Earlier in April, on the heels of a March that broke all the records for warmth and sunshine, I decided to go trout fishing in South Park. "Trout fishing in South Park" is neither the same as the similarly named Richard Brautigan novel, nor as much fun as it sounds.
That 'South Park'?
This is not the South Park where, in an idyllic mountain setting, the population is a heterodox, multicultural gallimaufrey of a Republican's worst nightmare, where the school principal is a transvestite, the school cook is a black man with an army pension who doles out sage advice about living, the school guidance counselor ("M'kay, you kids can't grow commercial quantities of marijuana in the boiler room, m'kay?") is as confused and ineffectual as most of the parents in the town, where there are intergalactic interventions, stranded Congressional delegations, attempted political assassinations, military coups (all nations welcome), jurassic monster attacks, gay motorcycle gangs, alien landings, hormonal feminist takeovers - still, and for all its doubtless charm, a town which for all intents and purposes is run by eight-year-old Eric Cartman . . .
. . . with the help of Kenny, Kyle and Stan - when Kenny is alive, that is (Kenny is accidentally slaughtered in nearly every episode but, like Jesus, he reappears each week to become the contemporary archetype of the Man of Sorrows and the Resurrected). The foursome invariably dress in the same clothes, indoors or out, summer and winter alike, which is how I can tell it's a TV program. This little touch is known as 'realism,' since the actual weather in South Park warrants such prudential sartorialism.
Sorry, there is a real South Park. Actually it's the same South Park as the one in "South Park." I'm usually sure when I'm in the real (nontelevised) South Park, since the real one doesn't have any trees at all, and people's eyeballs look a little different.
South Park (TV version)
The real South Park looks like hell or the moon, whichever you prefer, or whichever season you happen to stumble through it. It's in Park County, Colorado, which acquired its name by including this planetary monstrosity - a South Park of moonscape, endless expanses of montane prairie grass grazed by pronghorn antelope unwittingly trespassing on buffalo ranches, the precinct of coyotes, dead cattle, derelict autos, trailer homes with most of their siding blown off, howling winds and epic storms at any time of the year.
The actual South Park, Colorado
In fact, the very place where I chose an idyllic spring day to try out my new inflatable (and properly inflated) plasticized, rubberized, galvanized, vulcanized, polymerized, butyelthylized, polyethelyized, cordite/graphite-clad, unpuncturable, unsinkable, damn-near uninflatible canoe. With conveniently collapsible paddles, courtesy of WalMart (paddles, not canoe, by way of apology and moral defense).
The invincible 'Colorado'
South Park contains several reservoirs belonging to the Denver water system, each a windswept, shallow expanse of water fed by the South Platte River. Floating across these lakes while languidly casting a flyrod can be, on the pleasantest of days . . . well, tolerably pleasant.
Since I was heading for a state park I stocked up on some cash for the seven-dollar entry fee. When I asked at the gate if they could change a twenty, the park rangers looked at me, looked thoughtful, grinned accommodatingly. They thought for a bit more, explained that they'd made change for someone earlier in the day. I continued to stare at them. One of them brightened a bit and asked if I had a ten. He thought he might be able to make change for a ten. I didn't.
So, eighty miles from my front door, even though the wind was howling across the parking lot, foaming up the lake, ripping unstopped along that entire general part of the state of Colorado, I thought I'd driven far enough that I should give it a chance. Two miles back along dirt roads to the small country store (flies, cheap fly rods, cheap fly reels, Power Bars, lip balm and potato chips) to see if the till could make change. The clerk, a nice enough lady, looked into the middle distance, sighed, looked at me, asked if maybe I had a ten. She might could make change for a ten. I felt like I might as well be trading in pelts or cowry shells instead of federal reserve notes that remind us with each cash outlay In Whom We Trust. I decided not to bring God into it and instead suggested I might be able to use a couple of flies. Cost me two Wooly Buggers at about $2.50 apiece (which I can tie by the dozen) to get enough change to get into the park.
Once through the gate, the wind soaring, I prepared for my first outing - 'maiden voyage' seems a bit overblown when we're talking about a mail order plastic and presumably unbreachable artifact, so I'll just call it a first bang - I decided to 'have a go,' as they say in some circles. This in spite of the fact that fellow anglers I'd seen earlier casting from the shallows were leaving in a steady exodus, offering me little encouragement in my recreating.
Off the back of my pickup came the canoe, down to the water's edge, the wind trying to loft it up and sail it off somewhere, I gamely holding on, beaching it and anchoring it down while I retrieved my flyrod from the truck. I don't know why I thought I would simply be able to clamber aboard and paddle off - each attempt to leave shore, or get within five feet of shore, was foiled by the wind. While I was thus beached, the mother of all thunderstorms rode in, the sun was gone, the wind became nastier, the rain pelted me for thirty seconds before it turned to a driving, stinging sleet.
I'd had enough. For my seven dollars and two new flies, I never got my line into the water. On the other hand, I didn't lose any flies either, but I'll never see that twenty again.