Fly Fishing Colorado: Our Playground – 2016 Vol. 2

Originally posted @ Orvis

We had an amazing year on all kinds of water. From high altitude lakes to small mountain streams to large gold medal rivers, fish were caught and released and fun was had!

Originally posted @ Mountainsmith

Base Camp: noun –  The place whereby expeditions start and end. A place to call home away from home, and a place where noble troupes gather. (Urban Dictionary)

When I hear the words “Base Camp” my mind automatically thinks of Mt. Everest, and the adventurers waiting at base camp for inclement weather to clear, seizing that window of opportunity, in hopes of reaching the summit. Although it’s not likely that you’ll ever find me at an Everest base camp, I do find the more local base camp experience a nice change of pace. My friends and I usually strap on our 50 lb. backpacks and head off into the wilderness for a week at a time, hiking to the off-the-beaten-path areas to fly fish. However, to change things up a little we decided to do a four-day base camping trip and take daily excursions to lakes in the area.

This trip would take Shawn, Tom, Carper and me into the San Isabel National Forest. Covering 1,120,233 acres in central Colorado, with seven designated wilderness areas within these acres, it wasn’t difficult to find a spot where we could set up camp.

Each morning, we woke up at 6:30, fixed breakfast burritos, brewed coffee, and packed up our daypacks. My rain gear, fly fishing gear, water, lunch, camera, trekking poles, net, and more, were all stuffed into the Scream 25 pack, and I was ready for our daily expedition. Half of our day hikes would be off trail/bushwhacking, and since we were away from base camp, it was imperative we bring enough clothing and food and other essentials, yet be able to carry it easily and comfortably all day.

In the four days that we took our hikes, we managed over 7,300 vertical feet of climbing, fishing six lakes and catching six different species of fish: brook trout, rainbow trout, cuttbow trout, cutthroat trout, golden trout and grayling. With all of these miles and all of the hours of fly fishing, every day it was extremely comforting to know we were going to eventually be back at our base camp.

Steaks, bratwursts and burgers cooked over the fire with sautéed peppers, mushrooms and onions for dinners – not to mention the ice cold beer to go with it all. We kept the canopy over the picnic table for when the afternoon thunderstorms rolled through. And of course we had camping chairs, so we could comfortably enjoy the fire every night with our s’mores. I could really get used to this whole base camp idea, but I owe a lot of that to my Scream 25, which gave me the assurance that I could leave the camp behind, yet still comfortably carry everything I need.

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Posted @ Orvis

The first few months of 2016 was amazing! Looking forward to the rest of the year!

Another perfect day on the water. This was the first time using the new Hydros reel and it paired perfectly with my 6 wt. Recon.



Two fellow Redditors drove down from Fort Collins for a day of fishing on the Platte.

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Featured @ Orvis

Volume 3 is everything else that wasn’t covered in volumes 1 and 2, it really was a fun year of releasing fish!

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!

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Featured @ Orvis

Rambling around the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness

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!

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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.

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