Several Club members drove out or met up to fish together in Colorado. The group included Ed Chamberlain, Rob Kissel, Eric Davies, Mark Stevens and JD Forrester.
We all gathered promptly at my house at 6 am, well make that 6:15 am, well make that 6:30 am, excited and ready for a great trip. As Eric said, “I’m so excited, I can’t sleep!” We pushed hard that first day and wound up in Lawrence, Kansas for the first night. Late the next day, we arrived at the Fort Collins KOA, a quite different place. Guards at the gate, razor wire on the fence, rules (“no you can’t park on the grass” and “no we can’t turn off the sprinkler system and sorry about your ruined items”). But we were greeted by Mark Stevens who flew in to meet us. It was great to see him.
The next day we gathered at St. Peter’s Fly Shop, a unique and great place. St. Peter’s is housed in a beautiful, older house that used to be the mayor of Ft. Collins residence. This shop is highly recommended and we all enjoyed shopping there. Last year during the flooding they really helped me and Uncle Miltie out by giving us a refuge.
After visiting the shop, we headed to our first stop, the Cache La Poudre River. The Poudre is a high gradient stream that starts at 10,000 feet and drops to 5,000 feet over the course of 50 miles.
The river is in a canyon and is spectacularly beautiful. It is also spectacularly steep and can be hard to wade, much less drive. In fact Ed and I witnessed a large Pepsi truck, off the road in a place where it shouldn’t have been. You have to be aware when you drive the road, there are places where there are no guard rails and one slip up could land you in the river.
The water seemed high and wading was tough. When we finally figured out the water, we discovered that the fish were not out in the middle of the river, but located right on the bank. A dry dropper worked pretty good thrown right next to the bank. The first day I had around a dozen, a pretty decent day.
The second day on the Poudre was much tougher for Ed and I. I think we got 6 to 8 fish each but it was hard work. When we hooked up with Rob, Eric and Mark, imagine our surprise when they all had a great day with many fish caught. Mark even missed a big boy on a dry.
Although the Poudre was beautiful, it was pretty tough to fish and many though it was due to the flood that hit the canyon last year.
Anyway, we still enjoyed the Poudre and I can’t leave this part of the trip without pointing out a very good steakhouse in Ft. Collins, Sonny’s Steakhouse. Sonny Lubick was the high successful Football Coach at Colorado State for many years and he has opened an excellent, if a bit expensive, Steakhouse in downtown Ft. Collins.
On the Wild Blue
Eric, Rob, Mark, Ed, and I headed to the Blue River. The Blue comes out of Lake Dillon in Summit County, Colorado. A little background info is needed here. Summit County is the highest elevation County in Colorado and is full of ski resorts such as Breckenridge, Keystone, Copper Mountain, and Arapahoe Basin. The campground we stayed at, Heaton Bay, was around 9,000 ft. Last time I was there with Uncle Miltie I froze to death in my summer weight bag while Milton was comfortable in his 0 degree bag. It is a beautiful, high altitude area.
Ed Chamberlain off to conquer the Blue
One reason I came back to the Blue was when Uncle Miltie and I fished it in the Fall, it was one of the most beautiful rivers and area I have ever seen. The Blue is surrounded by the Gore Mountain Range and the slopes surrounding the river were covered with golden aspen trees. The vivid color was spectacular.
Ed and I searched for available water on the first day and settled for a stretch just outside Silverthorne. It was a nice looking section of water and Ed headed downstream as I headed upstream. The action was pretty slow for me until I got 200 yards upstream then bam! I was catching fish, big fish. Now these fish were only 18/19 inches long but that wasn’t the whole story.
These fish were so big, they needed to be measured in pounds, not inches. They were so big around I couldn’t even begin to hold one. One active fish jumped 5 times to my eye level, then finished it off with 2 more jumps. I was feeling pretty good about myself when I heard Ed call me on the walkie-talkie. “Uh, JD, I’m talking to a local and he says you are on private water”. WHAT? I never saw a sign, or a fence, or anything marking it as private water. But duh, no wonder the fish were so big. I hurried out of the water with my tail between my legs.
As best I remember it was a pretty tough day of fishing for us. But that was soon forgotten by looking at all the stars that come out at 9,000 ft.
