Searching for Gold in Colorado

Originally posted @ Orvis.

This is the original piece that I wrote for Orvis. Check out the edited version at the link above.

For the past eight years I have been hiking in to some of the most remote high mountain lakes in Colorado. I am not saying that I’m a snob and I thumb my nose up at the beautiful rivers we have here, but it is nice to get a little bit of exercise. It is also nice to get away from the crowds that frequent the Gold Medal fisheries that we are lucky enough to have here in Colorado. The dilemma I have faced since moving here eight years ago is whether or not to hike in waders. My answer up until this year was to leave the waders at home. That is until I received my Sonicseam waders.

Deuter Orvis fly fishing backpacking colorado hiking boulder fields Ramblings campingNever thinking waders could be so durable and light, I packed them in for my first high altitude climb of the 2011 season and they haven’t left my pack since! I have really been missing out all of these years and probably could have been catching more fish if I had these waders sooner. One trip in particular this year was the ultimate test for these waders and my stamina when I packed them in along with 50 lbs. of everything else.

I planned the trip for earlier this year and three of my buddies were dumb enough to come along – Rick, Mike, and Ryan. This trip was different than any of us could ever imagine, and harder than we could possibly make up. We were going in search of Golden Trout. Some may know that the golden trout is native to California (their state fish), and also stocked in Wyoming. What you may not know is that the golden trout was also stocked in Colorado back in the 70’s and 80’s. Since then biologists have thought that the golden was unable to reproduce in the high mountain lakes they were stocked in and so it is thought they had become extinct decades ago. We didn’t believe them.

Deuter Orvis fly fishing golden trout hiking backpacking colorado rocky mountains ramblingsGoing on a tip from a biologist friend and a hunch that we might be lucky enough to stumble upon these fish, we set out for a five day, 30 mile trek in to the wilderness. Since portions of the hike were off trail, we had to bushwack over deadfall and boulder fields to reach our destination. The first day took us nine hours and totaled fourteen miles. Needless to say, I was happy to get my 52 lbs. off my back and set up camp.

The following day we set out to fish a couple of lakes that we hoped were not barren. After putting on the waders and hiking through the brush and boulders, we waded into and fished two lakes for a solid five hours. The only bite I got on the end of my Helios was an eight-inch salamander. Chalk that up as a first! Anyone else ever catch a salamander on an Orvis rod before?

Deuter Orvis fly fishing golden trout hiking backpacking camping ramblings colorado rocky mountainsAfter we headed back to camp for lunch, a little dejected, Rick decided to take aDeuter Orvis fly fishing golden trout hiking backpacking camping ramblings colorado rocky mountains walk downstream and follow a creek that isn’t on any maps.  Halfway into my sandwich I heard Rick stumbling and bumbling back up to camp.  The only thing he could get out was “I FOUND THEM!” Now at this point everything gets a little blurry but we all grabbed our rods and ran downstream. I probably should have been a bit more careful but I can tell you that the sonicseam waders held up without incident as I hurled myself over trees, branches and sharp objects that should have pierced the sides of my legs.

Deuter Orvis fly fishing golden trout hiking backpacking camping ramblings colorado rocky mountainsSo as they say, we struck gold. It was quite unbelievable and so surreal that I feel like it was all a dream. But we made it there and back, 30 total miles and 6,000 vertical feet. It was a trip that we will never forget, and it just may be a trip that goes down in the record books.


Townies: Part III

3 species, 2 pics, 1 video

Labor Day weekend. A great holiday because you get a day off of work, a paid day off of work. Bad holiday because too many people are traveling. I thought, for a split second, that I would try and do one last hiking/fishing trip up in the mountains but decided against it because I have had first hand experience in the past of how the driving would be on this busy weekend. Instead I decided to stay put and hang low, only to go fishing for a few hours up the road at my infamous in-town fishing hole. And boy did it pay off!

I don’t think I have ever gotten more than two species of fish in one day. If I have it must not have been a big deal because I do not remember. I have gotten multiple species over a multi-day trip, but never in the same day. So this, I believe, is a first for me.

I headed up the road around 4:30 in the afternoon. Having my perfect 3 wt. setup already, I hit the water as soon as I parked the car. Soon after that, I started bringing in the fish. Two in the first hole, my first two casts. One in the second hole, my second cast. Three in the third hole, casts number two, four, and six. This would be an amazing start, if the fish were what I was after and if they weren’t all of 4” long. The fish I was catching were creek chub. Definitely not that exciting but I was still getting some action. I then came to the hole where I had previous caught a 20” brown trout and my hopes were high. Only to be dashed again by yet another chub. This had to have been my 16th or 17th creek chub that I hooked, it was getting to be too much. And then it happened, the line tightened and the rod bent, I had a “real” fish on this time. I got him in and indeed it was a very nice brown, around eight inches. I reached for the camera and of course he slipped out of my hand and was off to be caught another day.

