VALLECITO - The fishing fleet floated casually on the still waters of Vallecito Reservoir.
The boats bobbed a bit as anglers tempted and teased the trout ... and the pike, the walleye, the smallmouth bass and the kokanee salmon.
From the shore on the northeast side of Vallecito, other fishermen tested the shimmering waters in search of a prize-winning strike.
Saturday morning's sunshine drenched the cheerful anglers as they experienced - firsthand - John Denver's "serenity of a clear blue mountain lake."
One day later, conditions changed dramatically when Sunday's brisk winds and falling barometer complicated matters for participants in the annual Vallecito Lake Chamber of Commerce Fishing Tournament.
After one day of fishing in premier conditions and a half-day of fishing in more challenging conditions, the final catches were weighted and the totals totaled.
Kirk Lashmett of Durango landed the biggest prize of the weekend, winning the Grand Slam Angler's title and the accompanying belt buckle.
Lashmett won with the most species caught in the two-day tournament: five.
"That was a real kick," said Lashmett, a longtime Durango-based fisherman. "Perseverance is what it takes if you're going after ... the belt buckle. You just have to keep at it."
Lashmett, who spent 30 years studying fish and fish habitat as a fish biologist with the Department of the Interior, said he was a little surprised his catches held up to win the overall title - particularly because of his aged 1959 "Vallecito boat."
"I'm kind of outgunned as far as the boats go," said a chuckling Lashmett, who had to take a break every half-hour to pump water out of his leaky, camo-painted relic.
With a field that included professional fishing guides, Lashmett said he was even more surprised at his finish.
The key, he said, was landing four different species Saturday. Lashmett, 60, said he went after the more elusive species first.
He snagged a kokanee, then hooked an ultra-elusive walleye. Fishing for a big pike, Lashmett said he struggled for a couple of hours. Finally, he said, his line snagged along the shoreline.
"But then the line started moving," he said. It was a pike, a small pike that gave him three species on Day 1.
Before the end of the opening day, "I caught the smallest smallmouth (bass) I've caught in my life."
Size, however, doesn't matter in the overall competition, just species.
With four in the books, Lashmett finished his tournament with a rainbow trout after three tough hours of fishing Sunday.
"I fished the whole lake," Lashmett said, adding that his 16-year-old son Chris - also an avid fishermen - will be jealous of his father's success. Chris was out of town on family matters and missed the 2009 tournament.
"I'm sure he'll be out there next year," Lashmett said.
A total of 62 anglers participated in the 2009 Vallecito Fishing Tournament, including 51 in the adult categories.
Durango fisherman Colt Roberts aced the field in the pike category. And he hauled in the biggest fish of the weekend when he landed a 221/8-pound pike Saturday.
He won his division with a combined weight of 39.5 pounds.
"That fish was my kicker," Roberts said of the gigantic pike. He said he caught the biggie while fishing above a submerged structure in the middle part of the reservoir.
"With a fish that big, it's just a matter of wearing them down," said Roberts, who has lived in Durango all of his life.
"You don't want to bring them in too green (active)."
Roberts, 26, said he hooked another large pike at Vallecito just last week.
"Fishing's been good (at Vallecito). I had two 20-pound fish in two weeks," he said.
He added that he was using conventional baits to nab his award-winning pike.
"She was a very healthy fish," said Roberts, who released the big 22-pounder back into the reservoir.
"I don't net my fish. I'm strictly catch-and-release," Roberts said. "Without a net, you can do a softer release."
While Roberts won the pike category, Kris Johnson of Durango was second with a combined weight of 12 pounds. Noble Atkins of Huntington Beach, Calif., was third (8.1 pounds).
Eric Fenstermacher of Ignacio finished first in the trout/salmon category with 31 pounds. Emily Elliott of Albuquerque was second (23.5). David Meyer of Vallecito was third (10.1 pounds).
Maurice Perrmann of Durango won the smallmouth bass division (8.2 pounds). Evan Buchanan of Durango was second (3.1). Austin Miles of Durango was third (1.3).
Barbara Meyer of Vallecito won the women's division for the tournament (combined weight 2.3 pounds).
In the "small fry" division for ages 12 and under, Olyvia Cate of Vallecito won with 20.1 pounds. Levi Taylor of Dove Creek was second. Landon Donagan of Durango was third.
Emma Buchanan of Durango, Jack Ferguson of Bayfield and Jimmy Ferguson, also of Bayfield, finished 4-5-6 in the youth category.
Eric Graham of Bayfield won the shoreline angler category (2.3 pounds).
Many of the anglers raved about the conditions at Vallecito for the 2009 tournament, specifically Roberts and Lashmett.
"The lake's stayed really consistent," Roberts said. "It stayed full the whole season. That helped out with the spawn."
"I'm really impressed," Lashmett said. "It's in very good shape. It's recovered quite nicely (from the 2002 Missionary Ridge Fire)."
He said Vallecito is a real gem of Colorado fishing.
"It's one of the best-kept secrets in all of Colorado in terms of trophy fish," Lashmett said.
Roberts reserved special praise for the tournament sponsors and organizers.
"I'd like to thank the chamber and everyone up there for putting it on," Roberts said. "They've done a really good job with the tournament. They've done it so smoothly."