when God made Little Sandy he must have had Miller in mind. It
was his kind of water. Long rod, 5 ft leader, dropper and
tail fly and of course a big fish basket.
Got as close to the fish as he could.
Always bent over or on his knees, keeping as low as
possible. I’m sure
he had never read about the fish’s window and how light rays
bend as they pass from air to water, but he sure knew about
knew where they were and teased them out. Short line, rod
held high, dropper dapping on top, tail fly just below the
surface. He knew where the tail fly was because he could see the
dropper. With this situation he had superb control.
Sometimes it was in a spot against the bank where the drift
was only two or three few feet long. He just kept popping it in
there. When they took
it, they were in such a hurry to get back down they often hooked
themselves. With such
a heavy terminal tackle, Bill did not seem to enjoy the uneven
contest called “playing a fish”.
Unless it was a pretty large one, he just pulled ‘em on
out and put ‘em in the basket.
If he was getting near his limit he would ask, "Hey
Jenks, how about carrying a couple of these for me?”
If catch and release was around at that time, we were
not aware of it.
after watching Bill for a few trips I began to get a few myself.
He then began chastising me for “catching his pets”, which he
referred to as “Little Beady Eyed Bastards”.
Of course, he was kidding. After
all, it was he that had shown me where they hung out.
I learned a lot from
Miller. One thing was a fun way to catch trout.
But, some other things too. Like how to handle work place
bosses, and fellow workers, who try to get into your head and
under your skin.
now know that, although Bill was tops on his kind of water, he
would have had a tough time on many other waters. Over time I
began to notice that he ignored certain places. Once, when I
pointed out a nice trout lying in pool with a glass like surface,
he grunted, “Ya can’t catch them, Jenks,” and continued up
stream. But, on
something like most of Little Sandy, I’d have to put my money on
course all this took place many years ago. Bill checked out quite
a few years back. Lots
of times when I remember him I think, Boy! I’d give a couple
hundred bucks to be able to spend a few hours with Miller.
But alas, that’s one of those things that money can’t buy.
I came to
Denver, from Ohio
in 1957, I went to work for the Martin Company who was making the
Titan missile. So
most of my fishing friends were guys I met on the job.
Maybe the first was a younger Colorado
native named Dean. He was a friendly easy going fellow and we
quickly became good friends.
folks had owned a cabin near the ghost town of Nighthawk, on the
south fork of the
South Platte River
for a long time. He
had spent his summers up there during his school years, and had
learned the river and surrounding area quite well. His dad and
uncle had fished the river before him.
So they also knew the river quite well.
They were very highly skilled bait fisherman.
river was a splendid trout stream and was open to the public for
most of its length. The
very old Cooks sporting goods catalogs that contained stories of
fishermen coming from great distances to fish this wonderful
stream. They could
take the train in
that followed the old stage coach trail to Leadville, and get off
where the North Fork came in at
. There were photos of huge numbers of dead trout strung up. The
men were dressed like the ones in the old Teddy Roosevelt photos,
with high laced boots, jodphurs, and campaign hats. Must not have
been any limit at that time.
outfit was a long glass fly rod, a closed face spinning
reel called Fre Line, monofilament spinning line, split shot, and
a size 12 or 14 salmon egg hook.
The preferred bait was a Crane fly larva that they called a
rock worm. At that
time it was quite plentiful in the river, and could easily be
collected from under the rocks for most of the summer.
Later in the year they disappeared when they went into the
pupae stage and were not available.
Fre Line reel was a closed face spinning reel made by Wright
McGill. It looked like
a small red metal cereal bowl with a hole in the center of the
bottom for the line to come through. The top was a plate holding
the winding handle. It
worked well, and I still have mine.
Rock Worms were odd looking things, looking like a fat grub, gray
or dark green, they had a smooth skin, and kind of a tuft at one
end. You had to run the hook through the tuft. If you hooked it
any place else all the insides oozed out, and you were left with
an empty skin. Somewhat like an empty balloon.
in the summer, when the Rock Worms disappeared, he switched to
grasshoppers. Not just
any grasshopper, only the brown and yellow ones, and then only a
certain size. About a size 14 3X long. Personally I found it much harder to catch the dam hoppers
than the fish. Especially
after the day warmed up. Grasshoppers
should be caught in the morning when they are still cool.
After the hoppers were gone it was salmon eggs until next
year, when the rock worms were available again.
This was in the days when we still had a fishing season in
fished with Dean often in the next ten years and he was the one
that first took me into Cheeseman
Probably in 1958.
remember it quite well as we went in very early. There was no moon.
It was pitch dark. He went first with the flashlight. The canyon
wall was really steep and Gill trail was pretty narrow in spots. I
breathed a huge sigh of relief when we finally reached the bottom
and the riverbank.
believe the reason he wanted to go so early, was that he was
headed quite a ways up stream to get away from other fisherman.
