Photos of the Day: More Gold in the Colorado High Country

Originally posted @ Orvis

A few years, ago some friends and I went on the hunt for golden trout in Colorado and came back a little richer. After that trip, I found out that the Colorado Division of Wildlife had received some surplus golden trout from California, the first time in almost twenty years. They stocked a handful of lakes around the state, and I have been waiting for the chance to go on the hunt again.

Tom, Shawn, and Carper joined me for this most recent five-day trip into the wilderness. We hiked roughly twenty miles and fished five lakes, a couple of streams, and a handful of beaver ponds. The fishing was unbelievable, as we found brook trout, cutthroat trout ,and golden trout in abundance. We had our fair share of bad weather—thunderstorms, a hail storm, a three-hour rain storm—but those are the things you have to deal with when backpacking in the Rocky Mountains, and it’s always worth the trouble.

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The Timing of Ice Out

Originally posted @ Mountainsmith

All of my favorite locations to fly fish in Colorado are well over 10,000 feet above sea level.   That’s actually a good thing, because when fishing these areas, you do not see many anglers and the solitude and scenery are unmatched. The bad news is that since these lakes and streams are at such high altitudes, it’s hard to determine when the snow and ice has melted enough to get to them. Some years you can get to lakes that are ice-free by the end of May, other years you have to wait until July to find the open water.

This year was one of those years where the itch to go hiking and fly fishing had to be put on hold because of all of the snow and ice the high country received in the winter months. I did all the online research, I contacted fellow hiking/fly fishing friends, I searched the internets for any and all information I could find about the possibility of the ice and snow melting and I still had to wait longer than I wanted to. Finally, around the end of June, I decided to hike to a set of lakes that I thought  might be free of ice. Tom, Daniel and Conan (Daniel’s dog) decided to go along,  even though the odds were 50/50 that we would actually be able to fish the lakes if the ice was out.

For my first hike of the season, I packed my Mayhem 35 full of everything I could possibly need –  rain gear, water bladder, extra clothing, lunch, camera equipment, and my fly fishing essentials. With everything easily fitting inside my pack, it was a perfect morning for the two hour hike to the first lake.Overcast skies with temps in the lower 50′s made for great  hiking weather. Once we got to the first lake it was a relief to see that it was indeed free of ice. We set our packs down and got our fly gear out and started fishing.

At this point I have to make clear another issue that arises when fishing the high country. Not only do you have to worry about a lake being ice free but you also have to worry about the water temperature. Once the ice comes off a lake it of course is fishable, but if you hit it too soon after the ice, the water temperature is still too cold for the fish to be very active. There’s the sweet spot when the ice is off, the lake is warmed up just perfectly, and the trout are voracious. This was not one of those days.

After a couple of hours of fishing without even seeing a trout, we decided to try our luck at another lake in the vicinity. This particular lake is unnamed and has no trail or signs of its location. Going on some information I got from a friend a couple of years ago, we decided to bushwhack up to the lake and see if it was fishable. After a half hour or so of bushwhacking over boulder fields and downed trees, we came over a ridge and got our first look at the lake. We noticed a lot of fish eating off the surface and were thrilled at the chance to catch some of these trout.

Even with all of the action we were seeing, Tom was the only one of us to catch anything, netting three nice cutthroat trout. Then the clouds started rolling in and we were getting hit with a bit of snow/sleet/rain so we packed up and headed back to find the trail out, which involved another half hour of bushwhacking to get back to our original trail.

I would have to continue to wait for my first fish in the high country, , but it was still a perfect day for hiking and fishing!

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Around Town

Originally posted @ Mountainsmith

Vests, chest packs, lanyards, sling packs and lumbar packs – I have them all. As a fly fisherman for over ten years, I have used just about every product on the market – starting with the original fly fishing vest all the way to the latest in the lumbar selection of packs. I carry more than I need to every time I head out to go fishing, so a pack that can hold everything and also be comfortable is essential. Up until this last year my favorite pack to use was my sling pack, then I became a firm believer in the lumbar pack.

Fishing in and around Denver is a ton of fun. In early spring the little streams warm up and the ice thaws off of the lakes and the fish are ready to bite – the perfect time to take my son to the various fishing holes around town. When taking a five year old fishing I have to remember that it is all about him having fun, so it is important to bring the essentials along. Luckily, everything fits in my Tour lumbar pack  – Matchbox cars, legos, apples, PB&J, animal crackers, water bottles, crayons and coloring books, along with the fly fishing tools I need – all fit neatly into the Tour pack.

In between the trips where I take my son exploring, I get to show some friends around town. On one occasion I took my friend Jason Getzel to a local creek in the hopes of finding some brown trout. We were also hoping to get Jay on his first fish of the year, which was accomplished. The fish might not have been anything to write home about, but being able to use the Tour pack and wet wading in the creek for an afternoon is what exploring and fly fishing is all about.

The most enjoyable part of being able to fish around town is when I get off work early and am able to head to the creek or the lake and have time to relax for an evening. I realize not many people can get off of work and drive 15 minutes up the road and catch a 12″ brown trout, so I do not take it for granted and am thankful that I’m able to live in a place where I can enjoy my hobbies so easily.

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Photos of the Day: A Late Start

The ice took a bit longer to melt off of the lakes in the Rockies this year. The first two times I went backpacking, I got more exercise than I did fish—still better than being in the office. So the third time, I was hoping, would be the charm. My friend Daniel and I took a two-day trip and fished a couple of lakes—one of which has no trail, so it was bushwhacking and bouldering—but the fish and the scenery always make it worth while.

