Featured Photo: Football Brown

Featured Photo: Football Brown

Sunday, March 19, 2023

Colorado 2022 Day Five: A Wonderful Afternoon on a Favorite Meadow Stream

One of the best afternoon's of the whole trip snuck up on me. That is, I really didn't expect it or see it coming. Some of the best adventures are unplanned, however. The trick is to take advantage of those small kindnesses that sometimes happen. I am still full of gratitude over this particular one, because my wife took on the exhausting task of wrangling a toddler while I lazied around and fished. But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

Morning Routine in Camp at Timber Creek Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park

The day dawned cold but bright. With frost everywhere and air temperatures around freezing, we weren't dying to sit around eating breakfast, but when the little one wakes up, we all wake up. So, we began what became a morning routine for the next couple of days. Get up, drive around to see the sights and look for wildlife, then have breakfast. This isn't absolutely necessary if you have a high cold tolerance, but we just weren't used to cold weather yet. 

Because Timber Creek Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park lies at the base of a mountain range, the sun is blocked for the first hours of daylight and camp remains shaded. As soon as the sun peaks over the ridge, things warm up quickly. The trick for us was to stay busy until the sun crested the ridge. Then we were warm enough to fix breakfast and not freeze ourselves or the toddler.

Fall color Aspen in Rocky Mountain National Park


Our driving was partly to look for wildlife and partly to look for fall colors. We had attempted to time our trip late enough to have some decent colors, but early enough that it wouldn't be too frigid. In the end, we won some and lost some. More on that later, but let's say for now that we would have gladly traded cold mornings for warm sunny afternoons later in the trip.

A fun part of our daily routine that we didn't see coming was washing the dishes. Let me explain a little more. I don't know about you, but I never get excited about washing dishes in freezing cold water at a little dishwashing station behind the restroom in National Park Service campgrounds. It is a necessary annoyance to an otherwise great time, of course, but a little hot water would make things much more enjoyable. What made dishwashing fun here was the little table next to the sink. It had a lower shelf that was perfect for a toddler exploring. In fact, the little one enjoyed dishwashing enough to make up for any discomfort the rest of us experienced.

Washing dishes at Timber Creek campground


The other fun part of this camp in general was the wild raspberries. These had been introduced to little bit on a previous day's hike and she LOVED them. I can't say I blame her. The only downside here is that there weren't enough left to go around. She was happy to eat as many as Ma Ma and Da Da could find. We had to keep a close eye on her, however, to make sure she didn't sample any and every red colored berry or seed pod.

By the time things had really warmed and we had played some around camp, it was time to make some decisions on what to do that day. We had one or two hikes that we wanted to accomplish while camping at Timber Creek, but had already decided that the next day was a hiking day. That was when my wife gave me an amazing opportunity. She would drop me off at one access point, drive a short distance up the road, and let the little one explore and play and otherwise move around while I fished my way up the meadow to meet them.

We made one small error in the planning process. Knowing that a toddler might not want to look at historical buildings for too long, we decided that if they got bored and didn't see me, then they should drive back down to the start point and start walking the meadow to look for me. Thankfully they didn't get that far, but it would prove to be a small problem. 

The Afternoon Fly Fishing the North Fork of the Colorado River in Kawuneeche Valley


North Fork Colorado River in Kawuneeche Valley Fly Fishing


I was heading in to a favorite piece of water, albeit one I hadn't fished in probably 10 years or close to it. This stream is every bit as good as the more famous meadow stream on the other side of the mountain, or maybe I should say more fished meadow stream on the other side of the mountain. This stream is famous enough as the headwaters of one of the most famous rivers in the country. It just happens to be farther from major population centers than the stream I fished earlier on this trip.

This meadow stream winds through an amazingly beautiful valley. Wildlife abounds with elk and moose both likely. As you maneuver your way through the occasional evergreen thickets, watch out for these big critters. You also need to watch out for random holes in the stream bank as is the case on most meadow streams. 

I started hustling out of the gate, er, car door. I wanted to see a long stretch of meadow and only had 2-3 hours at best. Traveling light, I had my rod, a spool of tippet, a small cup of my favorite flies for late summer meadow streams, and scissor forceps. That's it. I hiked upstream to one of my favorite runs and started there. Per the usual, I spooked a couple of nice browns from the tailout. This was a good reminder to slow down just enough as to not alert the browns to my presence.

