CO West Elk Update II

We have certainly been busy since leaving the airport in Denver on the 21st.  Our first day was primarily a travel day that saw us go from DIA all the way to the headwaters of the Arkansas river near Buena Vista.  We were fortunate enough to be celebrating a birthday on our first night as a group and went out to dinner at the “world famous” burger stand K’s in BV for some burgers and shakes.In the morning we got up early to make the drive over the continental divide to the town of Gunnison to pick up our fishing licenses, last minute backcountry supplies, and our food for the next 6 days.  Then it was off to the wilderness areas of the northern San Juan mountain range to truly get the trip started.  We arrived at our campsite for lunch, then got after fishing the meandering creek that ran next to our campsite.  Everyone saw some action on their flies, and most of the group managed to connect with some of the hungry trout lurking in the creek. The next day we woke up, had an excellent pancake breakfast, then loaded our packs and headed down a desert canyon to begin our first backcountry.  We got to our first campsite by lunch, wolfed it down, then split up in search of hungry trout.  We were quickly rewarded for our efforts as most everyone caught fish, with our fish totals nearing 70 for the day!  Exhausted from the hiking and fishing, we enjoyed a quesadilla dinner accompanied by a gorgeous desert sunset, then went to bed happy. Our second day in the backcountry would prove to be an interesting one.  We got up, broke camp, then hiked along the rim of the canyon down river to our next campsite.  When we were almost to our campsite and perched along an excellent viewpoint of the canyon, we witnessed a foreboding sight.  The river downstream of us was crystal clear and looking prime for fishing, but upstream there was a wall of sediment coming down the river that has turned the water to “chocolate milk”, essentially brown and unfishable.  We raced to our campsite, set up our rods, and hit the water hard for about 40 minutes before the dirty water hit. As some of you may be aware, Colorado is experiencing a severe drought.  Giant thunderstorms all over the drainage had washed untold amounts of dusty topsoil that in wetter years would have normally stayed put into our river.  We passed the afternoon napping and playing games waiting for the river to clear and enjoyed some chicken pesto tortellini before going to bed hoping the river would clear. We woke up disappointed, the river was still blown out.  So we broke camp and headed back out to our van to head higher into the mountains to escape the dirty devil that the river had become.  Once back to civilization we hit the Gunnison rec center for showers and some swimming, then went out for pizza to console ourselves. On Thursday we split into two groups for the day.  One group hiked to an alpine lake outside of Crested Butte in search of Colorado River cutthroat trout.  They were not disappointed!  As a group, they landed about 90 of these high alpine beauties in full spawning colors!  The other group stalked the Taylor canyon in search of some trophy trout, and while the truly big ones got away, they managed to pull in a bunch of browns and rainbows. Today the whole crew fished the Taylor morning and afternoon and acquitted themselves well on this notoriously difficult river.  As of this writing, everyone had caught a trout and are pumped for the rest of the trip. Tomorrow we will be working with the Crested Butte Land Trust for our service project, and we will hopefully get some more fishing in.  Then it is back over to the Arkansas river valley for our second stint in the backcountry chasing cutthroats among some of Colorado’s tallest peaks!  Stay tuned for our next trip update, and until then… Tight Lines! Charlie and the crew

Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions was started in 2010 as a graduate thesis for my Master's Degree in Environmental Conservation Education at NYU. The operating premise was simple - by coupling amazing wilderness fly fishing camps for teens with environmental education and service learning we can help inspire future generations of fly fishing conservationists. We have been growing our unique list of trips and experiences ever since.

When it comes to choosing a summer program for your teen the options are endless. For the teen who loves to fish, be outside, and has a strong sense of adventure we have made the choice easy. We are the leader in teen fly fishing adventures and are dedicated to providing the best backcountry fly fishing experience with opportunities for teens to engage in leadership training, community service, and backcountry camping.


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Will Lillard, Founder/Director/Guide

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Lillard Fly Fishing Expeditions
2540 King Road
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768

(828) 577-8204