South Fork White River - Colorado
Its been an incredibly hectic and relatively fishless twelve months...
If not for Hans, I don't believe I would have fished at all since last August. Health issues and a change of employers had taken a toll on my fishing opportunities and ambitions. Thankfully the nightmare of the last year was behind me and I had been eagerly awaiting the day that I finally sat on the airplane headed to Colorado.
After fighting our way through the Denver Airport (and a very inept Hertz staff), Bass Pro Shops, REI and two stops to Wally World for supplies we couldn't bring on the plane, we finally made it up to our first campsite, 10,500 feet up in the Flattops above Glenwood Canyon. We were treated to a cloudless sky and endless stars (unfortunately, it was to be the one and only time on this trip).
The first day of fishing was fantastic. We hiked down into our favorite small stream and were immediately into fish. The three of us managed to catch over 100 Brookies and Cutts in under three hours of fishing. Most were in the 9-11 inch range and all were feisty. My youngest son, with his new St. Croix (thank you LRO) caught over 50 fish (the most he had ever caught on one trip, much less-one day). With huge grins on our faces, and much anticipation for the days ahead, we quickly trudged the 1200' ascent back up and out of the canyon. That evening we scouted out a few lakes/ponds but didn't manage to catch any fish. We headed back to camp and were greeted by an evening thunderstorm (the first of many to come) that sent us all off to bed early.
The next day we broke camp and drove down into the South Fork of the White River Canyon. The original plan had been to car camp near the trailhead and then hike downstream into the wilderness area to fish. Unfortunately there were no suitable campsites to be found near the trailhead, so we decided to load up our packs and head downstream until we found a place to camp. Thankfully we were able to find a beautiful site within a short distance and quickly setup camp. That evening on the river we found a pool just beyond the campsite and quickly caught a half dozen cutts and brookies, before the rains came again.
The third day we hit the river before noon but had a devil of a time finding a rhythm with the fish. I managed three fish (a brookie, a cutt and a rainbow) on three different patterns across a span of four hours. The sun was high and the fish were skittish. We rested in the mid afternoon and around 5p I headed downstream to try my luck on some new water. I hiked nearly two miles downstream to a spot some locals had suggested as the clouds again gathered, then darkened. I dropped down to the stream from the trail just in time to have the first clap of thunder sound overhead. I immediately caught the fish of the trip, a beautiful 14" Rainbow that slammed a yellow stimi and quickly stripped line off my reel. Spending most of my time chasing small fish on blue lines, that was a new experience for me. It took a few minutes to bring him back from his downstream runs.
As I released the fish, I realized that the sounds of thunder were quickly intensifying. And lightning could now be seen bouncing along the top of the canyon walls off to the west. Two casts later I caught a second rainbow in the 12 inch range with nearly as much fight as its cousin. And still the thunder rolled. Realizing that I was nearly two miles from camp I was conflicted in what to do. Clearly the fishing was outstanding, but at what price? If I stayed, at best I would get soaked, but who knows how long the storm would go on and with nighttime approaching, how hard would it be to make it back to camp, in the dark.
I cast again, as if hoping that a lack of catching fish would persuade me to pack it in. Instead an 11 inch brookie slammed my next cast (at least the fish were getting smaller...). I had hooked three fish in less than 5 minutes of fishing, "surely I should keep fishing" I thought to myself as I fought the brookie closer to me. Thankfully, the fishing gods decided they should trick me no more...As I applied tension to the brookie to coax him toward me, he lept out of the stream and into a willow completely tangling my line in an unimaginable mess. I quickly freed him and slipped him back into the water, but the tangled mess of fly line screamed at me: "Come to your senses!! The fish will be there another day. Get out while you can."
I broke down my rod and wrapped the tangled mess up around it and high-tailed out of the stream and back up onto the trail. The 30 minute hike was a "hair raised on the back of your neck" experience. As I walked through the open meadows of the canyon floor I could see the reflection of the lightning behind me in my glasses. 1-2-3-4-crap...I couldn't even make it to 5 most times before the thunder would roll loud and menacing above me. Do I run to tree cover and wait it out (however long that will be into the dark), or just keep walking?? I opted to keep walking although somewhat slower and slightly crouched position (like 4 inches would matter if a bolt o lightening happened in my direction). I was the tallest object for most of the two miles of the canyon floor. Thankfully most of the lightening stayed on the upper reaches, and although I was completely drenched by the time I made it back to camp, I had found high-country fishing nirvana, if only for a few minutes. Those few minutes and the beauty of that canyon made the entire trip.
There were a few other stops along the way (and a whole bunch of rain), but nothing compared to those few minutes...
I also apologize for the lack of fish pics in the post, but after dropping my camera in the water on 4 separate occasions over the last few years (and still being too cheap to buy a waterproof one), I have shied away from carrying it with me on the water...These last two pictures are of RMNP
"Even a fish wouldn't get into trouble if he kept his mouth shut."