Gold in them Colorado Hills (part Two)
I woke from a dream of small streams and high country meadows, but found myself warm and comfortable in the cabin still basking in the glow of five days of big river fishing and shared family time. I listened for the sound of the river but caught the sound of rain pattering on the roof as well as the comforting rush of the river. It took a little while for the thought of rain to soak into my brain. I thought of my backpack sitting stuffed and ready by the back door and then thought of the five mile hike …….. in the rain… … . I rolled over and fell back asleep only to wake several hours later with the rain still falling. As I studied the clouds draped like shawls around the shoulders of the mountains, rain fell in sheets at the head of the valley and no sign of sunlight was to be found. I shivered at the chill in the air and checked the temperature at a cool 42 degrees. Mom was already turning off the water and shutting down the cabin for her trip home… … but camping in the cold pouring rain wasn’t going to happen either … … so yet again on this trip, it was time for a change in plans. The good news is that I didn’t have anybody to meet or any plans that couldn’t be changed … … which is in my opinion one of life’s greatest luxuries… free to do anything I wanted … in Colorado of all places… … indeed even in the rain … life is good.
With time on my hands I decided to drive the “Bachelor Loop” above Creede. I hadn’t done it in years and thought it would be a great way to spend a rainy autumn afternoon, little did I know that it would be one of the prettiest decisions of the trip. Creede’s beginning was as a mining town from the silver rush in the early 1890’s and the “Bachelor Loop” was a four wheel drive loop road that showed off the mines and history of those by-gone boom town days. The ingenuity and tenacity of those old miners is amazing. Seeing the places they built the mines and what it must have taken to survive and carve a living out of the hard rocks of these mountains has always stirred my imagination and really brought history to life for me. I having been watching these mines for over forty years, watching them slowly decay and fall apart, returning to the very mountains they sprang from. So I am always worried about how much will be left when I round the curve and stand at the bottom of the mountain looking up at them … … but the image of them always proves to take my breath away and make me smile in amazement.
I drove on up the mountain road past the mines and found that the true treasure of these mountains was scatted all around me … the aspen trees shimmered like flowing, glowing gold in the wind. It was one of those sites that stop you dead in your tracks in total awe of the picturesque scene around you. I literally stopped in the middle of the road to take these shots.
The scenery from the top of the mountain above the mines was just as spectacular as the drive up. The gray chill of the clouds and rain couldn’t stop the blazing fire of the aspen leaves and it left sights that burned deep into my memories.
Standing at the top of the mountain looking down the shafts of the old mines was just to much for me as I went hiking and exploring in the rain. It truly amazes me what these men were able to accomplish in the 1890’s in a harsh and unforgiving climate. Greed drives amazing feats sometimes.
As I headed down the mountain I pulled into the old Creede cemetery to pay my respects to several family friends that lie there. Memories of the old wrangler that first taught me to ride a horse mingled with ghosts of the various miners and ranchers that had settled this country … … their ghosts were floating in the mists that shrouded the cemetery and they swirled peacefully around me.
The last person I wanted to pay my respects too in this cemetery was a bamboo rod maker … Jim Schaaf was recently laid to rest in his beloved Creede and it seemed right and natural to pay my respects to the man who had built the very rod that has brought me so much joy over the years and which I would be fishing with for the next few days. I looked in vain for a headstone for him but never did find it but I figured that I was close enough and was pretty sure he could hear my thanks and acknowledgement of his skill and expertise.
By the time I had finished my “tourist tour” it was late afternoon but still raining and cold and I decided camping didn’t sound like much fun. So I headed up the valley toward the high country and stopped at an old guest ranch that had been entertaining guests to this valley since before the miners arrived in 1892. And the cabins looked like they had been there from the very beginning but they were priced right and were warm and dry, which on a day like it was that day can be a major attraction. I managed to fish Clear Creek for a few hours in the rain. It was swollen and off color but I managed to get two fish, a rainbow and brown to rise so I was content with my day. Top that off with grilled steaks and my usual after dinner cigar and bourbon and I was feeling as happy and content as I could remember for quite some time. The old cabin was pure old school country so Billy Joe Shaver was the musical accompaniment of the night and I faded to sleep that night with songs like “Live Forever” “Old Five and Dimers Like Me” and “Moonshine and Indian blood” echoing in my head and raindrops beating their own tune on the old tin roof.
I woke up early next morning which had dawned cold and chill with the clouds still clinging in drifting ropes of mist on the sides of the mountains but there was tell tale blue skies shining though and I could tell the rain was lifting … and so were my spirits.
