Photos of the Day: More Gold in the Colorado High Country

Originally posted @ Orvis

A few years, ago some friends and I went on the hunt for golden trout in Colorado and came back a little richer. After that trip, I found out that the Colorado Division of Wildlife had received some surplus golden trout from California, the first time in almost twenty years. They stocked a handful of lakes around the state, and I have been waiting for the chance to go on the hunt again.

Tom, Shawn, and Carper joined me for this most recent five-day trip into the wilderness. We hiked roughly twenty miles and fished five lakes, a couple of streams, and a handful of beaver ponds. The fishing was unbelievable, as we found brook trout, cutthroat trout ,and golden trout in abundance. We had our fair share of bad weather—thunderstorms, a hail storm, a three-hour rain storm—but those are the things you have to deal with when backpacking in the Rocky Mountains, and it’s always worth the trouble.

Golden trout flat tops wilderness cutthroat trout brook trout Carper Hiking Jon1 Jon2 Jon3 Shawn1 Shawn2 Shawn3 Tom1 Tom2 Tom3 TripledUp

The Timing of Ice Out

Originally posted @ Mountainsmith

All of my favorite locations to fly fish in Colorado are well over 10,000 feet above sea level.   That’s actually a good thing, because when fishing these areas, you do not see many anglers and the solitude and scenery are unmatched. The bad news is that since these lakes and streams are at such high altitudes, it’s hard to determine when the snow and ice has melted enough to get to them. Some years you can get to lakes that are ice-free by the end of May, other years you have to wait until July to find the open water.

This year was one of those years where the itch to go hiking and fly fishing had to be put on hold because of all of the snow and ice the high country received in the winter months. I did all the online research, I contacted fellow hiking/fly fishing friends, I searched the internets for any and all information I could find about the possibility of the ice and snow melting and I still had to wait longer than I wanted to. Finally, around the end of June, I decided to hike to a set of lakes that I thought  might be free of ice. Tom, Daniel and Conan (Daniel’s dog) decided to go along,  even though the odds were 50/50 that we would actually be able to fish the lakes if the ice was out.

For my first hike of the season, I packed my Mayhem 35 full of everything I could possibly need –  rain gear, water bladder, extra clothing, lunch, camera equipment, and my fly fishing essentials. With everything easily fitting inside my pack, it was a perfect morning for the two hour hike to the first lake.Overcast skies with temps in the lower 50’s made for great  hiking weather. Once we got to the first lake it was a relief to see that it was indeed free of ice. We set our packs down and got our fly gear out and started fishing.

At this point I have to make clear another issue that arises when fishing the high country. Not only do you have to worry about a lake being ice free but you also have to worry about the water temperature. Once the ice comes off a lake it of course is fishable, but if you hit it too soon after the ice, the water temperature is still too cold for the fish to be very active. There’s the sweet spot when the ice is off, the lake is warmed up just perfectly, and the trout are voracious. This was not one of those days.

After a couple of hours of fishing without even seeing a trout, we decided to try our luck at another lake in the vicinity. This particular lake is unnamed and has no trail or signs of its location. Going on some information I got from a friend a couple of years ago, we decided to bushwhack up to the lake and see if it was fishable. After a half hour or so of bushwhacking over boulder fields and downed trees, we came over a ridge and got our first look at the lake. We noticed a lot of fish eating off the surface and were thrilled at the chance to catch some of these trout.

Even with all of the action we were seeing, Tom was the only one of us to catch anything, netting three nice cutthroat trout. Then the clouds started rolling in and we were getting hit with a bit of snow/sleet/rain so we packed up and headed back to find the trail out, which involved another half hour of bushwhacking to get back to our original trail.

I would have to continue to wait for my first fish in the high country, , but it was still a perfect day for hiking and fishing!

JHill IO 1 JHill IO 2 JHill IO 4 JHill IO 5 JHill IO 6 JHill IO 7

Around Town

Originally posted @ Mountainsmith

Vests, chest packs, lanyards, sling packs and lumbar packs – I have them all. As a fly fisherman for over ten years, I have used just about every product on the market – starting with the original fly fishing vest all the way to the latest in the lumbar selection of packs. I carry more than I need to every time I head out to go fishing, so a pack that can hold everything and also be comfortable is essential. Up until this last year my favorite pack to use was my sling pack, then I became a firm believer in the lumbar pack.

Fishing in and around Denver is a ton of fun. In early spring the little streams warm up and the ice thaws off of the lakes and the fish are ready to bite – the perfect time to take my son to the various fishing holes around town. When taking a five year old fishing I have to remember that it is all about him having fun, so it is important to bring the essentials along. Luckily, everything fits in my Tour lumbar pack  – Matchbox cars, legos, apples, PB&J, animal crackers, water bottles, crayons and coloring books, along with the fly fishing tools I need – all fit neatly into the Tour pack.

In between the trips where I take my son exploring, I get to show some friends around town. On one occasion I took my friend Jason Getzel to a local creek in the hopes of finding some brown trout. We were also hoping to get Jay on his first fish of the year, which was accomplished. The fish might not have been anything to write home about, but being able to use the Tour pack and wet wading in the creek for an afternoon is what exploring and fly fishing is all about.

The most enjoyable part of being able to fish around town is when I get off work early and am able to head to the creek or the lake and have time to relax for an evening. I realize not many people can get off of work and drive 15 minutes up the road and catch a 12″ brown trout, so I do not take it for granted and am thankful that I’m able to live in a place where I can enjoy my hobbies so easily.

JHill AT 1 JHill AT 2 JHill AT 3 JHill AT 4 JHill AT 5 JHill AT 6 JHill AT 7

Photos of the Day: A Late Start

The ice took a bit longer to melt off of the lakes in the Rockies this year. The first two times I went backpacking, I got more exercise than I did fish—still better than being in the office. So the third time, I was hoping, would be the charm. My friend Daniel and I took a two-day trip and fished a couple of lakes—one of which has no trail, so it was bushwhacking and bouldering—but the fish and the scenery always make it worth while.

Photos of the Day: A Late Start in the Colorado High Country