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More on Colorado

In anticipation for the WVU vs. Colorado game I’ll pile on one more CO post then let it rest. For my readers here is Chris’ video of the trip including his great photography.

Let’s Go Mountaineers!


Hallowed Hell

They jacked up the price of the 3 day license in PA, at least best I can tell. I don’t remember it being $40 just to fish 3 days. I’ll not be doing that again, at least not during this annual conference I go to in State College. I was able to fish for a grand total of one hour on Monday. I’m not used to fishing spring creeks or for that matter water that gets pounded. Keying in on fish that will only take a size 32 1/2 trico with exactly 13mm tails, not 12mm or 14mm mind you, is not my thing. They can have it. It isn’t a matter of being up to the challenge and some have said snidely that it must mean that I’m just not a very good fisherman, it is just that I don’t enjoy it much. And for those with the latter comment I’d be willing to either challenge the angler to a day’s fishing or a fistfight, whatever works best.

At any rate, I’ve now fished Spring Creek and Fishing Creek in Pennsylvania for two years in a row and I’m pretty much not sold on it. I’m sure if the fish were boiling the water and I had it dialed in it may be slightly different, but still. On Monday I fished the famed Fisherman’s Paradise section and in that one hour I caught three and moved about the same number more. I saw a ton of fish, but they were all pretty much sitting on the bottom. If I found a rising fish I was able to catch it without much fuss, but rising fish were hard to come by despite the clouds of tricos hanging in the air.

On Tuesday morning the skies opened up and the rain came down in buckets. After my conference let out at 4:15 I made my way back up to the Benner Springs Hatchery section of Spring Creek anticipating colored water and a good brown trout bite. I found the former but not the latter. There were literally thousands of BWO’s and other misc. insects on the surface of the water that evening and not one fish rising. I stripped streamers and did most of my magic tricks and only illicited one or two strikes and no fish. I had about given up when I went back to the bridge at the parking area and tried to fish the clear spring head that came out just downstream of the bridge. I noticed a couple of nice browns hugging the bank in the clear water and I made a cast just over one of the fish with a copper john. The fish moved a little like it came to look at the fly so I set the hook and hooked it right in the tail. The day before (on Monday) I took an asshooked rainbow as well (see photo). I suppose that the positive side of this is that if the fish isn’t big at least make it fun and tailhook it.

Next time I’m in PA it is either native brook trout freestoners or sitting around the Penn State campus ogling the young ladies.

The aforementioned spring

The aforementioned spring












Any trout in there?

Any trout in there?

groceries were plentiful

groceries were plentiful

but these werent hungy

but these weren't hungy

farewell, forever

farewell, forever

Colorado – Day 9

August 30, 2008

After the hike to the summit of Mt. Elbert we were both beat. Seriously beat. Chris asked me what I wanted to do and I said “anything as long as it doesn’t involve any more hiking”. So we spent the day being tourists. We drove back into RMNP and up Old Fall River Road to Trail Ridge Road and back. Then drove down the St. Vrain Canyon to Lyons, just knowing we either passed John Geirach’s house or maybe even his pickup parked alongside the stream somewhere. On the way in to RMNP we stopped in Lyons at Mike Clark’s South Creek LTD. It was a pilgramage for me. So many great bamboo rods and other accoutrements surrounded you in there. I could’ve spent forever there. I drew a lot of inspiration off the visit. We bought some Geirach and A.K. Best autographed books and a few of A.K.’s hand tied flies (awesome ties).

Photo Gallery – Day 9 – “Tourons”

The next day we did nothing more than fly home. It was nice to see deciduous trees, a happy family and a big comfy bed again.

Colorado – Day 8

We did it!

Awoke at 5:00am. Had coffee and started up the Mt. Elbert Northeast Ridge trail at about 5:40 am with headlamps on. Climbed from 10,300′ to 14,433′ in around 4 miles of trail. It was the most physically challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life. I considered giving up and turning back several times, but kept mind over matter. Eating an elephant is done one bite at a time, that’s the only thing I could tell myself. Take twenty steps and rest. Twenty and rest. At about 10:00 to 10:30am we summited. Mt. Elbert is the highest 14’er in Colorado and the second highest point in the lower 48 states. I cannot put into words how grueling this hike was.

At a trail intersection about 100′ below the summit we met another hiker wearing a WVU ballcap. Found out he was from Princeton and had gone to college with a good friend of mine. I was completely whipped after we got off the mountain. Shoot, it took us a good hour and half from summit to treeline on a 40 degree slope. It just beat your knees to death. We celebrated by getting a big burger and fries at Wild Bill’s in Leadville then drove back to Denver.

