After some great fall fishing I picked up a third season leftover cow elk tag in unit 65. I hadn't spent any time in this unit so it was new territory. Although it is just over an hour from my home and is located in the same wilderness I had never been in the backcountry here. I arrived a day early for some scouting and realized that the only chance at finding elk was by hiking in the wilderness. The first day of the season I hiked about 12 miles and found several trophy mule deer bucks but not any sign of elk. The country was beautiful though.
And the accommodations were cozy.
Day 2 I hit a different trail at higher elevation. The terrain was perfect for elk and again I saw no sign. There was a group of backpackers camping that may have moved the elk but there was not even old sign. 13 miles later I was feeling discouraged and returned to the truck bed for a cold night. Day 3 I tried another trail system that actually connects to Lake City. I could have walked home with the mileage that I had put in at this point but the map showed some nice parks. I hit the trail in the dark and arrived at the first network of parks early at first light.
There was a small draw that made a blindspot so I sat tight for a few minutes and glassed the landscape. Before long a group of 30 cows popped out of the draw at about 300 yards. I couldn't get a clear shot so I had to make a move. After sneaking through the treeline I was in position and the cows were moving through the treeline. I could not get a clear shot and that was it. I was encouraged however and moved through the parks without finding anymore elk but there was tons of sign. I hiked out and made plans for day four. Day four I hiked in and there were not any elk in the park. I moved to the next park and found a large group of slightly drunk men facing each other in a half circle. They said their friends were trying to push elk out with horses so I decided to hike in to the Uncomphagre wilderness a ways farther. After pushing my legs a bit to far I walked into the timber and found a hidden meadow. I sat down for a break and watched a 6x6 bull walk by at 40 yards a few minutes later. ALONE. No cows with this one and all I could do was watch and admire. I drove to a new camp spot and listened to the election results on satellite radio that night over chili and a few beers. I was ready for bed when it started to sprinkle snow. I figured it would not be much and went to bed.
Day 5 I opened my eyes to 18" of fresh snow. My first thought said that I should have no problem finding elk. My second and third thoughts were about my four wheel drive not engaging and being stuck in camp. After some digging and slow moving some guys in a big dodge pulled in. Turns out they were from Nevada also and we had some common ties. They pulled me out, I got the 4wd working and drove out to the highway. My first Colorado elk hunted had ended.
After the hunting trip I did some local fishing on the Lake Fork and the Rio Grande. The Rio fished well and the Lake Fork was cold but eventful. Here are a few pics:
Rio Grande Brown
Pair of Moose on the drive home
The local fishing was great but I was itching for and adventure and some new water. I had four days off of work so I hit the road early last Thursday and found myself on the Frying Pan early in the afternoon. I had heard of the famous toilet bowl and was prepared with my tailwater strategies and favorite mysis shrimp pattern. I had no trouble hooking into a few fish immediately but it took about an hour before I tied into the 27" rainbow that broke me off. It was heartbreaking but the surroundings were great and I kept at it. I caught several over 20" before leaving the crowd for dinner. A quick subway sandwich and some truck camping at the boat ramp for Ruedi Reservoir and I was ready to get after some fish.
The morning view
I hit the river downstream from the crowd and found some phenomenal fishing. There was an early midge hatch and some midday BWO's. I caught about 20 fish on a dry fly before the hatch seized. I would have tried some nymphs but the slimy bottom was difficult. I decided to try a streamer and the black slumpbuster proved to be a great choice. Every other cast I was hooked up with a brown over 15" and several at 20". I was very impressed with the health and quality of this fishery. I must apologize though as I seem to have lost the memory chip with most of those pictures. Hopefully I find it in my truck soon.
After the Frying Pan I made my way over to Silverthorne in the dark. I found Dillion Reservoir and hopped in the back of the truck for another good night of sleep in my second winter home. Again, the view was great in the morning.
I was not too excited about the Blue River through Silverthorne. It runs through town and is right next to the outlet malls. Not exactly remote. I roamed around and found a pullout upstream from the town and decided it would be a good starting point. The guy at the local fly shop had recommended midges and said they were not focused on the mysis shrimp. I started with midges and caught a few high sticking through some nice runs. I moved upstream closer to the dam and put on a chironomid and my mysis pattern. After high sticking for a while I hooked into a big rainbow. Unlike the frying pan 'bow I landed this one quickly and taped it at 25". At this point I was pumped.
I continued fishing and caught several more on the mysis and one on the red chironomid. I could have left happy until I hooked another monster and was broke off. I had to keep at it and hooked and landed another big rainbow. This one was a 24" pig.
Another fisherman said I was the master as no one else was catching much. I felt pretty confident and caught a few more before heading to Breckenridge to meet one of my best friends Zac. Check him out at http://hyibridsessions.blogspot.com. He was snowboarding and I was fishing close so we met up and drank some beers. He crashed in my truck and helped keep it warm until we were kicked out of the City Market parking lot for some illegal sleeping. We moved on and found a spot to crash for the remainder of the night. The next morning we parted ways and I drove to Denver to pick up a friend before making the drive home. I am looking forward to some fishing this winter. There is talk of a float trip through Lee's Ferry in Arizona and the obvious Taylor River tailwater. Hopefully I can fix the lens on my camera soon and keep you all updated. Until then, tight lines and enjoy the winter fishing.