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Float Fishing in the Dark: Colorado River

This is an email from Frank Chaves. He is responding this morning to an invitation I sent yesterday to go float fish the Colorado River after work. Four of us guides were going to Rancho Del Rio to meet at KK's BBQ where some of my family were camping. (BTW - KK, as usual, looked fabulous. Her son, Kenny Gravenhorst and Ian Doherty are now running Joe Kelso's rafting company...)

My idea was that four of us in two boats would put in at Rancho at 6 p.m. and take out at SBL (State Bridge Lodge) around 8 p.m. with a 2 hour drive home. Brennon and Tad were going to stay and camp out at Rancho. My huzbun and I commonly get on the river at rancho at 6 or so in the evening for a fishing float and take out around 8 in the dark. No biggie.

Cut to the story: we got on the water around 8 p.m. Just after we passed under the Yarmony Bridge - and BTW past the last place to take out (get off the river) should we want to reconsider our float -- right after the downstream side of the bridge, Frank Chaves hooked into some kind of Big Mo Trout, which we fought for half an hour. Eventually, I had to demand that he release the monster for safety reasons as we could no longer see his line though his rod was doubled in half and the trout was running around like a bull under water - my nephew, Ian, was holding a flashlight on the tippet. We still had the whole river to run - class II and III rapids to navigate in the dark. The moon was only a sliver. No help from the moon for visibility.

Frank eventually cut the sea monster loose and I turned the nose of the dory downstream. We made a tight boat (stowed things that can get loose and toss around), took out bailiing buckets and buckled our life vests snug. Needless to say, we hit every rock and boulder in the river. Our poor dory was going BAM BAM BAM off of rocks all the way downstream. We were grateful for an intermittent view of Brennon Papacatfish Garrett and Tad's flashlight sometimes across from us, sometimes upstream, sometimes downstream of us as they also navigated the river in the dark but in a rather forgiving self-bailing rubber raft.

The dory got hung up on shoals mutliple times and Ian had to get out (always upstream) and drag the hull out into the current then leap back in. Both Frank and Ian had to high-side (lean on the gunnels to keep the boat from filling with water) multple times. Frank had a 4-inch pocket flashlight and was able to illuminate the particular boulders after we smasked into them (in case we wanted to see what we had just run into).

We got trapped in a boulder field with no way out and Ian had to pull us upstream and then jump back in. I could see Brennon and Tad bobbing along choosing channels left or right to navigate around islands, which we could only see when we suddenly came upon them. The raft looked like a little blue rubber toy going downstream.

We floated through a couple rapids that are personally notorious to both Doug and I for making strategic errors. The dory went straight down the middle of the rockers. I couldn't even see the blades of my oars to tell if I was placing them in the troughs or if they were feathered (turned) correctly. I had to guess where the blades were sinking into the water... I was just trying to keep the bow pointed at the trouble and not get sideways, ever.

When we finally made it to the take out, it was 11 p.m. NO ONE BROUGHT FOOD (oversight..) Brennon, Tad, and Ian went back to Rancho. Frank and I headed for Vail to look for food. We ate gas station sandwiches and kept each other awake on the road back to Lake George.

I was home in bed by 2:30 a.m. This morning, I read Frank's email response to my invitation.

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