FLYATHLETE #34: Dan Wall


Dan has not yet submitted a bio, but wrote an epic summary of the 2014 Rocky Mountain Flyathlon…  Let’s hope he writes a bio soon that is as entertaining as the piece of literature…

Dear Flyathlete Sponsors,

I figured after your generous donation I owe you at the very least, a race report. Really it is more of an event report because the race was only one piece of a what was an exceptionally fun weekend. I know its a wordy report so if you aren’t interested I want to say thank you for your support. WE raised a total of $7000 for trout unlimited projects. That is a big number in the TU world and it will be put to good use. On to the report.

The race was held near Saguache CO so Stacey and I left Friday morning with hopes of getting some fishing in on the way. We stopped at Big Bend on the Ark, threw a few casts and got a new pair of waders wet. I wanted to see the trail and maybe scout a few fishing spots before the race so we got in the car and drove to the Middle Creek Trailhead about 15 miles past Saguache on 114. Really remote. I strapped on my flyathlete gear (yes I have Flyathlete gear) and Stacey and I ran up the trail to the east fork confluence (about 10 minutes) just to get loose after spending a lot of the day in the car. Excellent single track trail and beautiful scenery but really tight water; wetland complex with lots of beaver activity in the lower section and very small water (read, jumpable) above but everything was loaded with trout. All 4 trout species. In just a few casts down low I had a brookie and pretty much every other cast after that I caught one. Cutthroat were up higher past the turnaround point so I didn’t see any on the scouting run because I was tired and I’m getting old and I knew people were drinking FINE COLORADO CRAFT BEER at the registration. So we ran down and drove to the registration/camping area, pitched a tent and made some dinner.

After that we grabbed our chairs and headed to the camp fire where we awaited last minute instruction from the fearless race coordinator (Andrew T), including the rules which nobody was really sure about. So here they are. Your out and back running time is adjusted based on your fishing success. 3 minutes bonus for each inch of fish and double that if you get a Cutthroat. Your race bib has a ruler on it so you have to get a legible picture. That turned out to be harder than it sounds and some photos were an educated guess to be sure. No fish, brace yourself for a 40 minute (i think) penalty and if you are a smack talker like me, unlimited insults at the post race campfire while enjoying FINE COLORADO CRAFT BEER. Strategy talk was brisk.

The next morning we all drove to the start line, checked in, milled about and checked out the trophies. No one warmed up, so I didn’t either which was a little disconcerting but I just rolled with it. At 9:30 sharp (which really means around 9:30) we lined up (more like a cluster) at the starting line. Andrew brings out a 16 ounce Budweiser Limerita and a .357 revolver he is carrying, um, gingerly. The race was to start with the sound of a gun and the concurrent demise of a Limerita. After one dry fire, he missed the Limerita. It’s a lot of pressure and it could have happened to anyone but Andrew was penalized that night for missing the shot by ceremoniously chugging the foul concoction.

Once we took a head count and realized no one was down, we started what seemed like a typical group run on a nice trail. Once we sorted out, there were about 5 or 6 ahead of me, a couple of which I could see and 3 or 4 I had no chance of staying with. My strategy was go to the turn around point and figure out a strategy. It made sense at the time.

When I got there (45 min) I had seen only 1 person coming down and he didn’t have a fish yet. I figured everyone above me is faster and they would have taken the best cutthroat holes so I turned around betting I could get down low where I had the best chance at a big brookie that I could catch fast.

After about 5 minutes of descending (like a lead rocket), I run across a friend who says a cut was pulled out of a hole just around the corner (they were still on their way up). So I throw my strategy out the door and figure if I can get a cutthroat out of that same hole I might just might win this (you were warned before donation-I’m pathologically competitive). So I stop and rig up and throw a few casts into the pool as stealthily as one can when they are hyped up in the middle of the race. No luck. Then I stick my fly into a willow and snap it off. I cuss a lot. I realize Stacey is with me now. With the GoPro. Taking video for promotional videos. Listen for bleeps in the promotional videos.

I figure I need to go back to plan A and just finish the race at this point. I hadn’t seen anyone else come down yet (I wasn’t looking the whole time and later realized I missed several folks) but I had wasted some valuable time so I broke down and started running. Who knows, maybe a big fish and I could still be back in the hunt.

I got to one of the holes I had pulled several fish out of the day before and put a few cast in. Nothing. Seriously? The panic started creeping in. Full, blazing sun. I changed flies. Again I changed flies. I’m starting to see people happily running to the finish line about a quarter mile away while I diddle in the wetland.

I do some bush whacking to a new hole and delicately put a few casts out. Nothing. Now panic is taking hold. I know it’s a Flyathlon but it can’t end this way. I cannot get skunked. The post race campfire while enjoying FINE COLORADO CRAFT BEER will be humiliating. Not a good mindset to stalk fish.

While I am sitting there in the mud, bugs chewing me up, sweat pouring down my face, into my eyes, onto my specially purchased running AND fishing polarized glasses, I notice a big cloud cover the sun. First one I’d seen in a while. The relief was welcome, then, I hear a splash. A feeding fish. I put the cast out and boom. A ferocious 7 inch brookie crushes my fly. He fought like a champ (mostly while I was trying to get a picture). I get him on the bank, snap a terrible photo, release him unharmed, pack up and run the last 1/4 mile of the course without incident.

The rest of the evening was food, FINE COLORADO CRAFT BEER and great post race banter around the fire.

As an FYI, the winner was a decent runner but not a beast. He hooked an 8 inch cutthroat quickly and got a 48 minute time bonus. He’s a fisheries biologist and a really nice guy. Go figure.

The best part, we raised over $7,000 for trout unlimited projects in the San Luis Valley (near the race site) and you all helped with that immensely. Thanks!

I attached a few photos for your amusement. Unless you are going to race next year, which I would highly encourage, expect another solicitation from me.

An aside, this was an excellent group of people which included metal recycler (see the trophy pictures), wetland scientist, hydrologist, GISer, fisheries biologists (lot of those), conservation author, field guide salesman and a liquor store owner (who loves FINE COLORADO CRAFT BEER). There were more but I don’t remember because of FINE COLORADO CRAFT BEER.

I’m hooked.



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