I knew the stream that I had originally planned to hike into was one of the slowest clearing streams in the area and I knew that the higher I could get the faster the streams would clear. So yet again plans changed and I headed to the high country above the reservoir. The scenery was once again the star of the show as I slowly drove up the mountains dodging the water filled puddles and stopping frequently to take pictures which when launched on my laptop screensaver would hopefully sustain me through the next 12 months of flat land living. I had trouble limiting them to just a few to share with you but here are three.
I rounded the corner and saw fresh snow from last nights storms in the high country it was so pretty that it almost made your eyes hurt and certainly made your heart skip a beat. I spent 30 minutes or so just soaking in the different soaring views. Everywhere I turned my eyes was an amazing view.
There were several streams in this area and I was debating which one I wanted to fish for the day when I saw a National Forest Guy taking pictures of a tent campground which looked like they had just finished re-building. It was in one of my favorite spots and the scenery around the campground was beyond spectacular. The sign on the entrance said it was closed but I pulled down and chatted with the guy anyway. He said that they had indeed just finished rebuilding it last week and that the services were cut-off for the year but it would be fine if wanted to tent camp there. He even said he wanted to came back the next day and take some more pictures of it with my tent set up… …. So I thought about the 4 streams that I knew were within a short distance including one that you could hear from the campsite, looked around at the spectacular scenery and debated it for about 20 or 30 … … seconds … and decided I would car camp in luxury and that I was home sweet home for the next 4 nights. And once again the change in plans seemed to have turned out even better than I could have hoped for. Not a bad place to lay my head if I do say so myself………. And I had it all to myself for the rest of the week. This going with the flow thing is pretty cool.
The camp was all set up and by now you can imagine that I was ready to go fishing. The creek running at the back of the camp ground was still a little cloudy but it got clearer as I hiked upstream. I jumped off the trail and headed down to the bottom of the canyon where I had caught fish before and began fishing a big black stimulator and dropper combination. The first five or six holes were unproductive which really had me starting to get scared but a soft take on the dropper soon broke the ice and the Schaaf made 7 ft 4 wt “Creede” rod was bent deeply under the strain of a pretty little brown.
From there I managed to catch fish at each and every likely looking spot of water, eventually even coming up with a Colorado Grand Slam of bow, brookie, brown and Cutt.
Not a bad day indeed, a grand slam and from a stream that looks like this ……
The shadows were getting a little longer as I came upon a hole that I have caught large fish out of numerous times over the years. You know those places … the kind that play in the back of your mind as you are fishing up river until you began to anticipate arriving at them. The kind that years later you can just close your eyes and see the hole so perfectly that even in your imagination you know just where to cast and can see the trout rising from the depths to charge the fly. As I reached the hole I knew that it was going to be the last of the day and I wanted one last fish to end the day on. The hole looked just like I remembered it and I was practically tingling as I got into position for a cast. My first cast was a thing of beauty and landed just where I wanted it too…. but got nothing. My second cast was even longer and prettier than the first and still got nothing. I felt my stomach start to fall. The third cast was also a nice one, I know it is rare for me to get three pretty casts in a row but nevertheless it landed right where I wanted and yet again no fish. I was feeling a panic begin to set in … no fish in the honey hole??? How could it be. Well the fourth cast caught a gust of wind or else it was just more like my normal cast and landed about 3 feet from where I wanted … and before I could even cuss my lack of fishing expertise … … bam the stimulator dove as something ripped the little bead head soft hackle deep into the current. Fortunately the strike was strong enough to hook the fish and the fight was on. There was a log jam under the willows that the fish kept bull dogging for but the little blonde bamboo managed to turn him every time and soon enough I held a gorgeous large small-stream brown in my hands.
By the time I had released him back into my honey hole I was in a haze of contentment. I had a beautiful campsite and had caught all of the fish I needed to catch for the day and was in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I clipped the fly off amazed at my own good fortune and had a slow peaceful stroll back down the mountainside toward camp stopping only occasionally to take a few photos. All was right with the world. These mountains and this type small stream fishing always seem to make me remember that truly I am blessed. They provide me with a clarity of spirit and soul that I just can’t find anywhere else.
(Part three still to come for those of you with enough patience to hang through my long winded narratives)
thanks and keep the stories and pics coming
Very Nice! I felt like I was fishing with you....:smile: Thanks for sharing!
Really enjoyed that. Thanks for taking the time to share your trip.
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