tie your flies on eye-to-eye and get ready for an awesome day on the water and more fish in your net!

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


Remodeling and Restoring Rivers for trout and those who hook them by Todd Hartman, Denver Water


t’s not exactly the remodeling work you see on HGTV's Property Brothers, but Denver Water and its partners have wrapped up another big river restoration project that the trout — and the people who like to catch them — will enjoy for years to come. The Williams Fork River Restoration Project tackled a nearly 1-mile stretch of Williams Fork near the town of Parshall within the Kemp-Breeze State Wildlife Area. Denver Water and Colorado Parks and Wildlife, with the support of Grand County Learning By Doing partners, joined forces to get the job done. Instead of knocking down walls and placing new tile, workers are reshaping the river channel in ways that create far better living and spawning quarters for trout and the bugs that they eat. “We are restoring these river reaches to create conditions for trout and other aquatic species to thrive,” said Jessica Alexander, lead environmental scientist for Denver Water. “Many factors combine to alter waterways and degrade fish habitat, but through these partnerships we can


High Country Angler • Winter 2020

repair and improve the river’s ecological function and increase fish populations.” The improvements are designed to improve habitat diversity for all life stages of trout. Workers are reshaping the channel and removing sediment to create deeper pools and creating more variety in rock riffles and point bars, all of which give trout greater opportunity to survive and reproduce in larger numbers. “Williams Fork is one of the real jewels of our state wildlife areas, and the project has effectively addressed some habitat shortcomings that we had observed over the past decade,” said Jon Ewert, Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic biologist based in Hot Sulphur Springs. “It’s a whole different river now, with far more good quality fish habitat. The angling public would not have enjoyed these benefits without strong partnerships between CPW, Denver Water, Grand County and other entities.” The Kemp-Breeze State Wildlife Area is one of several river improvements Denver Water and various partners have tackled over the last seven years. The work is tied to commitments in the

Denver Water lead environmental scientist Jessica Alexander explains improvements to the Fraser River following work in the Fraser Flats section of the river. Rock cobble on the opposite bank helps stabilize and narrow the channel, creating deeper water at low flows. Photo credit: Denver Water. landmark Colorado River Cooperative Agreement of 2013 and, in certain cases, through its permit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to address impacts of the Gross Reservoir Expansion. A glance at some of the projects: • Since 2013, Denver Water has partnered with the Colorado Department of Transportation, Grand County, and the town of Winter Park to capture traction sand that comes off Highway 40 and accumulates in the Fraser River. Capture and removal of the sediment has translated to removal of nearly 2,500 tons of sand and dramatic improvements in water quality and trout habitat downstream. • Restoration of the channel and banks on the Fraser Flats section of the Fraser River west of Winter Park in 2017. The work included willow plantings that will shade the river and help to reduce water temperatures. It resulted in a significant increase in the fish population — and attracted anglers to a 1/2-mile section opened to public fish-

ing. This work was led by the collaborative partnership called Grand County Learning By Doing — a diverse group of waterlinked organizations on both sides of the Continental Divide, the formation of which was a direct outcome of the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement. (Ed. Note: see the Fall 2019 High Country Angler for more on this successful project.) • Starting in 2018 and ending in the summer of 2019, Denver Water partnered with the city of Boulder to restore a 2-mile section of South Boulder Creek severely damaged in the record floods of 2013. The project targeted habitat improvements to support rainbow trout. • In early fall 2019, Denver Water completed improvements to the Williams Fork River just upstream of the Williams Fork Reservoir. These changes are similar to the work just completed below the reservoir on the Kemp Breeze State Wildlife Area.

