This trip was planned to coincide with the last long break Burny (Mark McGeary) will ever have. Next year at the seminary and then when he becomes a priest he will be lucky to get 2 weeks a year of vacation. Being a catholic priest is a 24/7 job. He’s a stud; he has a calling. And he’s a ‘stick’.
But, we ran into 4 days of nasty cold snow, wind and hail. And raging river conditions. Not typically good for fishing….which was the case on this trip…. Still fun; of course. Lots of beautiful wilderness and tons of calories burnt bushwhacking and battling raging river conditions. We caught fish; we just didn’t catch a ton of fish.
Thursday May 8 – Middle Fork of the S. Platte at Santa Maria Ranch:
Bitter cold, wind, hail, snow…. Totally fun. J
The fishing was slow. I managed to get 6 to net. Half on steamers; half under the indicator. No rises. Two fish were worth talking about ….one was A huge male rainbow, ~20” jumped on me 4 times….big battle with multiple runs. Great fish. One little brown.
I also caught a huge sucker….like 16”… I have never caught one before. I nailed him in the nose and it had to be total blind luck.
Headed over to the private section at the end of the day.
Thursday May 8 – Middle Fork of the S. Platte at Andy and Jeff’s private area:
Shocked to see one of my favorite streams in a marsh condition. As it turned out the beavers got in there and created multiple dams which totally changed the area. I hiked downstream first…. it was cold… and I forgot that the downstream section is mostly riffles; mostly dry fly area…. I barely fished looking for pools. I took the trail back to the car; navigated across the river… startled by running into another fisherman. It was starting to get dark and very cold. I knew that burny and andy were probably dying to leave so I was resigned to getting skunked. Then I heard a rise… I looked over and saw the disturbance in the water….immediately casted… whack! Good battle and a big brown to net. Done. headed for the car to find the boys ready to go.
We had dinner in fairplay…the only restaurant in town is now a Chinese place. andy drove home and I had to take the wheel in mark’s car because his eyes were bugging him so bad he couldn’t see. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue…but, we had to go over the mountain to Breckenridge and down to Silverthorned and the storm kept getting worse and worse until I could barely see driving and the snow was sticking on the road. We made it though. around 1015pm… to the awesome house at Silverthorne on the blue.
Friday May 9 – The Blue River in the private section:
I like to say “I own” this section of river because I have never done poorly….even as a beginner. I have qualified for Colorado Master Angler twice there. But we woke up to a foot of snow on the ground and a raging river. The clarity was good. but, I have never seen the river so high. I have never seen that river where it is impossible to cross in any stretch. We tried to fish it….unsuccessfully all the way to the hole….and there was no hole… completely blown out.
So we drove the car to the other side and parked on the highway to fish the seams… nothing… just raging current. That’s when we made the call to drive over to clear creek.
Friday May 9 – Clear Creek off Hwy 70:
We fished clear creek in numerous places off the 70 from Silver Plume to Idaho Springs. The weather never really gave us a break. Wind, snow, cold.
I was really excited to nail a genuine Colorado cutthroat in a big pool at the 2nd place we stopped. I thought that was going to be my fish of the trip at that point because they are so rare…especially where I caught it in such a poached, public place.
At the last place we stopped where the rafting put ins are. I got a brown and a small rainbow. All in all a tough day of fishing …. 4 fish to net for me. lots of brutal bushwhacking and hiking in altitude. Lots of calories burned, but because of the freeway not the most beautiful part of Colorado.
At one point I stared down at the river and there were thousands of dead trees pinned against the mountain below hwy 70. I said to myself, why in the world would someone dump trees off the side of the road…what an eyesore… then it occurred to me. I turned 180 and up on the mountain…bare…. A huge avalanche was the reason. To get that many trees stuck that high on the mountain the avalanche had to be 200 feet tall.
We bbq’d steaks, drank JD and collapsed. Had to be out the door by 8am the next morning.
Saturday May 10 – The Williams Fork of the Colorado River:
I was stressing on where Mark and I would fish. I even looked at the private sections in southpark again, but you cannot reserve same day. I called rocky mountain anglers fly shop in boulder and they were very helpful. So, my plan at that point was for Burny and me to fish the lower part of clear creek of hwy 6 in the canyon on the way to boulder. Then to fish up at boulder creek with the big hike down at walkers ranch.
That was the plan….until we stopped in at cutthroat angers in Silverthorne. Eric, who has helped me before devised a better plan for me and mark. Due north to the western edge of Rocky Mountain National Park and the headwaters of the Colorado River. Eric said if we were ok with a 1-2 mile hike in the Williams fork was a tailwater and could potentially fish well. We love a hike so excitedly we head out with intricate directions to a dirt parking lot by a barn near Parshall, CO. even when we got there it was sketchy if we were in the right place. but, I got my phone out and did the gps thing and said, “yea, this is it.”. the question was which way to hike. We were advised to fish from the confluence of the Colorado and the Williams fork up.
