What would you do if you had not been fishing for 15 years and then one morning your 7½-year-old son said he had never really been fishing in his life and would you take him?
(We make no count of a day's deep-sea fishing off the Florida Keys where guides baited hooks, cast lines and caught most of the groupers for us.)
What I did that sweltering July morning in New York was to realize at once that it was doubtful if anything either of us could think of after that would take the place of a trip to some place in the United States where the mountains were high and wooded and where tingling cold water soared down steep canyons. Colorado seemed to me to be the place that offered an ideal setting for an experience that might remain memorable as long as we lived. My youngest son and I had traveled together several times through the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada, but never stopping to fish, and we knew that was where we wanted most of all to go now.
There are a surprising number of things a 7½-year-old-boy—blue-eyed, tow-headed and good at catching butterflies—can think of doing between the time school is out in June and the time when it reopens in September. To begin with, Jay and I had planned to spend his summer vacation doing the things he wanted most of all to do before going back to Arizona for the reopening of school. Jay, who was to be a third-grader in public school in the fall, wished first of all to see baseball as it is played in the big leagues, and so we had spent a week in New York watching the Giants, the Yankees and the Dodgers, who were all still there then, commenting freely on their prospects of winning pennants. After a full week of baseball, we planned to drive first to Colorado, then to Utah to swim in Great Salt Lake and then to Nevada to go down into one of the world's largest open-pit copper mines. All these eventful excursions had been carefully plotted with a red crayon on a highway map of the United States, and Jay had designed and scheduled them so we would be certain to arrive home in Arizona no earlier than the day before school opened. And now Jay had proposed, since we planned to stop in Colorado anyway, that we go fishing while we were there. If I had been doing the planning myself, I could not have thought of anything with more appealing prospects at a time when we were surrounded night and day by the heat of a New York summer. And, besides, I wanted to find out what it was like to go fishing again after so long an interval.
The fishing trip that Jay and I got to talking about and making plans for that morning in New York is the kind of excursion into the Colorado Rockies that puts man and boy on their own, and then leaves you there for two days, without the company of professional guides, to try to figure out why a one-pound rainbow trout will eagerly take one man's hook and completely ignore another man's bait. We still do not know the answer to that question, but we spent two unforgettable days seeking it on mountain lakes and streams.
It was early August in the Rockies when we arrived at Colorado Springs to buy our fishing equipment. The sporting-goods store was stocked with probably some of the most expensive rods and reels to be found anywhere, as well as with some of the most exotic feathered flies imaginable. None of this was for us, though. We were plain, everyday, worm-bait fishermen, and we were going to outfit ourselves in keeping with our status.
In the rear of the store, beyond the spinning lures and backlash-proof casting reels, we selected two inexpensive rods, two reels, two lines, two boxes of split-shot sinkers, two floats, two packs of fishhooks, four leaders, one tackle box, one pocket knife, one can of earthworms and a five-day nonresident fishing license. That was all we purchased, and the bill amounted to $19.43, tax included. Jay, being under 15 years of age, was not required to carry a fishing permit. As we left the store, each of us received a copy of Colorado's game laws and were cautioned not to fish before 4 a.m. and after 8:30 p.m., the curfew hours then prevailing.
We went back to the hotel and spent most of the afternoon tying hooks, leaders and lines and talking about the best way to keep fishhooks from getting caught in clothing and in a boy's skin. Both of us soon got so excited over the prospect of actually going fishing, after having talked about the trip for the past two weeks, that if it had not been for a prolonged downpour of rain, we probably would have left Colorado Springs that same afternoon instead of waiting until the next morning.
While sitting at the window handling our rods and watching the rain come down and thinking about the next day's trip, Jay asked where we were going to fish. This was something I had thought of only vaguely before, and so back to the sporting goods store we went and asked for advice and suggestions. As anyone except novices like us probably would know without giving the matter second thought, the best Colorado trout fishing is generally believed to be found at Gunnison, Grand Lake and Steamboat Springs.
Even though we thought it wise to accept the recommendations of people who knew their fishing, those distances seemed to us to be too great for a two-day expedition, and so after a long, serious discussion involving insects, terrain and running and still waters we decided upon the Deckers region. Deckers, which is at an altitude of about 8,000 feet, is a fishing camp situated in the fork of South Platte River and Horse Creek and is about 45 miles northwest of Colorado Springs and approximately 50 miles southwest of Denver. The steep canyon walls there are thickly wooded, and in August the nighttime temperature has dropped to as low as 38°.