Carol Oglesby caught two brown trout on one cast.
"It was unbelievable," she said.
That rare occurrence was a first for her, and added to her day's catch that included a big beautiful rainbow trout. The mid-June weather was perfect, about 70 degrees, and the Green River was running 9,000 cfs and crystal clear.
Everything about the day was perfect.
"Just to get back on the river again felt really good," she said.
It had been years since Oglesby had spent a day with a friend and a guide, floating down a river with a fly rod in her hand.
She hadn't gone much since her husband and greatest fishing buddy, Pat Oglesby, died in December 2016, the same year she lost two other fly fishing friends.
Fishing just wasn't a priority anymore.
Oglesby is a well-known name related to fly fishing in western Colorado. Pat and Carol were highly involved with Trout Unlimited and the Grand Valley Anglers chapter, and their names and fly fishing expertise frequently were featured in stories in The Daily Sentinel and other publications.
The past couple years, the rivers and the trout in their hidden spots still called to Carol, but the bite of loss and change were still too raw and she needed to cast her energy elsewhere for awhile.
Her line landed in art, collage art specifically. "I've always had an artistic side," she said.
She gets it from her dad, who worked on all kinds of projects in the West as a construction contractor, but who also created jewelry and built unique furniture.
Her family moved around a lot, depending on her dad's projects, and Oglesby loved being outdoors playing in the country or fishing with worms. She was tough, but she hated touching stinky slimy worms.
She and Pat met and became friends in high school. It wasn't until after college, when they were in their mid-20s that things become more serious. They married in 1974.
That's when Carol discovered the worm-less activity of fly fishing.
Pat introduced her to fly fishing, and it became a wonderful venture after she got through the "pain" of learning the knots and how to cast.
In those early days, she and Pat went out to fish a stream near Telluride, and he was a ways upstream from her. "I got so awfully tangled. I was sitting in the gravel crying," she said.
Right then, Pat walked up, took one look at her and kept walking. He didn't dare stop for the angry venting that would have come his way, Oglesby said.
She stayed with fly fishing, though, paying her dues until it was part of her.
"It's such a wonderful sport for women," she said.
And it's not always about the fishing. It can be about the critters you encounter, she said, the quiet and peace of being surrounded by water and sky, grasses, wildflowers and trees.
Art from the outdoors
Now, one way or another, those things work their way into her art, which she began pursuing more after retiring in 2011 from Mesa County's facilities and parks department.
She has taken a number of classes through the years: drawing, oil, pastels. She has dabbled in alcohol ink and watercolor.
She even talked Pat into taking a drawing class at Colorado Mesa University. But once the nude showed up, Pat took off, she said. It just wasn't for him.
His thing was collecting fly-fishing books and magazines. "He subscribed to every fly fishing magazine," she said. They were "research."
Before he died he donated his collection of more than 700 fly-fishing books to the Pine River Library in Bayfield, and the collection became available to the public in October.
When it came to creating art, though, Pat supported Carol's interest even if he didn't understand it. Of course, trout found their way into her work eventually.
It was an "amazing" class with Gayle Gerson at The Art Center that got Oglesby hooked on collage. While she loves oil painting, "I was never happy with it as I was with collage," she said.
Her first collage piece had fish in it, and "it was awful," she said.
Oglesby kept at it and found inspiration and materials all around her, from magazines cutouts to wasp nests. "It's really been a journey," she said.
Nearly all her collages feature animals or aspects of nature, wildflowers, trees, animals in the air, on land or in the water. Owls or hawks often find their way into her artwork.
She likes symbolism and meaning, and yet, she doesn't think too deeply about her creating. She just does it.
"I've never been a planner. I've always flown by the seat of my pants through life," Oglesby said.
So she takes photos with her cellphone, thinking perhaps she'll cut them up and use them down the line. She collects tissue paper and odds, bits and ends.
She hasn't placed any flies in her art so far, but feathers found their way into "Hat Tree," which features two women trying on 1940s hats while sitting under a tree decked with hats.
"That went through a lot of incarnations," she said. What it means, she doesn't know, but she likes it.
A tribute to Pat
One of her most intentional collages was a tribute to Pat. There were a couple majestic aspen trees that Pat carved his name into many years ago. Carol took photos of those trees and others, pieced them together with Mount Marcellina from the West Elk Mountain range rising twice in the background, once the correct way and once in reverse, and red oak brush leaves brilliant among the white aspen tree trunks. Along with her photos, she used acrylic paint and tissue paper to create the tribute.
The collage is a magnificent mingling of colors and variety of outdoor scenes.
It was time-consuming, but then a collage generally is, she said.
That special piece hangs in Oglesby's home, but several of her other collages can be found at Red Lion Arts Gallery & Studio on Main Street.
Oglesby's artwork ended up at the gallery at the recommendation of Betsy McLoughlin, who has taught a number of sketching classes in the Grand Valley in recent years. Oglesby took a class with McLoughlin and later the two became part of a close-knit group of women and friends who get together on Wednesday mornings to sketch, paint and learn about artwork.
"Carol is a very warm, caring person. I feel like she's constantly growing and she always cares about people," McLoughlin said.
On top of that, "she does amazing collage," McLoughlin said.
With so many artists one piece is really similar to their others. With Oglesby, each collage is totally unique, imaginative and different from the others, she said.
"I have no idea where she comes up with her ideas," McLoughlin said.
Oglesby never thought her artwork would be in a gallery, much less that people would want to buy it. And yet, they have and it's encouraging. "We pour out emotion and life into our work," Oglesby said.
She continues to learn and continues to use art to work out a range of emotions in a creative way. That's one reason she took photos of the two browns and the rainbow trout she caught on the Green River. She immediately saw them for potential use in a collage.
Returning to the water was "awesome," and the symbolism or significance of that day Oglesby holds lightly in her mind for later use.
"I didn't realized how much I missed it," she said.