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Salomone: Be ready for change

Pictured is a Lees Ferry Rainbow.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

The last week has been a wild ride. Dodging wildfires, evacuations, sand storms and snow, it’s a wonder I was able to cast a line at all. I’ve traveled a lot over the years. One thing that should always hold purchase in the back of your mind is be ready for change.

To begin, the wildfire in Gypsum forced homes into evacuation. One of the homes belonged to my sister-in-law. She and her husband were in California with my wife, their sisters and my daughters. My niece who did stay behind couldn’t be reached. When the call came into my phone it was surreal. You don’t question in situations like that, you act quickly. It’s family.

With valuables removed and my niece somewhat calm, I felt able to depart for my Lees Ferry trip. What I didn’t recognize was the dark omen the wildfire foreshadowed.



We were somewhere south of Cortez when my phone rang. The kind lady on the other end of the phone informed me that my trip had been canceled. Extremely high winds were expected so all Backhaul shuttles for the following day were done.

The jetboat on a picturesque beach. Lees Ferry is a must-do for any traveling angler.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

I had to pull off to the side of the road. We were just a few hours away from our destination. My brother was driving in from California. There was a boat on a trailer behind my truck that now wouldn’t be needed. My head was still spinning from the Gypsum fire and now it was going even faster.



We’re still going.

We arrived at Cliff Dwellers late. Hauling a boat trailer through the mountains can slow you down a bit. When traveling, be observant of the air pressure in your raft. High mountain passes can cause an overinflation capable of bursting seams. When you’re going up the raft is too, in pressure and size. When you’re going down the raft is too, decreasing in size and appearing deflated.

The morning of our canceled shuttle we ate breakfast at Cliff Dwellers restaurant and took our time. My phone received a text from Terry Gunn, owner of Lees Ferry Anglers and Cliff Dwellers Lodge. He was checking in to see if the wildfire had terminated my trip. I told him we were actually eating in his restaurant at that moment.

The green water of Lees Ferry.
Michael Salomone/Courtesy photo

The next thing I saw was his great smile walking around the corner. He joined us for a bit and confirmed the high wind expectation. However, he said he would take us upriver personally. We pondered the thought while Terry gave us a minute to talk. When he returned we thanked him and told him we made reservations for the other nights and had reserved a jet boat for the following day. He truthfully told us he was having second thoughts as soon as he left our table.

The first day at the walk-in access was a wind-beaten mess. Incredibly strong gusts would blow even our heaviest nymph rigs off target. The sand was a constant irritant. We wore buffs and pulled them up to prevent the grit from getting in our mouths and noses. Sunglasses tried to shield eyes but failed. And the small ¼ inch gap my brother left in the window of my Tacoma completely sandblasted the entire inside with an even coating of fine dust.

The next day was our only day with moderate winds. A jet boat made the journey through the world-class scenery easy. Lees Ferry is a must-do for any traveling angler.

The last day we anticipated strong gusting winds so we planned accordingly to fish the walk-in access. We fished Paria Beach, which was engulfed in a sandstorm the first day we fished the access area. And on this day we all fared well.

Highlights from this day would definitely be the “shore lunch” we had with fresh trout, fried riverside. Dad didn’t teach my brothers and me to fish in order to put them all back. It’s been a long time since I’ve had fish that tasted so good. This was a memorable touch of style on an otherwise tainted trip.

I had to readjust my expectations on this trip. I had been planning for years to make the camping adventure along Glen Canyon in my own boat. When the cancellation call came, I was fraught with dismay. The trip wasn’t about me but rather a milestone birthday coming in May for my brother. Despite all the changes, as his inaugural trip to Lees Ferry, I think we hit the mark.

Michael Salomone moved to the Eagle River valley in 1992. He began guiding fly-fishing professionally in 2002. His freelance writing has been published in magazines and websites including, Southwest Fly Fishing, Fly Rod & Reel, Eastern Fly Fishing, On the Fly, FlyLords, the Pointing Dog Journal, Upland Almanac, the Echo website, Vail Valley Anglers and more. He lives on the bank of the Eagle River with his wife, Lori; two daughters, Emily and Ella; and a brace of yellow Labrador retrievers.


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