Spring comes gently to high Colorado, and the scene becomes one of softness: the new green grass is dappled with shadows from budding branches of streamside willows (opposite); slender white aspens reach for the blue sky; dainty primroses and wild flags bloom bravely against the edges of melting snowbanks. The jays and bluebirds return with the warmer weather; deer and elk browse up the mountain as the snow line recedes; sheep whiten the meadows, grazing and caring for another crop of stumbling lambs.
But Colorado spring is also fickle. Even in mid-May, when trout fishing starts (next page), there are days when ferrules ice up and the cold forces anglers to resort to winter clothes, sips of hot coffee and belts of whisky. Bad weather does not daunt the Colorado fishermen, however. They have waited for this time through the long drear months of winter. Preparation for most of them begins weeks before the first day's fishing. Sporting goods stores stay open into the night for those who come to buy tackle and for those, too, who come merely to talk about new seasons: this year's, last year's and all years'. After the fishless winter of itchy anticipation, the fishermen readily take to the climbing roads, gummy with mud and often still clogged with snowdrifts. They pack skis and snowshoes to use above the 7,000-foot level, risking snow blindness and sudden blizzards to get to their favorite waters.
Many anglers follow the same system each year. Even in murky water they will first try a fly, knowing no trout will rise but trying anyway. They will then move down to spinners and spoons, to salmon eggs, to the larval form of the caddis and stone flies found in the stream beds and finally to the lowly, neuter angleworm. In this season a mass of worms on a No. 6 hook is the best bait of all. (It may be that worms are best in any season; the big browns and rainbows gobble them up.)
Trout and the hunt for trout are the thing, but on this May day there are plenty of bonus sights and sounds. And the memory of them will abide with the fisherman for all the springtime days he lives.