Also wanted to get there before the sun came over the canyon walls
and hit the river.
learned later on that it was a different river after the sun was
on the water. Many
times when the sun moved up, the shadow of the canyon wall moved
across the stream and the rings of the rises followed.
we made our way upstream Dean would shine the light in the water
along the edge revealing large trout slowly moving out to the
middle. I suppose this
was his way of proving to me that they were in there. It did,
indeed, do that.
spent more time watching than I did fishing that day, and it was
time well spent. The
river was one beautiful series of pools and riffles, split often
by huge reddish rocks that created deep blue holes beneath them.
Perfect places for those big ones we saw leaving the
shallows in the morning.
just being there on a nice day was enough; any success fishing was
just a bonus. Dean hooked fish, landed some, and lost some.
I really don’t remember if I got any or not. It was not
important. I now
knew about Cheeseman
and I was very impressed with it and the water that ran through it.
on a Sunday that I had gone into the canyon alone. I was working
on a nice fish I could see him well, he was actively feeding,
moving from side to side, white mouth opening, but he sure
wasn’t interested in what I was trying to feed him. Being that
this is a game I loved to play. I stuck with him for a long time.
I had not spooked him.
I sensed that I was not alone. That someone was behind me
watching this little drama. When I turned, there was Dean grinning
and enjoying my unsuccessful efforts.
Well I kept changing nymphs and by golly he finally took.
When I finally got the fish in hand, and removed the fly
from his upper, jaw, close to his nose. I felt pretty good.
My nymphing buddies Smitty and Bob and I had our own system
of grading our performance. If
the hook was in the upper jaw it was an A, If it was close to the
nose, an A plus. If it
was in the lower jaw less than half way back you got a B.
If it was over half way back in the lower jaw you were
asleep, a C. In a fin
or the belly, you had snagged him.
fish taught me a lesson that I had to learn over and over again.
There are times in the canyon that you just can’t go too small.
He had made me go to a size 20 sparsely tied nymph. Just
some black thread on a hook.
friend seemed impressed. He asked, “Charlie, have you got any more
of them things?” I gave him a few. He thanked me, and went on up
the river. This was
before bait was banned in the canyon.
next morning, Monday, when I came into work he met me with a big
grin and said “Hey Charlie, those things are better’n bait,
He had made the change from bait to artificial nymphs
without changing anything but what was on the end of his leader.
later when bait was banned in the canyon, I was glad that I had
helped him find a way to still fish his favorite waters and be
episode that is still in my memory took place on the
at a place called Coopers Resort, a few miles west of town. At
that time is was not much as resorts go, just a big meadow between
the ranch house and the river where you could camp for a couple of
bucks. Just our speed.
up stream I had come upon Dean fishing a nice run, and had stopped
to watch him. Maybe
learn something. He
soon hooked a fish and moved down stream quite a ways to land it.
While he was gone I moved into his spot and did my best to do
exactly as he had done. I was rigged up the same as him, had the same bait, as far
as I could tell getting the same drift in the same lane. When he
came back he okayed my intrusion into his spot, so I continued
until I gave up and stepped back to watch again.
Well you know what happened, in a short time he was into
another fish. So when
he went down stream again, I moved up and tried again. Same
result. He then traded rigs with me, no difference.
Well I says, “To hell with it” and starts up stream.
When I paused and looked back, he was into another fish.
No contest. Dean
three, Charlie zero. I
had stopped to learn something, and I sure did.
In 1967 I left the Martin Co.
It seems like ten years was the magic number for me to work
one place. They didn’t seem to notice and managed to stay in
business somehow, and I was happy to move on.
never saw Dean after that but I remember him well.
some thirty-five years I climbed in and out of that canyon.
At least a hundred times, maybe two hundred, I don’t
know. I didn’t keep count. If
you went straight in or out near the Wigwam Club fence it was a
darn good work out. I
recall, when getting to the top, puffing, taking a little break,
and muttering to myself. “Well, Charlie, I don’t know about your
brain, but your heart’s evidently okay.”
One summer about ten years ago we held our Saratoga Rod Builders
get together in Livingston Mont. Our hosts were a prominent
rancher named Ted Watson, and a well known likeable rod dealer
named Joe Garman. They set up a wonderful agenda for us, and I
will write about that some time in the future.
That year every thing but the spring creeks were high and
muddy. The spring creeks were all booked solid and the
Yellowstone was a torrent. So the only thing we had to fish was
the pond in front of Ted’s house. The pond was a fine trout
fishery, and no one could complain about that. Ted who was a
great host was evidently pretty important around the state had
gone out of his way to arrange for four of our group to spend a
day on a spring creek. Only thing was Red Rock Creek was
located in southwest Montana south of Dillon about 200 miles
Well, along with my very good friends, rod builders Dave
Shadrick and Jon Parker from Saratoga, plus my buddy, Dez, I was
selected to take advantage of this opportunity? We were all
under the assumption that we were going to a spring creek that
had escaped the bad conditions around Livingston. .So we set off
in high spirits with visions of some fine fishing, probably dry
flies, and big finicky fish, something like Armstrong's or
Not to be. Upon arriving at the ranch, we found Red Rock Creek
running bank full and the color of milk chocolate. Complete with an
unbelievable mosquito population. Well Dave and Jon wisely adapted
to the situation. Putting on some weighted steamers they did
well. Dave caught a hog. I don’t remember how big, but big. But
then Dave had a habit of doing that.
