The People You Meet

Our latest GFW trip found us fishing the different waters in North Park, Colorado. It was an incredible trip in terms of the diversity of fishing we encountered. In five days, we fished a dozen different bodies of water, ranging from small creeks, to medium sized streams, to a big river, and still water lakes. And the fishing gods were kind to me, as I was able to catch fish in all but one.

I was able to net brook trout, rainbows, browns, cuttbows, and grayling…a modified version of the Colorado Grand Slam. The only thing missing was a true cutthroat, but with the addition of the “not always available” grayling, I’m good with the haul. It was an incredible trip in terms of catching.

While our trips more often than not lend themselves to good fishing, one of the aspects that gets overlooked are the interactions we have with others. Some of our best stories and fondest memories are the folks we encounter on the way, whether it be the owner of the place we are renting, or the guy at the local hardware store helping us find a tiny screw we lost from a reel, or the youngster behind the counter in the local fly shop giving us information about the current state of the fisheries near by.

It is this last one that is worth mentioning when I think about this latest GFW trip. There isn’t much to the town of Walden, a couple of gas stations (one that now proudly serves Starbucks coffee, according to the banner hung on the side of the building), a small place to get groceries, and various other places of business that only a small town like this can offer, like a rock shop. It is a quiet and quaint little place where you get the sense that people genuinely keep to themselves and have no problem helping out others in need, because it’s the right thing to do.

If you haven’t been there, it’s worth it for the fishing alone. And North Park Anglers is a great little fly shop that fits the “small town” vibe perfectly. The house we rented, called The Sportsman Paradise, was a perfect fit for six guys intent on doing a lot of fishing. And oddly enough as only a sleepy town like this can offer, the house was rented through the North Park Anglers fly shop. The two are connected. Upon learning this, we felt we HAD to stop in the shop to check it out. Besides, we needed some local intel and the boys needed some supplies.

As the six of us ascended on the little shop called North Park Anglers, we spread out in search of satisfying our needs. Since I have a lot of time off leading up to this annual trip, I take care of my fishing needs long before we embark. My goal upon entering was to find out info about where we should go fishing, so I approached the young lad sitting comfortably behind the register.

He was a LOT younger than me. His name was Rob. Rob was incredibly enthusiastic in greeting us, and he was inhabited with an energy that screams, “Welcome!” It was a great way to open an interaction with strangers, clearly “not from around here.” I asked Rob all the standard questions about fishing: What’s fishing well? Where should we go? What are they feeding on? How’s the mosquitos (lots of good lake fishing brings lots of great mosquito hatches, especially this year when we’ve had more moisture than I can remember)?

Rob not only listened to the myriad of questions I bombarded him with, he answered my questions with honesty. Almost everything he told us was true, except for the action on one specific river. But I don’t blame him for that. A fisherman’s ability to predict when the fish will bite is a lot like a weatherman’s ability to predict the weather. You have a general sense of what is most likely to happen, but ultimately Mother Nature has the veto power to change anything.

The best part about this young kid was his passion. He was a fishing junkie, just like me only thirty years younger. He passionately spoke of small streams we should check out during the hot times of the days because the fish are always looking up. He told us stories of the big fish in this lake, and the hogs in that one. He kept it real with his authentic lingo, telling us we would surely encounter “noses up” and “pigs on the take.” It was a refreshing experience, as I found myself drifting in thought to quitting my job, divorcing my family, and buying a place next door to wherever Rob lived here in Walden, so as we could spend the rest of our days fishing together!

Rob pulled out maps and showed me spots to go. That’s going above and beyond, and the kind of authentic experience I look for and hold on to whenever they happen because they are so rare. Most times in a fly shop, there is a guarded feeling of reluctance to share information. It can be frustrating when you aren’t familiar with the area. Rob was different.

Fly-fishing is a community, and I find myself wishing more people would embrace the idea of it the way Rob did. Social connectedness is something that has diminished at an alarming rate in the last 30 to 40 years, causing a massive strain of depression and ill mental health. The crazy thing is that all the research points to Social Capital (social networks, connectedness with others through common social activities) as the most important and influential factor for prosperity, not just financial but for mental wellness. The more social capital a society has, the more prosperous everyone in it is.

Rob buys into it, and so do I. I wish more in the fly-fishing community would be as authentically excited about fishing as Rob and the folks at North Park Anglers are. If you are ever in the Walden area, stop by their shop. They are deserving of your patronage, and say “hey” to Rob.

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