West Elk Update #3

Well, our first backcountry stint is over and we are now in town to do laundry, shower, and re-supply for the next week.  This first backcountry section did not go quite as planned.  We reached the Crystal River high up in the West Elks and set about trying to catch some elusive native cutthroats.  Unfortunately the banner winter these mountains experienced this year was still lingering.  As a result the water was high and fast, not ideal for trout fishing at all.  Some of the guys managed to land some cutthroats, but the fish were far and few between.  So we were forced to call an audible and we decided to head to lower elevations in search of better fishing.

Patrick with a gorgeous Cutthroat of the Crystal

Patrick with a gorgeous Cutthroat of the Crystal" /> Jones, fishing the free-flowing Cochetopa

Jones, fishing the free-flowing Cochetopa" />

Our backup option was Cochetopa Creek in the southern portion of the Gunnison National Forest.  It is a beautiful trout stream that meanders through a wide-open valley with spectacular views of the 14er San Luis Peak.  The guys eagerly set about fishing a 3-mile section of the creek and were quickly rewarded with gorgeous wild brown trout that eagerly took to our dry flies.  We hit the stream pretty hard for about 5 hours in the afternoon before packing up and making camp next to a small stream surrounded by granite bluffs.

One of the eager Brown trout of the Cochetopa Creek

One of the eager Brown trout of the Cochetopa Creek" />


This morning we started our day with a sunrise hike up an adjacent bluff to see if we could catch the early morning alpenglow on San Luis Peak.  It was cold, but well worth the extra effort.  After breakfast it was back to town to clean up and prepare for our service project with the Crested Butte Land Trust.  Tomorrow we will be pulling invasive plant species and replacing them with native plants.  We will be planting willow bundles along the banks of the Slate River several miles outside of Crested Butte.  The purpose of this is to prevent stream bank erosion as well as providing habitat for streamside insect life on which trout depend for food.  Needless to say, we are all excited to be helping to conserve vital trout habitat.  That’s it for now, look for another update here in couple of days before we head into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness for our next backcountry section.  Tight Lines!


Charlie Parr

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