Photo of the Month: Evening Light in Dog Cove

Photo of the Month: Evening Light in Dog Cove
Showing posts with label Moraine Park. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Moraine Park. Show all posts

Monday, January 23, 2023

Colorado 2022 Day Three: Rain, Sight Seeing at Sprague Lake, and Fishing the Big Thompson in Moraine Park

While this was only our third full day in Colorado, a theme would begin to emerge that would eventually really become a serious problem. Rain. Still, we were early enough into our trip that we weren't concerned, other than trying to figure out how to keep the little one entertained and happy. There was plenty of time for the weather to return to the clear sunny days with seasonably warm temperatures we were hoping for. 

Morning In Camp

Thankfully, our morning started out pleasant enough. The clouds were spilling over the divide, suggesting that the majority of Trail Ridge Road was probably socked in with fog, clouds, and perhaps even rain. Still, some early sun slanted in to camp and warmed things just enough that a light jacket was all we needed. 

Little bit enjoyed exploring around camp a little more than she had been able to thus far. We examined rocks, sticks, flowers, and of course any wild critters brave enough to stick around. This meant mostly small things like birds, chipmunks, and ground squirrels. While these smaller versions of the pictures don't do the scene justice, one of my favorite pictures from this day was of her interacting with a group of magpies. 

Black-billed magpie in Rocky Mountain National Park at Moraine Park Campground
"Black-billed Magpie at Moraine Park Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park" 2022 David Knapp Photography


We had been walking slowly down the road from our campsite, learning to identify flowers and other goodies, when this flock of magpies flew in. Notorious for foraging anywhere people have been dropping things, these birds were constantly around the campground along with the jays. In other words, when getting ready to eat, we had to keep a close eye on both the little rodents (chipmunks, etc) and also the sky for potential robbers. The little one began walking slowly towards the nearest bird. Ultimately, she got much closer than I would ever have been able to before they finally flew off. It is amazing to me how wild critters seem to know that small children are not a threat. 

Approaching a black-billed magpie in Moraine Park Campground
"Approaching a Black-billed Magpie" ©2022 David Knapp Photography


Taking flight when the little human gets too close
"Taking Flight" ©2022 David Knapp Photography

Back at our campsite, we also enjoyed some other wild critters. These little guys were pretty bold, but not so bold as at some future campsites. Still, we had to keep a general eye on them to make sure they didn't get in our car, tent, or food.


Chipmunk in Moraine Park Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park
"Chipmunk" ©2022 David Knapp Photography


Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel in Moraine Park Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park
"Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel" ©2022 David Knapp Photography

Nap Time and Lunch

Not long after this exploring episode, light rain began to move in. Not wanting to all get chilled down and sick this early in our trip, we decided some car time might be appropriate. After driving clear across the country, this wasn't the plan little bit wanted to hear about. However, with assurances of some interesting things to see, she relented to a drive. We had some ulterior motives as it was about nap time. A longer drive seemed appropriate, so we set off up the Old Fall River Road. That was quite the experience in our small Toyota Corolla. The potholes and ruts were worse than I remembered, but of course it had been a long time ago. 

We hit fog and clouds partway up, so there were NO views to be had up high. Eventually, we made it to the top and started driving back down towards camp on Trail Ridge Road. The fog was impressive, but we were glad to have additional days ahead of us to return and enjoy the views that were absent on this day. Thankfully, light rain and fog seemed the perfect recipe to help the little one sleep. 

Eventually, we headed in to Estes Park were I wanted to enjoy some pizza that I remembered being excellent. Poppy's Pizza and Grill still had some great offerings. The hot pizza was way better than trying to picnic out in the cold rain. 

