The Antero Problem [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: The Antero Problem

11-27-2003, 04:11 PM
The Antero Problem is about a set of circumstances that surrounded Antero Reservoir in South Park, Colorado during the 1950s. The legendary fish taken from that body of water haunt me to this day, particularly since a man known only by me
as Wade did 99% of the taking. The problem would be easily solved by today’s skilled anglers, but back then, it was baffling.
First, access was somewhat limited. You could drive, if you knew the turns, within a few hundred yards of the west side. There was a barbed wire fence you had to slide under but there were no signs limiting the trespass. The reservoir had been
created by damming the South Platte River in a place that could not have been more forlorn.
It was so bitter cold in the winter and so windswept all summer that nothing except range grass would grow. Even sage brush struggled.
So, yes, you could hike in from other venues, but such hikes would be long and if the wind came up as it invariably did you could find yourself in a bit of a pickle. I never heard of or saw anyone fishing the reservoir except directly downhill from the
But it didn’t really matter. There were never any crowds because very little was ever caught so guys would come and go a few times and then never return. You can only get skunked just so many times. One time I counted six anglers and that was the most I ever saw. None of them had any fish.
Whispers were everywhere about Antero and these were mostly generated by the newspapers, the “Denver Post” and the “Rocky Mountain News.” Each had a huge fishing contest
that was sponsored by the two largest sporting good stores in the city, Dave Cook’s Sptgs. ran one, and his brother, a fierce competitor for the fishing business, Herb Cook, ran the other. I believe a boat and motor was given away weekly and the largest trout of the season would win a Jeep.
Each week, each of the papers would publish the result of the week’s fishing, naming the angler, the weight of the fish, what it was caught on, and, most importantly, where. There were 20 prizes in each contest.
Fisherman would study these results and note carefully all the data and maybe even plan a trip based on such information. The name Antero Reservoir came up time and time again.
You had to be good to beat Antero. Your personal favorite river or lake had to cough up something above 15 pounds to have much of a chance. One time, I remember a German Brown Trout that weighed about 22 pounds that came from
Antero. But the reservoir gave up her fish in a most stingy manner.
And she gave up most of them to a man named Wade.
I was just a high school kid and Wade was a real man and I was lucky to know him. It made me sort of famous among my friends. We met while fishing, of course, at a small lake in the middle of Denver where during the winter the fish and game dept.
would plant some pen raised trout, always rainbows, always about 11 inches.
Wade would get a fish on almost every cast and I got one only every now and again.
He showed me his small spoon which had been soldered by him in such a way that it was off balance and it would dart and roll much differently than the regular lure.
I became his disciple.
Several seasons went by before he trusted me enough to tell his story, explain things about fishing, and how he won the contests nearly every week with Antero browns.
He had to have his fish registered by friends and others to avoid being kicked out of the contests. I always hoped he would ask me to enter a fish for him. Wow! What an honor that would be! I could just see me, big toothy grin and all, holding up a
monster trout in the Post or the News. I would have lied about it all in a New York minute.
Wade had the key to Antero and he told me about it. Antero was a huge reservoir mostly shallow with an alkaline marl bottom and the weeds were so thick you just couldn’t fish it; the water was alive with food. There were holes in the weeds every
now and again, but no one had ever heard of chironomids or bobber fishing. They would toss a big night crawler out into these holes where it would become buried in
the muck (Wade’s fish were always reported to be caught on night crawlers though I don’t think he ever used them). But if you could throw something about one hundred yards out, you would be fishing. Oh, I forgot to say or I should say I held
this up until this time, no boats were allowed. Too dangerous.
I could cast a long way with my two pound test line and my Orvis 100 spinning reel (this was the only reel Wade would use because it had a full bail which was unique
at the time) but never 100 yards, the length of a football field.
But Wade could.
He invented a big funnel which he attached to his rod in place of the first guide. He used a long salt water rod. He would attach a 80 pound test shock tippet on his two pound test line with a special, very difficult to tie knot. To the end of the tippet, he
fastened a six inch piece of closet dowel with screw eyes in each end. And then his leader: 10 pound test at least because the big browns would bite anything less than that in two. A five to ten inch bucktail streamer was his lure of choice, always brown in color, always thrown in the pitch black of night. Good God, but that man could hurl that streamer into the dark!
Colorado has mostly clear, star filled nights, and Wade would talk about being bumped by the browns, how they would follow the streamer to his knees and boil and roll and miss and strike again and again. He would start moving in a circle when the wood and the streamer got close. Finally, a fish would take hold solidly enough to be hooked. I say a fish because he told me that sometimes there would be more than one. All over ten pounds! They would toss the dowel into the air, trying to kill it. They would move at the surface causing huge wakes and big boils
to form. What a sight it must have been!
Yet, many nights, long, lonel, frosty nights, where ordinary men and reels would freeze, he would have no fish. Nothing. But Wade could endure this. You see, he had to have been crazy.
He fished every day, non-stop from sunrise to sunset. He had no job that I could ever see. His wife took care of him for what reason I never clearly understood.
Plus, in my view at least, there was more than a little bizarre behavior about old Wade. He owned a monkey which he got by trading an old Cadillac of his. Damn thing did nothing but constantly masturbate and soil everything in sight, a most
destructive animal indeed.
He bit me straight away, not as hard as he could, but enough to make me yelp. The wife told Wade to either shoot the animal or trade it for something. He got a banjo for it. Couldn’t play, but he had a banjo in case he ever should.
And so it went. He fished with a big fedora pulled down over his head. He wore a big, German Army wool coat that he got for a six pound fish that won that guy a nice, down sleeping bad as third prize or something. He won prizes; he traded the
loot. Crazy stuff he would get. Truck tires that didn’t fit his vehicle because he drove a beat up old 41 Chevy. A bird bath of concrete with a small boy urinating in
it for the fountain. Statues for his yard. The man just didn’t fit anywhere. He was the first of many trout bums I have known.
Antero nearly killed a friend and me. We thought we could solve the problem by cheating a little bit. Maybe an inner tube would not be considered a boat. There were no tubes like today. We made ours from huge truck inner tubes which was
not only over kill but caused windage that nearly claimed our lives.
Not much to say. We made them with a canvas saddle. We pushed off into the dark. The wind started to scream down from the mountain peaks all around us. And Ma Nature thought we needed a ride across the reservoir. We would have died long
before we reached the other side. And even if we did make it , there was nothing there for miles. Hypothermic to the point of death, two high school boys would have been found dead in a few days.
The mystique of Antero would deepen.
We paddled backwards as if our life deepened on it which it did, and when we hit the beach we both vomited for some time. We never went back. We weren’t players.
But Wade was.

Bob, the Guy Still Waiting for His Thanksgivng Turkey

11-27-2003, 05:30 PM
...But when I knew him his name was Lt Joe Sumpera...a New York City Fireman and Long Island surf fisherman...My Mentor!

Bob...that was a GREAT STORY!!!
Thanks for sharing it!!!

I too await the T-Day bird...good things come to those who wait...