Settling in slowly, mostly in between working, has left little time for exploration and fishing. That will eventually begin to change but until then I will take what I can get. Every day, the mountains loom on the horizon beckoning for me to come and lose myself in the vast wild spaces. My car gravitates in that direction naturally. I just happen to be conveniently inside when it does.
Last weekend, despite all the important things I should probably have been doing, I did a bit of exploring. The scenery was naturally epic. It is the Rocky Mountains after all. The highlight was last Sunday's trip to Rocky Mountain National Park which is around an hour away. There are so many mountain lakes just begging for a backpacking trip with a fly rod that it is hard not to just start hiking out unprepared. Wild flowers could be found just about anywhere but never in profusion.
The wild critters were out and about although the larger species were noticeably absent during the middle of the afternoon. This marmot was hanging out in the road and appeared to be eating gravel. Actually there was a very small spring in the road that was producing a simple damp spot. I'm still not sure what that animal was actually doing there but it was not frightened in the last by the car rolling by a few feet away.
We drove up the Old Fall River Road which was a nice variation on the normal Trail Ridge Road. Fewer cars were venturing off the pavement and the road stubbornly held to the bottom of the canyon until several switchbacks took us quickly higher until we were looking back down on the trees and valleys we had just left. On the way up, a stop by the now gentle stream allowed me to play with the camera just a bit. I'm sure that in early summer the creek would be a raging torrent but not this time of year as dry as things are.
Above tree line on Trail Ridge Road, we took a bit of time to take in the majestic views before dropping down a bit towards the west side of the Park. There we found a nice little picnic area near a lake which was perfect for lunch. The chipmunks were active and before we knew it, our cameras were keeping us busier than lunch was. We also saw several birds including the apparently plentiful Clark's Nutcracker.
After lunch, we regained elevation as we headed back towards the east side of the Park. Very little snow remains but the high country is still beautiful although a little on the dry side. The larger animals were still nowhere to be seen but we continued to hope that they might appear late in the day. Our next goal was Bear Lake and after that, Sprague Lake.
Easily accessible, Sprague Lake apparently has brook trout. A large contingent of fly fishers were active, wading well out into the lake and flailing away. It was apparently a fly fishing class or perhaps a club on an outing. The scenery around the lake was definitely beautiful. I stayed busy with my camera. The wildflowers were glorious when you found them, and the lake itself provided some nice shots as well.
Heading back down the road towards Estes Park, we finally ran into some interesting animals. A couple of large bull elk were out feeding as well as some nice bucks nearby. A large herd of Elk was spotted nearby but consisted of mostly cows and their young.
Sometime around the elk sighting is when disaster struck. I had tossed in a favorite 4 weight in the morning in the hopes of catching some trout. The brook trout at Sprague Lake had energized and motivated me. I had my sights set on Glacier Creek. Stopping at a pullout near the creek, I opened the back door to pull out my fly rod and reel and gear and......................???? The reel was conspicuously absent and then I noticed that my lumbar pack was missing in action as well. A quick and thorough search confirmed that I would not be fishing. Numb with shock, I stumbled back to the driver's seat to head home. The knowledge that my job would keep me too busy to fish didn't help the situation.
Heading south out of Estes Park, I had time to ponder my luck. By and by, an idea began to develop. By the time we arrived at Wild Basin, I was ready to act. Searching the entire car unearthed a braided leader and a couple of old 4x nylon leaders. Guiding the car to a creekside parking spot, I put the fly rod together and began innovating. My fly rod became a Tenkara rod as I attached the braided leader to the last guide and then attached the bottom 3rd or so of the 4x leader. I scrounged around and came up with a nice Ultra Wire soft hackle in my favorite mustard color. Finally, I was ready to attack the stream. Working my way through the stream side foliage, I gingerly moved from one rock to another. Soon, I slipped and quickly submersed my feet but realized it was not that cold after all. Before too many casts had been made, I had a small brook trout fighting on the other end of my makeshift rig.
Maneuvering around, I landed the fish and got a picture of my first fish caught as a resident of Colorado. That fish made me pretty happy I have to say. I had prevailed against the odds and still managed to find a way to catch fish. In the process I realized that the simplicity of Tenkara has a definite appeal.
Moving further up the pool, I soon caught a little brown trout and another brookie before deciding that the day was a success and fishing any more would just be greedy. I left with the knowledge that I had found a gem of a creek to which I will return. I can't wait to fish some of the state's "famous" waters but the mountain streams remind me a lot of home and I'll hopefully be spending a lot of time on them before the season ends in a few weeks.