I’m cruising through the Wet Mountain Valley on the last leg of my annual migration from Florida, eager to get a look at my home water, the Arkansas River, to see if it’s fishable. My heart drops as I come down the hill into
Cotopaxi–the Big Ark is BIG. When I check the water levels later I find it’s running at 3,500 cfs–I fancy myself a strong wader, but don’t go near it when it’s over 750. AARRGGHH!!! Well, maybe the smaller creeks are in better shape….but no, when I cross the usually diminutive North Fork of the South Arkansas on the way to my cabin just outside Salida, I find it’s jumped it’s banks and is blown out. Plan B seems to be in order–maybe a hike to one of the high country lakes near the hamlet of Monarch/Garfield, just up the road. Next day I check in at my local fly shop, Ark Anglers, and get the good word. Ice is out on Grass and Hunt Lakes, two of my early season favorites. The weather report is perfect–70 degrees and sunny. My alarm is set at 5:00 a.m!! Grass Lake or bust!
Westward Ho! I am heading to Colorado for the summer, making tracks from the Everglades
to the Rockies to beat the heat and the rainy season. You know when it’s time to leave Florida when you step outside and your eyelids start sweating!! I’ve packed up my mobile fish camp and will be on the road for two weeks, taking the northern route this year through Georgia and Tennessee then west. I’ll be doing some piscatorial research along the way as sampling local cuisine and culture in two states I haven’t had the pleasure of driving the back roads.
My first stop will be Cape Canaveral and the Banana River Lagoon, near my old stomping grounds where I lived for
the past 6 years before moving to the Everglades in May. I’ll be revisiting some of my old favorite angling spots in honor of my good friend and best fishing buddy, Tris Miles, who passed away last year after a tough battle with lung cancer. We spent many good days together kayak fishing the Banana River No-Motor-Zone flanking the Kennedy Space Center.
The five-hour drive up from the Everglades goes smoothly, and I get set up quickly in a retro RV park called Carver’s Cove. Despite being in the heart of bustling Cape Canaveral, it has dirt roads and big old shade trees, not to mention some frontage on the Banana River. Then with some trepidation I walk down the narrow road to the dock to check the water conditions. I’ve been reading about the algae blooms, growing pollution, and intracoastal waterway fish kills here in the Banana and Indian Rivers. The water isn’t as clear as usual–more like a watery pea soup–but on my third cast I get a jolting strike….and after a brief tussle reel in a nice baby tarpon!! What a surprise. Before the sun sets, I have caught a few small sea trout, everything on a red jig head with a root beer-colored grub with a chartreuse curly tail that seems to glow in the cloudy water. It seems to be the ticket! So, with visions dancing in my head of high-jumping snook shaking their booty and voluptuous sea trout, I head back to an early lights out. The alarm is going off at 4:00 a.m!!