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Photos: Holy Hail and Cutties in the Colorado High Country

Originally posted @ Orvis

Shawn, Tom, and I hiked into the Holy Cross Wilderness Area in Colorado for a few days of chasing cutthroat trout. To be honest, this wasn’t the best trip we’ve ever taken. With 23 miles of hiking, crazy thunderstorms, and hail storms that rolled through everyday, and not-so-stellar fishing, it was a bit of a struggle the whole trip. But that’s the way it goes when you are above 11,500 feet: you never know what to expect, so you just have to make the best of it and enjoy being out in the wild.



Every year my friends and I try to take bets on when a certain couple of lakes will be open for fishing. These lakes are roughly 12,500 feet above sea level and take a lot longer to ice off than you would think. When you hit the lakes at just the right time it’s some of the best fishing we’ll have all year. But if you go too early, all you’ll get is some good exercise and some amazing views! Either way it’s win/win.

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My creek during runoff

I use the term “My creek” extremely loosely. Although when I go I don’t ever see anyone else so it might as well be mine. The fishing this spring has been great at the creek but I’m anxiously awaiting the snow to melt to start hiking the high country!

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The Start of the Year

January and February ended up being a great start to 2017!

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Rosemont Reservoir

Went to Rosemont Reservoir and caught a LOT of fish. All on the small side but when you catch over 50 with multiple species to the net, it was a great day using the 3wt.!

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Kickin’ Around the Lake – North Catamount Reservoir

Took a Friday off to head up the Pikes Peak Highway and take the float tubes out on North Catamount Reservoir. It was a good day of catching rainbows and lake trout.

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Smooth as Silk

China – 4th century BC: a piece of rice, a needle, a bamboo pole and silk fishing line…fish on! It doesn’t get any more natural and basic than that when it comes to fishing. Bamboo has made a resurgence in recent years, with fly fishermen wanting a more natural and handcrafted experience during their outings. With the ever emerging technologies available to fishing gear, it’s doubtful that we will ever resort back to a needle and some rice, but silk fly line offers a unique experience and makes us aware of what has been lost in the invention of mass-produced, conventional line.

A few years ago I was lucky enough to get my hands on one of the finest quality silk fly lines on the market, produced by a company called Phoenix Lines. Hand made in a workshop in the countryside of France, each silk line is a work of art designed for use on the water. While equal in weight to standard line, the silk line features a thinner diameter that allows it to come off the water faster and cut through the air more easily.

This is particularly useful for the type of fishing I do – off the beaten path, above 10,000 feet and often devoid of trees, the lakes I frequent don’t get a lot of pressure but they do get a lot of wind. I found that the silk line cut through the strongest gusts of wind and separated from the surface of the water as if it were weightless.

Maintenance while using the silk line is quite minimal. Out of the box, the Phoenix line can be used as a sink tip. Add a bit of Mucilin to the line and it becomes a floating line. When fishing the high alpine lakes, early morning I use the line as a sinking line and then once the sun heats up the water a bit I dry the line off, add the Mucilin and begin catching trout on dry flies. The little bit of work it takes to maintain the line is complemented by its versatility.

Another benefit to using silk is that it can last up to three times longer than regular fly line. In one instance, an English gentleman used his silk line for 42 years until it got caught in a propeller of a boat at a local reservoir. Given my experience so far and barring a rogue propeller, my Phoenix Silk Line will be on my reel for quite some time.

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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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Outdoor Gaming in the Centennial State

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Las Vegas and Atlantic City have made a mark as America’s undisputed gaming destinations. Sprawling and grandiose casino complexes in these two cities have, consequently, defined how poker, blackjack and other casino games should be played – splashing chips and winning green bills in style. But in other parts of America, new forms of gaming are taking shape, and card sharks are increasingly turning to an entirely different way of gaming – that is, playing it outdoors.

Playing casino games outdoors is a new concept being introduced in many parts of America, where one can trek, fish and camp while at the same time betting one’s stakes in a card game under towering sequoia trees or in a lake yachting cruise. This idea has become viral that even the biggest names in the casino business are beginning to bring their gaming tables outdoors. Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget Casino, for instance, has literally thought outside the box by opening an outdoor blackjack area in front of its famous bay area.

Outdoor gaming is especially appealing in Colorado, with its breathtaking landscape of mountains, forests, mesas, canyons and rivers providing a vivid backdrop for the Centennial State’s outdoor- and game-loving residents. Colorado’s wide array of natural parks such as the Rocky Mountains National Park, the Eleven Mile State Park, and the Spinney Mountain State Park offers not only mountains to climb or vast lakes to fish, but also picturesque spots to play blackjack, baccarat or any casino card game. It is played best every after a mountain trek, a biking trip or a fishing expedition, when one needs to rest and seeks to do something for amusement. Of course, one can’t bring heavy casino equipment such as roulette wheels or craps tables in a national park, the same way that Castle Jackpot’s water dragons can’t exist in Colorado waters.

It is hoped that playing outdoor casino card games will lure more people to visit the wilderness and gain a deeper appreciation of nature. It won’t be a surprise if outdoor- and casino-loving Coloradans will lead the initiative and convince more Americans to visit the countryside and commune with nature.

Plan C

Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches when things aren’t going the way you planned. In this case, we had to go with plan C because mother nature decided to throw some curve balls. Mike, Tom and myself made plans to hike into a lake we had never fished before in search of some lake trout. The lake sits roughly 1,000 feet straight down from a road, and the lake itself is at 12,500 feet above sea level.

We had an early start, arrived at the road in question, and it was closed. Now this road is a seasonal road and is not open in the winter months. But we had all checked to make sure the road was open for our adventure and everywhere we checked said it was open. There were no signs around to let us know why the road was closed but a gentlemen walked over and let us know that the road was closed due to a rock slide. So on to plan B.

Unfortunately, plan B was setup if for some unforeseen reason we could not make it to our first destination, we were going to fish a lake that is right next to the road. So of course that was out since we couldn’t even get up the road. Plan C, here we go.

Plan C was thrown together last minute when we decided to hike to a lake that is in the generally vicinity of where we currently were. We didn’t want to waste anymore time with driving somewhere else, so we threw on our packs and headed up the trail. Not knowing if the lake we were hiking to was free of ice or not, because the high alpine lakes had seen a lot of snow late in the season and most were still frozen, but we went anyway. We arrived at the lake to find it 95% iced. Oh well, at least we had a small area that was unfrozen to wet some lines.

The rest of the day was spent fishing and lounging, lounging because the fishing wasn’t that great. In fact, only one fish was caught and that was by Mike. But we still had a great time with some majestic mountains and with good friends, and in the end that’s really all that matters.

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