Photos of the Day: A Late Start in the Colorado High Country

Lighter is Better

There are two types of camping in my book, car camping and backpacking. Both are fun to do, but if I had to choose one over the other it would be backpacking. Getting away from the crowds, not camping at a “pay” campground, being out in the vastness of the Colorado Rockies and knowing that the destinations you reach you did so by using your own two feet. Those are the things that keep me packing up my backpack every year and heading into the mountains.

Over the years I have been trying to upgrade my backpacking gear, better and lighter equipment to make it a little easier on my aging back. One of my favorite things to do while backcountry camping is cooking. Everything you eat tastes better when in the woods. One of my purchases this year was a new titanium cook set from Keith. This was my first titanium set and I can honestly say I wish I had gotten this sooner!

The set I am using this year includes a large and small pot, and a frying pan. 1200ml/800ml/400ml. They all nest perfectly inside each other and come with a nice lightweight mesh bag. The handles of all three items are covered in a rubber material and fold out nicely for cooking so you never have to worry about them getting too hot. While I was boiling water in the large pot, I used the small frying pan as a lid and also warmed up a bagel in the frying pan while boiling water for my morning coffee. Simple, easy, and when everything is done they are a breeze to clean.

Along with the cook set I also purchased a set of utensils from Keith. I honestly can not believe how light the knife/spoon/fork combo is and how comfortable they are to use. For stirring and for eating, I never had to worry about them getting too hot or breaking them off while mixing up some freeze dried food.

If you are going to make one purchase this year to lighten up your pack, I would highly recommend the Keith titanium line of cookware. Affordable and lightweight, these are a must have, whether you are backpacking or car camping.

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Photos of the Day: Timing Is Everything

More fishing around town. And also probably the smallest fish ever featured as a photo of the day.

Photos of the Day: Timing Is Everything

Orvis Trout Bum of the Week XXVII: Jon Hill

I can say I have been called a bum a few times in my life, but this particular time I am pretty excited about it! Thanks for enjoying my various ramblings, hopefully there will be more to come!

Trout Bum of the Week

Photos of the Day: Father-Son Time at the Trout Pond

Originally post @ Orvis

Spring has gotten off to a great start here in Colorado, unlike the situation for some of my friends and family on the East Coast, where winter doesn’t want to end. To take advantage of the nice weather, I took my five year old son, Brennon, to a lake across the street for some fishing. As with most five year olds, my son’s attention span is roughly three and a half minutes. To make things easier for the both of us, whenever I take him out on the water, I make sure that the day isn’t about me fishing, it’s about him having fun. On this day he packed his backpack with things he wanted to bring to the lake—cars, superhero towel, construction paper, scissors and markers. I brought the fishing gear, pb&j, snacks, and water. We spent four hours having a ton of fun! He is getting great at casting his fishing rod with the fly/bobber setup, but he missed a handful of bites. Even though he has yet to actually catch a fish on his own, he loves to net the fish that I catch and had a blast when I handed him my H2 and he got to reel in the trout, as I netted them for him. When he wasn’t actually fishing, he was playing in the mud, sitting in the shade drawing, climbing on rocks, and playing with his cars. It was a great father and son day at the lake!

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Photos of the Day

This year marks 40 years that I have been able to walk around on the Earth, and I must say I am having a pretty decent time. I called in sick to work and Tom and Matt and I got into some HUGE trout on the Dream Stream.

The Perfect 40th Birthday Present

The Last Bushwhack

Originally posted at Deuter.

You can never be sure how much you’ll see of the fall season in Colorado. Sometimes it seems like it jumps straight from summer to winter without the crisp, colorful season some states get to enjoy. Not this year however. Fall this year has been perfect – minus a couple of snow flurry days. So, my friends Tom and Matt and I decided to take full advantage of the weather and make a trek into the high-country.

For a long day hike like this, my Deuter Futura Pro 42 holds everything I need to take. Stuffed full with my fly-fishing equipment, camera equipment, and my lunch, the pack still feels light when it’s on my back and I’m bushwhacking over trees and boulders.

When I met up with Tom and Matt, I had to laugh because I didn’t realize that they too had Deuter packs stuffed to the brim and ready for the hike. What we didn’t realize was how long and strenuous a hike it would turn out to be. Tom had been studying up on this particular section of water for a few years, gathering all the information he could on how to get down to the river and where on the river to fish. But, there wasn’t a ton of info on this area so we headed out with what little intel we had.

Getting to the river turned out to be the easy part – it was downhill the entire way and only took about an hour. Once at the river, we put our waders on and decided to head upstream. The section of river looked perfect but we didn’t see any signs of fish, so we kept on wading.

The first section was flat and open, and we soon came upon a canyon section. We had to take a detour straight uphill and around the steep section of water to get to more fishable water. Once up on the canyon wall we stopped to take in the scenery and decide what our next move would be. Upstream seemed to be even steeper and less fishable so we decided to head back the way we came and try to fish downstream.

We returned back to where we had started and then headed downstream in hopes of better luck. We immediately saw signs of trout! Matt and I quickly hooked into some small rainbows and it felt good to catch some fish.

But our joy soon melted away when we had to again hike straight up and around yet another canyon. Once that was accomplished we were back at some flat open water – but again, like earlier, no signs of fish. We knew it was going to take a bit longer to hike out than the hike in, and it was getting later in the afternoon, so we decided to call the adventure a success and head back.

It wasn’t the Shangri-La of trout water we were hoping for, but it was a perfect day for a bushwhack. Catching a few choice fish, seeing signs of mountain lions, bear and deer and enjoying the remoteness of the area, still made for a good fall day in Colorado.

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