Friday, June 23, 2006

Friday - June 23, 2006 - Cheesman Canyon

Friday, June 23, 2006 - South Platte River, Cheesman
Beautiful weather - clear, water clear, flows 235 cfs

If you are looking for a good fish story you will be disappointed. But, this was still the best fishing day of my life. Obviously not because of the fish - but because of something else.

Chad and I were out in the Gill Trail parking lot around 5:15 pm - ready to do some night fishing. After a hot hike in, we dropped down to the Family Pool and decided to work our way up the canyon about 1/4 mile and then meet back at the Family Pool at about 8 - 8:30 pm for some streamer fishing. I headed straight to my favorite strecth - with this much flows, the rainbows would be all over the large rock and that stretch. I tried the normal small thread midges, jujubees, black beauties, a pt, a chartuese midge, nothign was working. Chad of course whizzed by catching some nice pigs on a streamer dropper rig.

About 6 pm or so I heard some little peeping noises coming from the bank. I was trying to hook a fish that was right next to the bank and these two little duckings were coming down river hugging the bank and swam right over my fish. They noticed me and made a beeline back up river. I pointed them out to Chad. As I moved out to the middle of the river, the ducklings (not more than a week or two old I would guess) got a little braver and headed back down river past me, peeping all the way. I knew that was odd, since ducklings aren't usually left alone by their mothers. As always, I felt a bit sad to see them float by, thinking they wouldn't last long - especially since night fall was only a couple hours away.

The fishing continued to suck - and Chad kept catching fish ahead of me. I tried everything, even switching to a dry caddis because I saw one fish hit one as it floated by. It was getting closer to 8 pm and almost time to head down to the Family Pool, I started to cross over and decided to hit the long riffle one last time. There is a huge rock at the end of the riffle run that the water was high enough to flow around - well barely. I was starting to head back to the Family Pool and was walking behind the rock when I saw the two ducklings again, this time headed up river against the flow. We surprised each other behind the rock and they jetted around the front of it through the tougher current. I thought it was odd they were still searching for their mother, and now I felt even more like sh!t. I fished the back end of the pool for about 5 minutes and then guilt came over me. Somehow I had to help those ducklings, but how? They were probably 50 yards up by now.

I decided to give chase, I put my rod down and started stepping out into the current to see if I could see them. I couldn't, but I started sloshing ahead as I knew they'd be 3 inches from the bank. I moved up about 40 feet and there they were - tucked into the side of the bank swimming, they hopped up on a rock and went up and over. I jumped out of the water and headed on land after them. Not realizing how fast they could swim, I hopped back in the water and they were still up ahead of me. I started thiking to myself - I haven't seen a bird all day, where the hell would a mother duck be? Just then I looked at the island directly across some of the swiftest parts of the river and there was the mother duck, no kidding, with 4 other ducklings. She had heard the ducklings cries, and was standing alert, but wasn't making a sound. I think she was afraid that I would hear her and then come after her.

The ducklings didn't see or hear their mother and kept swimming ahead. I decided I'd try and scare them across - maybe when they got to the other side they'd see mom. So I jumped out of the water again and ran ahead, this time I was ahead of them and crashed down into the water - they saw me and made a break for the middle, got about 3 feet out and turned back to the bank and started down river. I jumped out of the water again, and ran down river to get behind them. I got behind them and tried again, again they made a break for the middle, but again, the current was too swift and they came back to the edge - this time heading back up stream again. This time I was close to them - maybe 20 feet, so I started charging them. The edge of the river was tough, as it narrowed the water got faster close to the edges and there were a few waterfalls of a few inches that made their swimming tricky. I got right behind them, they made a break to get up a 6 inch slick waterfall but fell back into the pool 5 or 6 times, I grabbed my net (which is the new measurenet that has smaller holes) and scooped one of them up. The other dove into the grassy edge to get away - he played dead as he hung low in the grass. I wanted to make sure I didn't lose one to catch the other, so I hell the net slightly off the ground, but it didn't matter - the duckling in the net was exhausted and was just as happy to sit there still.

I pinned the little guy into the grass, but had to get him out and into the net. I dropped the net down to the grass and tilted it in his direction. I started trying to move and I think he saw his little brother/sister and I nudged him in - not touching him for fear he'd have my scent on him. I had them both in the net, but now I had to get across the fast water. I was thinking the whole time, great you saved the ducks only to drownd trying to get across the river - nice! The second duckling kept trying to get out - he was stepping on his brother's head and trying to climb up the net. I held my hand over the net and shook him back down - he was exhausted too - and wasn't trying too hard. They were all poofy and their feathers were all puffed out - they were a black and light yellow color, mixed with brown and they had feet about one third the size of their bodies (which is huge).

I got into the faster water and it was deep - right up to my waist waders - and I was sure it was going to get deeper - but it didn't. I crossed over to the island and headed down to the lower part to where I had seen the mother. I sloshed down to the end and just as I came around there was the mother about 20 ft away and she was pissed!! I started getting a bit nervous and got about 10 ft closer to a rock that blocked me from her, leaned over it and dropped the two ducklings gently into the water in front of her. They booked it right for her, but made a slight detour to the right and went up on the island and jumped in with the other ducklings ahead of her. The whole time mom was yacking at them - I'm sure she was giving them an ear full for straying too far out into the current.

I crossed back over, hit the shoreline and got up on the hill side and looked for them. Mother and 6 ducklings were swimming together in the slow water and headed for the far shore (which was shallow and very slow). I found my rod and headed back to the Family Pool. Man, did I feel good. I hadn't caught a fish, but it didn't seem to matter.

I sat at the Family Pool for about 10 minutes, Chad came up from lower down the river and met me - I told him the story. We tied on streamers and started chucking. I managed two fish, a large rainbow and a good sized brown. We left at 10:15 or so and I was home by 11:45. I know this story seems a little sappy, but honestly it was one of the greatest feelings in the world.

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