March Newsletter is out! Check out the latest Currents.

This month’s issue features a story about the history of a Colorado town that decided it needed to give itself a new identity. The newsletter also includes a new Behind the Fin feature, our 50th Anniversary Art Poster Contest Winner, the new High Country Angler Spring e-magazine, Fork Not Taken Recap, Clean Water Action alert and some upcoming events around the state.

Behind the Fin: Dave Taylor

Join us Behind the Fin with Dave Taylor, formerly the Executive Director and later the Board President of Colorado Trout Unlimited. Read on to hear some of his thoughts on TU past, present, and future.

How long have you been a TU member?

I joined TU in the early 1980s, with the Boulder Flycaster Chapter, when I was in graduate school at CU. A few years later I became a life member.

Why did you become a member and what chapter are you involved with?

I moved to Colorado in 1980 and became a rather fanatical fly fisherman, so I began attending Boulder Flycaster meetings after reading their newsletter in the local fly shop. I quickly got conscript- ed by Bruce Hoagland to be the Newsletter Editor, and a couple years later became chapter president.

What is your favorite activity or project you have done with TU?

I have done so many projects it is hard to determine a favorite. Certainly our work to save the South Platte from Two Forks inundation and our West Slope work to squash the AB Lateral project on the lower Gunnison are at the top of the list. Few today realize that we also purchased some key land   along the Dream Stream section below Spinney Mountain Reservoir that helped maintain public access. We turned that final parcel of land over to the state to ensure permanent access and state property status. We did the same thing on a small piece of land on the Roaring Fork as well. Good stuff, indeed. You were a central piece of the fight against Two Forks. How did you overcome the odds and beat the ‘2000-pound gorilla’ that was Denver Water? I thought it was 10,000 pounds? And don’t forget the Metropolitan Water Providers! It was a tremendous cooperative effort between a large coalition of conservation and environmental groups.

We also took a very intelligent approach. Thanks to agreements when Denver built its Foothills Project, we had a seat at the table for Two Forks. Technical experts such as Bob Weaver and EDF’s Dan Luecke helped build out a highly intelligent and viable series of alternatives that were cheaper, less destructive and could be phased in over time. We were able to point out several, ultimately fatal, flaws in the Two Forks proposal. It was a brave call by the EPA, but it was the right call. Many of the alternatives we proposed have actually been enacted, including conservation measures. No one in Colorado is without water to- day because Two Forks was vetoed. Intelligence prevailed. It’s nice to witness such a thing.

Do you have a favorite place to fish or memorable fishing story?

I have a lot of passion for the Madison River and the $3 Dollar Bridge area. Aesthetically, it is about as magnificent a river valley as you will see. The fishing is not bad either. It has gotten pretty crowded in recent years, though. Its recovery from whirling disease makes me particularly happy. You were at the heart of the battle over whirling disease in Colorado.

What did it take to win that battle to reform Colorado’s stocking practices?

Whirling disease was tragic in many ways, and personally was a very emotional issue. To see the magnificent wild rainbow populations collapse on the my favorite rivers – the Madison, the lower Gunnison, the Colorado in Middle Park, the South Platte and the upper Yellowstone and Yellowstone Lake – still pains me greatly to this day. We have learned much since the start of the WD dilemma, and some waters have recovered, but there is a clear and sobering lesson in WD for all of us to never forget.

Catching some fantastic wild rainbows at $3 Dollar Bridge two years ago made me feel a lot better. But then I fished the Yellowstone near Sulphur Caldron last August and landed one fish. In early July of 1980 I hiked into Cub Creek, a feeder stream into Yellowstone Lake. The Cutts were spawning and were so thick in the stream it looked exactly like an Alaskan salmon run. For a kid from New Jersey it was magical to see -- the essence of nature and wild trout. Several years ago, I believe Cub Creek had less than 100 fish in its spawning run. I think tens of thousands were going up the creek in the early 1980s. The careless stocking of lake trout and the WD menace have put those Yellowstone cutthroat on the brink. It is a very sad tale. Forty years ago one could stand in Buffalo Ford on the Yellowstone River and 5 to 10 large cutts would move up into the wake created by your legs when wading. And they were all 100% native and wild. That’s why we need TU.