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


“Grand County appreciates Denver Water’s commitment to Learning By Doing and moving forward to implement much needed improvements for our rivers, including voluntary environmental bypass flows, ahead of the required timeline and triggers in the Colorado River Cooperative Agreement,” said Ed Moyer, assistant county manager for Grand County. Wildlife biologists say the work at Kemp-Breeze has already shown significant results. Anglers are David Bennett, Denver Water's director of Water Resource Strategy, displays a raincatching good-sized trout in new bow trout benefiting from habitat upgrades to Fraser Flats west of Winter Park. pools recently created as part of the Photo credit: Denver Water. Williams Fork River Restoration Project. Before the work began, there were only three lowwater pools in the project reach capable of sheltering fish. Now, with the project completed, there are 12. This means fish will have much better habitat and anglers will have significantly improved fishing opportunities along the scenic stretch of river located in the Kemp-Breeze State Wildlife Area. Even as the latest restoration on Williams Fork A newly construction "point bar" (left) and cobble stabilizing the opposite bank on the Williams Fork River help direct lower flows to the central channel, and can also create depth and pools attractive to fish. This work, completed in fall 2019, was key to the Williams Fork River restoration project in a reach within the KempBreeze State Wildlife Area. Photo credit: Denver Water. An "aquatic organism passage" replaced a deteriorating concrete culvert upstream of Williams Fork Reservoir. The work, conducted by Grand County, complimented efforts by Denver Water and its partners to improve fish habitat in a degraded river stretch. Photo credit: Denver Water. River is wrapping up this October, more projects are planned. “There is more beneficial river work to be done in the years to come,” Alexander said. “We’ve learned a lot from these projects from work on the ground, as well as how important partnerships are to their success.” 38

High Country Angler • Winter 2020

To Learn More. To learn more about this story and Colorado Trout Unlimited, visit

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


Mine Reclamation Takes Partners by Kara Armano

Revegetation work at the Keystone Mine near Crested Butte, Colorado


artnerships are critical to getting large tasks accomplished. That’s true in nearly every aspect of Trout Unlimited’s work: from getting legislation passed to ensuring clean water for anglers and access to public lands, to habitat improvement projects to help restore native fisheries, and most certainly,

Rock with a liner routing drainage into former mine workings

toric hard-rock mines across Colorado. This partnership has been furthered over the years at Keystone to protect the adjacent water quality of Coal Creek, which acts as one of the drinking  water  sources for Crested Butte. The specific expertise of TU, DRMS, and the mining company have been necessary to combat various impediments and conditions common to historic gold, silver, and molybdenum mines.   This partnership between the three entities allows mine reclamation to successfully happen at complex sites such as the Keystone Mine. Working with a private entity along with the state, TU can help secure more grant funding, work  on private lands, and involve experts from each entity to conduct thorough reclamation efforts.   During 2018 work, DRMS ran revegetation projects while TU conducted research and calculations to assess channel runoff rates, and design implementation and management of clean water at the site. That work continued this summer with TU managing construction to ensure clean water didn’t encounter mine wastes and increase the amount of water to be treated at the plant. The treatment plant fluctuates, treating a

for the complex nature of abandoned mine cleanup.    Near Crested Butte, Colorado, and up the eastRevegetated slope amended with lime, limestone, and then capped with clean fill ern, winding portion of Kebler  Pass sits the Keystone Mine. Over the past three years, a collaboration of multiple partnerships  coalesced in an  on-going effort to clean up historic hardrock mine contamination from waste left over at this mine. Fre e p or t - Mc Mo R an owns the Mt. Emmons Mining Company, which operates the Keystone Mine, and they have maintained a partnership for years with both TU and the Colorado Division of Reclamation, Mining and Safety (DRMS) to address contamination from

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


Calculations on the channel

Completed channel work to ensure water goes where it’s supposed to go

Assessing what needs restoration


High Country Angler • Winter 2020

seasonal flow range of 150 to 430 gallons per minute, so minimizing any additional flows is a great benefit to Freeport and the downstream community. This work is scheduled to continue, thanks to the good partnerships between Freeport, TU, and DRMS. After a recent planning meeting for 2020, large-scale revegetation efforts will commence  and test plots assessed, to see which amendments work best on waste rock piles and tailings impoundments. In addition, a former parking lot will be  revegetated  and some drainage and tailings work are on tap for next year. This work will continue through at least 2021, and thanks to these partnerships even more cleanup can  occur  at this site to benefit the town of Crested Butte and surrounding fisheries. 

To Learn More. To learn more about this story and Colorado Trout Unlimited, visit

Rock with a liner routing drainage into former mine workings

Avanti Food & Beverage is a modern day food hall featuring seven affordably priced restaurants and three bars all overlooking downtown Denver.

