Showing posts with label RMNP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RMNP. Show all posts

August 5, 2019

Colorado 2019: A Hike Through Greenback Cutthroat Country

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).

Eventually, we made it to a section of the lake that had a inflow from a small feeder creek.

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:

July 30, 2019

Colorado 2019: Return to the North St. Vrain

Time travel is sweet, particularly when it's to your benefit.

I had a 6:30 AM flight to Denver last Friday. Fortunately, there's a 2 hour time zone difference, so the four hour flight touched down in Colorado at only 8:30 AM local time. Solid.

After picking up the rental car, snagging a fishing license (Colorado, why don't you sell the type you can print out online?), and grabbing a quick bite to eat, I headed out to find some trout.

My original plan was to hit a trailhead that led into the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. There was a certain stream and trail I wanted to try, but other day hikers and general outdoor recreators must have had the same plan. Not only the small lot at the trailhead, but all of the legal parking a good few miles down the road was packed solid. So I bailed. Time for Plan B.

Plan B was the North St. Vrain in Rocky Mountain National Park. I've fished there before, so I knew how to get there, and more importantly remembered that it had somewhat ample parking. Done deal. 

Fortunately, my hunch was correct. While the trailhead lot was full, I was able to park at a picnic area a short walk up the road, so I grabbed my gear and headed up the trail with childlike abandon.

Whoa, upon arrival, I was greeted by a creek that was pumping out quite a bit of water. Colorado got a huge snow pack this past winter, so the melting and run off has been a bit longer and later in the year. 

This was definitely going to be quite a bit different fishing than the last time I was here. Gone were the calm runs, meandering bubble lines, and gentle plunge pools. Picking soft spots behind rocks and along the banks, or suspending a fly in eddies was going to be winning ticket on this day.  

Luckily, those tactics worked swimmingly and fishing was quite productive. It was definitely a brook trout sort of day, and they were particularly cooperative when it came to pulsing or suspending a road kone kebari on the end of about 4 feet of 5x tippet, 12 feet of 3mm level line, and the Nissin Royal Stage 320 rod.

Since the water was so swift, it was difficult to wade in the creek itself for any significant length. As such, using the trail to strategically pop in and out seemed to be the path of least resistance. I probably missed a bit of holding water, but I was getting enough action at the end of my line where it didn't seem to matter. I'd save that water for another day (maybe a quick weekend later this fall?)

Here are a few of the colorful, albeit invasive, jewels of the creek...

I had originally hoped to hike up above the one large set of waterfalls (Calypso Cascades), up into greenback trout territory, but I chose to turn around at that point when the skies opened up for a solid early evening rain shower. I had at least an hour's hike back to the car, so it just seemed prudent to call it quits for the day. The wildflowers were out in force, which made that walk very enjoyable despite the unexpected drenching.

While the first day in Colorado didn't go exactly as planned, it was still awesome to be up in the mountains. Plus, I'd still have a chance to fish some more on Saturday and all day on Sunday, so all considered, things were off to a great start!