What does being a part of TU mean to you?

TU has been a large part of my life, both professionally and asa volunteer. When I started inTU, I was one of the younger leaders, in my early 20s. I was a young Chapter President, and from 1986 to 1991 I worked for TU.

Later I was chairman of the Natural Resource Council in my early 30s – younger than most other leadership members. I later became CTU President and helped Dave Nickum establish a foundation for what has been a great 20 run of success in CTU under his leadership. And I volunteered to help start the Western Water Project operation in Colorado. For the last 10 years I have not done much work with TU, other than donate to the auction and Century Club.I have been too busy with family and work. Now, almost 40 years after going to my first TU chapter meeting, I am 62 years old and no longer a youngster in TU. I have witnessed great friends and TUers such as Bruce Hoagland, Al Makkai, Leo Go- molchak and Fred Rasmussen pass away. While I don’t look at myself as old, I am no longer a young buck in TU. When I retire in a few years, I will get re engaged on the volunteer side.

 What other hobbies or activities do you like to do?

I have an affinity for skiing, golfing and biking, and also from a DIY perspective like to play with electronics and build hi-fi amplifiers and speakers. I discovered that there are too many great hobbies and sports to engage in in life. So I had to win now it down at several stages of life.

What is the most important thing you learned from your past involvement with TU that present-day members ought to know?

I was born in 1956 and there were 169 million people in the U.S. at that time. Sixty-two years later there are almost 330 million. Pretty easy math. So in my lifetime there are 161 million more people utilizing the same land mass and a finite amount of natural resources, including cold water rivers and streams. To quote Joni Mitchell, “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone.”

Conservation-minded anglers realize, and know, what we’ve got, and we need to band together and work our asses off to keep and protect it. If we want our grandkids and great-grandkids to be catching wild trout in magnificent settings and wading in clear, cold water, then we better work hard to protect the coldwater resource. If one doesn’t have time to personally dedicate to the cause, I can fully understand and empathize. But that’s when I say give money instead of time, so others can work on your behalf. It ultimately comes down to what something is worth to you, right?

New! Spring 2019 High Country Angler is out!

NEW! High Country Angler Spring 2019

The new spring issue of High Country Angler is now live and you can view it online or download the entire issue for free! This time around you can look forward these stories:

  • A Q& A with Landon Mayer by Frank Martin

  • Still Water Sure Thing: Yellowstone Lake by Brian La Rue

  • Paint By Number Fly Fishing by Peter Stitcher 

  • Your Guide to RMNP by Annie Smith

  • Dry Flies in February by Hayden Mellsop

  • Minturn Anglers by Mark Shulman

  • 50 Years Protecting Rivers by Mike Ledger

  • Corps, EPA Propose Clean Water Act Rollback By David Nickum

  • Public Lands: Best. Idea. Ever by CTU Staff

  • Behind the Fin with Dave Taylor by CTU Staff

  • TU and the Birth of Colorado Instream Flows by CTU Staff

  • Angler's All by CTU Staff

  • Fit to be Tied by Joel Evans

Polar Plunge Raises Money for Local Youth

What do an Elementary School Principle, fisherman, third grader, and town Mayor all have in common? Well, in Estes Park, they all braved the icy waters to raise money for Trout in the Classroom!

Colorado Trout Unlimited and our local chapters are proud to support environmental education programs that get kids outdoors and bring unique learning opportunities into the classroom. Trout in the Classroom is one such project. The program works with teachers to raise trout from eggs to fry throughout the school year, providing unique teaching opportunities along the way and culminating in an end-of-year release. Unfortunately, the equipment required to grow fish in a classroom isn’t cheap.