Avanti proudly supports TU and our CO waterways. We donate $.50 of every Upslope Lager to Trout Unlimited to help protect our rivers and watersheds. 32nd & PECOS in LOHI 720.269.4778

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


LEGACY Youth Camp by Colorado TU Staff


y sharing our knowledge and stories with young people who had interest or passions as we had, we created a conduit to their curiosities. Their success stories are the legacy for Trout Unlimited. I am one of many who simply facilitated and encouraged what

they already had begun to realize before they attended camp.” says Larry Quilling, the first Youth Camp Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited’s River Conservation and Fly-Fishing Camp. The River Conservation and Fly-Fishing Youth Camp was established in 2006 when 20 campers gathered in Parshall, Colorado to complete a week-long program of STEM-based conservation education and instruction in the art of fly fishing. The camp was the vision of CTU Board of Directors member, Sharon Lance, who envisioned a program designed such that participants could imagine multiple education and career paths that align with their personal passion for the outdoors. Sharon’s vision for creating an in-depth program specific to young adults stems from her background in secondary education. She views our campers, who are on the verge of adulthood, as the next generation of voting citizens, leaders of Trout Unlimited and stewards of our rivers. For some of our campers, that future is Having been a camper himself, and quite clearly still a camper at heart, Ben Ward is able to connect with the youth campers with a youthful spirit.


High Country Angler • Winter 2020

Taila Oulton, as a youth camp counselor, assists a young camper in the art of fly casting.

here. After 14 years of operation, Colorado Trout Unlimited’s River Conservation and Fly-Fishing Youth Camp has engaged over 250 young adults. Of those 250, camp leaders have seen several young people graduate the camp with a passion burning and plans for their future in sight. This year, Colorado Trout Unlimited celebrates their 50th year anniversary of conserving, protecting and restoring Colorado’s cold-water fisheries and watersheds. Along with looking to the past and all that has been accomplished, we look to our future – and the future of Colorado Trout Unlimited lies in the hands of our youth participants. Taila Oulton first attended camp in 2009 as a 13-year-old. Having been homeschooled, Taila had plenty of opportunities to fly fish and fall in love with nature, but not to connect with a community of similarly aged, like-minded people. For her, this camp was the way to do that, the way to make friends that a decade later, she can call up to go fishing,

Josie Hawkins, a camper who has continued to engage with Trout Unlimited after attending camp, helps clear some branches during the camp’s restoration project. grab a beer, and catch up. Taila says, “Through the week of camp I learned many tips and tricks to make my time on the river even more enjoyable. This got me to thinking: How cool is it that these mentors took time out of their lives to volunteer their time to pass on all of this valuable knowledge to us, the next gen-

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


Mark Hanson (left, co-director), Richard Shinton (middle) and Jim Williams (right) have been dedicated volunteers for the camp for many years.

in a way that also fuels my favorite hobby and brings me close to friends both old and new.” Ben Ward first attended the River Coneration!” The next year, Taila was invited servation and Fly-Fishing Youth Camp in back to camp as a youth counselor and is 2011 as a camper and ended up coming now going on her 10th year of mentoring back as a youth counselor in 2012, then young anglers and volunteering as camp working his way up to his current role as staff. Today, Taila works for Black Canyon Wing and Clay, a pheasant hunting club in Delta, Colorado, continuing to volunteer Barbara Luneau, the current co-director of camp, leads a her time for Trout Unlimited, and consis- group of campers in discussion. tently sharing her passion and knowledge about the environment with others. Taila says, “Pat and Carol Oglesby sparked my love for Trout Unlimited as a young girl. They opened my eyes to a world filled with people from all walks of life that all share the same passion: conserving and protecting the fisheries we all hold dear. I love being able to give back to my community


High Country Angler • Winter 2020

Mark Sheedlo, a youth camp volunteer, providing one-on-one instruction and mentorship to a camper.




Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


a flight leader for camp. Ben was encouraged by his father to apply for the youth camp, recognizing that conservation work and fly fishing are right up his alley of interests, but also suspecting his dad just wanted him out of the house for a week. As most adolescent, over-night camp experiences go, his first few hours were spent sitting around a table with other, equally as nervous, youth campers. Ben says, “By the end of the week, I was laughing and giggling while playing card games or listening to absurd stories around the campfire. In the span of one week, I had made some of the dearest and most impactful friends I’ll ever have.” After having this initial experi-

ence, Ben knew he wanted to come back in some way, so he got involved with his local chapter and within the year, he joined the board of directors. Ben’s youth camp experience motivated him to pursue a biology program with a concentration on Ecology at Fort Lewis College. Today, he works at the Durango Recreation Center as a kids’ mountain bike coach, rock wall attendant, and a soccer game manager. In addition to Trout Unlimited, he volunteers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and continues to pursue his environmental passions through recreations such as fly fishing, skiing, and mountain biking. For every director, volunteer, counselor


2561 Frying Pan Road, Basalt

‣ ‣ 48

The Dallenbach Ranch

Riverfront cabin rentals Weddings & special events

High Country Angler • Winter 2020

‣ ‣

Private Frying Pan access Minutes from downtown

Book Today! 210.336.2613

Taila Oulton poses with one of the campers as she lands a trout.

For people who love tight lines - in the stream and on the mountain.

CTU Fly By Skis & Boards For each special edition trout design purchased, Gilson Snow will donate $75 to CTU to be used in conservation efforts to protect and expand populations of native trout in the state of Colorado.

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


Sharon Lance, the founder of the River Conservation and Fly Fishing youth camp.

Taila Oulton, as a youth camper.

Ben Ward, as a youth camper. and camper involved with the River Conservation and Fly-Fishing Camp over the years, the experience has produced something unique. What they all have in common is leaving the camp with a renewed sense of passion 38339 US Hwy 50 for our environment and a need Gunnison, CO 81230 to continue and pass on what is 970.641.1442 learned to their communities. Larry Quilling said it best: “It was always, however, legacy for the kids, not mine. My participation and efforts are miniscule com• Walking distance to the gold-medal pared to the conservation and adwaters of the Gunnison River vocacy being applied by our camp • Near Blue Mesa Reservoir alumni. The kids are the legacy.”

Island Acres

• Vintage charm and ambiance

To Learn

• Great outdoor space


• Multiple room layouts

To learn more about this story and Colorado Trout Unlimited, visit

• Spacious boat parking, including free long-term for multiple stays

• Fully stocked kitchens Winter 2020 • High Country Angler




Even Hobbies Have Hobbies


ven hobbies can have hobbies. A woodworker starts making toy trains, an artist teaches a painting class, a sports fan collects memorabilia. I was first introduced to fly fishing by my Dad 50 years ago on a small creek in Colorado. To my Dad, fishing was a part time religion, not just something to do. I tagged along. Fishing became a hobby and in the ensuing decades expanded into fly tying, writing, photography, teaching, shows, programs, pro staff, working at a gear company, gear testing – all engrossing. This leads to hobbies with a hobby. My hobby within the fishing hobby? First was the fishing, just to go fishing. Then the fly tying, just to have flies to fish. Then on a third level, some years ago I began collecting fly tying books, old and new. At first just an occasional book purchased for learning. Then at fishing shows, I would buy from the author I met a personally autographed book just to have the autograph. Then local friends having a garage sale or closing an estate would bring me fly tying tools, materials, and books. Sorting thru the books, I would keep the fly tying ones. And I actually read them. I realized I had become a collector. Books also show up as auction items at fundraisers. Some years ago at a TU gathering, I bought a 52

High Country Angler • Winter 2020

complete collection of the first five years of Fly Tyer magazine, the first edition was 1978. More recently at a Project Healing Waters fundraiser, I bought 3 separate stacks of fishing books, not all fly tying, just to get the one tying book in the stack. One of those being “Modern Fly-Tying Materials” by Dick Talleur, recognizable to me as someone I have read numerous articles in the hobby magazines. Among the many books in my collection, this one stands out. Of course “modern” is a relative term. Published in 1995, synthetic materials were available, but not prevalent as today. So the book is mixture of natural and synthetic materials. But what is different than most tying books, old and new, this is 200 pages about materials themselves, not how to tie. I found it entertaining and educational. Here is an example. Marabou. We all use it, recipes mention it, and most tyers know it comes from a turkey. Maybe you knew, but after 30 years of tying I didn’t know that the name and first feathers came from an African bird called a Marabou Stork. I looked online, seeing pictures and learning it is a very large bird, up to 5 feet tall and 20 pounds. Will that make me a better tyer? No. But next time I am doing a tying demonstration with marabou,

conversation can be more interesting as I tell about the real bird. Some other examples from the book. Chenille is a French word for “caterpillar”. Dubbing, the term we use today, both for the material itself and the tying technique, came from the English word “dubbin” for the material itself. In the description of using monofilament as a thread, he suggests using it for egg flies. Super glues of various brands, which tend to thicken and become unusable after being open awhile, can have an extended life by storing in the refrigerator. Hobbies within hobbies. Fishing. Fly tying. Fly tying books. Always something to learn. Even from books of days past.

