Lifelong angling buddies, Ed Weber of Rochester, N.Y., and Gary Giudice from Norman, Okla., are fly fishing their way up the spine of the Rocky Mountains following mayfly hatches. They started in the White Mountains of Arizona and will end on the Bow River of Alberta, Canada. This blog follows their trip.
DENVER There's none of this "I'm ready to go home" crap. I want to stay up here forever or until the snow flies. Whichever comes first.
My good buddy and fly-fisherman extraordinaire Ed Weber and I have fished every day for weeks. Twenty-four streams have known our lines on this trip; hundreds of trout have felt the point of our barbless hooks. Most waters were pretty beyond belief, as we've learned that trout don't live in ugly places. Some fish small; some large, and all were fun to catch.
We just fished our last stream of the trip, South Boulder Creek, not far from Denver. We did not intentionally save the best stream for last but it worked out that way. Anthony Bartkowski called offering to take us fishing; said we wouldn't be disappointed. Wow, was that an understatement.
Lots of fish, big fish.
In fact, if I were in a bass tournament I would have loved to weigh in my five biggest trout of the day. They would have weighed well over 20 pounds!
But back to South Boulder Creek ...
We were fishing some private water in a reclaimed gold mining area where the land had previously been violated by the excavations there.
Devoid of vegetation, the stream was channelized for the better part of three miles. No boulders, no cut banks; no pools, no riffles: basically no trout. But some guys bought the place and transformed it into a trout-fishing Mecca. The best stream that Ed and I have ever fished and we've fished a bunch through the past many years.
To be more precise, The Lincoln Hills Fly Fishing Club more than likely has the best freestone trout stream in North America.
Two guys with vision Keith Van Horn, of NBA fame, and Mathew Burkett, a seasoned entrepreneur looked at the mess of a creek and saw the future. They saw trees, bends, riffles and glides. They saw trout as big as the Sunday paper and fly fishers as happy as a coon in a corn patch. They invested a ton of time and money to build the ultimate trout stream. And Ed and I were their guests.
Lord, take me now; it doesn't get any better!
We split up: Ed with Anthony; me with Mathew. The fishing wasn't easy but it was good. It's not like fishing in some kiddy pond with truckloads of stocked, pellet-fed trout.
Good drifts gave you a chance at a five-pounder; bad drifts got you nothing. Rainbows, browns, cutthroats even brook trout all thrive there.
A 16-inch fish doesn't raise a guide's eyebrow; a 20-incher barely gets a smile. This is the only place I've actually seen guides weigh the trout. In this heaven for fly fishers a four-pounder might get you a smile and a nod.
You can wade most of the South Boulder if you're careful, and every inch I saw seemed to hold fish. Insects were everywhere as well lots of them. Turning over a stone was like taking an entomology class, with Mathew the head master. He really knows his stuff.
I noticed a flask on his wading belt and thought it was there for the hard times, when fish wouldn't bite. But I had to ask. Nope, he uses vodka contained in his flask to preserve insects. It seems vodka does a better job than the normal rubbing alcohol used by most of us mere mortals. Vodka preserves the color better, too, I learned.
I have to wonder how gin would do (or how long it would last on a slow day).
Short-line nymphing was the best way to catch trout during our day on this jewel. I'd heard of this technique before, but best I remember it had nothing to do with fishing. With this style of fishing you use as little line as possible, a strike indicator, a lot of weight and two or even three nymphs. Drift the rig through a hole or likely seam and ... wham! It's just that simple.
The toughest part for me was detecting the strikes. If the indicator moves a fraction of an inch: set the hook. They use very large leaders, so it's not a simple lift into the fish, it's more like when you're pitching a jig in bass fishing: set the hook and set it hard.
Once I jerked a small fish completely out of the water. It landed behind me and a huge multi-pound brown trout devoured it. I ended up loosing them both, but it didn't matter. I caught so many more trout on the South Boulder, enough to make me forget all about that big brown.
These were the best-fighting fish of the trip, as well. And jump? Well, these fish fought out of water as well as they did in it, jumping high and often. You really need to take a look at this place on their web site, Lincolnhillsflyfishing.com.
With such great water, great people and great fish, it would be hard to imagine a better place to fish. Truly a place of dreams.
As this trip comes to a close, Ed and I look back to some of the trout and some of the streams. How fortunate we are to fish America's greatest waters in the wonder of the Rocky Mountains. The Gila and the Big Blackfoot; the DePuys and the San Juan and so many others all in one trip.
Rare fish, big fish and small fish all etched into our memories for years to come. We found genuine, nice people everywhere we went, each willing to help a couple of old trout fishermen live their dream.
We're in the planning stages for our next big adventure. I just hope to God it includes a stop on the South Boulder Creek, where it runs through the Lincoln Hills Fly Fishing Club.