- Homer Jennings, the gifted Colorado
Springs bamboo fly rod maker, and I have been talking about
four-wheeling into the section of the South Platte River above
Cheeseman Reservoir for the past year or two.
I'd walked down into the area from the
east side many years ago and have known for sometime that it's
possible to get down to the river from the west side on what I'd been
told was basically a gravel road with just a few "four-wheeler
quirks." A little research indicated the road along Corral Creek,
while not the shortest route, might be the least hostile way to the
river for a couple of aging fly fishers looking for a morning of
It should be noted that adventures of
this sort seem to have a way of taking on a life of their own. When
they happen, they happen quickly, and often with little thought.
That's the way it was when we found ourselves stuffed into my 1981
four-wheel drive Toyota micro pickup truck.
It's the one I bought new in December
1980. The one with no power steering, no air conditioning, no radio
... no concession to comfort whatsoever. At the time it seemed like a
good idea. The floor on the driver's side recently rusted out and I
have to bungy cord the gear shift lever into first gear if I get
involved in any serious 4-wheeling or it will pop out. But it has been
a great truck.
The idea from the beginning had been to
try to make it to the confluence of Tarryall Creek with the South
Platte River. I've had a fantasy for years of fishing up into the
Once we made it to the Tarryall
Reservoir road it was only a matter of time before we sped by the
turnoff down to the river. We were several miles up the road when it
became clear we'd missed the turn. We both looked at each other and
declared, "There was no sign back there, I know that for a
Actually, the turnoff to the
well-maintained gravel road was clearly marked when we found it on our
second sweep through the area. It wasn't long after that when we
turned off onto the four-wheel portion of the trip. At first it was
nothing more than a few rocks and gravel on a switch-backing road.
Then Homer, who was steadfastly watching the road ahead, sang out
I calmly began to reply that the little
Toyota had been through much worse than that, but was cut short in
mid-sentence when I found myself tipped up a bit and driving on three
wheels. That's also about when the gear shift lever popped out and I
exclaimed I'd forgotten the bungy cord. Homer volunteered to hold the
lever in place.
"Nah," I said.
The rest was not bad, assuming your
truck is equipped with a skid plate. What was bad was the river. We'd
forgotten that in the springtime, runoff is to be expected on
Colorado's rivers. The South Platte was high and looked like a
chocolate milkshake. We forged onward to the Tarryall, which turned
out to be the source of the chocolate milk.
Homer cheerfully said he'd caught trout
in water like this before. We suited up and then put some big flies
on, figuring the trout would be able to see them in the dirty water.
The plan was to wade across the Tarryall in hopes that the South
Platte upstream from it might be a bit more clear. I can report that
it is not especially easy wading through a fast-moving, waist-high
chocolate milkshake, even with a wading staff. We made it. We fished.
We didn't even come close to catching a trout.
Later, we spent some time collecting
the spent .45 caliber brass that littered the area where we had
parked. It looked like a war zone. We both got the impression that the
area sees a lot of use on the weekends. The hillsides were deeply
rutted where dirt bikes had gouged deep scars. There was considerable
garbage strewn about. Tree stumps were pocked with bullet holes.
Our saving grace was that we had come
on a weekday. We had the place to ourselves. Deer were quietly grazing
by the river when we arrived. And even the carnage inflicted by the
heavy use could not take away from the beauty of the river and the
canyon in that place.
We looked at each other and decided
we'd be back once the runoff was over. On a weekday of course. We
didn't catch a fish, but it had been a great day. That's the way it is
when you make to a place you've always wanted to get to.