Taking Another Gambol On Upper Beaver Creek Near Cripple Creek, Colorado

Early July 2019

Note:  See my September 2018 article for more about fishing Upper Beaver Creek and the intriguing history of Skaguay Reservoir.

https://hooknfly.com/2018/09/07/taking-a-gamble-on-upper-beaver-creek-near-victor-co/

The epic runoff of 2019 continues and with it my search for fishable trout waters.  Most of my favorite rivers and streams—the Arkansas, Gunnison, Saguache, Cochetopa, and Tomichi—are still blown out.  But Beaver Creek below the gambling and mining town of Cripple Creek appears to be candidate based on the latest reported water levels.  It’s running at 18 cfs downstream at Penrose, eminently fishable, and the fact that it is a tailwater below Skaguay Reservoir means it’s probably clear as well.

I had a fun day on upper Beaver Creek late last summer and want to explore the next section further down.  Last trip I hiked in about two miles below the reservoir, stumbled on a small beaver dam and pond, then fished back up from there.  I caught dozens of brownies in the six-to-twelve inch range and a few bigger in the spillway just below the dam.  Now my plan is to hike another mile or so below that point and explore some new water.

I’m off a bit after 7 a.m. from the Indian Springs Campground near Canon City where I am giving my new smaller mobile fish camp a shakedown run (For the story of the demise of my former rig, see my article “A Trip Through Hades.”).

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The New Mini Mobile Fish Camp At Indian Springs Campground

My route is up through Phantom Canyon, an endlessly scenic but rough track that everyone should do at least once.  It’s very slow going, taking me almost two hours to cover the 25 miles or so to Cripple Creek/Victor and Skaguay Reservoir.

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Phantom Canyon Scenic Route

It’s hard to believe this route was carved out of this rugged country for a railroad in the late 1800s.    But my mind is on fishing, so I push on.

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Wildcat Canyon: No Country For Old Fishermen?

Late August 2018

As I went slip sliding away down a crumbly, gravely steep slope into Wildcat Canyon, a couple of titles from two of my favorite movies conflated in my head: “ Secondhand Lion” stars in “No Country For Old Men.”  That seemed like an apt description of the fix I had gotten myself into.

I could hear my destination roaring below, a remote section of South Platte River about an hour’s drive west of Colorado Springs.  But it had been a long time since the thought now running through my mind had popped up…that I might not make it down there, so treacherous was the last half-mile.  And me in my waders and heavy wading boots, wearing a loaded fishing vest and toting two rigged fly rods plus a small ice chest.  A slightly addled angler by any measure.

Then I came to a ledge that I had to jump down, steadying myself with my wading staff.  I landed square on both feet to the chagrin of my aging knees.  As I turned around and looked up, I thought how the hell will I get back up that one.  Ed Abbey’s similar predicament memorialized in his Desert Solitaire came to mind.   He had scurried over a ledge in a dry wash and realized he couldn’t get back up or go down.  He ended up spending a night there until he figured out a way to extricate himself.  It was some comfort that I had my emergency satellite phone in my fishing vest, but didn’t relish the thought of a night perched in some crevice trying to stay warm.

The hike along an old abandoned jeep trail had started pleasantly enough.  The first mile or so could not have been more serene or bucolic, the proverbial walk in the park bathed in sunshine among groves of stately Ponderosa Pine and Quaking Aspen, then an open meadow.  The grade was very modest, hardly discernible.

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A Walk In the Park–No Hint Of What’s To Come

The next half mile was more challenging, first the trail disappearing in an overgrown brambly stretch that played havoc with my long fly rods, my epithets coloring the air as blue as the Colorado sky.  Then it was doing some high hurdles over and hopscotching around numerous downed trees scattered like pick-up-sticks over the trail, courtesy of the devastating Hayman fire over 15 years ago, the largest in state history.

That was but a warm-up act for the final half mile that definitely put the wild in Wildcat Canyon.  Without my trusty wading staff to prop me up, I would have either plunged head-long down the ravine the trail followed or just turned back.

I continued my mountain goat imitation successfully, and as I caught my first glimpse of the South Platte, all concerns started to vanish.

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First Glimpse–More Rock Hopping Required

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