Fly Fishing the Big Thompson in Moraine Park

After a delicious lunch, we needed to figure out how to kill some time in the afternoon. One of the big treats for me on trips out west involves fishing water types that I don't have back home here in Tennessee. At the very top of my list of places to experience on these trips is meadow streams that contain brown trout. Not only do these meadow streams provide ideal habitat for one of my favorite fish, but they contain structure that is very different from our mountain streams and lowland tailwaters here in Tennessee. Undercut banks are a joy to fish, so I was hoping to hit at least two streams in Rocky Mountain National Park that contained this type of water.

Both the Big Thompson River flowing through Moraine Park and the headwaters of the Colorado River in Kawuneeche Valley offer meandering meadow sections with undercut banks. Both of these streams are chock full of wild brown trout along with the occasional brook trout among other possible species. My target is brown trout, of course. 

My preferred method to fish these streams involves looking for reaction bites from the resident trout. While my tactics are a bit unusual, the results are normally stellar. On this rainy day, I knew that my usual techniques were not necessarily perfect, but sometimes you just want to fish how you want to fish. 

As it turns out, with the weather that was moving in and out, I would have been better off with a light rod and some blue-winged olive imitations. I started off well enough, catching several fine brown trout on my unorthodox methods. However, once the bugs started, the fish really just wanted the little olives and I started wishing I had brought more flies with me. The large flies I was using still picked up the occasional fish, but I also knew I was missing a lot of fish.

Big Thompson River Moraine Park brown trout
"Big Thompson River in Moraine Park brown trout" ©2022 David Knapp Photography


Two bend pools in particular convinced me that my methods were about through for the day. I saw the first couple of rises as I crept up towards the pool. By the time I was in position, 4-5 fish were rising steadily and my large fly briefly put them down. However, the draw of so much food soon brought them back up. They were rising amongst the splashes from my larger fly, simultaneously dodging my offerings while also feeding on the natural olives. The next pool was even crazier with 8-10 fish rising. 

Big Thompson River Moraine Park
"Big Thompson River in Moraine Park Meadow Stream" ©2022 David Knapp Photography


I had already fished about an hour and the rain was starting again, so I decided it was time to head back to the car. The family had been out enjoying the meadow as well, but with the rain starting, they had already started back. It was in everyone's best interest to call it on fishing this day. I had found a few great fish before the hatch really got going. Time to head on to the next adventure...

Sprague Lake Scenery and Brook Trout

With a steady drizzle setting in, we didn't want to head back to camp yet. Our only option there for staying dry was to crawl into our small tent. It was way too early in the day to do that. So we turned the car towards Sprague Lake on the Bear Lake Road. I remembered something from a previous trip I hoped would still be accurate.

When we arrived, the rain had eased off to just some very light mist. With a full winter snowsuit to put on the little one and rain coats for ourselves, we decided to brave the weather for a few minutes. I grabbed my camera, hoping my memory was accurate. 

Fog and clouds at Sprague Lake
"Foggy Day at Sprague Lake" ©2022 David Knapp Photography


Sure enough. In the inlet stream to Sprague Lake were numerous large brook trout. They were there to spawn, and while I wasn't interested in targeting these fish with a fly rod, I was interested in getting some neat pictures if possible. I generally recommend leaving spawning fish alone from an angling perspective. While I won't get into all the reasons here, let's just say that a camera feels a lot more sporting. Here are a couple of the better shots I got.

Brook trout at Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
©2022 David Knapp Photography

Spawning brook trout at Sprague Lake
©2022 David Knapp Photography


It didn't take long for the drizzle to start again. We decided to head back to camp and get supper early. A huge benefit of our particular campsite were the thick pine trees growing over our picnic table area. They were keeping a large portion of our table dry, so we were able to enjoy supper while staying dry. With everything so damp, we headed to bed early. The next day was moving day and we needed some energy! We hoped for clear skies and moderating temperatures on the morrow...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Full To The Brim

Area streams are full to the brim and there's still a lot more water to come down the hills.  The Big Thompson River in Rocky Mountain National Park is almost to the top of the banks as of our last visit.


