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!
“… when the lawyer is swallowed up with business and the statesman is preventing or contriving plots, then we sit on cowslip-banks, hearthe birds sing, and posess ourselves in as much quietness as these silent silver streams…”
Late May 2017
I’m hunched down behind a big beaver dam high in the Colorado mountains. I gingerly step on the twisted mass of branches in front of me so I can peer over the dam, the preferred way to scout out a beaver pond where the trout are often very skittish. I carefully elevate my head and spot a nice foot-long brown trout finning in the slow current not 30 feet away. With an extra abundance of caution, I begin my casting motion, making sure not to snag in the overhanging willows behind me…and promptly spook the fish that heads pell mell into the next county. I can only laugh! Fortunately, I haven’t scared off all the fish and am able to seduce a couple of brightly colored little brookies that are hiding in deeper water out of the sun.
I’ve just gotten off the road after two weeks, my annual migration from Florida to my cabin in the Colorado mountains near Salida. It was time to escape the 90 degree heat and pesky, voracious salt water mosquitoes in the Everglades as well as the incessant political chatter about Biggly 45. So I am in serious need of a wilderness injection and trout remedy. The problem? The Big Ark, my home water, is running at over 1,000 CFS, which means any real wading is risk of life. And most of my favorite streams are also blown out with runoff from the peaks. Fortuitously, one of the local fishing gurus, Fred Rasmussen (founder of the local chapter of Trout Unlimited and conservation raconteur par excellence) has suggested trying Silver Creek as an option. It’s only a short drive from my cabin…so here I am and let the fun begin.
August 23, 2016
Earlier this week I had a delightful day on the lower section of little Archuleta Creek just above where it joins with Cochetopa Creek 20 miles or so southeast of Gunnison. (See my article titled Day 1 on Archuleta Creek.). Yesterday I drove over the Continental Divide to beautiful Saguache Park and fished the headwaters of Saguache Creek. The brown trout and brookies were ravenous. So after a long day of fishing and driving over rough backcountry roads, I
am lollygagging about and staying close to camp on Upper Dome Lake. Around 10 a.m. I decide to take a stroll out on the rock-faced earthen dam to see if any fish are rising in the lake….and they are! But even more intriguing, I see dimples on the surface of the water below the spillway, a very short section of Archuleta Creek that flows into Lower Dome Lake. In all my times fishing and camping up here, I have never seen anyone fish this stretch below the lake, hidden in plain sight! I retreat post haste to the mobile fish camp and rig up my fly rod with a tiny #20 black midge dry fly that has done well for me in the lake and the creek. I double-time it back to the dam and creep down the rocky slope towards the lake, not wanting to spook the rainbow trout that are rising all along the shoreline. A good-sized one cruises insouciantly in front of me, picking off small bugs on the surface, apparently oblivious to my presence above. I carefully loft a cast so that the microscopic fly alights gently five feet in front of him. He spots it, jets forward, and WHAM, he’s on!!
“Walk Softly And Carry A Big Fish”….Anon
August 21, 2016
When fly fishing, nothing is more fun than watching a hungry trout zip from a hiding place to nail a dry fly with a showy splash on the surface—except maybe if you are using TWO dry flies, and the fish is in trouble from seeing double which means double the fun for the angler!
But there aren’t many times when double dries really work, one tied to the other, trailing behind a couple of feet. On bigger waters, the current will inevitably mess things up, dragging one fly too fast or dunking the other. Which is a sure sign to the trout of a fraudulent bug! But I discovered it’s the perfect technique on Archuleta Creek, a little sister tributary to Cochetopa Creek, high in a mountain valley 20 miles southeast of Gunnison, Colorado. (See my earlier articles about Cochetopa creek in 2015.)
The stretch of Archuleta Creek I have my sights on today is a tailwater below Lower Dome Lake, a
state wildlife area with primitive camping facilities. Being a tailwater that draws its flow from the surface of the lake, the creek’s temperature is warmer and fairly constant, and the water very fertile. It has an abundance of aquatic vegetation, which is good for growing bugs and for hiding trout, but not so good for the typical rig I and most trout anglers use these days—a dry fly on top with a nymph tied onto the dry that sinks and trails behind. It’s a deadly combo that gets fish on top and down below (where fish feed most of the time)…except in places like Archuleta Creek which is shallow and where a sinking nymph will pick up a lot of moss and other detritus or just plain snag on streambed rocks. Which can lead to extreme consternation and blue language against a blue sky.
Archuleta Creek trout are partial to very small flies, feasting on tiny mayflies, caddis, and midges that hatch throughout the summer on most days. I’m talking microscopic—size 20-24. Flies this small are extremely hard to see, especially if floating against the bank in a foam line, if you are looking into the sun in the afternoon, or it’s cloudy. In other words, most of the time. For me, the savior on Archuleta Creek and others like it has been to tie a bright yellow strike indicator—a piece of yellow yarn—a couple of feet above the fly so I have a general idea where the little thing is which allows me to set the hook more quickly when a trout sucks in the dry fly. Sometimes the trout will even strike the yarn!! Which got me to thinking, why not use a larger dry fly as a strike indicator, in this case a size 16 green parachute grasshopper pattern to imitate one of the hordes of hoppers buzzing about the meadow here in August. It would be easy to see with that big white parachute top and floats like a battleship.
Now I am off to test my new rig and theory on Day 1 of a five-day stay in my mobile fish camp parked at Upper Dome Lake, formed by a big rock and earth dam across Archuleta Creek. Let the experiment begin!!
CAVEAT: As of early June 2019 the North Fork road has reportedly been closed due to an avalanche that covered it in debris. Call ArkAnglers in Salida, CO for latest information.
August 11, 2016
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.