“Most of the world is covered by water. A fisherman’s job is simple: Pick out the best parts.” …..Charles Waterman
It’s a cold wintry evening, wind blowing and snow flying at my cabin in the Colorado mountains. I’ll be heading to Florida soon, but for now I’m sitting in front of a blazing fire with a good glass of fresh apple cider. My mind wanders with pipe dreams of the secluded mountain creeks I want to explore or return to in 2018. My list is already up to eight, and near the top is La Jara Creek just south of Alamosa in southern Colorado. As I doze off, visions of my trips there the last couple of years are dancing in my head…..
Summer 2016……my home water, the Arkansas near Salida, Colorado, is running twice normal level—practically enough to float a battleship. Yet its banks are already beginning to fill with anglers attracted by the recent state designation as a Gold Medal Water. I decide to flee south, having heard whispered tales among some fishing buddies about La Jara Creek, hidden in a 15-mile long remote canyon where 20-inch wild browns supposedly lurk. I am a little skeptical, because the creek was little more than a trickle late last summer when I hurried over it to my annual trip to the more famous Conejos and Los Pinos Rivers further south. I check on-line and find the state water gauge for the creek registering around 10 cfs, a low but decent level for fishing.
It doesn’t take long before I am heading south over Poncha Pass, gassing up in Alamosa, just north of the New Mexico border, then turning off US Highway 285 at the small town of La Jara. I drive west into a different world, a slower pace, old churches, small farms, two-lane roads, and abandoned adobe houses. Now I am in the nearest thing resembling civilization, the tiny frayed community of Capulin. I continue driving a half hour from the last bit of pavement outside of town, and after dodging a couple of dozen rabbits in this aptly named Conejos County (Conejos—Spanish for rabbits), I arrive at La Jara Reservoir—and am shocked to find it almost bone dry, and upper La Jara Creek below it barely a trickle!
Heart sinking, I turn downstream on a rough four-wheel drive U.S. Forest Service road for another two and a half miles, fording the creek and hoping for the best. I finally come to a gate blocking access to the canyon and state land trust board property and wildlife management area below. I walk down to the creek for a peek. It has more water here than above thanks to a couple of spring-fed feeder rivulets, and I spy a couple of decent trout darting for cover. So with high hopes, I don my waders and hike another hour into the canyon, paralleling the beautiful creek the whole way. I spook a cow elk and her calf as I make my way downstream. They clamber up the rocky slope into the woods as picas chastise me for the intrusion. I take that as a sign to start fishing–then two days of non-stop fun begin.
Click on the link below to view a pdf of my article about fishing La Jara Creek from the summer 2017 issue of Southwest Fly Fishing magazine.
7 thoughts on “Colorado Dreamin’ On Such A Winter’s Day: La Jara Creek Near Alamosa, CO”
Would like to meet you when you get to Florida
I live at the port of islands
If you would like a kayak partner let me know
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I’ll be down there in about 10 Days. Let’s try to connect then.
Have just found ur great articles. Luv the one on Island lake. I am from Alamosa & lived most of life in Texas. I try & go back every year. Will be camping out Ruby Mtn. late June. Hope the water is down some. I have fished alot on Cottonwood creek above Rainbow Lodge. Fished Blue Lake & Red lake , the three forks area & the falls above Platora as a young boy with my Grandpa. He ran a sheep lease up there in the summer. Had the last least they allowed. About 1000 head. I miss those times by the Falls.I luv to fisf creeks like La Jara. I am not into size. I am in to fun & the beautiful Air & Country. Glad I found u. U r a brother in my heart.
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Great to hear you’re enjoying them.
Unfortunately, don’t bother with La Jara anytime soon. Huge floods swept down the stream over the winter and spring, Blew out all the beaver dams, scoured the bottom clean and and destroyed stream side vegetation. Looking at the flow gauge three separate floods apparently occurred in December, January and April, I’m surmising due to ice breakup and subsequent jams. That timing is particularly worrisome for potential effects on brown and brook trout redds and hatchlings. May be years to recover.
Darn that’s terrible news, Mark. Thx for the update.