Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Photo of the Month: Autumn Slab of Gold

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Lunge

While reviewing pictures from my recent trip, I came across one that needs its own post.  The elk were out in force and the pictures I took were rather extensive in number.  There were so many great shots that I really like but this one is just great.

The herds were a bit more integrated than they were even a couple of weeks ago.  However, the dominant alpha males from each group were still chasing off any interloping young bulls when they got too close to the harems.  I was shooting a large herd when one youngster got a bit too close to some of the cows.  A big bull was keeping an eye on him and I snapped the picture right as the big guy lunged to chase the young punk.  Here is the result.


I'm not entirely sure why but this pose reminded me of a bull in a bullfight.  The young bull clearly understood his place and took off in a hurry without daring to risk a confrontation.  It would have been cool to watch them fight it out but probably that happened a couple of weeks ago or even more.  Lots more elk pictures to come and even more of the mountain scenery and trout that were caught.  I'm already contemplating another trip although to a different destination.  Time will tell how that idea plays out...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Elk, Sunsets, and Brown Trout

I'm in the recovery phase right now.  My weekend was spent camping near a winding meadow stream. The browns were hungry, the sunsets were spectacular, and yes, the elk are still around and even bugling occasionally.  More to come once I make it through a day of work and get a little rest!!!




Friday, October 19, 2012

Wrong Way!!!

That's what I feel like every morning during the week.  When I walk out to my car, the mountains are lit up by the rich light emanating from the rising sun.  As I head east toward school, the view in my rearview and sideview mirrors can be a little distracting to say the least.  The mountains, they call to me...


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Moose!!!

After the previous success in finding moose a couple of weeks ago, it was back for another shot, this time with some friends who hoped to see moose for themselves.  Our goal?  To find some moose without freezing.  Surprisingly, despite the recent storm and new snowfall, the temperatures were actually more mild than our previous trip.

Expectations were set extremely high when one of the small kids with us decided he wanted to see a moose and prayed that Jesus would show him a moose on the drive up.  My stress level immediately shot up because who wants to disappoint a little kid?  Determined to find moose, we picked one of the area trails and started hiking.  Returning hikers suggested that moose were recently spotted on the north side of Long Lake so off we hustled.


Keeping moving to stay warm, we were making good time around the lake when something interesting was spotted.  Moose tracks?  Nothing else in the woods is that big...


Where do they lead?


Following the tracks carefully off trail while moving very slowly so as not to surprise a moose at close range, I carefully moved closer to the clearing alongside the lake.  Emerging from the trees, I froze and carefully looked around.


About to proceed, I heard a commotion and saw three moose charging about. One turned in our direction, and I was just about to look for a tree to duck behind when it abruptly turned and galloped in the opposite direction.

Carefully bringing the kids down to show them the moose, I was glad when the big animals froze near the edge of the woods.  Everyone was awed at the size of these beautiful animals.  Before long, the moose moved on into the woods.  We followed the trail further and inadvertently intercepted the now spooked animals.  Can you find the moose in this picture?


It was actually standing right on the trail.  In this next picture, you can see the moose clearly through the magnification of my zoom lens.  Notice the color immediately behind the moose.  A pair of hikers were coming the other direction and were probably no more than 30 feet from the moose when they rounded the rock to see it standing in the middle of the trail.  They took a broad detour far up the hill above the trail while the moose alternately laid its ears back only to perk them up to listen better again.  These signs had me a bit uneasy again and our group kept a very respectful distance.  No use to precipitate a confrontation with one of these wild creatures.


Later, on our drive out, we found 4 more moose! Yes, you read that correctly, FOUR more!!!  This brought our total to seven and one of the last 4 had a nice set of antlers which was another Colorado first for me in the moose department.


