Steamboat Springs The typical duffer avoids the water at all costs. But even the golfers with the lowest handicaps in the 2002 Golf Trout tournament can be expected to immerse themselves at least knee-deep in local lakes and rivers.
The Golf Trout will combine golfers' scores on the links with their ability to catch and release trout (and perhaps a northern pike or two), organizer Jeff Ruff said.
The tournament is being sponsored Sept. 13-15 to raise funds for stream improvements on 1.75 miles of the Yampa River where it runs through the new Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area.
"We're starting a $500,000 stream improvement project over two years," Ruff said. "The first phase will get the river back into a smaller channel and phase two will address the riparian area" of native plants along the riverbank.
Ruff is a member of the Yampa Valley Fly-Fishers, a nonprofit organization that has an almost 20-year history of raising funds to leverage grants that have helped improve trout habitat along the river, primarily within the Steamboat Springs city limits, but also at the northern and southern extremes of Routt County. If they succeed at Chuck Lewis Wildlife Area, anglers will have a new area to explore and a section of the river now marred by the rusting hulks of old automobiles installed for erosion control will be much healthier.
Ruff's organization has no illusions it can raise the entire $500,000 needed to complete the stream projects. But combined with the literal muscle the club can put to work, Ruff thinks Golf Trout has the potential to raise as much as $30,000 once it becomes established.
The tournament will try to accomplish that by offering well-heeled men and women who have the time to pursue both of their loves of fly-fishing and golfing in a single summer with great value and an overabundance of enjoyment for the entry fee of $450 a head.
Golf Trout will begin with a kickoff party Friday night at the Steamboat Grand Hotel, where foursomes of fishing golfers will meet with an expert member of the Fly-Fishers to enjoy cocktails and a light buffet. The local expert will chaperone and help his teammates get into fish. They'll also do a little dickering over which stretch of private water they'll take on the next day in the competition.
The local expert will also serve as chief strategist and scorekeeper as his team attempts to tally points for catching and releasing the most fish of the tournament, the biggest fish, the most different species of fish and so on.
"There's a really complicated matrix detailing how people can score points," Ruff said. "It should be a lot of fun."
When fishermen leave the water at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, they'll head for the Catamount Outfitter's Center, where they'll enjoy a western barbecue, silent auction and another chance to score points during a fly-casting competition. Anglers will show off their long-distance cast as well as their accuracy in this phase of the competition.
On Sunday, the fishing foursomes will meet at the Sheraton Steamboat Golf Course for a best-ball scramble tournament that will settle any disputes over the identity of the best fly-fishing golfers in the valley that day.
Ruff said he patterned the new Steamboat tournament closely after a similar event in Copper Mountain. He has participated in that tournament for years and learned he didn't need to be a scratch golfer, or anything close to it, to be an effective member of the team.
People with average angling and golfing skill can succeed because they'll have the help of an expert local fisherman on the river. And the best-ball format of the golf tournament covers up even the biggest slice.
Complete information on the tournament can be found at YVFF.org.
All proceeds will go directly into the organization's "Yampa Valley Stream Improvement Charitable Trust."