Photos: Taking a Chance in the Colorado High Country

Originally posted @ Orvis

The first fish caught out of the lake, by Tom, gave the rest of us hope.
All Photos by Jon Hill

Before you embark on a backpacking trip into an area that does not have a maintained trail and goes through acres and acres of downed trees, you need to be mentally prepared for what you are asking your body to accomplish. Tom, Shawn, Dan, and I thought we were ready, but nothing could prepare us for this particular trip.

Miles and miles of dead and downed trees made for an arduous hike in.

We hiked in on a Thursday and planned to hike out on Sunday. That would give us two and a half days to fish the lake and inlet stream–usually plenty of time to catch the cutthroat trout we were after. As with all trips to lakes above 10,000 feet of elevation, you never know how the fishing will be. Sometimes the trout are eager to take anything thrown at them, and sometimes it doesn’t matter what you throw: they aren’t interested. After hiking hours and hours over hundreds of dead, fallen trees, we fished hard for those two and a half days.

The fish from the creek were lovely, but they weren’t the trophies we were looking for.

The weather was on and off cloudy, with rain and wind that made it difficult to pinpoint where the fish were. We all caught a few small cutthroat trout, which were beautiful, out of the inlet stream, but we were also frustrated that we were unable to catch anything from the lake. Tom finally landed a lake cutthroat on Friday afternoon, which gave hope to the rest of us. But after hours of walking and casting around the lake, no one was catching anything.

Tom found a casting perch, as he looked for cruising cutthroats.

When Saturday evening came, everyone else was done with fishing and mentally preparing for the trip out the next day, but I decided to go out one last time. I’m glad I did, as I finally netted a cutthroat from the lake–and it was a monster. The work we put into the trip was physically and mentally draining, but the rush I felt from catching the largest cutthroat trout of my life made all that work worthwhile.

The biggest cutthroat trout of my life suddenly made it all worthwhile. (Being alone made photos tough.)

I love that we are able to camp and fish and enjoy the Rocky Mountains as much as we do, but that lake is marked off our list of places to go. We won’t ever do that hike again!

Jon Hill lives in Littleton, Colorado and works in the digital-graphics field. But he spends almost all his spare time chasing trout in the high country, and his photos have been featured many times on the Orvis News. (See herehere, here, and here for just a taste, or visit his blog, Ramblings.) He’s also a former Trout Bum of the Week.

Just look at the belly on this beast!

Photos: A Fish Every Month for 5 Years

Originally posted @ Orvis

This brown marks five years that the author has caught a trout every month in his home state of Colorado.

You know you have a fishing problem when you schedule a knee surgery around your fishing schedule! I’ve been trying to see how long I can go catching at least one fish a month. When I tore my meniscus earlier this year I postponed the surgery to take a backpacking trip and to keep my streak alive. When it came down to setting a date for the surgery, I chose the second week of October. That would give me the first weekend in October to get on the water and hopefully catch a fish; then fingers crossed I would be healed enough to fish sometime in November. 

A little snow on the ground is no deterrent when there’s a streak to keep alive.

So here we are, three weeks after surgery, and I was able to hit the creek for a couple of hours and get a few browns into the net (thanks to the Purple Haze) and keep the streak alive. That’s 60 months in a row of catching fish, and here’s to hoping I can keep it going and hit 120!

Jon Hill looks pretty good for a guy who had knee surgery less than a month ago.

Jon Hill lives in Littleton, Colorado and works in the digital-graphics field. But he spends almost all his spare time chasing trout in the high country, and his photos have been featured many times on the Orvis News. (See hereherehere, and here for just a taste, or visit his blog, Ramblings.) He’s also a former Trout Bum of the Week.

Photos: A Trout Every Month, for Almost Four Years!

Originally posted @ Orvis

A few years ago, I was struck by the realization that I was having a pretty good fishing streak, so I decided to look back at my photos and check their time stamps to see just how successful I had actually been. I was able to verify that I had caught a fish in December of 2014, and it was now September 2015. I then discovered that I had caught a fish every month for nine months in a row! Not too shabby, I thought. That was when I came up with the idea to see just how many months in a row I could keep up my winning streak.

