Northern Colorado

15th - 21st September 2012

We'd met some Colorado locals in Montana, who had given us some ideas on where to fish. Our first destination was to Delaney Lakes, near the small town of Walden. North Delaney Lake was classified as Gold Medal Trout Water. We called into North Park Anglers in the town where friendly and knowledgeable Matt advised Phil on how to fish the lake and what to use.

Delaney Lakes turned out to be another beautiful spot with free camping. Although there were no camp sites to speak of, you merely had to find a vacant spot level enough and set up camp. It was a nice change to be back on a lake again and Phil immediately inflated his float tube, the first time it had been used this year. Christine found the hike around the lake was a great way to keep fit and augment the feather collection, as the shore was teeming with bird life.

Phil, a small dot floating on a big lake

Pronghorn antelope

The first trip out on the lake the evening we arrived, brought 2 cut-bows (rainbow/cut-throat hybrids) caught using different methods, one on a nymph and one on a streamer. Buoyed by this success, 8 am next morning found Phil floating on the lake again. Meanwhile Christine waited for the temperature to rise above freezing when the sun showed its face before setting off on her nature hike. On the far shore of the lake, she encountered a lonesome Pronghorn antelope. It wasn't clear who was more startled but the antelope obligingly posed for photos before scampering away. The identity of the birds wading the shore, snacking on the crayfish, was a mystery. They were not shown in the bird guide and enquiries of locals just resulted in more bafflement.

North Delaney Lakes Mystery Inhabitants

Phil disappearing across the lake, towed by a large trout

The evening found Christine huddled in the unheated but sheltered interior of the RV while Phil ventured out on the lake again. It wasn't long before a plaintive cry was heard on the walkie-talkie radios. He'd hooked a big fish and was desperately kicking with his fin-clad feet to get his boat back to shore, whilst trying not to lose the lunker. Camera in hand Christine rushed to the shore and enjoyed the last ten minutes of the struggle. Finally the boat, the angler and the 25" brown trout were ashore and Phil got the photo he'd worked so hard for. The trout was released unharmed to fight another day.

He was a happy camper having hooked four large fish that day, 2 browns on a rojo nymph and 2 rainbows on streamers. Finally he could return to Harvey-the-RV for dinner and to thaw out.

Tired but happy!

Phil hooks Bill's fish.

Monday morning's chilly float brought 3 more big fish, 2 cut-bows around 15" and one 18" brown. The three fish all had different preferences and went for different flies! A windy afternoon made the lake too choppy to float so we took a walk around the lake, bumping into our neighbour Bill, who had been fishing from the shore all day. As we walked away after our chat, Phil spotted a large cut-bow, around 25" in the shallows and absent-mindedly cast his hopper out a couple of times. Remarkably the second cast paid off and the big fish was hooked. Despite Phil hooking his fish, Bill gallantly waded out with his landing net as Phil battled with the beast. Unfortunately the hook became tangled in Bill's net and the fish got away without being photographed. We're pretty sure it wasn't intentional!

That evening when the wind finally dropped and Phil was able to float, it was as though somebody had switched off the fish. He didn't have a nibble. Next morning was the same, it was a mystery. Nobody was catching anything.

Matt at North Park Anglers

Blue River

Before we left the area, we headed back to Walden. We needed water, propane, beer, all the essentials. The friendly petrol station in town provided the water, kindly took our garbage off our hands and gave us free hot water for tea. Next stop was North Park Anglers to thank Matt for his advice, which led to us having such a good time at the lake. He was delighted to see us, even remembering our names and asking to see the photo of Phil's biggest catch. We tracked down the beer and then headed to the town's Corkle Oil Company to make our massive spend of $6 refilling our two little propane tanks. Despite the insignificant purchase, the guy we'd dragged from his desk to fill our tiny bottles insisted we left with a pile of freebies, a first aid kit, a large calendar, a small calendar, two notebooks and two pens. Friendly folks in Walden!

