Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Colorado 2011 - Part 1 - The Normal Haunts

It's been over a month since I returned from my trip to Colorado and it has been the most devastating month in my entire life! I won't go into details (this is a fishing blog) but I am just now getting into feeling normal. I have been working on photos of my trip to keep my mind busy....on to the report.

I took another "newbie" with me again this year, as I have done every year. I love to be the guide when my friends get their first Rocky Mountain adventure and this year would be no different.

The plan was to start out at a lower elevation stream with easy access and little hiking. I had never fished it and I love to explore, so I chose the Middle Fork of the St. Vrain.

The stream was beautiful unfortunately, with the large amount of snow they received in the high country, the stream was still in runoff on July 30! You can see by the small tree on the right side of the pool my younger brother is fishing that is was quite high.

With the raging currents the fishing was tough but I still managed a couple of brookies in the dead water.

It was a beautiful stream and a beautiful area (could have done without the heavy off-road vehicles) but I don't know if I will ever make it back to fish it during normal flows....there's just too much water to fish.

After 18 hours of driving through the night and a full day of fishing, it was an early dinner and early to bed.

After seeing no ill effects of the altitude, the plan for the next day would be RMNP and the easy hike into Roaring River. As usual on the east side of the park there is always some type of welcoming committee. This year would be no different as our committee consisted of four very nice mulies.

I like this stream to put the newbies on greenbacks because after the first half-mile of the hike it is a very gentle trail....and the fish are plentiful and willing.

As I always do, I put my guests on the first fish. This stream lived up to it's name, with runoff it was roaring! We would need to target the dead water again this day and it didn't take long for my partner to land his first greenback in the first pocket.

After watching him catch a couple of cutties, and knowing my brother knows his way around this stream too, I was off on my own. The fishing was still outstanding, even with the raging conditions, and I was able to pick up greenbacks in every "fishy" looking pocket.

Again, we fished the better part of the day and we all landed several beautiful greenbacks but my brother had to get back home this evening, so we called it an early day.

I love the view at the trailhead, up the Fall River valley.

We dropped my brother off at his vehicle in Estes Park, then we headed to Kirks Fly Shop in search of a new pair of wading shoes. I found the shoes I had been looking for - Simms Rip Rap. They turned out to be an incredible shoe and if I find time I will write a review on them.

From Estes Park it was across the divide to Timber Creek campground, where we would set up camp for the next two nights. On the way across the divide we ran into what appeared to be the entire RMNP elk herd. I'm not sure how many elk were in this group but they were on both sides of the road -it looked like some of the bison herds I have seen in Yellowstone.

After setting up camp and dodging a rain shower, it was time to put my partner on his first Colorado River cutthroat, and we would do this directly across the road from the campground. It didn't take long for him to add his second species of cutthroat in this small, high gradient section of stream.

As with the greenbacks, after he caught a couple of these cutties I picked up a couple of little guys myself.

I also picked up a couple more cutties and a couple of brookies in the large culvert pool below the road.

Another early evening (we had been hitting the sack about 7:00 PM every day), the next day would be a longer hike into another must fish stream that I affectionately call "brookie heaven".

With an early evening it is always an early morning - usually sunrise. This morning would be a foggy one on the Colorado River and Neversummer Range.

After a cup of java and a granola bar it was off to the Green Mountain trailhead and the hike into Big Meadow. This would be my first outing in my Simms Rip Raps and they did not disappoint - they felt more like a hiking shoe than a wading shoe.

The early morning lighting in Big Meadow was amazing!

This stream would be up and ripping just as all of the others. The long, slow pools that usually produce several brookies produced nada. We would have to target back eddies and dead spots caused by braided currents - also big, heavy nymphs (for brookies?).

Once we patterned the brookies, it was incredible fishing.

At one point I found a large back eddy that had an incredible pod of fish. I was fishing my a stimulator downstream and stripping it back to me and I landed 16 brookies out of this pool. What does a stimulator look like after catching 16 brookies out of one pool?

My partner said he could stay in Big Meadows the rest of our trip and be completely satisfied!

With the population of brookies in this stream it only made sense to have this for dinner that evening.

Sunflower oil, cornbread mix, and Cajun seasoning made for one of the best meals I had eaten in a very long time.

Day four of our trip would find us hooking up with my younger brother again then heading north in search of grayling. He has caught all of the native cutthroat species in Colorado but has yet to catch a grayling. I wanted to be with him when he caught his (and my partner's) first grayling.

We found a KOA, set up camp, then headed across the divide in search of the grayling.

We prospected the entire stream but could not locate a single grayling. Apparently the runoff had also delayed the grayling migration from the lake. Disappointed, we headed back across the divide to fish the extreme headwaters of the North Platte.

Having never fished this stream and fishing heavy runoff, I had no idea what to expect. We split up and fished for a couple of hours. All I landed was two small cutts - no photos.

Checking the topos again, we found a high lake nearby to check out.

The hike in was only about a mile but it was straight up. Once at the lake everyone forgot about the hike as the lake was absolutely amazing!

The scenery was amazing but the fishing not so much. There were plenty of cutthroat in the lake, and plenty of large cutthroat, but they were all in spawn mode.

These guys were all in the 16"-18" range, with some larger, but they only had one thing on their mind!

With everyone dealing with the skunk, it didn't feel so bad to leave this beautiful location empty handed.

Once back at camp we actually lasted past 7:00 PM. It felt nice to take a hot shower and do some laundry so we celebrated the trip so far with a nice campfire. We also had a visitor join us around the fire when a coyote decided he wanted to check out my chair - a close encounter for sure.

The next morning we would pack in camp and head back south to drop off my younger brother so my partner and I could head to the bottom of the state for his Rio Grande cutthroat.

We stopped by a roadside stream but again, with runoff we all struck out again. The remainder of the day would be spent in the vehicle driving but the next entry will be one of the most amazing yet...stay tuned.


1 comment:

e.m.b. said...

Runoff was crazy this year...but man it looks like you still had an amazing trip. Really enjoyed this post!