Gold in them Colorado Hills
Dreams of future fishing trips are the stuff that keeps us die-hard fishing fools sane. We dream of our next trip and spend countless hours studying, planning and day dreaming about how wonderful it will be. That time we spend thinking about the mountains and cold clear water keeps us from pulling out what little hair we have left and keeps us from “going semi-postal” on the small part of the American workplace we come in daily professional contact with. I had been planning an early September trip to my home water of Creede, Colorado for almost a year. I was scheduled to spend about 5 days with my mom in the family cabin on the Rio Grande and about 5 days backpacking into a secret stream with a good friend. My life had been in its usual state of constant professional and personal turmoil. The company I have spent the last ten years helping to build was “for sale” which could mean I was either … … newly rich, poorer than ever or potentially even unemployed or some combination of the three. My youngest son was off at college now and the whole empty nest thing was a reality, but I must admit it wasn’t bothering me, I truly love my boys but knew it was time for them to be out from under my roof and enjoying the “college” life. No matter how much I may have been looking forward to the potential changes in my company or how much I was enjoying the empty nest, it is still a major transition in my world where I was forced to think about my advancing age and the path and places my life has taken me. The pillars of my life; family and work were in a state of rapid change and that is nerve wracking and unsettling even at the best of times. So I had spent a large amount of time doing forced self evaluations and planning for the blank page that constitutes the next phase of my life, hopefully … … the next great adventure in my life… … but as with all great adventures, they create their own amount of fear and trepidation or they wouldn’t be adventures. Needless to say the stress and strain were taking their toll on me and I was more than ready for my planned Rocky Mountain escape. The dates were getting really close and the anticipation had reached a barely containable fever pitch when I got a call from my boss apologetically asking if I could cancel my trip as they needed me to be part of some meetings with potential new owners. Normally I would have been okay with that but this trip was what had been sustaining me for months and now it might have to be canceled completely… … ARRRHHHHHHHH … but I did what I have to do just because it had to be done and the trip had to be delayed despite how much pain it was causing me. Early September is the best fishing time of the year up there as the fish are still looking up hungrily and the air is cool and water temps are dropping but I knew that block of time was lost to me now so I scrambled around and found new flights and new times when Mom and I could meet at the cabin for a late September visit but was unable to reschedule my friend for the camping trip so I just decided to wing it and play the camping section by ear when I reached Colorado. So somehow … … finally after all of the planning and rescheduling I found myself on a plane with rod tubes in hand. Expectations were lower as the dropping water temps meant dry fly fishing was going to be sketchy at best in these late September days…little did I know that sometimes forced changes are the very thing to make dreams come true. Anyway the good news was that I was on the plane and the plane was Colorado bound and that was enough for me.
Arrival in Colorado brought a near crisis with the rental car companies all saying they were oversold and wouldn’t honor my reservations… … but creative thinking and a laptop soon had me driving down the road headed toward Creede in a giant F150 4X4 pickup even if my blood pressure had sky rocketed during the “rental discussions”. But my blood pressure dropped remarkably and a big smile spread across my face as I hit Slumgullion pass and realized that the aspens were at the very height of their golden splendor. The few weeks delay which might have been a disadvantage fishing wise were a major advantage from a scenery perspective. I couldn’t believe how magical the aspens were. Sometimes maybe things happen for a positive reason even if it doesn’t seem so at the time.
My speed slowed down as I couldn’t help but rubber neck each turn and twist of the road as each brought new vistas to be admired. I felt my world slow and peace begin to descend into my soul. By the time I reached my cabin I was in a state of relaxation that matched all of my day dreams and even surpassed my highest expectations. My first glimpse of our cabin is always a true homecoming for me as this is the spot I am working my *** off to get too… … my past and future home.
Nightfall found me sitting on the back deck basking in the crisp cool mountain air and watching the sun set over Bristol Head as I savored a Cuban cigar, sipped a little bourbon and listened to Lyle Lovetts “Step Into This House” mixing with the sound of the river below me… … 10 straight days of fishing still ahead of me … … and trust me there is no place on earth I would rather have been..
