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.
My home water near Salida, Colorado, the Big Arkansas River (grew up on the Little Ar-Kansas in Kansas) is fishing well for Brownies right now. Five inches of snow a week ago, but bright warm sunshine has melted it all, and trout are fattening up for winter. Mercifully, no hordes of rafters or float fishermen. Water levels dropping this week so wading will be less risky–down from 700 CFS to 550 near Salida. Use caddis nymphs and follow warm weather and warmer water downstream from Salida towards Cañon City. Look for fish in quieter, sunny pools near shoreline. Gentlemen’s fishing hours from 10:30 am to 3 pm when sun is on water. Stayed warm with neoprene waders and three pair of socks. Felt soles and wading staff advisable–rocks very slick!! And keep an eye out for some beautiful bighorn sheep!!
Monsoon rains blowing up from the Gulf of Mexico have been soaking us here in the Colorado mountains most afternoons. It’s no fun and dangerous to be up near the Continental Divide hiking and fishing when a storm blows in. Temperatures can drop from 75 degrees to 45 in a few minutes replete with mountain pea-sized hail that resembles snow. So when the weatherman predicted a sunny day this week, I fetched the day pack from the basement along with my mountain lake fishing gear and plotted a trek to a high-country lake I have been hankering to try–Island Lake far up the North Fork Valley about 20 miles west of my cabin near Salida. It’s perched at 12,000 feet just below Sewanee Peak that pokes up into the sky at a mere 13,132 feet. A thirty-year old guidebook I have tells tales of huge, but finicky cutthroat trout in the lake, a story confirmed in hushed tones by some local fishing guides. So I hit the road at 7 a.m. the next morning, figuring it will take an hour to drive up the rough 4WD road to the trailhead and another hour to hike in. Visions of behemoth trout are dancing in my head.
Daily Double–A long shot bet won by choosing winners in two consecutive races.
I am always on the lookout for a new, scenic, out-of-the-way creek overlooked and rarely visited by other anglers, where there is solitude and hungry fish. But sometimes the little gems are hiding in plain sight. That’s the case with the upper reaches of Tomichi Creek, just over Monarch Pass from my cabin near Salida, Colorado. I have hustled by the creek many times on the way to fish fabled waters like the Gunnison River or my favorite backcountry streams like Cochetopa Creek. As you come bombing down the twisty, turny U.S. 50 from one of the highest paved vehicle passes in the USA, you descend into a lovely valley where gorgeous little Tomichi Creek flows through private ranchland–visible and within a stone’s throw of this major highway. But last fall on my way to Cochetopa Creek, I noticed a sign on a fence along the highway declaring special access, so I turned around and took a look. I was surprised to find that the Colorado State Land Board owns a full section along the road called Daley Gulch, and it was open to fishing. I tucked away that information till early July this year when I was hankering for a mid-week trout fix but had to be back home for a conference call by 4 p.m. Oh those pesky clients! I figured if I left early and was on the water by 8:30 a.m. I could fish till 1 or 2 p.m. and make it back to the office with ease. Now this was admittedly a long shot–a little like the Daily Doubles I used to bet on at Arlington Park in Chicago. The creek is very small as it flows through Daley Gulch, and with public access so close to a major highway I expected it probably got plenty of pressure. But with high hopes, that evening I rigged two rods, got the waders and boots out, set the alarm, and hit the rack with chubby trout dancing in my head.
The North Fork of the South Arkansas River springs from three high-mountain lakes–Arthur,Island,and Billings– about 20 miles west of Salida,Colorado. Arthur Lake is one of my favorite early summer destinations, ensconced in a gorgeous setting just below the Continental Divide, loaded with hefty cutthroat trout, and requiring some substantial effort to reach its shores. Which means I usually have the place to myself, particularly during the week. It’s late June, and the report from ArkAnglers fly shop is that Arthur is ice-free, so I’m on the road early for the hour-long drive west from Salida to the trailhead at North Fork Reservoir. The turn off of US 50 is at Maysville, then about a ten-mile trek up County Road 240 that starts out as a smooth, scenic paved road but which turns gnarly about four miles up just past the public Shavano Campground. From there it is a very rough road suitable only for high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicles. You’ll be lucky to average 10 mph. Buckle up! Some big cutthroat are just up the road!