By Gene Milus

In partnership with the Colorado Springs Chapter of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing (PHWFF), the Collegiate Peaks Chapter invited ten disabled veterans for a day of fishing and comradery at Frantz Lake on Saturday, April 27. We had a Special Use Permit from CPW to set up our lunch spot between the river and the lake. The weather forecasts leading up to the 27th were not great. However, the rain and wind were not as bad as expected. The setup and catering crews were able to set up three shade canopies before the rain, so the vets had a dry place to change into waders.


Each veteran was given a box of flies and paired with a chapter member who served as a mentor. Most of the veterans were new to fly fishing and appreciated the easy wading, obstacle-free casting, and assistance from their mentor. Every veteran was able to catch fish. Some veterans were in double digits. The biggest fish was a 16-incher caught by Jerilyn, who was mentored by Susie Lauderdale.


While the rest of us were fishing, the lunch ladies were busy making last-minute adjustments. Fortunately, they were close to town and home. By lunchtime there were tarps along one wall of the canopies to block wind and rain, 3 gallons of Brown Dog coffee, and a Safeway sandwich for a veteran who was allergic to what we had. The three canopies were just big enough for everyone to sit down for lunch at the same time. Homemade sandwiches and cookies went well with the coffee.


Gene Milus organized the fishing outing with help from a lot of folks. Cherith Marchase and Carla Scholl did the planning, shopping, preparing, transporting, and serving of lunch. This was their first fishing outing as Lunch Ladies, but they already have a list of suggestions for how to do better next time. Rae Pedersen brought her popular “energy ball” cookies. Tom Arnot used his engineering skills and collection of NRS straps to solidly secure the three canopies. Tom Arnot, Dave Belmont, Jim Impara, Susie Lauderdale, Babes Marchase, Gene Milus, Larry Payne, Don Schroderbek, Bryan Ward, Jeremy Ward, and Nathan Ward were mentors. Jim Impara tied and donated six dozen flies. Kim LeTourneau made nametags for everyone. From the PHWFF side, Steve Hock was the trip leader. Mike Greene was the assistant trip leader and guy who takes care of gear for veterans who don’t have their own. When some of our members couldn’t make the first mentor training session in Salida, Jim Stanley conducted a second session in BV for two members. Hope I didn’t forget anyone!

Alex Townsend is the Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) aquatic biologist for Area 13, which includes the Upper Arkansas River Basin. He recently gave a presentation to the Arkansas River Outfitters Association (AROA) on the health of the fishery in 2023, and CPW has generously made the presentation available to us. Trout population density and size are up, stocking efforts have increased in recent years, rainbows are doing great, and the recovery of Hayden Creek Cutthroat is progressing well. Click below to download.