Now that I'm quickly becoming a moose expert, I'll probably have to start charging for tours... Three options available.  The leisure package will consist of a lazy drive through the mountains were you can spot these animals from the comfort of the Trout Mobile, now converted into an elegant Moose Wagon!!!  The beginner adventure package will allow you to get off the roads and hike into the wilderness in search of these beautiful creatures.  Safety will be emphasized and we will always stay at a reasonable distance from these massive animals.  Finally, the interactive adventure package will include stalking moose at close range through heavy brush.  Surprised animals will likely charge at this range meaning you will need to have professional training in moose wrestling.  I'll demonstrate the proper method to take down a moose with your bare hands during our first encounter and give you the option of trying it for yourself thereafter!!!  For any clients who survive, a hot meal and beverages will be provided after we return to the Moose Wagon.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Welcome Winter

The high country continues to pick up more and more moisture.  The view from my classroom is gorgeous with a great perspective of Longs Peak as well as the Indian Peaks Wilderness.  Looking towards the mountains always reminds me of my mostly weekend adventures.  In fact, a week ago from this past Saturday I took a pretty cool hike (actually it was freezing), and also saw my first Colorado moose (and second).

The destination was Lake Isabelle and on the way we would also pass Long Lake.  Driving up from the high plains was an adventure.  A new route kept things interesting, but the frosty coating on the trees had me driving carefully in case some of the ice had formed on the road as well.  The new frosty coat became much heavier as we ascended to Brainard Lake from the Peak-to-Peak highway.

Brainard Lake looked mysterious in the fog, reminding me of the foggy days I've experienced so often in Tennessee.  I'm going out on a limb here and guessing I won't see as much fog here in Colorado but time will only tell.


Interestingly, as we hiked further upwards, the clouds thinned and so did the ice on the trees.  Upslope flow was keeping the clouds entrenched against the mountains, but at the very top, downsloping flow was keeping the clouds evaporating and the views spectacular.  The moist air was constantly flowing up the valley towards us creating some very interesting clouds that would blow this way and that before  vanishing into thin air (Really, it was thin. We were huffing and puffing our way along...).

Long Lake was still firmly socked in with fog providing some great photo opportunities.  After freezing ourselves in an attempt to take pictures of the ghostly scene, we quickly put gloves and hats back on and commenced hiking in earnest.




Watching for moose, we progressed up the valley, occasionally wondering why we were apparently the only people dedicated enough (or is it crazy?) to be out hiking on this day.  We finally crested the last rise and our destination lay before us.  The glaciers above the lake had a fresh coat of snow, covering the dirty color they had taken on over the summer.



Unfortunately the wind picked up abruptly in this high alpine environment.  Even with the layers we wore it was chilly.  A few pictures later, we were on our way back down into the relative calm amongst the trees.

We found that Long Lake was now much more visible although moisture was still flowing in thin wispy clouds towards the high peaks.  The scenery provided a new perspective so the cameras came back out and were pressed into service documenting this new mood of the high country.



I discovered brook trout spawning in the stream below the lake and enjoyed watching them.  They were just a bit too spooky for good photography although I was tempted to attempt some video.  In the end, the car's heater was just a little more inviting.

Slowly descending the road to Brainard Lake, we again discussed how nice it would be to see a moose.  I also was thinking about the snowshoe hares and suggested how it would be nice to see one of those also.  Driving slowly past the lake, nothing showed itself and we were already starting to talk about what we should do for supper when we made it back to town.  My focus thus broken, I was thoroughly shocked when something approaching the size of a barn bolted mere feet from my car.

Scaring my friend Catherine, I managed to get the car stopped without wrecking in excitement.  The apparently giant moose was actually the smaller of the two.  Mom was a few yards away and once both calmed down (along with my own nerves), we got some pictures.  The low light and fog meant the pictures were not as crisp as they could have been but of course, the foggy day was the perfect setting for seeing our first moose!!!




Oh yeah, we saw our snowshoe hares also.  Lots and lots of them.  They seemed to be running all over on the way out.  I guess they all got hungry at once and were out having supper...

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Exploring the South Platte

Now almost a week and a half ago, my break is quickly becoming a receding memory.  Still, the pictures provide great entertainment and take me away to some of the most beautiful scenery Colorado has to offer.  After Thursday's trip to chase big browns, I had some exploring planned.  It would be off to check out the South Platte with a couple of different goals.  First and foremost, this was a scouting trip, and my goal was to check out the Dream Stream for big lake-run browns.  Second, I wanted to see some new to me scenery as well as figure out how long I could count on the trip to the Dream Stream taking me.

