Learning lessons of the river in the Vail area
July 19, 2010
EAGLE, Colorado – It never fails to amaze me that there is an endless array of interesting activities to explore in the Vail area. Not being one for hooks, squirmy fish and all of the other accoutrements that go along with fishing, I had never tried it – despite having a world-class fishing creek literally outside my door.
But I do have a 7-year-old son, and when a friend suggested we try a fly fishing clinic recently (and agreed to come along in case I got squeamish with the situation), I agreed to give it a shot. My friend needn’t have worried though; the folks that sponsored “Waterwise Wednesday” had it all covered, and my friend was free to work on his own technique with a separate coach. No need to shield me from the “hook and worm” phobia I have!
Of course, Vail is second to none in many categories, and the programs visitors and locals alike get to take advantage of follow suit; the clinic was phenomenal. Free, and open to all ages (typical of many of our summer programs), the first part of the sunny late-afternoon clinic was held on a grassy field, accessible to all, as can be attested by my friend Sarah Will, a fellow attendee and Olympic hall-of-famer, who lost the use of her legs during a skiing accident many years ago. She didn’t let that stop her from becoming a member of the United States Disabled Ski Team, a several time National Champion, a twelve-time Paralympic gold medalist and the reigning women’s world champion in disabled skiing, or from wheeling out to the site of the fly fishing action. Another great aspect of our options in the area – accommodations are frequently available for all. Sarah also directs AXS Vail, you can learn more about this great program for making programs accessible by visiting http://axsvail.org/summer.
As the about-to-become or already-can-catch fishermen and women tested their casting skills with fly rods that (thankfully) had no hooks on the end, just colorful bits of fluff, I watched my son being patiently guided by the engaging clinic leader, John Knight. Knight is a true local: avid fishing guide, former ski instructor and computer guru with the patience of a true angler. Soon, my son felt confident in his technique and so satisfied with the experience he didn’t even question why we weren’t actually trying to catch a fish in the nearby stream. With perfect timing, the group was led stream-side for a water biology lesson none will ever forget.-
Aquatic Biologist Kendall Ross Bakich of the Colorado Division of Wildlife began by asking the group if they thought that fish relied on the bugs above the water, or if they had a food source below. To prove the hypothesis, he brought a large screen into the creek and held half below the surface.- Within minutes, he pulled it back out, revealing a plethora of water insect types that had been captured mid-swim, wriggling with surprise at their sudden upheaval.
Each creature was carefully removed to a nearby dish of water as its name and story was told. Every attendee was captivated by the entire experience … even a non-bug loving, somewhat fearful adult (me), who got into the action by looking through the microscope set up on a field table for further examination.
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The remainder of the evening included more insect searching, peering through the microscope and extensive question-and-answer sessions. Mother Nature also provided a stunning early Fourth of July show, kindly keeping to the distant Sawatch range, while we basked in early evening sunshine.
All in all, a spectacular evening, well organized and informative, leaving each of us curious for more information and involvement. A true testament to the evening? My son never even questioned why we weren’t actually catching cold, wiggly, slimy fish that evening.
The Eagle River Watershed Council (www.eagleriverwatersheadcouncil.org) and Trout Unlimited (www.eaglevalleytu.org) will be happy to answer your questions – feel free to contact them anytime. For more great ideas like this great experience, keep your eyes peeled for announcements, or let your favorite local resident help you discover the coolest ways to explore this magical area. There is no shortage of activities.
Kirsten Texler is the public relations and communications manager for the Vail Cascade Resort, and a long time local resident. Her parents live in Wildridge, and love to spoil her 7-year-old son with all of the dirty adventures little boys love. She can be reached at email@example.com or 970-479-7001.