Fishing Through the Plague



It’s legal. The Coronavirus pandemic has shut down businesses, closed our favorite restaurants, and confined us to our homes. Schools are shuttered. Trout Unlimited has cancelled all gatherings until further notice, and that includes Alpine Anglers. But according to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Web site it’s legal to go fishing—as long as you do it near home and adhere to social distancing practices. Fortunately, we have fishing near our homes, and for most of us social distancing is part of the plan. If you haven’t been fishing the Big Thompson below Estes Park—and that would put you in the minority—the midges are hatching, and the fish are biting.


Even while ice still shrouded the banks, Lynn Williams was making nice catches on egg patterns and midge pupa. (See photo below.) More recently, the action has moved to the surface. Susan Underwood and a few others sneak out to a secret pool almost daily to fish tiny dry flies to rising trout, and sparse midge hatches keep things interesting in the lower canyon.



The only down side to this fish-a-rama is that the river below Estes Park is seeing a lot of anglers, even on week days. Many of these people are probably “working from home.” There’s not much cell service down there, so their ability to respond to business needs is suspect, but I’m thinking most employers have bigger fish to fry at the moment. (Sorry.) The concentration of anglers on the Big T is exacerbated by the closure of RMNP whose streams, just now shedding their lids, are officially off limits. But there are miles of public water and thousands of trout in the canyon below.


When the weather says stay at home, there is gear to organize and flies to tie. I quickly filled in the gaps in my early-season midge selection, and I’ve topped off my lake box with a few more Wooley Buggers and Boobies. (Look it up, but be careful.) And now is the time to finally sift through the tangle of sodden and bedraggled flies that clutter your boxes but which you’ll never again tie on a tippet. In a week-long spate of tying, sorting, and discarding, I transformed ten chaotic fly boxes into, well, nine boxes whose organization will ensure whatever fly I need is back in the truck when I need it. But they do look a lot neater.


I don’t mean to trivialize the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. Lives and livelihoods are threatened and lost. But for most of us it’s a matter of hanging on to what we can and finding a way to thrive. Because the schools are closed, I worried about the trout being raised by third graders as part of our Trout in the Classroom program. But Judy Heider says the teachers are tending them and report the trout are “happy and healthy… and getting big!” I wasn’t surprised. That’s what trout do—as long as we make sure they have a healthy place to live and grow.


That’s the mission of Trout Unlimited. So while TU gatherings are on hold for now, our mission continues, and our activities will resume when it’s prudent to do so. In the meantime, it’s just a matter of days before the Bureau of Reclamation opens the gates and turns the Big T into a chocolate torrent, so go fishing. It’s legal.