Here, fisher-fisher-fisher person |

Here, fisher-fisher-fisher person

Each time she shot a picture to inspire her watercolor painting featuring fly-fishing, the cold air stung her fingers. Her hat and down coat weren’t enough to keep her warm, so she alternated between walking the river’s bank and sitting in her car while the heat blasted, warming her chilly hands.

That day, the vibrant colors McCleary envisioned in her watercolors drained away as the gray sky blended with snow-covered banks and brown water – until she met a Denver-based fly-fishing guide. He was still glowing from his largest catch ever – a nearly two-foot rainbow trout – and gladly posed for McCleary. He was a little too far downstream to suit McCleary’s vision of a fisherman casting near the Factory Outlet stores bridge, so she asked him to move upstream.

“I would never stand there,” he said.

As an experienced caster, he knew the position didn’t allow enough room for his fly to float downstream naturally. But, he complied, and McCleary captured his dark figure, standing in shallow water sparkling with lavendars, greens and blues.

The restoration committee plans on running almost 1,000 of McCleary’s prints with a profit potential of $6,500. The funds will supplement grant and privately donated money to help restore a 0.6-mile stretch of the Blue below the Wilderness bridge to the dam. The Blue River earned Gold Medal status based on its big trout (18-20 inches long), biomass (food for the fish) and habitat. The habitat has been suffering because the river doesn’t receive enough spring runoff to create a deep middle channel.

The restoration project, scheduled to begin in July and last one to two months, involves moving large rocks from the middle of the stream to the side, in order to create a narrower, and deeper, channel. Before the restoration crew develops a better habitat for trout to hang out in, experienced anglers will show guests at the Blue River Festival how to catch them.

Anglers invite festival attendees to bring their own rods (or borrow one) to take part in five casting demos, from beginner to advanced, throughout the evening. Guides also will teach people how to tie flies.

“There’s an argument over whether you can catch more fish with a bad fly and a good cast or with a good fly and a bad cast,” said Andy Gentry, president of Gore Range Anglers.

“One is not more important than the other.”

They’re both important – at least to trick the more experienced (read: big) fish. Smaller fish might bite a deformed or disproportioned fly or go for a bad cast, but most older fish won’t touch questionable stimuli.

“A good presentation will catch fish. A bad presentation will catch not-very-smart fish,” Gentry said. “Smaller fish take (bait) more readily. The Blue River has an educated population of fish. They just don’t take flies for any reason.” The clinics will point out bad habits that prevent anglers from casting 50 feet and demonstrate the proper form of keeping the arm and rod tip parallel to the river (partially by keeping the wrist straight). But they probably won’t tell you to avoid fishing where the guy in McCleary’s poster is posing – that’s the artist’s secret.

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