Eugene Buchanan: A casting commute
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Forget driving, biking or even walking to work. Last week, I participated in a casting commute.
It started, as most exploits like this do, with a call from my buddy Johnny: “Dude, it’s the magic window for the Yampa right now,” he enthused. “Want to float it in the early morning?”
He was referring, of course, to last week’s quickly receding river flows. For a brief period, the water level was low enough to fit a driftboat under the bridges while still high enough to float such a craft through town. This spelled an angling opportunity as sparkling as the pre-dawn water.
Of course, with some of us having work schedules to adhere to (insert violin), the light bulb hit: Why not float and fish the river with him at the crack of dawn and then get dropped off downtown where I could hop off — like the Roadrunner stepping out of a falling house — and walk the short half block to work? It would be my own casting commute, with the only parking issue finding a nook for my fishing vest and rod.
Plans in place, I met Johnny and cohort Paul at the Steamboat KOA Campground at 6 a.m., to run shuttle. The early bird, as we all know, gets the worm — even though we’d be using flies.
While automatic coffee makers were trickling on around town, we drove down a deserted Lincoln Avenue to our put-in at Walton Creek, sun barely cresting Mount Werner. There, we unloaded our rig and shoved out onto the inky-smooth pond and into Walton Creek.
Our first artillery of the day were pike rods, complete with the biggest, feathery-est, meatiest streamers in our arsenal. While snooze alarms were being swatted elsewhere, we swatted our lures down on top of sloughs and other slack water, trying to scare up toothy denizens of the deep. While it didn’t work — kind of like an alarm clock failing its prescribed duty — one did manage to sever our line.
When we hit the Yampa River, we switched to chasing trout. For this, we put on smaller, less flamboyant streamers — first olive, then white and then black like the shadows under our eyes. We then cast toward the banks, some having beaches that looked like the Sandman had paid a visit and others littered with cobblestones.
With this we were more successful. The first strike, a 15-inch brown, brought us to full attention, erasing any semblance of slumber. We dropped anchor, landed it and let it go. Then we kept going, like slipping back into a dream, landing and losing a few more.
With town slowly awakening — the traffic picking up on U.S. Highway 40, bikers touring River Road and joggers pounding the bike path — we drifted downstream, rowing against the current to slow our progress. With three people and two rods, we took turns rowing, shuffling positions, rods and oars.
In all, we pulled five fish into the boat — not great, but not shabby for a sunrise commute. And it certainly wasn’t bad for a float and fishing combo when I otherwise would have been drinking coffee in my footie PJs.
Before we knew it, we passed the ball fields of Emerald Park, ducked under the railroad bridge (barely) and floated on through Rich Weiss Park., where a lone biker cast his eyes on our own casts.
Encouraging me to keep fishing until the last possible second, Johnny then deftly pulled his dory into a small eddy next to Backdoor Sports, where I bid them adieu. As they continued down, I grabbed my briefcase, stepped off the boat and strolled over to work to see what else the day had on the line.
To reach Eugene Buchanan, call 970-871-4276 or email ebuchanan@SteamboatPilot.com.
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