Sunday, August 23, 2015
What a treat to discover a new water in a scenic canyon…with some big trout to boot. Last week I drove over the Continental Divide towards Gunnison and then headed southwest into the vast undeveloped Cochetopa Hills and the high country of the La Garita Wilderness Area. Several of my favorite trout streams that rush down from the rugged peaks along the Divide—like Cochetopa and Saguache Creeks– were finally down and in fishable shape after a very wet summer. But this new water was also on my radar. I had read about Pauline Creek in the fine guidebook, 49 Trout Streams of Southern Colorado, that the authors Mark Williams and Chad McPhail had stumbled on and raved about: “…rest assured, once a dry fly or beadhead breaks the surface, so will a trout.” When I drove over the creek on my way to fish in the wilderness area 10 miles up Forest Service Road 794, I was immediately skeptical. At that point, Pauline hardly amounts to rivulet status, only a few feet across, although some beaver ponds upstream looked interesting. That night, after a fabulous day casting to trout on Cochetopa Creek in the wilderness area, I pulled out a topo map (National Geographic #139 La Garita/Cochetopa Hills) and found that a few miles below the road where Pauline was hardly a trickle, several streams added their waters. That looked more promising, so early next morning around 7:30 a.m. I trundled down a 4wd track off FS 794 above where Pauline empties into Cochetopa Creek. The jeep trail ended abruptly at a big cliff. The good news as I peered over into the canyon was that the creek indeed had more water here, and the wide canyon floor was punctuated by several good-looking beaver ponds that were sure to hold some sizable trout. The bad news: My aging knees were already protesting at the thought of scampering down that precipitous incline—a good 200-foot drop—in my waders and wading boots and carrying a long fly rod.
CAVEAT: The North Fork Road has reopened, but is still very rough. Call ArkAnglers in Salida, CO, for latest information.
August 8, 2015
More rain this week kept me off the local waters, and with the weekend looming along with the attendant crowds from the Front Range, I decided to head to a high country lake for some tranquility and, hopefully, some hungry trout. I dug out an old 1980s guidebook to lakes in the area, and the name Hunky Dory caught my eye. With a moniker like that, it had to be good. (More about that name later.).
Hunky Dory sits at 12,000 feet, perched high across the rugged North Fork Valley from Mt. Shavano, a 14er. The turnoff of US 50 up County Road 240 is at Maysville, about 10 miles west of Salida. What made it especially intriguing is that the guidebook said there was no trail to the lake. The hike was described as fairly short—just over a mile—but very steep, gaining 1,200 feet in that short distance. A check on the internet revealed a couple of entries describing the fishing for cutthroat trout as good. Who could resist.
Thanks for visiting my blog! My name is Chris Duerksen. I hope you will find this site informative, interesting, fun, and maybe even a little provocative. I have recently retired from a professional career as a land-use lawyer and city planner who worked across the nation on smart growth, sustainability, and natural resource protection issues. Now I have more time to explore this beautiful earth and indulge my twin passions of fishing and writing. My focus here will be on off-the-beaten path fishing trips—from the high country in the Rocky Mountains to the backcountry in the Florida Everglades….and points in between. Many will involve the gentle art of fly fishing, but I am not a purist so others will involve chasing big inshore saltwater fish with spinning gear. All will be catch-and-release: These water-world denizens are just too beautiful and precious to keep. It will also give me a chance to pontificate and sound off about some of the critical issues of the day like sustainability, the state of sport fishing (increasingly commercialized, mechanized, and technical), and politics in general (I served two terms on a city council in Fredericksburg, Virginia, so can’t pass up that opportunity!).
I will do my best to share the where and when of my angling peregrinations, and offer tips and advice from my modest store of wisdom regarding gear and technique. But mostly I just want to share the joy and satisfaction I get by exploring unspoiled wild areas away from the madding crowd and understanding the cycles of life and nature in those pristine places— there are more of them out there than one might expect for those willing to work at it a bit.
My thanks to my boys and occasional fishing buddies, Matthew and Ben, for helping put together this site. Matthew came up with the name for the blog, and Ben did the hard work of design and setting it up while schooling Dad on the technical aspects. I absolve them of any blame for content herein.
I hope you find locales here that pique your interest and thinking that will stimulate. Most importantly, I write with the intent that these tales may inspire others to work to preserve these special places so that future generations may enjoy and cherish them as we have. Look forward to your comments.
For a more recent trip on Four Mile Creek, see my July 2019 article “Off The Shelf (Road) And Into Four Mile Creek.”
Saturday, August 15, 2015
With my home water, the Arkansas River, once again blown out by rain and inundated by rafters, float boats, and stand-up paddleboarders, I decided to head to an old reliable remote creek deep in a gorgeous red rock canyon for a day of quiet and solitude. Four Mile Creek arises near the old mining town of Cripple Creek then plunges through a long, deep red-rock canyon. It emerges near Canon City where it empties into the Arkansas…if it isn’t dried up first by irrigators. I usually fish the creek in June when other rivers and creeks are running high and the temperatures haven’t begin to soar–90s are typical in Canon City in July and August.