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There we stood, six of the Loveland Fishing Club
’s finest, angling for big trout in a legendary North Park lake under superb late March conditions: a brutally cold 25 mph wind from the west, half the lake still capped by rotten ice, and giant snowbanks blocking 90 percent of the shoreline. The fishing would pick up dramatically on day two, but by late Thursday I hadn’t landed a single fish. Desperate measures seemed reasonable.
So when I climbed to the top of a steep, 35’ bluff and cast out beyond an inaccessible, snow-packed shoreline far below, I hadn’t really considered what would happen if something actually bit. I quickly found that out when two seriously obese cutthroats
headed straight for my little Gulp minnow, and the closest one took a bite! In the clear, icy water we watched that fat fish fight for its freedom, going aerial, darting east and then west – the one direction that would eventually take her safely past the bluffs into muddy but fishable shallows where Jim Clune during all this had been minding his own business.
Eventually the cutthroat made its way all the way to shore, and to Jim, who'd gamely waded into the frigid water with a landing net and short leather boots. She made a last-second break for freedom as Jim lunged -- while I kept thinking about that scary heart attack of his a few years ago, not to mention that hip replacement surgery. But it all ended well, in a kind of great muddy blur, with both the trout and Jim covered with ice and muck, followed by a quick Walt Graul photo and then release of an indignant but unharmed lunker (a chunky 18 1/2 inches if you cared to measure.)
This was just the kind of unforgettable, icy, “what are we doing here?” drama you hope for on outings with the Loveland Fishing Club. It reminds me of a long-ago January ice fishing outing to Lake Grandby, where I grimly sat on a bucket next to the late Dave Harem, who pondered the 23-below zero temperatures and gale-force winds before telling me: “Bill, I think the reason we do things like this is to show ourselves we still can.”
So, here's to another great fishing trip, with the kind of terrific companions who seem to improve with age. Jim, thanks again for wrestling that fish. And Jean, I hope he didn’t wear those boots into the house when he got back to Loveland.
From left, a mud-covered Jim and the trout, held by a dry, clean Bill. Photo by Walt Graul.