Fortunately, local businesses and leaders in the Estes park community refused to let costs stand in the way of bringing TIC to their school. Led by local resident, Joe Bottoms of Trout Haven Resorts, the town organized a Polar Plunge in the middle of one of the snowiest winters in a decade. Here’s how it went:

Local elementary school Principle, John Bryant, takes the plunge to help raise money for TIC tanks in his school.

Local elementary school Principle, John Bryant, takes the plunge to help raise money for TIC tanks in his school.

Story by: Joe Bottoms

The 2019 Polar Bear Plunge was held at Trout Haven Resorts on March 2 with a great turnout, despite the weather.  The first annual fundraiser was held to start a Trout in the Classroom (TIC) program in the Estes Park Elementary School. Community members and local business teams took the plunge to raise the money for two state-of-the-art aquariums that are now installed in the third grade department. Starting March 12, students will be working with a fisheries biologist to hatch and raise rainbow trout, with in-depth lessons in trout ecology at each life stage. 


Third graders were chosen as the beneficiaries of this project because the TIC program aligns with the Colorado Department of Education's third grade standards for learning, but the program is going to grow to other grade levels as well as the middle and high schools as the program evolves. This year, third graders will be learning about the rainbow trout's life cycle, habitat selection, temperature-dependent growth and development,  and general trout ecology. They will also be doing dissections, which is always the favorite lesson. We are partnering with the Estes Valley Watershed Coalition to do a field trip to streams that are scoured and streams that have been restored after the 2013 flood to identify good trout habitat and demonstrate the benefits of freshwater conservation and restoration. 


Local students take the plunge!

Local students take the plunge!

The 2019 Polar Bear Plunge raised $5,300, which funded the two aquariums to be used this spring. The remainder is being donated to Trout Unlimited to carry the TIC program forward and expand trout conservation in the Estes Valley. Over 100 people attended, and over sixty took the plunge themselves. Among notable jumpers was the principal of Estes Park Elementary School John Bryant, President of TU's Alpine Anglers (chapter #453) Mike Larned, Mayor Todd Jirsa, and an a number of third grade students excited about their new aquariums!


Thanks to all who contributed and participated; we hope to get third graders excited about environmental conservation and that some of them will go on to do great things in the Estes Valley and Rocky Mountain National Park!

Local 3rd Graders make the leap to help raise money for a TIC tank in their classroom!

Local 3rd Graders make the leap to help raise money for a TIC tank in their classroom!

President of Alpine Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Mike Larned, prepares his jump!

President of Alpine Anglers Chapter of Trout Unlimited, Mike Larned, prepares his jump!

The irreplaceable river: How George H.W. Bush's EPA administrator saved the South Platte

South Platte/Deckers Flyfisher. 2019 Picture by: Annie Smith/CTU

South Platte/Deckers Flyfisher. 2019 Picture by: Annie Smith/CTU

REPOST from the Gazette:

By: Paul Klee | Mar 4, 2019

Thank you, William K. Reilly.

Thank you for saving our river from drowning.

Reilly, now 79, is the former Environmental Protection Agency administrator who vetoed the Two Forks project that in 1990 sought to dam the South Platte upstream from the one stop sign in the mountain town of Deckers.

“It was all systems go,” Reilly said last week, and the 20 miles of irreplaceable trout habitat where hundreds of kids like me learned to fly fish would be nothing more than a sad bedtime story.

This fragile, world-class trout fishery would have been flooded below the 615-foot Two Forks dam, a structure roughly the size of Hoover Dam. Twenty-five miles southwest of Denver and 42 miles northwest from Colorado Springs, six towns and a priceless outdoor recreation area would have been washed away.

So thank you.

“How’s the river doing, anyway?” Reilly asked before his keynote speech for Colorado Trout Unlimited’s annual River Stewardship Gala here Thursday.

Really well, considering. The Hayman fire was rough on everybody, and the trout populations are gradually returning. But here’s the real catch: At least this stretch of river still exists.