This goal might be an impossible feat in certain regions, but in Colorado I can fish all year, so I don’t have to worry about a fishing “season.” Also, there are about fifty locations I can fish within an hour of my house, and although not all of them are fishable year round, there is still an abundance of areas available at any given time. Sometimes, my fish of the month is caught ten minutes down the road, while at other times it’s caught after hiking fourteen miles and fishing at 12,000 feet above sea level. This is one of the many reasons that I am grateful to call Colorado my home.

Having a goal like this makes me get out and fish when I normally wouldn’t do so, taking me out of my comfort zone and sometimes with unthinkable results. This past Super Bowl Sunday, for instance, I went out when it was 12 degrees! Not thinking I would see anything, let alone catch anything, to my surprise the fish were going nuts for the couple of hours I was able to withstand the frigid weather.

For the first year and a half of my goal, I was laser focused on making sure I caught a fish every time I went out. I would get nervous and anxious, thinking “I have to catch a fish today!” During a couple of the winter months, I caught my monthly fish on the last or second to last day of the month, feeling great relief that I had made it in time. But after those first eighteen months, I realized that I hadn’t been having fun and was so focused on my goal that every trip was riddled with anxiety. So I made it my focus to just enjoy my time outside and on the water with family and friends, and use my goal as something to sweeten the pot.

My goal is also a hit with my family; for example my son Brennon gets extremely excited when he’s the one who helps me get my “monthly fish” into the net. My wife enjoys my excitement and dedication, so now I don’t even have to come up with an excuse to get out onto the water.

Here’s to 45 months and counting!

Photos: A Sunday in the Canyon

Originally posted @ Orvis

Before the snow melts from the Colorado Rockies and the rivers start running too high, Tom, Shawn, and I hiked down into a canyon to do some tailwater fishing. It was also a perfect day to put my new Battenkill Disc Reel to some good use. With clear blue skies and the water running cold, the fishing was a little slow, but we managed to get a handful of amazing trout into the net.

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Photos: Breckenridge Beauties of Fall

Originally posted @ Orvis

My friend Kyle and I went up to Breckenridge, Colorado, over the weekend. While most folks were out enjoying the changing colors of the foliage, we were on the river catching some amazing trout. These big rainbows love jumping out of the water and running your line out. Luckily my Recon and Hydros SL were the perfect combo to get them to the net.

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Photos: A Multi-Species Trip into the Colorado High Country

Originally posted @ Orvis

Last week, we made a four-day trip into the Rocky Mountains and did quite a bit of hiking and fishing. Tom, Shawn, Carper, and I hiked and bushwhacked into multiple lakes in a section of the San Isabel National Forest. We hiked over 7300 vertical feet and fished six lakes, small streams and beaver ponds. We caught six species of fish: rainbows, cutthroats, cuttbows, brookies, golden trout, and grayling. Two of the lakes aren’t even named on a map, two of the lakes had no trail to them, and one lake was more of a small pond; we were shocked to even find fish in it. Three of us caught our first grayling along with all the other fish we were lucky enough to net. I must ssay that we picked some good blue areas on the map and had some great days of hiking and fishing.

Whenever I share my stories or photos or videos, it’s inevitable that I am asked about location. Quite often my answer is that it doesn’t matter, which can make some folks angry. What I mean to get across is that it doesn’t matter because there are hundreds, if not thousands, of places in Colorado to go explore. There are over 3,000 high alpine lakes in Colorado, and my friend Shawn has fished roughly 350 of them if you can believe that. All of these lakes have streams and beaver ponds, and most are stocked every other year. So instead of asking where I am every time I go fishing, people should honestly just pull out a map, look for some blue, find a trail in the area, and go try it out.

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Photos: Fighting the wind at 12,400 Feet in the Rockies

Originally posted @ Orvis

Another hike into the high country with some buddies yielded some amazing-looking cutthroats! There’s usually some wind to deal with when hiking and fishing at high altitudes, but this time it was a bit much. Gusts were pushing 50 to 60 mph, putting whitecaps on the lake and making it a bit difficult to cast. I was using my 6-weight Recon and it did its job perfectly when casting streamers into the wind and getting these amazing fish to the net!

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