I didn’t really mind not getting the shot, it was only the first hour of fishing and I was having a nice peaceful time fishing in town and I assumed I would get another chance at a brown. I assumed wrong.

I fished for another hour and a half and decided to head in the direction of the car and fish my favorite hole one more time. The sun was getting low in the sky but I didn’t really need to see that well, I knew where to cast and what to do. Another half hour goes by however, and not a fish was brought to hand. Then it happened, fish on! I could tell it was decent because the rod was bent and she wasn’t coming up. When she did come up, I could tell it wasn’t what I was after. It was another creek chub, but this time she had some size to her. Maybe 12” or so, the largest I have ever caught. Then I noticed something strange, another fish behind the chub. I thought at first it was just a fish coming up to see what all the commotion was about, but after a second I realized the second fish was hooked to my second fly! I was fishing a two nymph rig and caught two fish on the same line! Two different species of fish, on the same line!

denver colorado fly fishing jonathan hill river orvis deuter tfo

smallmouth bass denver colorado jonathan hill fly fishing river





Didn’t expect that did ya? Well neither did I! It just goes to show, no matter where or when you go fishing, you never know what to expect.



Vulgar language in this one, sorry to all the youngins and my parents.


Why We Hike

Originally posted at Deuter.

“I’ve put a lot of miles on my legs, hiked into barren lakes, been rained / snowed on, post holed in waist deep snow, trudged through marsh & mud, slept in the dirt, been lost, bushwhacked for hours, missed work, and put thousands of miles on my truck…the rewards of the high country are pretty sweet!” – Mike Garcia

Mohawk Lakes Rocky Mountains Continental Divide Fly Fishing Deuter Orvis Hicking cutthroat troutI am not sure what else to say about this particular day hike that Mike and I did. I am half tempted to just put a picture up and call it a day. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and in this case it might be two thousand. As you have read in previous posts, I have hiked and fished a lot over the past few months and sometimes not doing so much catching. But it isn’t always about the fish, until it is.

This trip was like the rest, head up to the trailhead on Friday night, throwRocky Mountain colorado hiking backpacking deuter orvis fly fishing cutthroat trout ramblings back a couple Fat Tires, crash out for a few hours and then up at the crack of dawn to start hiking – getting to the lake at the normal time, 8:30 in the morning. The timing of this particular hike turned out to be just about perfect. It was spawning season. That means that the fish are extremely active in the inlets and outlets of the lake, unfortunately they only have one thing on their mind and it is sometimes difficult to get them to bite.

Mike and I headed to the outlet and couldn’t believe all of the fish we saw. They were stacked up in a little section of water no more than two feet deep, all jockeying for position and trying to finish their spawning rituals. This was the perfect time to get some video footage of these cutthroat trout, up-close and personal.

fly fishing rocky mountains colorado cutthroat trout orvis deuter ramblings hiking lake Excited about all of the activity, we took our packs off and started to rig up. Not sure why it took me so long, but Mike was already in the water before I even had my waders on. I hear him say something about a big trout cruising and then…fish on! I scrambled to grab my net and camera and get in the water to help Mike out. He was telling me “it is big!” and telling himself not to lose it. I can attest that it is sometimes quite easy to hook a fish that can just as easily to get unhooked. On this day, Mike’s wasn’t going to get unhooked.



fly fishing cutthroat trout orvis deuter rocky mountains continental divide colorado deuter orvis ramblingsAs I hurried out to meet Mike, he scooped the beast of a cutthroat up in to his net. Well, halfway in to the net. As I approached, I finally was able to see just how big this trout was. The tail was sticking out of the net as Mike walked over to unhook his trout of a lifetime. With hands shaking, and the trout trying to get free, Mike said in a shaky voice “This is the biggest fish I have ever caught!”

After the pictures were taken and the fly was removed, the fish was back in the water. I was excited for Mike, but of course I needed to have my own fun as well. So a little more than two minutes later I was hooked up. Granted, the fish wasn’t nearly as big as Mike’s but it didn’t matter, it was in my net and it was a fantastic 18” cutthroat trout.

fly fishing cutthraot trout rocky mountains orvis deuter hiking ramblings colorado

Then about an hour later, it turned off. Not a bite or a bump. We could still see all of the fish cruising,

but they weren’t interested. We decided to try the other side of the lake, to no avail. So we packed our things and headed to another lake that we passed on the way up. The fish were spawning there as well, although much smaller in size, but the colors were so vibrant that the size really didn’t matter.



fly fishing cutthroat trout rocky mountains colorado orvis deuter hiking ramblings

At the end of the day, nine fish were caught with one of them being the monster Mike has been fishing for all these years. All were tricked into taking flies that Mike and I had tied up ourselves, making the day thatmuch sweeter.

And that is why we hike.