Colorado Expedition Update II

Its hard to believe it, but our trip is on the home stretch now that we have exited our second backcountry.  We hiked out of the wilderness of Rocky Mountain National Park for the last time on this trip today, and boy were the last 4 days awesome.  We hiked into the wilderness on Thursday under threatening skies which was actually pretty nice because it kept the temperature cool for our mostly uphill day with our full packs on.  We got showered on briefly, but the rain abated for lunch and allowed us to reach our first of two campsites for the day.  We split into two groups on this backcountry, with the first group camping along an amazing trout stream.  They got camp set up fast and hit the water hard.  Amazing pools beckoned to our flies all around camp and our fish numbers quickly climbed past 100!  Most of the fish were brook trout, but there were a couple of nice Colorado River cutthroats sprinkled into the mix as well.  The other group continued 2 miles and another 800 feet of elevation up trail to camp between two picturesque alpine lakes.  It rained continuously the whole way up, but as soon as the group reached camp, the skies cleared and the sun poked out.  After setting up camp and hanging our clothes to dry, we hit the lower of the two lakes and caught too many brook trout to count including one 16 inch monster (for Colorado) Brooke.  After a full day of hiking and fishing it was time to turn in and prepare for the next day.

Both of our groups moved camp further up trail on Friday, so we woke up early to get a good start on the day.  One group moved an additional two miles to the other groups’ previous campsite, and the other moved one mile further up trail to camp on the shores of a nearly one mile long lake.  The first group stuck to the two lower lakes catching hundreds of eager brook trout.  The other group made the arduous trek up into a high alpine cirque filled with stunning wildflowers in search of big high alpine cutthroat trout.  The fishing in the high alpine lake was tough, but two of our guys managed to hook up three monster cutts, making the journey well worth it.  The group lingered a little bit longer to take in the unreal scenery of soaring rock walls and spires before heading for the lower lakes choked full of hungry brook trout.  The two groups met up and fished the lower lakes together until it was time to split up and eat dinner and get some rest before our big final day in the backcountry.

5:30 AM always comes early, but after wolfing down breakfast, our groups met up to head off-trail in search of one of the most secluded and rarely visited lakes in the park.  We left the trail and climbed just under 2,000 vertical feet in about 2 miles to top out on an alpine saddle with amazing views of the peaks of the park and beyond.  We then headed down to our target lake and were surprised to find a herd of nearly 100 elk, if not more, hanging out on the shores of the lake.  This was an awesome experience, until the moment we realized that the elk had completely churned up the lake and made it about the color and  consistency of chocolate milk.  This is not good for fishing.  Some of us elected to stay at the lake and wait and see if it would clear up, while others hiked around to see if any of the surrounding lakes harbored cutthroat populations. Unfortunately neither of those options panned out, but the benefit of getting up early was that we had plenty of time to make it back to our campsites and fish the lakes hard until dinner time.

Today we got up early to hike out in time to catch the World Cup Final featuring France vs. Croatia.  The game was exciting, and Remi, our resident French national was very pleased with the French victory.  Now we are showering, doing laundry, and completing our last resupply of the trip.  Tomorrow we will move camp to Pumphouse along the Colorado River where we will hone our big-water fishing skills before our float with guides from Cutthroat Anglers on Tuesday.  Then it will be our final full day in Colorado before heading home on Thursday.  It has been an awesome trip thus far, and hopefully we will catch some trophy trout in these last few days.  Look for the final update on Thursday, 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