View Full Version : Go West (not quite) Young Man, Part III

08-13-2011, 12:34 AM
The goal was the end of Turquoise Lake, the Timberline Lake trail, and Lake Fork:




I found Lake Fork to be a delightful stream, if a bit full from the delayed snowmelt. It wasn't long before I had my first customer:


There were many more to follow. Lake Fork was a restoration effort, much like Lynn Camp in the Smokies, only this time, the eradication target was the brookies; apparently, they out-compete the cutts for the best feeding lanes, and after taking a few Greenbacks, I could see why. First of all, the cutts seem to want to avoid any hint of fast water, even if it means avoiding the best feeding station in a pool. Secondly, they sip in their morsels with all the urgency of a Yoga master on valium - to say that they feed deliberately is an understatement. Many a time I've seen a spec race across a pool for a meal - not these fish. Now, once hooked, they fought with spirit, but I can see how the brookies can crowd them out of a stream in only a few years.

I had such a good time, bringing about 15 to hand in about 90 minutes, that I decided to come back the next day, before I had to head back. In the meantime, after three days of sleeping either in my car or on the ground, I was ready to spoil myself with a hotel room and a hot bath. Unfortunately, there was something going on in Leadville, and no rooms were to be had there. I went on down to Buena Vista - same story. Finally, 50 miles later, I was in Salida, where for the bargain price of $165, I had a room...I was too tired to argue.

The next day, I was able to fish for another couple of hours at Lake Fork; my one regret was not having the time to continue up the ridgeline to Timberline Lake - I've never sampled stillwater trout fishing. Unfortunately, I had to go. I headed up for I70, passed through the Eisenhower Tunnel, got through Denver as quickly as possible, and headed out to the plains. Along the way, I tracked a massive thunderstorm for 50 miles. It was pretty, with a double rainbow, and it looked like I would just clip the edge of it:


Unfortunately, the road bent right into its path - heavy rain, hail, and winds of at least 70MPH, with no trees to put a dent in it. Awesome, but a bit scary.

The next day found me passing through the parched landscape of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and North Louisiana. Passing through the little town of Homer, Louisiana, I saw this out of the corner of my eye and just had to capture the image:


I felt a little bit like Robert Duvall in the movie:


Stana Claus
08-13-2011, 03:30 PM
Sounds like an epic adventure to be sure. Thanks for sharing. I have long dreamed of starting at the Big Bend of the Rio Grande and following the Continental Divide up into the Canadian Rockies, stopping to wet a fly whenever I came to a stream that caught my fancy. Your story has certainly added fuel to that fire.

08-13-2011, 04:29 PM
Welcome back ijsouth.....

I haven't seen you around here much lately, maybe I just missed it. Good report and pics, glad you had a good time.

I have never been out there other than in early Spring. We were planning a trip to SW Colorado this Sept for a fishing/hiking vacation for just me and the wifely. However, when we found out momma was expecting for Sept 1st, that changed our plans. Your post has me anxiously awaiting that time in a few years when I maybe I can shake free for a week and have a week filled with fishing....

08-13-2011, 06:22 PM
Sure is perty out there. Cool pics.

08-13-2011, 10:11 PM
Thanks...it was definitely something new, and I'll head out there again some time. I think I still prefer the Smokies, though - much closer, plus it's basically home to me now.

SW Colorado is great, but I would recommend going either before or after the Summer monsoon season. Most of these trails see heavy horse traffic, and the going gets sloppy in parts. My biggest regret, though, was not having enough time to get above treeline and fish those alpine lakes. There are a bunch of them in the Weminuche Wilderness, all clustered around the Continental Divide. I was also very close to Timberline Lake when fishing Lake Fork, but the fishing was too good in the stream for me to get up there.

David Knapp
08-13-2011, 10:16 PM
Glad to see you back here on the board. I've been wondering what you were up to...looks like you got some good fishing in. Glad you had a good trip and caught some beautiful fish!

08-13-2011, 11:41 PM
Oh, I've been so busy. My kids are growing up, and so that makes a lot of demands on my time. My oldest has been quite involved with soccer, and I've gotten involved as a coach. BTW - it was her soccer that got me in shape...I started running at her practices, to kill time. Next thing you know, I extended the distances. Now, I try to get in around 30 miles in a week...lost a ton of weight. It came in handy out in Colorado - I was worried about altitude sickness, etc, but I didn't have any problems, other than too much weight on my back. Next time I'll pack better....BTW - how was Yellowstone?

David Knapp
08-14-2011, 12:21 AM
Yellowstone was awesome...just so much water this year that everything is in great shape. Still looking at all my pictures and getting the best picked out and will put up a few...

08-14-2011, 12:29 AM
Yeah, it was the same story in Colorado...big time delayed snowmelt - it was nice, with the novelty of seeing snow on the higher peaks and all. On the downside, it did make for some tricky wading - I kept to the banks as much as possible.

08-16-2011, 11:10 PM
A few other thoughts/observations on my trip to the Centennial State:

1. Wading in the streams was definitely slicker. I think it was a combination of the composition of the rocks (volcanic and sedimentary, particularly in the San Juans), and a bit of aquatic growth on them. In the case of Ute Creek, not only was there a lot of horse traffic on the trails, but cattle graze in the area as well, despite the fact that it's a designated wilderness area. There had to have been more nutrients in the water than the typical Smokies stream...I had to watch it.

2. I had a very difficult time at Lake Fork following my fly - it was sunny, and again the rocks are a bit different than in the Appalachians. I might have to go with a different tint in my sunglasses.

3. The cutts are fairly eager risers, but they are a bit more cautious than the typical brookie. The last fish I caught was typical; it rose to my Mr Rapidan, backed off, rose again and appeared to bump it with closed jaws. At this point I switched to a hare's ear nymph, which had worked in a similar situation downstream - no takers. I then dug in my fly box for a fly I had never fished before - tied by a nice gentleman from my church. I don't know exactly what pattern it was - I would guess the closest description would be some form of BWO. Anyway, it had a completely different appearance from the Mr Rapidan, and was much smaller. On the first drift, my fish took it...it was a very satisfying end to my trip.

08-17-2011, 11:09 PM
A hearty welcome back, ijs.