Fly fishing in the great Rockies
At an altitude of 9,000 feet, I shiver as the cold air makes its way through my jacket. However, the sun is creeping higher and will soon warm me up. My 4 weight sage fly rod feels good as I false cast to get my distance to the calm pool of water on the other side of the stream.
The Rocky Mountains are made up of many different ranges that stretch from Mexico through the United States up into Canada, with names like Bighorn, Bitterroot, Sierra Madre and the Brooks Mountain Range. Today, just out of Telluride Colo., I am in the San Juan Mountain range. There are peaks to 14,000 feet, and even though it is mid-July, snow still covers many areas. Compared to the weather in Southwest Florida, this feels refreshing. The snowmelt has the clear water of the streams flowing nicely. My hope is that the fish are hungry as I cast a dry fly to see what will hit. I am not an expert at fly-fishing, but the sage rod with sage reel markedly improves my abilities. My first cast is only 30 feet or so, and the fly drifts downstream, bouncing over eddies and rocks. It is ignored — maybe laughed at — by the fish. The water is a cool 54 degrees and my hip waders are doing their job of keeping my feet and legs dry and warm.
My fourth cast is just upstream of a quiet pool and the tan caddis fly lazily enters the pool and is immediately attacked by a trout. I keep the 8-foot rod high as I reel in the stripped line. Into the wood-rimmed mesh net comes a fine rainbow trout. Success!
There are several species of trout on the San Miguel River. Besides the rainbow, there are brown, cutthroat and brook trout. Different sections of the river, as well as different seasons, produce mixed results. Other rivers I fish close to this area are the Dolores and the Uncompahgre.
The scenery is postcard perfect. The long, morning shadows of the sun over the mountains seem to add vividness to the many colors of wildflowers along the banks. In the field across the stream, a herd of about 40 elk feed on the lush green grass. Magpies fly from tree to tree and the blue spruce branches let them easily disappear in an instant. Life doesn’t get any better.
After landing (and releasing) several dozen trout, it is time to hike back upstream to see if Nancy is up and about. We will head over to her daughter’s house to visit her and her husband and our new grandchild. High above, by the mountain ridge, I notice a glider soaring along the ridge. I recognize it as a Stemme and it belongs to Glider Bob. He takes people up for a scenic ride that can’t be described sufficiently on paper. That is on my list for tomorrow, but I will be flying as he gives dual instruction so it can go into my pilot’s logbook.
The weather here in Telluride makes a welcome change from the humid conditions at home. There are many beautiful areas to explore and Telluride is at the top of my list.
(To be continued.)
Fair winds, calm seas. ¦
— Capt. Dennis Kirk has been traveling the Peace River since 1979. His life adventures are written from various chapters in his three decades of experience in Southwest Florida. He is part owner of the Nav- A- Gator, a riverfront restaurant and marina in Lake Suzy, just off Kings Highway. For more information, call 627- 3474.