About The Author

Joel Evans is a fly fishing writer, photographer, and long-time member of Trout Unlimited from Montrose, CO. You can contact him via the HCA editor at

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler



High Country Angler • Winter 2020

Pete Van Gytenbeek

A Legacy of Conservation BY RICHARD VAN GYTENBEEK


guess I grew up thinking that all families fished and cared about healthy waters; these things were just a given in our lives. That mistaken belief, however, became evident when I was nine and my brother and I had gotten up early on a Sunday morning with my father to go fishing. The canyon of the Tarryall River was one of my favorite places, filled with old mine shafts, cool rocks, and plenty of trout. But no routine church on Sunday morning? We would be missed. As we headed home at the end of the day, I asked about the revised schedule and was told that the church doesn’t have to have a roof. The canyon could be our church and it was up to us to protect it. My father, Pete Van Gytenbeek (aka Van), learned to fish from Rodolph, his father. Rodolph fished the streams and lakes of the Adirondacks with long cane poles and a black gnat, parmachene bell, and a silver doctor. Rodolph was also on the forefront of understanding and combating acid rain in

the northeastern U.S. Growing up in this environment, Pete not only developed his love for fishing but more importantly, he understood the delicate nature of the resource. These lessons would serve him well in his destiny as an environmentalist and conservationist in the West. Pete became Trout Unlimited’s first Executive Director on the first day of 1969 in a small “garden level” office on East Evans in Denver. Garden level was a euphemism for a partial basement office that looked out on the license plates of the cars parked outside. Now 13 years old, I vividly remember seeing my father surrounded by stacks of paper, small piles of address cards strewn about the floor, and a corner filled with various donated fishing gear. This would serve as my father’s base of operations for the next five years in his quest to grow TU’s membership and ride the tide of the late 60s and early 70s environmental activism. While he would go on to serve the conservation community as a

board member of TU, the American League of Anglers, Fly Fishing Federation (ultimately becoming its Executive Director), and Rocky Mountain Center on the Environment, he also organized the Wild Trout symposiums, authored the Way of a Trout, contributed to All the Best: Celebrating Lefty Kreh, anchored a TV series called Fly Fishing Northwest (Prime Sports Northwest), and served multiple terms on the Washington State Wildlife Commission. But two projects stand out from the early days of TU: The Teton Dam was a huge disappointment to my father. TU had fought the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) for about a year on the project. Pete would return from testifying in Washington D.C. and rave about the Bureau and their quest to dam every free-flowing river in the West, despite science. As a disconnected teenager I thought the BOR was some sort of an evil empire. In the end I remember a celebration at home because Pete and his staff Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


had been told by Nathaniel Reed, then Interior Secretary, the fight had been won and the project defeated. By the next day things had changed for the worse. An excerpt from my father’s verbal history best explains it: “Nat, what happened?” He said the two senators got to Nixon through Haldeman and said, "You’re going to lose this senate seat up here if you don’t build it. You can’t not do this, you got to do it.” So the Bureau of Reclamation went ahead and built the dam. The Teton Dam catastrophically failed on Sunday, June 5, 1976. The project my dad was most proud of was the retrofitting of Flaming Gorge dam in northeastern Utah on the Green River. To quote him: “So anyway, there was a 56

