Charlie Meyers, the long-time outdoor editor and writer for the Denver Post, died Tuesday night after a two-year battle with lung cancer. I will miss him greatly, both as a good friend, and as the living conscience of the Western sportsman--he was one of my heroes, and he always will be.
Growing up a young angler in Colorado, Charlie's columns and features in the Post inspired me to tread the trails and walk the streams of the high country. His work taught me to appreciate the 8-inch brook trout pulled from the transparent waters of unnamed mountain streams, as well as the trophy rainbow we fly fishers anguish over beneath well-angled tailwaters and big-water rivers throughout the West. The two, he convinced me, were very much the same--living, breathing examples of beasts adapted to their surroundings (not unlike Charlie himself, a Louisiana transplant who found a home in Colorado). But Charlie's work also instilled in me the importance of conservation, and, hence, the value of those priceless native cutthroats that, with a little effort, can still be found in their natal waters of the West.
It was only recently--within the last five years or so--that I got to meet Charlie and got to know him aside from the work he did for the Post. He was, first and foremost, a newspaperman. While he earned his greatest accolades for his writing of skiing and the outdoors, he was equally comfortable with newsprint staining his hands and engaged in a hearty discussion about Denver's old-time newspaper wars. I've often thought that, if the Post's brass had sought out Charlie's opinion on the state of the industry more often, the Rocky Mountain News might have folded long ago (not that I relish that sad day--growing up in a two-paper town has its obvious benefits). Having come from a newspaper background myself, I think Charlie realized it was quite the treat to visit the Post's downtown Denver newsroom and soak in the sights, sounds and smells that are unique to that profession.
But Charlie's gifts to the outdoorsman are what will one day make up his legacy. Later in his career, after he slowed down significantly in his writing of skiing and other winter sports, he ramped up his writing efforts in the hunting and fishing arena. He was an avid fly fisher, and he traveled the world with a fly rod always close at hand. And, while the recreational aspect of his writing was what likely appealed to the masses, he generally included a strident conservation message in his efforts. Sometimes it was blatant--he was known to call out members of Congress, the Colorado Legislature and the Colorado Division of Wildlife when the state's fish and game were getting short shrift from politics. Sometimes, though, his eloquent and conversational writing was simply laced with a subtle conservation reminder--he was one of the first outdoor communicators in the country to grasp the concept that habitat equals opportunity.
I will always fondly remember Charlie Meyers for his passion and his talent, but I will also recall a soft-spoken gentleman who, whether he knew it or not, became a mentor to me, long before I had the privilege of shaking his hand. And I will treasure, always, the kind words he used to describe me and my own efforts to reach out to the fly fishing community when he reviewed my book last year.
Charlie Meyers was my friend, and I miss him. I take solace in knowing that, if Heaven has a trout stream--and I'm fortunate enough to one day make that journey--I'll see him again.
More on Charlie's passing:
Denver Post photo gallery of Charlie
Woody Paige on Charlie Meyers