Photo Gallery – Day 8 – The Climb 

Colorado – Day 7

Arms sore and baked. We spent from noon to 3:00 in the hot summer sun slamming Kokanee Salmon on the East River above Gunnison at the Roaring J Hatchery. The fish weren’t feeding and some other fly anglers were trying to teach us to snag the fish. I left on my #14 red copper john and kept up my dead drifts and still managed seven kokes hooked gentlemanly…in the mouth. I must’ve lost 12 or so though. These fish were all about 16″ to 18″ long and fought like a tarpon. I was fishing a graphite 5 weight for the first time all week and I had to bury the butt of the rod in my belly. The fish bent the rod all the way into the grip and pulled like a truck. Kokes are a landlocked sockeye salmon.

Photo Gallery – Day 7 – Kokanee Salmon (Onchorynchus nerka)

Colorado – Day 6

Moved camp over the mountain to a National Forest Campground and went looking for the trailhead for another Rio Grande Cutthroat stream. Chris’ information said “50 yards past entrance to ranch is trailhead”. There was a Nat. Forest road, then a T in the road. To the left led to top of mountain, to the right was the “entrance” to the ranch. We didn’t see any trailhead, but our feeble minds didn’t think through the process and realize that the 50 yards from entrance meant on the OTHER side of the locked gate, not on our side. DUH! We would soon pay for this mistake.

We drove for what seemed like an hour to the top of the mountain. The topos showed a National Forest trail crossing our road, but we couldn’t find it anywhere. So we drove until the road ended which crossed the headwaters of our stream. We started hiking down along the stream until we noticed an old unmaintained FS trail which we decided to hike. It was a tough hike, climbing over fallen trees. At one point we saw a Golden Eagle and the pause it gave us reminded Chris that he’d left his rod laying back up the trail a good chunk. Yeah, it was ugly.

We hiked way way down to the first lake where we saw some dandy cutts cruising the banks. We worked them for a bit, but didn’t catch any. We proceeded to the outlet of the lake where if you could get a fly into the water you were sure to move fish. I moved about twenty cutts and landed three. These were without a doubt Rio Grande Cutthroat. SLAM!!! We fished about 45 minutes to an hour and we both started to get nervous about being so far into the wilderness with no trail so we chickened out and bailed. There were so many blowdowns in the stream anyway that it was a tough place to fish. The hike out was pure pain.

After coming out we bushwhacked into a nearby stream where we didn’t move a single fish in 15 minutes of fishing. So we again beat it out of there and headed back to camp. After a freeze dried dinner we drove over to the upper meadow section of the Conejos River for the evening hatch. There were caddis everywhere and no fish rising at all. I saw a total of two rises and nothing moved for my offerings.

Photo Gallery – Day 6 – Rio Grande Cutts

Colorado – Day 5

After a welcome night in the burbs of Denver we headed back into the wilderness. I’m not exactly Alexander Supertramp.

We headed south and I mean a LONG way south. After about 4-5 hours of windshield time we made it to our first destination – Alma, CO. What is Alma you ask? Why, only a patch of the oldest living organism on the planet earth, the bristlecone pine (Pinus aristata). What a sight! They were amazing. There are two patches of bristlecones in this area, one on Windy Ridge (and that it was) and one on Mt. Silverheels. We visited the one on Windy Ridge. These were about 600 years old.

Then more windshield time. By early afternoon we had made it through what seemed like an endless dirt road to the banks of Treasure Creek. We found a nice high meadow alongside the stream to pitch camp. Our tents were located at 10,500′ in elevation. The road up from here was closed. We were geared up by 2:00pm and ready to fish when we met another angler coming upstream before we’d made our first cast. He was an older gentleman and he told us that he’d fished for 5 hours to that point and had not moved a single fish. Not a one. He told us that this stream used to be lights out! Talk about a downer. We hiked upstream about 1/8 mile and started fishing. We fished about 15 minutes and didn’t move any fish when, oh my, another storm came. This one looked pretty gnarly so we decided to divert and fish a real small tributary in a canyon (Delores Canyon).

