Photos: Big Brown, Small Creek

Originally posted @ Orvis

I had an insane day today on my local creek. Caught a handful of fish here in town, with one being one of the largest browns I’ve ever caught. He almost looks like he’s smiling for the camera! When it’s 65 and sunny in mid-November, wet wading the creek is a blast!

P1020565 P1020557

Photos: November Dry Flies in Colorado

Originally posted @ Orvis

As the ski season here in Colorado kicks off, other parts of the country are ending their trout season. I’m lucky enough to live in a state where I can fish year round. As some people head to the mountains and hit the slopes, here in Denver it was 65 and sunny over the weekend. So what better way to kick off November than to head to the creek where the browns were hitting dries all day?

P1020523 P1020524 P1020526

Pick a Trail, Any Trail

Originally posted @ Mountainsmith

Colorado has over 100,000 acres of roadless land. Add to that 42 State Parks, 12 national parks and 13 national forests/grasslands. Within the boundaries of the state line there are over 3,000 lakes and reservoirs, and flowing into and out of these lakes are 6,000 miles of creeks and rivers. 35 species of both warm and cold water fish swim in this water. To, from, and alongside all of this land and water are thousands of miles of trails. It gives me pause when I stop to consider all of the possibilities that are available to an adventurer in Colorado.

I get asked all the time as to my whereabouts anytime I show people photos or videos of the trips I am fortunate enough to take. I rarely give out my exact location because of the vast number of locations available in Colorado. Research and planning come together to directly impact my travel group’s outcome, and I believe fellow fishermen will have a much richer experience by choosing their own course. Look at a map, pick a lake or a stream or a mountain – find the trailhead, stuff your Mountainsmith pack and go for a hike. It really is that simple.

Most of the lakes and streams contain fish, but just because you had good luck at a lake the year before, it does not mean the fish will still be there the year after. One can never be exactly sure what Mother Nature has in store, but that’s a gamble I’m willing to take in order to experience the high country.

One factor that contributes to this phenomenon in high alpine lakes is something called “winter kill”. This happens during the snowy months when too much snow stays on top of the ice covered lakes and does not allow enough of the sun’s rays to penetrate into the water. Without the rays, oxygen levels in the lake will drop and not be enough to sustain the fish that are trying to survive the cold winter months – killing most if not all the fish in the lake.

Although I am theoretically aware of the “winter kill” possibility, after 12 years of fly fishing in the high country of Colorado, this year was my first year personally experiencing hiking to a lake, knowing it held fish the year before, and finding it to be void of anything swimming in its cold waters. And it drove home just how important it is to have a backup plan when heading into the Rockies. On this particular trip we had planned to fish three lakes in the vicinity and also fish five miles of creek that came out of these lakes, so not all was lost. In fact the trip was an amazing one.

So, if you do decide to pick a trail, any trail, here are a couple of resources that will help  choose a destination.

Colorado Parks & Wildlife website

Colorado Fishing Atlas which shows what lakes and rivers have been stocked

So go get your Mountain Dome Tent and your Mountainsmith pack, stuff it with the essentials, pick some blue on a map and go explore!

P10101631P1010310 P1010267 P1010239 P1010235 P1010073 P1010042

Wet Wading with the Aquanaut

The Aquanaut feeling at home in the water.

The Aquanaut feeling at home in the water.

Perfect shoes for the slick rocks.

Perfect shoes for the slick rocks.


“Check these out!” my friend Shawn said to me while walking down a sidewalk in the quaint mountain town of Buena Vista, CO. He, Tom and myself had just come out of the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, fly fishing and backpacking for five days. We had stopped to grab a burger and a beer and stumbled onto the sidewalk sale for Colorado Kayak Supply. What Shawn was looking at was a pair of kayaking shoes that none of us had seen before or knew existed. I’m an avid backpacker and fly fisherman and I’m always on the lookout for new products but I don’t venture out of my own little world and had never thought to look to other sports for equipment. Now I wish we had come across the shoes sooner!


During our five days in the Collegiate Peaks we had fished four different lakes and also wet waded the streams coming out of these lakes. Wet wading the small streams in the Rocky Mountains is hands down my favorite type of fly fishing. There’s something about getting your feet wet while walking a creekthat makes fooling a trout into taking your fly even more enjoyable. I spend a lot of my summers walking in streams and rivers and knew I had to give these Astral shoes a shot.



