Colorado Day 5 – The Taylor Zombies

| October 23, 2010

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(This was originally an HD video and the file remains large for quality purposes.)

If you are just tuning in, this is Day 5 of a summer trip to Colorado, USA. If you want to catch up, here are the quick links to the first four Days:
Colorado Day 1
Colorado Day 2
Colorado Day 3
Colorado Day 4

Do yourself a favor, and if you haven’t read / watched the previous days, go back and read those to make more sense of the upcoming days of adventure in Colorado.

Waking up at the Lodgepole Campground was a sluggish affair, spiced with campfire smoke and the smells of coffee and cooking wafting through the trees. The sound of the water, just across the road, The Taylor, does its job – droning out all the attic static anyone would dare bring along for the ride … a dead man’s sleep.

It was soggy, but we were spared any downright rain through the night, and much of the moisture was attributable to sleeping at cloud level. I was moving a little slow, deliberately slowing the showdown at the Taylor Tailwater Corral, where trout the size of piglets waited in ambush for the right fly, from the right fisherman, at the right place, at the right time.

It was only a few short twists up the road to the Taylor tailwaters, and right away I knew trouble was brewing. The only license plates present were Colorado plates. Not a Texan, New Mexican … this is a place where only mises and locals fear to tread. Don’t get me wrong, there won’t be any knife fights in the parking lot, and there’s no “Locals Only” bumper stickers, but when you see it, you know – locals who have done everywhere else, stack up along the shoreline two or four rod lengths separating them from mortal combat fishing.

As I passed them, their eyes had what looks like a thousand yard stare, and more than half had deep black circles under their eyes. They walked slow and ground the gravel and granite into sand as they dragged their feet. Zombies.

Now, you may remember, on Day 4, I blew right by a fly shop on the way up toward our resting place. That fly shop would have been loaded up with the ubiquitous fly for this renouned spot – the mysis shrimp. I bet myself I had something that would “come close.” Dumb Texan, just plain dumb.

The zombies have a way of thinking and doing things here. They find, literally sight, the fish they want to catch that day. Then they start nymphing their myses shrimp past with indicator and weight to get the depth correct. And they nymph, and nymph, and nymph … that same fish for that one time when it decides it’s time to come out from behind their rock, take current, and take in mysis and slide back behind that same rock. It takes about the same amount of time it took you to read this paragraph.

This isn’t guess work, theory, rumor or any other kind of voodoo chicanery. Go there and sit down on a rock and watch the whole show – you will witness this unholy natural act again and again. You can move up and down the area just off the road, on either side, and watch the zombies watching the fish, pull right up and watch along. It’s akin to walking up to the carnival game where you throw hardened wooden rings to try and get them to fall on the neck of an old style coke bottle. You stop, look, maybe spend a dollar, but in your heart of hearts, you know the game is fixed. Those rings bounce like a super ball in the street. Just as you walk away, you just know you’re going to hear “and we have a winner!”

This time the winner was a real loser. Leslie, who shot a good deal of the video you are watching, gave him the nickname “Napoleon Dynamite.” I was falling into a zombie induced stare at fish – everywhere, they were everywhere. I dropped down a less embarrassing distance away from the local zombies and hopped off a small boulder into the water again thinking the down drift with something terrestrial could be just the thing to put a Texan on this map. These Ph.D.’s were having none of it, but I did notice that when I would turn to tie on another futile fly, trout were literally swimming up to me in the water. Hmm, where have I seen this before and just what does it mean?

I was immediately distracted from the searching of my memory banks by a commotion further downriver. This guy was splashing in knee deep water, moving up and down the river, holding his bent rod up, way up, over his head. He scrambled to shore and proceeded to hopscotch the zombies onshore – raising his rod over them and giving the fish a downstream – his aura a circle of commotion. His line goes slack and he works his way back to where he started, drops back into the center of the river about thigh deep, turns downriver … lets out line, and starts backing upriver.

That’s when the light bulb goes off – Napoleon Dynamite knows how to do the San Juan Shuffle, and that’s the behavior I was again witnessing around my position. The Ph.D’s on the San Juan feast on the microscopic stirrings from fisher’s foot movement along the rich bottom of the San Juan at the Navajo Quality Waters. These monsters were no different, except for their size being double, triple and quadruple the fish size on the Navajo Quality Waters (conservatively).

Before I finalized my study, I tested it with Leslie standing on a rock about thirty feet below where I was in the water. I scraped my feet, and like clockwork, she saw one, two and three pounders sucking the slipstream of silt leading to my boots. As long as there was a cloud, there were trout.

While I was tying on a size 22 black nymph, I glanced downriver to see Napoleon literally bent over at the waist to get the angle for the longest possible moonwalking foot dragging since Michael Jackson. I swear I heard rocks rattle and bang like marbles, and I was fifty yards away!

Even if there is an art to nymphing, float, weight, drift, depth and hookset, I just wanted to drop one downstream and see if there was a chance. Without moving my feet I drifted a weighted nymph on 5X and on about the fifth drift felt one of those subtle sucking takes. Of course I reacted like a bass fisherman, and ripped lips. I was being educated, and I knew it.

Napoleon was quickly becoming the center of my attention. Bent at forty-five degrees at the waist, , knees bent, butt sticking out behind him, and dredging his way up the middle of the shallows … hooking and landing trout at will. A visual grumble went drifted through the zombies on shore. Those who actually knew what was going on were either turning away, or looking on in stunned silence.

I had to be sure that I was reading the vibe of the zombies, so I walked up to an obvious local, a fresh arrival, and therefore not quite in a zombie trance. We exchanged condolences, stood still a minute before I asked, “So, is that something you consider ok here?” “What? You mean the San Juan Shuffle? No. That’s frowned upon,” he said. “My wife has already named him Napoleon Dynamite,” I said. He bent double laughing. I thought he was going to rip a seam on his Simms.

In my dual reality, I would have shot a bunch of video of this guy, then have Leslie hold the camera while I confronted him – just to see what would happen. I have to hand it to the zombies, they hid their contempt for Napoleon behind poker faces. And that may be another something I learned that day: If this were Texas, and Napoleon was dancing up the Guadaluple, would there have been gunfire? Colorado showed its personality that day, and take-it-or-leave-it I like their (non) approach to blatantly unethical fly fishing techniques – it was so un-Texan.

We walked to the car, and slinked away from the parking lot still full of Colorado license plated zombie cars. Give me a week on this one-eighth mile stretch, and I bet lightning would strike my mysis … maybe … once. When you have had enough of the rest, this is where you go for the best, but eat your wheaties, leave family behind and anything else that could break the trance.

Further On Down The Road

We wound our way north, through Leadville, along the Arkansas showing itself, then hiding again behind brush, closer then further from the road. The Arkansas has plenty of places to pull off and fish, but we were on the move, making ground this day. It dawned on me – THE WAY to fish Colorado is to take it one river at a time. Spend five days learning, and hitting a single river. It may sound boring, but it’s not. These rivers can change personalities in less than a mile, and trout’s entomological diet certainly changes as the habitat changes (Thanks Rob Woodruff). Consider a single river as a single puzzle. The best this summer’s adventure will do, is give you a few of the border pieces of a few of Colorado’s puzzling rivers. Next summer, it’s going to be one at a time.

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Category: Colorado Report, Culture on the Skids, Events, Fish Podcasting, Fishing Reports, Life Observed, On The Road, TECHNICAL

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I write. I photograph. I fish, and I live.

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  1. shannon says:

    Really? Everybody must be fishing! No one’s been on the Taylor? Get back to me on this one.