I moved one small fish in this canyon, but otherwise the fishing was nil. It seemed like the storm had pretty much passed by 3:30 so we came back out and met the old man at his truck camper. We shot the breeze with him for a while and along came another pickup truck and angler. This guy had a strong Canadian accent and asked us how the fishing was on Treasure. After we informed him of our collective luck he told us of another nearby stream to try. Chris and I bailed and drove up to this 11,500′ stream at treeline.

It was initially obvious that we were fishing used water, likely the man who’d told us to fish here. The fish were intensely spooked. What fish weren’t already spooked were laying in tailouts making for extremely tough drifts. One bad drift and they would duck for cover. I drifted a #16 stimulator alongside an undercut bank and was in the process of pulling up for another cast when I had the fortunate ‘accidental hookset’. I landed a beautiful hog of a Rio Grande Cutthroat with the telltale large dark spots concentrated on its tail. Chris proceeded to land two fish after that, but both did not appear to be Rio Grande Cutts. One looked like a bastard and one was a great posterfish for a Snake River Cutt with its evenly dispersed small diameter spots. There were splash dams constructed along this high meadow stream. So I felt pretty good about completing the Colorado Cutt Slam, but with the strange phenotypes of cutts we saw in the stream I couldnt’ be 100% certain that mine was a pure Rio Grande.

Photo Gallery – Day 5 – Rio Grande Cutthroat (Onchoryncus clarki virginalis)

A Strew of Wonder, by Roberta Fiester

Way up in the mountains on a high timberline, there’s a twisted old tree called the Bristlecone Pine. The wind there is bitter; it cuts like a knife. It keeps that tree holding on for dear life.

But hold on it does, standing its ground. Standing as empires rise and fall down. When Jesus was gathering lambs to his fold, the tree was already a thousand years old.

Now the way I have lived there ain’t no way to tell, when I die if I’m going to heaven or hell. So when I’m laid to rest it would suit me just fine to sleep at the feet of the Bristlecone Pine.

And as I would slowly return to this earth what little this body of mine might be worth would soon start to nourish the roots of that tree. And it would partake of the essence of me.

And who knows what’s found as the centuries turn. A small spark of me might continue to burn. As long as the sun does continue to shine down on the limbs of the Bristlecone Pine.

Now the way I have lived there ain’t no way to tell, when I die if I’m going to heaven or hell. When I’m laid to rest it would suit me just fine to sleep at the feet of the Bristlecone Pine….
To sleep at the feet of the Bristlecone Pine.

Way up in the mountains on a high timberline, there’s a twisted old tree called the Bristlecone Pine. The wind there is bitter; it cuts like a knife. And it keeps that tree holding on for dear life.

But hold on it does, standing its ground. Standing as empires rise and fall down. When Jesus was gathering lambs to his fold, the tree was already a thousand years old.

Now the way I have lived there ain’t no way to tell, when I die if I’m going to heaven or hell. So when I’m laid to rest it would suit me just fine to sleep at the feet of the Bristlecone Pine.

To sleep at the feet of the Bristlecone Pine.
To sleep at the feet of the Bristlecone Pine.

  Music and Lyrics by
Hugh Prestwood
© Hugh Prestwood Music

Bristlecone Pine
MP3 Format

From the
Music From The Mountains Album


Colorado – Day 4

I woke up at about 6:45 and had to go bad. So I barrelled out of my tent and headed for the john which was located about 20 yards from my tent door. About halfway between the outhouse and my tent the dizziness left me and I realized I was standing amidst a giant herd of elk. There must’ve been 25 elk all within 40 yards encircling me. What a day this was going to be!

About 3.5 miles of uphill hiking from 9500′ and up led us to the first trail junction with the stream we were to fish. Again, fishing was tough early on. Took me 20 minutes to move the first trout and likewise for the other anglers. The fishing seemed to pick up slightly as we moved upstream and up in the day, but the gradient also picked up. Golly Bridge was it steep. We literally were climbing a giant waterfall and at one point we finally decided to just hoof it towards the meadow and forget fishing for a while. Along the way we encountered a big porcupine alongside the creek. That was a pretty neat sight.

We finally made it up to the meadow and the stream seemed to have shrunk and I mean bigtime. It was no more than 18″-23″ wide and lined with grasses and brush, but it was often almost 12″ to 18″ deep and filled with 8″ Colorado River Cutthroat. I was able to catch thirteen fish, Matt caught about same number and I suspect Chris caught about 15 to 20. It was a long hard hike back out from there and nearly did Matt in.