In the end, the scenery won out over the fishing.  I shot several pictures over the course of the day and was quite impressed with the beauty of the area.



The scouting was, well, scouting.  Lots and lots of walking and looking and walking some more.  The crowds were huge but fish really weren't being caught except for one very nice brown I saw landed that looked to be in the 22-24 inch range.  In fact, I spent far more time looking than fishing and was glad to finally call it quits.

Only rarely am I glad to stop fishing but much more challenging than a lack of large fish was the brutal wind.  It was howling (literally) out of the west to the point where I was exhausted just from walking through the wind.  Still, it had been a good day and if I stopped completely at this point I would have been happy.  Instead, I went searching for redemption.

I just wanted to catch a fish, any fish.  Eleven Mile Canyon contains some beautiful water, and I remembered doing well there during my previous visit to the area.  On the way, I found some aspen at what I would consider to be peak colors.


Finishing my descent into the canyon, I started upriver and soon came to a big pool I remembered quite well.  Fish were lined up sipping something small off the surface.  The wind was much better in the shelter of the canyon walls.  Parking the car and changing my rig for small dry flies, I was soon casting.  However, the five weight line slapping the gentle autumn flows was too much for the trout and I watched as one by one, they disappeared to wherever fish hide when some crazy fisherman is flogging the water.  Changing to 6x and smaller flies, I continued looking for feeding trout.

In the pocket water, lots of fish were feeding. and I suspected that I might have better luck in the faster flows.  Nice fish kept spooking, reminding me that I was definitely NOT on top of my game.  Finally, starting back down towards the car, I was ready to call it a day.  Then I saw one more fish.

Three casts later, I saw it move towards where I suspected my fly was.  It turned abruptly so I set the hook.  Finally, a trout.  Even better, it turned out to be a brown trout!  On most days I would be unhappy to catch just one fish, but on this day of minimal fishing and lots of scouting, I was glad to finally hook one.



Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Return

Trout streams have a way of drawing me back again and again.  Sometimes I go back to the same spot again and again and usually for different reasons ranging from a big fish I've spotted to just nostalgia.  Other times I return to the same stream but desire a new stretch of water, something still vaguely familiar and comfortable yet refreshingly different all at once.

Last week, after spotting a big brown on Sunday, I started plotting my return.  With fall break looming, I originally planned on fishing with Juan of Hopper Juan Fame.  As a hard working guide and tier, he could only get away one day so I planned to camp somewhere near the South Platte or Arkansas and "pre-fish" on Thursday before meeting up with him on Friday.  The phenomenal fishing on Sunday changed my plans however.  I figured I would just fish on Rocky Mountain National Park on Thursday and take a day trip down to the South Platte or Arkansas on Friday.  About the time I decided to adjust my plans, other circumstances intervened to cancel our fishing trip this time so I was now fully committed to making a day of it on Thursday.  If I had energy left, I might still explore solo down along the South Platte on Friday.

Arriving at the first stream, I quickly rigged up and began fishing.  A short time and a few fish later, I decided to head to the other stream and look for that big brown.  As always, driving around in the Park is a great experience.  Elk were everywhere although when I'm heading off to fish, the wildlife are just a nuisance that slow drivers in front of me down.  Its hard to complain about being in the wild though and I thoroughly enjoyed the drive to my next fishing hole.

Finding no one where I wanted to fish at the next spot, I changed flies to something that a big brown would probably enjoy.  I cast into the pool, once, twice...the big brown hit like a freight train, appearing almost magically from wherever he had been lurking.  My eyes had been glued to the rock he shot out from other the previous trip so I know he had been hiding in a new spot.  Whatever the case, I was now VERY glad for the heavy 1x tippet I was fishing and quickly fought the fish into the shallows.  Time should never be wasted in fighting a fish you plan to release and this fish was no exception.

I posed for a couple of quick pictures which my friend Catherine graciously took for me so I could keep the fish in the water as much as possible.  It was a beautiful brown and definitely made my day!

Catherine McGrath Photograph 

Catherine McGrath Photograph

Despite fishing some more, and even catching some more nice fish, nothing would surpass returning to catch a big brown I had spotted previously.  The rest of the day was spent exploring some new areas which included driving the long way home.  As always here in Colorado, the scenery impressed but I was already considering my next day's adventure...