Brown trout from North Fork Colorado River in Kawuneeche Valley Rocky Mountain National Park


The first fish didn't take long. But as usual with fishing slow meadow water with my favorite fly and method, I missed a lot more than I caught. Still, I was seeing, and catching, enough fish to keep me both entertained and focused. Thus, when I had a big brown rush the fly, I was ready with a hard hookset. Nothing. I didn't even feel the fish. Maybe I misjudged and the fish never ate. Who knows. Needless to say, I wanted to go back in the worst way, but it just wasn't meant to be.

Continuing up river, I found nice fish after nice fish. The largest was a heavy female that was in the mid to high teens lengthwise. The two or three big fish I saw never quite found the hook. At least one of them was really big, as in, the kind you dream about. But that was what keeps me going back to these meadow streams. Seeing a brown blur rocket out from under the slightest undercut bank never gets old.

Brown trout in Kawuneeche Valley North Fork Colorado River Rocky Mountain National Park


Reminder To Fish The Whole Spot

One of my favorite fish was also a good reminder for an old lesson. Never give up until you fish the WHOLE spot. All the way to the top. I was coming into a picture perfect bend. Undercut banks farther bank in the run looked fishy but didn't produce. I kept moving up to the top. Finally, I through to what I thought was the top, close to some downed wood. Nothing. 

When you fish through a perfect pool and don't catch anything or even see anything, it always leaves you wondering what if. With the technique I was employing, fish usually react from great distances, so if I'm in the neighborhood, I usually feel confident that I'm close enough. Still, I apparently had missed something here. Moving up another step, I sent a final cast above the drop into the pool. Immediately, a fish that apparently had its noise literally on the drop-off came rocketing up from the bottom to nail the fly. Never mind that I had placed a cast probably 1.5-2 feet behind it and PLENTY close enough to get its attention. That fish wasn't moving unless the fly was where it wanted it.

Reminder brown trout in Rocky Mountain National Park Kawuneeche Valley


North Fork Colorado River meadow stream in Kawuneeche Valley Rocky Mountain National Park


Finishing My Fishing 

After that fish, I realized I was seriously running low on time and needed to start hustling. I still tossed my flies in a spot or two, but mostly my trip was running down. That point was reinforced when I thought I saw our car drive slowly by on the road. If Mama and the Baby were looking for me, then I was probably running a little late. I waved and otherwise tried to get their attention, but I also knew I was dressed to blend in. It was time to just move. Hoping they would drive back up the road to look again, I started really hustling. 


By the time I hit an official "trail" at the next access point, I found that I had cut it even closer than I intended. The fields were "closed" at 5:00 pm due to the elk rut that was ongoing. I was a few minutes over, but thankfully the ranger driving by didn't seem to mind. I hustled out to the parking lot only to discover no ride. That wasn't a problem. I just started walking down the road back towards my start point. Eventually I saw a familiar car come driving towards me and they pulled over so I could jump in. 

It had been a glorious afternoon of fishing, one of the last nice warm days of our trip although I didn't know that at the time. I can't say I got enough meadow stream fishing, but then it is better to leave wanting more than to exhaust yourself entirely. Meadow streams are always a huge treat, mostly because I just don't have this water type here in Tennessee. I love guiding and fishing on my home tailwaters and the streams in the Smokies, but seeing different water types is always fun. 

Friday, March 10, 2023

Another Fly Box Giveaway

We are going to give away another fly box. Make sure you follow the instructions to enter, found below.  This is just another small way to say "Thank you!" for supporting both my blog and also my guide service, Trout Zone Anglers. The box is shown below and is courtesy of my good friend David over at River Traditions. Check out what he has and order your own customized box if you can't wait to see if you won this one. 

This giveaway will be a little different. First, you must be a subscriber of the Trout Zone Anglers newsletter to enter. If you are not subscribing already, then visit my guide site, Trout Zone Anglers, and you will see a signup form on the home page for the website. If you have followed this blog any length of time, you probably know some of the types of fishing I enjoy doing. To enter, send me an email to TheTroutZoneContests@gmail.com and give me your name and a suggestion of a new place I might want to add to my list of destinations to check out someday. No need to offer any secrets or honey holes, although I will be glad to keep it under my hat if you so request. Just let me know if you want me to keep your suggestions "secret." 

The winner will be selected using a random number generator sometime in early to mid April. We'll let this contest run for approximately a month again, and I'll send a reminder to enter in my next email newsletter. Thanks again for supporting my blog!