Remembering Jerry Craig, the first legal fishing guide on the upper Colorado |

Remembering Jerry Craig, the first legal fishing guide on the upper Colorado

To the Editor:

I read that Jerry Craig died and it broke my heart.

When I first came to Grand County in 1979 as a budding reporter, Jerry was the first person to open his arms and welcome me to this great place. He was selling ads for the newspaper and I was trying to cover the news. That was for the Sky-Hi News.

Jerry steered me here and there with ideas so I could get the right scoop. But even more importantly, he taught me how to enjoy Grand County. I had come here to work ” not to ski, hike, hunt or fish. He showed me there was a huge, wonderful world out there once I got out from behind my typewriter.

He and Carla invited me to dinner one cold winter night in 1979. I remember that well.

Then Jerry proceeded to teach me how to fly fish. He taught me how to catch lake trout on Lake Granby. He taught me how to catch brown trout in the fall at Rainbow Bay and rainbows on the Colorado River during spring. He gave me tips on elk hunting and he promised to go grouse hunting with me one day ” a trip that, I regret to say, we never got to complete.

Jerry was, for me, a never-ending source for outdoors news and outdoors stories. He’d teach some new aspect of fly-fishing, such as nymphing on the Colorado River in early April, and I’d write a story about it for the local papers. He’d teach me a new trick about the best way to catch finicky trout in late fall, even as the snow was falling, and I’d write about it. Or, he’d take me fishing, just for fun, and I’d write about it.

Once Chuck Broady (a now-deceased friend of ours who let Jerry fish on the stretch of the Colorado River at the Bar Lazy J) chided me after reading yet again another one of the many articles I wrote using Jerry as a source. He said: “You know, Jerry’s not the only fly fishing guide in the world!”

“He is for me,” I replied. We laughed together on that one.

Jerry was a good hunting guide too. Year after year he’d send his happy hunters by my office for a photo with their trophies. He’d frequently fill all eight tags for all eight hunters with excellent elk. This happened years in a row.

Jerry was a great fly fishing guide who didn’t let technology, gear or machismo get in the way of good fishing. He was more like a fishing mentor than a fishing guide. I never thought Jerry would smirk at my cast or deride my fly placement. Instead, he’d coax me into understanding in the friendliest and most useful way possible. He broke fishing down to its most elemental tasks and concepts.

Yet in a raging hurricane he could cast to the head of a pin nestled in an eddy 40 feet away across the swirling waters of the Colorado and, I might add, catch the lone trout swimming in that eddy.

Jerry was the first to apply for a commercial fly fishing guide permit on the upper Colorado. Imagine that. As he said to me, it was “wide open” back then. Like that, Jerry always had a “wide open” frame of mind.

He didn’t curse. I don’t think I ever heard him speak poorly of anyone else. He was a positive man and it was infectious, at least for me. He seemed wise and happy, despite the cancer that he lived with for the last 10 years or more. I know many others who benefited from Jerry’s personal guidance.

I still cherish the fly rod Jerry gave me that he thought might have been carried by one of the victims of the famous shooting in Grand Lake in 1883 in which county commissioners were killed. He gave it to me for no reason, along with a clipping from an article I had written years ago about that very shooting.

I will miss Jerry and I will remember him happily every time I fish the Colorado River.

Patrick Brower