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Drop a line, grab a club

Yampa River the real winner at unusual sporting event

The third-annual Golf Trout Tournament on Sept. 10 to 12 has little left to prove as it enters its third season at the Sheraton Steamboat Resort. The sportsmen who are fortunate enough to be added to one of the four-person teams are certain to catch some fine trout, and the Sheraton golf course always delivers.

“Mid-September fishing is always good, so you know guys are going to catch fish. Last year, more than 500 fish were caught and released,” organizer Jeff Ruff said. “I think close to that number of golf balls were lost by the fishing guides alone.”

It’s true that people who excel at fishing aren’t always the same people who excel at golf. Ruff says it’s not so important to win the unusual tournament, which handicaps golf teams based on their success on local rivers and lakes the previous day. What matters is the cause.

“The Yampa River always wins in the end,” Ruff said. In its first two seasons, Golf Trout raised more than $30,000 from the $450 per person entrance fee and from the proceeds of the Saturday night dinner and auction. The money goes into the Yampa Valley Stream Improvement Charitable Trust, a separate 501C3 created by members of the Yampa Valley Flyfishers.

The funds are being built up to help leverage substantial grants needed to complete much needed Yampa River rehabilitation projects within the boundaries of the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area. It’s a portion of the river south of Steamboat Springs where Routt County Road 14F crosses the Yampa. The Colorado Division of Wildlife manages land for public access upstream and downstream from the bridge.

That stretch of river is known to anglers and conservationists as a place where the rusting hulks of automobile bodies have been used to curtail streambank erosion.

The plan is to remove the cars and complete instream modifications that will make that stretch of the Yampa a healthier environment.

The cause is worthy and serious, but Golf Trout itself is all about having fun, Ruff said. His Steamboat Fishing Company together with Straightline Outdoor Sports and Bucking Rainbow outfitters have donated their private fishing leases for Saturday morning when teams of four contestants and their fishing guides head out to see how many fish they can catch and release on the fly.

Ruff said the organizers have deliberately focused exclusively on privately controlled waters to ensure a high rate of fishing success for their guests, but also to ensure public anglers who go out to their favorite fishing spot Sept. 11 won’t be affected by the tournament.

Major sponsors include TIC and B&K Distributing/Budweiser. The Sheraton also is increasing its involvement in the tournament, Ruff said.

In addition to the sheer numbers of fish, points are awarded for every member of a team who catches a fish, those who catch two fish (and so on) and team members who catch different species of fish. Of course, there is a bounty for the biggest fish, as well.

A complex scoring formula keeps the contest fair and balanced, Ruff said. It’s difficult to win the overall tournament with just good anglers or good golfers. Last September, one team netted and released 150 fish from the Yampa at Two Rivers Ranch and managed to place no higher than fourth. A team from Lafarge won the tournament after finishing fourth in the fishing phase and demonstrating that their entire foursome was made up of very competent golfers.

Saturday’s fishing is followed that evening by a buffet dinner and silent auction under the tent on the south side of the Sheraton. The public is encouraged to attend, enjoy a relaxed meal and bid on some impressive auction packages.

Ruff said the emphasis of the auction this year has changed. Instead of offering as many pieces of fishing tackle and outdoor gear as possible, the organizers have focused on assembling bigger auction packages that weren’t selected solely with trout nerds in mind.

For example, a high-powered snowmobile from Mountain Motorsports will go under the gavel. There will be numerous golf, ski and fishing vacation packages. Auction-goers also can look forward to bidding for bottles of wine and restaurant meals.

All 25 Golf Trout teams are full again this year, and Ruff is confident the fund at the Stream Improvement Charitable Trust will grow by $15,000 to $18,000 again this year. He and the other organizers expect the tournament to build a track record that provides state and federal granting agencies with the confidence to invest in public access and the future health of the Yampa River.


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