Photo Gallery – Day 4 – Colorado River Cutthroat (Onchoryncus clarki pleuriticus)

Colorado – Day 3

August 24, 2008

Setting out from the burbs of Denver, Matt Shockey tagged along as we went for our first ‘overnighter’. We set up camp on the west side of the RMNP at Timber Creek Campground and began about a two mile uphill hike into some high meadows. The small creek that meandered through these meadows was filled to the brim with dark colored brook trout. At first, Matt and Chris were chalking up brookies and I couldn’t buy a fish. The #10 foam hopper was bringing strikes, but no fish. So I switched to a #12 tan EHC and more of the same. In the first 30-40 minutes of fishing I had fallen behind and I mean bad. I had exactly a handful of trout scored and Chris and Matt were putting up serious double digits. So I fumbled around and switched to a #18 EHC and finally dialed it in. Smaller fly dummy. Little did I know at that point I only had about 2 more hours of fishing left before, yep you guessed it, the storm clouds rolled in. In those two hours I landed twenty-seven brookies and lost at least double that to LDR (long distance release). What I wouldn’t give for a full day on this stream to see what kind of ridiculous number I could score. Matt caught 37 and Chris caught 52 and at that point the angry fist of death rolled overhead. I’m talking mamu storm.

Never in my life have I heard thunder that loud. Take a meadow at 10,000′ and line it with treeless granite peaks and you’ve got yourself quite a loud football stadium. Some of the closer lighting strikes nearly made my ears bleed it was so loud. We found a small rock cliff, just enough overhead to keep us relatively dry, and stayed put for over an hour. At least 5 times we thought the storm had passed and tried to retake the stream only to retreat from certain electrocution. Finally, we threw in the towel and hiked out. It was about a 4 mile hike back to trailhead due to the way the meadow struck out at a 90 from where we left the trail.

On the way back down the main trail we heard what sounded like a million bowling balls crashing through the brush and felled trees. We had spooked a herd of elk and the sound they made bumbling through the forest was pretty impressive. About another 1/4 mile down the trail we saw a cow moose and her calf in an adjacent meadow.

Photo Gallery – Day 3 – Brook Trout (Salvelinus fontinalis)

Colorado – Day 2

August 23, 2008

Woke up at 5:30am and headed for Ft. Collins then towards Continental Divide. Was supposed to hook up with bamboo rodmaker Matt Schliske for some angling adventure. We got to the parking area at 8:30, about 30 minutes before we were supposed to meet. At 9:30 I wrote “Matt Schliske Sucks” in the dirt on the back glass of the rental car and we went fishing.

At first, we couldn’t catch a cold. Heck, we didn’t even see any fish other than the hog 13″ greenback that Chris caught out of the gate. Then, as if the gods smote the water with their grace, the bite was on. It was a small creek, maybe ten feet wide, and in places casting was difficult. But I had my six foot four weight and Chris was fishing the six foot one weight I’d made for him (both bamboo of course) and the brush didn’t come into play as much as getting a good drift. By lunchtime I had caught an even forty fish with about 75% being grayling and about 25% being greenback cutts. Chris caught about the same amount. These grayling were huge. At least in relation to the 5″ grayling I caught in Grebe Lake in Yellowstone last year. And the color! On “The Drake” some guys had fished this same stream about a month prior to us and one of them noted that these grayling were the laughing stock of mother nature since they were so easy to spot. They weren’t kidding, sight fishing for these guys was a piece of cake and made for huge fun. The turquoise scales and dorsal fins stuck out like a lightbulb and they were hungry.

Like the clockwork we’d soon come to expect, by early afternoon a big black cloud parked itself overhead and the rain began to fall. We bailed from the stream despite the bite and headed back to the car for grub. As soon as we emerged to the road we looked downstream and at that moment Matt Schliske and his daughter emerged as well since they had been following us. We all sat around the car and enjoyed a nice lunch conversation while the raindrops dispersed.

After the storm Matt invited us to fish with him after he and his daughter pitched camp. So we barrelled over the pass looking for cell signal so I could call my daughter on her third birthday. We didn’t find any. Surprised? We came back and met Matt, but along the way we saw two HUGE bull moose feeding alongside the same creek we’d just fished.

He took us to a small tailwater where the water was absolutely raging and frigid. It was simply unfishable and the urge to call my daughter on her birthday caused us to leave behind more biting fish to head back to Ft. Collins so I could make the call. It was the responsible thing to do and how many fish do you need to catch in a day anyway?

Photo Gallery – Day 2 – Grayling (Thymallus arcticus) and Greenback Cutts