Thanks to Reilly.

As Reilly told it from his home in San Francisco, the Two Forks dam was “a foregone conclusion from every angle” when the late George H.W. Bush hired him as head of the EPA in 1989.

“You don’t bring the World Wildlife president into the EPA to just sit there. You want drive, action,” Reilly said. “I was determined in my authority to make him the environmental president.”

Continue reading the full story on the Gazette here.

Trips, Gear, and so much more


That’s right! Colorado Trout Unlimited’s annual River Stewardship Gala on March 7, 2019 is completely digital. Our silent auction can be accessed via the link button below - you can start bidding and watch the items you have your heart set on. With so many different types of items such as handmade flies, once-in-a-lifetime fishing trips, downtown experiences, and all the gear you could ever want - you’re bound to find something amazing. Proceeds from the event support CTU's work across the state to protect our rivers and coldwater fisheries. So what are you waiting for? See what we have to offer and bid generously - for the trout! The site also previews the live auction items that will be available during the event.

Since all of our silent auction items are online, if you cannot attend the River Stewardship Gala this year, consider bidding on items from home! No ticket necessary.

Thank you to our River Guardian Sponsors!

Auction Preview.png

Colorado Trout Unlimited celebrates passage of lands bill

House passes bill to restore the Land and Water Conservation Fund and protect public lands 


(Feb. 26, 2019) Denver, Colo. – The Land and Water Conservation Fund is now one step closer to being permanently re-authorized. With a vote of 363 to 62, the US House of Representatives passed the Natural Resources Management Act today, sending the historic package of bills to the President’s desk. 

“Today the House of Representatives put public lands over politics and passed this important legislation. On behalf of Colorado Trout Unlimited’s 11,000 members, I want to thank Representatives DeGette, Neguse, Tipton, Crow, Lamborn and Perlmutter for voting to support conservation. We deeply appreciate their commitment to investing in Colorado’s public lands and outdoor recreation,” said David Nickum, Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited. “This vote comes on the heels of Senators Gardner and Bennet helping shepherd the bill through the Senate, reflecting the broad, bi-partisan support for conservation in Colorado.”  


For more than half a century, LWCF has used a portion of federal offshore energy revenues — at no cost to taxpayers — to conserve our public lands, water, and open spaces and protect the outdoor recreation opportunities they offer. LWCF has invested over $268 million in Colorado, helping to secure access and conserve special places across the state, including the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and boat launches on the Colorado River. 

Also included in the package were numerous provisions protecting public lands with important fish and wildlife habitat, including mineral withdrawals in Washington’s Methow Valley and the upper Yellowstone in Montana, a special designation to conserve wild steelhead habitat in Oregon’s North Umpqua watershed, new Wilderness in Oregon and New Mexico, Wild and Scenic River designations in Oregon and California, and a unique collaborative plan to protect water quality and quantity in Washington’s Yakima Basin. Significant to Colorado, the act extends the authorization of the Upper Colorado Endangered Fish Recovery Implementation Program, a partnership between local, state and federal agencies, water and power interests, and conservation groups working to recover endangered fish in the Upper Colorado River Basin. 


“Passing this package of bills is a huge win for sportsmen and women,” said Scott Willoughby, Colorado Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “Anglers and hunters know first-hand what it means to be connected to place and to the fish and wildlife that make a place special. The work isn’t over, and we look forward to working with Colorado’s delegation to secure dedicated funding for LWCF, but I think all sportsmen and women can take a moment today and celebrate such an achievement as the reauthorization of LWCF and protection for hundreds of thousands of acres of special places across the country.” 


Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and TwitterInstagram and our blog for all the latest information on trout and salmon conservation. 


Colorado Trout Unlimited Applauds Progress to Save LWCF

Senate passes bill to restore the Land and Water Conservation Fund and protect special places

(Feb. 12, 2019) Denver, CO. – The United States Senate has voted to advance S. 47, the Natural Resources Management Act. Importantly, the bipartisan legislation permanently authorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which has been expired since September 30. The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives where supporters are urging quick passage.