Dez and I were too stubborn to follow their lead so we ended up
laying in the grass on our backs with our hats over our faces,
defense against the dam mosquitoes, bitching about the whole deal.
All of a sudden Dez sets up and sez excitedly, “Chuck I heard one
pop” Dez could do that. He could hear them rise. So all of a
sudden we have forgotten about the mosquitoes and are looking for
Now we had been laying on the upstream side of a ranch road that
crossed the creek and on the left side of a bridge, looking up
stream. The creek came downstream a little to the left of the
bridge and made a last minute turn to the right to go under it. A
fence ran along the road between it and the creek. It ran up to and
fastened to the bridge abutment.
Now the rises that Dez had heard turned out to be a pod of fish
about 30 feet up stream and along the left side of the creek. An
ideal position for us to cast.
Dez sez, “You go. Go ahead, Chuck . You try em first.” So I gets
up against the fence and goes to work. After a few casts one takes
and I immediately put a little downstream pressure on him to get him
to go up stream so he has to fight the current. This works for a
short while till he gets wise and shoots down stream passed me and
under the bridge. Well he is a good fish and is now resting in the
back water below the bridge’. The game has changed. He just took
the lead, and I’m suddenly on the wrong end of the score. He’s got
me. My rod is back against the concrete bridge abutment .with only
about two feet of the tip sticking out, and taking all the
pressure. Rods are not made to be used (or abused that way). I just
don’t dare to try to pull him back up stream.
So we just stand there until he finally gets rid of the hook that I
had pinched the barb down on. So I tips my cap to him and
“Nice going. Me thinks that you’ve been down this road before.”
Anyway now it’s Dez’s turn and as he gets ready and bellies up to
the fence. I tell him to hold off for a minute while I gather about
four nice sized red rocks. Then take up a position on the
downstream side of the bridge, right above the back water where the
first fish had taken refuge.
yells, “OK, Dez If one comes down under the bridge, you let me
know”. “Okay, Chuck”.
Well Ole Dez is a good caster and it is not long until he has one
on. This fish pulls the same routine as the one I lost. Going
upstream for a while. Then Dez yells, “Here he comes, Chuck”.
“Okay, Dez” I wait a couple of seconds, and then Ka Chunk, a big
rock right down where I think he is. “He’s commin’ back up Chuck”
“OK, Dez. Pretty soon.” “He’s commin’ back down, Chuck”. “Okay,
Dez”. Again, KaChunk. “He’s commin’ back up, Chuck”. “Okay,
Dez”. Well we go through this routine one more time before the
fish decides he would rather fight the current upstream than the
rock shower downstream. Which is just as well because I’m almost
out of rocks.
So I am standing on the bridge, and it looks like homo sapiens is
back in command of the situation again.
I’m still up on the bridge watching my buddy from behind and he
seems to have the situation well under control.
fish is about ready to surrender. But wait a minute. All of a
sudden I see that Dez had forgotten to put his wader shoulder straps
over his shoulders when he got up to fish. Said waders now had slid
down around his knees. His rod is in his right hand and his left is
now employed holding up his waders. So help me this next thing is
the truth. His reel comes out of the reel seat and he now has to
use his left hand to hold his reel. Waders now go down to the
ankles. Not the best of conditions.
The fish is on the other side of the fence about three feet away.
He has given up. I wake up and hurry down from my observation post
on the bridge, “Want me to net him, Dez”? “Hell yes Chuck, do
somethin’.” So I grab his net and start to slide under the fence
feet first to net the fish. The bank is kind of steep and the grass
is slippery. I slide down the bank, feet first, into the fish,
and he promptly exits the scene. Well that put an end to that
Needless to say, Red Rock Creek was surely not much of a fishing
success for Dez and I and not much of an ego trip. The above
episode was the extent of our contact with any trout.
However the night in the fishing shack kitchen with my pal, Jon
Parker, is a priceless memory. Dave and Dez had gone to bed early.
Jon and I had stayed up with another two companions. His was a
bottle with a label that read Black Velvet and I had one of
Dave’s bottles of Scotch , called Pigs Nose. We discussed rod
tapers, rod building methods,
planing versus milling, building spiral staircases, corn flakes,
potato chips, and many more important subjects well into the wee
In the morning I remember Jon looking at his half empty bottle and
trying to figure out who had drank up so much of his Black
Velvet. I told him I didn’t think that was too much of a mystery.
next day after, giving the gal at the ranch house $140.00 apiece and
her giving us each a Red Rock Creek cap, I must admit that I wasn’t
too sure that the whole thing turned out to be a plus. But now I
realize that great memories at seventy bucks a piece are a hell of a
bargain. Besides, how many guys that you know have a RED ROCK