Scott's Outdoor Blog

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Colorado Roadtrip - Back to Fishing

I was tired and sore as I headed back towards the Conejos.  The day was getting late as I decided to make a slight detour in order to fish the Piedra River the following morning.  Heading North out of Pagosa Springs towards Williams Creek Reservoir the clouds opened up and gave the Pilot a much needed car wash.  Brief breaks in the rain revealed a slightly eerie, serene view of the valley.  I found a nice spot to park the car for the night, excited for what tomorrow had to offer.

The following morning I pulled into the trailhead parking lot along the river.  I wanted to fish the confluence of Williams Creek.  There was a trail that followed the Piedra around the mountain that would have taken me right to where I needed to be, but I tried to cut over. 

This birds-eye view of the Piedra is not what I had in mind when I decided to take a short-cut.  I needed to be down there.  Since I left my climbing gear at home, I had to backtrack a mile or so to the trail.  My already beaten-down legs were hating me right now, but the will to fish carried me on. 

Finally where I needed to be!  The water looked perfect, and I was able to forget all about the raw blisters on my toes and heel. 

I put my rod together and debated what bug to try first.  A quick look at the rocks made the decision for me.

  I think I had something close enough.

It wasn't long before a pretty little rainbow agreed with my selection.

Followed in short order by a handful of eager browns.  I was lovin' this place!

I worked my way up towards a great looking deep run.  My indicator took a dunk on the first cast, bending the 3 weight right over.  I knew instantly this was a better fish, and in that same instant I saw the fish flash in the depths as the fly came back at me.  Bummer.  I continued fishing the length of the run, battling with a few more fish.  But it wasn't until I was about to move on when I was once again hooked up into a "nice one".  I'm not sure if it was the fish from before or not, but I was thrilled with the fight this guy put up!

Figuring this would be a tough one to top this day, I sent him on his way and hiked back to the car.  Successful day.  Check. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Road Less Traveled

The view from the road looking down on the town of Silverton before sunrise.  I was on the move.


The bite was still hot on the Conejos, but I had a side-trip on the agenda.  It was time to put this scouting trip behind me.  My friends and I have been talking for years about planning a trip to Colorado with bows in our hands and tags in our pockets, and this looks to finally be the year!  A new acquaintance to our usual hunting posse informed us of an area he had hunted in the past.  His stories of elk and bear encounters held our attention, and we were sold on this location.  But there was a catch.  His group had always paid a trespass fee to one of the ranchers whose property bordered the public land.  From the back side of his ranch, they would make day trips into the public areas to hunt.  We didn't want to do that this time.  We want to pack all our gear in, set up a spike camp, and hunt from there for the rest of the week.  Studying Google Earth and other GPS mapping software, we thought we could see a way in without doing any trespassing.  What we didn't know was the condition of the trails (if there were trails), and the difficulty of the hike.  That's what I volunteered to find out. 

By the time I got on the trail, I was already behind schedule.  I wanted to be hiking by sunrise, hopefully making it to our predetermined spike camp area before the temperature rose.  Unfortunately, it was probably closer to 10:00 a.m. before I was making tracks.  I was glad to see the first part of the trail was more defined, and easier to travel than I had imagined.  The first 4 or 5 miles went by easily, until my legs began that dreadful turn to jello.  My place slowed after that.  I stopped often to snap pics of the trail.  The trail was muddy, which made walking more difficult, but allowed for this picture.

Being unaccustomed to hiking alone in bear country, I had already tied a bell into my shoe laces.  But after these tracks started showing up on the trail I began talking out loud to the forest.  It started with the simple "Hey bear........hey bear......" every minute or so.  But before long I had reverted back to my Jellystone roots.  "Ehhhh Boo Boo?"

The views on this hike more than made up for work involved in getting to my destination.  After nearly 7 hours of walking, I came upon the meadow below.

My legs told me this was a good place to stop and set-up camp.  I marked the path in on my GPS so we would have no trouble getting back here in September.  I took off my pack and sat down on a fallen tree.  Exhausted.  I'd been resting for less than ten minutes when I heard something over my left shoulder.  I carefully grabbed my camera and snapped this pic before they caught my wind.

That was enough proof for me that we had picked a good location!  After setting up camp, filtering water, and cookin' up some dinner, it was time to dry out my socks and boots from the soggy walk in.

I watched another large group of elk pass through the meadow that evening, but they moved on as the darker clouds began rolling in.  I ended up crawling in the tent early that night and fell asleep to the sounds of a thunderstorm. 

After crawling out of the tent the next morning, the first thing I did was peak out over the meadow.  Sure enough, the elk were there again.  September can't come soon enough!

