A (brown) river runs through it

As a fly fisherman, I had always associated it with pristine waters, nature and solitude — places like Yellowstone National Park, where we’ve fished many times over the years…

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Like most serious fly fishermen, Tom Teasdale has a little-known place where he finds peace in a river’s placid waters.

Here, the fish are big. The strikes are frequent. And other anglers are kept at bay by the occasional bobbing diaper.

Mr. Teasdale’s fly-fishing hole is on the South Platte River, at the mouth of a 6-foot-wide corrugated-metal drainpipe and downstream from a wastewater-treatment plant. The water has elevated levels of E. coli bacteria, according to government surveys. When Mr. Teasdale walks alone past the graffiti-covered overpass and down the littered trail in this Denver suburb, he brings his Glock 9mm pistol to ward off “shady characters.”

Mr. Teasdale is a “brownliner,” one of the growing ranks of fly fishermen who try to catch whatever lives in the muck close to home — in drainage canals, cemented urban riverbeds and murky farm-runoff canals. Another of Mr. Teasdale’s favorite spots is a muddy stretch of river behind a strip mall.

Traditionalists would never make do with dirty rivers. Jeff Bright, a San Francisco photographer who flies into the Canadian wild to fly-fish for steelhead trout, says the wilderness lends an “almost spiritual” aspect to fly-fishing. He worries that abandoning that idyll to fish in polluted waters amounts to “sanctioning” nature’s destruction.

That’s fine with brownliners. “I count on their elitism to keep them away,” Mr. Teasdale said as he headed from a suburban Denver parking lot toward his honey hole.

Read the entire article in the Wall Street Journal.

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