High Country Angler • Winter 2020

thing called the Central Utah Project. And the Central Utah Project was going to dam up everything coming out of the Uinta Mountains. You name it and they had a dam planned, which was typical of the Bureau of Reclamation’s longrange planning. So I was over there at their offices in Salt Lake—which are massive—with Don Andrean, who was the head of fisheries for Utah. We’re negotiating with Dave, trying to get water flows and things like that. At the end of the day he said to both of us, “Well is there anything we can do for you? Don said, “You know Dave, I hate to even mention it because the fishery wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for you. But as Flaming Gorge Reservoir fills, the water is getting colder

and colder because it’s a bottom draw. We’re having to change everything in that river because bug life’s dying and we’ve got colder water fish like cutthroats in there now where we had brown trout before, etc. Dave said, “Well, hmm.” So they throw up a big screen and it’s a cross-section of the dam. I’m looking at this thing and they’re talking about it, and I said, “I don’t understand why you couldn’t put a pipe down inside of that dam with louvers in it, and put it on top of the penstock, (which is this bottom draw, it’s where you pull the water out of the reservoir and into the power turbines). And you could dial anything in the reservoir.” So Leo DeGuire (who is my great friend and enemy, he was

Colorado Trout Unlimited's

River Stewardship Gala March 5, 2020

Mile High Station | Denver, CO Join Colorado Trout Unlimited for its annual River Stewardship Gala. With over 350 river and angling enthusiasts expected to attend, this is an event not to be missed and will include dinner, drinks, silent & live auction, award presentation honoring Jeff Shoemaker and The Greenway Foundation, and guest appearance by Hank Patterson. Funds raised at Colorado TU’s Gala are used across our beautiful state to restore trout habitat and reintroduce native cutthroats to their home waters, engage youth in conservation education, partner with our 24 chapters on local projects, and care for Colorado’s world-class fisheries.

This event regularly sells out. Get your tickets early! Click here for more information.

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler



High Country Angler • Winter 2020

head of power operations for the bureau and everything we did screwed up his life) says, “Van Gytenbeek, that is the dumbest of all the things I’ve ever heard you say! And that’s a long litany of things!” But Dave’s saying, “Well you know, I don’t know.” He’s kind of stroking his chin and looking at it. The discussion kind of petered off and we all went home. The next week I was in the office and Dave Crandall called up and said, “What are you doing for lunch? Meet me out at the tech center; I want to show you something.” Well the Denver Tech Center, among other things out there, they’ve got in a warehouse a working model of the whole upper Colorado River system. I mean, it’s incredible. They had gone ahead and built this dam with a penstock on it and he said, “I think we can do it. We got it authorized rather quickly because we still had Morton and friends back there in Washington.” Of course the old trick with the government, and with legislation, is that your congressman says, “Well I got it authorized now, aren’t I wonderful?” I said, “Yes, now

what about funding it?” So anyway, it was the same thing on this. We needed $13 million to make this alteration, [and] we’re not having any luck with funding. Again the phone rings. It says: First National Bank, Albuquerque, Mitigation. Click. What in the heck was that? I called a friend of mine who’s a First National Bank president in Santa Fe and said, “Hey check this out for me, will you?” He called back in twenty minutes and said, “Van, there’s $13-$14 million dollars in a mitigation fund that goes back to when the dam was authorized that’s never been touched. These guys are just collecting interest on the money.” So, that’s how we got it done. This effort would change the way Bureau of Reclamation would build every one of their subsequent dam projects. Pete died last February. When I went to work for TU in 2012, he was always asking me about the incredible work TU continues to do decades after the humble start in the garden level office. He was so impressed with the Western Water and Habitat Program’s col-

laborative efforts with agriculture, the efforts to save Bristol Bay, and the Wild Steelhead Initiative. I know it gave him great satisfaction to know that his efforts that began in a little hole in the wall office in Denver helped to start a nationally respected conservation organization. I miss him tons, but working for TU, I get to see his legacy live on in projects like Flaming Gorge. That legacy of angling, environmentalism, and conservation continues to live on in all his children and in the staff and members of TU, the organization he loved. He was passionate about his fish and confident that his organization would continue to do good work to protect them.

About The Author

Richard Van Gytenbeek is the Colorado River Basin Outreach Coordinator for TU’s Colorado Water Project.