“Even when this hugely successful program was falling victim to Washington’s partisan dysfunction, Senators Bennet and Gardner never stopped working to secure its passage. We deeply appreciate their unflagging commitment to investing in Colorado’s public lands and outdoor recreation,” said David Nickum, Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited.  


Gunnison Gorge, CO Picture from:

Gunnison Gorge, CO Picture from:

For over half a century, LWCF has used a portion of federal offshore energy revenues — at no cost to taxpayers — to conserve our lands, water, and open spaces and protect the outdoor recreation opportunities they offer. LWCF has invested over $268 million in Colorado, helping to secure access and conserve special places, across the state, including the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve and boat launches on the Colorado River.


“We still need to fully fund LWCF and we’ll continue working toward that end, but permanent authorization is an enormous accomplishment for all who have working tirelessly on this issue,” said Scott Willoughby, Colorado Field Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “In addition to LWCF, there are dozens of bipartisan provisions across the country that will help sustain our public land heritage, including new Wilderness areas, Wild and Scenic River sections and National Conservation Areas. This is one of the most important pieces of public lands legislation in recent memory and we urge the House of Representatives to quickly pass this bill.”



Feb. 12, 2019


David Nickum, Colorado Trout Unlimited 

303-440-2937 x1


Scott Willoughby, Trout Unlimited



Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and TwitterInstagram and our blog for all the latest information on trout and salmon conservation.


Calling all River Enthusiasts: This is your sneak peek!


The Colorado TU River Stewardship Gala is the largest celebration of Colorado’s rivers and world-class fishing opportunities. In 2018, nearly 400 guests helped to raise over $100,000 for Colorado TU’s conservation efforts throughout the state. Funds from the River Stewardship Gala go towards CTU’s work in youth education, protecting statewide instream flows and temperature, reintroducing and protecting native trout, and preserving and restoring the state’s fisheries and their watersheds.

This year, Colorado TU is celebrating its 50th anniversary and we will be honoring William Reilly, the former EPA Administrator who vetoed Two Forks Dam and helped spawn new, more collaborative approaches to water management, with the 2019 River Stewardship Award. Join us at the Gala and support our work for healthy rivers and fish in Colorado! (P.S. Tickets have sold out over the past 3 years!)

Auction Sneak Peek

50th Anniversary Custom Sarabella Rod and Abel Reel

This year’s gala will be featuring a one-of-a-kind custom Colorado Trout Unlimited 50th anniversary SaraBella Fishing rod and custom 50th anniversary Abel reel - two Colorado companies partnering with Colorado TU to celebrate 50 years of protecting rivers! This custom 9’ 6 weight fly rod featuring a curvy grip, natural finish, native juniper reel seat, a blue to green body, custom silver 50th CTU logo and tagline, and a fighting butt to land all those trophy fish in style. (see in pictures above)

Fly Fishing Adventure of a Lifetime in New Zealand


New Zealand 1.jpg

New Zealand is famed for its beauty and the quality of fly fishing you can enjoy!  This package for two includes five days of guided fly fishing – one of which is a helicopter trip into remote New Zealand backcountry – with seven nights accommodations, breakfast and lunch provided daily, and roundtrip airfare from San Francisco to New Zealand.  This is the fly fishing adventure you’ve been waiting for!

Want to getaway in March?  Distant Waters has one spot open on an amazing New Zealand fly fishing adventure.  The trip starts March 6th, 2019 and is discounted exclusively for Colorado TU supporters.  Learn more here.


Fish and Stay along Montana’s Fabled Madison River!


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Situated on the banks of the Madison River just 3 miles north of Ennis, Montana, anglers are offered unparalleled access to all the best blue-ribbon fly fishing in southwestern Montana. This getaway for 2 includes luxury accommodations for 2 nights, delicious meals including streamside lunch and gourmet dinners, and a full day of guided fishing on the Madison. The lucky winner of this trip will be “just a cast away” from their finest Montana fishing experience ever!


