CORN POWDER ANGLER with Uncle Pahgre

A lot of folks ask me if I actually do all the things that I write about in my monthly columns. Well, yes and no. There. Now we can get on with the subject at hand — fishin’.

As the old scenario sneaks up on us — if you don’t need a license to be a fish why do you need a license to fish? I recall an expedition a few years back to a special spot called Rainbow Lake. I know some of you pancakes would call it a pond but it’s a full throttle lake to the people around here. At one time it could have been the size of Lake Ontario, prior to all the water thefts, diversions and dams.

Me and my little fishin buddy Jimmy headed up the dusty road to Rainbow, which is located on the fringe of the West Elk Wilderness in Gunnison County. Gunnison is the largest county in Colorado and holds the distinction of having the highest per capita rate of college grads and bank thermometers in the Rockies.

As we chug up the washboard artery I think about the cold beer shakin around in the back of the pickup. I drift off to snoozerville dreaming of the Andalusian girls frolicking on the white sands of Zanzibar — I recently picked up a James Joyce novel hearing that it was deemed obscene by some religious zealot — I have to read every page three times just to keep the literary lid in place.

Jimmy doesn’t read too well. He’s a classic example of why first cousins shouldn’t date, even if they like each other a lot. But Jimmy is one hell of a fisherman. He’ll stay out in a ponga boat for the better part of the day chasin’ down one Mackinaw. He also likes to cheat and break an occasional law in the process. He says it’s fun. We call him The Trout Whistler but I don’t know why.

When we arrive at the shore of Rainbow it becomes apparent that others have been here this morning. They’ve run off the fish and left cigarette butts along the rocky beach. We pick them all up expressing the sincere wish that the perpetrators all burn in hell for their indiscretion. They ought to have their fishing licenses pulled.

I ask Jimmy if he brought his license. He shows me an old elk tag from 1984. I tell him “Good.” I still have my license from last year. We put the boat in the water taking care to include three hunting rifles and some water-logged grenades I snuck out of the Dominican Republic while down there saving the population from Communism in the Sixties.

I also carry a beer cooler, two slickers, some Safeway chicken, my pipe, the Joyce novel, a filet knife, and a copy of the new Horseshoe for wrapping our catch. I also bring along two fistfuls of sweet corn and three sticks of dynamite. Jimmy’s got the oars and a coffee can full of worms he’s been raisin’ in his bedroom since Christmas.

Our first move is to be quiet. We’re already dealing with some mighty uptight trout. Jimmy starts chummin with the chicken and I prepare the dynamite for its virgin voyage. Fish are jumpin and the cotton is high!

We save the corn in case the fish stick their noses up at the poultry, which is often too greasy for their sensitive systems. Almost immediately we get some action on the chicken as several brookies emerge then dive off with their treasure. We drop four lines loaded with worms and throw out one fist of sweet corn. They hit it hard but still no bites.

The experienced angler knows that timing is everything when it comes to fillin’ the fryin pan. I toss one stick of dynamite and it goes off with a boom. Three trout are floating. I throw the other stick to the starboard side and harvest about six more. We in tall cotton now.

Jimmy starts netting the fish and wrapping them up in the newspaper as I open my first beer of the afternoon. As I suck down that inaugural Labatts perusing a fascinating story about the perils of tofu kareoke,  I notice a cloud of dust comin up the trail. It’s the ranger!

We’ve only minutes till he arrives on shore. We think: What is the most illegal activity going on in the boat? The rifles? The grenades? My pipe? At least the dynamite and chicken are long gone. He waves at us to come in to the shore where he is now joined by an assortment of nosy college kid greenies ripe for a bust. I reassure Jimmy who fingers my filet knife nervously. We’re legal in a sort of homey/frontier sense. We’ve got licenses but the boat is registered in Utah.

The warden asks us if we heard a loud blast. We say “Nope.” He asks about the rifles. We say we heard there were a lot of bear around. He asks about the fish. We tell him they attacked out fried chicken and we had to fight them off with our oars. He calls on his radio, handcuffs us (right there in front of those goodie two-shoe greenie bastards) and hauls us to Gunnison jail. Communists.

The authorities charge Jimmy and I with a whole barrel of offenses (federal, state and local) and confiscate most of our gear. We spent that night in jail and the food wasn’t bad. The cops seemed disappointed that we weren’t hardened criminals but were nice to us anyway.

And at the present we’re still waiting for a court date. There’s no sense to go out and look for work what with out legal entanglements and all. I guess we’ll just go fishing again. Maybe this time without the boat. I wonder if they sell silencers for dynamite down at the hardware store.


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