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When the family moved, it was a bit of a jolt to find himself finishing high school in Gunnison, Colorado-the heart of trout country.

I learn all this as we head east out of Montrose, Colo. (“a lot warmer than Gunnison,” says Dubois), where Pete, now grown and with a family of his own, is a police officer. We’re traveling on Route 50, sometimes called “The Loneliest Road in America.” Its real loneliness begins at Delta, Utah, and stretches across into Nevada, where it’s a hundred miles between gas pumps. But driving through the stark Colorado countryside this winter afternoon, pallid light filtering through gently falling snow, is lonely enough. We’re headed toward Blue Mesa Reservoir, 37 miles from town.

“I used to fish the river for trout,” Pete says as we pass Cimerron. The river he’s referring to is the Gunnison, which also created the Blue Mesa Reservoir. “Here’s where I quit, too,” he says, pointing to the Morrow Point Dam power station. One day Dubois called the gatekeeper and learned it would be nearly eight hours before they would start pulling water for power generation. So he waded across the river.

“They lied,” he says. “They dumped water after I had gone across. I was stranded. I had no matches, no warm clothes to spend the night.”

Figuring he was young and tough enough, Dubois tried “walking” himself back across the river, hand over hand, hanging from a braided steel wire that carried the power com-pany’s cable car. Only partway there, tiring and with his hands cut raw,he realized he wouldn’t make it. He worked himself back, dropped 20 feet and broke his ankle. Then he saw the gatekeeper leaving. Dubois shouted to him across the water. The gateman returned what he thought was a friendly wave and drove off.

Dubois rested and revised his plan. Clutching the cable with his legs and one hand, he buttoned his Levi’s jacket over the twisted steel and then used his legs and arms to propel himself along. His rod was tucked inside his coat. When he tired, he hung from his jacket like a climber in a sling, watching the river rush below. This time he made it. That’s when he decided to buy a boat and fish the reservoirs.

It is that boat we’re towing, a Viper Cobra bass boat. With it, Pete began fishing largemouths again-as far away as Lake Powell over in Utah- and still does. But it was hard to ignore the fact that his backyard lake was rich with trout. Besides mayflies, hellgrammites and crayfish, the browns and rainbows in Blue Mesa gobble small suckers, their own young, kokanee salmon fry and those tasty small rainbows that are so thoughtfully stocked in spring.

Dubois figured minnow imitations would be good for starters on these reservoir trout. He used spinners at first and scored; then he moved up to minnowbaits, the same ones he used for bass. And he worked them jerkbait-style-just as he would for bass.

Things kept developing along ever more familiar lines from there. The trout, he discovered, used the same type of structure he would have fished for bass. And they used it exactly the same way bass would: seasonally. In cold weather they hugged steep shorelines. The real hot spots were sections of dark rock that absorbed what warmth there was. In milder weather, the trout worked long points of sand and gravel. In summer, Dubois fished them vertically with spoons or jigs.

One day during this early experimental period, Pete, fishing with his father, just was not catching fish. They happened upon a mud bank studded with sagebrush. “I told my dad that if we were bass fishing, this would be hot,” says Dubois. “With nothing to lose we started throwing Storm Hot ‘N Tot crankbaits, digging them into the mud. The trout climbed all over the lures. Crayfish were probably thick in that muck.” And just as sometimes happens in bass fishing, the spot never produced that way again.

His success that day, however, encourageDubois to seriously explore other bass baits and largemouth strategies. In mild sunny weather two days before Christmas, he took browns on No. 9 gold Rapalas in water inches deep, just twitching them and letting them sit. “I figured, why not, and tied on a chugger-a Pop-R. They ate that, too,” he says.

It is not sunny, and certainly not warm, when we launch in Blue Mesa this afternoon. Cold as it is, Pete wants to throw floater/diver minnow plugs, so we do-and we catch fish. Most of them come where the shoreline turns parallel to the direction of the wind. Pete likes a little wind. In summer it brings fish shallow on the windward banks.

“Wind cuts visibility. Trout are more comfortable then; they move shallower,” he says. “You get a lot of follows on bright calm days. One day last fall I caught 40 fish, up to six pounds, in a wind and good chop. Made it tough surface fishing. The other thing I like about wind is that most of the other boats leave.”

