It was a wild day for kids’ fish­ing


The banks of the Santa Fe River were swelling with wa­ter and peo­ple. It was rain­ing (again!) and the City Dif­fer­ent’s chil­dren’s fish­ing derby had lured a qui­etly ef­fer­vesc­ing crowd of an­glers. If they came fish­ing for food, fun, and sport, they got all three.

All any­one needed was an ad­ven­ture­some child un­der 12 and a will­ing­ness to troll along at dawn on a Satur­day. Rods, reels, hooks, weights, and bait were free for the tak­ing. The New Mex­ico Depart­ment of Game & Fish had stocked the river the day be­fore and name-tagged of­fi­cials clad in multi-pock­eted vests were giv­ing hands-on clean­ing, gut­ting, and de­cap­i­tat­ing lessons.

Even if you pre­ferred to toss back your catch, you went away emp­ty­handed only by choice. Booths and ta­bles over­flowed with Fris­bee-filled swag bags, free knives, and many prizes do­nated by lo­cal busi­nesses like Col­lect­edWorks Book­store & Cof­fee­house and High Desert An­gler, and non­prof­its such as River Source and the Santa Fe Wa­ter­shed As­so­ci­a­tion.

But the event could have gone ei­ther way. Game & Fish had re­leased 500 good-size trout at Alameda and Old Santa Fe Trail at 11 a.m. Fri­day. By 1 p.m., big rains had city staff wor­ried about the fate of the fish-hold­ing pond just east of the bridge at Don Gas­par. Would their struc­ture fail? Could the event be held down­stream? Would it be can­celled?

Af­ter a slinky tease from the sun, by mid-af­ter­noon the sky grew fiercely dark, and the rain in­ten­si­fied. The shoals of our ephemeral brook deep­ened. A fount roared madly over the next day’s sched­uled honey hole. With­out rapid co­op­er­a­tion among the peo­ple from Santa Fe’s PublicWorks Di­vi­sion, Parks Depart­ment, and­Wa­ter Di­vi­sion, and a large crew from Youth­Works, the trout would be lost.

Out of nowhere, a half-used roll of chicken wire was hauled across the broad­ened bourn. Mirac­u­lously, six or eight rea­son­ably straight T-posts ap­peared. Then came the snow fenc­ing and a fire­man’s line of sand­bags. Toss in some so­phis­ti­cated hy­drol­ogy, the back of a nap­kin, and a small tackle box of cre­ativ­ity, and it all came to­gether.

At dawn, event or­ga­niz­ers were happy to see so many fish bit­ing. For a short while, the rain even stopped. But it grad­u­ally waded back. Fi­nally it poured buck­ets be­fore turn­ing into a gunky snow.

A mag­i­cal mo­ment, yes, but it was time to nei­ther fish nor cut bait. I was wor­ried about parts of our gar­den that needed to be pro­tected from freez­ing tem­per­a­tures. Our fresh-caught trout din­ner was bound to be de­li­cious, but I had no plans to trade our happy ed­i­ble beds for the overtly freak­ish con­ceit of fish­ing in the typ­i­cally des­ic­cated riverbed of a once con­sis­tently flow­ing river.

We drove home, and safely stashed the ice-bagged fish. In the gar­den, we cast row cov­ers over our beds and hooked pock­ets­ful of ex­tra-large, black-and-sil­ver pa­per­clips into place. When the bl­iz­zard stopped, the sun nib­bled at thick schools of snowflakes that had ac­cu­mu­lated in the cran­nies of our backyard reef of metal, wood, and plas­tic. The snow soon be­gan to melt, sink­ing land­ward.

Nate Downey, the au­thor of Har­vest the Rain, has been a lo­cal land­scape con­sul­tant, designer, and con­trac­tor since 1992. He can be reached at 505-690-7939 or via www.per­made­

Keenan Downey sports his catch at the Kids’ Fish­ing Derby in mid-May

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