I wanted to get an early start, as I knew the hike going out would be more difficult than coming in.  I quickly shook off my tent and stuffed it in my pack.  I crunched down a Clif Bar and waited on my coffee. With everything secured in my pack, I headed back towards the meadow to pick up my bear bag before walking out.  I must have missed this interesting Aspen tree the night before.  It seems I wasn't the only one who thought this meadow made for a perfect camp setting. 

I had a long walk ahead of me, but the crisp morning air made miles go by with moderate ease.  I encountered several groups of elk in the smaller creek bottoms as I retraced my path.  My body, like clockwork, hit the wall around mile 5 or 6.  I figure I have less than two months before I'll be doing this again, but with more weight on my back.  I'll be hitting the gym and climbing some stairs before then, but I'm sure it will be just as brutal.  8 miles in, 8 miles out.  That's gonna be a fun time packing an elk out if we are fortunate enough to get one!

With the "work" out of the way, it's time to get back to the trout streams! More on that next time.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Colorado Roadtrip - Summer 2011

The sweltering heat of Kansas in late July was all the motivation I needed to hit the road and head west for a week-long trip across Southern Colorado.  This trip would serve two purposes:

1. Chase wild trout in a majestic mountain setting.
2. Scout out the trail and terrain for my first Colorado elk hunt scheduled for this September.

This post will focus on the search for trout.

After an 8 hour drive I arrived at my first destination, the Conejos River.  The Forest Road parallels the River for about 35 miles, allowing for an average driving speed of around 25 mph.  I chose to drive all the way to the Upper Conejos, above Platoro Reservoir, for a more primitive camping experience.  I was rewarded with a campsite offering this amazing view of the Upper River.  After setting up camp, I walked down to see if I could fool a fish or two.

There were a few other fishermen on this stretch, and I witnessed them land a couple trout while nymphing.  I stubbornly stuck to throwing a variety of dry flies, managing to hook 2 fish.  Both hookups resulted in long-distance releases, including one beautifully-colored Cutthroat which escaped at my feet.  Rain moved in towards evening, forcing me to retreat to the shelter of camp for fear of an open-meadow lightning encounter.  Eventually the rain let up, and I was rewarded with this beautiful scene.

The rain continued off and on throughout the night, drowning out the sounds of various critters' footsteps that often make sleep hard to come by.  I awoke in the cold, gray light of dawn, as the bluegrass songs say.  I fired up the JetBoil to heat water for the morning's coffee to be enjoyed from this mid-mountain perch.

Today I would fish the Lower River.  Reports of Gray Drakes hatching during the middle part of the day proved true.  I fished a double dry fly setup and had a great time watching these browns take 'em off the top just about every time I found a good pocket of slack water.

This was some of the most enjoyable dry fly fishing I've ever experienced.  It was no 30 fish day, but the takes were frequent enough.  I landed around 7 fish in a little over 3 hours, with many more missed takes.  The largest fish brought to hand would be a full-bodied 18 incher with amazing colors.  Unfortunately, he flipped out of my hands while I was waiting on the camera self-timer to go off!  The difficulties of getting a good self-pic with a nice trout would continue on this trip, as this drama would occur on more than one occasion.  Those fish, along with the two "bigger ones" that broke off my 5x tippet, will be the fish tales I will tell until the next trip!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Muddy Stairway to Heaven

    A few weeks ago I was complaining about the difficulties of standing in shin-deep muck for hours on end.  You know, the stuff that has claimed many sandals or shoes never to be returned.  The longer you stay in one spot, the deeper into the abyss you fall, and the harder it is to escape.  My biggest complaint is the sore back that comes from just trying to maintain balance in that stinky mess as you wonder what just brushed against your lower legs.  I eventually broke down and walked out of Wal-Mart $18 poorer, but at least I had a solution!

I still have to trudge through the wet cement to get out to a decent spot. But once I'm camped, life is good.  With carp cruisin' towards me, tails tippin' all around, and a slight headwind, I can almost imagine myself standing on the front casting platform of a flats skiff, silently being push-poled through the mangroves by a free guide.  Then I snap out of it and set the hook on another bottom feeder!


The fish were definitely on the feed today.  I took fish on red SJWs, Carp Carrots, and a variety of brown wooly-bugger type flies.  It was the first time I've actually seen a carp chase a fly for 6 feet rather than 6 inches.  These post-spawn fish just don't tip the scales like they did 2 months ago.


  After an hour or so I decided to break camp and head for shore.  Mostly because I grew tired of watching the two feeding fish up shallow in that direction.  It turns out the ladder makes a pretty good walker to lean on while pulling your feet out of the mud.  I decided to put the stalk on these fish, thinking the ladder might also make a decent cameraman.