Charlie Meyers fly fishing for pike on Lake Colin – Canada – June 8th 2006. (ERIC LUTZENS)
Charlie Meyers, who climbed from the lowlands of Louisiana to the peak of Colorado journalism through his insightful coverage of hunting, fishing and skiing for The Denver Post, died January 5th from complications due to lung cancer.
Meyers, 72, covered his beats the past four decades with a graceful, engaging style and a thoughtful perspective. His last column for The Post, about an imperiled fishery in Park County, was published Dec. 6.
“He was a wonderful man, a wonderful journalist and a wonderful outdoorsman,” said William Dean Singleton, publisher of The Denver Post. “I can’t imagine The Denver Post without him.”
“Charlie was one of the people who defined The Post,” Post editor Greg Moore said. “He wrote about what makes Colorado special — nature and its bounty. He was dependable, and what he wrote was fresh. Charlie was a great colleague, always with a kind word, and he will be greatly missed by all of us.”
While Meyers’ ability to write lyrical features won him accolades, he cemented his reputation as a top-tier journalist by illuminating public-policy issues.
“If you had to sum up what Charlie Meyers did for the benefit of hunting and fishing (in Colorado), there would be no person that could equal his contribution,” said Eddie Kochman, former state chief of fisheries for the Department of Wildlife. “He set a standard few will ever reach.”
Meyers’ soft-spoken manner disguised a tenacity to dig out the truth.
When he saw wrongdoing, he wrote about it, no matter whom it meant calling out, from the governor on down.
“Charlie would hit you square between the horns,” said Rick Enstrom, a former Division of Wildlife commissioner whose first call after Gov. Bill Owens tapped him for the post was to Meyers. “He daylighted things that used to operate behind the veil. Charlie has been the moral compass for the second-largest business in the state of Colorado for generations. We operated under Charlie’s careful eye, and Colorado is better for it.”
In the past few months, Meyers was critical of the DOW spending much of its multimillion dollar habitat stamp war chest on land easements to protect big game instead of public access. In April, he blasted Larimer County for trying to sell parcels it obtained from the federal government that were to be used for public recreation, calling its actions “a series of maneuvers a cynic might consider devious.”
“Charlie was a gem of a writer, a master wordsmith and storyteller,” Post sports editor Scott Monserud said. “A kind, quiet, humble man, he had a well-hidden competitive fire.”
As a ski reporter for more than 20 years, Meyers was equally as influential. He covered six Winter Olympics, opening doors to the nascent sport of American ski racing at the time.
“Charlie helped put skiing on the map for the U.S. sports fan,” said Steamboat Springs ski icon Billy Kidd, a medalist at the 1964 Olympics who compared Meyers’ influence in the ski world to that of legendary Sports Illustrated writer Dan Jenkins in the golf world.
“He had a passion for the sport and conveyed that,” Kidd said. “What is it about skiing that makes people travel such huge distances and go out in freezing cold and slide down the mountain? Charlie was able to tell people why we get hooked on skiing.”
Meyers was inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 1993 and six years later won the FIS Journalist Award given by the International Ski Federation, becoming just the fourth American to win it.
Charles D. Meyers was born Oct. 30, 1937, in Sicily Island, La., and grew up on a small farm, where his biggest joy as a child was taking his crooked cane pole to a nearby river to catch sunfish.
“He really was Huckleberry Finn,” said his son Kirk. “He was always that kid with a straw hat, cane pole and a worm exploring that next bend in a river. He always made me feel special because he’d rather see me catch the big fish or see the rest of us succeed. That’s who he was.”
Meyers attended Louisiana State University, where he majored in history and education. He took graduate courses there before landing a newspaper job in Lake Charles, La. When his boss there was later hired by The Denver Post, he recruited Meyers, who joined the paper’s sports staff in February 1966. He left in 1969 to write for outdoor magazines, then returned for good in 1971 and soon after began covering skiing.
“He looked the part of a man who was really king of the mountains and king of the outdoors,” said Jim Carrier, who spent 13 years as The Post’s Rocky Mountain Ranger. “He was such a beautiful guy, who both lit up and stopped a room when he walked in.”
Visions of Meyers as a strapping, sophisticated outdoorsman aside, Carrier’s respect for him is squarely focused on his pen. Meyers ferried readers on adventures around the Rocky Mountains and beyond.
“You always looked forward to his column,” Carrier said. “It was beautifully written. There were many, many armchair sportsmen who never did what Charlie did, but felt like they had, because he had written about it and brought them along.”
Longtime fishing pal Kirk Deeter followed Meyers’ career path as an outdoors writer. Deeter often would run a story idea past Meyers, only to find his mentor had done it years earlier, many times in a hair-raising fashion.
“He never talked about it, but he had been there and done that. He walked away from a float plane crash in Alaska. He met with a witch doctor up a remote river in Nicaragua. He did it all,” said Deeter, whose fly-fishing book he penned with Meyers is scheduled to be published in May.
It wasn’t just rich writing and engrossing characters that gave Meyers’ work depth. He scrutinized tangled topics, such as Colorado water rights and resource protection, and the bureaucracies that managed both. He was an environmental reporter long before editors invented the title.
In 1997, Meyers left the ski beat to write about the outdoors, making pages come alive not only with his prose but with his superb photography that illuminated hard-to-reach hideaways. He often heard from fellow sportsmen lamenting his focus on Colorado’s hidden treasures. Outdoor writers before him tended to keep the best fishing holes secret.
“Charlie was a lot quicker to share things than I was,” Colorado fly-fishing author John Gierach said. “But that was his philosophy. He considered it his job as a reporter. Why would you write about a place and not say where it is?”
Meyers kept working at The Post despite enormous pain the past two years as he battled complications of his cancer, as well as discomfort from surgeries on his shoulder and knee. Years of fly fishing wore down his right shoulder, leading to rotator cuff surgery, then a full shoulder replacement. The fish, however, weren’t getting off that easy. He taught himself to cast with his left hand.
Colorado may have been his adopted home, but Louisiana never left him. He enjoyed following his beloved LSU Tigers, cooking and eating Cajun food, and listening to the blues.
Meyers’ last column was about Fairplay Beach, a small pond on the banks of the Middle Fork of the South Platte River near Fairplay, which Meyers called a “minor marvel filled with angling delights.”
Meyers described how the beach is filling with metal-rich sediment leaking from long- shuttered mining operations nearby, threatening one of South Park’s best fisheries. His column prodded town leaders to schedule a meeting this month with the DOW and the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss dredging the pond and preserving the fish haven.
It wasn’t the first time his writings stirred emotion — and prompted action. And even though he’s gone, it probably won’t be the last. His legacy will linger for those who knew him and read his work.
Asked once who inspired him most as a writer, Meyers cited author Peter Matthieseen, who once said he dreamed of mankind living gracefully in the world, in harmony with all others.
Charlie Meyers did just that.
Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The family of outdoors writer Charlie Meyers, who died Tuesday after battling lung cancer, is having a private memorial service. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that anyone wishing to make a donation in Charlie’s name send it to Colorado Trout Unlimited, 1320 Pearl St., Suite 320, Boulder, CO 80302; or the Colorado Division of Wildlife, 6060 Broadway, Denver, CO 80216