Sunday, October 07, 2012

Lest I Forget

One of my original and ongoing purposes for this blog is to help me remember past trips, a digital journal that I just happen to make public.  Accordingly, its not good to wait too long before recounting my trips.  I'm finding that as life becomes busier, the likelihood of remembering every trip detail months later is definitely diminishing.  Thus I find myself thinking back a whole week to last Sunday when I headed up to Rocky Mountain National Park to check out new water.

Well, at least some new water.  I had a BIG fish that I still needed to catch so a stop by the big brown's lair was in order early in the trip.  Arriving stream side, it was obvious that someone had beat me to my spot, or nearly so, and I'm not one to jump in front of another angler.  There are plenty of fish to go around so I journeyed a bit further afield, quite literally I might add, into a beautiful meadow with a winding stream full of presumably hungry trout.


The first undercut bank I stopped by just looked fishy, and I tossed my fly into the stream, full of eager anticipation for what would hopefully happen next.    Peeking over the side, I saw a nice brown examining the fly.  I quickly leaned back before I spooked the fish and couldn't resist adding just a little twitch to the fly.  The twitch was just the ticket and a nice brown was soon tugging on the other end of my line.  Catching a fish on the first cast can be a sign of terrible luck to come so I photographed the fish in case it was not only the first but also the last of the day.


Moving up the creek, I continued until reaching water that another angler had just finished with.  In fact, I fished quickly up through a couple of used pools before convincing myself that it was truly wasted effort.  The fish were spooked and nothing I could do would fix that.  Still, in an hour or so of fishing, I had caught several very nice browns with an average size of 13-15 inches.  A few small 8 inchers kept me from getting too full of myself, but some of the larger ones posed for a second before the release.



Trekking back across the fields to my car, I almost thought about quitting early, but new water has a way of beckoning.  Adventures should never be kept waiting too long so off I went to try another stream.  This one also had a meadow section but before trying the new water I stopped to heat up some chili for lunch.  This has become one of my favorite cool-cold weather fishing foods.  It takes a bit longer to do a meal since I bring out the camp stove, but there's something about a hearty warm meal that is so amazing in the middle of a long day on the water.

Finishing lunch, I decided on just the spot I wanted to hit.  The first two pools were not very reassuring but then a small brown flashed my streamer.  Where there are small browns there are also normally large browns.  Moving upstream, I hit a prime spot where a large pool with some cover shouted "BIG FISH!!!" at me.  Sure enough, on the second cast a big brown shot out from under the rocks to chase my streamer.  Right at the last second it gave up on the fly, and I was left staring at the spot it materialized from and vanished back to.

Moving upstream, I continued to find a few nice fish.  Finally it happened.  I found one out looking for a meal and presented a small streamer.  Carefully bouncing the streamer along the bottom, I saw the fish come over and inhale it.  Soon I was taking pictures of a beautiful brown and was convinced that this was a stream worth returning to.





The big brown in one of the early pools still didn't want to play on my second foray through the pool.  Probably I scared it badly enough the first time through.  Still, there was always next time, and next time it would be!!!  Stay tuned for my further adventures on this stream...

Busy Fishing

This past week was fall break, so while there was a fair amount of fishing, I didn't make time for recounting those experiences on here.  Now I'm trying to play catch up.  Some nice fish were caught including a nice one last Sunday that I also have yet to tell about.  Better yet, the colors in the mountains were spectacular.  In the high elevations, snow has been falling.  Some of the ski resorts are busy making snow in their attempt to be the first to open.  The browns are spawning in some places but are barely even showing in some of the famous waters like the Dream Stream.  Still, good times were had and even a few fish were caught.  More to come soon...very very soon!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Colored Up


The leaves are turning many different shades of red, orange, and especially yellow.  Right on schedule, the brown trout are getting a lot more aggressive and colored up in their own fall best.  Yesterday was a good day of exploring on two different streams.  I fished a meadow stretch in both and saw more than enough nice browns to keep me interested.  Never saw any monsters but did see one fish that would have been pushing 21-22 inches.  More to come later once I have time to digest the trip.