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler




Legacy: A Convoluted Trail


he official trail to the 2019 version of Colorado Trout Unlimited leads back to 1969, but, there are additional trails before that time that eventually converge to form the organization we know today. I can’t follow all of those trails and discuss their contributions to the legacy of Colorado TU, so I will limit my thoughts to personal connections…what were some of the legacies that contributed to my career in fisheries, and maybe to that of my son and his role in Colorado TU. My conservation legacy has a definite point of origin on a family farm in Olmsted County, Minnesota. That farm held ten acres of woods and two small brooks, too small for brook trout, but sufficiently clear and cold to support brightly colored rainbow darters. Those woods and waters provided endless fascination and fun for a young boy who was allowed to roam freely through them. Nearby streams of larger size provided an introduction to the joys of fishing for brook trout and propagated brown trout. The farm was also an early experiment in contour strips designed to stop erosion and conserve water. My father became a conservation farmer in the middle of the Dust Bowl era, perhaps the first farmer in Olmsted County to do so. The next steps in my personal conservation trail took place during my college career. I had never heard of ecology until I signed up for a course in it during my junior year. That course “brought things together” and helped me realize that the practical experiences I had during my youth were also examples of theoretical and applied science. Ecology really made sense to my 20-year-old mind. Thank you, Dr. Fawver. 60

High Country Angler • Winter 2020

A brief teaching career in Minnesota public schools gave me the qualifications for a graduate program funded by the National Science Foundation at the University of South Dakota. An ichthyology course that included emphasis on the ecology of fishes provided the next step in my personal career path. The legacy of Dr. Jim Schmulbach, who taught that course, began in the waters of southern Illinois. He inspired me to take the next career step, as a doctoral student at Southern Illinois University. The years at SIU included an unusual addition to my understanding of trout biology when I reared rainbow trout in the cold water pumped from the hypolimnion of a strip mine pit near Carbondale. The creative mind of Dr. Bill Lewis, that saw the potential for such a project, added another trail to my personal conservation legacy. Fishing the warm waters of southern Illinois added another dimension. Following graduate school, my personal path expanded to include my students attending Western Kentucky University, South Dakota State University, Cornell University, and Iowa State University. The waters of Kentucky, South Dakota, New York, and Iowa combined with the experiences of faculty colleagues and students from around the world to broaden my imprint, like ripples spreading across a pond. Teaching and conducting research in a variety of locations, plus the addition of activist involvement in conservation associations and their issues, provided opportunities for greater depth and breadth to my efforts. Perhaps the work of former students and graduate students who went on to develop their own legacies has been the most rewarding aspect of my

personal trail. Conversations and reports about their work managing and restoring fish populations in southeast Minnesota, the Black Hills of South Dakota, Oregon, Washington, upstate New York, Massachusetts, Alaska, Texas, Mississippi, and even international locations have broadened my background and made me appreciate the way in which we all can create far-flung impacts through the people we influence, teach, and encourage. One of the most rewarding and surprising examples occurred when I was preparing to leave my position as Director of the Bozeman Fish Technology Center in Montana. A former undergraduate student from my time at South Dakota State University drove three hours to come to my office and explain how the Environmental Conservation course he had taken from me – where I had talked about people as a part of nature and not apart from it – had changed his outlook on life and established him on a new career path. Needless to say, I was moved very

deeply by his words. Finally, there are the careers and interests of my own children that also contribute to my personal legacy. David, as Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited is the most conspicuous example of my personal legacy in conservation, fish ecology, and fisheries management. While David is the only one of my children employed in conservation work, his siblings, Lynn, Susan, and Mark, are dedicated conservationists. Lynn and Susan, while teaching in public schools included conservation information and experiences for their students. My “convoluted trail” as an environmentalist, conservationist, fisheries biologist, scientist, and even a bureaucrat is but one example of a “conservation legacy.” Each of us has effects far beyond our immediate set of actions and experiences – and the ways our paths influence others on their journeys are often the most farreaching.

About The Author John Nickum, is a retired PhD. fishery biologist whose career has included positions as professor at research universities including Iowa State and Cornell University, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s fisheries research facility in Bozeman, MT, and science officer for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mountain-Prairie Region. He was inducted into the National Fish Culture Hall of Fame in 2008.

Winter 2020 • High Country Angler






Reach Fly-Fishing community



High Country Angler • Winter 2020


JANUARY 3, 4 & 5

0 2 0 2 ®

Denver Mart

Free ! Parking

The International Fly Fishing Film Festival world premier. One night only, Friday, January 3 at 6:30. Tickets are $15 at the door or $10 in advance. See for more details.

Fly Fishing is NOT part of the show


Winter 2020 • High Country Angler


What Ski Season?


High Country Angler • Winter 2020

Profile for High Country Angler

High Country Angler | Winter 2020  

High Country Angler | Winter 2020