Monday, June 30, 2008

High Country Lakes

I met up with Jamie (slowdown), Jacob (lostlure), Jim (Silent_Light) and Jim's son, Sam, to head out to the high country for some cutthroats. The high country above Boulder (Indian Peaks) is still covered in snow and its lakes are still iced over, so we headed West in order to access some Southern facing lakes.

This was my first trip to lakes above tree line so I was psyched. The lakes that are 12,000 ft. and higher tend to have bigger cutts and this place was no exception. The upper lake was filled with brightly colored cruising bruisers (why Cameron, what an elegant alliteration) that incidentally had very little interest in eating our flies. Out of the five of us there was only a single cutty landed in the roughly 6 hours we were there, and there was no shortage of experience among us.

However, the beauty of the location trumped the fishing by a long shot and made the experience one I will never forget. I found myself repeatedly gawking at the panoramic vista surrounding the lake. The beauty was overwhelming at times and left me trying to convince myself that I was, in fact, really there.

I accidentally left my camera in the truck when I jumped into Jamie's ride. Luckily, Jamie and Jim brought their cameras and took some awesome photos. Some of the photos are not full quality due to file size optimization for sending through email.

The group making our way through the mountains
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Jamie and I broke ahead and took this photo of Jim and Jacob from way above. They are the specs in the grass just below the snow and scree.
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Some scenery(click to zoom)

A quiet moment of fishing(click to zoom)

Some critters:
Yellow Bellied Marmot
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Rocky Mountain Chipmunk(click to zoom)

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The sole cutty (duped by Jamie).(click to zoom)

After leaving the lakes we pulled over on a small creek and took our pent-up angler anguish out on some innocent brookies. Catching the 4-6 inch babies felt a lot better than it should have. Jamie and I both agreed that the creek evoked some nostalgia of fishing the tight runs in Virginia.

Jim and Jamie, thanks for the great job with the photos!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bushwacking For Mountain Lakes

Arrived at Brainard Lake (just to park, not to fish Brainard) around 07:00 with Nick and Henderson and set out with the topo map/compass for a set of unnamed lakes that I had been fantasizing about all week. This was my first "off the path" lake hunt.(click photo to enlarge)

(click photo to enlarge)

There were 3 foot snow drifts all throughout the woods to climb over, and lots of pooling snow melt, but just fine for hiking with waterproof boots (which Nick didn't have - more on this later).

We followed a trail for roughly 2 miles, and then turned off the path to get to the first lake. Right about the time that I was beginning to second guess exactly where I was leading these trusting companions, the first lake revealed itself through the dense pine forest.

(click photo to enlarge)

The lake proved to be a bit shallow and, subsequently, devoid of trout. If these high mountain lakes are too shallow they will freeze all the way through over the winter - killing any potential fish population. It sure was beautiful though, and it bore the gift of a new species of bird.

We got to see a pair of Lesser Scaup ducks quietly swimming in their private paradise. The photo came out a bit blurry, but the male had an amazing blue bill.

(click photo to enlarge)

After setting our bearings with the compass for a minute we set out for the backup destination. This lake had and inlet and an outlet which is always a good indicator for the likelihood of trout to be present. Sure enough, it had some depth in the middle and rising trout creating smoothly expanding rings of ripples.
(click photo to enlarge)

The brookies were ego-boostingly willing. It was a one-fly day with a #14 gray Adams. I don't think it really mattered what fly was on the end of the line. As long as the presentation was acceptable the little guys bit.

We got a #20 black midge hatch to my delight which kicked up the action for about an hour. You can see the blurry outline of the midges in the bottom of the following picture along with all the rise forms on the water.
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Midges mating in the trees by the shore. (click photo to enlarge)

During, and after, the mating ritual some of the bugs will fall, exhausted, into the water. This is the "spinner" phase and this is what the trout were feasting on.

I went over to the inlet of the lake which was a steady flow of collected snow melt. This brookie was under the impression that he was a river trout as he coasted in the easy current in no more than 4 inches of water.(click photo to enlarge)

On the way back I was feeling very chipper about my navigational skills so I decided to take a short cut through the woods back to the trail instead of following the outlet stream like we did on the way in. It's the way the stories of people getting lost, mutinying and separating, and then curling up and dieing alone in the woods always start.

So we get to this field that I knew the trail was on the other side of and start to cross. However, the field is a low-land and is flooded with runoff and, guess what?, Nick doesn't have waterproof boots.

We decide to just walk along the edge of the field to "get around it". After about 45 min. the field ceased to be a field and graduated into the realm of endless wetland. It had this magical way of arching inward so that the alleged "end" could never be spotted. We finally got to a section that was manageable and crossed.

On the back side there was no trail, lots more pools of melting snow, and lots less waterproof boots on Nick's feet!

We had a good idea of where we were. The worst case scenario wasn't becoming lost, it was the prospect of a much longer hike than necessary. After about another half hour of slow bushwhacking the distinct track of the trail formalized with a blue blaze on a tree to boot. I boasted about how I knew exactly where we were the entire time and then started walking in the wrong direction on the trail.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Trip to VA

This post is long overdue, but it's just a quickie. I made my way home for my cousin's wedding which was held on a farm right next to Grey's Mountain Lodge in Virginia. The farm had the rose river running through it and was a highly maintained, stocked stream loaded with rainbows and some brookies.

It was pretty much fish in a barrel, but it was still fun to see these bows charge out of the water to swallow a big hopper.

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The landowner charges $75 a day to fish this stretch. I suppose if you have the $ and don't get to fish very much it's worth it.