I headed to the river early the next morning knowing that with the cold night air and the nearly full moon, the early fishing would be far less than productive but I just couldn’t make myself wait any longer. I spent a little time just letting the magic of the morning light ignite the rushing pocket water of the Rio Grande River.
The scenery was breath taking but my arm began to start twitching and I knew it was time to start fishing. I quickly rigged an old bamboo 7 ½ ft Phillipson 5wt, I figured a Colorado made rod for Colorado fish ought to be just about perfect. As much as I longed for a big dry-dropper kinda day, I had fished this river enough to know it was going to be a down and deep stone fly and small soft hackle kind of day. The river was low and clear and most of the normal holding water was too low for fish so I had to scout for the deeper water where I knew the fish would be holed up. And before long I felt my old Phillipson vibrating in my hand to the thrashing of a trout buried deep in the current. We fought for a short time before I saw the yellow gold of the brown’s body slashing in the deep green current. As I felt the cold muscled body slide into my hand I knew I was back home at last. I stood and admired him for a second or two, snapped a picture and slid him back into the current watching him swim away with the wide wondrous smile on my face matching the smile in my soul.
For the rest of the day whenever I found deep green pools I would catch fish. Strikes were soft but solid and fish were caught consistently throughout the day if not at a truly rapid pace. I spent a fantastic afternoon admiring the beauty of the fish and the beauty of the scenery.
The rest of the time at the cabin settled into that wonderful soul warming comfortable feeling like your favorite worn and faded blue jeans. Cold nights sleeping warm underneath piles of blankets and listening to the rush and rumble of the river. Fishing in the warm strong sun of autumn afternoons with mornings and early evenings set aside as a time of reconnecting with my mom and her boyfriend, a time of letting her know where I was in my life and learning where she was in hers. It is amazing how much her approval still means to me, even at nearly fifty years of age. I have always done what I wanted in life but having her approve of the decisions I have made and supporting the man I have become are very important to me. I hope my kids respect me when I am 75 as much as I respect my mom and dad. Late evenings were spent sitting on the deck looking at the splendor of the full moon and the majesty of the mountains while listening to music and the river blend in a symphony of sound. It seems, wonderfully gravelly voices like Guy Clark, Robert Earle Keen and Townes Van Zandt were made to accompany the magic of rushing water over the gravel of the riverbed. Sipping a bourbon and smoking a cigar not thinking deep and passionate thoughts but simply relaxing and soaking the sounds and feelings of my cabin, my river and my family into my soul and my heart. Letting my troubles and worries slip from my heart and disappear on the currents of the Rio Grande.
The fishing days passed as quickly and perfectly as a big yellow Stimulator riding the river current … high and dry. The company of my family and the beauty that surrounded me passed the rest of the time like the full moon riding the night sky, illuminating everything brightly and bringing a new perspective to all of my thoughts, hopes and dreams.
Without warning I found myself cinching the top of my backpack up as I finished my last preparations for the 5 days of backpacking which was the next leg of the adventure yet to come. I drifted off to sleep that night thinking about the love and security this cabin and the river and surrounding mountains brought me, and how much I had enjoyed the company of Fred and Mom. I dreamed that night of sights like the big rainbow below, that was the big fish of the river part of the trip and the gorgeous scenery like the sunlight/river shot below, but my heart was also beating fast in anticipation of the adventures I knew still lay out there in the upcoming backcountry camping excursion. (Part two high country small stream fishing still to come)
Can't wait for part 2. That looks like fishing heaven.
Beautiful pictures. You sure have been having a good year.
Now having gone back to read the accompanying words, great writing as well!
I was wondering where you had been Double D, nice work as usual.:cool:
Creede is a very cool place. Stayed in a Forest Service bunkhouse for a few months in the fall of 1998. Caught my first trout on a fly rod that year in Archuleta Lake by the Continental Divide in the Weminuche Wilderness Area. Of course they were brook trout, LOL.
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