Water clarity is still awesome so if you can find calm water you should also be able to find fish.  We've been out on the water but not as much lately.  Today and/or tomorrow should fix that but options are currently limited.  Don't be too disappointed if you get out and find your favorite stream unfishable due to high and muddy water as runoff is in full swing now.  If the water is just stained, fishing the edges and behind any obstructions in the current can still produce some fish.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Nasty Weather Rocks

When short on time, go fishing anyways!!!  Unable to get away until 4:00 pm, I still headed out to fish and set my sights on Rocky Mountain National Park.  On the way up, I noticed that seemingly ALL the elk in the Estes Park vicinity were out feeding.  The fishing prospects were a bit more interesting at this point.  I've noticed that when the wild creatures are all out feeding, the fishing is often a lot better.  Naturally I hoped this would hold true again.


When I got out of the Troutmobile, I found myself longing for the fleece that I had left at home.  My raincoat would have to suffice both to block the impending rain (or would it be snow?) and cold.  The old workhorse 9' 4 weight St. Croix Legend Ultra was put together, and I tied on a Bellyache Minnow. This is one of my favorite streamers for short line streamer fishing with floating lines.  The weight is distributed perfectly so it rides correctly in the water column.

On the very first cast, a really nice brown swirled but missed the hook.  I got excited because I had the whole stream to myself and the fish were hungry!  Continuing downstream and pounding the banks, I had fish regularly chasing the streamer.  The sky warned me that rain was imminent, but I kept working steadily.


Just as the first drops were starting to fall, I finally felt a solid tug on the line.  I quickly got the camera out and snapped a couple of pictures before the rain became too heavy.  The camera was soon back safely in the bag and stayed there until things dried out a bit.


Throughout stream, fish started rising as a hatch got underway.  The fish were taking what appeared to be BWOs although I never caught any and they could have been large midges.  My hands were so cold that changing my rig was not an option so I stuck with the streamer.  Besides, I wanted to catch a big fish!

Slowly the rain grew less and less and then finally just stopped as though the clouds had gotten tired.  The gloom started to lift as the sun showed itself vaguely through the clouds in the west above the mountains.  


My fingers were freezing and after stepping in a puddle (hey its hard to cast, properly swim the fly, and walk all at the same time!) my foot was cold too.  Tempted to give up, I realized that I was almost through the section of stream and kept going.  Fish were still hitting the streamer when I came to Dead Elk Bend.  Well, that's what I call it.  Probably the locals have another name for it.  My name was spontaneous due to the rather fresh but stripped remains of an elk nearby.  



The bend pool nearby had a perfect ambush spot for a nice brown.  My cast lobbed the streamer towards the slack water.  As soon as it splashed down, I was swimming the fly out towards the current. A dark shape rocketed out from under the bank and inhaled the streamer.  The heavy tippet allowed me to land the fish quickly.  I set my camera down on top of my gear bag and snapped a quick picture.


After releasing the fish, my day was completed when I was treated to a beautiful sunset over the mountains.  


I strolled back through the fields to my car, satisfied with another great outing!


Sunday, February 03, 2013

Moraine Park: After the Fire

For the first time since the Fern Lake Fire burned through Moraine Park, I returned to see what damage occurred.  Not sure what I would find, I was probably more apprehensive than anything else.  The first glimpse went a long ways towards encouraging me.


The meadow is changed, that much is for sure.  The vast majority of the tall grass burned while the fast moving fire rolled through.  A wet spring will help a lot though and the meadow is ready for a lot of new growth.

The fire obviously did not burn hot for very long as it made the run down the valley.  Islands of unburned grasses were to be seen throughout the meadow.  Stream-side willows and other vegetation were a bit charred towards the ground but not dead, at least not in the small area I saw.

Here are a couple of pictures I took.  You can tell that the meadow was burned but it should recover nicely once the growing season returns assuming we have some moisture...