Hidden in plain sight

Local fly fishing guide and columnist, Don Oliver, lights a cigar in anticipation of the morning ahead, fishing for trout along Lime Creek — one of his favorite haunts.
Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum

Even though COVID-19 is still with us, and it seems many writers can think of nothing else to write about, I have strayed from that place. Actually, I am at the point of either choosing to go fly fishing or start chewing Redman again. I picked fly fishing. Since some areas are open and some are not, it was challenging finding a fun, un-pressured area to fly fish. After much deep thought, accompanied by a great cigar, I came up with Pastorius Reservoir.

Pastorius Reservoir is a State Wildlife area containing approximately 90 acres and is located about six and a half miles south of Durango on County Road 304. It is one of those lakes that you might have driven by many times and never really noticed it. It is surrounded by farms, ranches, and subdivisions, on well-traveled dirt and gravel roads. There are a couple of small signs identifying the lake and State Wildlife Area. Other than that, you have to know it’s there to find it.

Over the past years Pastorius has been the victim of northern pike being illegally released into the lake. The pike did a good job of eliminating any and everything thing else that swam in the lake. As the pike ate all the other fish the lake became overgrown with water weeds. And, to add insult to injury, the dam was in need of repairs. The reservoir had lost much of its appeal. Then in the fall of 2018 the lake was drained. The pike were removed, the dam was repaired, and the weeds died. The lake was refilled in the spring of 2019, stocked with trout, and a great recreation area re-appeared. The cottonwoods, alders, and willows, that surround the lake survived and added to its beauty.

All of these improvements were too hard for me and my friend, Ron, to resist. Since only electric motorized and non-motorized craft are allowed, our float tubes worked great. We arrived at the reservoir around nine in the morning and found, except for a few bird watchers, we were the only ones there. That lasted until about ten when a steady stream of folks escaping the quarantine begin to arrive. So, as Ron and I were catching trout, we watched all kinds of flotation devices being launched at the small ramp. We also saw several folks fishing from the shore. This was a day to be enjoyed at Pastorius.

Fly fishing from a float tubes is a great way to fish. As you let a gentle breeze push you along, or use your flippers to move through the water, you are able to sneak up on rising fish. My favorite tactic is to watch for a rise, then cast my dry fly near it, then give the fly a little movement and wait for the strike. I sometimes have to give the fly enough movement so it resembles a swimming bug. If you prefer a fly that sinks, or if the trout aren’t eating on the surface, try a Woolly Bugger. After making your cast let the bugger sink, then slowly strip it back. Varying the rate of the strip will help produce great results.

After a morning of fly fishing, visiting with the other people on the lake, and enjoying the drop-dead view of the La Platas to the north, a nice picnic lunch is great. Just remember fires are not allowed to cook your lunch.

If you don’t live in Durango, I would bet there are lakes similar to Pastorius in your area. Just look at a local map or simply drive around. I bet, with a little effort, you’ll find a body of water hidden in plain sight.

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