On leaving the town, Matt advised us to make a stop below the Green Mountain Reservoir Dam and fish that stretch of the Blue River. "It's a bit steep," he'd warned us. We found ourselves driving Harvey down the steep road beside the dam to park him basically on top of a cliff, before a combination of sliding and scrambling down the steepest incline we'd ever attempted brought us to the riverbank. We found we'd arrived just at the wrong moment and the water flow had just changed dramatically, shrinking the river and meaning every cast hooked the floating vegetation in the water. However, we did encounter the Polish Fly Fishing Team who seemed to be having little more success than Phil.

Somehow we made it back up the cliff to Harvey and pushed onwards to a beautiful camp site further upstream on the Blue River. Unfortunately due to the drought, the water was very low and the only fish Phil hooked from the camp ground was tiny. It certainly wasn't the gold medal water is was reported to be at the moment due to the drought.

Below the cliff where we parked Harvey.

Blue River

As we headed westwards along Interstate 70 through the skiing resorts around Vail, the next day brought a non-fishing related bit of sight-seeing. Interstate 70 was crammed on one side of the Colorado river gorge, the railway on the other. The scenery was stunning.

We wanted to hike the trail up to Hanging Lake but on the westbound carriageway, you had to drive four miles past the trail head, take an exit to the eastbound carriageway and drive the four miles back to the spot where they had just managed to find room for an exit and parking lot. We did have a brief moment of panic, wondering how we'd return to the westbound Interstate after our walk but as luck would have it the only on-ramp went in a westbound direction.

Heavenly Hanging Lake

We parked Harvey and began the 1.2 mile hike up to the lake. The ascent was steep and it was hard to believe we'd only covered a quarter mile when we reached the sign. By three quarters of a mile we were desperate to reach the top. It was that steep, but worth the effort when we reached the heavenly, beautiful lake. The lake was basically located in a bowl of rock on the side of a cliff and its eco-system so fragile, even the amount of oil on human skin would damage it. Obviously no swimming was allowed, no fishing either much to the joy of the lake's trout population clearly visible in the crystal clear water.

We even found the energy to scramble up to the top of the waterfall too.

Waterfall named Spouting Rock

On the way back from Hanging Rock Lake

After our hike we headed further west to Glenwood Springs before heading south to the Frying Pan River near the chichi town of Basalt. We were quite surprised by the number of fishermen on the river, quite a shock after the quiet Montana waters. One angler referred to fishing Frying Pan River as "Combat Fishing", meaning you had to elbow your way in to find a fishing spot and then work hard to hold on to it.

The first evening's fishing was unproductive but as we were leaving a local fishing guide told us that when water is pouring from the dam, the fish were only interested in the micis shrimp resident in the lake water. Then he passed on a fly for Phil to try the next day.

Dipper looking for supper at the Frying Pan River

Harvey at the beautiful but pricey camp ground at Ruedi Lake

Beautiful scenery in Frying Pan River Valley

Sure enough the local knowledge and generosity brought results the next morning. An early start meant he managed to elbow his way into a space and Phil hooked a couple of good sized rainbows. Meanwhile Christine wandered around the day-use area, stumbling upon a trail. The trail went up a deserted gorge on the far side of the river and turned out to be even steeper than the Hanging Lake Trail. She got her work-out and returned hungry to Harvey for lunch and to remove some of the layers she'd donned against the early morning freezing temperatures. Phil assured her on the walkie-talkie that he was on his way back for lunch, yet half and hour later had not appeared. It turned out that he'd made one last cast into the water below the dam after the call and had hooked a 24" rainbow trout. It had taken him all that time, with the help of his neighbour on the riverbank, to land the fish.

Refuelled he returned to the river, hooking six more rainbows, two over 22" in length.

Back at the camp ground we used the last of our firewood, which we'd been carrying around since Minnesota, where it was donated to us by the "bad boys" from the correctional facility. We were glad of it, whilst cooking on our outside camping stove, it kept us from freezing until dinner was ready!

We made a stop on the Crystal River on our way south towards the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The river lived up to its name, being crystal clear but despite the low water level combined with this, during our brief fishing stop we didn't even spot a fish, never mind hook one!

Aspens turning to autumn colours on the Crystal River

Harvey ready to explore the Black Canyon of the Gunnison

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