Experience a true Colorado Dude Ranch


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Enjoy an unforgettable Colorado guest ranch experience at Lost Valley Ranch!  The winner of this all-inclusive Dude Ranch Vacation package will enjoy a weekend getaway for 2, including lodging, meals, and a variety of outdoor activities.  Nestled among the beauty of Pike National Forest and just 70 miles southwest of Denver, Lost Valley Ranch is a great place to escape for a fun-filled weekend!

But wait, there’s more:

  • 6-day, 5-night float trip for 2 on the Middle Fork of the Salmon from Middle Fork Adventures

  • "A Diamond Takes Shape Slowly" – framed artist print by Judy Haas of Telluride

  • 3-day, 2-night stay at the Flat Tops Wilderness Camp plus guided fishing for 2 from Ripple Creek Lodge

  • Full-day walk/wade for 2 on your favorite Southwestern Colorado river with Duranglers

  • Green River gear bag and Thunderhead submersible backpack from Fishpond

  • Full-day walk/wade for 2 on waters near Sheridan, Wyoming with Rock Creek Anglers

  • Bring three of your friends and brew your own beer with Horse and Dragon Brewing

  • Two nights lodging in a Breckenridge condo plus a float fishing trip on a private put-in on the Colorado River from Mountain Angler

A Legend Passes

Last night, long-time TU leader Fred Rasmussen passed away at his home in Salida at age 95. His ready smile, always offering a hug and a kind word, and his trademark white ponytail made him a readily recognizable figure within and beyond TU for many years. His lifetime of service made him a role model that those of us following in his footsteps can strive for even as we inevitably fall short.

fred rasmussen.jpg

While always modest about his service (“We were a bunch of scared kids just doing what we were told to do”) , Fred was a part of the “Greatest Generation” that helped America and our allies face down fascism during World War II. His hometown newspaper, The Mountain Mail, ran a story about his war experiences that you can read here.

Following the war, he went onto a distinguished career developing science curricula and co-authoring textbooks. He lent those talents to Trout Unlimited and his community, helping to develop the hands-on inquiry-based “Stream Explorers” curriculum that continues to be used for youth education activities with the Collegiate Peaks Chapter in his hometown and with others around Colorado.

Fred’s service to conservation and Trout Unlimited is extensive - from serving with his local chapter, to chairing Colorado Trout Unlimited, to serving on the National Trout Unlimited Board of Trustees and with his fingerprints on activities from his local chapter banquet, to on-the-ground restoration projects in South Park and the Arkansas basin, to leadership on vital issues like the fights against Two Forks and whirling disease. Perhaps his greatest mark, though, was with the many other TU leaders that he helped mentor over the years who were able to carry his example forward in their own efforts. He helped all of us keep sight of the fact that Trout Unlimited’s mission was coldwater conservation - and that if we didn’t rise to that challenge, who would? His commitment and leadership were recognized nationwide, as Fred was honored with lifetime achievement awards from Colorado TU (the Hoagland Award), the Silver Trout Foundation (Silver Trout Award), and National TU (the Mortensen Award).

As a soldier, educator, volunteer, leader, parent and grandparent, Fred left an indelible mark. To me, he will always personify that “Greatest Generation” not simply because of his distinguished war service, but for the legacy he built over the rich lifetime of service that followed. May his example continue to inspire all of us, and may he rest in well-earned peace.

David Nickum, Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited

Jon Rasmussen shared the following as Fred was moving into hospice care at his home:

Fred is close to passing. He is comfortable, not in pain and surrounded by loving family. Thank you ( and all of his TU friends) for being such a fulfilling part of his life.

It will be hard to lose my best friend & fishing buddy.   But, Fred has helped lay the ground work for this joy to extend long into the future for my sons & I.