Each day more leaves turn yellow and red: deciduous gullies which curve up through timber, rocky fields of scree, whole mountainsides. The high country brush turns ten different shades of red, yellow, and brown, dusted by early season snow storms. I’ve been striking out for places found on maps or not found at all. More than once stuck on the long trail home at dusk.
All this putting one foot in front of the other is due to creating a list of mountain lakes and streams each spring I really want to explore, others I want to return to. And for various reasons (usually work) summer never fails to thwart sincere efforts to go to most of these places. So that by mid-September, I always end up with three or four high country lakes sitting on the back burner like beetle kill: they begin to consume me. Ten miles in? Forty mile loops? Late night drives and early morning ascents. Cutting out of work early? Showing up to work in the morning ragged and smelling like fish grime? Typical. Count me in.
I like to think that all this high country fishing isn’t without its deeper merits. For example take the brook trout vs. the cutthroat trout. Almost every high country lake and stream in Colorado holds one or the other (in very few instances both, and in very, very few instances something else entirely). The Eastern Brook Trout is a tasty, over populating, stunted, bully of a fish. Sure, there is an occasional back beaver pond which holds a 13”-15” good as gold and almost as valuable lunker, but it is easy to say this fish needs to go. Into the frying pan. As often as possible.
The cutthroat trout on the other hand, there is something about the cutthroat. There is something about their slow rise, their bright red underbellies, and their ability to grow large in small tight corridors of stream that captures my imagination. Not to mention in most cases they are native to the streams and lakes where they are found.
“Where are you going?” I’ve been asked on more than one occasion, sweat dripping off my nose, breath rising into the cold morning air. Where I am always going: to meet the fall head on.
Poach the brook trout
in milk and pepper,
grains of salt on sunrise skin,
that the cutthroat
might have some chance
Cameron Scott, guide, author, poet, and former counter-boy, Taylor Creek Fly Shop
Photo's courtesy of Kirk Webb