Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March Newsletter: Who's Loveland's Toughest Angler? And more

Bill Prater

The legendary Loveland Fishing Club is comprised of fisher men and women with a median age well into the '70s, maxing out at just over 90, with a tendency to test ourselves against the elements. With March winds howling, it's time once again to ponder, "Who's Loveland's toughest angler?"

My own claim to the title of toughest came during a February journey to the Sandhills of northwest Nebraska, where I'd forgotten my heaviest coat but bravely kept whimpering to a minimum on a day where the temperature never rose above zero.
Others arguably have a more legitimate claim. 

There's Shirley Smillie, for example, who just celebrated 80, who kind of stunned everyone a few seasons ago when she turned out for a legendary minus-23 degree ice fishing trip to Lake Grandby, followed by an equally memorable midsummer catfishing trip to Kansas a few weeks after a lengthy hospital stay for heart problems.  Followed in turn by her hauling in a 45- or so pound spoonbill catfish on an early spring outing to eastern Oklahoma.

Then there's Bob Kuhn, who gives the term "trigger finger" its truest meaning:  Bob shoots both shotgun and rifle using the right pinky finger, the only intact digit on either hand after a pair of unfortunate workshop accidents.  "It was pretty hard to learn to deal with," he admits.  "But what the heck.  I figure you just have to figure out how to cope, and then do whatever it takes to keep going."  

Bob is a regular on both warm water and ice fishing circuits, and last September used that same "trigger finger" on a cross-bow and take down a nice-sized antelope.

So why does all this matter?

 "I think we do this kind of stuff just to show ourselves we still can," says our thoughtful past President Jim Clune, who may be a tad slower than in his youth but still churns along after twin knee replacement surgeries and that nagging major surgery on his neck. 

So it DOES matter whenever we hear the latest update from Dave Harem, who once earned club respect  being chased by a bear on a solo archery elk hunt near Steamboat Springs, hampered by hips in bad need of replacement.  This season Dave renewed his credentials for toughness at solidly frozen Lake Antero when, like any disciplined angler, he wetted the knot securing his jig to the fishing line. Somehow, this time when he licked the jighead, he hooked the barb firmly into the meatiest part of his tongue.  Initial attempts to remove it just embedded it deeper, and finally forced our club treasurer to yell for help:  Probably something like:  "Tan tum one dive me a hand here, dammit?"  

Fortunately LakeIceUSA guide Dave Bryant came to the rescue.  But traditional hook extraction methods apparently don't work too well with tongues.  With many helpful onlookers at his side, Bryant finally, painfully, removed the offending hook with the kind of sturdy forceps usually reserved for the mouths of trout.

 "It was in deep, and it was pretty bloody," Harem recalls.  But it was also far from shore, and the big Antero rainbows were biting.  So Dave sucked it up and went back to his hole in the ice.  
You of course also have to give tough guy consideration to Frank Zupanc, who once went elk hunting on crutches in a snowstorm, and now fishes from a small inflatable raft because he can’t handle anything bigger since that unfortunate broken neck incident.  Despite an unreliable sense of balance and unsteady gate, he wrapped up one late-season ice fishing trip to Lone Tree Reservoir by wading from the rapidly melting ice cap to the shore.

"Aw, what else am I going to do?" Zupanc asks.  "If I wasn't out fishing, I'd be sitting in a chair in front of the television, sound asleep."

So the next time you want to quit because your coat's too thin for comfort, think about Colorado's toughest, and suck it up.  And on Friday morning, we can all sit down with a hot cup of coffee at the warm and cozy Widow's, and discuss other potential candidates for The Club's Toughest.

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It's Spring!  Or at least getting close

Some of us, who shall remain unnamed because they include me, are still daydreaming of late winter fishing in Florida or Texas or Hawai.  But the diehards are still trudging into the mountains to drill holes in the ice, and celebrating the apparent end to ice caps on Front Range waters by drowning the first worms of the season.

Jim, John and Frank have obviously put some thought into the March Calendar, and put together some great suggested local trips this month, including spots like Lon Hagler, Flatirons and Carter.  The water's beginning to flow into Lon Hagler in recent days, and will hopefully start soon in other reservoirs drawn down for the winter.  The calendar's on the website; look it over, and then go fish.  Here's the link:  http://www.lovelandfishingclub.org/

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Fish Explorer still growing, getting better
If you've not looked at the Fish Explorer website lately, it's time to take a look.  It's got new writers, including knowledgeable anglers who've spoken to the club, and added a whole new section on fishing in the state of Texas.  Here's the link:  http://www.fishexplorer.com/

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Speaking of Fish Explorer, here's some great reading from Aurora native James Trujillo, writing for the website, on the subject of "Walleye Tips and Tactics of a Nightstalker."  He mostly fishes Cherry Creek, but his tactics sound great for Carter and Horsetooth.  Here's the link: 

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