52 Rivers: Shelley Welchek
What would make someone retire from their job and decide to take one year of their life and explore fifty-two rivers? What would make someone want to experience the joy and exhilaration of learning about fly-fishing? The author decided a journey that led her around many parts of different states entering the world of each one of the fifty-two places and rivers. Included in this journey are photographs that bring her experiences to light and actually allow you the reader to take the trips with the author. The colorful photos help you understand the excitement, the many places she went and even enjoy the fresh air, the cold weather, snow capped mountains and the beautiful sunshine. Welcome to your tour as I guide you through the many places she visited by giving you the reader a brief taste of fly-fishing by spotlighting some of the many rivers, equipment woes, people she met that joined her on her journey and much more.
Home Waters is where we begin our journey as the author needed to find a guide and someone to teach her how to catch these fish. Doing this would allow her to prepare for the year ahead. The first step in our tour and hers is scheduling a river guide. The one she wanted was not available so lets meet Fred. His truck was not what you would call state of the art but he was. Watch as he rigs up the fishing line on her six-weight Sage VXP rod and the rest did not prove that easy. He handed her the rod and told her the key points of how to cast her fly and spot about a foot upriver. Within the first two pages we learn along with the author how to step into the river, take a deep breath and how to wade in the shallow water. Can you feel the cold on your legs and with Fred’s experienced eye and with the hope of some decent casts she caught quite a few fish. Look at the pictures on pages 013 and the two that follow. See the ice capped waters and feel the cold.
Our next stop is the Blue River in Colorado and once again Fred was her guide. But, first food and drink at a local bar. Sounds great especially the burgers and fries. At her camper that evening the author tells us about the many different Internet searches she found which would point her in the direction of larger rivers. Just look at the pictures on page 017 and join her as she tries to fish on the blue, which changed her romantic notions about rivers and fishing. The weather was bright and sunny to start, then cloudy but can you feel the cold and crisp air? Make sure you are wearing a warm coat, gloves and hat when you step into the cold waters on the next two pages and remember your boots. In the chapter titled A Bit of Insanity you can see the author in the middle of the waters and you won’t believe what she is doing and what she caught! In the chapter ON MY OWN her family and friends gave her a great send off and then she ventures out alone.
Facing a snowstorm as she approached the mountain passes near Winter Park, Colorado taught her the meaning of driving slowly. Difficulties with her supplies and the next morning her new guide Charlie Card meeting at the fly shop, she learned he heads up the northeastern Utah operation for the fresh-water fishing conservation group. Within this chapter the author talks about the difficulties of casting into the wind fishing. Also learning from her guide that “fish in the winder fill up their stomachs once in two weeks, as opposed to fish in their most active state in warmer weather fill up their stomachs twice a day.” A huge difference!
The next part of our tour spotlights when the author is off on her snowmobile. Check out the photo ph page 064 and then see the amazing fish she catches on page 065. In her own words about this day at Sarvis Creek she says and I quote: If I fish the rest of my life, I may not find another day that matches one in overall pleasure, but in the meantime, I’ll treasure the memory.
Three in one takes her to Glenwood Springs in April and State Bridge in October join on her and see what she caught. Let’s Advertise is the next chapter on our tour as the author points her camper south of Montana toward Utah. Finding herself filled with rain and snow, depending upon the elevations. But the scenery is breathtaking. Next we visit the Logan River in northern Utah and there she encounters snowstorms and run off. May and June in the Rocky Mountains. Standing in Echo Dam finding that there was nothing especially pretty there. Not ignoring the many disputes or controversies about dams. One hand she states dams place a heavy burden on the ecosystem, cause safety and health uses and threaten wildlife. On the other hand companies like Denver Water are charged with providing water to their citizens and need to have reserves during years of drought. The blue sky and the landscape in the pictures that follow speak volumes. There are so many places she visited and so many sites. Check out the picture of the Rio Grande and Lake Fork of the Gunnison in Colorado. You will wish you were there too! After her trip to Black Canyon River she returned home to take care of some business and prepare for a two and a half month trip to Idaho and Montana. She also had her annual camp for four daughters. She then decided to fish other sections of the South Platte. Teaching you the reader and on this tour about fishing etiquette in fly fishing wish dictates that you give another angler plenty of room to fish. Seeing some upstream her group went in the opposite direction. The rest of her experiences you can share for yourself on pages 125 and see where she fished as she shares the magnificent photos on the next two pages. Take a tour of the River of No Return and then meet the Five Ranchers and Cop. Fishing and exploring were her mainstay and she neglected her writing. Internet and Cell phone service not available and she enjoyed being in a world without any contact. Check out the pictures of the Yellowstone River in Montana. Read a Bluebird Day and check out the photo by Jack Mauer. What’s for dinner? She took some photos and won a prize for the best photo of the day. Not surprised!
The pictures or photos in Chapter 52 are breathtaking and will make you wish you were there in Animal River, Colorado. She sums it up in the final pages titled Yatta where she reminds everyone that in the early 2000’s she was a librarian and an adjunct professor. Within these final pages she explains the abuse suffered on the Animal River and mine tailing and sewage dumping on a regular basis. Fishing in New Mexico and she settled in a home in Durango for a few weeks. “Writing the book was my inspiration to return home. I couldn’t keep this year of discovery to myself.” The rest and her last day on the river you need to read for yourself. To help those who want to learn more about fly-fishing the glossary at the end defines many of the terms in the book. She also names the many guides that accompanied her along the way. Read the afterward to learn more and how she set goals and what she learned. Take the journey and the tour and visit the amazing places as you too read 52 Rivers. The photos alone tell the story. You will want to join her the next time.
Fran Lewis: Just Reviews/MJ Magazine