With the surfeit of beautiful and productive lakes in the North Fork Valley, the valley’s namesake river often gets overlooked. I’m as guilty as anyone—I fished it once some 20 years ago when my boys were youngsters, and we caught some nice rainbows. But since then I have scurried by it numerous times headed to the lakes instead. In all of those trips, I don’t recall ever seeing anyone fish the North Fork River. But when I trekked across the North Fork Reservoir Dam a few days ago and ogled the good-looking water below the spillway, I vowed to change all that.
The rugged North Fork of the South Arkansas River Valley is loaded with a bevy of beautiful lakes and streams. I’ve explored its remote high mountain lakes—Arthur, Island, and Hunky Dory—and was rewarded with some gorgeous cutthroats, but ignored the large North Fork Reservoir at the upper end of the valley. I’m not a big fan of waters where you can drive up to the shoreline, walk a few feet, and settle in a lawn chair to fish. But in this case, boy, I didn’t know what I was missing! I discovered a proverbial movable feast replete with a smorgasbord of big fish and stunning carpets of wildflowers all in the shadow of breathtaking scenery. It’s particularly well-suited for family outings. But the reservoir is a body of water that takes a while to figure out. Here are some tips to connect with its finny denizens
Waterfalls—especially backcountry ones—are like magnets to most people, including me. Now admittedly, while I love their scenic beauty, I plead to an ulterior motive: They usually create a series of deep plunge pools below that inevitably harbor some muscular trout. So when I read mention of a spectacular falls on a remote section of the Middle Fork of Saguache Creek high in the La Garita Wilderness Area, I vowed to make the trek.
Earlier this summer I had fished up about a mile from the Middle Fork trailhead, the gateway to the La Garita Wilderness area (See my July and August 2018 articles.), but it’s another three miles to the falls, and those pesky fish kept biting in the creek and beaver ponds, so didn’t make it very far.
Now an eight-mile roundtrip hike doesn’t leave much time for angling, which meant I needed to get a very early start if I was to make the falls AND get some fishing time in the creek and the series of alluring beaver ponds below the falls that showed up on my GPS map.
I am on my annual September fall fishing expedition with my mobile fish camp parked at the Dome Lake State Wildlife Area above Gunnison, Colorado.
The weather report is for five perfect days with light winds, clear skies, and temps in the mid-70s–so if I can get on the road by 6:30 a.m., I can be at the trailhead and humping up the trail by 8:30 a.m., which should give me time to reach the falls and engage in a little piscatorial research. I set my alarm at 5:00 a.m., and doze off, counting leaping trout.
It’s been a rewarding year writing my blog, and as of September 1st the number of views and visitors just surpassed all of 2017! 50,000 views and 20,000 visitors are in sight for 2018. As well as providing an admitted excuse to go fishing and explore remote places, my main goal is to help reinforce and build the constituency to preserve and protect these wild and wonderful places. An added and very satisfying benefit has been connecting with people and making new friends around the USA and the world—readers from over 50 countries. One example—a fellow from Australia is planning to come over and kayak fish with me next year!! But I think most gratifying and unexpected have been the heartwarming stories from readers like the young college student who wrote to say she had been searching for the name and location of the lake where her grandfather, who had recently passed away, took her fishing as a young girl. She wanted to revisit that special place as a tribute to him. She couldn’t find it until she happened to read my article on Island Lake in Colorado, and when she saw my photos knew that was the place. Brought tears to my eyes as I thought of the fishing trips I’ve been taking with my little granddaughter Aly and her Daddy this summer. Other readers shared happy memories of having fished, in their younger days, the creeks and lakes featured in my blog. In doing so they have enriched my life and made me determined to share more stories of special places in the coming year, knees willing and the creeks don’t rise!
I’m off from Salida to Denver to spend the Labor Day weekend with my #1 fishing buddy, my 2 ½ year old granddaughter Aly. After some on-line recon, I have decided to take the long way that will let me sample the waters of Upper Beaver Creek below Skaguay Reservoir, just a stone’s throw from Victor, the historic mining and now gaming town perched at nearly 10,000 feet. The lower three mile stretch at the mouth of the canyon some 14 miles downstream near the hamlet of Penrose is one of my favorite early and late season spots, holding lots of smaller brownies and an occasional lunker rainbow trout.
The drive from Salida starts down U.S. 50 then a few miles west of Canon City veers onto an official scenic byway (C0 9/HighPark Road) that more than lives up to its designation. It’s a perfect late summer day with bright sunshine and light winds. After a leisurely two-hour drive, I navigate my way through Cripple Creek and Victor, two of the three towns in Colorado where gambling is allowed, past the gargantuan Newmont gold mining operation, and start the six-mile descent to Skaguay Reservoir.