You know when you're really looking forward to something... but kind of try to lower your mind's expectations just in case? This was the scenario for Sunday's outing in Colorado, the morning after the Tenkara Summit.
I was to meet up with Adam Klagsbrun & Chris Zimmer for a full day on the trails and waters of Rocky Mountain National Park. Adam & I had set up this outing in advance a good month out, and after two half days of fishing, I really couldn't wait to get out and about in a much larger way.
As you'll see, I was very fortunate. Lowering those expectations was a precaution I simply did not need to take. While I think the term is greatly overused and I try to remove it from my vocabulary, "EPIC" is the only way I can describe it.
After an early morning meetup up, we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park for that aforementioned day of fishing. Our original plan was to fish the Big Thompson River as it ran along the Fern Lake Trail.
However, much like in the other spots noted in my previous Colorado outings, there was a lot of fast water everywhere. We tried a few spots, but once we saw "The Pool," Adam, (playing the role of guide), suggested that instead of messing with the high water, we either leave the trail altogether and try somewhere else, or take the trail all the way up to Fern Lake (and perhaps beyond). We chose the latter and it proved to be a good call.
The hike up the trail to Fern Lake was stunning. There were so many scenic overlooks, a few cascades and waterfalls, and the air occasionally smelled of elk (although we only saw deer). Good conversation made the travel seem to go by relatively fast (even though we did have to stop a few times so I could catch my breath).
While my sea level lungs were on fire by the time we reached Fern Lake, once the trees parted it became an afterthought as we were greeted by some eye-popping surroundings.
It was also great to actually see the greenback cutthroat trout before we tried to fish for them (as if I needed re-assurance all that hiking wasn't going to be for naught). Looking down from a small footbridge that crossed the lake's outflow, you could easily see them holding in the current.
On to fishing!
We headed along the shoreline and all got into fish relatively quickly. It took me a little bit to get comfortable casting my tenkara rod around the trees and such, but I did get rewarded with my first cutthroat of the trip. (Which incidentally may have been my smallest of the day).
There was a nice rocky shore with no overhanging trees, so we sort of made that area and its immediate banks "base camp" for a few hours. That creek must have been a primary highway of food into the lake because the fish were just stacking up in the current and ravenously feeding. We all caught more than our fair share in that particular spot.
While I stuck with my tenkara rod, both Adam & Chris also brought ultralight spinning outfits and found much success with those as well.
At that point, it was probably around 2 PM, so we had a choice to make, keep fishing Fern Lake for a little bit more and then head back to the car, or push on up the trail to up to Odessa Lake. Well, we got this far, so it was a no-brainer to go up to Odessa.
The trail to Odessa was arguably even prettier than the trail to Fern Lake. There were a lot of heavily wooded areas, but eventually outflow appeared and it was some beautiful water to fish.
A few fish to hand, we eventually made it to Odessa Lake and we were pretty much the only people there. Solitude in nature. Doesn't get much better than that!
Much like Fern Lake, we found a section of the lake that was being fed by a creek, actually a small waterfall.
The fishing was similar to Fern Lake. The fish were holding in one general area taking whatever was flowing down those falls. The trick was they really couldn't be reached easily from the shoreline (at least with tenkara rods). They were popping like popcorn about 60 feet out. Luckily, the lake was relatively shallow and we could easily reach them by wading in to about our knees.
For a good stretch while the sun was out and the wind was calm, I think I easily caught a dozen fish on what seemed like virtually successive casts before the bite died off a bit when cloud cover rolled in. Even after it slowed, the fishing was still phenomenal. That spot was awesome. Adam definitely caught the biggest fish, and while the photo below doesn't do it justice, let's just say it was one FAT cutthroat!
