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Local angler lands 5,488 fish this year. Really.
Those who don’t know Ed Elkins would swear the tale is nothing but a fish story.
But those who have shared a boat with him — or simply had the privilege of talking to the 66-year-old about the sport he loves — will quickly discount any notion that Elkins likes to fib, even when he starts talking about catching 5,000 fish in one year.
“Oh, hell no, it’s not a fish story,” said Jim Foster, who’s fished with Elkins since the late 1980s. “He out-fishes everybody.”
Elkins lives in, of all places, the barren grasslands east of Colorado Springs. But his passion for fly-fishing might be unparalleled.
Unlike most Coloradans who cast a fly rod, Elkins doesn’t spend his days wading through the region’s fish-rich streams. Nope, he would rather toss his green wooly bugger and prince nymph flies off the side of his boat on one of the state’s many cold-water reservoirs.
“He lives and breathes it,” said Foster, who met Elkins during a construction project at Schriever Air Force Base and spent the next 25 years learning what Elkins had mastered during a lifetime on the water.
“There’s only one more important thing than fishing to Ed, and that’s eating,” Foster continued. “Even his honeymoon was a fishing trip.”
After retiring in March from his career as a master plumber, Elkins decided to put his “science” to the test. The man who discovered his passion before the age of 10 in a small row boat on lakes in southeastern Michigan set the bar high.
“My goal was to fish 150 days, get 10 Master Angler awards and catch 5,000 fish on public water,” he said.
Elkins hit 150 days on Nov. 14 and had no trouble securing 10 Master Angler awards, handed out by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to those who enter the longest kept or longest released fish of each species in a specific region.
In fact, he doubled his goal with all but one of the 20-inch-plus rainbow and cutbow trout coming at Elevenmile Reservoir.
As for the goal of 5,000 fish, well, the man who seems to begin every description of his 2012 season with, “You’re not going to believe this ...,” accomplished that seemingly unreachable feat as well.
Elkins called The Gazette on Dec. 4 after his 156th day of fishing to report his final tally — 5,488 fish.
“People just don’t believe the numbers,” said Mel Daniel, an aquatic nuisance-species inspector who examines every boat coming and going from Elevenmile.
Daniel has watched Elkins often during her first season at the reservoir and has witnessed him catch “from 20 to 60 fish a day.”
“Ed’s kind of a superstar,” she said.
“There isn’t anybody that comes even close.”
Elkins, whose basement is a museum to fishing, showed off his fly-tying room last month and shared his daily fishing journals, kept meticulously for the past 40 years.
Each book lists the details of his trips, including number of fish caught, flies used and those who fished with him. Elkins also has binders full of photos of himself and others on his boat holding trophy fish after trophy fish.
“You’re not going to believe this,” Elkins said again as he flipped from image to image, repeating, “that was a master angler, and so was that.”
A simple science
Elkins doesn’t do complex, catching about 95 percent of his fish on four flies. His favorite is the wooly bugger, but the prince nymph is a close second. His journals are riddled with entries that describe 100-fish days using nothing but one of the two flies he has designed.
Elkins loves to share his secrets, saying there are just three factors that need to be exact: location, depth and the proper fly.
“When you get all three of those together, that’s when we say we’re locked on the fish,” he said. “I mean really locked on the fish.”
Growing the sport
Elkins is an ambassador for the sport. He gladly invites beginners onto his boat and then sets them up to be “really locked on the fish.”
Brendan LaRose, now 13, got that chance on his 10th birthday — Aug. 29, 1999.
Brendan’s dad, Rick LaRose, had known Elkins for about 20 years. He’d listened to the tales.
“I heard Ed’s fish stories for years but just thought, ‘You’re full of it, there’s just no way,’” Rick LaRose said.
Still, he shared the stories with Brendan, whose curiosity led to a request.
“When his dad asked what he wanted for his birthday, he said, ‘I want to go fishing with Ed Elkins,’” Elkins said, noting that Brendan caught 56 fish that day at Skagway Reservoir, using a fly instead of live bait.
Brendan had fished before that meeting, but a good day on the lake meant about 10 fish. Now, he testifies to the large numbers Elkins catches.
“I’ve seen it myself,” he said. “It’s unbelievable.”