It’s been a wonderful summer and fall with family and friends in Colorado. The trout have been more than cooperative. A lot of good memories etched.
But the arrival today of little slate-colored juncos at my cabin to be followed tomorrow by sub-zero temps and snow signals it’s time to think about island time in the Florida Glades…and soon! Then again maybe time for a couple more backcountry outings before I hit the road.
The big broad valley that is Colorado’s South Park is known mainly for two things—its eponymous TV cartoon show and great fishing on the South Platte river and its tributaries. Problem is, just over an hour away looms the booming Denver metro area with its millions of residents, not to mention Colorado’s second largest city, Colorado Springs. The result is evident every day on two Colorado fishing groups I belong to on Facebook. While anglers show photos of nice browns and rainbows on famous stretches of the South Platte like the Dream Stream and Eleven Mile Canyon, more and more they rail about the crowds and report increasing incidents of near-fisticuffs over prime fishing spots. To make matters worse, access to private waters that were formerly open to the public for a modest fee, through programs like the now-defunct county sponsored South Park Flyfishers, is shrinking.
Crowds are not my cup of tea when it comes to fishing. However, when I drive from my home near Salida to Denver through Fairplay to see my sweetheart granddaughter Aly, I see miles of water just off U.S. Highway 285 on the South Fork of the South Platte that look inviting. I fished some of this area several years ago on the 63 Ranch State Wildlife area, public water just above Antero Reservoir. A friend and I got there early in the morning one summer day and caught some nice rainbows and browns, but by 11 a.m., the hordes descended—we could see eight other anglers, several of whom had no clue that you are not supposed to jump into the water right ahead of other anglers already fishing just below who are working upstream. We flew the white flag and beat a hasty retreat.
Still, I was intrigued when I tooled down Hwy. 285 and saw few anglers upstream of Antero on the miles of public water between the main public access points located on the 63 Ranch and Knight-Imler State Wildlife Areas. (Caveat: Anglers must stay within 25 feet of the river when fishing the Knight-Imler SWA–see maps below for boundaries of both areas.)
To further whet my angling appetite, I have heard tales of huge spawning browns migrating out of Antero Reservoir up the South Fork in the fall. As I drive, I cook up a strategy in my mind: Pinpoint the several designated public access parking areas along this stretch and then avoid them like the plague. So on my next several trips I keep a hawkeye out for alternatives and discover several possible walk-in access points from service vehicle-only gates. The next step is to find a day when the wind isn’t blowing like a banshee in South Park, an all-too-often condition.
As the temperatures start to dip into the 30s and below here in the Colorado high country, my thoughts are starting to turn from trout to chasing snook, tarpon, and redfish in my winter home in Florida’s Everglades. I live on a little island in the Glades called Chokoloskee surrounded by miles and miles of beautiful saltwater teeming with big fish. Here’s a sampling of my favorite places that can be reached easily by kayak or small skiff from my latest article from Florida Sportsman with the inside skinny on lures and technique as well. Come on down when you want to thaw out and catch some fish this winter!
Click on the link below to view a copy of the article “Chokoloskee Up Close.”
For my earlier adventures fishing the Middle Fork of Saguache Creek, see my articles from the summer of 2017 and 2018.
As my readers and angling friends know, the Middle Fork of Saguache Creek, coursing out of the high peaks of the La Garita Mountains in south central Colorado, is one of my favorite fishing haunts. Because it is a fetching, secluded water with very cooperative fish, I usually look no further when I venture into the broad expanse of Saguache Park about two hours south of Gunnison, Colorado.
But earlier this summer when I was scoping out a new stretch of the Middle Fork on a topo map that I had not yet fished, my eyes wandered to some of its obscure tributaries like the North Fork, Johns Creek, Bear Creek, and several others. All looked a tad hard to access which usually means good fishing. So I resolved to give them a try, the first on my list being the North Fork.
The dozens of times I have fished the Middle Fork over the last decade I often forded the little North Fork just above Stone Cellar campground with hardly a second glance.
It’s overgrown and only a few feet wide at that point, nothing to really pique my interest. But my topo map reveals that just upstream in a canyon away from the road or any official trail it looks less brushy with some interesting twists and turns. Who can resist!!
After a couple of days of throwing heavy nymph rigs, navigating unruly rapids, and muscling out some big trout on the Conejos River (See my article from September 28, 2019.), I’m ready for some backcountry small creek angling and a dose of solitude. When I learned through a little on-line sleuthing that the feds and state have collaborated to create a sanctuary for rare Rio Grande Cutthroat trout on the Lake Fork of the Conejos River, I was intrigued. Rio Grande Cutts are some of the most gorgeous trout in the world, bar none, with their flaming orange and red colors looking like something out of an artist’s dream. They are also rare, occupying only about 10% of their original habitat that actually extended into Texas at one point. Fortunately they are making a comeback thanks to the dogged efforts of federal and state fish and wildlife agencies. The bonus is that they live in some of the most scenic, remote creeks in Colorado. A little more digging revealed that I could get into some good fishing after a relatively moderate 2-3 mile hike, some a septuagenarian like me could handle. I was sold! I went to bed thinking of leaping trout.