Friday, March 26, 2010

Art Isgar-Western Legend Passes on at 94

Art Isgar
Words by Will Blanchard

Last week Art Isgar passed on at 94 years-young. "Grandpa" will be missed deeply by his wife Anne, his family, all the people he touched through the Southwest and the entire AVA guide crew. The ranch he worked for so many years will not be the same with out him. His grandson Matt plans to continue the operations. Irrigating, growing hay and raising cattle will help keep Art's memory alive. For me, each time I step into the cool waters of the Animas River his memory will live on.

Art was one heck of a man, a man legends are made of for sure; hard-working family man, rancher, farmer, dedicated democrat, fly fisher and outdoorsman. He was nailed in the hand by a rattlesnake in his 80s while working in the garden; he shrugged off a battle with cancer and had a serious encounter with a grizzly bear while on horse back in the San Juan Mountains. He was a dead shot. Deer and elk were easy takings. He caught trout the old fashioned way; Royal Coachman casted out, only allowing the fly to be on the water for a moment or two. If the fly was not taken by a feisty trout a new cast would be placed back out onto the green currents of the Animas. We was a true western icon.

He would reflect on his fishing days with a gleam in his eye. Back in the day he was known as the best fly fisher in the Southwest. Back in the day, or any day for that matter, it was just known. John Staten learned this first hand. As John was getting into the sport of fly fishing, Art took him down to the Picnic Table Pool (I think us guides are going to rename it Art's Pool) for a quick lesson. Art was 89 at the time and proceeded to show John how it was done. Still healing from a broken leg he suffered two weeks prior, he had no sooner jumped out of the red GMC ranch truck and in moments a fly was tied on the leader and trout hooked up. It was a great moment for John. And maybe even a greater moment for Art. As far as I know, that was the last trout Art ever caught. A stunning rainbow, caught from his river, using the same technique he had used so many times for so many years.

I'm sure going to miss Art. In so many ways. He helped me not only with my business but also as a person. Our times together on the ranch, ridding on the back of the four wheeler, cutting wood, digging ditches, walking the ditch, moving water, wrestling the foot valve, priming the pump, fixing the pump, fixing fence, fixing anything, drives up onto the mountain, enjoying a burger at the Democratic picnic or just sitting around chatting will never be forgotten.

Join me as I raise my short glass of Jim Beam and toast the memory of one of the greatest fly fishers to ever cast a fly. And again to one of the greatest ranchers to ever work the land. And again to one of the greatest men I've ever met.

Cheers Art, sure going to miss you.

Photo: Art hooked up on the Animas. His last rainbow trout. Thanks to Art's very good friend John Staten for the photo and story.