Blue Mesa kicks up pretty badly when it blows. Dubois tells me that four people drowned here in ’98. One of them had evidently been working on his motor and simply fell in. I look at our cumbersome winter pac boots and make a mental note to move with precision. “That’s why I have this,” Dubois says. On the transom next to the 150-horsepower Johnson is a permanently mounted stainless-steel ladder.

Pete works his minnowbaits rod tip down in a steady, throbbing movement that’s married to his irregular reel cranking. He likes the expensive Asian import plugs, plus Rapalas and Fish Itt First Jerk Minnows (which are made in Montrose) in brown trout finish with a single Storm Suspend Dot on the lure’s bottom.

We continue to pick trout, Pete catching most of them, but he complains it is slow for the lake. And it is growing colder and darker. Ice forms not only in the rod guides, but on the line guides of our baitcasting reels, puffing up the way ice flowers around ice holes when you raise the auger. The problem requires constant tending. There’s not another soul on the lake or anywhere around it, as far as I can determine.

The Loneliest Road in America is not empty on the ride back. It is packed with slick, newly fallen snow. In random places sit cars that have spun. Trucks are stalled. Even a wrecker has gone into a ditch. State police are at work. With the boat in tow this is what I’d call a fairly white-knuckle ride. The killer chili Pete’s wife, Karen, serves when we finally arrive that night is like a transfusion.

There is no one near the lake when we launch the next morning. The sun flirts behind scudding clouds. There is no wind, but there is something else that does not please Pete. He points at the low hanging moon. “Moon’s really bad on Blue Mesa. Dad will pack and leave when the moon comes up. We saw proof of it once on a half-cloudy day. The fishing was good but then turned off. We wondered why. About that time the clouds went and there was the moon, just over the horizon.”

We start off with jerkbaits, then medium-running crankbaits. Nothing. Pete has told me of his success with jigs, black marabou mainly. He uses them primarily in the spring, when they take more-though somewhat smaller-trout than minnow plugs.

Reasoning that we’ve done nothing with the plugs, I tie on a jig at Pete’s encouragement. In two casts I hook a rainbow in the cove we’ve been working. After considerably more casting I have several more follows on the jig, a hit, then another rainbow. It comes off at the boat.

“If I get short-striking fish on jigs, I’ll use a walleye stinger rig, a tiny treble on a two-inch mono snell clipped to the jig hook. I saw them in Cabela’s,” Pete says. He points at the moon, which is sinking low. “We need 20 more minutes,” he says.

Then he shows me another favorite rig-a sure-enough Carolina bass rig with a four-inch Berkley Power Lizard. “They eat dark green salamanders here,” Pete says. “The browns I take for dinner often have salamanders in them-especially in late spring.” Dubois rigs his lizards with a short (18-inch) leader and 1/4- to 1/8-ounce slip sinker. He works the rig slowly, ticking bottom near shore.

It’s a slow pick. My spinning reel jams. Back to the casting reels. Wire bracket line guides give you more time between ice clogs than small ceramic guides. Pete has tied on a jerkbait once more. Suddenly, two browns follow, then a really big fish, then one he nails. I look up. The moon has gone.

Now the wind begins building. But the browns start seriously feeding, and we are catching and not caring that it’s getting colder. Finally we have to quit. At the ramp it’s 11 degrees and the landing net is frozen to the deck carpeting. Water draining from the boat and motor freezes on the blacktop. We don’t care. “It can be even hotter,” Pete says. He’s not talking about the weather. eat dark green salamanders here,” Pete says. “The browns I take for dinner often have salamanders in them-especially in late spring.” Dubois rigs his lizards with a short (18-inch) leader and 1/4- to 1/8-ounce slip sinker. He works the rig slowly, ticking bottom near shore.

It’s a slow pick. My spinning reel jams. Back to the casting reels. Wire bracket line guides give you more time between ice clogs than small ceramic guides. Pete has tied on a jerkbait once more. Suddenly, two browns follow, then a really big fish, then one he nails. I look up. The moon has gone.

Now the wind begins building. But the browns start seriously feeding, and we are catching and not caring that it’s getting colder. Finally we have to quit. At the ramp it’s 11 degrees and the landing net is frozen to the deck carpeting. Water draining from the boat and motor freezes on the blacktop. We don’t care. “It can be even hotter,” Pete says. He’s not talking about the weather.

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