By the time we got up to Leadville, it was a bit late, and again the weather was threatening, so we treated ourselves to a night at a Super 8. The next day, we poked around downtown a bit, then headed to a campground at the end of Turquoise Lake; after setting up the tent, we headed for the Timberline Lake trail:
We fished the Lake Fork of the Arkansas, a beautiful little stream which reminds me of Cosby Creek in a lot of ways, only the natives here are Greenback Cutthroats, not specs. This area sees a lot of hiker activity, but in two trips there, I have yet to see anyone fish this stream (again, much like Cosby). Before I could hardly get a cast out there, my youngest had her first Greenback:
We fished the stream for quite a bit, and I think between us we caught about 30 in about an hour and a half. My partner wanted to go all the way up to the end of the trail, to Timberline Lake, and I did too; it would be a first experience in an alpine stillwater setting. The mountain was tough on her, but she was determined to make it up there:
Within a few minutes, she spotted a cutthroat cruising right along the bank, feeding regularly. She dropped her dry in front of the trout, and hooked up immediately - a nice Greenback that was every bit of 12". We ended up releasing it, but later on decided to keep a few for dinner - unlike the stream, which is strictly catch and release, one is allowed 2 trout from the lake:
We headed back down when the thunderheads appeared. We went into town and got some charcoal and other fixings, and after a struggle with the pit back at the campground, had our feast. The next day, we piddled around Leadville some more, we tried fishing the main stem of the Arkansas below Leadville (we got skunked there), then headed for the Golden Burro back in town for lunch - a place I heartily recommend, both for their huge servings and relatively cheap prices - we waddled out of there and back to the stream. We tried fishing Lake Fork before the barrier falls, and found an interesting mix of brookies and cutthroat:
Some of these cutthroat looked a bit different from the Greenbacks further up the stream...I suspected some of them might be Snake River Finespotted, which are stocked quite often in the lakes. As Turquoise Lake was EXTREMELY low, due to the small snowpack last winter, I suspect that these fish were looking for a bit more oxygen. I had trouble reviving this one when I tried to release it. The brookies showed no such signs of stress.
The next day, we started back for Bayou Country. However, I wanted to make one last stop back in the San Juans, to see if I could add another species to my list - I wanted a Rio Grande Cutt. I knew where there was a fairly easy-to-access stream, and we weren't in that big of a hurry:
I should say easy to drive to; once there, the stream is tiny, and brush-choked. For those of you familiar with some of the brook trout streams in the Smokies, think Kanati Branch as far as casting conditions were concerned. I had a strike from a fish that ended up shaking off; it looked suspiciously like a brookie. We headed a little further up, and at one point I though I had snagged a leaf; it turned out to be a 3 inch Rio Grande Cutt - not exactly what I had envisioned, but it counted, and again we had to beat some heavy weather blowing in. As it turned out, when we got down in the plains, we battled a storm for the better part of 100 miles - at one point, we had to stop...the winds had to have been at least 70MPH. I enjoy the scenery of the high plains, but it is definitely a harsh environment:
I enjoy the West, but my next trip will be back to the familiar environs of East Tennessee and West North Carolina.