Outlaw Reflections: Looking Ahead at Telluride’s Raunchy Past

Outlaw Reflections: Looking Ahead at Telluride’s Raunchy Past

Editor’s note: I am reminded of the man every day. A talented sculptor, one of his mobiles sits on the coffee table in our living room. But I had not seen or heard from Oleh Lysiak for over 20 years. Ah, the wonders of social media. We rediscovered each other a few months ago when I also discovered the artist is also a writer – at least nowadays – though making marks on paper is only one among a very long list of talents, some slightly sketchy.

O. Z. Lysiak winking

 O.Z. Lysiak has from time to time worked as a reporter, editor, columnist, photographer, public affairs officer, restaurateur, festival booth owner-operator, ski technician, carpenter, sailor, smuggler, tree planter, fishing guide, truck driver, river guide, cook, wood-cutter, trash collector, marine gravity operator, reclaimed wood broker and sculptor. He has written for The Ukrainian Weekly, The Oregonian, and closer to home, The Aspen Daily News, The Aspen Times, The Crested Butte Pilot, The San Miguel Basin Forum – and The Telluride Daily Planet. Oleh’s poetry has been widely published and his is author of  several books, including “Neighborhood of Strangers”; “Art, Crime & Lithium”; “Scars In Progress”; “Geezer Rumba.” 

Given his street cred and the fact he wrote extensively locally in the bad old days, I asked Oleh if he would mine his files for past columns that might be of interest to our readers. I am thankful he said “yes.”

This particular story is about a day at a fishing hole. The population bomb – in general and around the fishing hole. The hole thing, yes, pun intended, could have turned south, but instead ends happily ever after, sort of, with an Oleh-style epiphany. Cast and learn.



Bluered, an original mobile by artist Oleh Lysiak

Bluered, an original mobile by artist Oleh Lysiak



Art Rowell and I fish the Frying Pan, something we unfortunately don’t get to do very often since we’re always working.

After a few small holes, Art suggests we go towards Ruedi Reservoir and fish a killer hole he knows. We arrive, Art points out the lunkers in the hole. We wade into the current.

We aren’t there five minutes when a brand-new Range Rover pulls up, a woman dressed in the most current fly fishing regalia gets out, walks over to the hole and casts. I bite my tongue and keep fishing.

A few minutes later another SUV pulls up, a guy gets out, walks over and he starts casting. I ask him what the hell he’s doing. The guy looks at me like I’m nuts and keeps casting. I put my fly rod down and walk over to this intruder to explain to him in no uncertain terms he isn’t welcome at this hole and fishing etiquette requires he at least ask if it’s all right with Art and I. We were there first and have a plan in mind how to fish the hole.

Art sees what’s was happening, puts his rig down, sprints over and asks what I’m doing. I tell him I’m going to tell the son of a bitch and his girlfriend they’re not welcome at the hole. At this point I’m speaking in slightly agitated tones, fists clenched.

Art asks me to chill out. We know each other over 30 years. He tells me these people are customers at the fly-fishing shop where he works and would I please not cause a ruckus. I assure Art there will be no ruckus soon as I throw both assholes in the river, a moot point because while I stew more people arrive like a herd of fishing sheep, ridiculous. Why would anybody want to fish this way?

When I was a kid we played basketball on the playground under the elevated between the projects and the neighborhood. We had black kids, white kids and Hispanics on the playground. If you wanted to play you asked if it was OK with whoever held the court. If you didn’t, it was an invitation to get your ass kicked. At least we had a sense of courtesy and treated each other with respect born of necessity. The fools at the fishing hole had neither, needed a good ass kicking.

Art insists I cause no trouble for customers. I don’t blame Art. It’s not his fault. Fishing is his living. The shop employs several guides. A job is a wonderful thing. Fishing as business in southwest Colorado has changed the nature and quality of fishing as recreation and pleasure. More and more and more people move into areas that were secluded and hard to get to a few years ago. My idea of a quality fishing experience is not a line dance with a bunch of neoprene-clad yuppie chumps at the local hole.

A few years ago you could fish any hole on the river in silence and solitude. Today you have to get past the lineup of SUV’s every quarter mile or so. Holes and sections of the river, which were hard to get to and known only to locals are now exploited by fishing guides who give up the good water for a buck. I’m not against them making a living but I am against losing the good holes.

In late winter when the ice recedes you could be assured of getting the river to yourself. Today you follow tracks in the snow. There’s more pressure on the trout population every season.

Stretches of river are devoted entirely to catch and release. The people who perpetrate this on us are interested in catching as many fish as they can and letting them all go. It’s business. When fish are handled over and over there’s a good possibility they’ll die if not handled properly. I’ve seen fish belly up in the river and it makes me angry. What is it that makes a person need to torture fish over and over? A hooked trout is fighting for its life, doesn’t realize you’re Marquis de Sade in chest waders toying with it.

I don’t necessarily agree with what’s happening but I don’t have to. All I have to do is figure out a way to live with it. Crowding on rivers is a reflection of what’s happening in the valley, the country and the world – too damned many people!

I don’t like the politically correct liberal bullshit perpetrated by each succeeding wave of know-it-all urban refugees but I don’t have to. All I have to do is find a way to do something about it.

Good thing Art was along the day I encountered the crowd at the hole on the Frying Pan. If instinct prevailed, I would have punched the guy in the nose and thrown him and his girlfriend in the river. I would have visited the Pitkin County Jail (which is a very nice jail, as jails go) and Art might of lost his job. I wouldn’t have learned anything.

I understand we need to live together although some of us need to live less together than others. This conflict forces me to come up with creative solutions to get what I want. As long as there’s struggle, there’s life.


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