Tom with a perfect drift through a canyon pool.

Tom with a perfect drift through a canyon pool.

Fast forward two weeks to when my friend Tom and I had a day off to hike into a canyon – the ideal spot to introduce my new Aquanaut kayaking shoes to the fly fishing world. The canyon we were hiking is more popular with the kayakers than the fly fishermen – one of the rapids that we came across is aptly named “Supermax”. We hiked down the canyon and discovered that the bridge one must cross to get from private property to the public had been halfway demolished due to flooding. I took this opportunity to switch out my hiking boots with the Aquanauts, and we walked upstream a few hundred feet to find an area where we could cross the river. The second I put these shoes into the water, I knew it would be an easy day of wet wading.

We spent six hours hiking and fishing up and down the canyon and whether I was in the water trying to maneuver on the slick rocks or up on the trail climbing over boulders, the shoes never once slipped and the support was perfect. It became obvious that Astral thoroughly mapped out and addressed all of the challenges an outdoorsman comes across when wading through bodies of water. I was particularly impressed by the Agro Grip outsole, and the Aquanauts ended up being the best wading shoe I have ever worn.



As for the fishing on this day, it was not stellar but I couldn’t complain since I got to enjoy the canyon without slipping and stumbling in the water. Witnessing the power of the fast moving river first hand, and getting up close and personal with “Supermax”, it’s best if I stick to wet wading and leave the rapids to the kayakers.


Tom with a juvenile brown trout.

Tom with a juvenile brown trout.


A perfectly spotted brown trout.

A perfectly spotted brown trout.


Canyon fishing at its finest.

Canyon fishing at its finest.

Our Playground – 2015 Vol. 2

Featured @ Orvis

Rambling around the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

Photos of the Day: Colorado’s Collegiate Peaks Cutts

Originally posted @ Orvis

At least once a year, I get away for a long backpacking trip, and this year Tom, Shawn, and I took five days off and headed into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness in Colorado. The hike was a total of 30 miles with over 5,700 feet in elevation gain. Add to that roughly 15 miles of fishing around lakes and creeks, and it was an amazing week of fly fishing.

I brought along my 6-weight Recon and my 3-weight Superfine Glass and was glad I had both. The lakes we fished were above 12,000 feet, and it was extremely windy every day. Using the Recon was perfect for those conditions, throwing streamers and dry flies and everything else out of the fly box: the cutthroat trout were hungry and eager to take anything we threw at them.

When we headed down into the valley to fish the different sections of the creek, the 3-weight Superfine was so much fun to throw dry flies to eager brook and cutthroat trout. Even though they were small in the creek, it’s always a blast to be wet-wading up a creek and catching trout with every cast!

CreekBrook CreekCut DayHiking JonCut PerfectSpot PerfectSpot2 Red SOS Shawn Tom TomCut

Timing is Everything

Originally posted @ Mountainsmith

People say location is everything, but in the world of hiking and fly fishing location is only part of the process, and timing is everything. When it comes to spring fly fishing in the Colorado Rockies, traveling to a lake that sits at 10,000 feet or higher is quite a challenge. For some lakes, the best fishing is just after the ice melts but before the lake turns over. Trying to time this event is a different gamble every year. Some years the snow pack in the Rocky Mountains is lean and you get an early start to fishing open water. Other years mother nature will continue to drop snow well into June. This was one of those years.

As is typical of my day trips, the Mountainsmith Scream pack was the perfect choice, allowing me to carry in my fly fishing gear along with extra layers, rain gear and some lunch.

The first week I tried to hike to a pair of lakes that sat at 12,000 feet above sea level. One lake was 95% frozen and the other lake about 80%. I only saw one fish and got nothing to the net. This information was valuable, however, because based on the temperatures we were going to have the next week, the lakes would soon be very fishable. So the week after that first ascent I went back up with my friend Shawn and the timing couldn’t have been better.

Ice was off of one of the lakes, with the other lake still having a small amount of ice, and we saw a lot of cutthroat trout cruising around the shoreline. By mid morning it had warmed up enough and the fish started hitting dry flies off the surface of the water. With all this action you would think we would have had a stellar day, but the fish were extremely picky. Shawn and I threw everything we had in our arsenal at them and only managed seven fish between the two of us. Which is a better way of saying that I only caught one fish that day and Shawn did pretty good.