Then burny said, “look at my tire.” Almost flat…uggg… but, what could we do? it could have been low the entire way. We just drove over 2 hours and were excited to fish. So, we risked it and walked away, fly rods in hand. I know burny was worried and so was i.
we walked the dirt road for a mile or so and then just bushwhacked it when we saw the Willaims fork. When we got there…. raging… but fishable. The trick was that the water was over the barbed wire cow fence in many spots which made it difficult and dangerous.
Firstly we fished it all the way down to the confluence quickly. Typically confluences are awesome places to fish because of the seam….and the spawn. But, we didn’t get anything to move. I even fished a giant foam patch with millions of midges hatching in it and didn’t get a strike. Weird. There were birds feeding too. but nothing rising and no takes. I was a bit worried it would be another slow day. and, at this point the weather was actually nice.
So, we worked our way up to where we started and I put an egg pattern on. Since it was slow I had little guilt about that. I dropped it below one of my infamous green flashbacks (Huck-Verde). I went back in the river to the place I fished an hour earlier….wading carefully through the raging current to an island and started pounding the run against the other bank again. Whack! Big jump. Now the battle was on. it jumped again and I could see it was a big rainbow. But, I was stuck out on the island in raging current and landing it there since the fish was already downstream was impossible. I had 5x on so I couldn’t muscle him either. So, I entered the current and carefully got myself to the bank while battling. I asked burny for help landing – I never do that. but, the fish was too big for his net. He finally folded it over into his net and I immediately dumped the fish into my net. We took a trophy shot; then a shot under water and released him still hot. Beautiful fish around 20”.
I no sooner was checking my rig and catching my breath when burny was on! two big fish 60 seconds apart!. Burny battled his ~16” but, with the current couldn’t get his nose up so I had a bit of trouble netting. But, I did; we took pics and released. Now, we were excited. And, I had no idea at the time, but Mark told me that was he first fish of the trip. You know things are slow when he gets skunked two days in a row. He is a “stick”. Very good fly fisherman.
Unfortunately the weather turned bad and so did the fishing. We worked up stream for miles and I had one good take, but was too late to the set. That is the issue with the egg – because it’s rigged differently you have to be lightening quick on the set. It is a beautiful stretch of river and I can’t wait to do it again, but it was miserable cold and slow. At 3pm, we decided to hike back. I knew it was a 4-5 mile hike back to the car and we had that tire waiting. Normally we would have fished until 7pm…another 4 hours. But, we had the tire waiting and now I started worrying because it could cut into my Camille time.
We barely spoke on the hike back. Because it was physically demanding; up hill, huffing and puffing. And miserable cold and windy and snowing. And because of that tire. Well, we finally got to the car and the tire was in the same shape as we left it… thank god. A sigh of relief. The next town was 12 miles away and that is where a gas station would be so we could fill the tire. We drove slowly…found the station…it had air! But, once I pumped it to pressure I could hear the leak in the tire…and feel the hole… it was huge. we struck out on the auto shop in windy gap, CO..closed on Saturday….ugg… we had to stumble to the next town, Granby, CO. that is where nothing was open again and I called the auto club to put the spare on. it was miserable cold raining at this point. But, it only cost us an hour and we were back on the road.
A full 2.5 hour drive all the way to Louisville, CO, though, where the hotel was. I showered up quickly and encouraged burny to eat – that is when he laid the blow on me. “I’m not going. Just take the car”. I understood. Burny is not in a place in his life to hang at a “kegger”. But, I am. and i was dying to see Camille. But, he was my ride. Not a problem. I need excuses not to drink. I made it to camille’s house in boulder just after 8pm. it was great. the whole night was great. I was the only adult at a keg party of 75 or so. I hung just fine…and seemed to be quite the amusement for them. And the drunken students, many of them grads, were pretty stoked that I would hang with them. and the boys were all pretty hammered. I learned new creative ways to play beer pong – clay had two tables at his house. and I witnessed the most awesome drinking game – Dizzy Bat. Creatively has not changed in 30 years. You fill a plastic baseball bat with beer. Everyone counts by secords as you chug it. you have to spin around the bat that many seconds. And then, dizzy, you get in a batting stance with the bat and they thow a pitch…of a beer can and dizzy, you have to make contact. If you miss…you have to spin again and do it again. Classicly funny. They were really wanting me to play both that game and beer pong, but thank god I did not though. Camille did, though. spun fell down, got up, lined up left handed and whacked it! awesome. only about half the boys were able to make contact.
I was in bed at the hotel by 1130pm. when I left the party it was getting big and they were starting to rage. I knew I left just in time. i made camille promise she’d pick me up at 6am and not blow it. if she ruined mothers day by me missing my flight, i’d be dead.
At 545am I still had not heard from Camille… I txt’d and called many times. She was supposed to pick me up at 6am to drive me to the airport. finally at 615 one of her roomates picked up her phone and said, “i don’t know where she is or how i got her phone….” i knew where she was….sigh…. but, I wasn’t too worried because worse case scenario it was an expensive cab or waking up and begging burny to take me. long story, but as I was talking to the cab dispatcher Camille finally called… 30 minutes late… I made it to the airport fine, though. awesome to see her.
Now back to the reality of mothers day and all the work I’m behind on and the stress of that work. worth it though. I am pretty proud of my work/wilderness balance.