The next day Ed and I headed out of town to a favored spot. The spot didn’t favor us too much and after fishing really hard I had managed only 3 fish. Ed suggested we head to town and get some info from Cutthroat Anglers, a great shop in the middle of Silverthrone. To our surprise they recommended fishing right behind the shop, which is in the middle of town, with people everywhere (in fact, I walked out of the river in the middle of a wedding). Ed hit a hole right next to a pedestrian bridge. I headed downstream and to my surprise began catching fish immediately and even missed a 17/18 inch big boy. Well that was nothing compared to Ed. He hooked into a big boy, and I mean big boy. The fight went on so long that people were cheering him from the bridge. Pretty soon after that guides were running out from the shop with a long handled net and Ed had a 23 inch cutthroat. You might see this epic fish on the Cutthroat Angler’s website, since they filmed the struggle.
(Ed says they did a good job of filming the fish, but never got a shot of him!).
Eric, Rob, and Mark headed to the Colorado outside of Kremmling and it sounded like the fishing was pretty tough, but Eric did get a nice 20 inch brown.
All in all, the Blue fished pretty tough. I know it holds fish, but can be a challenge. But it is well worth going there, if just for the scenery.
The Crystal was not Clear and Rob was Roaring on the Fork
After fishing the Blue we headed to the final destination on our trip-Carbondale with the surrounding rivers-the Crystal, the Roaring Fork, and especially the Frying Pan.
We camped at Crystal River KOA and I think we all enjoyed this campground the most of all, even over the 9,000 ft. elevation at Heaton Bay. First this campground was very laid-back, easy to be at. But most important was it was on the banks of the Crystal River, just under Mt. Sopris, a close to 13,000 ft mountain. A magical spot.
Ed and I set up the tent then hit the Crystal, which wasn’t too hard since it was 10 feet from our spot. The Crystal is a freestone stream that is beautiful trout river and easy to wade. After struggling with the Blue, I really enjoyed the Crystal. I finished with around 15, on dry dropper. Nothing too big (The Crystal is not known as a big trout river.
The biggest fish was around 15 inches. Ed has similar success. Although I don’t think the Crystal holds a lot of large fish, I would not hesitate to fish it-unless it rains.
On a different day we fished near Redstone, a quant mountain town upstream on the Crystal. It was a beautiful place and Ed and I decided to fish there. Eric and Rob decided to take a day off and head over to Crested Butte. Ed and I struggled on the Crystal that day, with around 3 or 4 fish each, so we decided to head downstream. We got out just as the muddy water hit the Crystal. We headed downstream and found clear water but not great fishing. I think we finished with around 7 or 8, but it was tough fishing.
We had decided to try the Roaring Fork, a local freestone stream. To give you an example of why is it called the Roaring Fork, this river drops more in its 70 mile decent than the Mississippi does over its complete decent. We were not very optimistic because it had rained hard the night before we hit the Roaring Fork, and flood warning were issued for the area. As we traveled to Aspen rain pelted us as well as several pro cycling teams preparing for the USA Pro Challenge. We wasted a morning sight-seeing and waiting for the rain to stop. To kill time we went to the Woody Creek Tavern.
I must digress here and talk about the Tavern. Woody Creek is a small town just outside of Aspen and the Tavern is right next to the Roaring Fork. The area was the one time home of Hunter S. Thompson (some of you may have to google him) and the Tavern saw entertainment by John Denver when he was off tour. On another trip, my mountain biking buddies saw several horses tied up outside, and several cowboys inside. Because of the rain, we decided to eat lunch there, which wasn’t a great idea, since our normal pattern was a large breakfast, snacks for lunch and a big supper. In other words we were full but decided to solider on anyway with a lunch. Two of our group got hot dogs, kind of akin to ordering meatloaf at a seafood restaurant. So Woody Creek Tavern was not the hit I thought it would be, but I highly recommend you visit there if you are in the area.
It was still rainy when we left the Tavern, but I said, I’m going fishing and headed to the Roaring Fork. We got lucky and the clouds parted and the sun came out. That didn’t help my fishing much, with only 4 fish. Ed did better than that, and Eric woke up from his nap and got one fish and quit. Rob was hot that day and found some holes and pulled a ton of fish out, including a nice 18 inch ? bow? Rob had a very good day on a technical river with a buckskin caddis.
We headed back to camp to get a good night’s sleep to face the AWESOME Frying Pan.
TO BE CONTIUED………