With only one fish to the net, I still had an amazing day rambling around in the mountains. The timing was perfect this year, even if it did take me two tries to get it almost right.

Untitled_Panorama1 P1000815 P1000794 P1000790

Curiosity and Research

Originally posted @ Mountainsmith

It’s a catch 22, I am itching to get into the Rocky Mountains to start hiking and fly fishing my favorite lakes and streams but I also realize that all the water is a welcome problem (and that the fishing in the state will be all that much better once the levels get back to normal). Of course you can still go out and fish these swollen bodies of water, the fish are still there and are eating to stay alive, but it takes a different approach to fish faster moving water. It is more difficult and sometimes dangerous to be out in those conditions.

Not to be outdone by the local rain, the high mountain lakes I frequently hike to stayed frozen much longer into the year than normal, so hiking to 12,000 feet to fish was out of the question. Still in need of an adventure,  I turned to the internets and started researching, trying to find some fishable water. My interest was piqued by a short video that really gave no hint as to where it was shot –  river or state. I had a feeling I could find the place,  it had the look of Colorado and was vaguely familiar. With this video and a hunch, I reached out to some friends and we began to do our research and soon discovered it was an area that I had driven by many times but never knew was fishable. I checked the Colorado surface water information for all the rivers in the state. I looked at this particular river and noticed it was one of the few rivers that was flowing at normal levels. Yahtzee!

Meandering through a picturesque valley, the river had the perfect amount of undercut banks, deep pools, and shallow riffles. We walked downstream from the parking lot, which only had one other car in its lot, and Tom jumped down into the water to start fishing, while I started just downstream from him. Within a half a dozen casts I had my first fish on, a big, beautiful brown trout. I was astounded at the size of the fish that came out of the small river and was more amazed as the day went on. Tom and I caught multiple fish, both brown and rainbow trout and all ranging in size from 10 to 18 inches. As I stepped back and looked around the area, it dawned on me how lucky we were to be fishing this spot! It made me realize how a little bit of curiosity coupled with research can come together to create an unprecedented day of fishing.

TomCarter TomBrown Tom2 JonBrown

Opening Weekend

Originally posted @ Mountainsmith

Picked up and re-posted @ Elevation Outdoors

Here in Colorado we are extremely lucky, we get to fish every day of the year. Although some of the water is frozen in the winter, and some roads that lead to amazing fisheries are closed for the winter, but you can fish open water whenever you feel the urge. Pikes Peak Highway is one of the roads that is closed during the winter months. Last weekend it opened for the season so myself, Tom, Shawn and Tim headed out to one of the reservoirs.

Shawn and Tim hiked their float tubes in, while Tom and I were planned on wading around the lake. We hiked a mile or so up the reservoir and then went down to the lake and started fishing. With my fly fishing and camera gear packed into my Mountainsmith Mayhem 35, it was easy to hike around the edge of the lake with everything I needed for the day packed into the Mayhem.

The reservoir is very deep, 130 feet at its deepest. The shoreline that Tom and I were wading was shallow enough to walk around, with about a foot and a half before it dropped off into the abyss. With snow on the steep banks, and not a lot of room to walk, we had to be careful when hiking around. We stopped at one point and decided to fish an area that had a nice 5 foot shelf coming off the bank before it headed down deep into the lake. With the bank right behind me, roll casting was the only way to get my streamer out into the lake. Before long I had my first fish of the day on the line and I didn’t realize it was a lake trout until it was in my net. This just happened to be the first lake trout that I have ever caught. After releasing the fish, I roll casted back out into the water, waited for my line to sink deep and bam, fish on again. And again it was a nice lake trout on the line.

As Tom and I were skirting the edge of the lake, Shawn and Tim were kicking and fishing their way up to the inlet. After a couple of hours all four of us met up and hung out near a cove and fished that and a nice peninsula that jutted out into the lake – all of us catching a nice amount of fish for the rest of the afternoon.

The Pikes Peak Highway was opened from 9-4 that day, so around 3:30 we started our hike back to the car. With a little bit of hiking, and a lot of fish caught by everyone, it was a great opening weekend for all of us.

eO2UjCH P1000476 P1000504 P1070187 P1070218 r821z5N YHKLX8F

Our Playground – 2015 Vol. 1

Wyoming was a blast!