I had a sweet last day on the water for 2022 before I headed into some subzero temperatures tomorrow at the North Pole (aka Denver). The weather was perfect–sunny and in the low 80s with a nice breeze. Lots of wildlife made for an interesting and relaxing ecotour, and the sometimes fickle angling gods smiled on me at this secret bass lake in the Everglades.
(Hope you enjoy the video slideshow at the end of the post.)
2022 started off with big snow in Denver which meant fun sledding and building a snowman with my little sweetheart granddaughter Aly and son Matthew. It was a great relief to have Covid in the rearview mirror, having somehow done some fancy footwork to avoid it as did Aly and Grandma. Sons Matthew and Ben weren’t so lucky, but they seem to have recovered okay.
A week later I started my annual migration to the Sunshine State, taking the southern route through Texas and Louisiana. One of my stops along the way was one of my favorite towns, New Iberia, and the Tabasco Factory on Avery Island where I sampled new flavors of Tabasco Sauce—buffalo and habanero– and gobbled down a new delectable, hot and spicy Tabasco-flavored Spam! Surviving that, I arrived in Florida a few days later just in time to be greeted by a tropical storm deluge, which would be a harbinger of things to come. I settled in quickly and was soon out on the water in my kayak doing some long-overdue piscatorial research. Results of these studies can be found on my blog at hooknfly.com.
It wasn’t long before I was jumping on a plane back to Denver for Aly’s 6th birthday on Valentine’s Day. What a celebration it was with her kindergarten buddies at a local indoor playground! In March I did a speech via Zoom at the annual Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute based in Denver that looked at the legal aspects of sustainable development. I followed that up with some less sober-sided Zoom presentations on fishing to angling clubs in Colorado and Florida.
The highlight of March was a visit to Florida by Aly, Daddy Matthew, and Grandma Jan. We were in the water every day, and Aly learned to swim submerged across the pool while holding her breath. She’s a little water bug. We had a fun day beachcombing for shells on a remote island in the Gulf and chasing fiddler crabs in the sand near my condo at night. Aly got to “drive” my little motorboat one day up a local tidal creek near Everglades City while sitting on my lap, and on another Matthew and I took a father-son fishing trip that ended up being grist for an article in Florida Sportsman magazine. Spring wouldn’t be complete in Florida without visits from good friends who needed to thaw out like Steve Keeble, Charlie Cain, Jim Cannon, and my college roomie Morris Martin. We had a blast catching snook and sea trout and even tangled with a few sharks and a gator! Proving an old dog can learn new tricks, I tried my hand at fishing for gar, an antediluvian creature that has been around since the time of dinosaurs. It was a riot trying to catch the truculent devils, but I succeeded as memorialized later in the year in another article in Florida Sportsman.
When the saltwater mosquitos and no-see-ums started to feast on my septuagenarian body in May, I knew it was time to head back to Colorado. I got back just in time to attend Aly’s kindergarten graduation and field day. What fun. Those kids have a lot of energy!! The summer weather in the Rockies was spectacular, with a lot of hiking, exploring, and fishing on the agenda. A highlight was a trip with my Florida fishing buddy Robert Wayne, Esq. into the rugged high country of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to fish for rare, native Rio Grande Cutthroat trout.
Luckily my mountain cabin retreat is only a few hours’ drive from Denver so I got to have a lot of good family time there. One weekend, thanks to Matthew, we took an insider’s tour of the Colorado Rockies ballpark, Coors Field, led by one of his co-workers. Of course, lots more swimming was in order, and Aly was soon snorkeling like a pro. On other days we chased crawdaddies in the South Platte River. She also persuaded me to visit a shopping mall for the first time in years, where she led me on an outing that included Claire’s (a girls’ jewelry store), the Legos shop, and her favorite candy store, Lolli and Pops.
The other big news was Aly got a new kitty, her first pet, that she named Figaro after the cat in Pinocchio. He’s a sweet big young cat that she adores. Before long she lost that first tooth! Later it was great to see my son Ben and his wife Sara who visited us in Denver. Ben continues to work in law enforcement in Las Vegas, while Sara builds her successful marriage and family counseling practice there.
Starting in July, I hosted a cavalcade of guests at my cabin. It was great to see my cousins the Schroeders who I grew up with back in Kansas—Roy, Judy, and Gib. Gib is the last farmer in the Duerksen/Schroeder clan. Next came fishing buddies from back east, Steve Spanger and Paul Hughes, who had audacity to outfish me. I took them to chase trout on some hidden waters in nearby South Park that I had written about in an article that was the lead feature in the summer issue of American Fly Fishing.
The big event in early August was Aly starting first grade at Wildcat Mountain Elementary near her house. She loves school. Math and art are her favorite subjects, and she’s quite a little gymnast already!
Later in August Mother Nature reminded me who is boss with an epic flood. My valley outside Salida sustained an 8-inch deluge in a few hours that took Little Cochetopa Creek from a couple of feet deep to over six feet by morning (The area usually gets about 12-16 inches of precipitation a year!). Local roads were washed out, and several neighbors had their driveway culverts blown away. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and my road and culverts survived, but only just barely. I got lots of exercise along with my neighbor Charlie Cain the next few days clearing out trees and other debris that had been washed about every which way. According to the U.S. Forest Service, there was no historic record of any flood being anywhere near as devastating as this one.
Aly started first grade in August, and then things settled down by Labor Day and fall kicked off with a visit from Aly and family. She played her usual role as head marshmallow roaster every night. My neighbors, Charlie and Courtney Cain bought a beautiful ranch nearby, and we had a lively afternoon feeding their llamas, horses, and barnyard cats then fishing the beautiful pristine trout stream that runs through their spread.
Later in September I traveled with my college buddy Morris to Kansas City for a fraternity reunion. We had a blast of a weekend reminiscing with old friends and spending time with Joe Aleshire and Lance Miller, our roommates back in the day. While there, Lance and I took a side trip to the nearby Truman Presidential Museum which I can highly recommend.
I got back to my cabin just in time to witness on TV the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ian in southwest Florida. Luckily my condo survived the five-foot flood surge that swept over the Everglades City area, although my boat had some damage. Aly got me going again over Halloween. It was a hoot. She lobbied me to wear a costume for the first time in many years. I went trick or treating with her as a Zombie fisherman.
A week later I was on the road back to Florida, just barely dodging a couple of snowstorms in the high country. On the way I stopped to see some high school friends in my hometown of Buhler, Kansas, and visited my Dad’s old renovated 1934 wheat truck at the Mennonite Farm Museum in Goessel. I got to do some fishing in the mountains of Georgia and then stopped in to see another college roommate in Daytona Beach, Joe Perez and his lovely lady, Eleanor.
I’m closing out 2022 enjoying the warmth and easy living in the Everglades. It was 30 days straight wearing sandals, short-sleeved shirts, and shorts before a brutal cold front just dipped the nighttime temperatures into the 60s! As the old saying goes, down here we salt margaritas, not sidewalks! I’m looking forward to Christmas with Aly in Denver, steeling myself for the minus 3 degrees predicted for my arrival this week!
My best to you and yours for the holidays and a wonderful 2023!!