Now a little after 5 PM, it was time to call it quits. More than content with our fish counts and perhaps a bit sunburned and hungry, we headed back down the trails to the car. The hour and a half hike out was long, but effortless. We had a full day of awesome memories to recollect, both those recounted on this blog, and a few best left hiding up in the Colorado altitude. :)
I had an absolute blast fishing with Adam and Chris, (thank you guys!), it was definitely one of those experiences I'll not soon forget and hope to get to do again some day. I really couldn't have asked for a better way to close out my amazing (albeit too brief) 2019 Colorado getaway.
About my fishing partners for the day...
Adam Klagsbrun (Klags) is an extremely knowledgeable tenkara angler. He's a student of the sport and its techniques, even visiting Japan to learn directly from the source. He's truly a great dude to spend a day with. While he's probably best known in tenkara circles for "stirring the pot" on social media in the past, when you hang with the guy in person, he's awesome. Personable, respectful, intelligent, and a fantastic "guide." He can also forage a mean mushroom. Check out some of his writings over at Of Rock & Riffle.
I've known Chris Zimmer for almost as long as I've fished tenkara. He's the brains behind the Zimmerbuilt line of ultralight outdoor bags & packs. He's always been nice to chat up at tenkara events, but I never really got to spend much time with him, as I always felt loitering at his table would get in the way of him selling gear. This outing being away from the retail side of the biz, fishing with Chris was a pleasure. He's the type of persistent angler that dials himself in and won't say no until he catches that fish. Plus, he's an absolute beast on the high-altitude incline trails.
For More Colorado 2019:
What a superb report. Fabulous. Thanks for sharing.
What altitude where you at?
Thanks David, I'd have to look it up, but I think we were a tick or two under 11,000 ft up at Odessa.Delete
I used to be able to hike like that. Now I watch the younger folk do it and go along mentally.ReplyDelete
Happy to take you along as long as I still can. It's a week later and my knees and calves are just feeling normal again...Delete
Outstanding, breathtaking, awesome....ReplyDelete
What a beautiful place. The photography is inspiring.
I kind of fit in Mark's world as far as hiking in such country.
You know I wouldn’t be “here” with Mike in the Rockies if it hadn’t been for your blog all those years ago, Alan... what I learned about brookies from you eventually lead me to find and enjoy fishing all these cutthroats now in my new home in Colorado :)
Thanks Alan, in retrospect, the only thing this post was missing was a photo of the delicious brick oven pizzas we crushed after the day of fishing. Need to take a cue from one of my favorite blogs the next time...Delete
Michael, great report. I have also found that, while Adam can be somewhat abrasive online, he is a wonderful fishing companion. Brian and I looked at hiking to the lake but at 75 and having just arrived from the Midwest he figured "No Way".ReplyDelete
Ah, I don't blame you. Plenty of fish to catch at lower elevations... and I'm sure you had your share. Hope you had a blast at the Oni school as well!Delete
A beautiful account. Glad you had some fun at RMNP with the cutties. Reminds me of my own adventures there, catching and releasing lovely little greenbacks.ReplyDelete
So much fun. I can't wait to go back.Delete
Amazing write up Mike! It was a pleasure to fish with you as well. Looking forward to next time.ReplyDelete
Thanks man. Looking forward to seeing your photos from the BBQ.Delete
Mike, I honestly found your post to be depressing! I am reading it while slowly looking around my cubicle and looking at the piles of work around me wondering why the hell am I not standing along the shores of that beautiful lake in the mountains? I think that I will have to change that....thanks for the awesome pics and motivation to get outside and wet a line.ReplyDelete
Just do it. I'm back in the office this week and lamenting every minute of it. Already plotting an escape to the southern Appalachians.Delete
Great travelogue. I'm heading to RMNP myself the last week of August. BTW, I believe those last few fish, with the single spots, are Bonneville cuts. BeautifulReplyDelete
The fishing should be PRIME by the time you get there. It was high in spots for me, I would think the flows will have receded by then. Have a great time!Delete
What a trip; fishing in a place like makes fishing become secondary, truly an awesome experience!!! Enjoyed the post thanks for sharing
Thanks for coming along Bill. It was truly a great day!Delete