If At First You Don’t Succeed

– Originally posted @ http://blog.deuterusa.com/blog-posts/dont-succeed



Distance hiked over two weekends: 15 miles

Elevation gained over two weekends: 5600 feet

Number of fish caught over two weekends: 0

Weekend three would add another eight miles and 2500 feet of elevation to that total, and luckily a few fish in the net.

Why, you might ask, is an intermediate hiker like myself hiking so often and so far? It’s because I have a backpacking trip planned in to the West Elk Wilderness, which is located in the southwest region of Colorado, so I am trying to get prepared for this 20 mile/5 day jaunt in to the unknown. So these three weekends in a row are my workouts.

On this third excursion I stepped up to the big pack and stuffed it full! I’m not sure how much it ended up weighing, but my Aircontact 65+10 was packed to the seams when I hoisted it on to my shoulders and headed up the trail.

This particular trailhead lead up to a lake that sat at 12,000 feet above sea level. The trail, marked as “difficult,” was a little over three miles one way. Joining me for this trip were Mike and Ryan – both of which are going with me on my trip in a couple of weeks. So all three of us were using this hike as training and it was well worth it.

Reaching the lake around 8:30 am, we were glad to see that only a small section of the inlet was still frozen. Camped along the edge of the lake, a couple of guys were just getting out of their tents so we stopped to have a little chat. They said they had no luck with catching the cutthroat trout that were supposed to be in the lake. That not being a deterrent, we headed for the far side and started to rig up.

I was the first to put the waders on and head into the lake. I waded out to chest deep water and started throwing a streamer to the edge of the shelf that ran the shore of the lake. Within just a couple of casts I had a fish on, and then off. A couple more casts and another fish was on, and then off. Maybe the lack of catching fish as of late was hurting my ability to actually keep a fish hooked.


Just as I was about to have my third fish on and get off, Mike yelled out “Yahtzee” and the first fish of the day was about to be netted. It was a beautiful 14” cutthroat and gave me and Ryan hope that we too would get in to some of the same caliber. Ryan was next up and landed a nice eight incher and then I finally got the skunk off and netted an eight inch cutthroat as well.

In total, we caught around ten fish in just a couple of hours with Mike getting a total of two that were

in the 14” range and Ryan and I getting the smaller ones. I didn’t mind that my fish was a small one, it was just nice to finally catch a fish after all of the hiking I had done the previous two weekends.

Around 11:30 the fish seemed to have turned off. We decided to pack it in early and head out and fish some beaver ponds we had seen on the way up. So with packs on and poles in hand, we hiked down the ¾ of a mile to the beaver ponds.

Bushwacking through the willows, we noticed several little streams leading into and out of severallittle beaver ponds. Right away Ryan was in to yet another cutthroat, albeit a lot smaller than what was at the lake. Then Mike landed a couple. These little guys were everywhere! We fished for another hour and a half and then called it a day.

We got back to the truck in about an hour and a half. It was great to put some miles behind us and to have also done so well fly fishing in the short amount of time we had. Of course the Deuter 65+10 fit perfectly and made the hike that much easier. That and the Futura are amazingly comfortable and I really can’t believe I was hiking the past eight years without the comfort that I now get to enjoy. Although hiking with 40 lbs. on your back for a few hours might not be a joy to some, I can’t wait to do it again!



Head on over to the Deuter blog page and check out my first article for them. It was a picture perfect day, minus the wind and not catching any fish.


Ice Off

If you are like I was a few years ago, you might think this term has something to do with ice hockey. You would be wrong. As it was explained to me years ago, in simplest terms, it is when the ice on a lake is melted. It is also said that if you can time it just right and fish a lake just as it is icing off, the fish feed like crazy. Since they had been dormant for the months the lake was frozen, the trout are hungry and will take just about any fly or lure you throw at them. This, however, I have never witnessed myself.

Over the years that I have lived and fished in Colorado, I have tried numerous times to find this precise time to fish a lake. This past weekend was yet another of those times. Normally hiking in to the high country would have started by now, but because of the record snowfall this year in Colorado we have had to wait longer than normal. I was excited for the first hike of the season not because the snow had melted, but because I got to try out my new Deuter Futura Pro 42 backpack for the first time.

After eight years I was able to retire my old pack and start putting my Futura to the test. Two days before my trip (day hike) I started stuffing my Futura with the essentials – waders, cameras, base layers, hats, rain gear, fly fishing vest – you name it and I stuffed it in. It seemed like there was a perfect place to fit each item. I know I didn’t need half of those things, but you never know what type of weather to expect when hiking above 11,000 feet in Colorado.

For this first hike of the season, I was joined by my friends Kyle and Bob. We arrived at the trailhead around 7:30 and were greeted by a fly fisherman’s worst enemy – the wind. Trying not to be discouraged, we laced up our hiking boots, strapped our fly rods and nets to our packs and headed off. The hike is a moderate one that took about an hour and a half. The only obstacles to mention were a couple of snowfields. These were made tricky because of the wind’s constant attempt to push us over and start us sliding down the slope. With every step I was hoping that the wind would let up, but it never did.

When we made it to the lake I was glad to see that it was 95% open with only a small portion of ice along the shore. Because of the open water we thought it was going to be a good day of fishing, but the white caps rolling across the lake told a different story.

We walked along the shore to the corner of the lake and started to gearup. I won’t bore you with the details, but will just say that this trip was the shortest time I have ever spent fishing. The wind and waves made it difficult to cast a streamer farther than 25 feet. You might have reached 35 feet if you timed the gusts of wind just right, but for the most part it was a feeble attempt at catching fish.

Since we weren’t doing a good job at fishing, Kyle decided to use my Futura for a little R&R and soon realized that it was just as comfortable under his head as it was on my back. Bob also took this time to hike around the lake and take some pictures, since he would be a better photographer on this day than a fisherman.

After only seeing a single trout cruise by in the two hours we were there, we threw in the towel. I was a little discouraged, but not terribly, because other than the wind it was a perfect day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky when I returned everything back into its place in my Futura and headed back to the trailhead.

Normally when I return to the trailhead after a day of hiking I am grateful to get the pack off my back, but the Futura fit so well I could hardly tell it was strapped on. The ease of hiking with that pack and its surprising capacity made the lack of catches a little more tolerable.


Photography by Robert Volpe.