We picked up our first campers at DIA. We had some time to kill before the last flight arrived, so we went to the parking lot to check out campers casting abilities. We have a few campers who have spent considerable time fishing on saltwater, so we went over some of the different casts and fishing techniques. The last camper arrived smoothly, and after picking him up, we drove to the Dino Lots to pick up the three campers from Colorado. Two hours later, we were up and over Berthoud Pass in the town of Fraser, where we bought fishing licenses and supplies. We continued on to Stillwater Campground on Lake Granby, set up tents, threw some casts, and LFFE Director Charlie Parr gave the crew a talk about the norms and expectations for the trip. We watched an incredible sunset followed by a full moon rise over the lake, before going to sleep.
We were up with the sunrise, especially since some of campers were jet-lagged from arriving from the east coast. We ate a delicious pancake breakfast and broke down camp, then conducted the fly fishing seminar where campers learned the crucial knots and casts. After that, we loaded the van and proceeded to our first real fishing spot, a meandering creek through a beautiful valley outside of Grand Lake. The main target for the afternoon were brook trout. We were excited to report that everyone caught at least one, and some of the more experienced anglers landed over 10. After a great session, we hiked down to the van, and began the drive to our next destination two hours away. As we neared our campsite, we began to see the abundance of wildlife that live in the high rockies, including 10 moose. We set up camp and ate a pesto pasta dinner before going to sleep.
After a quick breakfast, the crew hiked 1.5 miles down to the headwaters of a notable river in Rocky Mountain National Park. We were the only anglers around, and it showed by how eager to eat our flies the trout were. The crew crushed brook trout, and even managed to land a couple of the elusive greenback cutthroat, a native Colorado gem, and the official state fish. We reconvened and hiked out for an early dinner of burritos and wild harvested brook trout. A few eager campers went to a nearby creek for an evening caddis session, while the rest of the crew prepped their fly boxes for a big hike the next day.
We had a big day. We woke up at 5:30 and prepped our backpacks for a mission to a high alpine lake over six miles away in RMNP. The crew made great time, arriving at the lake in less than four hours. Though we were somewhat disappointed by the lack of cutthroat trout, we found brook trout in astronomical numbers. All in all, we caught over 300 fish, with some campers landing 50 trout by themselves. These fish obviously experience very little pressure from anglers. Most campers started with dry fly setups, but quickly switched to streamers. After five hours of crushing fish, and some interesting encounters with marmots, we refueled and began the hike home. We arrived at camp exhausted, and enjoyed hot dogs and baked beans before hanging out by the fire as a group. All said and done, the crew hiked over 12 miles, plus a lap around the lake.
Today, the boys deservingly slept in and enjoyed a big pancake breakfast. We packed up camp and left Rocky Mountain National Park. Again hiked (this time only one mile) to a lake in search of cutthroat trout, and again we were foiled. We spent a couple hours there before moving on to a nearby reservoir and the stream that feeds it. We were not disappointed. The kids caught 10+ arctic grayling and even a tiger trout! Grayling are very rare in the lower 48, and tiger trout even more so, so that was awesome. After that, we drove back to Lake Granby and civilization, where we got showers, did laundry, and enjoyed pizza and milkshakes before bed.
Today we are off to the mighty Colorado River to do our service project and chase trophy sized browns and rainbows in this world famous fishery.
Ed, Eleanor, Grady, and the crew