When you talk with people about Carl Roberts’ commitment to protecting our trout population, a couple of themes surface: advocate, conservationist, visionary. Carl recently passed away at the age of 94. He left, though, a profound legacy with his influence on the Pikes Peak Chapter of Trout Unlimited (previously known as the Cheyenne Mountain Chapter).
Of course, Carl was an avid angler and fly tyer. Dave Herber, a Guide at Angler’s Covey and long-time friend, remembers when Carl “took me to the top of The Dream Stream, showed me a roll cast, and left me.” It was Dave’s first time out with a fly rod. “I hooked four fish and lost them all. But that was the day I got hooked on fly fishing.” Carl was Dave’s mentor when it came to fly tying, too. “I was so impressed that he had a dedicated room for fly tying. My fly tying room was inspired by his.”
“And,” Dave says, “I admired his dedication to the preservation of our trout waters.”
That sentiment surfaces time after time when talking with members of the local fly fishing and conservation communities. David Leinweber, co-owner of Angler’s Covey, remembers one of Carl’s most repeated sentiments: “We are a trout conservation group – not a fishing club.” That idea served as a guiding principle for the Chapter.
Carl Robert’s conservation work with Trout Unlimited was grounded in two foundational ideas: establish financial security and build strong leadership.
Allyn Kratz, past and current President of the Pikes Peak Chapter of Trout Unlimited, says that Carl’s efforts to create the endowment “protected the chapter from hard times.” As a founding member of the then-Cheyenne Mountain Chapter, Carl persevered when the Chapter “survived ‘hand-to-mouth’ periods of time.” The endowment, reaching over $100,000.00, “allows for baseline protection” as Allyn puts it.
David Nickum, Executive Director of Colorado Trout Unlimited, says that the endowment made for a “secure, sustainable future.” Carl’s fundraising focused on ”building a chapter that would far outlast him.” The endowment allowed the Chapter to target funding for specific projects, and then “Carl would roll up his sleeves and get to work.”
He wanted to make the [South Platte] resource everything it could be.Doug Krieger, CPW
One such project was in the South Platte river basin, a fishery that Carl considered his home waters. After the Hayman Fire, Carl’s fundraising work helped support the “Trees for Trout” project to protect sensitive habitats and fisheries of the South Platte. The devastating 167,000-acre fire challenged the future of gold-medal fisheries along Upper South Platte. “Trees for Trout” is a bold idea to harvest burned trees before the timber rots or is sold and strategically place them to restore the wintering, breeding, and feeding areas of fish. The idea is to create habitats where none previously existed, promoting the immediate restoration of treasured public fisheries in Elevenmile Canyon and along Tarryall Creek.
Carl’s work for protecting the trout in the South Platte drainage reaches back to at least the mid-1980’s. He worked hard to shut down the efforts for the Two Forks Dam, something that seemed unbeatable. The EPA finally killed that project in 1990. Doug Krieger, former Head Aquatic Biologist at Colorado Parks and Wildlife, describes Carl as “determined, focused, and organized.”
“He wanted to make the [South Platte] resource everything it could be.” That work included small streams, like Trout Creek, Severy Creek, and the work done in the Experimental Forest north of Woodland Park.
Carl had a soft spot for the Greenback Cutthroat trout population in Bear Creek. Nickum remembers that Carl advocated for efforts to “monitor their health in Bear Creek” even before 2012 when we knew that the true Greenback was limited to this four-mile stretch of creek in the foothills of the Rampart Range.
Recruit Members & Mentor Leaders
In addition to the financial vision ensuring the Chapter’s sustainability, Carl knew that an organization’s future depends on active membership and strong leadership. “His enthusiasm was addictive,” Krieger recalls, “and people wanted to be around him.”
Allyn Kratz agrees. “In 1999, he recruited me to be on the Board of Directors. And he ensured we remained oriented toward conservation — not just having fun. He was out to conserve the environment.”
David Nickum attributes the success of the Chapter to Carl’s vision to build membership. “Part of the reason that the Chapter became an exemplary one is due to Carl’s recruitment efforts and empowering others when they joined.”
The work to protect our trout, our natural resources, is not a solitary effort. Carl Roberts built relationships between individuals, between organizations and fly shops, between leadership and membership.
Dave Herber remembers that on the drive home from his first experience with a fly rod, Carl said, “If you want to be a fly fisherman, develop a relationship with a fly shop.” They stopped by Angler’s Covey (located in the old Victorian at 917 West Colorado Avenue at the time) and Dave made his first rod and reel purchase.
When someone so influential passes from our life, we can be grateful for the legacy created. Carl Roberts lived a long life, impacting students and colleagues at Colorado College, and laying the foundation for the work done by the Pikes Peak Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
And for that, we are grateful.
Read Carl’s obituary.